Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Falling Behind in my Work

The weather in DC has been menopausal lately. On Monday, it was 60 + degrees outside, sunny, and beautiful. On Tuesday, it snowed. On Wednesday, I couldn't get my garage door open, and that's where this post begins.
It was 7:10, and I had to be at work at 8. The frozen door would not budge, so I went back inside and boiled water in some tea kettles to defrost the door. I went outside the front door to do the pouring, and when I came back inside, I saw that the other door, leading to the garage, was open. And I couldn't find one of my cats. So at 7:25, I tore around calling for him. Found the guy calmly eating his kibble. Turned to leave and fell down the steps into the living room. After screaming and yelling in pain for a few minutes, I hobbled to the car and got to class late--10 minutes late, but they were still waiting for me.
we were going to do some elaborating on skeleton sentences to reinforce the descriptive writing in their next paper, so I just wrote down a skeletal narrative about my morning and asked them to be creative and elaborate.(While I limped around the room trying to be helpful.)

It was great! Two students turned it into a Steven King kind of story, another wrote a hilarious paragraph and a third had me out clubbing the night before with the class . My cat was named Killer, Fuzzy, Old Yeller, and Felix, and my car, a filthy old Camry became a Mercedes, a Buick LeSabre, and a sports car. The details were sharp, and the class went beyond simply loading sentences with adjectives--they were using crisp, vivid nouns and verbs, phrases, synonyms and so on. The stories held together, whether my character was being pursued by a killer cat, scraping burned English muffins into the cat's bowl, dropping kettles of boiled water on myself or going upstairs to nap at 7:30 (but never forgetting that I had a classroom full of fantastic students, especially _______--insert writer's name here.).

I wish that I had copies of their freewrites so that I could post some of the sharp, distinct details here. I wish you could see how one student, a returning student who used write apologies after every assignment just sat down and wrote two full pages of a good story. We had fun listening to everyone read out loud, and I made certain to point out two positive, writerly things that each student had done, whether it be in details, word choice or structure. You can bet that I referred back to how these very same techniques could be used in their papers. No buts about it.

As I stand here drafting this post with one hand and swallowing more Advil, I can definitely state that I suffer for my art. Teaching is not for the faint of heart.


At 7:21 PM, Blogger Sharon Gerald said...

Thanks for sharing this. Those days when everything comes together like that in the classroom are so good they're almost worth taking a tumble for. So says she who did not eat Advil for lunch today...

Take care of yourself.

At 2:00 AM, Blogger Jane said...

Rosa and Sharon - I can't resist this: I need a cultural fill-in - what on earth is Advil? My mind is spinning: is it like Vegemite - to which apparantly all Australians become addicted without knowing it?

At 2:07 AM, Blogger Styles said...

Not to dismiss your hurt, but perhaps our students' best help comes when they're entirely free to "ACKcentuate the Negative."

Here I've found "Pet Peeves" to work.

There your cat seems up to the trick.

At 12:51 PM, Blogger jocalo said...

Guess you made lemonade, Rosa--and it was refreshing and tangy. This is one of your best posts. Now stay in one piece so you can make it out here to the Left Coast.

Jane, Advil is over the counter pain medication, an alternate to aspirin.

And I'm supposed to be on NPR within the hour, an interview done yesterday on the new SAT.

Stuff, it is a-happening.

At 1:43 PM, Blogger Rosa G. said...

Thanks for the compliments, all. I've recovered, I think.
My pets were more startled than peeved, Styles.
Jocalo, which program are you on on NPR? I went to the website but couldn't find your name listed on a program. When it's archived, I'll post the link here at CCE.

Until next week. . .


At 10:00 PM, Blogger sharon said...

Wow....I really needed to read this today! Life always seems to be crazy all at once, and it was so refreshing to see how you turned the crazy into the inspired. Yes, teaching is all about the ability to work with whatever "is" to create what "can be". That's what makes me thrill to each just might turn out to be the best thing that could have happened in my classroom.

As for ADVIL - well, ..... I keep a bottle of those little pills in my desk. After sitting hunched over they are just the ticket to getting past tight shoulders and a tired neck. (and yes, I do squirm around and switch positions and take breaks but it is never enough variation with 50 plus essays to read and respond to.)

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