Friday, December 17, 2010

Well . . . There’s Still Good News

(In which I try to be optimistic.)

***

On Studying

I got back to school recently and though I was only enrolled for two subjects, it felt like I was studying full-time because of the tons of readings to be done, essays to be written and reports to be studied. But I don’t mind. It sometimes feels better to be the student than to be the teacher. Somehow, being guided by an authority is more secure than being the authority itself. It’s nice to feel this security even just once a week. Let’s leave it at that.

On Teaching Online

We don’t work for eight hours straight. No, we don’t. We’re one of the lucky people who have their own rooms, have considerably long breaks, can access the Internet during those breaks and still get paid for doing so or for virtually doing nothing. That was cool. Until they noticed how really long my break is and decided to put an end to my luck.

Yesterday, I was told to teach a high school student grammar and writing from 6pm-8pm. That’s right. That’s how long my break has been. Apparently, good things never last.

On Teaching the New Boy

The student wants grammar and writing and Brent International School. He shows me his essays and book reports to point out that he knows how to write but that his grammar puts him down. He shows me his report card and his folders to show that he’s not a bad student. He’s not, really. So I told him to just do advance reading and ask me about the things he doesn’t understand. Well, that’s a tough challenge for both of us but that’s what really happens when a student has big goals.

On Teaching the Old Boys

Gerald has been patient with his writing and the boring class time. (And I have been, too.) Jack has been patient with my tardiness for as long as I can remember. I told him about the new project I am on and confessed that I am thinking of giving up the class with him. Incidentally, he was thinking of the same thing and we came up with a consensus. Oh! The beauty of having laziness on both ends!

On Blogging

The best thing about this blog’s being personal-turned-bookish is that it can always go back to being personal when I have nothing book-related to post. It’s convenient . . . and cathartic.

Photo Source
Optimism

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Mentor’s Musing: On Teaching Writing

(In which he finally wrote.)
***
We reached the chapter where my student, Gerald, is supposed to study narration, finally, after days of procrastination due to the combined bouts of nostalgia, lovesickness and plain laziness. I was so thrilled to teach that I discussed the four major modes of discourse despite of myself, much to the surprise of the wide-eyed East Asian man whose attention shifted from the whiteboard to the sports article on the PC monitor. I know not which he’s feigning attention to but I care not as well. He had his days of unproductiveness; it’s about time that I lift the curse he caused!
Knowing the importance of time and place in a narrative, I told him how he could use order to show sequence.
“In your story, you should always pay attention to the order. Which comes first? Which do you want to narrate first?”
He nodded, and glanced at the monitor.
“Oh soccer!” I muttered under my breath. “Okay, about the order, you may use the chronological order or the reverse chronology. You could also use some flashbacks.”
He nodded, looked at the monitor and clicked on a link.
“Gerald!”
“Yes! Chronology! I understand”, he assured me.
“Well, for the sake of discussion, the chronological order shows how a story transpires from the past to the present or from first to last. The reverse chronology, however, works from the present to the past or from the last to the first.”
“Why should we use that?” he asked.
“What?”
“The reverse.’
“Well, it depends on what the writer’s purpose is. Joel Gross in his book The Books of Rachel used the chronological order to link different Jewish families from the past to the current. Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue is presented through the reverse chronology to trace the origin of a painting. So you see, the purpose is the thing.”
“I still don’t get it but, anyway, chronological order is easier.”
“Okay.”
As we went on with the writing activity which includes the writing process, i.e., topic selection, brainstorming, outline making and the rough draft, I almost jumped for joy when he actually wrote a topic outline legibly! And wait, he also asked questions like:
How am I going to write the introduction for a narrative? I’m sure it’s different from an example or a process essay.
How am I going to write the conclusion?
Do I still need to summarize in the conclusion?
I don’t want my essay to be too detailed. Can I just write about the interesting things and explain them?
Okay, you may think that it’s no big deal since it’s a writing class and students are supposed to ask questions like these. But considering that a couple of months ago, his colossal interest in writing revolves around the fact that he didn’t want to follow the correct structure and that he didn’t find an outline of any kind important or that his idea of an essay is a bunch of paragraphs with a minimum of five sentences overflowing with conjunctive adverbs and comma splices, yes, this one’s a big deal!
The formula in a nutshell:
Be lenient and practical. Let the students think for themselves. Make a list of topics to give them options. Don’t use Emerson and Bacon to elucidate. Give your own writing examples and let yourself be criticized. Understand their interest and let them write about it. If they happen to be Korean, let them write about Park Ji Sung and prepare to correct a two-page essay. Well, that’s better than correcting four paragraphs made up of five sentences each.
Photo Source

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Words by Angela Manalang Gloria

(In which I’d rather write.)

***

I was supposed to be writing the continuation of my essay for Asian and Philippine Literature when I stumbled upon a poem whose title was what I needed – Words.

Words
by Angela Manalang Gloria

I never meant the words I said,
So trouble not your honest head
And never mean the words I write,
But come and kiss me now goodnight.

The words I said break with the thunder
Of billows surging into spray:
Unfathomed depths withhold the wonder
Of all the words I never say.

It was beautiful. What I admire most about AMG is the way she weaves reality and the female psyche into her verses. I felt so connected to the poem I can almost claim the voice, of course, if not for the poetess’ superior play of words and thought. But I read it again and realized that the first stanza wasn’t for me. Yes, it wasn’t for me. I mean what I say. The second, however, describes me. What I don’t say I mean more.

Sometimes it’s ironic that no matter how many words I utter, I still run out of ways to express myself. I speak, and somehow it gets forgotten. I write for the sake of memory and they get lost. I thought I knew words. Now I doubt if I ever knew them. No one needs to understand. I don’t understand it, either.

So I’d rather write. Besides, I should be writing now.