Two weeks ago I was in Florida at a writer’s conference. My sister called me up from Seattle and said that her son, my fourteen-year-old nephew, needed help with his first English essay as a Freshman in highschool. I absolutely adore this kid. He is funny as hell, and he has a deep well of determination. Now he sent me the rough draft of his essay. I was a little dismayed. He’s a jock who plays the cello. I asked him how many books he reads, and he asked me what a book was.
Again, did I mention he was a smart-ass?
I tried to explain that we needed to start out with a strong opening paragraph, and end with something equally strong. What I really said was, tell them what you’re going to say, say it, then tell them what you said. Over the course of four hours, I repeated this many times in many variations. It wasn’t getting through. I was proud of myself. I never used the F-Bomb, we actually spent most of the time giving one another shit and laughing. But his opening and closing still weren’t strong enough.
Finally I told him that he needed to start by punching them in the throat and end by kicking them in the balls. After that, he nailed the beginning and end of the essay. He got an ‘A’. Needless to say, I’m not the best teacher in the world. “Sigh”. However, much to my delight, my sister is willing to let me help again in the future, despite my way of explaining things. Whoo Hoo!