Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's all in the details

I teach 11th grade English. Right now we're reading the book Kindred by Octavia Butler. I was teaching students how to collect text details and events in order to develop a statement about theme.

The problem? Many were stuck in generalizations about the text, pointing out what tended to happen without pointing out one specific event. One student tried to excuse that, saying that it was totally OK to generalize. I asked him if, the next time he goes in for surgery, does he want to doctor to know the general area where the surgery is to occur, or does he want the doctor to know the precise place it needs to happen? That got some laughs, and I think the point was made: it's easy to deal with generalizations, but it's problematic if we don't get into the details.

For me, that's what I think of when journaling: the details. After I collect the details, I go from there to figure out my purpose: why do I want to create this layout? And usually at this point, my layout is born.

For example, I have some leftover photos from my Sculpture Garden trip this summer. I've done two layouts already, one documenting the trip (little journaling) and one about my sons' climbing habits. But I love these photos, so I want to scrap them. I wasn't sure why, so I started to write down details from the trip. Here's what I got:
  • I went with the boys and my college friend Lisa
  • Lisa was pregnant at the time, due around Labor Day (no lie)
  • She ultimately gave birth to a boy
  • My boys were typical that day, climbing, exploring, talking, goofing, etc.
After I got this far, I realized something: this was a trip with two gals and three boys. Three. She just didn't know it until she gave birth. And the afternoon with my boys doubtless gave her a glimpse of what being a mother of a boy is like.

So what will my purpose be? I will share to my friend (and to whoever else reads it) what it is like to be a mother of boys. It's fun, exciting, tiring, worrisome, energizing, and joyful. The details from this day revealed to me that I had something bigger to say about this experience, so I do have one more layout to create using these photos.


alexandra s.m. said...

Jennifer, I've enjoyed reading your post so much. thank you, you're making a lot of sense and these kids are very fortunate to have you as their teacher ( I mean it! ) You've conveyed your ideas so precisely that I feel enriched about the whole process of writing the journal. I also love how you share the process and your idea for that last L.O you want to do is beautiful.


Jackie said...

I too am an English teacher (9 & 11 this year) - loved your comment about general vs. specific. Fun stuff! It is always a challenge to present the material in a way that will matter to the kids!

Heading to Amazon to check out the book!