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Week 8: How Many Minutes Do We Have to Wait for…?

July 20, 2015

It was the unofficial wisdom when I was in college, and it was still around when I taught classes myself.  When the teacher is late, how long do we have to wait?  Isn’t it longer for a Doctor than a Professor, and not quite so long for an Instructor?

None of this, of course, was written anywhere. Today I’m admitting that (1. While I’m here at the Swannanoa Gathering, I have sketchy internet at best–none in my room); (2. I think I left my copy of our text–with all the notes I was excited to share–on my coffee table.  In any case, I will probably add a few teasers about that I to We focus, but I’ll catch up when I get home, posting by Sunday–unless anyone wants to start a discussion of the chapter for us!  Please post this week if you have any writing brainstorms or discoveries–or questions!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. sandyyoung75 permalink
    July 21, 2015 3:22 pm

    Oh, yes . . . I remember those days of hoping that Dr. Walker wouldn’t come in for two more minutes so that we could leave, but that never happened. He’d come in right on the dot, just as crazy as ever. You have reminded me of the weirdest teacher I ever had, Nancy.

    My cousin had him for an English class, and one day while they were waiting the required fifteen minutes for a PhD, they were talking about how strange Dr. Walker was, when, from under his desk came the spooky voice of the man himself: “You’d better be careful. Someone is watching you!” The talking in the room stopped, and the “good doctor” (said with some sarcasm, you understand) came out and commenced to teach, just as though nothing had happened.

    I also heard that back in the day, he used to have an iron pipe in his desk drawer. Every once in a while, he’d take it out and hit himself in the head with it. And why did he do this? Because it felt so good when he stopped. Well, one day, his daughter, who was in his class, sneaked in before class one day and took it. It was never seen again.

    He did other odd things, but the oddest when I was in his class involved an assignment that he loved to give. We had to read Moby Dick (choke, gag, yuk!) and make notes about what we had read. We put our notes on 5″x7″ cards. I must confess that I wasn’t very honest. Just couldn’t get myself to read much about Ahab, Ishmael, and the great white whale. I turned in my fake assignment each day, but they didn’t really address the novel. We had to turn in all the cards that we’d done throughout the reading every time class met. They were bound with rubber bands. We’d put the cards on his desk as we entered the room, and when he came in, he’d promptly throw them out in the hall for his assistant to grade. Strange, huh? The assistant was on our side, and he never told Dr. Walker that we really weren’t reading the novel. I don’t recall ever discussing Moby Dick in class. I think the assignment was just punish work for us.

    So, dear cousin, do you see what your “confession” has done to me? I hadn’t thought of Dr. Walker in years until I read what you said about waiting for professors. Thanks! And don’t give the assignment for this week a second thought. Just have fun at Swannanoa with your precious roommate Avery! Actually, I came upon an idea for writing as I was reading from our text and will post it here when I get it done.

  2. sandyyoung75 permalink
    July 25, 2015 2:13 am

    Here’s another long-winded essay . . . just can’t pare down!

    Voice and the Copycat Teacher

    “In 1964, when I taught my first high-school classes, the most innovative thing I did was subscribe to the English Journal. It was in that trusty “orange and white no-picture book” (as it was called in an early article) that I became familiar with teaching suggestions and sources of free books that were absolute necessities. Through the years, I have continued to rely on the experience and expertise of others. I still consider people my best source of ideas.”

    Thus began the most important essay I ever wrote. I’ll explain. Shortly after Jay died in July 1992, one of my best friends called to tell me that she was nominating me for the Honor Award from Florida Council of Teachers of English. How nice, but I’d never be so honored. At almost the same time, another best friend announced that she was nominating me for Florida English Teacher of the Year. Again, how nice, but lots of other teachers deserved this award more than I. I didn’t give much thought to either of these “contests” because I was still in the throes of grief and really didn’t care whether or not I received either of the honors. I just hoped that no one asked me to do anything in order to be chosen. I didn’t have the energy to do more than I had to in keeping up with my seniors.

    I soon found out that I really didn’t have to do anything other than mention my teacher activities for the past twenty-nine years for the Honor Award. The committee would make their decision based on contributions to the English-teacher profession. Requirements for Florida English Teacher of the Year were quite different, though. Each of us who had been nominated had to write an essay on the topic of Innovations in the English Classroom, or something to that effect.

    My first thought was that I was the least innovative teacher ever. Obviously, the committee was looking for a tech savvy teacher who had used computers and projectors. I’m not even sure that the Internet was used by teachers at this time, but I know that I didn’t know anything about any of these. The only technology that I had access to in my classroom were a 16-MM projector, an overhead projector, and a monstrous thing called an opaque projector. I had a computer of my own but not one in my classroom. I surely couldn’t write about technology.

    After spending hours and days trying to think of anything that I used in my classroom that someone might consider innovative, I finally thought of something that was innovative for me. English teachers are notorious for teaching students that third person voice is the only acceptable one in school, unless the teachers are teaching creative writing. In that case, almost anything goes as far as voice is concerned. Don’t look at me for creative writing! Most English teachers in my era taught only the much-maligned five-paragraph essay. I was no exception until sometime in the mid-eighties, when I discovered real voice. I began to encourage students to write the way they sounded, not with poor grammar, you understand. I knew how much fun I had writing the way I sound, and I wanted them to get that pleasure from their writing. So I wrote my essay about innovation in my classroom: voice.

    I asked my friend who nominated me for the Honor Award to edit/proofread it for me. The only real change that she asked me to make was to leave out the part about the “orange and white no-picture book.” I’m not sure that she was an English teacher back in the day when the English Journal was literally an orange and white no picture book, so she didn’t understand my mentioning it. I liked the reference and left it in. With much relief, I sent my essay to the committee and promptly forgot about it.

    In October, Frank, my friend Fran (who had nominated me for the Florida English Teacher award), and I loaded up our car and set off for the Florida Council of Teachers of English somewhere in South Florida. The awards were never mentioned. I had almost forgotten about them.

    At the end of the opening evening of the Fall conference, attendees were excited about finding out who would be the Teacher of the Year. Three teachers were in the finals, but no one knew who they were. The names were called. I guess they were in alphabetical order because “Sandy Young” was the last name called. I was dumbstruck and could hardly make my way to the stage. The three of us stood close together, almost holding hands the way the finalists in the Miss America Pageant do. Number two runner-up was called. It wasn’t me (I know that should be “I,” but it sounds strange.). The first runner-up wasn’t me, either. So . . . I must have won. Oh, my! I’ve never been so surprised. Lots of applause and congratulatory comments after the meeting. Lots of hugs. I was delighted, to say the least.

    One of the special guests at FCTE that year was Ben Nelms, the longtime editor of the English Journal. He was retiring, and we were honored to have him with us to conduct workshops and to be our guest speaker at the banquet.

    At the banquet on Saturday night, the Honor Award Winner would be announced. I knew that I could relax because someone else would have to go to the stage. The FCTE chairman of the Honor Award committee came to the microphone. She began to speak about the person who would receive the award, and what she was saying sounded familiar.

    I quit trying to understand what she said after she read my words,

    “In 1964, when I taught my first high-school classes, the most innovative thing I did was subscribe to the English Journal. It was in that trusty “orange and white no-picture book” (as it was called in an early article) that I became familiar with teaching suggestions and sources of free books that were absolute necessities.”

    Was I going to get the Honor Award, too? I thought, “I guess they’ll do away with the silly rule about not having the two committees tell each other their winner.” And so for the first time in FCTE history, the same person won in both categories.

    At the end of the banquet, I went to tell Ben Nelms how much I’d miss him as editor of the English Journal. I introduced myself, and he said, “I’d like to use your essay in the April 1994 issue of the magazine, my last one to serve as editor of. I loved the part about the ‘orange and white no-picture book.’ I had forgotten about that article.”

    I was flabbergasted! Ben Nelms was asking to use my essay in my favorite publication, the publication that I had read from cover to cover each month for twenty-nine years. I have believed all these years that if I had taken my friend’s advice and left out the “orange and white” reference that Ben wouldn’t have been nearly so impressed with my essay.

    At that time, a friend, whom I had met a few years earlier at NCTE, worked for Ben at the English Journal. She was in charge of really editing my essay before publication. She bled all over it, but I didn’t mind. I’m sure that she made it read better; however, the one thing that I got ruffled about was that she changed the title. My title, “Voice and the Copycat Teacher” was much better, more creative, than the one that appeared in the April edition: “Teacher Voices, Student Voices: An EJ Reader Responds.” I didn’t complain, though. I was so proud of being a published author for the first time . . . and in my favorite journal!

    Nancy – if you’re still a member of NCTE, please let me know. I have a favor to ask!

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