Y’all know I love playing around with words, right?
I found this old writing prompt that I used to use when I was teaching English as a second language to 3rd graders.
It sounds easy, but it’s not as easy as you think.
Write the longest sentence you can in which each word is only one syllable.
He put his hand on his belt and said, “The lush, green berm on the side of the road would be a good place to take a leak — if I have to go real bad.”
See how long you can go.
If you know what I mean.
The person who goes the longest and creates something that is stunningly beautiful or hilariously funny is gonna get a special sumthin-sumthin from me. Go! I will accept comments until the end of the day, at which time I will start counting words.
tweet me @rasjacobson
Entrants may not use one single word repeatedly. Now that we have caught THAT little loophole, folks may continue. Thank you for making me laugh, Susie Lindau.
The winner of the contest is on thehomefrontandbeyond.Holy mad skills! Send me your snail mail address, and your sumthin-sumthin will be put in the mail immediately!
Christine Wolf is a big time blogger. I cannot believe she is even here today. Her blog, Riding The Waves, follows the life of a woman embracing life’s transitions: changing careers, helping children to grow up, keeping a 20-year marriage alive — all while enduring Chicago’s ever-changing weather patterns.
Christine has written a middle-aged novel for readers 8-12 years old called My Life Afloat, about a 12-year-old girl from the affluent suburb of Illinois whose parents both lose their jobs in the economic crisis. After their home is sold to avoid foreclosure, they must live on a sailboat in Chicago’s Monroe Harbor. She hopes to see her book published in 2013.
It probably will happen.
And here’s why.
Not too long ago, Christine was 1 of 5 Americans to interview President Obama live during the first streaming Google+ Hangout from The White House on January 30, 2012. She asked the President how we, as a country, should speak to children about the current economic situation. The President provided some interesting answers and, at the end of the interview, he asked for a copy of her book. You know, when it comes out. How cool is that? Here’s the interview.
(Christine appears at minutes 2:15, 17:15 and 48:40):
My 7th grade Language Arts teacher, Carolyn Leece will forever be my all-time favorite teacher. It helped that she looked just like Carol Brady without the flippity-do-dah shoulder curls from those later Brady Bunch episodes, but Mrs. Leece’s most notable contribution to my overall development was teaching me how it is acceptable to be a slow reader.
I must have always read slowly, but in the 1970s, it never really mattered how fast the kids read in elementary school. For God’s sake, no one timed us or tracked Reading Recovery logs on us. The educational highlights of my elementary school years were mastering the Dewey Decimal system, making a mobile of the planets (including Pluto), and winning first place in the Multiplication Competition for the number eight. Before junior high, I read all my Nancy Drew books at my own pace, lingered on every article in Seventeen Magazine (wasn’t my mom so cool to let me read that?), and lovingly absorbed my Judy Blume books without a glance at a clock.
Once I hit junior high, though, it came to light that a) I used way more Love’s Baby Soft Musky Jasmine Scent than human lungs could filter and b) my silent reading was soooooo much slower than that of my peers.
Instead of reading in small groups as we’d always done in elementary school, our 7th grade Language Arts classroom was set up in a much more “mature” fashion with orderly rows of desks facing the front of the room. A grown-up classroom for grown-up kids! In my head, I pretended I was a college girl, and I loved it.
That is, until the day I realized how different I was from everyone else.
Mrs. Leece had pulled down the white, overhead projection screen, covering her perfectly looped, chalky script on the blackboard. “Today,” she said, smoothing her platinum bangs to the side, “we’ll be discussing the elements of the front page of a newspaper.” She laid a clear transparency over the projector’s light, displaying a smudgy image of The Chicago Tribune. Every feature was slowly circled and labeled with overhead markers in a splash of colors: The Masthead – blue. The Ears – red. Headlines – green. Bylines – black.
Then, Mrs. Leece asked us all to silently read the first five paragraphs of the first article, then raise our hands once we’d finished
When I raised my hand, I realized I was the last one to do so…by far. Kids around me rolled their eyes and snickered. Who knows how long I’d been staring, slack-jawed, at the black letters on the white screen.
As my face burned and panic rose, Mrs. Leece put her pen on the transparency.
She looked directly at me and switched off the projector’s light (leaving the fan on, of course). Everyone was riveted. And then she said, directly to me, in front of the entire class, “You know what? I’m just like you.”
“I savor every word.”
“We both appreciate lingering on words, don’t we?”
I remembered to breathe.
“Good for you,” she concluded, then went back to the lesson.
One week later, Mrs. Leece asked me if I’d like to babysit for her son.
I was stunned. If the Language Arts teacher thought enough of me to leave me in charge of her own child, she’d probably meant what she’d said. She didn’t just use words to boost my self-esteem; she reinforced her message from an entirely different angle. Her multidimensional approach didn’t have modern-day monikers like Whole Language or Multiple Intelligence Theory, but she left a lasting impression on me. She gave me the message in 1980 that it’s okay to be who you are, and I’ve been sharing that message ever since with anyone who, like me, does things just a little bit differently.
Have you ever had a panicky moment that was quickly and magically transformed?
I am beyond thrilled to have TamaraLunardo as my guest blogger today. Where I sometimes get mired in the details, Tarama is a big picture kind of girl. Tamara’s writing is as fresh, edgy and vibrant as she is. Gentle and compassionate, Tamara (pronounced Ta-MAH-ra) is a wonderful read. Note: Just don’t mispronounce her name or call her Tammy or she’ll punch you in the throat.
Tamara has an essay featured in Alise Wright’s book Not Alone: Stories Of Living With Depression, a compilation of a wide range of experiences, voices, and opinions of individuals who have lived with and continue to live with depression. And whether she’s writing about depression or tattoos, Tamara makes you think. She makes this little Jewish girl think about Jesus a lot. And that’s something.
It was my senior year of high school, and I was a frequent skipper of my coast-able classes, as bored, brainy teens are wont to be. One class in particular was on my skip list, partly because it was the last period of the day and partly because I felt I could gain nothing from it whatsoever: Yes, I hated English.
To be accurate, I loved English; I hated that English class. I hated hearing the assistant principal use the pseudo-word “irregardless” when he visited our classroom, and I hated seeing the teacher blink blankly as I railed against it in intellectual-teen angst. I hated her insecure explanations and her flimsy lessons. I hated being so ill instructed in a subject I so well loved. And so I opted out of attendance when I could, and I snapped out right answers when I couldn’t. I was not high in the running for teacher’s pet.
And then I had a change of heart.
I took my SATs and got a near-perfect score on the verbal portion, which resulted in letters of courting from various collegiate English departments. So I decided that this was the time and way to make amends, to offer this teacher evidence that perhaps I’d listened to and learned something from her after all, even though we both knew the truth. I approached her after class with uncharacteristic zeal and shared my exciting news.
“Yes,” she vocally shrugged, “that happens sometimes.”
• • •
I walked into a restaurant in my old hometown last year, and I saw that teacher eating alone at a table. She was thinner, fainter, and still as blank. My heart went out to her, and I had to say, “Hello.”
I reintroduced myself and let her know of my modest successes with the English language since my 12-year departure from her class. I offered my degree and freelance writing and editing career as evidence that perhaps I’d listened to and learned something from her after all, even though we both knew the truth. She blinked worn eyelids toward my contrite face and said without a shred of remembrance or interest, “Oh, that’s nice.”
And I walked away with uncharacteristic zeal because I thought, It really is.
And we both knew the truth.
Did you have a teacher you could’ve done without? Were you a class-skipper or a teacher’s pet? And on a scale of 1-10, how much does “irregardless” piss you off?
• • •
If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a memory about a teacher you had and can explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction, I’d love to hear from you! Contact Me. Essays should be around 700-800 words.
If you write for me, I’ll put your name on my page of favorite bloggers!
People who know me know I’m struggling this semester. I try to explain how a larger number of my college students seem to have weaker skills this year; how I can’t get them to use capital letters (or, in some cases, how I can’t get them to stop randomly capitalizing words that don’t need to be capitalized); how they won’t stop writing “im” instead of “I’m”; how I can’t get them to stop using the letter “u” when they mean the word “you.”
People think I’m exaggerating. “Things can’t be that bad,” folks say.
Finally, here is a perfect example of why my panties are in a bunch this year.
This post called “Functional Illiteracy” from Just Sayin’ addresses some of the very real struggles that educators are facing today, even at the college level.
Do you have discussions with your kids regarding their use of language? Are they writing as well as you would like? Do error-filled papers (with high marks) come home from your children’s schools? Do you think their grades are inflated? Because, I am here to tell you, graduating high school students are not using capitalization or punctuation. Many high school graduates have not figured out basic written communication skills which my peers and I had mastered in the 6th grade and spent the following years perfecting.
Many of this generation’s students are essentially unemployable, and if you don’t believe me, read this post from my friend, Michael Hess, of Skooba Design. Because as a business owner, he cares about the way people write.
Do you care about how you write?
Or r u 2 busy txtin 2 care?
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