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Say more about that
A teacher move that works everywhere
A trainer at my gym said she’s shifting to part-time, and I replied, Say more about that. She laughed at my phrasing, but it came out of my mouth reflexively. Say more about that is one of my top teacher moves to get kids to elaborate. I actually find it works in a lot of contexts, so it’s my favorite way to ask someone for more detail.
Ask a kid how they like something and they'll often say, Good. Which part did you like the most? All of it. What's a book you like? I don't know. Why did the character do that? I don't know. Kids are closed books, and part of the job of teaching is to coax out the answers, cajole them into submission, ask increasingly targeted questions until you finally get at a real answer. The character did that because he was mad. Yes! But let’s go deeper. Say more about that.
I was introduced to this magic sentence during a first-year teacher training, and I was struck by its simplicity and its directness. The directness is likely what threw off my trainer, but I find a Why? way more intrusive. Say more about that feels open-ended, less a frame I’m forcing on the conversation. I thought kids would blanch at how forward it is, but it’s never happened. They always say more about that.
And it’s a practice that is rife in my TIME NOT TEACHING (thunderous applause). I use it in civilian life any time I want someone to expand and expound. And I'm not afraid to say it to teachers, although we're such a loquacious bunch that I rarely find myself lacking elaboration. I mean, our job is to talk, we’re good at it.
The Urban Blah
Back in 2009-11 I collaborated with the brilliant Vee to make a webcomic that failed to become syndicated across the globe. I am pro-recycling.
It’s been over a decade since I meetings were being scheduled during lunch, but that all changed this year. The only way to get all three grades’ English teachers to the same meeting is to do it at lunch. It’s a 12:45 meeting and I rarely eat breakfast, so the English department witnesses my lunch. Glad to see the comic holds water, even if my “conference room” these days looks more like a seventh grade classroom.
Also, Vee has a substack, you should subscribe!
Jam of the Week
I’ve said before that I can barely describe why I like some electronica and dislike other, but The Awesome Wife has a theory: I like the stuff that’s more boop-ba-doop-ba-dooh. I’m really into Scape One’s Become the System from 2022, which I’d describe as “insistent”? but it may indeed be boop-ba-doop-ba-dooh. Worth a listen either way.
The Week in Stuffed Animals
Sassafrass remains a huge hit in class. Not everyone is into the class stuffed animal, but those who are LOVE that dog. Sixth graders sometimes have boyfriends or girlfriends, so you can forget they also play with Legos, watch Bluey, and love stuffed animals. I mean, The Awesome Wife didn’t donate Sassafrass because she didn’t looooove that stuffy. It’s just that as adults, we’re already at capacity for stuffed animal love. My nieces have no limits, but two are now middle schoolers, does that mean some of my kids have stuffed menageries?
Sixth grade can be fun.
My Back Pages
I wrote a weekly newspaper humor column in college, and when I graduated I panicked that I was losing my outlet. Blogs were years away, I has no outlet. But shortly before graduation, a young professor got in touch. He was starting a webzine and liked my college paper column, would I contribute? I wrote three pieces before one or both of us gave up on it`. From a short-lived webzine called The Magnetic Times, “Out of the college, into the fryer,” from May 29, 1997.
The most recent wave of panic hit as my family was picnicking after graduation. Mid-sandwich, my sister says, “You know, when you fill out warranty cards and credit card applications, you can't check off the ‘student’ box any more. You'll have to check off ‘unemployed.’” And she’s right. In the eyes of Black & Decker and Citibank, I’m not a student. I’m a grown-up. Regardless of how many grapes I can fit into my mouth at once, how much I value PEZ as a staple of daily life, or how hard I laugh at a good fart joke, these reply cards brand me an adult.
The “grapes in my mouth” was a go-to reference, a callback to a legendary friend who distinguished himself at lunch in one day elementary school.
But just like Peter Pan and a bray of whiny tots in Toys ’R Us commercials, I don’t wanna grow up. I’d rather stay forever young a la Rod Stewart. And I’ve even got the bible on my side here: those commandments say something about “Thou shalt not commit the sin of adulthood” and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s Infiniti,” right? Still, this is the path I’ve chosen; I’ve made my proverbial bed and now I have to proverbially lie in it. And I’m starting to learn that proverbial beds are not so comfy unless Art Linklater’s involved, and I doubt Craftmatic has much of a hand in my job future.
I did not want to leave college. I’d done well and was afraid I’d never do well again. As for all that “proverbial,” it was a running joke in my column after someone pointed out how much I overused it. My “joke” then became to own the over-use, really just an excuse to continue overusing it. Proverbially.
By choosing to get a job instead of adding letters to the end of my name, my formal education is complete, over, done, kaput. September will be the first time I don’t return to school since the Carter administration. The next exam I’ll take will be to renew an expired driver’s license, to audition for Jeopardy!, or to impersonate some poor schlump on his SAT (if the price is right and the #2 pencil is sharp). As my close, personal friend Alice Cooper would say, school’s out forever.
And I never set foot in a school again.
I just wish I knew what now. Luckily, most of my peers are equally clueless for direction in life. I’d even call us a lost generation except that every batch of young-uns needs a brand-spankin’-new title for their demographic. Generation X was fine way back when, but it’s been around so long that the original Gen X-ers have their own kids who could beat me up. Sure, this says more about acute wussiness on my part than the term outstaying its welcome, but if X marks the spot, then out out damn spot. If anything, we're Generation X + 1. And until we solve for X, I'll settle for the fine Gertrude Stein line and accept the title of lost.
Wanna go see a bull-fight and drink some pernod?
“If X marks the spot, then out out damn spot” was the tagline for my column, which I called Solve for X. Get it? GET IT?! As for the double “out,” misquoting Macbeth, well, that was kind of my thing. As Descartes once said, “I never found a quotation I couldn’t misremember.” But the issue was real, Generation X is 1965-1980, I always felt like reference were to folk way older. Generation X + 1 and I’m here to Solve for X. It felt right, and it really was for nearly a month and half.
So the life of the post-grad begins. With my finger on the remote, my resume in the mail, and my head in the microwave, I prepare to face the big bad world so determined to huff and puff and blow my dreams down. But I’m too young to give up just yet. We may be lost, but we ain’t gone.
I wrote this weeks after graduation, maybe week. I had no idea who “my generation” was, but I had yet to figure out my life instantly, so I felt lost, so I decided everyone else was, too. Plus, I wanted to be in The Sun Also Rises, except without leaving town, which really just meant drinking and engaging in witty repartee. I guess I still want that.
The Week in Stuffed Animals, Part Deux
Speaking of The Sun Also Rises, one time the Awesome Wife and I were at a pet adoption fair and as we left, she expressed regret at not getting a stuffed animal. And I crossed off a major bucket list item, replying completely in context, “Road to hell paved with unbought stuffed dogs.” Decades later, Sassafrass carries the legacy.