Tuesday, October 26, 2010

tales of school

I confess...I've been thinking a lot of schooling lately. Some of this is more general and theoretical...I still think we need longer school days and years despite some disagreement to that idea when I mentioned in on Facebook. Other parts are more personal. I suppose the theory would be of broader interest, but oh well...you're getting some vignettes of my education instead:

  • Writing Like a Sixth Grader

One of the first assignments for English in sixth grade was a project about the Summer Olympics. My mom was an active parent and helped proofread most of the project but thought I should do two sections on my own. I got a B. At Parents' Night, the teacher told my mom she gave it a lower grade because she thought I'd had too much help. As proof she cited two sections, the one's I'd done alone. She admitted that she'd since seen more of my work and now wouldn't have questioned it. Turns out, my mom tried to edit the work to sound like a genuine sixth grader...but I didn't write like a sixth grader on my own.

  • Tracking, In Bold

I have noted before that I benefited from tracking and its tendency to give the very best teachers and smaller classes to the honors classes. And noted that I feel a bit guilty about that since it isn't very fair to the rest of the school. In junior high, I took all honors courses...except for Science...I was recommended to Honors but I always had to work very hard in my courses and needed one class where I could relax a bit. My honors teachers were active and involved with debates, conversations, role-plays, and more. My science teacher once had a computer brought to the classroom. Two kids could use the program at a time. The rest had to sit silently. I tried to take out a schoolbook and work...I think it was even the textbook for that class. I got reprimanded and told to put it away and sit quietly. Not something that would have happened in my other classes.

  • Honor Code Preview

In ninth grade, I'd missed the Social Studies teacher handing out a take home exam. When I got the papers from her, I asked if it was open-book and what the time limit was for the test. She laughed. She couldn't imagine giving a take-home exam with resource limits (and this was a Gifted program class). I was a bit hurt by the lack of trust that implied. I ended up at both a college and a law school with strong honor codes...including unproctored exams that were sometimes closed-book and/or timed.

  • The English Major Pep Talk

I majored in English because I liked it, not because I excelled. I did well and all, but my non-major GPA was definitely higher than my English GPA. I told a Professor that I felt intimidated when people flung back and forth elements of critical theory...I enjoyed talking about literature but the theory and the language of the discipline were hard for me. I was nervous in this Prof's English Drama class, even more so because I knew he was going to be my senior thesis advisor. He told me "Cheryl, you sling the vernacular has but you know what you're talking about." That felt deeply insightful...and accurate.

  • The Socratic Method

The image of law school is one of the Socratic method, where teachers guide by asking questions of random students rather than simply explaining the matter at hand. Really, many of my Profs only did this first-year or at least gave you warning of when you'd be on call. I was in first-year Property. I'd already been called on so I felt confident I was in the clear. I was cold and borrowed a friend's flannel shirt. The room filled up and I realized it had been flagged as a course for admitted students to observe during an admitted students visitation. The sixty person class doubled. And, within two minutes, the Prof called my name. She was known as a tough one...and very good Prof but a challenging one. She kept on me the whole class. At the end, I hadn't taken a single note (a friend gave me some later) and really couldn't recall the content. The sleeves of the flannel were wrinkled into tight balls. The Prof stopped me on the way out...she said I'd done very impressively (I'd NEVER heard her do that before) and that she'd called on me because she knew I'd be prepared and do well. I was amazed she even knew me apart from the rest of the class. The next year, first-years remembered me and said the class almost scared them away from law school. I took the Prof again my third-year and she lamented that 9/11 interrupted my scheduled on-call days. She and I were really different (she's very conservative politically) but her respect really meant a lot to me and still serves as a boost when I recall the experience.

I should proofread this. But I'm feeling lazy.

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