This week Xavier High School held morning and evening essay writing workshops for rising seniors as part of the college application process. This year, of course, they looked a little different.
On the Friday morning we visited, students were seated in a socially distanced setting with masks in two classrooms. English teacher Kathy Lee presided over one and Foreign Language Department Chair Heidi Lane the other. Social studies teacher Aaron King has been doing the evening class to accommodate students’ schedules.
In the front of the room on Friday was a laptop so the teachers could also work with those taking the class remotely.
COVID-19 has meant adapting to the situation, and Xavier is doing everything it can to make sure students get all the opportunities they normally would.
“These students not only learn about how to write an essay but get a huge jump on actually beginning their college essay,” Guidance Director Joan Tomasiello said.
The workshops are for two hours each day.
“It gives the students who choose to do this an opportunity to work on their college essay without the distraction of a new school year, juggling new classes, part-time jobs, and in this case getting adjusted to being back in the building taking classes,” Lee said.
Finding the subject matter in which to write might be the biggest challenge for each student since these are personal essays and it is not always easy to write about yourself. To get to what their individual subject matter might be, students are asked a bunch of questions such as who has influenced them, how do they perceive themselves, so they start thinking about themselves and their life experiences.
One student chose to write about an unexpected vacation experience and how his handling of a crisis reflected his personality. Another wrote about how a piece of advice from a fellow athlete, someone he did not know, helped shape his attitude. Yet another’s topic was his tendency to get distracted and the steps he took to overcome that.
Certainly many rising seniors in this country might choose to write about the coronavirus. The challenge is that when something is universal to everyone, Lee says, you have to show what makes the story unique. “What is it that makes it theirs,” she says.