Tag Archives: teaching

The Second Grade Essay

I started this blog post with the last writing prompt and never finished it. I blame the writing prompts. Ha. Anyway, we are on our last writing prompt now and I thought I’d throw it up on the blog…

So, my second-grader has been assigned the first of many, many writing assignments he will complete in the course of his K-12 education. They are called simply the “writing prompt” and as of this week, we are on the third one. The assignment, which takes students through the writing process, is sent home on Wednesday and due the following week.

I love these assignments…in theory. The high school teacher in me is impressed and grateful. I mean, a mini-version of the writing process at eight-years-old? Awesome. Thank you, second grade teachers! By the time the students get to ninth grade, they won’t go cross-eyed when I suggest that maybe—just maybe—their first draft shouldn’t be their final draft. And the writer in me is loving it. #blessed.

No, not #blessed. The whole ‘getting to share my love of the written word’ with Jackson, my adorable, dyslexic, ADHD son? Not so much. This past week, when we sat down to work, I pointed out that I tutor kids in writing (and I’m good at it).

Me: I’m a writing teacher. You’re lucky because your mom is a writing teacher.

Jackson: You’re a high school teacher. Not second-grade. And you’re not my writing teacher. You’re just my helper.

Well, I guess it’s good that our relationship is clearly defined. That way, Jackson won’t have to pay me my rate per hour. Just a helper. This isn’t a tutoring sesh, mom. Really? Cause it sure feels like work to me, kiddo.

Jackson doesn’t need my help (according to Jackson). He will just model his stories off his favorite author Dav Pilkey and the Captain Underpants series. And this technique might be okay if Jackson were writing a graphic novel and not prose.

An example. For the first writing prompt, Jackson chose to write about spring break. Below is an exact line from his draft…

Then back in the hot tub…whaaaaaa????? Darcy What are you…whaaaaaa????

Apparently, Jackson and Darcy were playing in the hot tub at my mom’s house and Darcy jumped in and splashed him.

Me: Jackson, who is saying this?

Jackson: Me, I’m talking to the reader. And then Darcy is interrupting me.

Me: But you need punctuation here.

The ‘special snowflake parent’ in me wants to commend Jackson for breaking the fourth wall. But the sensible writer in me knows that we need some clarification if the reader is going to have ANY IDEA what the heck is going on.

For the second prompt, I wised up and got C.K. involved.  Jackson wrote about plants. Well, the question was to explain what plants need to survive and showcase his knowledge about the life cycle. Jackson decided to write about buying me a lemon verbena for my birthday because I love the smell.

(Aside: Jackson is the best. I’m love my lemon verbena because now he will stop stealing the leaves from an enormous plant on the school farm. The leaves are sweaty and crumpled and he watches me like a hawk until I put them in my tea.)

So, after Jackson spends the entire first paragraph describing the ride to Calloways with C.K. (no mention of plant knowledge but plenty about my birthday, the gift, the party, etc), he knocks the transition out of the park with “Okay, so you probably know what this paragraph is about.”

The above sentence is what happens when I loosen the reins and let my husband do homework with Jackson. I thought I was being smart. I was saving myself the stress of doing the writing homework with Jackson for the evening and C.K. would get to see Jackson’s brilliant but bouncy mind in action. C.K. would appreciate my efforts. Jackson would spend quality time with his father. I have awesome ideas, right?

No! That is hardly what happened. The one (ONE!) paragraph they worked on together was a hot mess. The rest of the paragraph talked about the various parts of a plant. Jackson wrote something like this…

Okay, so you probably know what this paragraph is about.

Oh sooooo cute…. leaves + stem + roots + flowers

No flowers = still perfect

When I called this paragraph to the attention of my hubs and asked, “H ey, did you read this?” I asked him with NO ATTITUDE WHATSOEVER because I NEVER HAVE AN ATTITUDE and I’m the PERFECT SPOUSE.

C.K., who has not one but two advanced degrees in English, looked at me incredulously as if to say, “It’s a rough draft.” Yeah, rough. Like Jackson wrote this on a dang cocktail napkin.

The third prompt is about Earth Day. Dare I say, things are going smoother. Or the plying him with leftover Easter candy after each sentence is making it bearable.  Or we’ve gotten used to the torturous 45-minutes a day we spend “writing” together. See, by the afternoon, Jackson’s meds have worn off. So, he spends a lot of time fidgeting. And talking. And walking around the chair twenty times. Today, Jackson took three whole minutes writing the sentence “Earth day is coming.” I know it was three minutes because I used the hyperlapse app (video compression) to record it.

While Jackson wanted to write about Earth Day, he doesn’t like thinking about what would happen if we didn’t take care of the earth.

Me: Okay so, you’ve you got ‘If we didn’t take care of the earth,…’ then what? What do you want to say?

Jackson: If we didn’t take care of the earth, we would die.

Me: Okay, write that.

Jackson [starts to write]: I can’t write that. I can’t start out so violent. I can’t go dark so quickly.

Me [sighs]: Well, it’s true. If we didn’t care for the earth, we wouldn’t be able to live here anymore. Maybe say that animals could go extinct instead.

Jackson: That’s even worse. I don’t want to think about animals dying.

We decided on “If we didn’t take care of the Earth, we couldn’t live here anymore.” This produced a lengthy tangent on how cool it would be to live on the moon or Mars. And how the guy who made the electric car Daddy wants is going to set up a colony in outer space.

Throughout this paragraph, since Jackson had to describe what would happen if the earth continued to be destroyed, we used the word “would” a lot. That is, until Jackson announced, “Calm down with the ‘woulds’ already. I’m not writing it anymore.”

I debated attempting to explain future conditional verb tense. Instead I resorted to this: “You have two more sentences. Just write it two more times and then we’re done. And I’ll give more M&Ms.”

This was acceptable.

[UPDATE: We just finished the rough draft of his last writing prompt. It was a letter to next year’s second grades explaining the pros and cons of writing prompts. Jackson’s conclusion read like this: “You shouldn’t have to do writing prompts because they take forever. But good luck.” #nailedit ]

Comments Off on The Second Grade Essay

Filed under education, family, Uncategorized

Preschool Graduation is tomorrow

Jackson's 1st Day at St. Mark'sAnd my heart is full. Jackson graduates from preschool tomorrow at 11 am in the chapel of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. He’s already revealed that the class will sing “Jesus Loves Me” and do sign language along with the lyrics. I’m bringing tissues for that part alone. I have no idea what to expect other than the song and my deepest desire that the school plays Pomp & Circumstance when the kids walk in. I think the last preschool graduation I attended may have been my own or Maggie’s.

IMG_2295 (1)It’s not that classic my-kid-is-growing-up/time-goes-so-fast feeling that’s really getting me. Although I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t nostalgia at play here. Jackson is my baby boy turned little kid. And yes, he’s going to full time school in a few months. After so much time spent together, he’ll be in school for more hours in the day than with me.

But no, it’s not nostalgia. It’s an immense feeling of gratitude. St. Mark’s is a school that truly lives out its vision. It’s a nurturing community that fosters a love of lifelong learning. That’s what’s advertised here and that’s what you get.  And as someone who moved to Austin with only a few months before Jackson was to start nursery school, I am so grateful for St. Mark’s. I can vividly remember texting C.K. saying that I was going to write a 10414479_10153157054132028_5825563322865329284_ncheck for the deposit while on the tour of the school. It was the treed multilevel playground that sold me right away. On that same tour I can also remember chatting with one of my now dear friends, Lindsay. We moved to Austin within months of each other. We were both pregnant–due only one week apart (with girls to match our boys). When Jackson and Lindsay’s son Grant started at camp at St. Mark’s the teachers asked if Grant and Jackson were cousins. “They seem like they’ve known each other forever,” one remarked. Just as Lindsay and I were kindred spirits, so were Grant and Jackson.

I soon found out that my friendship with Lindsay would be one of many. Because that’s how St. Mark’s is–it fosters relationships among adults and children alike.

So thank you, St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School…

  • for nurturing my child and providing a safe environment for his growth
  • for hiring teachers like Elaine, Kiki, Laura, Rae, and Becky and giving them the autonomy to utilize their incredible talents to the betterment of the students (those are just the main tIMG_2237 (1)eachers Jackson had–every teacher is amazing!)
  • for fostering a community of parents who truly enjoy each other’s company and work together to continue the stewardship of an already amazing place
  • and personally, for providing me and Jackson with a place to anchor ourselves after we moved across the country and for making us feel very much at home

Kindergarten has a tough act to follow.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

IMG_1974St. Mark’s lives this everyday.

And one more… “Play is the highest form of research.” –Albert Einstein

 

Comments Off on Preschool Graduation is tomorrow

Filed under austin, motherhood

Teacher of the Year: My mom!

Announced yesterday at the superintendent’s meeting to kick off the school: My mom is the 2008 Teacher of the Year for the entire district! Many congratulations to her! After eighteen years of dedication to the art of teaching, commitment to her students, and service to her community, she deserves every accolade with which the district honors her. She’s one of the first people in her district to pilot an inclusive classroom (a class where special needs students are mixed in with regular-Ed students). And with the partnership of her co-teacher, I believe she’s one of the only people to do it right.

I’m so proud of her!

I need a bumper sticker: My Mom was Teacher of the Year (like those “My Kid is an Honor Student” ones).

6,790 Comments

Filed under family