November 12, 2012

What You Get When a Concrete Thinker and Voracious Reader Takes a Poet's Class

Ringo is taking AP English II. He breezed through AP English I, pulling A's and making a 4 on the AP exam. After receiving his score from the national testing center he said, "Hunh. You know, if I'd studied for this, I could have pulled a 5..."


So this term he decided he'd pull an A in the class, but also study for the AP exam to see if he could get the brass ring, scoring a 5. But this term... this AP class is all about analysis and symbolism.

He struggles.

If there is one thing we've learned of Ringo as he's aged is he is an apple from his Mama's Tree. If he's not at the base of the tree, he didn't roll far from it. He's still in the root system.

I had a horrible time with this symbolism junk when I was in my college English classes so when Ringo told me this is where he's starting to struggle, I was sad for him, but not surprised.

I'd love to be able to read poetry and completely... get it. I can sometimes see the imagery, but these little nuances that right brained people pick up on are absolutely lost on me. I was hoping that maybe Ringo would see it. We already knew that T would never. He's so left brained the kid walks with a list to the left.

But what is amusing us is that Ringo is an truly gifted writer. What he writes flows. He transitions from paragraph to paragraph effortlessly. It is one of the reasons he scored a 750 on the writing section of the SAT, although I do tease him and tell him that invoking Ghandi in his SAT essay probably didn't hurt...

I picked up Ringo from his job orientation yesterday. It has been a long time since just the two of us were in a car together. That's when we used to have our best heart to hearts, the both of us laughing at the absurdities and planning for his future. It is then that the following came out.

"Mom, I'm really struggling in my AP English class. I got a 69 on my last paper. I just... don't get it."

I replied, "I never got it either, son. I've told you the stories of my professor and I going at it about how in my mind the poet was writing a sweet poem, but in the professor's mind, it was about this guy at the end of his life. I never did pick up on it. It was cold; the guy was walking through the woods. It was snowing. Evidently the guy was on death's door, complete with impotence as symbolized by some frozen lake, and I had no clue..."

He was contemplative, staring out the window, and he started to laugh. I glanced over and he said, "You know what Mr. K said to me when I talked to him about how badly I'd bombed that last paper? He said, "Ringo, I wanted to fail you. I really did. You are missing it. You aren't flushing out the ideas. You aren't getting what I'm trying to teach. But, you write so beautifully. I could tell you'd put so much time into your paper. It is such a pleasure to read your writing... it is so easy to read. I couldn't fail you. I just couldn't. So I gave you a 69.""

I started to laugh.

He continued, 'I'm passing his class because I write beautifully, not because I have any clue what's going on in there. How funny is that?"

It's become a bit of a joke now. He's working with his teacher. But Thank God he's a reader and has learned how to write accordingly. Otherwise, he'd not have a chance in hell...

Posted by Boudicca at November 12, 2012 08:06 AM

Remember Johnathan Livingston Seagull? All the deep thinkers were offering interpretations of the story. Finally someone asked the author what the story was about. Did the seagull represent Jesus? Did it represent humanity? His answer: it's a story about a seagull that's trying to fly supersonic.

Sometimes it's just what it says, regardless of how the pseudo intellectuals try to add to it. Tell Ringo to just make up some BS, and present it in good prose. His BS is probably as good as the teacherís.

Posted by: Angus of Jura at November 13, 2012 09:15 AM

... I love poetry, but there is a great wisdom in what Angus says.... sometimes people see stuff in writing that was never intended by the writer....

Posted by: Eric at November 13, 2012 09:50 AM