For the second year, Grandview Heights High School English teacher Bethany Black has her freshman writers considering the potential readership outside the classroom.
"I wanted them to think about writing an essay not just for me, the teacher, but to think about writing something that would be interesting and relatable to a wider audience," Black said.
Her goal was to give students a writing assignment "that mirrors the real world," she said. "In the real world, you're often having to write things that multiple people are going to read."
So Black asked her students to write an op-ed piece about whether it's harder to be a teen in today's generation than in earlier eras.
Three of the essays will be published over the next three weeks in ThisWeek Tri-Village News, starting with the Dec. 13 edition.
"It's not just the students giving their opinions," Black said. "As part of the assignment, they had to do research and get data that supports their view and also interview someone from another generation."
The interviews forced students to do something "that maybe wasn't in their comfort level," Black said. "Most of them haven't interviewed someone before. But in the real world, you're going to have to talk to a lot of people in almost any job."
More than 70 students in Black's English 9 and Honors English 9 classes participated in the assignment.
"I thought, by and large, they did a really good job on the assignment," Black said. "Most of them think things are tougher for their generation."
ThisWeek Tri-Village News is publishing the essays written by Abbie Baxter, Sophia Hill and Tyler Schmied.
"I really haven't done an assignment like this before," Hill said. "It was fun, but it was challenging, especially doing an interview. That was a whole new experience for me."
Based on her research, Hill said she feels her generation, Generation Z, faces more pressure than past generations, leading to an increase in mental-health issues and the teen suicide rate.
Some of her findings came from her interview with her grandmother, a member of the baby boomer generation, Hill said. Her grandmother agreed she and her peers had much less pressure on their shoulders.
Baxter said she "went back and forth for a while" as she did her research.
What finally led her to believe her generation has it tougher was the studies she found on the pressure of social media.
"The peer pressure that people can put on you spreads so much faster and wider with social media," Baxter said.
But she also was surprised to learn there were other kinds of social pressure in her grandmother's day, she said.
"I never knew there was a time when Ohio was segregated," Baxter said. "My grandmother was excluded from some things because some of her friends weren't white. I didn't think we had things like that in Ohio."
When writing her paper, "I was really thinking about how I should write it so that I could bring over as many people as I could to my opinion," Baxter said.
Schmied said he ended up taking a middle-ground position.
"I think it's hard growing up in every generation," he said. "Each generation has its own set of pressures to deal with."
It was a challenge to write an op-ed piece, Schmied said.
"Usually, you're just writing something that is geared to what you think your teacher is expecting," he said. "Here, I had to think about a whole different audience that might be reading what I was writing.
"It made me a little nervous."