This week three of the classes I teach are writing an essay on the themes of Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers. Every time students write an essay, some have trouble with getting started or figuring out how to get from introduction to conclusion. I can relate…
Last Friday I was driving my son, a friend and her son, and a third little boy to a soccer tournament in Cincinnati. Like a student who has trouble picking a topic, I had a little trouble getting started. I thought I was ready, but I had some last-minute distractions (a.k.a. other children). Luckily, I was only a few minutes behind schedule as I drove the rounds to pick up passengers.
Once we were on the road in the mini-van / soccer express, the boys settled in to playing video games on their DSs. We adults chatted about football, soccer, and school. The ride was going smoothly, like watching a freshman transform thoughts into a composition. We did hit a little traffic and had to slow down, like the student who pauses to gather his thoughts. Nonetheless, persistence and patience paid off and soon we were buzzing right along. Then, we hit a heavy downpour which forced us to slow down, like the students trying to find the best supporting examples from the novel.
Occasionally, I see the kid who reads his essay and feels like regurgitating. My friend’s son, Brent apparently felt the same way. As we were cruising along in the passing lane at the posted speed limit, of course, one of the other boys yelled, “Brent puked!” Before I could slow down and pull over, I heard him wretch again. I came to a stop on the side of the interstate, and his mother and I started to try to clean up the mess. Unfortunately, Brent’s cleansing of his stomach happened a few years after I got rid of baby wipes, rags, and any cleaning materials from the mini-van.
Brent’s mom, a nurse, handled everything with the grace and compassion of Florence Nightingale. In the classroom I can calm the nervous writer, but she was in her element and kept the boys (and me) from freaking out.
Of course, one of the state’s finest highway patrolman pulls up with lights flashing. He gets out of the car, and we can’t help but laugh and wonder if puking along the interstate is a crime. We tell him what happened, and he understands because he has three kids of his own.
I should have left it at that, but I had to say, “Oh we aren’t married and all of the kids aren’t ours.” Brent’s mom laughed and the patrolman looked at me as if I had a white van with no windows. Luckily she responded, “We are on our way to a soccer tournament.”
As his back up arrived, the patrolman laughed and gave us directions to a clean gas station where we could clean up Brent and the mini-van. I should have asked if a canine unit was available to eat the “evidence”. After all, my dogs tend to eat their vomit.
I hope my students do not see me as a highway patrolman, and I hope they learn that writing is a process that has traffic, rain, and puke along the way. After all, life has the same problems.