Yesterday I had to tutor one period in the library as part of our school's SBO agreement. A kid came over looking for an English teacher. I said I was one and asked what I could help him with. He said he needed help with the SAT. I asked him what exactly he needed help with and he said writing. But when I asked to see his writing he showed me a booklet he'd gotten from some SAT prep program. He opened it up to a baffling paragraph about journalism.
There were two multiple choice questions. I was able to figure out the first one but the second one didn't make any sense to me no matter what answer I used. I asked the kid what he wanted, and he said he wanted the answers. I asked him how it would help him if I answered the questions for him, and he couldn't really answer.
It was really an awful paragraph. I was sorry anyone had to read it, but happy none of my students had written it.
I asked some questions about what he liked to read. I got the impression that he'd read a whole lot of things like the one he showed me, and that reading was not something he looked forward to. If I had to read crap like that all the time I would surely not look forward to reading either.
I asked the boy where he got the book. He said he'd taken a prep course, and that he finished the first part, but they'd given him the second part books for free. I told him if I were him, or if my kid were taking the SAT, I'd buy a review book that contained explanations. He didn't seem to like the idea, and went off in search of a better tutor.
Later, another teacher told me that the SAT was being given this Saturday. I didn't understand the pressure he was under, and I now know my advice was not helpful at all. The thing is, though, that had I known the test was Saturday, I don't think I'd have been able to come up with much better advice. Maybe he had waited a little too long to seek help. I don't know.
Anyway, when he walked, the girl sitting across from me asked me to read her work.
"I am flat screen TVs," it began.
"Why are you a flat screen TV?" I asked her. She appeared to have multiple features I'd never seen on a flat screen TV. If she didn't I'd have worried.
She said it was a poem. Her poem contained a whole lot of other things she was, but she didn't look like any of them to me. Then she showed me another poem, which this one was evidently based on. I noticed that she had stolen a line about some tree, "the branches of which are my very soul," or something like that.
I told her she couldn't just go stealing lines from poems because it was plagiarism.
"But it's in the template!" she said.
"What template?" I asked her.
Then she showed me an outline of the original poem, with some pieces missing. Evidently the branches of something were going to have to be her very soul whether she liked it or not.
She made some funny comments. I told her she seemed very smart, which she did, but that I had never written poetry, and that her teacher was looking for something that was a reflection of who she was. I didn't believe she was a flat screen TV, not for one minute.
The girl was amused if not assisted. If anyone had brought me stuff they'd written without a template, I may have offered better advice. I must be old-fashioned or something.
Views expressed herein are solely those of the author or authors, and do not reflect views of my employers, the United Federation of Teachers, the MORE Caucus or any other union caucus.
Stories herein containing unnamed or invented characters are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.