A block from my daughter's house in Longwood, a bear broke through a neighbor's pool screen, opened a small fridge, and happily chewed & emptied all the soda cans inside. (Maybe more than one bear?) But please note that the bears were either "teetotalers" or recognized that munching beer bottles isn't a good idea. Note that the beer bottles are still neatly laid out, the bear(s) extracting the soda cans without breaking a single one. Very sophisticated bears in Longwood.
I am postponing the continuation of my comments on Political Correctness until next week in order to write about something very special that happened to me this week. As part of what is called "Dividends" day here in Seminole County, parents and relatives of students were asked to come to school and talk about what they do for a living. My daughter and I were booked together—Susie talking about buying and fixing up dilapidated houses and suggesting ways the children could make money at their age, while I contributed a workshop on Creative Writing.
I had planned to stick to the school regimen of Non-fiction writing (essays), but in the very first of the three workshops I did, the teacher suggested the students be allowed to write Fiction if they wished. A suggestion I was all too happy to oblige. FYI, Florida is a state that "over-tests" students, which results in teachers being forced to teach to the tests rather than teach the students the things they really believe they should know.
I talked a bit about by my sole book written for Young Adults (and suitable to any age interested in Medieval times) - The Captive Heiress. And then I read them two examples of how a student might answer the question: What did you do yesterday afternoon after school? The first example was deadly dull, a scant paragraph marked by short sentences beginning with, "Then I . . . Then I . . ." The second essay, answering the very same question, ran to five full and hopefully colorful paragraphs.
After that, I talked about "why" the second essay was so much better than the first - the details I had added, the more colorful language, the personal viewpoint. I also got in a plug for Fiction - the fun of creating good people, bad people, smart people, stupid people, silly people, etc. And then I asked the students (4th & 5th grade) to write two or three paragraphs, which they would then read aloud.
I gave a list of topics for those who needed it, but added that they could write about anything they wished, Fiction or Non-fiction. The results were astonishing—to the teachers, I'm convinced, as well as to me. Their work was so good—and almost all chose Fiction, something they never get to do in school—that I was truly saddened by not having enough time to hear each child read aloud. It was as if someone had pulled a cork out of a bottle, allowing them to shine. We had nine- and ten-year-olds writing not just narration but DIALOGUE, with "he said" and "she said." And the creativity - oh my! Yes, much of it was Fantasy, but that they could spout it out in 15 minutes with no warning they were going to be asked to do this . . .
Yes, one of the fourth grade classes was for the Gifted, but the other two classes were not. One boy nearly had me in tears as he read about "jays" pecking at a bully. A fifth-grade boy had the class in stitches with a few colorful paragraphs that suggested he was either going to be an author or a stand-up comedian. And a girl in the Gifted class wrote a story so well done that I truly think she may become a successful author.
Let me tell you, I went home glowing. That I had unleashed, however inadvertently, such a torrent of words made my day, my week, my month. Now if only the Florida school system could understand the need for creativity in the classroom instead of sticking to facts and figures in order to answer statewide tests. Sigh . . .!
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Next week, back to the problem of Political Correctness gone too far.