Personal Philosophies of Remarkable 7th Grade Students Vol. II
I feel a bit conflicted writing about this book. But I paid for it, so I wanted to actually read it, so I\’m making notes about it. It\’s a collection of essays written by seventh-graders in my daughter\’s school. Printed near the end of last year and I have taken all this time to read it, dipping in and out of it now and then. The inspiration comes from an NPR program \”This I Believe\” which has now turned into a series of books, containing essays written by famous people, published authors, and everyday folks on their personal belief systems.
The students here- there are about 150 essays- write about what is important to them. You can tell for the most part, these are great kids. They have adults in their lives who care for them and teach them good things. They write about learning to appreciate family and friends, to value their time, to work hard for grades. They write about the grief of loosing pets and family members- so much pain! They write about sports: teamwork, practice and hard work pays off. (A lot of essays involving sports. This would have bored me after a while but I discovered many of them didn\’t mention what the particular sport was– so I would attempt to guess by the description of how the team worked and movments on the field, what they were playing). There were also a few essays about making and keeping friends, being true to yourself in the face of peer pressure, moving to a new house, or a new town- or country, dealing with bullies, discovering individual talents, attempting new skills, taking opportunities, staying positive in the face of failure, overcoming fears and learning to appreciate the beauty in life. A lot of wonderful messages. Some of them were even infused with a good sense of humor.
A few that stood out to me: several essays involving swim practice and meets. I\’ve been there. There were two essays where the kids wrote about keeping fish, and the pain of loosing them to illness or due to a mistake- how I could relate to that. One wrote about his love of books. Another about learning from experience, to be careful when making online purchases. A girl wrote about trying to teach her hamster tricks after seeing a demo video online. She got frustrated her hamster wouldn\’t do what the hamster in the video did. Then realized her hamster had a different skill, and encouraged it to do that as a trick instead. I really liked this essay (and not just because it was about an animal). Another student wrote about sustaining an injury during sports practice and continuing to work through the pain- they found out the next day it was a broken foot. I was appalled that a student would feel pressured to continue practicing while in so much pain. There was another essay written from the perspective of a student who claims she was falsely accused of bullying. It was a very emotional and confusing piece of writing. Another very personal one was about overcoming the fear- as a second-grader- of using public restrooms (I know those self-flushing toilets are very loud- my youngest has always been terrified of them as well).
According to the forward in this book, the students had a required reading assignment Trash by Andy Muillgan (which I haven\’t read), which was inspired by a real dumpsite in Manila. Proceeds from the students\’ book \”has allowed for them to donate to a charity that helps those whose lives and experiences inspired the writing of Trash.\” So it\’s for a good cause. And of course I was going to buy a copy: my daughter was ecstatic to tell me her essay was being printed. At first I was told only the best essays made it into the book though: later it sounded like all the essays from the class were included. There was no selection of the best? The writing quality was very uneven: that\’s to be expected and for the most part I tried to overlook it and enjoy the message the individual students had to share, and their voices.
But it was really hard to ignore the massive amount of errors, especially in the first two sections of the book. Typos, spelling mistakes, bad grammar, missing or wrongly used punctuation, sentences that made no sense. It has all the bad characteristics of self-published books. My kid told me that her teacher didn\’t correct the essays- the students proofread each other\’s work. Seems very sloppy. Some of them sound like they just poured out a bunch of unorganized thoughts and never went beyond a rough draft. I was really disappointed in that regard. I don\’t mind the exaggerated phrases and overused metaphors, after all these are young writers. I can tell when the writer\’s first language is not English, and the misuse of grammar in that case doesn\’t bother me. It\’s the pile of little things that should have been caught by an editor: in this case, the teacher. My guess is that the final section of the book did get correction from the instructor before printing: there were very few errors and even though a lot of the themes were still repetitive, I was able to finally enjoy the stories and think about what the students had to say, instead of getting jarred around by bad writing.
This is the type of book probably no one is going to read unless their kid is included in it. I wonder how many other parents and family members read all the essays, and not just those by students they know.
Rating: 2/5 329 pages, 2017