Friday, December 05, 2008

Update of sorts

I have been having a rough week. Perhaps no rougher than is typical for the last week of classes, or maybe more so because I am under more stress than usual and am missing Andrew deeply. I sent him a care package (well, I ordered a small basket of fruit, nuts, chocolate and cheese to be sent to him) and was entirely too irritable when I did not receive even a text message of thanks. His father finally sent him a message telling him to thank me. I don't like my place in that dynamic.

I have no posted because I don't enjoy reading my own words of complaint.

Still, we are at the end of the semester, and that is always good.

I'm up very early this morning because last night, as I crawled into bed, Roland asked me if I could get up and take Brian to his early morning whatever it is. Of course that meant that I would lose my early morning class prep. Too tired to do it last night, I got up extra early this morning.

Gary has been lying about getting school work done. He is in danger of failing English as he cannot make himself write a paper. He believes he cannot write, does not know how to write. We offer to help, but he will not accept. Still, he accepted without complaint that he can not go anywhere this weekend until he catches up on his work. He knows as well as we do that if he does not write the paper he will fail English and be in summer school.

We will restrict his activities until the semester is over or he finishes his work. I know though that I cannot make him write the papers. The restriction is not intended as a punishment but as assistance. We will try to create for him more room for success. What he does with that will be his choice, and his choice will have consequences that have nothing to do with us.

Although I did cheerfully tell him that I would help him figure out how to get signed up for summer school.

I asked when the December permanency hearing is and have got back no response. The agency social worker does not know either. I am hoping that I will not once again get a phone call from a social worker asking why I wasn't at the court already.

We, the social worker and I, had previously agreed that we would post-pone any further discussions about guardianship until after the hearing. It will probably be post-poned until after the New Year. I am pretty gloomy about the whole thing, but can't explain exactly why. Partly I mean that I am not prepared to share with any and all, partly I mean that I don't have the time to explain it well.

And that is in no small part because I have so blasted much school work to do.

Hey, did I mention it is the last day of classes? After 10:30am there will be nothing but grading and grading (some of which will be done in a room while students write exams for me to grade).


  1. All other stresses aside, YAY for the last day of classes! I teach high school, so we have looooong way to go--although that doesn't mean they don't get to write exams today, which they're doing as I write!

    Is Gary able to articulate why he feels like can't/doesn't know how to write? Not that this changes the restrictions or consequences, but I hear what he says a lot from my own students, and it is often the case that those phrases are hiding other concerns.

  2. I don't know why Gary feels that way. He reads voraciously so that isn't the issue. He can write small assignments in class, so it isn't that he can spell or form sentences. There is something about a paper that intimidates him, but I can't be more specific than that.

  3. I know that Slugger is a lot younger than Gary, but he has trouble writing, too. What I've done that has helped him in the past is write an outline and leave spaces for him to write notes while he researches. Obviously a high school level paper would need to be more in depth. But maybe if you set up a general outline it would help Gary. There's something about a whole paper that's daunting for some people. He may not accept/want your help, though, as you said.

  4. I have huge anxiety issues about writing. Do you think that might be what's going on with Gary? In my case, there really is no solution to the way my mind goes blank and panicky, but there are a few things that sometimes help:
    - writing ideas on notecards or on a dry erase board (somehow this seems to get around pressure of a blank page/computer screen--also, there's less space to fill with words, so you get to feel "successful" with each notecard you fill up)
    - making concept maps (a lot of us simply don't think in outlines, so the idea of coming up with a paper in outline format can be very intimidating--concept maps relieve some of this pressure of trying to fit everything into a linear order)
    - writing/journaling an "email to a friend" explaining what you're trying to say (most helpful if you're mind is going blank b/c you're a perfectionist about prose and get overwhelmed)
    Of course, these ideas are mainly useful if you already know what you're trying to say, but just aren't sure how to get it out or how to structure your argument. If Gary's education has been interrupted a lot (or if it was of the quality of the high school I went to), he might simply not know even the basics of the writing process--in which case, he'd be quite justified in feeling overwhelmed.

    Then again, if he's not willing to accept help, there may not be a whole lot you can do.

    PS--a book commonly recommended is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Although I never found it to actually help me with the writing process in particular, there's something about it that I find enormously comforting...

  5. Gary spent two years doing school "on site." That generally means no homework. Though they wrote papers of some sort, they did not expect much. He spent the last two years in schools that were good schools, but had two tracks. He was in classes where the goal was to educate, but also to make sure passing was easy. What he didn't realize (and I didn't either) was that the all the classes at the charter school are college prep level. So this is the first time he has had to write real papers -- as opposed to things like chapter summaries and book reports.

  6. I second the notecard idea. I particularly liked being able to move my ideas around like puzzle pieces to help me organize paragraphs. I found that very useful when I was Gary's age.

    Is there some type of writing center or tutor who might be able to help Gary? Writing really is a skill that a lot of people are never taught - I'm sure you've run into plenty of examples as a college professor! I'm not an expert myself, but there are people who really know how to teach it well, with lots of specific ideas and suggestions to help it seem less overwhelming. Would Gary participate in something like that if it was offered? Writing is such a fundamental skill in almost any field. I hated it when I was his age (and still don't love it), but I am so incredibly grateful someone took the time to teach me to do it well.

  7. Mrs Butter B5:06 PM

    To Yondalla: I second (third? whatever) the suggestions of breaking it down into managemeable segments. 1st night- outline, 2nd night, notecards fleshing out the outline, 3rd night, rough draft of 1st para, so on and so forth until its done a week later

    Confidential to Gary: You do know you don't have to fail? That you can google "need a paper on ...x..." and the internet will find you one you can either buy or copy? Then you can simply change some things so it makes it original and then turn it in?

    Not that I'm suggesting it, but heck, part of life is finding ways to make things happen, not necessarily digging the ditch yourself LOL

    Also confidential to Gary: You need to stop talking up the cute girls. Find a nerdy looking lonely one and buy her a carnation and a cookie- she'll do your papers for you. A kiss will even get it written in your hadnwriting, betcha.

    LOL Totally just kidding on the Confidentials. Seriously though, having sub'd in public school, I think the majority of kids "share" writing assignments. Its pretty rare for someone to not turn ANYTHING in at all. I'm surprised he hasn't figured out a way around his writing phobia.

    Another thought- most agencies allow tutoring as part of the child's "needs package". How about calling Sylvan or something and signing him up for a writing workshop? Might be the push he needs.

    To Yondalla- I'm sorry its sucking for you right now. It sounds like your up to your ears in unpleasant junk and I wish I could help! Don't feel bad about Andrew- our oldest is out on the other side of the country and couldn't be bothered to call to thank us for the roses/candy/bear/balloon or to wish her brother a happy bday. She did manage to let us know she'd be in vegas for christmas, not to plan for her to eat turkey LOL. Teenagers and their durn independent streaks....

  8. Hugs to you for feeling blue. You make parenting a teen seem so simple. I should have sent all of mine to you.

  9. Just chiming in to say sorry about your rough week. FWIW, though I know it doesn't help, Andrew's reaction isn't about you and not valuing you... Looking back at my time in college I was an asshole to my parents... and I feel badly about it now. It's just such a self-involved time - when there is so much new stuff.

    Like I said, I know that doesn't help, and I'm sorry the transition has been so rough.


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