Friday, April 25, 2008

when does writing ever become easy?

That's another million dollar question.

I work mostly with seventh grade boys (well, one in particular - he has moderate to significant physical limitations and my suspicion is he has a few cognitive issues as well) and occasionally my job is to keep my charges on task and producing.

Well, when my pal--we'll call him Dan--is expected to work with anything that's straight up black and white, fact-based and then asked to recall what he has just been exposed to, he nails it. Ask Dan to read and then process information (where he's expected to analyze, synthesize or connect it to previous knowledge), forget it. And the sad part about this last feature of learning is that very few of those seventh grade boys can do that either.

Which brings me to my writing conundrum.

Without a real, confident sense of 'how', I'm expected to guide, coach and conjole my young charges through the process of reading, thinking, organizing and finally writing relevant written responses. It's a painful process at best.

The getting of facts and then turning them into complete thoughts (i.e., complete sentences) without the temptation of plagairizing is not too terribly bad. Boys like to list facts--one after the other--with some (and sometimes not) sense of logical order. But it's the introduction and conclusion paragraphs that get my boys in a bind. For most of them, they intuitively don't get the purpose of introducing (and then ending) their papers.

It's like their brains can't grasp the idea of communicating "Hi! This is my subject and it's just so great and these are a few really amazing eye-catching reasons why my subject is so great (but I'll try not to repeat myself or write my entire paper in this first paragraph!)" and "Goodbye! Wasn't that a great paper and I bet you're glad you now know so many important, never-knew-it-before-but-it's-so-important-to-know stuff about my subject (and again I'll try not to repeat myself or rewrite my paper in this paragraph!)"

It's enough to make me want to gnash my teeth, pull out my hair and dread the lowering of intelligence and educational standards of our future society.

But then I must take a deep breath and remember my own junior high experience. Because honestly, I can't ever remember being taught how to do this nebulus writing thing -- I just sort of had to figure it out on my own (and as an adult, I got lots of help from Pos and from reading good writing).

So, I have alot of curiosity/anxiety/energy tied up into this whole writing thing. I want to know how to teach it effectively and successfully, I want to be able to do it myself easily and successfully, and I want to know what's happening in a kid's brain (through all the developmental stages) when they are thinking/planning/executing their writing.

I have so many questions. This whole written communication process simply facinates me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

trying to get it all done

and not quite making it!

OK, OK, I know, I've been pretty scarce lately. Well, the thing is I've got this trip coming up (to France, no less!) and it's taking up major space in my brain:

  1. What to pack?/what to wear?/what shoe selections make the most sense?
  2. To carry-on? Or not to carry-on?
  3. [That is the million dollar, too close to Heathrow for my comfort, question]
  4. Trying not to forget the passport,
  5. What kind of itinerary do I leave for my mom (AKA: the big dame to be in charge of kiddos and poochie),
  6. How do I write down all the inane things I do/handle/bombard me/manage to accomplish in a week?
  7. Morning routine: how is my mom going get my brood, out the door, on time, for an entire week?!
  8. Kids' schedules: drop-offs/pick-ups - never the same; after school sports - never the same; various social agendas - ditto; etc.
  9. Making piles/making lists: friends' and family phone numbers, school phone numbers - two sets, doctor's number, dentist number, orthodontist number, health insurance cards, car insurance cards, will information, important papers, etc.
  10. Talk to the neighbors - explain the presence of a solitary, strange lady while the couple is away
  11. The dog? How do I begin to address the issue of my co-dependent dog?
  12. Try not to forget the passport.
  13. Clean my house (one more good time) - my mother can not know the reality of my housekeeping skills; it would be embarrassing.
  14. Have I mentioned the just-barely-house-trained dog?
  15. Have I also mentioned that my mom and stairs don't really mix?
  16. Did I also mention that the only way to reach a grassy surface, you have to tread some stairs?
  17. A dog run - we have to install a dog run before we leave.

Ummm, I know I'm missing something ... But I'm confident that it'll come to me just as I'm drifting off to sleep.

Friday, April 18, 2008

dashed off excuses from an AWOL blogger

It's officially Spring ...

the flowers are finally blooming, the grass is tall and shaggy, lacrosse/softball/baseball are in full swing

and my house is a disaster.

I never have more than five minutes to sit in front of the computer

or read my favorite blogs

or do Facebook

much less compose a written-worthy thought.

I'm a Springtime slacker

and I know it.

Hedy, Pos, Mya,

thanks for your comments and kind words

and I desperately wish to reciprocate ...

but I must dash.

I'm off to my next unscheduled, chaotic time-wasting outdoors event.

Monday, April 7, 2008

scullery maid, seamstress and synaptic misfires

Whew! It's been a week!

Well for starters, I survived yet another high school dance event! For an almost 40 y.o. female, I sure have spent a LOT of time prepping for high school dances ...

I get to schlep, shop, seamstress and play hairdresser for the 15 y.o. without the lovely benefit of dinner and dancing myself! By the time the event arrives, I'm completely through doing the handmaiden duty and am ready to retire with a bottle of red and a good book. On seamstressing alone, I spent approximately five hours on the double hem of her dress and then last minute had to move strap buttons because, well, that wasn't working out either!

For shoes, hair and finally make-up, I was the Simon Cowle of advice-giving and appearance critique. And the real kicker is that by the end, I'm convinced I've never actually cinched my daughter's appreciation regarding most of my efforts.

Needless to say, I'm completely thrilled with the fact that the formal dance portion of her Freshman year has come to an end ... I was seriously concerned that we might have ended up in parent/child divorce court over the progressive increase in stress and monetary expenditures!

But overall, I have to admit, she did look smashing!

And regarding my scullery maid alternative personality -- it's about ready to revolt and start waging an all out war in this household. My only excuse is that it must be Spring and certain systematic and irrational features of my brain must be overwhelmed by all the accumulated clutter and overall state of shabbiness and disrepair. I'm bemoaning the state of my floors/baseboards/mudroom/attic/basement/garden beds/front porch/back yard/deck latticework damage/etc. etc. etc. etc. ...

Hey, I never claimed to be a rational person. Just possessed of a selectively anal compulsive disorder!

And another tax on my mental capacity can best be explained by the following MollyGras equation:

Synaptic misfires = looking:seeking:searching + access to print:internet information + random:not-so-random:[albeit loosely]connected preformed ideas + identifying:grabbing:holding:corralling ideas + mental webbing[organizing]/thinking & note taking ---> cranial bombardment

[translation: I'm in research mode for a story idea that's been plaguing me for years and refuses to vaporize from my overactive imagination, so I've recently relented and have been getting a little serious with my muse. This is going to be an interesting summer!]

Well ta-ta for now as I continue to suffer from a self-inflicted case of multi-tasking brain overload ... and I really see no end in sight. My only saving grace is knowing that it'll be Friday soon and with Friday comes lovely glasses of mind-numbing wine!!