GRE Practice. Day 97 of 100

ETS BookI was supposed to start my 100 days of GRE last week, but I decided to back off a week for two good reasons. The first is I enrolled in a free two evening seminar offer by UVU on the writing and verbal sections of the test. Next month I am going to attend a similar two evening seminar on the analytical section of the test. Waiting to begin my studies so they synced with the seminar seemed like a pretty good idea. The second reason is my allergies last week and the week before were horrendous. I could barely do anything other than read and sneeze. Anything else was out of the question. (I did still take care of my grandchildren and do volunteer hours with some fellow local veterans and work on the literary journal, so it’s not like I did nothing.)

Yesterday, I was so busy driving people around and doing other things around the house that I could do almost nothing else except think about the GRE and how much I wish I could be working on it, but I went over a list of vocab in my mind as I drove, so yeah  did stuff, but I did not ignore my studies.

Today, I took the first part of the practice examine: the thirty minute essay. I don’t have time to just do a full practice test right now, but I plan to next week. Below you’ll find my essay. Point out problems with it. I’d appreciate it. I already know my writing is a bit mushy right now, but the more I practice the better I’ll get.

Here is the prompt:

The best way to teach is to praise positive actions and ignore negative ones.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your positions.

Here is that essay:

Teaching is a complicated process. It would be so easy to say reward the good and ignore the bad, but this sunshine and no dark approach is not very realistic. Just in the same way, one does not learn well by focusing on only the negative and bad and ignoring the good. Night always follows the day and the morning always overcomes the night. Both light and dark must be utilized.

Most of my friends are teachers. They graduated when I was supposed to eleven years ago, but I wasn’t able to because I raised three teenagers on my own. Single parenthood insists the parent teach using the most practical approach to learning: teach using attention to the good and the bad. So yes, I was a teacher and I work at being as practical as possible just like my friends in their formal teaching jobs.

Teaching writing. I taught my children how to write during the summer prior to entering kindergarten. I had a pretty good method and where I lived at the time there were many resources available due to a large population of homeschoolers in town. I bought several workbooks and spent time each morning before I went to work and dropped my kids off at daycare. I kept the lessons happy and uplifting. I focused on the positives and rarely touched on anything they were doing wrong. Except once. My youngest son just did not want to do it. He wanted to play with his toys instead. I had be strict every morning with him at the beginning of the lessons, but as time went on, he stopped complaining and we were then able to focus on what he was doing well. By the end of summer, he was able to write fairly well (for a preschooler) and knew his letters and knew how to write his name. Teaching my kids to write was almost all sunshine and almost no dark.

Teaching driving. When each one of my kids turned fifteen, I took them out to the national forest gravel roads near our home in Utah and taught them how to drive my aging 1997 Ford pick-up. I thought if they could drive a stick in an ancient machine, they would be able to handle the automatic they would be tested in. There was an equal focus on good driving and bad driving. No we didn’t drive near cliffs or endangered plants and animals where their lack of skill would kill us or the local wildlife. The road was very forgiving. After months of Saturday mornings and afternoons spent driving that gigantic truck they knew how to drive. They focused more on the negative than did I. I worked on building their confidence and skill. After they could handle the national forests, then we moved on to paved roads, small town driving, parking, the laws (yes they had their learners permits by the time the drove in town), and how to deal with pedestrians. When it was time to learn driving on the highway and interstate, they were confident and were not even a little scared. I kept showering hem in sunshine, pointing out mistakes without making the mistake into a tragedy where they always took themselves. This approach was a balance of sunshine and dark. The good with the bad.

Teaching about theft. Like many children growing up in single parent homes, all of my kids had brushes with the law. Two were incarcerated for short periods of time for theft. When I visited for the first time in jail, I tried to let as much sunshine come through, but they were so unhappy with their actions, that they overclouded their own feeling with so much doubt and anger, that it was hard. I did not excuse what they did. They always did the community service and other punishments the judges gave them, but I also focused on making the changes in their lives that led to spending time in jail. Both times, it took years of hard work to overcome their own pain and anger over their crimes, but like their other siblings, they went on to college and great careers. I provided as much sunshine as I could and so did the guards and judges, but the dark was always there. In fact, in the beginnings, their experiences were almost completely filled with the dark of what they had done.

Sunshine and the dark is important to education. School and formal education as well as life education. The light has to be used to show all that is good in the student’s experience learning, but the dark has to be there to accentuate error. Some educational needs like handwriting is almost all about showing the positive, but some educational needs like rehabilitating a teenage thief is all about pulling the learner out of the night and into the morning of knowledge and a path forward. No, education is not a just good ignoring the bad or vice versa. There has to be a utilization of both. (844 words six seconds remaining)

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100 Days of GRE: D -8, Planning

I’m still planning my 100 Days of GRE. I finished outlining my summer reading plan for the books that do not directly have anything to do with the GRE. One is about comics, one is about religious studies, and two are about writing for social change. I know none of these have much to do with the GRE, but all three have a lot to do with preparing for grad school.

Sure, I’m going to apply to a bunch of creative writing MFA programs, but I need to know about methods and audience as well. I’m only going to be reading a chapter or two from each book and then blog about them. Part of this will also keep me sharp for when I have to go to school and write loads of crud all semester.

There is one more book I have to read: Franz Kafka’s The Trial. My academic writing sample is based on The Trial. My trial will be to update a paper I wrote and published eleven years ago and also trim it down to twelve pages. Its twenty pages long now. Whew. Loads of work there.

Summer Anthology: Touchstones

I am the editor-in-chief of Touchstones. Touchstones is the undergraduate art and literature journal at Utah Valley University. We are doing an anthology or selections edition during the summer of the last ten years of the journal. Eleven years ago, I was the editor-in-chief (EiC) of the Spring 2007 edition and hoped to be the EiC of the then anthology, but disaster happened: I ran afoul of a bureaucratic slip-up in the UVU financial aid department and I wasn’t able to return to school until Fall of 2017.

So I’m doing it all over again, but this time everyone I knew and had a great relationship with has graduated and moved on and I’ve only had a year to rebuild relationships with new people. That’s been pretty hard. The reason I need the good relationships is so this anthology edition can go through smoothly. The biggest problem is most of the people working on Touchstones right now are so busy, they don’t have a lot of time to work on the journal.

Things are going very slowly. We’ve only read about ten percent of what we should have and I’m worried people will not get much more done.

I’m kinda bummed about it.

GRE Workshops

I just scheduled myself for three workshops for the GRE. They’ll be happening June 18, 19, and 20 from 6 to 7:30 in the evening at the Fulton Library at UVU. This will be going on during my second week of 100 days of GRE study period.

The workshops will cover the three major areas of the GRE. Pretty nice. Now I gotta find a backpack to haul all my study gear in. I had to toss my old backpack because it developed a mold problem. Yeah. Pretty nuts. My bottle of Coke Zero exploded in my backpack and spilled all over the place. I was able to save my book, but the drink got into the liner and didn’t properly drain.

Nasty smelling stuff. I kept the backpack until the last day of the semester. I finished my last take home final at 23:58 on the final day before the school’s digital communications system went down. The sky was filled with stars and the smell of a just passed rain storm. I tossed the backpack in the bin and then wandered around for a while in a daze. I had been doing nothing but writing for five days straight and was having a little difficulty coming down from being in the “writing zone” that creative zone where words flow out of your fingers at as close to the speed of thought as possible. I wrote four papers that day. Three three pagers and a fourteen pager for that final.

Glad it’s over.

100 days of GRE

I’m in the planning stage of my 100 days of GRE prep. Right now I’m setting up my calendar and preparing my study area.

I finished spring semester three and a half weeks ago. My study area is still a mess. I’m going to be doing some chores and re-shelving all my books. I’m keeping all my books except my French book: I binned that piece of crap right after my final.

I got four As and an A-. The A- was in my philosophy class. I’m kinda bummed out about that, but otherwise, my semester went well.

Religious Pluralism Conference at UVU

I just got out of a conference addressing the issues of Religious Pluralism in Democracy here at UVU. I was a little bummed, because there was nothing there for me that deals with writing to people different from me about the importance tolerance and empathy while also not effacing their identities and histories. The people I want to write to are the people who marched in Charlottesville, VA last year. I have written about what they did in poem form, but my poetry was not addressed to them. I want to know how to write to those guys in a venue they will listen to without them feeling threatened.

Obviously this is something I need to work on and think about.

Tuesday & Thursday Studies

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have a Mormon Studies class and a French class. I like both for different reasons. I like the Mormon Studies class, because it examines issues facing LDS Intellectuals in academia rather than big issues being dealt with in Mormon culture or the news. It is pretty fascination because while most religious traditions have professional academics who are part of the structure of the religion, Mormonism does not. Most people who study Mormonism do so as part of a university instead of being paid by a church. BYU has a number of academic who are Mormon studying Mormon history and religious text, but BYU doesn’t have anyone who studies Mormon theology or anthropology. Historian, philosophers, theologians, anthropologists, literary critics, scriptorians, and what not who study Mormonism as a part of their academic profession are almost always employed outside of the LDS formal educational bureaucracy and because of that there is a lot of tension between the actual LDS church and academics who study Mormonism even if the intellectual in question is a loyal, believing member of the LDS church. What we examine in class rarely is discussed in church if ever other than when an LDS religious leader acts against university professors who study Mormonism.

I like the French class because it is a welcome relief from my other classes. The French class is hard, but it is not nearly as serious an endeavor as the Philosophy of Mormonism, Rhetoric, and the study of American Novels.

MFA at Eastern Washington University

I talked to a friend of mine who got is final rejection for grad school this weekend. He is an English Lit major with a minor in religious studies and is very involved in the religious studies program here at Utah Valley University (UVU). He’s also a pretty smart kid, but the six schools he applied to rejected his application. I only know two of the school, Cornell and Duke. He seems to be of the opinion the rejections came because all the schools he applied to are R1 research universities according to Cornell University Research University Scale of Excellence and because UVU is a commuter university and not a research university. I have no idea how accurate that is, but it made me look at the schools to see where they stand in on the research worthiness scale over to the Cornell University.

The first school I am blogging about is the MFA at Eastern Washington University (EWU). EWU is like UVU in that it does not rate a ranking of R1, R2, or R3 from Cornell. Nice, I’m not sure how I feel about all those snooty rankings. It is also not far from where I live here in Utah. Nice. Also is nice is that my youngest son lives in Seattle.

EWU also has two classes I am interested in taking beyond the normal workshops found in MFA programs. The first class I like is Literary Editing and Design where the students study how literary magazines for the last fifty years have been constructed and edited. The other interesting class is the Literature of the Pacific Northwest focusing on such writers as Richard Hugo, James Welch, Carolyn Kizer, Rick Bass, and Ursula LeGuin. Both of these two courses fit my interests long term.

According to the scoring system I’ve devised, EWU is my third favorite school for convenience and the life style I’m interested in behind University of Wyoming and Oregon State University. However on my total rankings so far, EWU is 18th out of 20 schools. What is dragging EWU down is how inconvenient its application process is and that none of the metrics available on the web show that EWU as an institution excels at very much.

Other hits against it is that it is only partially funded, the application process looks weird/arcane, it gets a B- from niche.com for academics, and a C for community criminality also from niche.com.

Keep in mind, I am not done with my evaluation process. That won;t happen until late this summer.

Comic Characters: Ty Beddo & SFC. Collins

IMG-4043One of my homework assignments was to write an emulation of a novel section we read in my English Genre’s class. The novel I’m working from is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I have the professor’s permission to write the assignment up as a comic script.

For this assignment, I created two new characters, Ty Beddo and SFC. Collins. Their write-ups are attached to the left. Beddo is the main character and Collins is the antagonist. When I say antagonist, I do not mean villain. Collins just makes Beddo’s life difficult while the plot progresses. Collins is not the reason the plot moves, however.

In Whitehead’s novel, the scene I am emulating shows the novel’s protagonist, Cora, and the villain, Ridgeway the Slave-IMG-4042Catcher. The scene takes place at an outhouse where Cora is relieving herself and Ridgeway is talking to her through the door. The purpose of the scene is for Ridgeway to reveal to Cora his belief system about Cora, why she is important, and what his role in the cosmos is.

My emulation is similar. SFC. Collins is meeting Beddo for the first time. Beddo is a private in the army and is getting some valuable time in the latrine after a long guard shift. Collins is talking to Beddo through the latrine door and reveals to Beddo his primary management philosophy.

The emulation is supposed to be short, but I do not know the equivalence of a comic script to a three or four page bit of prose, so I am writing the script as if it were going to be four pages of comic with a beat-page and scene description with a two page description for the professor about what I’m writing about. All together, this is ten pages of script, but there is a lot of white space.

Regarding the character write-ups, I got the format from Maurice Broaddus in the podcast “Writing Excuses.” I kind of like it. I’ll keep working with it. If I complete the entire graphic novel this could become, these two pages would make great editions to a character bible.

New Footsteps Benchmark

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For the last week, I’ve been working hard to average more footsteps. I am a bit overweight and I’d like to change that. I have noticed I fit better in restaurant booths and in the desks at school (which are ridiculously small). What I haven’t done is weigh myself, but I know I weigh a bunch.

My biggest problem is I have exercising. I hate going to the gym. I always feel out of place and unwelcome. It could be just silliness, but these feeling nag at me relentlessly. The last time I went to a gym consistently (Ancestry.com provided gym membership as a free benefit and tracked attendance and used those numbers in their annual evaluations), I got so nervous, I stress-ate and gained a lot of weight. I still haven’t lost what I gained from back then.

Oh well. I like what I have accomplished here and I hope to continue to walk off my weight.