Friday, July 15, 2011

Ai Haz uh Confused

I passed my PTK multiple choice portion today.  Nowhere near acing it, but good enough, considering how much I (didn't) study.  Now I'm beginning the four to six week wait for the score on my memo/essay.

I probably did myself no good this evening haunting the ABCTE Writing Component forum, because everything I read there confuses and discourages me dreadfully.  So many people there, who like me have been writing, supposedly effectively, most of their lives, lamenting about flunking the essay over and over.  So many writing professionals, who somehow fell short of the mysterious, esoteric standard that divides a pass from a fail.

So what hope do I have?  And if I fail (maybe because I didn't spend enough time proofreading), could my fault be a paranoid fixation on content?

Content.  The one point that none of the rubrics and none of the forum comments seem to address.

Content.  An essay or memo can't be written without it.  But as embryo teachers, we PTK examinees are really winging it on theory when it comes to actual classroom practice.  A typical prompt for this exam asks the candidate to write a memo suggesting a solution to some hypothetical school problem (I can't say more than that-- confidentiality issues).  Well, suppose my grammar, spelling, vocabulary, etc., are all fine, but my ideas are way out in left field?  What if I'm in error about a matter of fact?  And what if I in my inexperience omit some "obvious" supporting detail?

I suppose I'm worried about this because I was taking pains to avoid it.  And therefore ran out of time on my final proofread.   I felt compelled to cover the subject realistically and thoroughly, and at the end I thought of a detail of this sort and went back to insert it, totally convinced the graders would think I was an inadequate fool if I left it out.  But maybe I'm wrong.  I wonder what those who pass the essay would say about this.  Can you write piffle with good mechanics and still sail through?

Something else.  The experienced souls on the forums keep saying one should avoid being "eloquent" in one's PTK essay.  Why is that a bad word, anyway? It means fluent and persuasive! What's the difference between the dreaded "eloquence" and having a strong, diverse, communicative vocabulary, as called for by the rubric?

I read on the forum that to pass, one should write like a fifth grader.  I'm sorry, but I've substitute-taught fifth graders, and I doubt the scorers want us to write as incoherently and clumsily as that.  Frankly, I can't write like that.  Maybe the advice should be, "Write as if your correspondent were a fifth grader."  Fine.  But what principal (a typical addressee) would put up with being talked down to in that fashion?  And how does fifth-graderism result in writing that is "fully develop[ed, with] elaborate[d] ideas," where "[t]he writer . . .  uses great variety and complexity in sentence structure"?  The very rubric seems to militate against anything so simplistic.

Or is the rubric so much piffle and they really score these essays by using them as targets at the corner pub darts tournament?

I hope that in a few weeks I'll be embarrassed because I've passed and find out I've been ranting for nothing.  But given what I read on the forums, I doubt it.  I doubt it very much indeed.

No comments: