The Dragon that Breathed Water: Journal July 4, 2018

The first story I remember writing was about a dragon that spit out water instead of fire. I remember this being in the 2nd grade, although that could be off a year or two. On the merits of the story, I was selected to go read my story at the high school auditorium in Logansport, Indiana. The dragon was an outcast. No one would play with him. Eventually he saves the town with his freakish ability to spew water. Now, I can see that the story clearly follows the plot structure of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, literacy narrative

Looking back, I can see my elementary story was a version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

 

Second grade was also memorable for my teacher identifying what she thought were motor skills problems I had. She said I didn’t swing my arms correctly when I walked. I remember staying after school to draw circles on the board. I’d hold a piece of chalk in each hand and draw circles trying to get my hands to move in synch. Then I’d draw circles with my hands moving in opposite directions. It reminds me of what the mind and body have to do to dribble one basketball high and one basketball low. I just accepted my motor deficiency skills and did what I was told. I don’t know what my mom and dad thought of that teacher, but they mostly were teachers who supported my teachers.

I meant to focus on the story of my reading and writing. Maybe I’ll come back to that soon.

7 min free write total:  243

 

Twelve Places I’ve Lived: Journal Entry July 3, 2018

For the something like twenty-three years since I stopped living with my parents, I have moved a lot. This hasn’t necessarily meant I changed jobs a lot. After all, I worked at St. John’s University in New York for eleven years. I am able to remember how long I have been married by adding one year to my oldest’s age. Here’s to hoping I can continue to remember my daughters. It seems to be getting a little harder to remember my own. With a move to Boone, North Carolina on the horizon, I’m going to try and remember the places I’ve lived since I’ve been married.

  1. Megan and I started on the top floor of a tall apartment building on Church Street in Charlotte, North Carolina.
  2. We moved to Milledgeville, Georgia for graduate school and brought our daughter home to a three bedroom apartment.
  3. My second year of graduate school Megan worked as a resident director of a dorm and we lived there.
  4. When I got the job in New York, we lived in a two-bedroom apartment under Hell Gate Bridge in Queens.
  5. Megan and I bought our first house in Stratford, Connecticut.
  6. We moved back to Queens, this time to College Point where we used to sit in the park and look across the water to LaGuardia airport and watch the planes take off.
  7. We moved back to Connecticut, this time to New Canaan. It was another Church Street, this one up the street from the library.
  8. We moved to an old farm house outside of New Canaan where the neighbor offered our land lady a million dollars for the place so he could make it part of his backyard.
  9. Our family moved to Asheville.
  10. I also rented a studio apartment in Glen Cove on Long Island. I felt like the Great Gatsby might live up the street.
  11. Our family stayed another year in Asheville, and I moved from the rental to a different studio apartment, this one in Kew Gardens where the sound of the frequent trains on the Long Island Railroad woke me each morning.
  12. I’m now sitting in our home in Greenwood, Indiana. It’s sold. We don’t yet know where we’re going to live in Boone.

What to make of all those moves? I don’t yet have a theory.

Kept writing past 7 minutes today. Word count: 383

Writing with Nothing to Say: Journal July 2, 2018

Today is the first day I’ve sat down to write without knowing what I would say. Obviously, I could have just not written, but if I ask students to write regularly, they are going to be in this same spot, and I want to try and do what I will ask them to do: write when they don’t feel like they have something to say.

Is it my job–as the writing teacher–to help students make words come? Last school year, I noticed that many of the students in the classes I taught had trouble making words come. According to something Greenwood High School called the Senior Capstone Project, the students had to write twelve 200-word reflective journal entries. Lots of students could only come up with a sentence or two. I worked with many of these during free time at lunch or after school. I found myself asking questions like this:

  • Before the year started, what did you think about the project? Did you have any idea what your topic would be? Did you know anyone who had worked on the project? What did they say about it?

Students would write something like this: I went to see my mentor. The meeting went well. He showed me a project proposal. 

writer's block, fluency, journal writing

facing the blank page

I thought I could get the students writing more toward their 200 words. I’d ask them where their mentor worked. I’d ask them where they met. I’d ask if they were nervous. I’d ask who talked first. I tried to get the students to just go into more detail and make what they were writing a story of the meeting. I would tell the students that the answers to my questions should be put into the writing.

I thought my questions should fire the catalyst to write 200 words, but I found that I had to keep asking questions until the student reached the minimum writing requirement. The students hadn’t had much practice making words come when they needed words to come. Is this something that matters?

7 min writing word count: 337

Maybe next time:

  • Vonnegut’s writing desk
  • Memorable or useful experiences in the writing classroom
  • Somewhere to Live.
  • Places I’ve Lived.
  • Gluten for Punishment.

Accused of Being a Pessimist: Journal Entry June 30, 2018

We’ve accepted an offer on our house in Greenwood, Indiana. When you put a house up for sale, there are moments when you think it will never sell. Even with an accepted offer, most times I’ve been involved in the process, there are lots of highs and lows. I am the sort of person who tries to keep an even level of emotions. I have been accused of being a pessimist. For example, if we’re on a road trip and my daughters are excited about the hotel pool, I try and get them to at least be open to the possibility that the pool is going to be closed. Maybe there will be a problem with the chlorine levels? My writing here just reminded me of Wally World being closed. It can happen! There were some premature victory laps on our house sale. We hope this deal continues to completion.

William Bill Torgerson journal

It can happen! (image from Bad Idea T-Shirts)

We are moving to the Boone, North Carolina area. It’s where Appalachian State University is, and I will be a lecturer in composition there starting next fall. Boone is in Watauga County, very close to Tennessee and Virginia. I know that the county shares a border with Tennessee.

We don’t know if we are going to rent or purchase a home. The school set up in Watauga County is unlike what I am used to. There are eight K-8 schools that all feed into a high school in Boone that has an enrollment of approximately 1300 students. The school size is similar to where I was teaching this year at Greenwood High. However, unlike Greenwood which is probably one of the smallest geographical areas in the state, Watauga Schools are really spread out. There can be as much as 20-30 miles between schools.

Other news at our house? Our oldest got her braces off. My mom and youngests daughter’s birthdays are coming up. My sis is coming from LA for the 4th of July.

Maybe next time:

  • New Job, Looking back, Looking ahead, Giving up a high school coaching position

7 minute writing: 323 words

Thanks for reading!

Journal Entry June 29, 2018

I am thinking about having students in my writing courses write for seven minutes each class session. I could give them the choice of writing in a journal or in a digital document. I wondered how many words I would write in seven minutes. Here I go.

Of course writing is more than about word count but if there isn’t a minimum word count then there will be a few students that will write something like 17 words, call it a day, and then check their phone or head off to the bathroom. So there needs to be a minimum that they can finish up on their own time.

I feel torn about the WAC class I am to teach. On the one hand, I like thinking of writing studies as a field that can be studied like an Introduction to Psychology class. There is much to be learned for sure. It makes the course more rigorous. Will any of the info stay with the students in the years to come? Will I be able to get the students to engage with texts about how writing works?

Rapid change of topic: can I figure out a way to give the students reading check quizzes online? What platform should I choose that will integrate with Digication, the platform I will use for the students’ to build their ePorts? I haven’t given reading quizzes for years, but I need to use some leverage to get the students to read, right?

On the side opposite the idea for a writing studies class is more of a digital genres kind of class where I can bring in some of my enthusiasm for podcasts, documentaries and working with images and video. There is a more straightforward path I can see to the students enjoying the content and the experience being more memorable for the years to come.

7 minutes is up. Word Count: 312