The Text Teaches

Day 12

Without a solid thesis statement, your essay will not work. I tell my students this all the time. I stress the importance over and over. Currently, my freshman’s son’s lowest grade is in ELA. I say currently because this distinction seems to fluctuate. Charting which classes he struggles in is like charting the direct path of a large butterfly on a spring day as a tornado is starting to whip up out of nowhere. If he put literally any focus on one class, one or all the rest might suddenly plummet. The good news is, he has an essay to write. I know essays better than alleles and their heterozygous or homozygous natures (which is the other ball in the air as his 85% in Bio is suddenly a 70%), or the entire unit on how proteins are made, which I spent 4 hours learning and teaching him last month.

The problem is I have 40-something other kids to teach and 2 other kids of my own. The thesis statement was due the other day and at that time I squeezed the novel part of the essay into 2 days of binge reading. Only at that point I wasn’t aware there would be an essay. “Writers read with writerly awareness”, right? Had I known I would’ve taken notes with an essay in mind. Problem number two is that the essay asks him to compare the book, “The Other Wes Moore” to the award winning documentary film, “Hoop Dreams”, which they watched in class. I did not have time to watch this almost 3 hour movie before the thesis statement was due, so I helped him craft one based on just the book. I figured the two would mirror each other nicely, thus, the assignment. 

Last night, notebook in hand, once the kids got their dad time and were fed and baseball practice was over, I started “Hoop Dreams”. I made it 45 minutes in and couldn’t keep my eyes open. Worse, I could already tell this would not align with the thesis statement that worked so well with the book. Ugh. I set my alarm early, told the boy to work on making up the Bio stuff after breakfast, and dove back into the movie. After 5 minutes he snuck in asking for help with bio. The alleles and such. Copious Googling ensued, he asked if he could stay with me in case he needed more help, and I started the film again. I could tell he almost immediately stopped completing his Punnett Squares and laid next to me watching the movie. I let him. I liked it, and it was his paper. 

The essay is going to be radically different. So much more work to do. And he only got one of 4 assignments done for Bio. You notice I haven’t mentioned my daughter? It’s the weekend for her too. All she wants (at least I tell myself this to feel better) is to continue our Stranger Things rewatch while he’s at baseball. So I just finished my planning for my other students and am now writing this slice with her basically close captioning the episodes word for word next to me. This is her sliver. In a minute I’ll pick him up and get back to his work. We’ll both need a break to watch the Bulls game and make dinner. Tomorrow we have what will be a long round trip to bring my eldest boy back to college as his spring break is over. I saw him for maybe 30 minutes during his entire 9 days here. So it goes. 

The thesis statement, your claim and evidence, is key. You can’t force it to fit if it doesn’t. No matter how convenient it is. No matter how bad you want it to work. Sometimes you have to go back and start all the way over. Even if the sand in the hourglass is down to grains with all the anxiety that comes with them falling. 

“You asked to walk me home

But I had to carry you

And you pushed me in

And now my feet can’t touch the bottom of you”

2 thoughts on “The Text Teaches

  1. I love the irony / circular logic of the non-working thesis statement to start us off. And…trying to balance teaching and parenting is TOUGH. I identified with having to put so much time and energy into one child, only to remember that yes, there’s another that needs love and attention as well.

    Tough. Stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

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