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Fitz-Style Journal Entry

Upload the Fitz Style Journal Entry Rubric

How To Create a Fitz Style Journal Entry

Set the Scene & State the Theme; Say what you mean, and finsih it clean

     When writing a blog post, is important to remember that a reader is also a viewer. He or she will first “see” what is on the screen, and that first impression will either attract their attention and interest—or it may work to lose their attention and interest; hence, a bit of “your attention” to the details will go a long way towards building and maintaining an audience for your work. Plus, it gives your blog a more refined and professional look and feel—and right now, even as a young teenager, you are no less a writer than any author out there.

So act like a writer. Give a damn about how you create and share your work and people will give a damn about what you create! It is a pretty simple formula.

The “Fitz Style” journal entry is one way to do it well!  I call it “Fitz Style” only because I realized that over time my journal posts began to take on a “form” that works for me. Try it and see if it works for you. You can certainly go above and beyond what this does and add video or a podcast to go along with it—and certainly more images if it is what your post needs. Ultimately, your blog is your portfolio that should reflect the best of who you are and what interests you at this point in your life presented in a way that is compelling, interesting, and worth sharing.

One of the hardest parts of writing is finding a way to make sense of what you want to say, explain, or convey to your readers–especially when facing an empty page with a half an hour to kill and an entry to write (or a timed essay or exam writing prompt). The Fitz Style Entry is a quick formula that might help you when you need to create a writing piece “on the fly.” At the very least, it should guide you as your write in your blog, and at the really very least, it will reinforce that any essay needs to be at least three paragraphs long! I’ve always told my students (who are probably tired of hearing me recite the same things over and over again): “If you know the rules, you can break them.” But you’d better be a pretty solid writer before you start creating your own rules. The bottom line is that nobody really cares about what you write; they care about how your writing affects and transforms them intellectually and emotionally as individuals. 

          If a reader does not sense early on that your writing piece is worth reading, they won’t read it, unless they have to (like your teachers), or they are willing to (because they are your friend). Do them all a favor and follow these guidelines and everyone will be happy and rewarded. Really!

Formatting

How something “looks” is important. Never publish something without “looking” to see the finished product in your portfolio or blog.

Interesting Title

After the initial look, the title is the first thing a reader will see. The title should capture the general theme of your journal entry in an interesting and compelling way.

Interesting Title

After the initial look, the title is the first thing a reader will see. The title should capture the general theme of your journal entry in an interesting and compelling way.

Eye-catching Image

An image embedded in your post is the final touch of the formatting. A picture really does paint a thousand words and this final touch prepares your readers and entices them to read the important stuff—the actual writing piece you create.

Opening Paragraph

The “Hook!”

A hook is just what it says it is—a way to hook your reader’s attention and make him or her eagerly anticipate the next sentence, and really, that is the only true hallmark of a great writer!

Set the Scene

Use your first paragraph to lead up to your theme. If the lead in to your essay is dull and uninspired, you will lose your readers before they get to the theme. If you simply state your theme right off the bat, you will only attract the readers who are “already” interested in your topic. Your theme is the main point, idea, thought, or experience you want your writing piece to convey to your audience. (Often it is called a “Thesis Statement.) 

State the Theme

I suggest making your theme be the last sentence of your opening paragraph because it makes sense to put it there, and so it will guide your reader in a clear and, hopefully, compelling way. In fact, constantly remind yourself to make your theme be clear, concise and memorable. Consciously or unconsciously, your readers constantly refer back to your theme as mnemonic guide for “why” you are writing your essay in the first place! Every writing piece is a journey of discovery, but do everything you possibly can to make the journey worthwhile from the start.

Body Paragraphs

Say What You Mean

Write about your theme. Use as many paragraphs as you “need.” A paragraph should be as short as it can be and as long as it has to be. Make the first sentence(s) “be” what the whole paragraph is going to be about.

Try and make those sentences be clear, concise and memorable (just like your theme) and make sure everything relates closely to the theme you so clearly expressed in your first paragraph. If your paragraph does not relate to your theme, it would be like opening up the directions for a fire extinguisher and finding directions for baking chocolate chip cookies instead!

And finally, do your best to balance the size of your body paragraphs. If they are out of proportion to each other, then an astute reader will make the assumption that some of your points are way better than your other points, and so the seed of cynicism will be sown before your reader even begins the journey

Conclusion

Finish It Clean

Conclusions should be as simple and refreshing as possible. In conversations only boring or self important people drag out the end of a conversation.

When you are finished saying what you wanted to say, exit confidently and cleanly. DON”T add any new information into the last paragraph; DON’T retell what you’ve already told, and DON’T preen before the mirror of your brilliance. Just “get out of Dodge” in an interesting and thoughtful (and quick) way.

Use three sentences or less. It shows your audience that you appreciate their intelligence and literacy by not repeating what you have already presented!

Now give it a try!!!

8th Grade: Weekend Update

WEEKEND UPDATE!!!

I thought maybe the big blue letters would get your attention. Be sure to turn in your first paragraph today! I just wanted to be sure that you “get” that the work for the weekend is to work on your second narrative paragraph. We can finish it in class after the weekend. No need to create a podcast at home (unless you are comfortable doing so). We can work on those next week.

You also have two journal entries due for the week, which you may or may not have finished. Your first narrative paragraph can count as a blog post “if” posted to your blog.

I will give you a class time next week to start commenting on your classmates’ blogs–though you are certainly welcome and encouraged to start now.

Have a fun weekend!

Freshman: Tuesday Update

Weebly: Your Weebly sites have all been upgraded to pro, so you “should” be able to upload audio and video and create as many pages as you want. If you still need help with your podcast, I can help you in class tomorrow.

Body Paragraph #1: Try to complete the first body paragraph tonight before class on Thursday. You are welcome to start  on the other paragraphs–the final essay is due midweek next week. We will try and finish Body paragraph #2 on Thursday and Body Paragraph #3 on Friday.

Blogging: I will discuss this in class on Thursday and show the “newbies” how to use Weebly.

Don’t forget to comment on this…

8th Grade: Monday Night

It “seems” like most of you are figuring out how to use and set up the blog, and you are figuring out how to create a podcast in Garageband. If not, please let me know.

The hardest part about the Weebly Portfolio is getting familiar with what can be created and how to create a site that is as beautiful, user-friendly and engaging as you can possibly make it. It is certainly easier to do web design on a larger screen. Professional web designers often have massive screens side by side when they design websites, so if you have access to a computer at home, it might be easier to do your web design at home–or use the desktops in my room.

The irony is that the iPad is an amazing content creation tool that enables us to make all sort of cool content that can be posted on your blog and into your pages. I have grown comfortable with using both my laptop and iPad in almost equal measures. By any measure at all, you certainly have way better tools at hand than we did just a few short years ago.

Consider opening a Soundcloud account if you plan to use your iPad for most of your web design and blog posting. It is incredibly easy to create a podcast and upload and embed to your website with a nifty looking graphic audio bar.

Good luck with your work. Once all the podcasts and essays are posted, we will all go around and comment on each other’s posts!

Monday Night: Narrative Paragraph #1

I hope today’s presentation of the narrative paragraph rubric made some sense. There are certainly many ways to write paragraphs–and my way is one way.  But it is a good and effective way to learn and practice the essentials skills of writing a full-bodied and compelling paragraph.

Use the rubric I uploaded to iTunes U. If for some reason, you cannot access it, go to my Narrative Rubric Page and use the resources there to guide you in writing a paragraph that has a compelling theme that is present in an experience you had at Camp Caribou.

You do not need to finish the paragraph–but I will expect it to be done by the end of class tomorrow, so get a decent start on it tonight.

Your essay needs to be five paragraphs long, which means it will need three body paragraphs. Each paragraph can explain a different theme or each paragraph can more deeply explore a single theme. That is up to you.

Bring the work work you accomplish tonight to class tomorrow as a Pages document.

Any questions???

Ah, grading…

I am just about to sit down, sip on a cup of tea and grade your essays. Sometimes it is daunting to look at the list of submissions–then look at all the other things in life I need to do–and find the energy to begin…but it is what I have to do. I trusted you to do your part, now I must do mine. Since I have so many papers to grade, I have a bit of a system I use. It works for me, and I hope it will work with you. I do not really believe in the term “rough draft.” Every essay should be as good as you can possibly make it be. Then again, no essay is really as good as it can be. Most of your essays use a rubric of some sort to guide the flow, structure and content. If you pay attention to that and if you follow the “details” of the assignment, you will do well. Usually I put checks where you do well; I put slash marks where a new paragraph should be; I circle areas where there is a punctuation, grammar or proofreading mistakes, and I leave a comment with overall assessment of your work. And then I give it a grade.

If you want to revise, rewrite or rework your paper, I will certainly allow that, and I will increase your grade “if” you sincerely work to fix the mistakes. If you don’t, I am not going to chase you down. I will simply hope you work more diligently on the next paper or project. I do my best to return your papers in a timely way. If your paper is not turned in on time, it may take me a while to grade it. I just do not have the time to grade papers at your leisure. Usually, I will ask you to write a brief “metacognition” attached to each paper that lets me know about your experience in writing the paper. It helps me to understand the good and the bad of any assignment, and it should help you understand more fully what you need to work on as you grow and mature as a writer.

Metacognitions do count as journal entries! Sometime tonight your iPad should ding to let you know your paper is in. Please look at your essay, read my comments and try to figure out why I marked what I marked. I screw all the time when I write. I get it.

Writing well is not easy. Smile and resolve to make what could be better, better! It is what all writers worth anything need to do.

Ten Writing Genres

Ten Writing Genres

Doing something which is “different” does not come easily to most of us. The wrestling team I coach will look at me sideways if I ask them to practice cartwheels. I’ve even heard that some professional football teams bring in dance instructors to teach their behemoth linemen the art of ballet and foxtrot. My point is that practicing “any” athletic sport develops your skill in another seemingly unrelated sport. The same is true in writing. Through practicing the skills and techniques used in different genres of writing, we can enhance the overall quality and effectiveness of the writing we love to do (or are required to do because of schoolwork or employment.)  By practicing different styles and genres of writing, we learn to avoid the rut of developing a formulaic, predictable, and downright dull writing style—plus, you might even discover a renewed love and energy for a “new” kind of writing when you practice writing in an unfamiliar genre.
Over the course of the next few weeks, try and write in each of the following genres and styles of writing.  I will post more detailed descriptions and writing prompts that span the many different types of writing, but it is up to you to give them a full-hearted try. Good luck and have fun!
1. Your Daily Journal: Every good writer keeps a journal that remembers the daily events of his or her life, no matter how mundane or common.  A daily journal is a recording of your life as live it, and as such, it is a treasure trove of memories that you can draw from later in life—memories and snapshots that you can expand upon in a more formal writing piece any time you wish.
2. The Ramble: The Ramble (often called ‘free-writing’) is close related to the daily journal, but it is more of a free-flowing series of thoughts, ideas and experiences. It is a journey with your mind and heart and soul down an emotional and intellectual highway. The ramble does not have to have a formal structure, but it does try to find and focus on a specific theme, and it does try and punctuate and paragraph to the best of your ability. By defining a certain post as a ramble, you are freed from all criticism of your writing style and technique because you are simply on an exploration of yourself, and as such, it is hard to go wrong! Rambles are great fun and an invigorating exercise in writing, but it is what it is.  Kerouac aside, it is a misnomer to call a ramble anything but a ramble.  I have had many chagrined students who tried to pass off their ramble as a thinly disguised essay.
3. The Personal Narrative:  Personal Narratives are the stories of our lives.  By habitually practicing the art of storytelling through personal narratives, we practice the basic craft of the Short Story and the Essay. By telling the stories of our lives, we follow the main rule of all writing: write about what you know! I could write all day about the joy of Bungee jumping, and I still couldn’t convince a toad that I knew what I was talking about.  But if I wrote about the day I watched people bungee jumping off a bridge, then I could probably get that toad to publish the story for me. I could be the protagonist, and my best friend forcing me to try could be the antagonist; fear of jumping into the unknown could be the conflict; standing up to my friend could be the climax; falling out of a tree when I was young could be my supporting facts; facing and trying to overcome my fears could become the theme of my essay/story, and when a reader can relate to  your theme, they are able to recreate your story in their own imaginations. It might force them to think about their own fears, and in doing so, your story effects a powerful transformations in their lives. Every day and every experience is a possible personal narrative.  If that experience means anything to you, it will mean the same thing to someone else because we are all tied together by our “common humanity;” we share the same emotional connections, but how we experience those emotions is infinite and infinitely varied—and that is why our libraries and bookshelves are filled, and that is why we all keep returning to the power and creative magic of literature.  Think of everything you write as true literature.
4. Memoirs: The way in which a person affects your life is a profound statement of your values and an enduring testament a specific person’s influence on your life.  A memoir is a type of personal narrative that paints a vivid portrait of an interesting and worthy character.  Through images and actions, thoughts, feelings and memories you, as a writer, recreate the power and magic of someone who has left an indelible mark on your life.  Every good novelist and short story writer is a master of the memoir because writing memoirs is the key to developing dynamic, real and empathetic characters, without which a story falls flat on its face!
5. Short Stories: Every writer is essentially a storyteller, but the craft of short story writing requires a discipline and attention to detail that most writers are not willing to undertake. A good short story effectively creates a powerful experience for the reader out of the writer’s imagination and experience.  Most beginning short story writers bite off more than they can chew; they attempt to scale a high peak without first learning how to tie their boots.  I will write more in a future post, but for now keep it simple: don’t write stories with a bunch of different characters. Two or three characters is all a good short story needs! Make the plot easy to follow, and be sure that there is a clear protagonist and a clear antagonist and a clear conflict. Most importantly, create characters that you can relate to on a personal level. If you are ten years old, make your main character a ten year old, because that is what you know best, and you can recreate experiences for your reader that are compelling and real.  And remember that your first draft is never ever your best draft!
6. Poetry: Poetry is the highest art. A great writer is not always a great poet, but a great poet is always a great writer. Poetry is the hardest genre to pin down and say, “This is poetry!” Poetry is the rough gem of life polished to perfection. To write poetry, you need to simply ask yourself: “Why is this a poem?” A poem is more than thoughts expressed in short lines; it is the meticulous crafting, choosing and placing of words, lines, spaces, breaths, and stanzas that defines what you call a poem.  This is all up to you as the poet.  I can’t tell you what is and what is not a poem, but I can tell you that good poets read the poems of other good poets, and they spend huge amounts of time on their own poetry.  With practice comes skill; with skill comes perfection, and poetry will only happen in this order. The first skill of a poet is to ask, “Why am I writing this?” The second skill of a poet is to ask, “Did I tell my reader something, or did I lead them somewhere and show them something?” Don’t give the meaning of a poem away, but do leave clues for the reader to find that meaning.
7. Personal Reflections: I love personal reflections. There are few joys greater than the opportunity to just “think about something.”  At the highest level, a personal reflection is an intimate and high-minded conversation with our own self—a conversation that is focused on a particular subject, topic or idea. The personal reflection differs from the ramble because it refuses to jump from thought to thought.  Like a ramble, it retains the “I” in the voice; however, it stays fixed on a theme that is expressed in some kind of thesis or guiding statement.   It is, by nature, less formal than a topical essay by retaining a spontaneous and unaffected narrative flow that feels to the reader like it is coming directly from your heart. It always has a distinct beginning, middle and end, but it never loses the sense of an open and inquiring mind on a search for truth—and every one appreciates someone who is willing to explore their own assumptions.  I often tell my students that a reflection explores the question, while an essay answers the question. A personal reflection asks of each of us: Why am I writing this? What am I writing about? What do I think about my topic? If I come to a conclusion, how did I get there? A well-written personal reflection is as powerful as writing can get; it is the best of your mind offered to the reader as a gift that the reader can share in, think about, and agree or disagree in equal measure. A personal reflection is the best of your thoughts distilled into an experience of words!
8. Literary Reflections: Writing without reading is like an egg without a yolk; the nutrients are there, but the flavor is lacking.  Usually, when we finish reading something, we put it away on the shelf and convince ourselves we are impressed, amazed, indifferent, or profoundly moved.  The literary reflection is an offshoot of the personal reflection because it does not try and criticize a writing piece solely on its literary merits, but rather it “talks” about something you have read purely on an emotional and intellectual personal level.  There is almost no reason to write a literary reflection about something which you didn’t like reading. (That is what a “Review” is for!) Write Literary Reflections about literature that you feel is important for other people to read because you want them—your readers—to experience the same magic that you experienced. It’s like being on a sightseeing whaling boat and someone shouts out “There’s a whale,” and everyone turns to see the whale for himself or herself! They all appreciate your attentiveness, and in turn, you are pleased to point out the magnificence of the moment to them.
9. Reviews: One of the cool things about being in a writing community with your peers is the chance to write about and read about a whole assortment of books, movies, places, games and any other activity people your age love to do.  We live in a world of reviews. We avoid movies because they get panned in the Boston Globe.  We refuse to eat in a certain restaurant because it only has a three star rating in Gourmet Magazine.  What many “reviewers” fail to realize it that what they write directly impacts a person’s very livelihood.  The main job of a review is to tell your reader whether or not what you are reviewing lives up to the hype.  If somebody is arrogant enough to say they are the best in town, then by all means, hold them to that standard. But if Al at Al’s Diner says he sells cheap burgers, it is up to you to tell us just how cheap his burgers are—and you might want to add in that you get what you pay for.  I love reading reviews, but I insist they be honest and fair. Use common sense when writing a review: don’t give away the plot and ending of books and movies; don’t write a review about something someone else can’t experience. (That is what a personal narrative is for!) Make sure to balance out your reviews.  If your reviews are all negative, you will soon get the rep as a negative guy; if your reviews are always positive and glowing, people will think you live in la la land.
10. Expository Essays: Everyone likes to be right, and the  expository essay is the perfect vehicle to define what is—and what is not—right and true! The word essay comes from the French word, “essai,” which means “to try.” A good essay tries to defend a certain point (called the “thesis”) using logic and supporting facts, not personal opinion. You can’t say in an expository essay that the 2008 Celtics are the best team in history because they make you feel good about yourself (great for a personal reflection) but you can say they are the best team in history because the Celtics are the first team to go from last in the league to champions in a single year!

The Gift of Words

The Gift of Words

If you want to learn to write well, start writing and do not stop. If you do not want to learn to write well, this will be a wasted class—empty time leading towards a deeper emptiness. We are all born communicators. We all feel angst when our words are misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misplaced. Our lives, and the lives of those around us, are surrounded and immersed by our words. It is the one continual reality that will pervade our lives, so why not create the space and the time to richen the time given to us to learn, practice and share in the process of crafting our thoughts, ideas, hopes, dreams and experiences in memorable and profound ways? For better or worse, we are judged by our words and our actions, but it is primarily through our words that we are remembered, especially if the power of our actions and our words are brought together to perfect our humanity and inform the directions our lives take.

I do not teach writing to help you get into a better school or get a better grade. I teach writing because I believe writing can make your life a more fulfilling, more wise and more centred life—a life that hopefully leads to a golden and ripe old age surrounded by family, friends and the contentedness of a life fully-lived. The academic benefits of writing well are just a no-brainer to me, and you will certainly not regret learning how to write a good essay in the crunch of pressure and deadlines, and much of this year will be spent learning to do just that; but, the true value in writing in a sustained and continual way is that it will help you find the words that truly express what is in your head and heart at any given moment—not simply in response to a writing prompt or assignment.

You will not grow old (or perhaps even grow up) wishing you had spent more time on your xbox or Snapchat, but you will always regret the time and opportunities you let slip away from you. I certainly do. My shelves are full of books I wished I read. My mind is full of the would haves, could haves, and should haves that I either ignored or passed off as, at the time, not worth the effort. My life is very, very good, and I am supremely happy, yet I know I have left too much trash in my wake. Too many times I turned around before reaching the peak of the mountain; too many times I took the road more travelled by, and too many times I let silence fill the void that words should have filled.

If I can get you to willingly fill voids with words, then I can say that my job is done. If you leave this year with more love and lust for words, I will at least know that I helped prepare you for the unexpected twists and turns your own lives will take. If you pick up a book or write in your journal simply because you want to, then I will notch that on my stick of life as a great and worthy accomplishment.

So this is why I do what I do. The hard part is that I cannot do it without you. You have to be the writer. I can bring you to the river, and I can tell you what I know, but you are the one who has to jump in and swim.

No one ever learns to swim by standing on the shore.

Welcome to Fitz English

Welcome to Fitz English

Headshot          My mission as a teacher is to help you create and appreciate well-crafted words in a variety of genres, to develop solid time-tested skills as a writer and to share your work in a dynamic writing community. It is an irony of my class that it is both easy to do well and difficult to sustain through the ups and downs of a busy year. I expect a lot. I give a lot. I expect you to give damn about what we do, and I expect you to figure out how to do what I require you to do. Do what I ask and do it with an honest and sustained effort and you will not only do extremely well, but you will also become a much better, a more insightful, more confident and more willing writer and reader. I will measure you more by what you try to do than what you do.

I have never had a student come back to me years later and lament the time and effort he or she put into my classes—either at Fenn or in my workshops outside of Fenn, if only because the ability to put your thoughts into powerful words is a skill that will be tested and needed throughout your life, and the time spent now is time well spent, and the rewards are real and palpable and incredibly useful. Likewise, learning to appreciate great literature—stuff that has inspired, consoled, enlightened and energised generations of readers will always be a sustaining source of energy and wisdom in your lives.

But only if you give a damn—and that is something that can only come from you, day in and day out.

The very nature of words is a constantly evolving paradigm. A system that served one generation may well not serve the current generation or the next generation. When I first started teaching English, I simply considered words to be ink spread on a page; whereas, now words are spread on websites, chatrooms, blogs, songs, podcasts, videos, emails, presentations, and discussion threads, but in every situation where words are required the essential skills of the writer have been the same for hundreds—if not thousands—of years. I have changed. The power of words has not.

It is these skills we will study, emulate, and practice. It is in enduring literature where we will look for guidance and inspiration. It is with each other that we will share our work, comment on each other’s works and learn to live, think, and act like true writers. This requires trust. Trust in me and trust in you. No one is born a writer, though it may seem like someone else writes better than you. In the same way, I am sure there are better soccer players than you, better runners than you, better musicians than you, or better actors than you, but that doesn’t stop you—or it should not stop you—from doing what it takes to become better at what you love or what you feel you want to become.

Simply put: writing is something you can and should put in front of the cart of life. Well-written and well spoken words will open the doors and widen the paths you take through life. Henry David Thoreau, a local Concord author, once wrote: “You can’t kill time without wounding eternity.” Wise words, but only if you live them—only if you can grasp that time needs be lived fully in every moment of life, not in half-hearted and dull responses to the opportunities that are within your reach at this very moment. My earnest hope is that I can give you opportunities that are worth embracing, worth doing and worth the effort to embrace with your mind and heart and soul and being, and at the end of this year you can honestly say, “I gave a damn and did not wound eternity by killing the time given to me just for being alive at this moment in this good and nurturing place.”

So welcome to Fitz English.

Give a damn and figure it out.

~Fitz

The Power of Simplicity

The Power of Simplicity

Years ago I wrote in my journal that my goal in life was to be small, be simple, be wise, be happy, and above all be ready. I cannot honestly say that I have achieved all of these goals, but these are still the “ideals” I strive to live in my life. These are my necessities—and as necessities they are by nature, finite, as opposed to my “wants,” which are seemingly endless…. Our essential question for the year is “What are the necessities of a fruitful and rewarding life?”

My necessities surely are not the same as yours. Perhaps you have never stopped to consider what you consider the necessities of your own life. But you should, and it is my earnest hope that you will. The great writer and philosopher James Henry once wrote that “thoughts are only made real when put into words.” My goal for the year is to help you make real what is in your head and heart. In essence: to begin to discover your true and most perfect self, and to build a foundation under your dreams upon which you can build a good and lasting life. I cannot tell you what this will look like, but I can point you in the right direction–or at least, a direction. The rest is up to you. Your summer reading books,

Your summer reading books, Into the Wild, and The Outermost House describe the attempts by Chris McCandless and Henry Beston to seek profoundly rewarding lives by removing themselves from “society” and attempting to live simply and wisely and as close to nature as possible. Chris, of course, met a calamitous end in the wilds of the Yukon. Beston thrived in a less harsh (though in many ways no less wild) year spent in a small cabin on the outer beaches of a Cape Cod that at the time was a pretty much untamed and scarcely visited stretch of lonely sand and surf. McCandless’s story was told for him by another writer, Jonathan Krakauer, who found Mccandless’s adventure to be newsworthy and worth telling. Beston told his own story in descriptive prose that is widely considered some of the best writing in the English language—though I am sure some of you will disagree with that assertion! For many of you, The Outermost House might have seemed like the most boring book you were ever forced to read. No harm intended. I get that, and I get why you might feel that way. Nothing much really happens: he walks on the beach, describes birds and waves and winds and storms with excruciating detail, but there is no obvious crisis, no looming antagonist to put him in peril. Putting the two books side by side is almost unfair. In

In Into the Wild at least there is true adventure—an adventure which killed Chris in a slow, lonely and cruel way. The Outermost House, on the other hand, reads more like an intellectual and overly detailed diary shared with kind and forgiving friends. So why is it that I am perfectly satisfied to read Into the Wild once and be done with it, yet I can pick up The Outermost House year after year and reread it with ineffable joy and satisfaction? Perhaps it is because Beston’s words grow with me as I grow (and yes, I am still growing!). Perhaps it is because Beston loved and studied the wild loneliness he experienced, while McCandless seemed to continually fight with an unforgiving and harsh nature (and his own harsh nature) in every step of his fateful journey. Perhaps I remember a side of me that was once like Chris McCandless—a darker side of my life best forgotten. More than likely, I return to Beston because he continually gives back to me. I feel wiser and more complete and more human every time I read his words. His words make me want to bring my life back to the wheel and polish it to a more perfect edge, an edge that can cleave apart the tangle of weeds I might be lost in. His words affirm my own desire to live simply and deeply. Mr. Farely and I did not assign these books in an inconsiderate way. In fact, the decision was quite considered. Our hope is that we can start a new conversation with all of you and each of you, and that you can start a conversation with yourself–a conversation that will fill our coming year together. So ask yourself: Why do you want what you want? What do you really need? Maybe there is power in simplicity….

More than likely, I return to Beston because he continually gives back to me. I feel wiser and more complete and more human every time I read his words. His words make me want to bring my life back to the wheel and polish it to a more perfect edge, an edge that can cleave apart the tangle of weeds I might be lost in. His words affirm my own desire to live simply and deeply. Mr. Farely and I did not assign these books in an inconsiderate way. In fact, the decision was quite considered. Our hope is that we can start a new conversation with all of you and each of you, and that you can start a conversation with yourself–a conversation that will fill our coming year together. So ask yourself: Why do you want what you want? What do you really need? Maybe there is power in simplicity….

Perhaps it is because Beston loved and studied the wild loneliness he experienced, while McCandless seemed to continually fight with an unforgiving and harsh nature (and his own harsh nature) in every step of his fateful journey. Perhaps I remember a side of me that was once like Chris McCandless—a darker side of my life best forgotten. More than likely, I return to Beston because he continually gives back to me. I feel wiser and more complete and more human every time I read his words. His words make me want to bring my life back to the wheel and polish it to a more perfect edge, an edge that can cleave apart the tangle of weeds I might be lost in. His words affirm my own desire to live simply and deeply. Mr. Farely and I did not assign these books in an inconsiderate way. In fact, the decision was quite considered. Our hope is that we can start a new conversation with all of you and each of you, and that you can start a conversation with yourself–a conversation that will fill our coming year together.

So ask yourself: Why do you want what you want? What do you really need? Maybe there is power in simplicity….

Starting Up…

This was certainly not an ideal way for us to start the year, but we will make the best of it.  From here on in, this site will be a place you need to visit and comment on in a regular way. I will be posting your upcoming assignments and grades on Finalsite, but the details, rubrics, videos, and other essential information will always be here. I will do my grading and commenting on iTunes U. I am sure you will find iTunes U to be an easy place to create and submit your work. I used iTunes this summer with my students and it worked flawlessly.

If I post something in the Freshman English category (assignments and posts) I do expect you to read it and post a comment that at least lets me know you have read and thought about what is posted.

We will spend some time in class getting your Weebly sites up and running again. If you do not have one, let me know, and I will create one for you.

I am pretty pumped for the year. If you have read this far, let me know how your summer reading was!

See you on Monday!

 

Fitz