Picture this… You just got married to the person of your dreams, your soul mate. The wedding was perfect and the wedding night was amazing. Now, you’re off on your honeymoon. You wanted to do something special yet inexpensive, and so you planned a trip to Pricne Edward Island in Canada. Driving made more sense too. So, there you are driving north to Nova Scotia. The weather is goregous and your beautiful mate is next to you in the passsenger seat when all of a sudden your car starts to make funny noises. Then, it starts bucking. Oh no. So, you pull over and take it to a car fixing place. And that’s when things start to fall apart. The mechanic says, “It’s your transmission. It’s completely shot. You’ll need a new one.” Later on, when the transmission is being replaced and you had to cancel your honeymoon because the repairs cost $3,000, the mechanic says, “Hey, if you had a done the regular maintenance on the car, this could have been prevented.” That’s when you slap yourself in the forehead and say, “Oh, that makes sense,” when what you really want to do is punch the mechanic in the face for being so ridiculously obvious.
So, that was the story of how my honeymoon was ruined by a car. 14 years of marriage bliss and we still haven’t made it to PEI. Back then, I was young and naive. I had no idea about car maintenance or oil changes. I was just happy to have a car. In retrospect, the mechanic’s advice was completely correct. If only I had thought about that earlier. Sometimes, the most sensical ideas are the ones furthest from our thoughts.
Today, while reading Ralph Fletcher’s epic reference book on getting boys to write entitled Boy Writers, I found myself thinking, ‘Oh yeah, that’s totally right, I need to remember that in the classroom,’ when he discussed how girls like to write about emotions and feelings where as boys like to write about actions and things. Of course. Then I started thinking about the various writing pieces my students did throughout the year. 99% of them were fiction pieces about fantasy worlds with lots of action. They described things in vivid details, but never really got into characterization. They didn’t examine the character’s motivation or emotional state, but they did describe, in detail, what the world looked like. However, when introducing a new writing strategy or genre, I used more feminine mentor texts that examined the whys and hows of events and characters. Boys don’t typically engage with this kind of writing, which is perhaps why I kept asking myself, throughout the year, why aren’t they getting it? Why don’t they better explain why their character is battling the enemy? I didn’t understand that for boys, this skill is a difficult one to teach. At the middle school level, most boys aren’t ready to delve into character motivation. This, in fact, according to Ralph Fletcher, turns them off from writing. They want to write about action sequences, fantastical worlds, and adventures. They don’t want to have to stop to explain why.
That makes total sense. Why didn’t I think of that? Well, obviously, this author is published for a reason. He did the research and has the know-how to write about writing for boys. Knowing this obvious fact about boys and writing, I feel as though I will better support and help my students grow as writers next year. I will use mentor texts that address the needs of my students and will be sure genres are more open-ended to allow for creativity and interpretation. Instead of having the boys write a personal narrative about their lives, they could write any sort of narrative. Perhaps they could write a narrative from the perspective of a dinosaur or super hero. I need to be more flexible with topics. Although a lot of what the author has stated in this book is stuff I already know and do in the classroom, there are plenty of a-ha take-aways for me. If only I had read a book about car maintencance prior to getting married, perhaps I could have prevented my honeymoon disaster. However, sometimes we have to be ready to take in new information or it just won’t mean anything to us. If I had read this book a few years ago, I probably would have dismissed a lot of what was written. But, now I’m ready. Clearly, I wasn’t ready to understand car maintencance back then, but now I am. Too bad. When it comes to learning from mistakes, sometimes, timing is everything.