Wednesday, October 01, 2008


I'm not the brightest light on my family tree, alas, and when I'm trying to learn something, I usually need a couple tries. I need practice, sometimes more than once.

I've been sort of dreading getting my first bike flat. I watched the bike shop guy change a tire one day, and got a sort of lesson, and even helped, but it's not quite the same thing.

When I was yearning for my first driver's license, my parents had a rule; before I could go to the DMV for the test, I had to show them that I could parallel park with only a few inches on either end of the car and that I could change a flat. The parallel parking involved some old picnic table benches, set up on end and moved closer each time until I could, indeed, parallel park with only a few inches extra space. The tire changing involved taking the car to a flat spot, taking the tire off, going to get a parent, then demonstrating that I knew how to put it back on, including which order to tighten the lug nuts.

At the time, I remember thinking it was sort of stupid. Duh, I'd read the stupid drivers' ed course booklet. But in my late 20s, alone on a freeway at night, when my tire blew out, I realized it wasn't at all stupid. I knew where my flares were, and got them lit and put out properly. And then I changed the tire, and that was that. Because I'd done it before, I wasn't really worried about the steps, and not being worried helped me do the job.

Today, I changed my bike tire tube. It wasn't flat, quite, but I'd broken off the presta-valve mini-screw so that I couldn't fill it with air, and over the past several rides, the tire had gotten a bit mushy even for me, so it was time. And it wasn't that hard. Happily, I was able to change it in my nice warm house instead of out on a cold road. But now I've done it, and I'm dreading the whole flat thing a lot less.

What does this have to do with a Shakespeare blog, you wonder?

Today I also collected a set of explications from my Chaucer class. Explication is an important skill for people who want to really work closely with texts, so it's important to give students a chance to practice. Our students, though, don't get a lot of practice with verse, especially. I think most classes work closely with textual passages, but don't explicitly explicate them together. So we took a full class day about two weeks ago, and worked together, using the steps I'd given them on my assignment sheet, to work through a passage and come up with a good thesis for an explication. Then we'd worked on how we'd organize the actual explication. So while we didn't actually write an explication together, we did the preparatory work and figured out what it would look like.

If I taught them well, the explications should be pretty good, and relatively painless to read. So why am I afraid to even look at the first one?


  1. I'd be scared too - mostly because I know that showing them what to do and going over the instructions in detail does not mean that they'll actually do it.

    This week in logic they needed to draw a horizontal line and a vertical line to organize their proofs. Many of them couldn't follow those instructions -- so I sat them down to do it over again until they figured it out.

  2. Mmm, what do you _do_ when you have them do explications of verse? *looks over your shoulder impertinently* is there anything useful and interesting I might want to steal?

    I don't work in quite as early a period, but I've had lots of luck (as in, they're really bad at it) having my students just paraphrase a poem line-by-line in class. It shows that there's a big difference between getting the gist of it and actually knowing what is going on in every single line of the poem. And I thought these poems weren't all that hard!

  3. It's the whole you can lead students to the text but you can't make them think problem...

    Better known as, WTF are you doing not learning when I'm up here TEAAACHING???

    Good thing we get a whole semester to try, try again.

    (I'm working on verbals in English grammar. They've almost got it now.)

  4. Heh, now you leave me wondering what explication is...guess I didn't stay in lit long enough...

  5. Inside, Yep. It's frustrating that we're judged by the outcomes of people we have no control over. It's not like they're widgets, but that's how the whole assessment thing works.

    Sisyphus, You're peak over the shoulder is my command. Look up!

    Delagar, exactly!

    MSILF, Explications are fun!