Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Apple? No, No. It Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree.

An actual recent 7th grade "free-writing" prompt exercise by my lovable, yet extraordinarily snippy son. While his father is likewise capable of biting wit, Craig is more on a "for when it's justifiably called" as opposed to my world view, which is "Take 'em all by the balls and run!"

Assignment: Free-write a hand-written page on the following topic:

"If I could fly, I would...."

Luke's Response:

"If I could fly I would...

Wow. What a childish and unimaginative prompt. "Hey," she said. "Free-write." So that EXACTLY what I'm about to do. Hey, maybe it is up for interpretation. I would, at this point, write some overused internet meme, like "FUS DO RAH!" on which the pathetic level is "OVER 9,000!" but she might think that the former is some kind of African swear word or that the latter is some kind of kid slang for some kind of illicit street drug. No, and No.

(Editor's note: sarcastic tone implied): "If I could fly, I would save people and (not) rob banks and save the world and eat cheese and on, and on, and, and...."

Ehhh. The above is a sample of what a 2nd grader could do with this prompt. Hey, the kid might just be able to do something decent with the prompt (for a 2nd grader). I, on the other hand, need a more sophisticated topic of writing. I'm not asking for any special treatment; far from it. I'm just making observations about a sub -par writing prompt for a 7th grader. Ehhh. I'm ready for the F now, Mrs. U. (Just kidding, I hope.)"

Teacher's response: "Agreed on childish. Not so much on unimaginative. There can be great value in opening your mind to the impossible--stretching your thoughts & ideas beyond what would ever be possible. So challenge yourself & do something more. Show me what an intelligent 7th grader you are with it! :)"

Score: 10/10

I'd argue that Luke's point of it being unimaginative is valid, as he's been asked to so very similar writing SINCE 2nd grade. How about "Imagine Susan Sontag having a conversation with Larry Flynt. GO!" I remember, in 5th grade, having to do a writing exercise on what my fantasy day at school would entail, and it (yes, a time capsule moment) had the band Journey leading our classes for the day. Now that'd be a score!

I did feel compelled to argue that it was a probable guarantee that none of the other classmates would be casually commenting on "illicit street drugs" in their essays, which is a reflection of not only Luke's advanced exposure-by-force in the world at a tender age, but also his resilience and strength. An off-handed remark like that from a kid probably wasn't what the teacher was expecting. Yes, as a matter of fact, shock value DOES have its benefits.

In any case, it's reflective of, frighteningly so, my son's personality makeup being Just. Like. Mine. That exercise is Pure Annie, though he did it in class. But back in my junior high days, I'd have been reprimanded and failed on such a bawdy, mouthy free writing activity response. That said, our teachers also had the option of spanking us with a paddle, unless our parents signed a waiver that corporal punishment wasn't congruent with our family's value system (though I'm sure it wasn't worded that tightly, and yes, my parents signed the waiver. But it was congruent to old-school, German-run parochial school law at the time. I graduated from grammar school in 1986.)

Since my days at Luke's school, they still employ archaic sentence-writing as punishment, which always sucked, because you had to do it out in the hallway, all the passersby *knowing* you had to be in BIG trouble, time-outs (even for upper grades) and other largely parochial school typical systems with regard to ill-behavior in the students. Here's what I don't get. Luke's got a new, hardcore gym teacher who puts the "physical" back into Physical Education. Great, the kids need that. What they also NEED, for self-care, bodily and mentally, is recess. Here's where I will have an issue to bring up with the gym (and science, inexplicably) teacher at conferences this year: Why was Luke disallowed 5 minutes of recess time, during which he runs around and gets exercise, and bonds his social peer groupings, because he didn't do a push up to your STRINGENT standards? He tried his best to do a push up. Sorry, but A for effort, Taking away recess time for students who misbehave? Appropriate. Taking it away for students who don't achieve your pre-determined standards? Not terribly fair. (This teacher is new to the school this year, and has no idea what she'd going to deal with when it comes to Camp Miklasz/Bechtel.)

Luke? Build your muscles, I guess, kiddo. And no, I refuse to sit through Ann Romney's RNC speech on YouTube, no matter how funny it might have been. I have too much else on my plate than to listen to a comedy stand-up act by a Republican.

In other Luke news, he made an exclamation and announced at dinner tonight...

As I was explaining the theories of Alfred Adler, founder of my school, I mentioned that a lot it stems from an individual's superiority complexes or inferiority complexes as to how they develop, which trickles down to the individual in counseling. It's neither Freudian psychoanalysis nor Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, though CBT's credos are very similar and there is some psychodynamic Freudian-influenced adaptations in the balance. We are learning that to be Adlerian means to be more socially conscious of society as multicultural whole, and our job is to dissect what's called "The Family Constellation" and early childhood experiences from as soon as we cognitively interpret memories or dreams. The client's self-personalization or self-image are judged by the therapist to be either congruent or incongruous to that person's adult living and functioning within society in a socially-conscious role. Alderians set goals for each session. "Try a little of this, try a little of that, and report how it made you feel," that sort of thing, in terms of changing behavioral patterns that are maladaptive.

Also, the order in which you were birthed in your family has a tremendous impact on how you grow, think and feed later in life. Many of the students could cite examples of where they fit into the model. It has to encompass toddler decision making and pairing of instinctual needs, which can't be conclusively proven if the client remembers their memory from a dream, or from a reality one memory that parents regaled when you were too young to understand, with beliefs and behavioral models held through childhood up until adulthood. Adler believed we were constantly adapting and changing, and Adlerian practitioners can be a particular pain in the ass to their clients, though I see both the use of the theory and its misuse (especially for drill-sergeant like counselors who expect miracles out of their clients and are haughty when their clients don't do what they're assigned).

PS--If you're the oldest child, you're screwed. If you'e somewhere in the middle, you'll resent the time spent with the new baby or babies and project your own reality onto your parents. Adler believed younger children were always on a quest to out-do their older siblings, even in a 2-child household like the one in which I grew up. Strict Adlerians would say that I'm in grad school solely because I want to out-success my older brother, when in reality, I could give 2 shits about competing with him (as an a child, that was very different).  If you're the youngest, you're the spoiled baby whom the parents uniformly pamper and adore. And only children! If you're the only child, you get used to constant pampering (or tasks which could be done independently, but refuse to, to which we parents kowtow) and being King of the Castle, and don't want any interference, particularly the older they get.

Do I believe in and plan to practice Adler's theories, while I go to an Adlerian-disciplined school? Nope, not really. Not entirely. Inasmuch as I only believe in Freud's notions of dream interpretation and discredit the sexual nature of the rest of his psychoanalytic theory, I only take bits and pieces of Adlerian theory as applicable in modern life.

Which brings me to Luke's big announcement. He said, "Text Daddy and tell him he can't have any more children," after me explaining a bit about Adlerian theory over dinner last night. I sort of told him that it was kinda out of my control, what his father did about reproducing, approaching his mid-40's, but that I'd certainly done MY part to ensure his reign as King was preserved ,as we all know, because I can't have any more children. But what's worse? Luke asking me to text his father and share Luke's opinion, or me actually having gone through with it and done it? (By the way, my ex-husband's response was a simple, "Ok, thanks.")

Mini-Me's teacher emailed me late last night, saying she'd read online that I had possession of Luke's free-writing exercise, which Luke pocketed secretly after passing out papers as a job from the teacher. I wasn't supposed to see it until Thurs night, for which Luke technically should be reprimanded. The teacher also said she's concerned about recent behavior of Luke in class, which is unlike him. I WILL say he's getting VERY good at pushing both my and Craig's buttons in adolescence and seeing how far he can take us until we crack. Every teenager does it to some degree or another, so it's something to address with the teacher and his therapist. Luke'll love that. NOT.

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