When I'm not busy putting things in parentheses, revising a query letter that has now garnered two rejections (that's right-another one today, baby!), working on a novel, playing with The Little One, romancing The Wife (she'll get a kick out of that), helping women free their foreign cars from the snow, or reading books (Millicent Min is just not doing it for me), I can often be found teaching. In a real classroom. They actually let me do this.
This week, my students have been typing the realistic fiction stories they've been working on for the past month. I walk them down to the computer lab and they sit there and laboriously peck out letter after letter. Here are things my third graders suck at (just in case you ever wanted to write a scene in which underprivileged third graders type something):
1. Indenting paragraphs. Although, in fairness, most of them have no clue why you would bother with such a thing as paragraphs in the first place. And a few of them refuse to acknowledge their existence, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence, such as actual books with actual paragraphs.
2. Using the SHIFT key.
STUDENT: Mr. Murphy, how do I do the exciting mark?
MR. MURPHY: (trying hard not to sigh in exasperation, as he as explained this tricky maneuver more than a few times already) Well, Timmy, hold down the SHIFT key and press the number one. Like this.
3. The spacebar--apparently, in the mind of a typical third grader, the spacebar is meant to be pushed anywhere from two to five times between words and not at all after periods.Annoying.
4. Quotation marks--Most of my students do actually use quotation marks in their writing. (Lots of them--nearly all girls--have, in fact, written hardly anything but dialogue.) Their trouble is in 1. Figuring out that the SHIFT key must be utilized and 2. Failing to put a space after their periods so that their quotation marks curl in the right direction.
Actual conversation from today:
BOY: I keep getting the 99s and I want the 66s.
MR. MURPHY: ??????
BOY: I need the 66s.
MR. MURPHY: What are you talking about?
BOY: Every time I do the talking marks I get 99s. I need the 66s.
MR. MURPHY: (trying very hard to not just walk away) Show me.
BOY SHOWS ME
MR. MURPHY: (Finally realizing what the hell the kid was talking about) Oh! You need a space after that period, like this.
BOY (smiles) Thanks, Mr. Murphy
MR. MURPHY: (Thinks: This must be what they mean when they say teaching is rewarding.)
On the other hand, my students are very good at wasting time changing their fonts and screwing up the margins. So they got that going for them.