This is my last semester teaching college students. I’ve been doing this long enough to have noticed patterns, and to expect certain responses when I introduce particular assignments or activities. It finally occurred to me (after years! I’m so slow!) to introduce writing with sources long before I actually need my students to use outside sources. This way, they don’t have to cram a bunch of unfamiliar formats and templates into their brains right when I’m also asking them to do some analytical thinking that may be taxing them as well.
So, today, I talked about MLA in-text citations (very briefly) and focused on the Works Cited page at the end of an essay. I showed them an example so they could see the funny indentations and the way it was spaced. I showed them how to look in their MLA reference manuals for more examples, and to notice how you first have to see if the source is a book, a periodical, or something from a website or database.
BORING. All of their little faces said, “Boooooring,” all at the same time. Some of them tried to look interested, because they are a rather polite bunch (even the ex-soldier who I am pretty sure has some kind of PTSD thing going on). They had that look they get if I am telling them something they already know, and I asked them if they already knew it. Some of them nodded yes, some of them looked uncomfortable because they were being asked a question.
Because I have done this before, though, I know something they don’t know. I know they are about to get superconfused in just a few moments.
I began taking out the books, periodicals and printouts that I lugged to class in the tote bag I usually take to the Farmers’ Market, and some of their little brows furrowed. It was dawning upon them that I was about to ask them to do something with the information they had just been so bored by.
I held up the sources I knew would stump them: an issue of Babybug that looks like a children’s book, but is in fact a monthly magazine, a book that has been translated from Norwegian into English, a book written in the 1800’s but published just a few years ago, an anthology of tips for mystery writers, a knitting pattern that is an excerpt from a book but found in an online journal. I explained that after they have figured out that something is pretty obviously a book– what kind of book is it? What template does it best fit? Does it have an editor or a translator? Or if it is a periodical, is it published weekly, monthly or quarterly?
So many hands popped up! All over the room! It was a garden of hands! “Miss K! Teach! Jessica!” It always is. You always think you know something, and it is all review– until somebody tells you to go and do it, then. And then there are my favorite side effects, like when you see the ex-gangbanger has a great knack for detail and is telling the person used to being the teacher’s pet exactly where to put each comma. Or when a student holds up a novel and asks, “Can I borrow this?” Or when a painfully shy student points to a knitting pattern in a magazine and says, “Are you going to make this? I can only make scarves,” and you both realize you are both making scarves for the foreseeable future.
It’s a messy assignment, and it’s loud. I ask them, “Do you want to do this when you are finishing an essay at two in the morning?” The overwhelming response is, “No!” I tell them to learn from my mistakes, and when they are first thinking, “Should I use this article in my essay or not?” they should write down all the bibliographical information right then. Use the reference manual and be sure they have the right template. While they are awake. I wish someone had told me that, all those years ago!
This is my favorite assignment, even more than essays. But eventually I’ll have a new favorite assignment– probably something involving the dissection of owl pellets. The Babyhead informed me this morning that she’ll get to do that in the spring. I’m jealous. I can’t wait to hang that little desiccated mouse body up on the fridge! Ha!
In other news, I made The Babyhead cookies yesterday. I needed something soft for her, because her two top front teeth are finally wobbly. Finally! I thought those suckers would never fall out. I wonder if she will have two Chiclets like me, or two pearly little things like her aunt. You would think that the genetic untangling you try to do when they are babies would wane as they grow up, but it doesn’t. It just becomes more noticeable, and one day you look at your kid and they are still your kid but simultaneously some other relative, and you will get totally freaked out for at least one hot minute.
Wobbly Tooth Softies
In a bowl, mix together:
1 stick butter, softened, and I like salted
1 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1 capful vanilla
1/2 c applesauce
1 mashed banana
1/4 c currants
Mixmixmix some more.
1/2 oat bran
1 tsp baking soda
2 c flour, I used all-purpose this time, but wheat or whole wheat white would work very well because of all the applesauce and banana.
Mixmixmix, and add more flour to achieve a drop cookie consistency. I use a tablespoon and a teaspoon to make rather regularly shaped dropped cookies. I’ve heard melon ballers work too, but I’ve never used a melon baller for anything in my life. I tend to attack my melons with a knife.
Bake at 350* for about 15 minutes. I greased the cookie sheet, but they turned out not to really need it.
They were not quite sweet enough, so I made a simple buttercream frosting and slathered that onto the cookies with a knife (after they had cooled, of course).
Had I been making these for myself, I would have put some Southern Comfort in the frosting, because Southern Comfort goes really well with applesauce or banana based breads and cookies. Just so you know. But these were for my kid at school, and I once accidentally got her the teensiest bit goofy by putting too much liqueur in a frosting.
So, just as I told my students today, “Learn from my mistakes.” Don’t put liquor in frosting when you know your kid is going to lick the frosting spoon, the frosting bowl, and eat several of the cookies.