Sample Compare/Contrast Personal Essay: English 9
Two Tireless Teachers
High school students often find it difficult to view their teachers as anything but "the enemy." However, after the first few months of a school year, students learn to appreciate their teachers as individuals with different approaches. Some teachers are "cool," while others are "tough." Some can be both "cool" and "tough" at the same time. What becomes apparent, though, is that two teachers can be drastically different yet still be effective in their own ways. Although Sally Strict & Larry Lax are both respected teachers at our school, their teaching styles and expectations for students differ significantly. While Ms. Strict maintains a highly structured classroom atmosphere to keep her pupils disciplined and motivated, Mr. Lax downplays structure in order to allow his students to push themselves.
Using her intimidating presence to good effect, Sally Strict runs an orderly, efficient classroom. To begin with, Ms. Strict’s no-nonsense demeanor sets a serious tone for the class. When students enter her room, she immediately silences their chattering with a curt greeting and stares at them while they proceed quietly to their seats. During class discussion, she asks very focused questions and makes sure every comment relates to the material; jokes and personal anecdotes are cut off. And if anyone lets out even a whisper or a giggle, that poor student is quickly punished with a detention. In addition to eliminating disruptions and distractions, Ms. Strict demands that students treat her class with the utmost respect. She does not allow students to wear hats in class or put their feet up on the table. She does not let anyone leave to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water, because doing so implies that the discussion or lecture is not important or interesting enough. Every student must raise his or her hand to talk, or else risk losing participation points. Finally, Ms. Strict enforces high standards for her students’ written work. She collects homework every day at the beginning of class; to turn it in five minutes late is to turn it in a whole day late. Every piece of writing, whether it is a journal entry or a formal essay, must be typed and stapled. Last but not least, all homework must display a sophisticated level of thinking and writing; Ms. Strict sets high expectations for her students, and as a result, they work incredibly hard to meet these standards. In short, Ms. Strict does not believe that a teacher needs to be likeable in order to be effective: her priorities are conveying the material in a clear, thorough manner and keeping her students focused and productive.
Larry Lax, on the other hand, maintains a casual atmosphere in his class; he doesn’t expect his students to be any more focused or productive than he is. He often arrives to class just as the bell rings; sometimes, he’s even late (at all times, he enters while trying to juggle his stack of papers and his piping hot cup of coffee). During class discussion, he often goes on tangents related to sports, movies, or his favorite TV show, Survivor . And unlike Ms. Strict, he always wants to hear jokes and limericks; in fact, he makes time for at least two per day. As for student conduct, Mr. Lax wants everyone to be as relaxed and comfortable as possible. In contrast to Ms. Strict, he has no policy on wearing hats in the classroom, and he does not notice if people put their feet on the table. In addition, Mr. Lax always permits students to go to the bathroom and get drinks (unless he’s in a bad mood); students don’t even have to ask to leave the room. And while he does want everyone to raise his or her hand before speaking, Mr. Lax does not deduct points if someone talks out of turn. He wants the discussion to resemble a lively conversation, spontaneous and freeflowing. This informality also extends to the students’ homework. Mr. Lax rarely collects everyday assignments, often trusting that his students have done it and will ask him if they have any questions. Moreover, as long as the content is of superior quality, he allows students to turn their papers in handwritten and unstapled. All in all, Mr. Lax’s main concern is that his students connect to the material on a personal level; because his pupils are engaged by the topics they are studying, they strive to do thoughtful and creative work.
Thus, Ms. Strict and Mr. Lax both accomplish their goals of motivating their students to do excellent work, though they do so in very different ways: while Ms. Strict emphasizes the high standards she expects everyone can meet, Mr. Lax uses a more personal approach. Their success demonstrates the importance of diversity in a school community: different students respond to different teaching styles. So rather than viewing their instructors as a monolithic "enemy" intent on making them suffer, students should recognize how they benefit from the variety of ways their teachers inspire them.