Moar Conference, or Thoughts on SE HS Conv Part Two

And now we come to Friday. The middle day. I’m going to add a logistical tip here that I’ll repeat in part three as well. I strongly advise not trying to drive home on Saturday evening. Yes, the conference is over by 5 or 5:30, and yes, it seems so reasonable if you only live 2 or 3 or 4 or even 5 hours away–but don’t. Thursday is made longer by driving to arrive there; Friday is a full day due to the convention schedule; Saturday night, you are going to want to pet your new curricula purchases, discuss speakers, write down your thoughts, and generally process the experience. It’s hard to do that when you’re tired, and the quickest way to get even more tired is to drive home as soon as the convention ends. As a bonus, this will make Friday seem like a doable marathon (“Tomorrow is a shorter day!”) rather than just the first part of an Ironman triathalon.

We made the decision on Thursday evening not to try to get to the convention center for the first session. Ugh. I wanted to be there, but not as much as I wanted to reduce our stress. Here is an occasion where the convention center being attached to the hotel would have made a huge difference, because we had to consider transportation time and logistics. Regardless, we skipped both the 8:30 am and 10 am sessions, in the end. My first session for the day was Michael Clay Thompson, “Teaching Advanced Academic Writing.”

I’m going to be honest and say that I expected a better presentation based on others’ comments online. He was a decent speaker but I’ve seen better many times, so I’m not sure where the reputation as a great, engaging speaker is building. That said, the content was still excellent. One of the big things I distilled from the presentation is that there is a skill in reading non-literature which many students don’t have, and research papers are one vehicle for developing that skill. I’m going to throw out a few quotes:

“If we want formal writing to be the outcome, then informal writing cannot be the norm. Academic writing has to be, as it used to be, normal writing.”

“Academic writing is about academic reading. It is not a pure writing exercise.”

MCT is big on using real books, not websites. His basic plan is writing a series of short research papers each year, four papers at around 3 pages for each paper. He spoke about modern approaches to the research paper process (i.e., no need for bibliography cards and note cards, no need to turn in an outline). He also spoke at some length about the concept of a rough draft is counter-productive. Yes, a first draft is necessary, but the idea of “rough” means there’s a lot left to fix later.

MCT is also a big fan of MLA over other formatting guides. Finally, he talked quite a bit about expository, narrative assessment rather than rubrics. Apropos of nothing, he also uses a Mac.

Meanwhile, my mother was next door listening to Dr. Christopher Perrin speak about the intellectual virtues. She said that there was excellent content (and I haven’t had a chance to review her notes, though I’m looking forward to it), but he wasn’t the best speaker. As I’ve said in the past, the best authors are not always the best speakers. This was apparently one of those times. After that, she went to see Julie Bogart speak on the natural stages of growth in writing, which she said she thoroughly enjoyed. Again, I haven’t reviewed her notes, so I’m skimming over her sessions.

Then I went to see SWB talk about the well-prepared high school student. First of all, everyone should listen to SWB, because she is one of those good authors that is an excellent speaker. If you set the bar at SWB, very few speakers are going to impress you. I would know, since I... set the bar with SWB. She covered three areas of preparation: academic, practical, and emotional. I don’t want to attempt to summarize her entire talk, because it’s simply too full and rich. She spoke about basics, specialization, methods of instruction, tests, deadlines, writing, library skills, transcripts, keeping one’s own schedule, managing money, laundry, maturity, gap years, and more, all with coherence and depth. Whew. I bought this one on CD, even though I was in the room, because there was so much to really meditate and think upon.

Then we took a food break before going to the Tim Hawkins show, which was just EG, my dad, and I, for various reasons. Uh. I’ve only ever watched two of Tim Hawkins’ videos, mind you, so I was expecting stuff like “Chick-Fil-A” and “Homeschool Family.” I was surprised at some of the humor, and thought some of it was homophobic. It was near the end of the show when he started singing about climate change and how his Suburban wasn’t hurting anything. That song talked about Mr. Gore. Then he immediately followed it up with a song, well. “Who can tax xxx? The government can! Who can tax...?” you get the idea. I got up and walked out. Gah.

So there’s another tip for better convention time management: don’t buy tickets to things like Tim Hawkins. Even if you know you’ll enjoy it (and obviously, I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it), you need to decide why you’re at the convention, on some level. It’s entertainment stuck in the middle of what can be hard-core education and “professional development,” and I’ll be leaving entertainment off future convention schedules for me.

My dad and EG went to one of Ed Zaccaro’s sessions, then, and the Spousal Unit went to a Jim Weiss session for fathers. I happily wandered around the vendor hall, spending more time at places like the Usborne books booth. They had a prehistoric search book in the bargain bin–score! See, you can find non-YEC science material there, you just have to look really hard, lol. After that, Spousal Unit ran EG back to the hotel while my dad attended another of Julie Bogart’s sessions, and I went to Janice Campbell’s session on teaching literature. Who, um, also uses a Mac.

She had some good suggestions for teaching literature and I was pleased that it wasn’t just an ad for her curriculum. She is really big on including context materials, like art, music, other authors, major world events, and so forth, so in that sense, her curriculum is very handy because it’s all organized. She suggested that audiobooks were an adequate substitute for reading the book. I somewhat disagree, but I do think I could probably use audiobooks more than we currently do. She had a great list of recommended reference books and some good suggestions on literary analysis. This was easily a session that a high school student or relatively serious middle school student could glean from.

And that was the second day. It may not sound horribly long, but trust me: it was long and exhausting. A lot of the exhausting part was knowing we’d be getting up to do it again the next day, I think.


Julie said...

Could you please explain what this means?

non-YEC science material

Kash said...

YEC= Young Earth Creationist. The comment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, somewhat.

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