October 13, 2010
If I could bottle patience and sell myself a 12-pack I would do it right away. Peddle it to Costco. I feel so frustrated with the slow progress of:
a) Schools, in the systemic changes necessary to meet the individual needs of kids
b) My movement on writing my book and marketing my private practice in an ongoing way
c) Some of my students who seem “flat line” in their reading or writing progress
Other tutors talk about this last one, too. The intensity of intervention that is needed is something the average family does not have the time or money for. So I plug along with my once-a-week sessions packing what I can into that hour and praying that the daily practice happens. Parents are so taxed, often with both of them working, and managing stress in the most creative ways they can, plus doing what they can for their child, that my good ideas often float into the section of the brain called “information overload.”
All the research points to intervention, and specially-designed instruction, and monitoring response to the interventions, with high levels of precision, a wealth of materials, and astute teacher knowledge. Schools don't quite have the resources to meet up with the criteria that the research has revealed the importance of.
Teachers know what they need more of to be good writing instructors: TIME. Just to sit down one-on-one with their students and have the luxury to discuss their writing. The adults I talk to who are good writers, or at least don't resist it (!), can name at least one, if not a few, teachers who took that time, and inspired them to express their insides onto the outside, with words.
At the ADD Conference I attended this weekend I discovered that there is actually a chemical response to one-on-one attention. Dopamine. It is one of the biggest gifts we can give kids, and in schools that can be rare. So it falls upon me to be that attentional facet that showers them with praise and feedback about their writing, and discipline myself to keep the corrections at a minimum.
I encourage so much “self talk” in my students, but in my present impatient state I need my own, when I get blank stares or “I’m done” attitudes about writing that is seriously skeletal. I tell myself that LD writers have years of frustration behind them, look upon writing as something that taxes their brain, and become more overwhelmed by grammar and spelling than I can begin to imagine. So that self-talk helps me focus on them and come up with something wise to guide them into a next step. And they have less life experience, which leaves some assignments impossible to swallow.
A 6th grader was asked to write about what a day in the life of a caveman might be like. This was after a brief reading from a textbook on the introduction of Prehistoric Times. He was just stuck, and had no rubric, or list of words to include, and no one had asked him what the picture in his head was! We started with that, and it took a lot of word-retrieval tooth pulling to get that out of him, then we brainstormed words, then started an organizer, and our time was up.
Time away from the screen, away from consumerism, away from pressure to produce. And a one-on-one hour with an adult. That will create the next generation of writers.