Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Leaves, Writing, and a Sweater -- She Covers it All!

Yes, I'm sorry, more Woodsy Fall Photos for you today. But at least I'll bring it back inside by the end of the post. . .
I'm into the intense part of my week, starting noon-ish. Today's the loooooong day after which tomorrow morning follows way too quickly.
And I'm giving back the first marked assignments today, which always brings my shoulders up closer to my ears, as if a weekend of sitting at my desk marking hadn't already done that.
There are always several students stunned by the difference between their high school marks and those they get at university. And there are always a few for whom a mark confirms what they've always known -- "I suck at English" -- and whom I have to convince that this does not have to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, that we can turn that around with work. One of the big fallacies about the writing ability is that it's genetically delivered. Certainly, there are attributes that seem inherent, but much of good writing is work.
Of course, much of it also emanates from having read copiously, thus integrating the patterns of all the writers whose words, phrases, sentence patterns, and rhetorical architecture have moved through one's imagination and neurology, settling in at an almost cellular level, guiding one's essays onto the page.
If a student has read so little that she can write, untroubled, "he played for hour a pawn hour" -- as did a student of mine in this past assignment -- that student's task becomes much more challenging, and that student's inner editor is likely to be much less useful than one might hope.
I have one more section's worth of those assignments to return today, so pardon me the need to turn to pretty pictures for solace.
Pardon me the need to remember how sunlight and shadow turn nature's simplest detritus into glorious spectacle.
Let me remember how light illuminates the dark understorey of the woods and I will melodramatically make analogies with that December glimmer beckoning to me at the end of the long tunnel that is Term. Or I will think of the happy students, the lights who worked hard following instructions on the assignment, whose attention and discipline resulted in some model responses -- their faces when they read my request for a copy of their work to keep in my Good Work Sample files for future students.

And now, finally, that promised indoor photo . . . here's the sweater I've begun, in a colour very close to what I was searching for in the shops. A huge risk, $80 of yarn (lovely blend of silk, bamboo, and merino) and a pattern (#20 from Vogue Early Fall 2010) I've never knit before, all working towards a sweater in my head that may or may not fit OR, if it does, may still not flatter. We knitters live in optimism!


  1. I love how you pace this post with photos of know how to tell a story and how to add light and pauses and beauty to the ordinary moments of life. Your students are lucky to have you. And we are too.

  2. Ooh, I want to see more detail of that sweater! It's so true what you say about knitting things that may not even fit or flatter - but for me the joy is usually in the process, even if I end up giving it away ...
    'Hour a pawn hour'. Extraordinary.

  3. I had to read your student's phrase out loud to even understand what they were trying for. And you are probably so patient, and supportive...

  4. Incredibly beautiful post. I think the sweater will be lovely; I can imagine it already from your photos and your descriptions of the color you seek.

    And the error, which I too had to read aloud before I understood, is so sad and makes me think about what is so easily missed in the falling leaves of life.

  5. You must have the patience of a saint, so often I prepare a lesson teach it and then watch them butcher it; to have to unravel it and return it takes great skill and tact. Your autumn seems ahead of ours we just have driving rain and wind from Siberia.
    I guess your knitting has a similar affect on you as my beading does on me, I find it is the process that creates the karma, if the outcome is successful it is the cherry on top of the cake. Happy knitting.

  6. LBR: Thanks, I'm blushing . . .
    Tiffany: Exactly! I'm more process than product knitter and between daughters and sisters and friends, I can usually find someone the "product" works for.
    LPC: Humour works, although I have to be careful . . . but today I pointed out that one wouldn't want to tell one's boss "Yes, I'm defiantly interested in that new position" ("definitely," of course, being the preferred spelling -- an error made by 20-25%)
    F>50: Thanks!
    Mardel: It is sad, isn't it, and a bit discouraging! Falling leaves, indeed.
    Alison: We've just had a September that's broken rainfall records (and that's saying something here!) after an August that set some heat-and-drought records. But we're in a lovely little patch of what used to be called Indian Summer here, and I'm enjoying it greatly.

  7. Yep, further confirmation as I suspected from our first encounter in this space -- you are an intellectual.

    Beautifully written as always and funny. Imagine the impact you must have on students who really do wish to learn how to write.

    Honestly, your comment today was a falling down lol moment. Merci mille fois.


  8. Oh yes, GORGEOUS pictures.

    Guess what? The "word verification" is "fable," I thought you would appreciate that being an intellectual and all.

  9. Lovely post. I miss living in a climate with a real Fall!

    My sweetie is a Physics professor and so I am familiar with disappointed students. And I remember working on writing as an English major in college. I had a few amazing professors who wrote a lot of comments on my papers and I learned from every single note. Some professors would hardly comment at all -- just mark. I learned nothing. The notes are generous.

  10. Hi Mater, a lovely post for fall. We had similar views today as I took my friend from Scotland and her kids on the Children's Railway through the Buda hills. The trains are, to be sure, driven by adults, but there was a uniformed little girl (maybe 12 years old)selling the tickets (she painstakingly added up the total and counted out the change). Two boys, also in uniform, complete with caps and leather bags for the ticket punch, were our conductors. As we passed each station, a boy in uniform with red cap saluted the train. Through the trees (still mostly green) we saw glimpses of the valley and the hilltops. Lovely.
    I wonder what you would think of my boys' writing - they are both avid readers and writers and the older one has completed a novel which he has self-published on (but no one has actually ordered it yet - we will try to order one for him for Christmas). He also started NaNoWriMo last year but he mislaid his flash drive after 12000 words and had to bow out! As hard a time as we are having with him at present, I have to acknowledge that he would most probably not make a mistake like that! Patricia

  11. Have just commented on my first batch of papers. I remember as a graduate student how exciting it was to receive a pile and read them earnestly!

    BC looks beautiful and you must be thinking of Thanksgiving around the corner. Sending early wishes for a splendid feast!

  12. tish: obviously, we need to replace that Pellegrino with wine next visit, so I can let my hair down and better reveal my true, non-intellectual nature -- ha!
    And thanks for sharing that verification word! Do you ever get the sense with those that someone is watching . . . cue Twilight Zone ooohoohooh music . . .
    Susan: We love students like you were who take the time to read the feedback we provide. It's always disheartening to comment lots on an essay and then have the student fail to pick it up, settling for finding out the coursemark on-line.
    Patricia: That train ride sounds magical, like something out of a Disney film.
    And it sounds as if your son is bright and creative -- one of my nephews has done the 3-day Writing Contest a few times now, although I don't know that he's done the NaNoWriMo yet -- impressive discipline!
    Miss C: I was thinking exactly that today, remembering how recently I would greet the first papers with a keen sense that I was really meeting my students for the first time. . . amazing how quickly a 4/4 teaching load can strip that keenness away, altho' there's still much of the enterprise I love.
    And yes, thanks for the Thanksgiving best wishes -- the feast will be on us soon and most of mine will make their way over to our island. Good times!

  13. Mater - thanks for the tip! I have sent the link to my boys. P.

  14. Patricia: So the next winner of the 3-day novel contest may be . . .


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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