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.

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.

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.

Maybe 10 Minutes of Blogging Will Do

Today is one of those days I wish I could just sit and write. It’s raining outside. I love rain and treasure it. We’re gonna get rain here in Utah for only another month or so and then we’ll get nothing until September.

The rain we’re getting smells just so good, but all my homework and study needs keeps me from sitting next to a window and writing. I just spent three hours catching up on my French homework (no deadline on this work). I did some financial aid. I did some research for a paper I need to finish outlining by the end of this weekend (I should be okay). I also did some exercise so I can reverse my getting fatter habits.

But I have written anything important all week. I’ve written an essay a day all through spring break, except last night when I got to fight with a backed up toilet for three hours. Essays are nice, but the essays part of my GRE prep regime.

I need to write a poem or outline a short story or brainstorm a novella. Something. Nope. I got reading to do for the rest of the night. I’ve got academics who’ve been dead for decades calling for attention and demanding grey-matter.

I guess I’ll have to put it off some more. I read about some of the complaints people have for MFA student about how they are forced to write. I love the idea. I can’t wait. Before I started school in the fall, I was writing a hiaku or a tanka a day and posting them to twitter. I haven’t done that since August, but in August I had a poetry class to write for. Not this semester. I have a lit class, a rhetoric class, a philosophy class, and two French classes. Nothing that demands creative attention.

I’d love to have an MFA workshop whip snapping behind me. I’d love to sit next to the window and write for me, the cosmos, my grand-kids, God, and maybe no one.

More GRE Practice and the Beginning of a Study Plan

I just wrote another practice essay. This one was about how to make the “Central Plaza” safe from skateboarders and better for shoppers (answer: the problem isn’t skateboarders). I had my biggest word total: 693 words in thirty minutes. I’m pretty happy about that, but I have a lot more to do of course.

Right now, all I’m going to do is practice the essays since that is pretty easy, but once finals are over this semester, I am going to start work on the rest of the test. I don’t think any one requires poets and cartoonists to do all that well on the quantitative section, but they do on the verbal section. One school I’ve seen requires a 161 on the verbal section and a 4.5 on the combined essay section. I’m pretty sure they feel poets are lucky to count up to five using both hands. The problem is I used to be a physics major and I’ve worked as a manager before. I think I can to well on the quantitative section as well.

So, starting during the second week of May, I am going to start a 100 day count down to the GRE. I’m going to buy one of those books from B&N and start cranking it out.

The biggest motivator I think to success is the fact that many schools offering partial funding or teaching assistant-ships base their decisions in part on the applicants GRE score. I’ve got to be funded when I go to school. I don’t want any more debt and I don’t want to starve (too much, I could deal with a little weight loss). My GRE score needs to be pretty good.

GRE Essay Questions

I’ve noticed a pattern in how I am answering the argument questions compared to the issue questions. I can start writing about the issues right from the start, but I have to spend quite a bit of time dissecting the language of the argument questions. I am spending a too much time thinking through the arguments instead of writing.

My longest argument essay is five hundred words and my shortest is four hundred and twenty five words. All of my issue essays are over five hundred and fifty words. The next part of the pattern is that I have only ever finished my conclusion in the argument essay once out of three attempts, but I have always finished my issue essays and have had time to review my writing for obvious mistakes.

This blows and logic sucks.

It is a really good thing I have started practicing this stuff now instead of later or even worse: right before the test.

Spring Break: Whatever

Spring break started yesterday right after I left my French conversation class. Yeah right. My spring break has nothing to do with doing the fun stuff normally associated with “spring break.” First of all, I’m too old for that crap. I’m 49. It would be way creepy for me to show up to a beach some place and party with all the young-uns running around doing stupid stuff even if I probably would rock a wet t-shirt contest.

Nope. None of that. I’ve got way too much homework.

  • I have an outline for a philosophy term paper to create (I already turned in the abstract and annotated bibliography, so I’ve already done a bunch of the leg work).
  • I have an outline for a rhetoric term paper to create (this one is based on three smaller papers I already wrote for this class, so not hard either).
  • I have a paper to write for my French class that has to be in French.
  • I have to write a movie review of a French movie to write for my French conversation class that also has to be in French.
  • I have to write a presentation for my French class and memorize it, because the presentation must be in French with no notes.
  • I have to write a paper about a religious studies conference I attended last month for the philosophy class.
  • I have to write a paper about the eight novels we covered in my English Genres class.
  • I have to write a small reading response about Chaim Perelman for my Rhetoric class (due tonight).
  • I have to read Toni Morrison’s Beloved for English Genres.
  • I have to do a bunch of online French homework so it won’t interfere with the rest of the semester.
  • I have to write a French journal entry for every day of spring break which will be pretty repetitive since I’m not going any where.

Oh yeah, I’m gonna have a great spring break. Maybe I’ll eat some cake to celebrate spring break. Maybe a candy bar or something.