Finding Your Legal High

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A week ago, my nephew and I had a brief chat that has since redirected (and refocused) my goal.  I had my laptop open and was skimming through the novel I started writing last November during NaNoWriMo.  I mentioned the word count (something like 36K) and he wanted to know what it was about.  I gave him some of the major points I could recall, but then I began thinking as I was talking.

I’ve had numerous excuses to explain why it’s not done: teaching HS and evening classes, family obligations, computer malfunctions, buying a house, etc.)  Where do those get me?

I do most of my writing within the confines of the month of November, but I never push myself as much during the other eleven months.  When I write–when I REALLY write–I get a rush that is unequaled by anything else I know.  I don’t mean to suggest it’s even in the same ZIP code as playing with my children, seeing my wife’s face when I’ve been a part of her happiness, or even getting through to one of my students about anything whatsoever–those are different “highs”.

No.  Writing, though, gives me that positive surge that reminds me how life should feel all the time.  I’m completely grateful for everything I have achieved in this life so far.  I do not often realize how good I truly have it.

But I want to take this just a few steps further and write a book good enough for a publisher to want to try to sell.  That’s been a goal for something like 15 or 20 years, and I’ve not pushed myself hard enough for it to happen.

I talk to my students a lot about the “fixed mindset” versus the “growth mindset.”  I commonly remind students that growth is always possible if you want it badly enough.  I’d be a hypocrite to say that I’m just not good enough to be published.

Imagine a world where everyone loved what they did for a living.  Imagine a time where people sought out their goals and didn’t always play it safe.

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Here We Go Again…

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Each year, I ask my advanced juniors to write a short essay entitled “My Writing Experience”, the thesis of which is for them to list evidence that supports their current perspective of writing.  They tend to identify moments of encouragement and transition that have led them to feel confident.  

Often, however, something else is revealed.  This year, it happened in the FIRST paper I read.  

Inshort, this student clearly remembered a teacher who assigned sentence writing as a PUNISHMENT.  Regardless of the crime, how can anyone still think that this type of punishment will not adversely affect a student’s attitude toward writing? I have the occassional discipline problem in my HS English classes.  However, I do not make them memorize the period chart of elements because they’ve been bad.  I do not demean them by sending them to the board to explain the Pythagorean Theorem.  That seem a tad nonsensical. 

So STOP!  Find another way todiscipline them!  Sentence writing or copying a dictionary page is RIDICULOUS!!

WRAP Workshop Notes (Days 3) a week late

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The WRAP workshop ended last Thursday (July 30), but I haven’t really had time since to reflect on the value of the whole week.

Wednesday gave us a chance to see some examples of how incorporating multiple texts into a curriculum unit allows us to “cast the widest net” (my term, not theirs) for our upper-level HS students.  The example centered on movie stills and excerpts from To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman.  

We also analyzed some texts from legal scholars’ evaluations of Atticus Finch.  The goal of these various texts is to show how perspectives can change and shift over generations and genres.

Personally, this was the day where I realized how much of my curriculum is “cherry picked” to my liking.  I have always followed the notion that if I’m enthusiastic about a topic or text, the students will be too.  What I have disregarded, however, is that some students may never like what I like and thus feel short-changed.

I remember covering a portion of The Iliad a few years ago.  Homer has never been my guy, but I found that some students were really into the storyline and various characters.  I didn’t fake enthusiasm, but I do recall thinking that this text wasn’t nearly as “bad” as I had set it up to be in my head.

Since then, I have tried to break away from the same texts every year.  While I still have a few staples (Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, Separate Peace, etc.) I have begun including more modern texts.

The next step for me is to pair those novels with non-fiction articles, reviews, and other valuable texts that offer intellectual perspectives.  If our goal is to award diplomas to well-rounded students, we have an obligation to expose them to as much as possible.

Today, there is no excuse not to do just that.