Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Ask me something I know.

When I was in school, it often occasionally happened that I did not know the answer to a question. (insert shocked never-that face here!) Yes. I did not usually find school much fun, when I was a child, for MANY reasons, and one-but-only-one of those reasons was that I was asked questions for which I did not know the answer.

Or care.

But I can remember vividly sitting there in the classroom, year after year, and I include the college years in this memory, wondering why the teachers so seldom asked me about all the things I DID know.

We read about Clara Barton and the Red Cross. I got a C on that test. But if only someone had asked me about Clara's home life, and how she was so horrifically shy she could barely walk down the street for fear of meeting people, and how her parents withdrew her from school, and how her brothers kept getting sick and dying, and WHY she was so interested in helping other people's brothers. Nobody ever asked me those questions; just stuff about dates and stats and politics.

We learned all about the solar system. I LOVED this subject and I had already read, read, read everything I could find at the library about it. But I didn't do well on the big test because it was all about telescope lenses and distances between orbits, and numbers. If only someone had asked me specifically why a person couldn't live on Venus, or why it had no moon while other planets had several, or what the rings of Saturn were made of and where the stuff came from, or why the combined large seas of the earth are approximately the same size and shape as the Moon, or what happened to the planet that is supposed to be between Mars and Jupiter, or how science-fiction writers take science and run with it, and why their books are sometimes awesomely believable and sometimes ridiculously stupid, or talked about the incredible connection between Greek and Roman mythology and modern astronomy. Nobody ever asked me those questions; just stuff about discoverers, dates, stats, math, and why NASA should or should not be abolished so all that money could be used for world hunger.

I loved reading, LOVED LOVED LOVED to read, but nobody ever let me read books I was interested in. All our reading came from a prescribed list of approved titles, and there was seldom anything worth reading on there. I was reading Gone with the Wind in third grade, but when we took our field trip to the library, we ALL had to get a book from the baby section. Sometimes I took a Reader's Digest to school, just to kill time. But no matter what kind of book I read, I had to write a report about it. The report had to follow an organizational pattern, and creativity was discouraged. And no illustrations, as I discovered the hard way. Who cared about a story after you had to dissect it under someone else's direction? They never let me use a book I had read for fun; they weren't on the list. Nobody ever asked me to talk about those books. We just talked about the titles on the squeaky-clean limited vocabulary list.

I loved the world of words. I loved finding and learning new cool words. I kept lists of beautiful words, ugly words, scary words, etc. But I wasn't encouraged to use them in my writing at school, because they might require someone else to use a dictionary. In senior comp, the teacher (and I use that term loosely) didn't really read our papers for content; he simply searched for words that were 'too long' and deducted points for each one. I still hate him.

How much do I still hate him? Draw a picture of a big lima bean and put a face on it. That would be him. Then silk-screen it on a shirt. Give me that shirt and I would wear it.

I still love words, though. They couldn't kill THAT one. . . .

My point is, we are all full of information that would astound, if only someone would bother to ask.

That's why I always give my students bonus questions. They're hard, as bonus questions ought to be. They are worth points. The first student to answer gets the points. If nobody can figure it out in class, the first student to email me gets the points.

There were two questions today. Already, a student has emailed me with a correct answer to one of them. ("gerund") Ten points. The other question is a little harder, and although I've received thirty-four emails already, nobody has it yet. So I'll ask you.

In the world of grammar, what is the word we use to describe the dissecting of a sentence?

Ten bonus points for the first one to get it right.

Update: Yes, the answer is "parse." Good job.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:35 PM | |


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