It took some focus. I hadn’t taken a pen in hand and actually written with the intention of writing a story or just writing for pleasure, even pain, since, well, a long while.
The first sentence was just a sentence to begin movement. I had learned a long time ago not to expect the first sentence on a first write to ever be first or even last long at all. It was the sentence after that first one and the sentence after that one and that one and that one that gave me a sense of what I could still do.
Writing on paper showed me the past and the future. In college, I wrote on paper. Personal computers were gigantic and felt stale and distant. Not much later, I stopped using paper though and typed everything. It was faster and easier.
But, using that pen yesterday, felt as if I connected a string to my heart. That’s where I wrote from. It all came from my heart.
Tapping on a keyboard now feels distant and almost like work.
A groan of discomfort plugs into what used to be us.
Age has a lot to do with it.
Age has mostly everything to do with it.
Age and time.
The amount of time they spend on YouTube alone generates hours of mind-numbing transference that leaves my teeth clenched and off-center.
One of them lies on the couch randomly laughing and when asked about it, he replies, “This guy was playing this video game and he finally got these powers that let him punch really hard and instead of hitting the other guy he punched himself!” He laughs again.
“You wanna see?”
Disgust washes over me and I quickly blurt out, “No!”
With his Boca Juniors soccer beanie on and still wearing his pajamas, he jumps up granting me permission to look at his phone. “Here, c’mon, look, I swear, it’s funny!”
“No!” I scream. “It’s stupid. That’s stupid!” More frustrated than ever I proclaim, “This is how you’re choosing to spend your valuable time. Don’t you know what you could be doing. Read a book for Chrissake. My God!”
I often leave to the computer room where I open my computer and sulk.
I don’t pick up a book or even write with a pen and paper.
But, I am superior nonetheless.
The other one hibernates in her room, sometimes locks the door, and takes at least a minute to walk three steps to open it when prompted by my pounding on the door.
Often, I even have to say, “Open the door,” before there’s movement.
Stupid questions follow.
“Have you read your book yet?”
“No.” A glare, the wicked teenage kind, follows and so do more stupid questions.
“When are you going to read?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you want me to take your phone?”
“Clean your room and read.”
I walk away before things start flying through the air.
I retire to the computer room.
My phone buzzes.
I pick it up and text away.
I check emails, text more, and realize that we’re halfway through the day and we’ve spent the large majority of it on devices, electronics.
What’s wrong with us?
It’s a conspiracy.
These companies want to ruin our lives.
They want to take all of our money and now our minds!
This must end or I shall die!
“Hand over the electronics,” I declare.
Dead eyes stare back at me.
No one moves.
“Now!” I scream.
“After this one thing,” my son says and rolls over on the couch.
“No!” my daughter yells, “I’m reading on my phone!”
“Lies!” I scream. “You’ve got one minute to put the devices on the counter or you lose them for a week!”
I wait a second then begin confiscating devices.
There’s screaming. Random bursts of “Crazy!” “God!” and “I hate you!”
The first time my son heard the word “Homework” he screamed, ran to his bedroom, slammed the door and locked it.
He was three years old and his older sister decided it was time he got some homework too so she told him she was going to give him homework. That’s when the screaming began.
What does it really mean when schools, teachers, and advocates cry, no homework?
We’ve all either been there or seen it. Seemingly endless hours of homework awaiting you. The desire to turn away from it burns so fiercely that you actually shove it to the side and watch TV instead. Maybe you just go outside and play games or just lie there on the ground thinking of creative ways to get out of ever having to do it at all.
As a parent and a teacher, I always feel conflicted about any subject involving homework.
On the one hand, I’ve been up until midnight, helping my child finish homework because the teacher never even taught the lesson assigned for homework. I know this because the teacher admitted it as if it was perfectly acceptable to do such a thing.
On the other, I’ve considered the whole idea of assigning nothing for homework and I do that but only sometimes. However, the bottom line remains that there isn’t enough time in the classroom to reinforce and cover everything. The other problem that now exists involves social media and electronics.
You see, savvy parents and teachers know something very important about homework. Without it, our children won’t read books, and they certainly won’t relinquish the highly addictive realm of electronics. In fact, most children become so lost in this world that it’s almost a losing battle to try and take it away from them.
Homework fixes that fast.
Parents and teachers who are truly honest with themselves know this.
So when I look at all the books and arguments that pundits such as Andy Khon make against homework, I really do sympathize with the argument for no homework, but I can’t agree.
The real problem is teachers who don’t support children or give them a chance to make up work. The real problem is an educational system that doesn’t understand a child’s life may be very difficult so too much homework won’t help them.
Andy Khon makes some good points about just how disconcerting the system is.
However, without homework, children lose too much.
So, what then is homework for?
They need to read and not just in school. Without reading assignments, many parents just won’t encourage children to read. They’re too busy and tired, so it’s very easy to just allow them to play video games or play on their iPad—where they watch endless hours of YouTube, which can be valuable and can also be a bottomless pit of nonsense, some of it shocking depending on the perspective.
They need reinforcement. There are a few ways teachers know how well their students understood the material taught in class. One very valuable tool is homework. Through that, I can help them better understand vocabulary or concepts that I thought they understood but didn’t.
They need training. They are growing so fast that soon they will need to set aside time to study for quizzes and tests. How do they learn to do this? By getting bad grades? Or, by doing some homework? It’s the same thing.
They need opportunities. If handled the right way, students use homework to raise their grades and learn creatively through projects and guided assignments that help them flourish.
Social media has a way of making us believe ideas are great momentarily. We like it. We share it. We reblog it. We repeat it. We follow it.
When, in reality, all these naysayers had to do homework to be able to write and speak the way they do. Many of them don’t have to grapple with the day-to-day problems parents, who work until late at night and can’t spend time with their children, have to deal with.
If teachers and parents work together, homework actually benefits children and helps them grow and become better in every subject, which in turn helps them find their purpose in life, whatever that may be.
Watching students test has become an obsession for me, as a teacher and as a mom. I first began studying The Test about 10 years ago.
I had always held a deep disdain for even the mention of the word “test” while plowing through my school years. I hated tests because I’d shut down and perform poorly on tests. This happened after an encounter with a terrible test at a young age. So, I began to loathe testing.
It wasn’t until I became a teacher that I felt compelled to study and ultimately understand the process of taking a test. After all, teachers have to create tests so I needed to know exactly how I should start, so I searched different websites dedicated to teaching educators how to create tests.
I began with multiple choice questions and answers because those were the kinds of test items that made no sense to me. I rarely understood why my answer was wrong when teachers reviewed answers with my classes.
The reviews usually consisted of teachers ticking off the right answers and only explaining one or two in a very matter of fact way, as if to say, “Don’t you dare question the logic of the test.”
So, I never did. I only questioned my intelligence, which meant I thought I was an idiot. Until now.
The first question I had
was why in the hell am I creating a multiple choice test anyway? Where did the damn thing come from?
According to The Washington Post, an educator named Frederick J. Kelly, the Dean of Education at the University of Kansas, created the first multiple-choice test in 1914. From that point on, that style of testing mushroomed into what we find students struggling over throughout their educational life.
So when I sat down to research the very idea of creating the multiple choice tests, I found a mountain of information on the subject. So much information, that I really had to sift through it quickly or I could’ve been reading for months nonstop.
The most surprising and most valuable information was the method of using a distractor in the multiple-choice answers.
Ironically enough, the word “distraction” has become the 21st century go-to word to describe everything associated with everything electronic and has young students drowning in schools.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching a student test nowadays, you’d see very quickly how and why students often struggle with standardized tests. First, they see a paper with words on it and cringe. If it’s on the computer, they won’t cringe but that doesn’t mean they’ll concentrate on the material being presented to them, especially if it requires reading.
Most unsuccessful students seem to skim or scan whatever they’re reading and answer the questions by returning to the text to search for answers, which means that they’ve most likely missed the main point of the passage, which then throws off their answers to just about everything.
They end up with low scores and are left feeling stupid, anxious, and defeated.
They go home and become more addicted to the distractions that help them to feel confident, happy, and friendly—gaming and social media.
These are the distractions that reward them. The test drains them. And, we, parents and teachers, feel twice as frustrated and confused.
However, by observing this, every year I don’t begin my multiple choice creations with distractors. I begin my journey with my own brand of distractions.
And it works.
Written by Lisa Chesser
This post and others to follow will focus on teaching and helping children succeed in school. I’m working on a book that will have more details on sifting through the minds of children in order to help them find success in a system that often destroys their ability to succeed.
The mission: Helping great writers get discovered.
If you have a story to tell, a blog, a short story, a novel, a fierce desire to write, then you need to find Writer’s Bloq and the Kickstarter campaign. Because it’s only the beginning of the journey, this is an incredible opportunity for writers everywhere to join and find a place for their talent to be seen and heard.
The founder and CEO of Writer’s Bloq, Nayia Moysidis, embodies a spirit of blemished ferocity in the form of love. She refuses to buckle under the pressure of defeat—a very real, crushing reality for all writers at some point in their lives.
She started Writer’s Bloq after being rejected or, in more accurate terms, ignored 89 times.
Her hair pulled back into a long braid, her intensity alive, she speaks with the skill of a confident leader. Her power lies in her compassion. She understands and identifies with those who follow her. They follow her because they trust her. They follow her because she’s one of them: A writer.
Writer’s Bloq launched a Kickstarter campaign on August 22, 2012. Writer’s Bloq has seven days left to meet its goal in order to raise $15,000 so its team of writers can begin their Bloqparty Tour and promote their quarterly and their novels. They have raised $13,353. You can learn more about it by clicking on their Kickstarter campaign.
Writer’s Bloq isn’t just a writer’s showcase. It’s a home for writers to connect and draw attention their work in a way only a true hero can deliver. At the Bloqparty gatherings, writers meet up with industry professionals who have the opportunity to greet them in person, to give a voice to their words that might otherwise go unheard.
Nayia leads as Katniss does. Nayia braves the sorrows of talented writers being threatened with extinction. She’s the leader of a writing revolution because she embraces the fear inching through the publishing industry. A fear, if ignored, could become a reality.
She found a solution to a problem that’s grown into an epidemic, the kind that kills a writer’s basic instinct, to write and be published. Her solution means that writers don’t have to do what I did many years ago.
One of the main reasons I began this blog stems from this young, fiery soul. I had met Nayia Moysidis through friends and had gotten an email about her blog http://www.nayiaisms.com/.
When I read her blog, I chuckled. I read another post and cried. I read another and thought, “I used to share her passion for writing.”
So, right before bed when I was supposed to be too tired to think, the thoughts rushed around blocking my desire to sleep, so much so that I started writing again. And, I haven’t stopped since.
Yet, what I discovered was startling and sickening. I found that I’d become a good writer, not much different than I was 20 years ago, but I had nothing much to show for it. Okay, I had a resume with Publications Specialist on it and I could announce Award-Winning teacher with confidence. That was nice. But, I couldn’t proudly say, “I’m a seasoned writer because I’ve written this, this, and this.” I had worked in the publishing industry but I had created work for other people, most of whom either openly or insidiously claimed the work as their own.
I had been rejected as much or more than Nayia, so I packed away my dreams and slipped them under the bed. I became a very practical, very acceptable person, my true power sedated.
The worst part was that I had sold myself short. I had accepted my rejection as a truth instead of a reality.
To write this, as a writer, is even more painful than saying it out loud because when I say it, I usually contort my face and alter it or I say it as a source of twisted inspiration to those preparing for the beginning of their journey. It’s never truthful because it hurts too much.
I started out writing passionately and with a desire to change the world like so many artists. I did write. I have written. I have created, but I didn’t do it with the bravery I know I should have, the bravery I could have.
The Good Fight
So now, I support, love, and cheer for those who do what I didn’t. And, I do what I didn’t with trepidation. I say trepidation because after so many years of telling myself that I can’t do something, it’s hard to break that pattern.
If you don’t talk, if you don’t write, if you don’t take those chances that feel as if you’re stepping out onto a tightrope, you’ll just coast or even worse, you’ll just wander and wonder (yes, the spelling was intentional).
If the Katniss of this writing revolution existed then, I would’ve wanted to follow her. I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. She refuses to accept the stinging reality that only a handful of writers becomes published authors and that the majority of those who self-publish find little success.
Nayiafights the good fight, uniting writer with agent, writer with publisher, writer with an industry that itself wanders around lost and confused about where to look and how to construct a new path.
Her success ensures victory for all writers and for all those who honor the written word because she embraces the bitter, the wounded, and the lost then gathers the ripe and the ready to fight.
So, find her, read her, then support her and the writers of Writer’s Bloq and the Kickstarter campaign. Join them. Become one of them. It’s only the beginning of the journey.
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