Fishtown English educator Christina Long says that when next year’s district curriculum shifts, students must be prepared to write well.
Christina Long has taught English to 7th and 8th grade students at Fishtown’s Alexander Adaire School, 1300 E. Palmer St., for six years, and she’s passionate about her work.
So passionate, in fact, that she wrote an opinion-editorial letter that was published in The Philadelphia Inquirer at the end of January entitled, “Better writing, better schools.”
In the piece, Long discussed the importance of a cohesive writing program in the school district, which she wrote she feels is lacking in favor of “dumbed-down formulas for answering essay questions on standardized tests.”
“They’re so bored,” Long said in a phone interview last week, of students who experience writing tasks catered only to standardized tests.
“The writing has to get out there,” she said. “They don’t want to write a story and put it in a folder.”
At Adaire, Long said, she helps her students put their writing “out there” by creating unique activities to develop their writing and thinking skills. Last week, she said, her students wrote argumentative essays, with evidence and quotations from experts, on challenging topics like gun control, gay marriage and condom distribution in schools. Then, they debated the topics with one another.
“It really works,” she said of such activities that engage students and challenge their minds. “Some of them even said [after the debates] ‘my brain hurts,’” Long said with a laugh.
Long wrote in her piece, “Despite the area’s high poverty [at Adaire], most of our students read and write at grade level by eighth grade…For my students, who have read entire novels and written complex essays, taking the state tests is akin to jumping the low hurdles after being trained on the high.”
She explained over the phone that when the state’s common core curriculum standards are implemented next year, all students will have to produce informational and argumentative essays like the ones her Adaire students produce, and all teachers have to start preparing students now.
Long wrote in her piece that the city has plenty of experts who could help develop a writing curriculum and train teachers.
The shift to the core standards, she said on the phone, is a great one.
“The core standards are going to force teachers to focus on writing,” she said. “I think it’s going to get us back to the good stuff.”
Christina Long can be reached at email@example.com.
Managing Editor Mikala Jamison can be reached at 215-354-3113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.