Her comments made me pause and think about my overall goals with teaching writing and teaching in general. Why not be a complete revolutionary in education and throw the writing prompts to the wind. Was I just pissed because he failed to bend to my complete and total power? Yep. I decided I needed to let go of my need to force him to do it.
Then later that day I spoke to a parent about writing a letter of recommendation for her son. He is entering our Performing and Fine Arts Academy and is applying for the Honors English Program. As a former English teacher at PFAA, I am aware of the process. It includes ...wait for it... a timed write in response to a prompt!
I used to grade the responses and look over applications. The number one "killer"? Not addressing the prompt and low quality analysis.
I saw her son later in the day and imagined my own son at that age. I wondered to myself, "What if Robert wants to go to PFAA or another more traditional high school?" He is bright and will probably be capable of taking Honors courses.
Will throwing the prompts into the wind handicap him later?
I may have groaned out loud.
When I got home, he had chosen NOT to revise. After dinner and a dog walk, we sat down.
"Mom, I don't know what you want me to do with it" he started in that super annoying whiny, I am not going to cooperate voice.
"Yes you do, you just don't want to do it." I replied, trying to sound neutral.
"FINE!" and he angrily grabbed the laptop and started typing and erasing. He made sure that I knew he was not happy about it.
He did end up changing the beginning. When he discovered that he would need to add in the dinosaurs that he had learned about, instead of his favorite dinosaurs, I am pretty sure I saw a tear. I tried to console him by telling him he could keep the T Rex in, but he would have to add in another part to his story to fit in the other two dinosaurs, he responded with a, "NOOO MOOOM, that would be so much more work! All of this revising just means more work".
I knew I had made the right choice. Revising is hard work. Writing what others tell you while still maintaining your own ideas is hard work. Once you write something, you don't always want to return to it, but you often need to. The one and done mentality just doesn't always cut it.
I don't always make him write to a prompt. He has his own blog, where I do not dictate what he writes or the reason he writes. It is also the only time I don't have to force him to write or edit.
Somehow, I need to find the right balance. I don't want to kill his ownership. I don't want him to repeat mindlessly in essays what teachers tell him in class. I do want him to be able to open doors for himself.