Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thought domination

When teaching writing, I usually give plenty of prompts and brainstorming activities in an effort to decrease the chances that a student will say "I don't know what to write."  But sometimes I want my students to come up with their own subject matter. I recognize that doing so can be challenging.  My advice to students who must write something without any parameters is to write about what is dominating their thoughts.  Every minute of every day we are thinking, but usually there are thoughts that continue to pop into our minds more frequently than others.  These thoughts are fodder for writing. 
Of course, allowing students to write about what they are thinking can be dangerous. Do I really want to know what a teenage male is thinking about most of the time?  Don't I already know?
And yet, I am a risk-taker. Those thoughts may become wonderful pieces of writing. If nothing else, I will learn a little more about my students and who they are as human beings. 
When reading my students' writing, I may step into dirty places where there are strange and offensive ideas.  I may also enter into worlds of sadness or fear or even anger.  But alongside this, I will also experience joy and excitement.  Through their writing, I will enter into their worlds.  I will see what they see and feel what they feel. And I will use what I learn to make their education fruitful.  That is what dominates my thoughts.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kill two birds with one stone

If there is one thing I love, it is efficiency.  Nothing is closer to perfection than the balance that comes from perfectly organizing my activities so that the total time taken is minimal.  Just last week I had to run two errands, and the route I chose to get from one place to the next ended in the least amount of time taken to complete the task that I deem possible in that situation.  It was perfect!  It was four o'clock on a Thursday before a three-day weekend, so the traffic could have been horrific.  And yet everything worked in my favor.   Even with two erroneous choices made while driving on the highways, I still made terrific time.  How is this "killing two birds with one stone?"  I accomplished two errands with only one car trip.
According to, the adage refers to a hunter's skill at killing two birds using a slingshot and only one stone.  That definitely would take great skill.  With all of the tasks and requirements that I need to accomplish, I view this adage as one that only practitioners of effective time management can accomplish.  Interestingly, the adage is over four hundred-years-old and actually had a negative connotation.  In our ever-busy lives, it seems that killing two birds with one stone could never be negative.  What do you think?