Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mirror, Microscope, Telescope: Three Metaphors for Thinking About Writing @writingproject @ncte

The bad news about my writing course this semester is it met on Tuesday night, a day after The National Day On Writing. The course also meets at the latest time for graduate students, so by the time everyone arrives, we all are exhausted, giddy, punch-drunk, and ready for bed. Even so, the tradition of promoting writing instruction continued, and one of my students kicked off the evening with a great activity of choosing an object and writing, in detail, about the item we chose.

I couldn't help but see faces with the way three shells landed on my page and I promise, I was on task with the work at hand. I did, however, have to take a moment to be silly.

Actually, I didn't.

We were discussing Gallagher's ideas for using rhetorical devices and I recalled an article I read (Carroll & Hanson, 2004) about thinking about writing through the lens of a mirror, microscope and telescope. We looked, too, at several commercials with these varying lenses, to understand the ways we are hooked by celebrity appeal, emotional appeal, celebrity, humor, and the what not.

I meant to be a good boy, and before class I found a Thai Insurance commercial that was billed as the saddest commercial ever made. As I brought students to the ad, however, I began laughing. I told them, it was a different commercial from what we're used to seeing. It was far from funny, but I had one of those moments.

It aired.

Several people were emotionally touched as I knew they would be, and (I'm not sure what happened) when I began to talk I just started laughing in one of those uncomfortable fits where my body shakes and tears pour out of my eyes. My laughter got all the graduate students laughing and before we knew it we were all laughing, uncontrollably, trying to figure out why anything was funny. It wasn't. We did begin a conversation about cultural contexts and whether or not such a commercial would air in the U.S. Perhaps it was because we looked at Clint Easton's It's Half Time America, first, followed by a parody. Maybe it is because we also looked at an Old Spice commercial, but following these with an emotional appeal just hit me in a place of exhaustion that triggered a release I didn't expect.

I'm chalking this one up to having a sense of humor when trying to find effective practices for teaching writing in a variety of genres for multiple purposes. Something about the Thai commercial, and the planning for the heaviness it delivered, just got into my head and gave me giggles in a way that I haven't experienced since working with Alice at the Brown School and being in silent locations with my little sister, Casey.

I'm not proud of my behavior, and am writing my way through it before I begin my Wednesday afternoon. I think it has something to do with "teaching writing processes" and coming to a place where I ask myself, "Why?"

It must be the life insurance. 

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