Essay: Problems in Education

What problems are you aware of in today’s educational system?

I know that many of you have things that you complain about, and this is the essay in which you get to express those ideas. The problem, though, is that as you’re complaining about things you cannot sound whiny. Sounding whiny will take away all of your credibility – your ethos – and you want to be someone who is perceived as credible with a legitimate complaint. Several legitimate complaints, of course, since this is a multi-paragraph essay.

Your points are all valid. Whether your complaint is about the schedule, the socialization aspect, the teachers and the administration, other students, fire drills – it doesn’t matter. If you don’t like it, then it is something worth writing about. Of course, you are going to explore your ideas in some depth in your paragraphs, so you’ll need to think of examples and anecdotes to support your points. It’s not just enough to say that you don’t like 50-minute classes. You have to give reasons why a 50-minute class is not enough time or is too much time per class.

One way to look at this is as if you were writing to the school board to professionally present them a problem in the educational system that they may not be aware of. Another way to think about this is this: What would you like to see changed before your children become students in 20 years? Whether your kids are kindergartners, middle schoolers, or high school students, there are changes all across the board that could be made in order to enhance their educational experiences.

I think the one thing you should keep in mind is, why do we insist students go to school anyhow? School was not mandatory 150 years ago, but now everybody is forced to go to school until they’re at least the age of 16. So there must be some reason that the government wants students in school. Thinking about that may help you focus your essay on what should be done to help students get a better education. School is SUPPOSED to be a beneficial service to make better citizens: What needs to change to make it the best possible experience?

Your essay is due Tuesday, January 22 – no late papers, no excuses. You may handwrite if you wish (print, blue or black ink, double-spacing, one side of the paper only), but in all sincerity typing is better.

See previous entries about proper format for typing as well as about proper paragraph construction and strategies for intros and conclusions.

Leave a comment if you have any questions you’d like answered. I am always here to help you 🙂


Essay Is Due Monday

Your essay is due Monday at the start of your classtime, absolutely no later. You can had-deliver it, of course, but I will also allow you to email if to me ( If you email it to me, you must do so as an attached .doc, .docx, or .pdf file – do not send it as a shared document and do not simply type it in the body of an email. The previous update to this site explains how your typed document must be formatted,

You will have had a week to work on your essay – it was assigned Monday, January 4, and is due when you come to class Monday, January 11 – and I need you to take seriously my warning that late papers will not be accepted. You were encouraged to submit your essay on Friday (the day I am writing this) and were repeatedly advised that no papers would be accepted. I am not interested in excuses and will spend no time entertaining reasons you could not do what was expected of you.

In college, when you are paying good cash money for your education, professors will not accept late assignments. It is not FAIR to those who submitted their work on time for YOU to get extra time. It is time, ladies and gentlemen, for you to take yourself seriously as a scholar.

This assignment is worth 50 points – an easy 50 points. It is a personal essay, so no research is required. If you write 500 words, stick to the topic, and present a professional-looking document, you are going to get all those points. Hooray! If your paper is not professionally presented (see directions in last two updates to this site), I cannot see any way I would award you more than a C. If your essay does not meet my minimum word count (500 words) then I cannot give you anything other than an F. And if your paper is not delivered on time, then you will receive a zero – and nobody wants that!

I have stated and restated my expectations clearly, so I am looking forward to awarding you full credit on Monday. And I am very interested to read what you value most about your educational experiences so far 🙂

(Your next essay will be about where the system has let you down, but this particular essay is about The Value of Education – the good things!)

Feel free to comment below – drawing to be held on Monday!

Professional Presentation

In order for your essay to be properly respected by a reader, it must adhere to the conventions established for proper presentation. In English classes, this is known as MLA format:

  • One side only
  • One-inch (1”) margins on all sides
  • Black ink on white paper
  • 12-point serif font: Times New Roman or Garamond is best
  • Double-spaced: Highlight entire area using Ctrl-A…Right-click…select Paragraph…set “Spacing” to Double
  • First Line Indented ½”: Highlight entire area using Ctrl-A…Right-click…select Paragraph…set “Special” to First Line
  • Page Numbering: Use the header command (Insert…Header) to set page numbers ½” from the top on the right of each page.  Use your last name and the page number, separated by one space.
  • Proper title format: Center, using capital first letters of important words only.  Do not use bold, italics, underlining, quotation marks, all-caps, or word art.  Your title should be eye-catching and interesting, not merely “Report” or “English Paper” or “What Makes a Poem ‘Good.’”

Your paper should also have a proper heading, placed at the left margin of the first page. The required information is as follows, but do not use bullets:

  • Your Name
  • Teacher’s Name (Professor Stanton)\
  • English III
  • 14 January 2019

Please comment below if you have any questions; I am happy to help. A drawing will be held Monday for all who have commented (one entry per day).

Introductions and Conclusions

As important as the body of your essay is, the introduction and the conclusion are even more important.

I know, it seems wrong; doesn’t it? But it’s true, and here’s why:


Consider the plight of your reader – in this case, Professor Stanton. I have 141 students, each writing a 500-word essay. Do I *want* to read 141 essays about what you guys think is valuable about the educational opportunities you’ve been given? Would you? I mean, let’s be honest about it here. I *will* read the essays and offer feedback because that’s the kind of guy I am, but I could hardly be described as eagerly *wanting* to read these essays. Right?

So your job in the intro is to make me feel as if my effort to read is going to be rewarded. I can tell if an essay is going to score high, medium, or low from the very first few sentences! You have to convince me that you have something meaningful to say and that you know how to say it.

Your very first sentence is make-it-or-break-it, so you need a strategy to capture my attention. There are a variety to choose from (feel free to Google “first sentence introduction essay” to see what other suggestions are out there), but here are some of my favorites:

  • A short punchy (perhaps seemingly confrontational) statement: <<School sucks. Or at least that is what my friends say. For me, though …>>
  • A brief anecdote that will be tied up in the conclusion: <<Walking into the school auditorium the first day of my ninth grade year, I was terrified – what had I gotten myself into?>>
  • A rhetorical question (one that does not require an answer but is intended to get the reader thinking in a certain direction): <<Why are children still forced to go to school, when all learning can be done online?>>
  • A famous quotation, attributed: <<Nelson Mandela once said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”>>

Once you’ve lured me in to your essay, you need to establish your FOCUS (that you have gained much through your educational opportunities) and then write your THESIS.


Ironic as it seems, the conclusion is the most important part of your essay. Many people just dump out at the end. They are tired of writing and are just putting the endcap on.

<<That’s why I think education is valuable. What about you?>>


The end of the essay is when you bring it all home for the reader. What does it matter? What should I do? What have I learned?

Pretend that the essay you are writing is a request for cash money. When is the judge going to decide if you are going to get the money? You certainly hope that he or she is enticed to read your essay (that’s the purpose of the introduction), and I hope you have given good reasons why you deserve it (that’s the body), but he or she is not going to decide until the very end – the conclusion.

You want to leave tor reader either amused or amazed at your cleverness, and the best way is to somehow echo your introduction. Think about your first sentence, and try to find a way to finish that thought in the last sentence of your essay.

  • INTRO –<<School sucks. Or at least that is what my friends say. For me, though …>>
  • CONCLUSION — <<I cannot imagine how much my life would suck if I had not had the opportunity to pursue a meaningful education>>
  • INTRO — <<Walking into the school auditorium the first day of my ninth grade year, I was terrified – what had I gotten myself into?>>
  • CONCLUSION — <<Walking out of school on my last day of ninth grade, I knew I was going to have many opportunities to excel.>>
  • INTRO — <<Why are children still forced to go to school, when all learning can be done online?>>
  • CONCLUSION — <<Thank goodness I had the opportunity to broaden my worldview by going to school with so many amazing people.>>
  • INTRO — <<Nelson Mandela once said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”>>
  • CONCLUSION — <<My education has given me an arsenal of intellectual weapons with which to rule the world in which I live.>>


As an added note, you should also carefully consider what your title will be for this essay. “The Value of Education” is okay but hardly captivating. Pretend your ideal reader was going to choose just a few essays to read for the contest; what would make your title catch his or her attention?

Next: Professional Presentation

Remember to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing, which will be held next Monday. You can enter once per day 🙂


Proper Paragraph Construction

I hope you’ve started to find your focus for this essay!

Today we took time at the start of class to brainstorm some ideas with your peers to share your ideas and hear theirs. You had the opportunity to ask probing questions and to answer questions posed to you.

Each of your body paragraphs is going to explore one big idea. Academics, for example, or elective classes, or socialization, or athletics, or any other large categories you choose. It’s your essay; your ideas are valid and worth exploring!

You will start – as you probably already know – with a clear topic sentence. This contains the subject you will explore in that paragraph. (Example: <<One of the things I value most about my education has been my elective courses.>>) This sentence includes the focus of the essay (things I value) as well as the topic I plan to explore (elective classes).

After that I need to move into the first things I want to say about elective courses; for me, that would be my drama classes. I want to introduce that idea and then explain fully what value I derived from my experiences in that class. I want to include at least one or two anecdotes (short stories) to demonstrate how that class benefited me. Then I want to move into another elective class; for me, that would be French. Again, I want to explain why it such a beneficial experience and to provide an anecdote or two. I myself have a third elective class (creative writing) that I would want to explore. At the end of that paragraph, I will include a simple sentence that wraps everything up: <<My elective classes allowed me to explore my own personal interests, and I learned very important lessons there.>>

So basic paragraph structure is as follows:

I. Topic sentence
A. First class
1. What I gained from the class
2. Anecdote
3. Anecdote
B. Second class
1. What I gained from the class
2. Anecdote
3. Anecdote
C. Third class
1. What I gained from the class
2. Anecdote
3. Anecdote
II. Wrap-up sentence

Then, of course, I would move on to the next big topic I wanted to discuss.

Remember that your essay should end on its strongest point. Start strong, bury your weakest point in the middle, and end super-strong.

Tomorrow: Intros and Conclusions


NOTE: Typing is really the best option. You will need to either print your essay or email it as an ATTACHED DOCUMENT (not as a shared file). I will give directions for typing Thursday.

If you are going to handwrite for whatever reason, follow these directions to prepare a professional document:

  • Print neatly
  • Use blue or black ink
  • Write on the front of the paper only
  • Double-space (write on every other line)

Essay: The Value of Education

So I decided that you all would benefit from more writing, specifically the writing of personal essays. The FSA has decided that the only writing that matters is research-type writing, but THEY ARE WRONG. The joy of writing comes from your ability to express your own ideas in your own voice. The FSA-style essay is not *wrong* — this is in fact the type of writing you’ll do in higher education — but what the policy makers have forgotten is that people who do not *want* to write will not learn to *love* to write, which means (frankly) they probably will never write well.

So my purpose here is to give you back your Voice, to allow you to express your own ideas and explore your own thoughts. What YOU should be thinking about is this: How can I stay true to myself while also writing words that will inspire/amuse/educate my friends and my professor?

Your professor, remember, who is battling a whole bevy of health problems but who always shows up to do his best. Your professor who no one would blame him if he just “phoned it in” for the next five months but who puts in extra effort for YOU to help YOU become a better writer/thinker/speaker/critic. Your professor who right now is having poison injected into his body but who is taking the time and making the effort to expand upon the assignment you’ve been given, all to help YOU.

How are you going to impress me with your writing? Your thoughts are your thoughts and your experiences are your experiences; this is your opportunity to stop thinking about what other people think you should think and to start expressing yourself to the universe.


The topic is this: What Do You Value Most About Your Education?

You will of course start with an introduction that captures your readers’ attention.  You will of course end with a conclusion that wraps everything up and attempts to convince your reader that you did a good job expressing your ideas. You want a “Yeah, that’s right!” response. A “That makes me appreciate my own educational opportunities” response. A “Wow, that’s the truth. Preach it, sister/brother!” response.

But it’s the middle we need to discuss right now. That’s the “meat” of the essay. That’s where you tell what you value most and explain why it’s so important to you.

“But, Professor Stanton, I don’t value nothing about my education!” I’ve already heard people complain. <<YAWN>> How tiresome.

Your educational experience is more than just classes, that’s for sure. Just running off the top of my head, what about the socialization aspect? The athletics aspect? The elective classes aspect? The learning-to-succeed-in-the-world aspect? The people-motivating-you aspect? Geez, at Lakeland High you have the collective-sports-spirit aspect more than any other school in the state!

You probably have many more ideas of what there is to appreciate about your education. Explore those ideas! This is a personal essay; the only way to do it wrong is not to do it!

If you are sincerely stuck for ideas, consult a friend – someone who enjoys school. Find out what makes them happy and successful, and consider their points of view. Still stuck, or have no friends who like school? Ask your parents for ideas about why you should value what you’re being given (i.e. a free education).

But ideally you’ll think about your educational experience so far — pre-K through today — and come up with some ideas to explore.

Tomorrow: Basic Paragraph Construction

Leave a comment below to be entered into a drawing that will be held next Monday. You can enter once per day 🙂

Health Update

I went in for what I thought would be a two-day deal, and it’s now been over two months. Ugh.

I started chemotherapy – have now done two sessions of what will be six – and it hasn’t been too bad yet. I get mouth sores and nausea, plus I just feel yucky. But it’s the next round that has me worried, and that’s the biggest thing keeping me from coming back quite yet: The next round includes daily radiation on top of the chemo, and I’ve been told that it will make my backside feel sunburned. Can you imagine what that would feel like? And remember, I’m in a wheelchair; I’m *always* on my backside.

So we’ll see what happens. I’m still planning to come back, but I know you all are mature enough to take your education into your own hands and find success within yourselves. Don’t let my absence take away from the opportunities for learning you’ve been given.

And be nice to the subs, okay?

End of First Marking Period

Hi gang, remember me?

On the last day I was with you – September 7 – I provided an opportunity for you to make up assignments for which you had been absent or to complete assignments you need more time on.  My expectation was that i would be out the next Monday and Tuesday, so I was going to grade the papers and enter grades on that Tuesday. Of course, that’s not what happened and I have ended up out of service for the past 5 weeks or so now.  Nevertheless, earlier this week I got out of bed specifically to grade those papers. I was unable to put grades into the grade book program because I’m on temporary leave, but I did send Mrs. McCown a list of every assignment and the points that should be entered into the grade book on your behalf.  She assured me that she would take care of it, and I wanted you to know that I did not forget about you and the work that you have done. I hope the rest of the semester has gone well for you.

I know you probably have questions about my health, and so I wanted to drop a quick note here about that as well. I have stage 4 cancer and will be going through chemotherapy and radiation therapy for several months. I am not sure when I’m going to be able to return. It might be soon, but it will probably be later.  I realize that may be a little vague, but cancer is not a pretty process and I do not want to violate anyone’s sensibilities.

I do plan to return to work, and I do *want* to return to work. You may not believe me, but I miss you and wish that I were there with you every day. Please take care of yourselves and do what you need to do to ensure your success  in class.


OK, well, on to the next stage. I made it through the surgery OK. I’m in quite a bit of pain, but  I wanted to let you all know as soon as I could.

I don’t know any details. Sorry i won’t be there this week.


I will be straight with you guys. I have cancer. I have to have surgery on Friday, and the recuperation will keep me in the hospital at least all of next week as well. Probably the week after. I’m not sure of any details beyond that.

I’ve given the sub good directions to keep you moving forward. She says some people are making the wrong decisions regarding their work ethic. I have no respect for that and would ask you – politely – to make different decisions moving forward.

I am so sad not to be there. Help me, please, by encouraging your friends to keep up with the work. I am working for your success FROM THE HOSPITAL where I am suffering WITH CANCER to still lead to your success. I’m sure you can do what you need to do on your part to succeed as well.