When trying to come up with this theme (which wasn’t easy), I wanted something that would allow the essays to be tied together, but would still provide the maximum possible flexibility for individual students. Obviously, we learn things all the time in every facet of life, so there are a lot of directions you could go with this:
- When have you been wrong? Tell a story about a time when something defied your expectations. Everything you believe made you think things were going to go one way, and they went another.
- Who has taught you something? Tell about a person who you’ve learned from. Not necessarily a teacher or parent; it could be a friend, a little brother or sister, even a stranger or celebrity. If you want to stretch it in an amusing or strange way, you could go with an animal or an inanimate object.
- How can you apply what you’ve learned? Maybe you have some goals for the next year, since you have one more year before you leave high school, its related teams and activities, groups of friends, and (for many people) home. What do you want to do before you go? How can you tie that in to what you’ve learned so far?
- When have you learned an unintended lesson? It doesn’t have to be the opposite of what’s intended (though it could be), but it should be unexpected and unforeseeable.
As far as tone goes, you can do about anything you want: make it funny, make it nostalgic, make it serious as it gets. As long as it’s nonfiction and ties to the theme, you’re good. I’ll play a few examples for you on Tuesday (including one I recorded myself), that could fit into this theme.
Finally, don’t freak out about this assignment. We’re looking for something in the neighborhood of 1,000 – 1,400 words on paper, and we’re hurrying through, so it’s not going to be perfect. But if you have two people working on it, you have twice the brainpower to remember the important things: choosing interesting and appropriate words; varying syntax; keeping a consistent tone. In most of these essays, using anecdotes or longer narratives to make your points, using description or key details to make the stories memorable, would make sense. My hope is that you’ll have a little fun with it.