Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Normally I mail my holiday cards to arrive the day after Thanksgiving.

Just to make people curse under their breath - "That damn Chuck."

This year, however, I was balls deep in schoolwork and stuff so NO ONE got a holiday card.

I did send a mass e-mail to a bunch of folks to let them know what I was doing - again - schoolwork.

And here for you readers is my report card. If you had made a donation to Chuck's Scholarship Fund, you'll be happy to read it.

A = Seminar In Education
A = Peer Tutoring and Composition Theory
A = Foundations of American Education
A = Introduction to Visual Art
A = Introduction to World Literature I
A = Teaching Reading and Adolescent Literature
A = Survey of the Exceptional Child

The teachers have been wonderfully helpful. I talked to most of them and expressed a desire to do well in their classes. If I felt I was struggling, I let them know, and also asked what I could do to ensure an A, i.e., extra credit, supplemental reading, revisions, whatever. They'd give me a list or options, and I'd try to do all of it.

They really do appreciate earnestness.

Some of my classmates, however, do not. One group in a class was making a presentation on Carver which I now want to read. They explained how he excelled in college and was a curve-breaker and asked "You know what a curve-breaker is, right?"

Spontaneously five or six people pointed at me or said "Chuck!"

None of them are actually mean about it, though. And I look forward to seeing many of them again in January.

Anyway, I'm happy to be done with the semester, and I think I'm much better prepared for next semester.

Right now, I'll be studying for my PRAXIS exam in January and I'll try to clean house and blog some more.

I miss all of you! Send comments!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Writing for Children

Today I read for a fourth grade class in the library at local elementary school. I have no regular association with children so I have no relative idea of ages and grades or what they are capable of and when.

When I started to transform Antigone into a children’s story my main goal was to keep ‘the moral’ intact. My interpretation of the moral is that wisdom can be found in everyone and only a fool would disregard it. To get to that moral while sidestepping all the suicides and the hint of incest was my first challenge. I didn’t want a happy ever after ending, but I also didn’t want people hanging or throwing themselves on swords.

The next challenge was to explain why people were disobeying the king. My first rendition left that out completely, saying that he simply made up silly rules that nobody liked. When I read it to classmates, they wanted to know what the rules were that were so silly. Everyone wanted to know why. I didn’t want to go into great detail about two brothers fighting and dying over the rule of a city. One gets burial honors and the other is left, by decree, for carrion.

I took the totally tamed down tale to the school today and met my fourth graders. They are much bigger than I thought fourth graders should be. (Again, I had no reference point.) So I asked them, “How many of you have younger brothers and sisters?” Fortunately, many of them do. I told them that I’d created a story for a younger crowd and I need their help to make it better. Then I asked them if they knew what kings, queens, princes and princesses are, and of course they do. Then I asked if they could tell me what it is that a king does. I got a variety of answers; “They go to fancy parties, wear fancy clothes, sit on their thrones, have butlers, play with their money, boss people around,” et cetera.

I read them the story and they were extremely well-behaved, listening throughout. Then I asked what they thought and how I could make it better. Suggested ideas included talking frogs, bears and Transformers. Some students had wonderful suggestions on ways to get rid of the king. “Take him for a walk and get him lost while everybody else leaves the kingdom.”

The librarian asked me to tell them more about the original story. I told the group that the story was written for a much older crowd than my story. I confessed that all the people who went away forever, actually died. Immediately the children were on their knees in their chairs insisting on knowing how. What a blood-thirsty bunch.

Antigone for Children follows.

Antigone for Children

Antigone for Children

A long time ago, in the city of Thebes, in the land of Greece there was a brand new king, named Creone. He had never been a king before and on his very first day as king he made up some very silly rules. You see, he thought that all kings do is make rules and people obey them. And indeed, in this city, everyone thought the same thing; that the king must be obeyed. So as soon as Creone put on the thin crown of king, he started making silly rules.

For example, he had two nephews, one of whom he liked very much, and the other whom he didn’t like at all. So, he made a rule that everyone in the city should like the nephew that he liked, and not like the nephew that he didn’t like. Everyone thought that this was a very silly rule, but he was the king, and the king must be obeyed. So everyone liked the nephew the king liked, and didn’t like the nephew the king didn’t like. Everyone obeyed the king except one person, Antigone.

Antigone was the sister of the two nephews, and she loved both of her brothers very much. So Antigone decided that she would tell the king she thought that was a very silly rule. Antigone put on her best flowing, white gown and jewelry and did up her hair and went to the king and stamped her foot and crossed her arms and said “I think you have made some very silly rules, and even though you are king, I simply cannot obey because I love both of my brothers very much.”

But the silly king, and a lot of people at that time, didn’t think that girls could be very smart, so he covered his ears and said “I don’t have to listen to you, because I am a king and you are a girl!” and he sent Antigone away forever.

Now the king and queen had a son. His name was Haemen. Haemen liked Antigone very much and he also liked his father very much. And fathers and kings must always be obeyed. “Oh, what shall I do?” he thought. Finally, he decided to put on his best robes and go before his father the king. “Please don’t send Antigone away forever” he begged “ . . . because . . . well, I like her, and besides, I think your rules are silly too.”

But the king didn’t think that young boys could be very smart and he covered his ears and said “I don’t have to listen to you, because I am a king and I am older than you!”

So, Haemon decided he would go away forever just like Antigone.

Next, a very wise blind man came to see the king. His name was Teresias. And Teresias said respectfully, “My king, everyone thinks your rules are silly. You should probably change them.”

But the king didn’t think that anyone other than a king could be very smart, so he covered his ears and said “I don’t have to listen to you because I am a king and you are not and you have to obey me!”

And Teresias warned the king, saying “Because you will not change your silly rules, everyone that you like will go away from you forever.” And with that, Teresias left.

Now the king sat for a bit on his very fine throne, with his very fine robes and his very pretty crown, and thought about what Teresias had said. “Well,” he thought, “Teresias is a very wise man. Maybe I should have changed those rules.”

So the king got up to look for Antigone, but Antigone had gone away forever. Then the king looked for his son, Haemon, but Haemon had gone away forever just like Antigone. And when the Queen found out that her son, Haemon, had gone away, the queen decided that she would go away too.

So now the king was all alone and very sad. And the king thought to himself, “I am such a silly king. I should have listened to Antigone, because girls can be very smart.

And I should have listened to Haemon, because young boys can be very smart too!

And I should have listened to Teresias as well, because you don’t have to see or even be a king to be smart. What a silly king I was.”

And somewhere at that very moment, Antigone and Haemon and Teresias and the Queen smiled, because they knew they were smart all along.