I haven't posted for a while, so I thought that I'd better contribute. Actually, what inspired this particular post was my youngest son; he's an eight year old third grader (he's cute as heck, too). He came home from school today with a short informative story about the Tewa Tribe called "Dancing Rainbows," and his assignment calls for him to read this story and then create a short summary of it, so he can share it with the rest of his reading group this up-coming Friday. Sounds like a simple task right? Umm, no...reading has always been difficult for my son, and stories full of words like "Pueblo," "San Juan," "Comanche," and "ancestors" really, really. really frustrate him. Anyway, we did make it through the story, and, as I was wringing the last of his tears from its pages, I realized that reading that story was the easiest part. Actually, writing the summary will, no doubt, prove even more difficult for him. In lieu of this, I decided to let him have the rest of the night off, and I told him that he could begin the summary tomorrow evening.
Anyway, onto the point I perhaps was trying to steer towards. After my son had exited the kitchen, and calmed down significantly, I checked my Broncomail and ran across an email that I'd received last Friday. This email was from a student that I had a consultation with a few weeks ago--I'd call him Bob, but we have a Bob, so I'll call him Roberto (just for kicks). Roberto had originally come in for help on a critical summary that he was required to do for a class--in fact, the one that he'd brought to me was his second summary that he'd been required to do, and there was still 4 or so left to compose in the semester. He told me that the reason that he'd come to the Center for help was that he'd "bombed" the first summary, and he didn't really know why.
He then showed me the first summary that he'd written for this class; it was plastered with ink and very, very negative comments from the teacher. He'd actually received a 34% on that particular summary, and I instantly felt for him--I also admired his courage. I'm not a quitter, generally, but those comments and that grade might have convinced me to drop the class and never, ever, pick-up a pencil again. It also took courage for him to show someone else, whom he didn't even know, those comments and then ask for help in writing, yet another summary. I could see that he was getting upset, all over again, reading through those comments, so I turned that summary over and we talked about how to approach creating a 1-2 page critical summary.
Much of his first summary contained personal experience, used the first person, and attempted to address many different issues from the book. We talked about choosing a specific point to focus on, and omitting (an obvious) first person point-of-view. I then pulled out my handy dandy Boise State Writing Center collection of critical essay summaries, and I went over mine with him. Anyway, I felt like the consultation went well, but I felt like we didn't get to everything. He said he'd like to come back and meet with me again the following week, but I was booked-up, and so I made him an appointment with Sarah M.
Sarah's consultation with him must have been successful as well, because the email that I received on Friday said that he'd gotten a 5 ranking on his most recent summary (on a scale of 1-5) and that he wanted to let me know that. He also asked me to extend his thanks to Sarah (which I meant to do today in class, but I forgot to), and he attached a couple of pictures (he's a nature photographer) that he'd like us both to have. This made me feel good, and I'm sure that it'll make Sarah feel really good, too--I'll bring the hard copy and the pictures in for you on Thurs., Sarah.
Perhaps the point that I was trying to make in sharing my "oh, so fun" experience about my youngest, is that we always don't get to see how frustrating writing can be for students, and we don't always get to see the negativity that can surround it for others. I was fortunate that Roberto shared his teacher's extremely negative comments with me, and I am fortunate that I can help my youngest through his struggles with his own assignments, too. They see writing differently than I do, and, at most times, find nothing exciting or thrilling about it. They may not want to write, but they do it because they have to. As I write this, this seems like a "no duh" conclusion, but I think there's a bit more to it, as well. Roberto came into the Center a despondent, pissed-off student and walked out a stronger writer. There's something so very powerful in that; I wish that for my son, too.