Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Immortalizing the Apple

(No, this is not a post about "man's first disobedience.")

Since I'm meeting with the school's personnel committee tomorrow (remember, I'm applying for a job teaching writing), I thought I'd dig out some of my old notes from grad school, just to jog my brain a bit in what I've learned about the teaching of writing. It was a very beneficial activity. I laughed until midnight. I didn't like many of the exercises in the textbook (they were too humorlessly politically correct), so I'd made up a bunch of my own. I'll shed modesty for a moment and say that some of my exercises were laugh-out-loud silly.

At LSU, all new teaching assistants (TAs) had to take a semester-long practicum called "Analysis and Evaluation of Expository Writing." Other classes were for the reading of theory; this one was hands-on. Not only did we learn to write goals and lesson plans, run a well-organized class, and assign and grade papers, but we got to work through some of the very exercises that we'd assign our freshmen.

One such exercise was The Apple Exercise, which focused on teaching the student to use vivid descriptions in writing.

We were all assigned to get an apple (Red Delicious variety) and write a short description of it. We all brought our apples to class and put them in a big pile on a table in the middle of the room. Then, we each read our descriptions to the class ... and the class had to select our respective apples from the twenty-odd other apples on the table.

My apple description was buried in all of my practicum notes. Here's what I wrote:

As I traveled the long, bumpy journey from Washington to the Perkins Road Bet-R in Baton Rouge, I was feeling pretty blue. I know it sounds strange that a bright, shiny, red-and-yellow apple like me should feel blue, but consider my circumstances: I had been prematurely wrenched from my apple tree mother, and the other apples made fun of me because I was smaller, harder, and more lopsided than the rest of them. They laughed at the garish yellow streak that runs diagonally up my side, and they humiliated me further by tattooing it with five tiny black dots. They ridiculed the faint yellow check mark to the left of that yellow streak, and they made fun of the little hole between the two yellow marks, where a tiny bug had chewed its way into me. They opined that the yellow marks close to my stem are even more offensive than my other blemishes.

Ah, my stem--my most embarrassing attribute, to be sure. An unsightly growth covers the bottom third, and the stem itself is lazy and malformed, leaning almost on its side. The other apples, all bright red and fully ripe, told me horrible stories about how blemished, ugly, hard apples just get hidden under the other apples and then thrown away when nobody buys them. I think I would have cried apple juice tears all the way to Baton Rouge if Granny Smith hadn't heard my whimpers.

Granny, a very old and wise apple from a very old tree, took me aside and emphasized that my blemishes made me distinctive rather than ugly.

"See that hole where the bug chewed you?" she said as I turned an even deeper shade of red. "That's a mark of survival. It shows that you won't be hurt by some silly little bug. And those bright yellow 'blemishes' you hate are just birthmarks; some humans even call them beauty marks. See that yellow streak across your cheek? Why, it looks like a comet among stars in a shiny red galaxy, and that faint check mark may as well be a brilliant shooting star. And your stem? It looks like a snail with a beautiful long neck and a tiny shell, crawling out to see the world! And beneath its head is a lovely yellow light, as if your very stem had a golden aura of its own! And your lopsidedness--well, kid, it gives you character.

"Trust me," Granny said, "You'll be the most distinctive apple in Baton Rouge. Who knows--maybe some thoughtful graduate student will dig you out from all the other apples someday and write immortal words about you!"

I don't know. I think Granny was just trying to make me feel better. But we'll see.

So, there it is. No use writing immortal words about an apple if no one gets to read it. So I've blogged these immortal words to be read by all. Hee hee.

Now, back to the wonderful world of technical writing. I'd rather write things from the point of view of an apple. Wouldn't you?

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