Thursday, October 3, 2013

English 9 (Honors)

As a writer, high school English is very frustrating. The person teaching my son self-admittedly talks fast. I can understand that an honors class requires you to get through things quickly, but it is important to be able to think about new concepts when you are trying to grasp them. It has been my experience that people who speak fast (and I am one of them unless I am teaching someone something or acting) tend to do so because they frequently wander off topic. Since they are wandering off topic, they need to speak faster in order to get through everything a slow, focused speaker gets through in the same amount of time.

Today, I looked at the lesson outline the English teacher sent home. Of course, there was a typo on it. I admit a certain justified vengeance in finding typos on things teachers send home - especially English teachers. In addition, she wrote that one of today's goals was to "Synthesize multiple sources of media an [sic] make conclusions. Connect to literature." Wow! Aside from the typo, that is quite a lofty goal. However, I have to question if she truly knew what she was writing. It would be extremely difficult to create more than one "source" (which means origin or work that something else is to be based upon) in a single, 2-hour class. However, I assume upon reading this that after watching several examples, the students pieced together one or more media clips to make a coherent short film or journalistic piece that was somehow connected to the book they are reading. Still a very lofty goal. I was actually asked to do a similar project in one of my college level creative writing courses. Synthesis is considered a higher order learning objective because it is difficult to create something new out of something old.

However, as I continue down the page, I see that there was no actual synthesis. Instead, it seems that the students watched AT&T commercials and then compared them to the book they were reading (both were made up of short emotional blurbs). Comparing and contrasting fits under "Comprehension" which is a very basic, lower order learning objective. Don't get me wrong, it is important that children master the basics. But, I expect English teachers to know the vocabulary they are using and to use it appropriately.

The worst thing any writer can do is use words with which he or she is unfamiliar. If you write, write to an audience that understands your vocabulary. Do not attempt to write academically if you haven't been to college and suffered the long boring courses that teach you how to write long boring tomes that only people who are truly interested in the topic would want to read. On the other hand, if you went to college specifically to learn how to write academic tomes, please do not attempt a children's picture book. You can write outside of your knowledge level - just make sure you hire someone to help you :-).

In the freelance world, you have very versatile writers (and some not so much) - these people have usually been to college and at least minored in writing. They may have trouble in some areas (one of my well educated writing teachers could not write or understand the fantasy genre, for example). But, they are usually aware of their limitations and avoid them or overcome them rather quickly. I recommend that anyone who wants to be a writer take writing classes. Learn to critique your own work.

Now, I will leave you to find all the editing errors I have made in this post... I am sure there are many to give you your own vindictive pleasure.

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