Archives for July 2007
Here are the rules:
You must post five links to posts you have written.
Post your five links and then tag five other people. At least two of the people you tag must be newer acquaintances so that you get to know each other better . . . and don’t forget to read the archive posts and leave comments!
Link 1 must be about family:
The folks I am tagging are:
- Island Girl at An Island Life (Paradise Edition)
- Angel Mama at Pearls of Wisdom
- Mert at Almost Somewhat Positive
- Karen at Live the Power
EVERYONE is invited to participate. You do not have to be tagged! If you do, please link back to this post and let me know when you have published your post with the links to your five articles as I will update this article to include them, thereby providing a bunch of link love for everyone!
Thanks, Mimi, for thinking of me!
There is something extraordinary going on in the blogosphere. It is appropriate to observe, at first glance, that members of this diverse cyber-community are coming together to support and encourage one young mother who has been diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer: Inflammatory breast cancer.
But what’s happening goes far beyond addressing the plight of one woman. Bloggers are taking the opportunity to educate their readers about the danger signs of cancer and urge them to consult their physician if they recognize any of the symptoms mentioned. And in doing so, we just might save some lives.
It’s Not a Diet: It’s a Lifestyle Change (Part 2)
No one can stay on a diet indefinitely because it is not natural. It is an artificial way of living that can be adopted and adhered to temporarily, but must come to an end.
When it does — as it inevitably will — and you revert to the old ways of eating and relating to food which were familiar to you for so long before you began the temporary program, all of the weight lost will be regained. And more. Because your body will protect itself instinctively from any repeat onslaught of starvation such as the one it just survived.
I’m not a nutritionist, but I have read a great deal of literature about this.
The Writing Prompt: Phenomenon
“Something that is impressive or extraordinary; a remarkable or exceptional person; prodigy; wonder.”
As I mentioned previously, on July 15, 2007, I was honored to spend the day with Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway at the Master Class in Napa. The way such a class works is: The first portion of the class is a general lecture and group warm-up. Those desiring to be “participants” submit a professional-quality recording in advance and Sir James selects four players to whom he will give instruction while the audience members — “auditors” — watch and learn.
Based upon the various videotapes of other classes that I have watched, as well as interviews, information posted on his website and the e-mails that Sir James sends to our discussion group, I knew that the opportunity to attend the class represented a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn from a world-class flutist who has no equal.
I also have become aware of the years that I have been studying the flute that my teacher is also a world-class flutist and teacher, and I am very lucky to have the chance to learn from her. It is not unusual at all to receive direction from her from a lesson and just a few days later read precisely the same message from Sir James, as well as other highly accomplished flutists who are part of the e-mail group.
I was very curious to see, however, what teaching method(s) Sir James would employ, how he would deliver criticism, and whether such a brief lesson with him could, in fact, actually make a difference in one’s technique. In my profession, I encounter a lot of arrogance and self-importance, and I had heard rumors about Sir James’ level of arrogance. So I knew the day would be quite interesting.
Frankly, the rumors were true. Sir James does project an air of arrogance at time, but, as I told my friend during the lunch break, “I can tolerate a fair amount of arrogance — if the individual in question has the ‘goods’ to back it up.” And Sir James most certainly does.
I was extremely impressed with the manner in which he worked with the participants. First, he let them perform for an extensive period of time without interruption, listening intently as they played. You’ll never convince me to play poker with him because it as impossible to tell what he was thinking as he watched each performer.
When he had heard enough, he would stop them. Perusing their score, he would ask about why they phrased a passage a particular way, why they took a breath in a particular spot, what their teacher had recommended in certain difficult spots. I am certain that he as examining any notes placed upon their score. He worked to improve their intonation and interpretation, repeatedly stressing the beauty of the piece in question and suggesting ways to make it more interesting and “musical”.
All advice was given in a nonconfrontational manner, often accompanied by a funny story or remembrance and a demonstration — by memory, or course — of how it should sound.
Having brought several flutes with him, including a couple of his gold Nagaharas, he offered participants a chance to repeat their performance of a section using his flute, drawing a gasp from the audience the first time he handed one of his instruments to a student. Naturally, her playing sounded markedly better — of course, Sir James examined her flute and decreed that the keys were wobbling horizontally when they should only open and close in a vertical manner!
Of particular interest to me was the manner in which he approached correcting one participant who had an unbelievably annoying habit of waving her arms and upper body about as she played, slamming her rights into her sides at the end of each phrase. While she was playing, my friend and I looked at each other quizzically because our teacher would never tolerate such histrionics! But whatever Sir James was thinking remains a mystery — there was no clue in his expression.
When she finished her performance, he began working with her on a variety of points but did not mention her bizarre movements. My friend and I kept looking at each other in amazement, wondering when he was going to broach that subject. Many other audience members were wondering the same thing.
Finally, after he had carefully analyzed a couple of difficult passages with her, he turned to walk back over to his chair and said nonchalantly, “Now play that section again and this time, stand still.”
“That’s it?” I thought to myself. “That’s all he’s going to say about it?” That was all he needed to say. The participant paused and looked at him, studying his face upon which there was now the slightest grin. And then he asked her in an off-the-cuff manner with his lilting Irish brogue, “You didn’t think all that moving around was helping your embouchure, did you?” Everyone laughed with relief that the elephant in the room had finally been christened, and then he proceeded to explain to her how her movements were destroying her otherwise beautiful tone and causing her to chop off the ends of the phrases in a decidedly nonmusical way.
“[Y]ou can never tell the moment when a friend will no longer be there and one should really treasure every moment with friends, colleagues and the ones we love.” ~ Sir James Galway ~
And then she played the section of the piece again standing almost perfectly still. Beautifully. The improvement was remarkable.
And that’s when I knew for sure that I was in the presence of not only a very great musician, but a very great teacher. And an extremely gentle and kind human being.
I have encountered other professionals who have achieved the kind of success in their chosen field that Sir James has — he is, of course, Sir James, having been knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2001 for his services to music — who are cruel and condescending to less accomplished individuals, and possess no aptitude for teaching. So I was delighted to see that Sir James exhibited a genuine interest in assisting the participants become better flutists. I was gratified to witness his genteel, almost playful, approach to working with the performers and amazed at how effortlessly he improved their performances in just a few short minutes.
And I was again reminded of how blessed I am to receive such excellent, comparable instruction from my own teacher right here in “Livable, Lovable Lodi”. As I have written about here before, I dreamed of playing the flute my entire life and only made the dream a reality a few short years ago.
As I told Lady Jeanne as the day was winding down, 2007 has been a remarkable year so far. Not only did I get to play my flute at Carnegie Hall with the Delta Winds on March 28, 2007, I was able to attend the Master Class and, at long last, meet the phenomenal Galways. I have been so blessed by these experiences that words are inadequate to express my feelings.
And that, of course, leads to the inevitable question: What next?
Switzerland 2008. The Galways host a week-long class there every summer. My goal is to not only be there, but be a participant.
And on that note (no pun intended), I must go practice not only my flute, but the brand new piccolo I took delivery off yesterday1
The Writing Prompt: Phenomenon
“Something that is impressive or extraordinary; a remarkable or exceptional person; prodigy; wonder.”
“It was a dark and stormy night” here in Northern California. The drive from Lodi to San Rafael in the late afternoon wasn’t bad, but the drive back home to Lodi was miserable because of the steady, hard downpour making it extremely difficult to see and fairly treacherous since portions of the freeway were beginning to develop standing water due to the amount of rain coming down quickly. In short, it was a miserable trip.
But the trip was worth it since that evening was the fulfillment of a dream: Sir James, “the man with the golden flute,” and Lady Jeanne Galway were touring with the Polish Chamber Orchestra, performing Mozart. I got tickets more than six months in advance so we were seated in the seventh row, dead center, in what had to be as perfect a location as the house offered.
The concert was spectacular — among the most enchanting and extraordinary evenings of music I have ever experienced. We were seated close enough to see and appreciate the entire ensemble. Close enough to see the twinkle in Sir James’ eyes when he and Lady Jeanne were playing together, obviously mesmerized by each other. Close enough to watch his fingers move ever so slightly as he raced up and down the scales that were an integral part of the selections. Close enough to see the expressiveness in his eyes as he played. Close enough to watch his unique style of conducting. Close enough to watch the expressions on the faces of the orchestra when he played the cadenzas — they were enchanted, even though they listened to him play every night.1
Close enough to understand why he brought tears to my eyes when he played “Danny Boy” as an encore. He jokingly noted that the House Manager in that venue was the lovely “Ms. Flanagan,” so if he neglected to play it that night, in particular, he wouldn’t “get out alive.” Just before he began to play, he explained that, to him, the piece is a prayer and he plays it that way.
“You know what happens when you don’t pray, right? Absolutely nothing! So give it a whirl,” he told us!
Sir James is a phenomenon — his mastery of the flute is impressive, extraordinary. He is a consummate musician — a prodigy — as well as a truly remarkable and exceptional person.
Over the past 30 years or so, he has brought a knowledge of and love for the flute to countless folks around the world. He selflessly and generously shares his knowledge, skill, and talent via Master Classes at the venues where he performs in concert. He also participates in an e-mail group, providing free instruction and advice to players and teachers from all corners of the globe, always telling us via his signature line where he happens to be at the moment. He records sound and video files demonstrating proper technique and, as a Christmas present, even gave his fans the chance to play a duet with him — a Telemann Canonic Sonata — by logging into his website and downloading the sound file.
If you ever have the chance to see Sir James and Lady Jeanne in concert, run — do not walk — to the box office! Whether or not you are a fan of classical music is of no import. Sir James’ unmatched talent and communication with his audience will win you over. An evening with Sir James and Lady Jeanne is an experience not to be missed!
[youtube width=”325″ height=”235″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdNY8tNgWa0[/youtube]
Last year, Michael McDonald sat in with Paul Schaeffer and the CBS Orchestra during The Late Show. About Michael’s performance, Letterman remarked, “Man, if I could sing like that, everybody could just kiss my ass.”
I’ve seen Michael McDonald in concert twice and they were two of the most rockin’, good-time concerts I have ever experienced.
Describe a toy you remember from your childhood.
My Lucy doll and I were inseparable. I still have her, too.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being highest) how observant are you?
Depends on my mood. If I’m tired and/or relaxed, I’d give myself a 7.
If I’m “on,” I give myself a 10+. Occupational and former occupational (accountant=detail-oriented) hazard.
Thirteen Facts About the Life Experiences of This Year’s College Freshmen
School will be starting again soon, so here are some facts about the life experiences of young people entering college this fall, most of whom were born in 1988.
- They are too young to remember the space shuttle, Challenger, blowing up as we watched in horror (that was in 1986).
- Their lifetime has always included HIV and AIDS.
- When they learned about the “birds and bees,” they also learned about “safe sex.”
This photo was taken the same day as the one I shared yesterday for Wordless Wednesday. It was taken in July 1979 when my good friend and I came home to pick up my first-ever brand new car, the 1979 Mercury Capri Ghia that my sister (left) and parents (check out those snappy plaid pants) are leaning on next to me (with a seriously bad perm).
“Jesus simply didn’t want Martha to be so caught up in kitchen service FOR Him that she missed out on the joy of Living-Room intimacy WITH Him.”
~ Joanna Weaver ~
Having a Mary Spirit
If you get too caught up in the mechanics of doing something, you lose the simple joy of the experience.
Have you ever gone to an amusement park with someone who was enthralled with the way the park was laid out, entranced by the technology of the rides, obsessed with the way in which crowd control measures are implemented?
I have. It’s not a fun experience for us “average Joes” who just want to scream when the roller coaster dips, make Dumbo go up and down or the teacup spin faster, or snap a photo or two of the parade down Main Street.
It’s Not a Diet: It’s a Lifestyle Change (Part 1)
I am not on a diet. I have changed my lifestyle as it pertains to food and exercise.
What’s the difference?
Conceptually, diets are of finite duration. They prescribe what, when and how much food you can eat. They involve counting calories or points. All too often the diet becomes a new obsession and when the novelty wears off or it becomes too difficult to maintain the momentum, the old eating habits are resumed. Old patterns prevail and the weight lost regained.
This past week, two deaths came to my attention.
They occurred under distinctly different circumstances and at opposite ends of the spectrum of life, but both had the same result: Loved ones were left behind to mourn and those folks are the focus of this article. We all need to light a candle for them today.
Since I broached the topic of pet peeves last week . . .
A couple of days ago, I had a fairly appalling experience. A well-educated, articulate member of my profession committed a faux pas that qualifies as my all-time, number one, no worthy competitor pet peeve: I call it my “redundant pronoun pet peeve.”
I have been hearing it with increasing frequency and from some very surprising sources. Recently, I have also noticed the error more and more often in written documents, especially blogs.
Here’s an example:
“John, he went out to the parking lot to retrieve an item from his car.”
In that sentence, “he” is improper. “He” is a pronoun that can be substituted for the noun, “John,” in that sentence.
It is a personal pronoun because it refers to a person, “John,” and indicates gender (male). More specifically, it is a subjective personal pronoun that can serve as the subject of the sentence. Other subjective personal pronouns are:
The subject of the sentence above is “John” so the sentence should read: “John went out to the parking lot . . .”
When a subjective personal pronoun is used, it takes the place of and stands instead of an alternative subject. For variety, assuming that the reader will understand that “John” is the subject to which the sentence refers, the sentence could correctly be structured this way: “He went out to the parking lot . . .”
But including both “John” and “he” in that sentence results in the redundant use of the subjective personal pronoun which is completely superfluous and grammatically incorrect.
I don’t know why this error seems to be rearing its ugly head more and more, especially among folks who should know better. But every time I hear or read a redundant pronoun, the result is the same as sitting at the dinner table for Thanksgiving with the second cousin twice removed who insists upon scraping his fork across his front teeth with every third bite. It is jolting to the ear or eyes.
Articles on this topic frequently mention the “lose” vs. “loose” mistake which I have also seen more and more often in recent months. But I have noted instances of redundant pronouns at least as frequently.
If your word processing software includes a grammar checker (as do Microsoft Word and Corel Word Perfect), it will detect this error and suggest a correct alternative wording.
Avoiding the “redundant pronoun pet peeve” is one simple, but effective way to assure that your writing and public speaking are impeccable and you garner the respect of your readers or audience.
Celebrate Your Accomplishments
I have again neglected this little blog. It has been left like the proverbial orphan on the doorstep of the orphanage for a few weeks.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being highest) how much do enjoy watching sports on television?
I watch very few sporting events . . . I really enjoy ice skating and basketball. I will watch a few other Olympic events, just for fun, if I happen to have a few free moments.
I just received very sad news from my friend, Bob Romans, the leader of Cell Block Seven, a fabulous Dixieland jazz band headquartered here in Lodi. One of their members, Bill Gunter, died last night. Bill brought a kind word, smile and countless hours of entertainment to their audiences for many years. He will be sorely, deeply missed not only by the band members, but Cell Block Seven’s many, many fans, including our family.
This is the text of his obituary from the Sacramento Bee:
CONGRATULATIONS are in order for the cast and crew of “The Sopranos” which earned more primetime Emmy nominations this morning than any other series!
The nominations include:
- Outstanding Drama Program
- James Gandolfini for Outstanding Lead Actor
- Edie Falco for Outstanding Lead Actress
- Michael Imperioli for Outstanding Supporting Actor
- Aida Turturro for Outstanding Supporting Actress
- Lorraine Bracco for Outstanding Supporting Actress
- Tim Daly for Outstanding Guest Actor
- Outstanding Writing (Episode: “Kennedy and Heidi”)
- Outstanding Writing (Episode: “The Second Coming”)
- Outstanding Writing (Episode: “Made in America”)
- gray literature
- perfect storm
- speed dating
I have a very good friend of more than thirty years who is single (divorced). She recently went through an unfortunate break-up with a guy she really cared about and with whom she envisioned a future for herself. It is the classic tale of one partner being faithful, true and authentic while the other is a “player.” In this case, the guy was weaseling his way back to an old flame, unbeknownst to my friend. Only when he deemed that mission successful did he announce to my friend that he was breaking up with her because he had “reconnected” with the other woman.
I spent the day with Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway at the Master Class in Napa. What an amazing day! (I will write about it in more detail soon.)
We all make mistakes.
But if you want me to answer you, don’t ever call me “Jane.”
And if you address or refer to me as such in any written form, especially when the correct spelling of my name is right there in front of you, e.g., in the signature line of the e-mail from me to which you are replying, I am not going to be amused. Or give your writing the consideration it might otherwise merit.
This past week, a gentleman repeatedly referred to me as “Jane” in a series of e-mails, totally confusing other folks involved in the conversation. And after the mistake was pointed out to him, he persisted in referring to me as such. Finally, exasperated, I tactfully but firmly drew his attention to the aforementioned signature line and requested that he call me “Janie.”
It is just one letter. Just one little “i.” So what’s the big deal, you ask?
Well, first of all, do you think it is easy going through life as Janie — Hickok — Siess? Can you guess how many incorrect variations of each name I have been subjected to over the years? No, you can’t because I still see new ones from time to time.
For instance, there is no hyphen between Hickok and Siess. And no, it is not acceptable to abbreviate “Hickok” to just the letter “H” because it is not my middle name. It is my birth name.
And I won’t even venture into the “Ms.” vs. “Mrs.” conundrum. For the record, I’m not “Mrs. Siess.” You may call me “Ms. Siess” or, simply, “Janie,” thank you. I am not now, never have been, and never will be “Mrs. Somebody Else.”
The misspelling of names is one of my pet peeves and, in my estimation, one of the hallmarks that separates the writing pros from the amateurs. Our names are the key to our identities and, while some folks are very flexible about the manner in which they are addressed or referenced, there are just as many who, like me, have strong preferences.
For that reason, I developed the habit many years ago of checking and double-checking the spelling of names when drafting a document, especially correspondence. To me, taking the extra few seconds to assure that I have spelled a name properly is one small but meaningful way not only to demonstrate my own competence, but also show respect for the person in question.
So if I receive an e-mail, letter or other business document in which the author has spelled my name correctly, he/she instantly grabs my attention and engages me because that one simple fact tells me a few things about him/her. It signals that he/she is observant and detail-oriented. It is also the mark of an individual who cares about the manner in which he/she is perceived and signals that he/she desires to be viewed as a professional. I am far more likely to peruse and reflect upon the remainder of the author’s writing when my name, if included in the document, is spelled properly.
Taking the time to assure that you have spelled names correctly is increasingly challenging and important as our society becomes more and more diverse, and many people are using alternate and unique spellings of traditional names. Examples I have observed lately include “Jesseca” (as opposed to “Jessica”) and “Johnathan” (rather than the more common “Jonathan”).
So while spelling a name may seem, at first blush, like a trivial matter — it is, with regard to “Janie,” just one little “i,” after all — it is actually one simple but effective way in which to assure that your writing is, in all aspects, as accurate and well-crafted as possible, thereby engendering respect from your readers.
Do you have any pet peeves? Leave a comment and share some of them with me.
In this 1984 photo of my parents helping their first grandchild learn to walk, he appears fascinated with the shadows on the sidewalk in front of them.
It reminded me of this poem by Robert Louis Stevenson from “A Child’s Garden of Verses” (I still have my copy from childhood . . . do you?):
I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from te heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an India-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.
He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!
One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.
What is your favorite fruit?
Oh, I can’t pick just one. I love bananas, oranges, peaches, apricots, grapes, plums, watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries . . .
Living here in California, we are blessed with many varieties of fresh fruit all year long. I grew up with peach, orange, lemon and apricot trees in the backyard. Plus, Lodi is wine country so we always enjoy luscious, delicious grapes.
Thirteen Reasons Why Dogs Are Easier to Raise Than Children
- Dogs eat less than teen-agers;
- Don’t ask for money all the time;
- Don’t ask for the car keys all the time;
- Are easier to potty train;
- Normally come when called;
- Don’t smoke;
- Don’t drink;
- Don’t have to buy the latest fashions to be “cool” in the eyes of their friends;
- Don’t ask to borrow your clothes;
- Don’t cost a “gazillion” dollars in college tuition;
- Don’t stay out past their curfew;
- Don’t cut class, causing you to get a call from the truant officer; and
- If they get pregnant, you can sell their children!
“Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing yet had been done.”
~ C.S. Lewis ~
Why do we have to start from scratch every morning in exercising our faith? That’s the question this quote made me ponder.
Two thoughts keep coming to me. The first is a cliche, but true: Every day is a blank slate. And that cuts both ways.
Two weeks ago, I wrote here about my friend who was nearing the end of her days here on earth. She did cross over into eternity last Saturday, June 30, 2007, and this past Saturday I attended the memorial service held in her honor.
I knew the woman in question for about as long as I can remember — at least since seventh grade — but we were never real close friends. We hung out in the same circle of friends, but did not seek each other out individually. Whenever “the gang” was gathered together, we were both there. And we kept up to date on each other’s lives via the other members of our group with whom we both interacted individually. We were always happy to see each other, though. Friendships often work this way.
I really enjoyed reading your responses to my post last week, “What would you do?” I promised that I would tell you this week how I handled the situation.
Here’s what I did: Nothing.
I am somewhat embarrassed to tell you that I did not take any action with regard to the teacher’s error.
Why? Actually, I had a number of reasons, none of which had anything to do with neuroticism or perfectionism.
The most important reason was, for me, a desire not to jeopardize my son’s wonderful relationship with his teacher. As I explained, this incident occurred in an extremely small, nondenominational Christian school in which the teachers and students enjoy a lot more daily interaction than is possible in larger environments. In our public schools, it is not unusual to hear that classes have 35, 38 or even 40 students. At the high school level, that means that a teacher sees at least 150 to 200 students over the course of teaching five or six different “periods” during a given day. The teachers cannot possibly get to know and develop a personal relationship with that many students.
But in my child’s school, there were only about fifteen freshman and a couple of the teachers taught more than one subject.
So I was loathe to do anything that would upset the delicate sociological, interpersonal balance and, perhaps, subject my son to — even unconscious and non-deliberate — retaliation as a result of my confronting the teacher.
The tuition is a significant expense, but I know that the teachers in such small private schools are paid far less and enjoy fewer benefits than public school teachers. They do not have the luxury of tenure, for instance. And sometimes such institutions have a hard time attracting the best qualified teachers because they cannot offer competitive compensation and benefit packages.
When I investigated the situation, I learned that the teacher in question might not return for the coming school year. I also found that the focus of her teaching was geared more toward appreciating literature than the mechanics of writing. They read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” for instance, and watched the classic film starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. They also read “The Old Man and the Sea” and “Animal Farm,” among other classics, and did a lot of writing about their reactions to what they read.
Therefore, the teacher’s emphasis was not on grammar, punctuation, etc. Rather, she encouraged the students to read and develop a passion for writing. My son told me that they spent a lot of time in class “talking about life and faith” in relationship to the literature they read and wrote about.
As several commenters suggested, I did monitor my son’s papers to see if the mistake would be repeated. It was not; nor did I note any other errors of that magnitude.
One reader suggested that the “teacher may have been in a hurry or tired”. Perhaps, but I do not believe — although I make plenty of mistakes when writing — that I would ever make such an error involving the basic use of language, nor would most of the competent writers I know.
My son really liked the teacher and they had a wonderful rapport. She was otherwise supportive, positive and empowering in her dealings with him and he ended up not only with excellent grades, but was named “Young Author” at the school’s awards ceremony. The teacher’s overall demeanor and attitude boosted my shy, good-hearted boy’s self-esteem and encouraged him to explore his unique, witty writing style.
So basically, after assuring myself that my son recognized the error, I deemed it best to do nothing. At this writing, I do not know if the teacher will be returning for the coming school year. If she is, I am debating whether to say anything in confidence to the principal about the situation so that she can keep a watchful eye. If I do mention it, I will do so in the context of inquiring whether this year’s curriculum will be more focused upon the mechanics of writing which I believe to be essential, especially, as a couple of commenters pointed out, for high school sophomores since they will be preparing for various college entrance and placement examinations.
The situation was a great learning experience for our family. It provided an opportunity to model patience, forgiveness and discern when it is appropriate and constructive to offer criticism as opposed to letting a transgression slide.
Sometimes, even when dealing with a highly technical craft like writing, the “greater good” has to be considered. A competent grasp of the principles of grammar, punctuation and usage is, of course, mandatory in order to be a successful writer. But we all make mistakes. A former supervisor regularly declined to review my work, saying, “I know that it is fine if you wrote it.” I would insist, placing my draft document on the top of his “in” pile, saying, “I need an audience. Even F. Scott Fitzgerald had an editor.” He would laugh and acquiesce. And it never failed: He always found at least one or two spelling or grammatical errors. Sometimes he would bring back the draft with a sentence or couple of sentences circled with a “?” or “awkward” in the margin. That would tell me that the thought, idea or theory I was attempting to convey was not clear to my readers and allow me to clarify its presentation in the final draft.
Bottom line: Criticism is necessary and we all have to develop a “tough skin” if we want to hone our skills. However, there are times and situations when it is best to overlook an error in favor of accomplishing something more important than technical competence: To encourage a struggling writer, you may opt to “not sweat the small stuff” so that individual is empowered to keep putting words on the page (or computer screen). In the long run, you may do that person — and his/her future readers — a greater service than if you pointed out every single error made while a fledgling writer. I’m confident that Atticus Finch would approve.
Today I am thankful that my ordeal with the company from which I originally purchased my domain name is over and this site is not just up and running again, but greatly improved! Do you like the new layout? I think it looks much better, providing more “white space,” easier navigation and faster loading times.
Today is the last day of vacation and I have spent most of it getting all of my posts imported from Blogger, tweaking the layout, etc. I still have some work to do, but I am pleased, overall, with the progress I have made so far.
School is out for the summer and my youngest son’s report card is posted on the front of the refrigerator. I can at long last write here about something that occurred this past winter.
My son just finished his high school freshman year in a very small, private school (nondenominational Christian). I have been pleased, in most respects, with the education he is receiving, especially the way his teachers have validated, encouraged and challenged him. He needs structure and affirmation. I love the fact that the students wear uniforms and there are no cliques. Rather, the students are respectful, polite and function as a little family where everyone is included and supported.
Unfortunately, private schools cannot offer the kind of salary and benefits packages available to public school teachers, so I have found, after having one or both of my children enrolled in private schools at various times, that you must be diligent about researching the teachers’ qualifications and monitor homework assignments, etc. Often, teachers who do not possess a teaching credential conferred by a reputable college or university end up employed by private schools, often completing their credential program coursework concurrently.
Both of my children are talented writers and have won awards for their work. Both enjoy writing and my youngest, in particular, has a really creative and imaginative style. Once, he wrote a lengthy essay about life on the expedition with Lewis and Clark — from the perspective of their dog. While the idea was provided to him, the manner in which he narrated the dog’s adventures was uniquely his. He delighted the audience when he read his story at the honors assembly.
So enough bragging and on to the dilemma:
A few months ago, he brought home an essay he had written in his freshman English class. I was not surprised to see that he received an “A.” But what shocked me was the comment his teacher wrote on his paper, suggesting that, although the essay was quite good, he
“could of developed” one part of the story more fully.
I was stunned.
It occurred to me that perhaps the teacher had enlisted an older student to assist with reading and critiquing the freshmen papers, so I asked my son about that.
“No, Mom, she grades all of our papers herself. This is Mrs. ____’s handwriting. Can you believe she wrote that?”
I asked my kind-hearted, shy boy if he said anything to the teacher about the comment.
“No, Mom. I wouldn’t want to draw her attention to her mistake and . . . you know . . . hurt her feelings because I really like Mrs. _____.”
I called my sister — an English teacher. Let’s just say that her attitude was not quite as charitable.
Understandably, she was horrified by the teacher’s incompetency, not to mention distressed about the way such incidents reflect upon her profession.
I could not justify the teacher’s error by saying, “Well, a lot of people get confused about that.” The mistake is not, in my experience, a common one. Most people know that the teacher should have written “you could have developed” the story more fully.
And I might have been more forgiving had the comment been drafted by his math, science or computer science teacher.
But his English teacher?
Here are my questions for you: Have you ever had a similar experience? If so, how did you handle it, i.e., did you contact the teacher and confront him/her or take the matter up with the department chairperson, principal or other administrator? How do you feel such a situation should be handled? Leave a comment!
Next week I’ll tell you how Iopted to handle the matter.