Building a Castle One Grain at a Time
One of the great things about teaching is that if you find something that works, you get to use it over and over on each new batch of students . . . so when we start the narrative unit in Composition class, which is essential for skills to write a good college essay, I always tell them a bad story first, and ask them to tell me what's wrong with it; the example I use is a true story from when I was in high school, and I played golf-- I was having trouble hitting the ball out of the sand, so my father took me to practice over the weekend at the local course, and then in my match on the following Monday, I hit the ball in the sand trap on the first hole, and-- armed with a few hours of practice, I approached the ball confidently and-- miracle of all miracles-- I holed the shot for a birdie-- and this is a true story, but we quickly determine that while it's true, it's also awful, annoying, self-congratulatory, and boring-- no one wants to hear that "practice makes perfect" because we all know this, and no one wants to hear a story where success comes so easily; I use Dan Harmon's story template to illustrate this-- in a good story, the main character needs to pay a heavy price for his success, and this helped me figure out a better (if fictitious) revision to this story, which came to me in the middle of class last week and will now become a part of my curriculum for the foreseeable future: if I had gone with my father to practice sand shots and he lined me up and showed me the technique and then stepped back to assess my progress, and I skulled the shot and hit my father in the temple with the ball and killed him, and then dedicated my life to improving my golf skills to repent for my egregious error because my ineptitude resulted in patricide and then-- after I buried him, mourned and finally went back to the course and I miraculously holed my first shot from the sand, then we all agreed, and only then, would the story would be a good one, because I would have paid a heavy enough price for obtaining my skills with the niblick.