The components of an essay:
- A paragraph is a set of sentences that develops a central point or main idea
- The introductory paragraph is the first paragraph of an essay. It identifies the topic, main idea, and organization of an essay, and it captures the reader’s interest.
- The thesis statement is usually the last sentence in the introductory paragraph. It states the topic and main idea of each of the supporting paragraphs
- Body paragraphs contain a topic sentence that deals with a specific part of the thesis statement and supporting sentences that back up the topic sentence
- The topic sentence of a body paragraph is a more-specific version of the thesis statement.
- Supporting sentences contain details that back up the topic sentence of a paragraph.
- The concluding paragraph gives an essay a sense of completeness and helps the reader.
Going to School Behind the Iron Curtain
Life in a communist country such as Romania in the 1970’s was filled with fears, unfulfilled needs, and the constant distrust of others who might be spying on their neighbors. To a person born in the West, on this side of the Iron curtain, it is hard to imagine what schoolchildren faced. Nevertheless, life had to be lived, and children went off to school every day. Remembering my childhood school days does not bring back many memories. The experience of a schoolchild in Romania in the 1970’s was harsh.
The classroom was stark. The only furniture in the room were the fifteen double desks for students and the teacher’s desk at the front. A blackboard was on the front wall. The room was often quite cold and only on very dark days were the old ceiling lights turned on. When you entered the room, the only object to look at was the framed portrait of the country’s president dominating the front wall above the blackboard. His unsmiling face and somber eyes looked down on everything we did. All across the country his face was at the head of every classroom.
Students were expected to be obedient. We all wore uniforms: blue jumpers or blue pants, white blouses or shirts, red scarves or ties and white socks. This dress code kept us all looking the same. No one should look different or special in any way. I cannot remember that anyone complained. Each child brought his or her own lunch and soap. We ate our lunch in the classroom. We accepted our situation and did not expect anyone to provide us with any food or supplies. We understood our teachers would not have tolerated any complaints or unwillingness to follow orders.
The school day was very rigid. One teacher taught us all the subjects. The school day was divided into four or five hour-long classes, each one with a different subject. There was a ten-minute break between hours. We did not have to change rooms, and we were finished by early afternoon, sent home with lessons to do. Subjects were taught largely by memorization of facts. The individual teacher had no say in what material to cover. The curriculum was set by the authorities and rigidly adhered to. For instance, in literature classes, most of the emphasis was placed on memorizing poems by important Romanian authors. Children were not encouraged to ask questions, and discussions were most uncommon. When it was test time, we were given blank sheets of paper. There was no such thing as multiple-choice tests. Answers were right or wrong. Grading was from one to ten, with ten being the best.
Communist education was based on humiliation. It was shameful if we did not give the right answer to a question or if we got bad grades. Sometimes we could see that the teachers enjoyed their power. When test results were returned, our grades were shared in front of the entire class. Everyone knew that the only way to get ahead was to do well on the tests. There was no misbehaving. Bad behavior was not tolerated. Corporal punishment was allowed.
My memory of school in Romania is of days of dutiful work. There was little room for the joy of learning or the freedom of expression. If I were to pick a color to describe my school time, it would be gray. Education was memorizing and repeating what were told—that was