Tag Archives: freakish

this is what I meant

18 Oct

I taught my son both his eleventh and twelfth grade English classes, which went much better than it might sound.  He insisted on calling me by my last name, as other students did, so several of his classmates took to calling me Dad.  When he was in my eleventh grade class, I learned how he wrote essays.

There’s a little back story.  Like most parents, I became a necessary nuisance in my son’s life when he was about twelve years old.  I clearly didn’t know anything and existed to make him miserable.  In eighth grade, he took a high school freshman English class.  I read his first essay and made several suggestions about how he could make it an actual essay.  He argued that his writing had always been excellent so this was, too.  A week later when he brought home the graded paper, his teacher had charitably given it a 50.  Her comments for improvement were exactly what I had told him.  From that day forward, I have known what I was doing and what I was talking about, in my son’s estimation (at least when it comes to writing, English, and education in general).

When he was in eleventh grade, I assigned my son (and his classmates) to write an essay.  They had two weeks or so.  After a few days, I asked my son if he had started or jotted down ideas or completed any prewriting activities.  He had not.  A few days before the paper was due, he had made no progress on it.  The evening before the paper was due, he sat down at the computer and typed for a little more than half an hour.  He announced his essay was finished and that he had sent it to the website where my students posted their assignments.  I expressed my dismay that he had not let anyone proofread it or look over it at all.

I needn’t have worried.  His essay was excellent, easily the best in the class.  He had been working on it all along in his head.  He had been turning over ideas and developing them and organizing them in the background of his waking thoughts until he began typing.  My wife and I marveled.

My first post on this blog is something I had been carrying around in my head since late summer.  I finally wrote it down here, and it looks like it did in my head, except that the ending came out as I typed it.  I don’t remember writing like that–in my head for days with nothing on paper until typing–in high school or college, but I think I probably did.  I guess I forgot because there was nothing I could see, nothing I could look at, no papers to file or flip through.  So my son comes by it naturally.

There is a funny story about the online paper site, Turnitin.com. When my school first made the site available to teachers and students, I made midnight deadlines.  After a couple of those, I realized that my students were using my assignments as excuses to stay up late and do other things online.  One essay was due at eleven on a Friday, and my son was on a date.  About 8:00, I decided to login to see who had turned in their essays so far.  Three or four of my students had submitted their essays, but my son was not among them.  My wife said I should text our son and remind him about his assignment.  I pointed out that I didn’t provide that service to my students.  So, his sister texted him.  Shortly after ten, her brother appeared. He messed around for a few minutes, sat down to type, and submitted his paper with fifteen minutes to spare.  Again, his was the best in the class.

I still find this kind of freakish.


Here he is in his freshman dorm room.