About Me

My photo
I am a retired English teacher and department head, the mother of three grand mother of four, and have been married to the same man for 48 years. I subscribe to Dr. PM Forni's concept of Civility. I was born in South Philadelphia and grew up in the 'burbs. I love soft pretzels and cheesesteaks, the Phillies, the Eagles, and San Diego. I love being Mom, Aunt Kathy, Nona Kathy, and Teacher. I spend a lot of time in my gardens in the spring and summer, and in the winter I plan what I'm going to plant. I also am an avid reader and photographer.


Monday, February 28, 2011

You Can Take The Teacher Out Of The Classroom...

One of the great aspects of teaching is that the teacher, if she's doing her job correctly, often learns stuff -- good stuff.  It's no surprise that teaching the dreaded and feared "College Essay" greatly affected my writing style.  But, let's face it, you'd have to be a hanging salami not to absorb something you taught 80 or 90 times.

It's always good to have actual models when you teach.  I would write purposefully wanting essays full of the horrible mistakes I wanted the kids to avoid, show the essay on the overhead projector and have the kids tear it apart.  At first they would show restraint -- fearful of criticizing something I'd written (they were also a bit confounded that their teacher could have written something so lacking) and often times I'd have to get them started.  Then I'd put a well-written model of the same essay up there and asked them what the particular differences were.  I loved watching the light bulb go on! 

Another tool I used was a book I'd come to love, On Writing The College Essay, by Harry Bauld  (yes, that's his real name).  Sounds horribly dry, doesn't it?  The book, not his name. Well, it's funny, entertaining, expertly written, AND relatively short.  I learned much about writing from this book -- particularly in the section titled "Trimming the Fat".  I was always a soldier in the war on wordiness.   Bauld also features a section of essays, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" -- essays actually written by college applicants -- some excellent; some less so; some downright God-awful.

So, the offer is on the table...Anybody need to write a college application essay???


Tracy said...

Kathy~ I can proudly say I tested out of writing in college :) I was so proud!
I also agree with you that you can take the teacher out of the classroom, however....I feel like my teacher mode is on whenever I go out in public with other people's kids.
Once a mother scolded me for asking her child to stop splashing younger children he didn't even know. Really? oh wel...
thanks for your prayers for Ethan...no sister, huh? I also have three older brothers so I know that it can be different! once the baby, always the baby :)

George said...

It's probably glaringly obvious that I didn't teach English, but I learned a great deal from my students each and every year I was in the classroom. I still find myself going into 'teacher mode' even after all these years.

Purple Flowers said...

Not me thankfully. I am passed that point. However, I love the way you write!

Jay said...

So whose blog are you aiming this at? Hmm?

*Looks around*

Oh .. Mine! hahahahaha ;-)

Betsy Banks Adams said...

Hi Kathy, I didn't major in English (Majored in Music and minored in Math) ---but one year, I had to teach Sophomore English... I think I learned more than the students did.

I was lucky to have received a great high school education --and English was one of the things I was good in... WELL---English grammar that is!!!! I still to this day don't dangle my participles....ha ha

BUT--I loved writing --but was and still am way too wordy... I say things several ways to get the point across... Oh Well... Now --I'm too old to worry about it.

I will say that I worry about kids today who spend their lives in 'text mode'.... Cannot understand a word they are writing... GADS!!!!! How can they truly learn to write a complete sentence with the correct punctuation?????


Sally Wessely said...

I also used to teach this same topic. I loved seeing what the kids would come up with. I was shocked one year when the counselors said they were going to start doing this task with the students. They were going to have workshops where the students brought their essays and the counselors would edit them. Once I showed them what we were doing in class, they saw that there was more to the task than editing. They then wanted to know why more students weren't getting this kind of help in class.

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

Please don't judge my writing. It's been 45 years since I studied English Composition! I was a math major, so my writing was more technical in nature. I could probably use a refresher course. Do you do correspondent courses?

Kimberly said...

Maggie has to write an essay in German on May 9th as part of her Langzeitgymnasium test. We've been practicing all the elements of short essays and brainstorming creative takes on given starters and pictures. I'm afraid I'm no good in the German grammar or vocab department though.

Gilly said...

Still doing a lot of writing - but the best bit is the Creative Writers' Group I belong to. We have an enormous amount of fun, but do a lot of writing as well!

Kay said...

In first grade, I tried to teach my children to be wordy just to write as much as they could so long as everything they wrote pertained to the topic and bolstered whatever argument they were trying to make. I try so hard not to be wordy in my posts, but doggone it... it's hard. I'll keep trying though.

Anonymous said...

I love your writing and hopefully someone who needs help with their essay sees this post.
As for Harry Bauld, isn't that an oxymoron? Just kidding.