So, we're doing these gifts of writing, and since I teach five sections of English, I have to write five separate pieces, but I also get five in return. I really like writing alongside my students, though; besides being a good model, I get a lot of insight into the assignment, and I can talk honestly about the ways I worked through the challenges. Likewise, it's easy to be free with praise, especially for kids who have shown creativity, and the students accept my feedback, not just as their know-it-all teacher, but as someone who is plugging away at the same task that they are.
I think it's good for me to participate so actively in this assignment, but how hard would it be to be the kid who pulls the teacher's name? This year, the reactions of those five students has covered the range of what you might expect: one is extremely vocal about the hardship of his plight, openly begging for extra credit; two are willing, but tentative and a bit uneasy; one is trying way too hard, and the fifth has delighted me with his creativity.
This last guy is the over-achiever in my class. He always has his hand up first, always finishes every assignment ahead of the other kids, and not surprisingly, he is kind of tough on his peers, especially those who aren't as quick as he is. Not always my favorite type of kid, but what makes him different from the stereotype is that he is acting from genuine engagement. I'm convinced that he doesn't want to be the best for best's sake, but rather because he really likes what we're reading and writing and talking about.
For his gift to me he wrote a brief choose-your-own-adventure story. Written in second person, it grabs the reader immediately, and the plot has all the elements I mentioned on my questionnaire. It is clever, funny, and very well done, and I consider it one of the best gifts I've ever received. Way to go, Jake! Thank you.