Teaching Strategies

gray bucket on wooden tableEffective Teaching Strategies

A number of years ago I learned a quote sometimes attributed to William Butler Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” I’m not sure who actually said those words originally, but it stuck with me. It’s a good reminder that a student who is excited about learning will learn more. Our goal, as teachers, is to foster a learning environment where that fire can take place. The ten principles outlined in Principles for Effective Pedagogy takes a look at those principles which can lead to passionate learning.

The first effective pedagogy “equips learners for life.” (Nind, 1) This should be the primary focus of all teachers. The third principle of effective pedagogy asks the teacher to “take account of what learners already know” (Nind 1). Using this while considering the fourth principle of scaffolding work well together. Figuring out what your students already know, learning about their life experiences, and finding where they experience trouble helps a successful teacher to build the right scaffolding that can keep a student moving in the right direction. The seventh principle suggests that learners should be “encouraged and helped to build relationships and communication with others.” (Nind 2) Stepping aside from the dreaded group project, I find students, as well as myself, benefit from group discussions. I think holding a Socratic discussion where the facilitator leads the student through concepts by only asking questions, not only leads the student through the process of understanding, but also demands that students find a deeper appreciation of what they are learning. A good teacher will ask questions, anticipate needs, foster discussion, and above all, light a fire.

 

Work Cited

Nind, M. & Lewthwaite, S. (2015) Principles for effective pedagogy – NCRM quick start guide. Manual. NCRM.

 

Dear Mother of the Post-Concussed Teen

Last week I wrote a letter to the teen with Post-Concussion Syndrome, but this week I want to talk directly to the mothers who are afraid their teen is slipping through their fingers. That mother who begs and pleads for help. That mother who knows no one else who has PCS. That mother who didn’t even know it existed. This letter is for that mother, because I was once her.

Dear Friend,

I know how terrifying it was to hear of your child’s car accident, to see them land on their head on a football field, to be kicked in the head in the soccer goalie box, to fall from their bike… skateboard… tree… or cheerleading pyramid. It’s terrifying. But then they move, they get up, and they walk away from the accident, and you finally take a breath. I know that feeling of relief. Sure, your child will have a headache. That’s to be expected. But, it’s just a minor concussion. No big deal. Right?

Then, as time goes on, they don’t heal, they actually get worse. They stay in their rooms with the light off. They become short tempered. Loud or startling sounds make them snap. The smell of food makes them want to throw up. They begin falling while walking. Then they start staring off into space, and you can’t get their attention.

You don’t understand what’s happening, because no one told you a concussion could develop over time. So, you take your child to the doctor, get the MRIs, and they tell you it will last a month at the most.

Then it lasts longer… much longer… and it gets worse. Then the Doctor starts giving every reason in the book for the prolonged symptoms… Migraine? Allergies? Stress? Depression? Are they faking it?  You consider each one, even trying medications for these ailments, but in your heart you know none of it is right. FINALLY, after fighting for it, you get that referral to the local concussion center where you get a real diagnosis, Post-Concussion Syndrome.

Congratulations! Now you have something to fight. Now you can get some answers. Now you can understand what is happening. But wait… no… not really. Because they don’t fully understand Post-Concussion Syndrome. So, they load your child up with anti-epilepsy medications, psychotropics, and all other types of medications that will alter their brain chemistry. Meanwhile, you watch your child slowly slip away. I’ve been there, I understand, I get it… Let’s chat.

I want to assure you; your child will heal. It may take years, but they will heal. When you are in the thick of it it’s terrifying, but this isn’t the end. I promise, there is hope. Keep doing what you are already doing by advocating for your teen, taking them from doctor to doctor, pushing them through their physical therapy appointments, which they hate.  And, continue shielding them from crappy people. You are doing an exhausting job, but you are doing it well. Good job, keep it up!

Your child may not be the same person they were before their accident, and that’s okay. They were injured during a formative time, their teen years, so it makes sense. Personality changes happen in all teens, but compound that with one that sustained a serious injury that won’t heal, of course they are having a personality change. Add to that the fact that their brain was altered, even if in a small way, it happened. They may even be angry, and they’ll take it out on you. It’s okay, let them. You are their safety net; they feel safe with you. Let that sink in, they are acting out toward you because they feel safe with you. They may become depressed or develop anxiety, some even develop eating disorders as a way to exert control over their bodies, this is all part of the injury, take it seriously. When the pain is gone, that doesn’t mean they are completely healed. Keep going! This is where your love and patience bring the two of you through to the finish line.

Don’t be afraid of alternative medicine. Look, I’ll admit, I get annoyed when people push essential oils on me. NO, an essential oil will not cure my Lupus. NO, if I dance under the full moon while Jupiter is in retrograde, my insomnia will not be cured forever. No, I WILL NOT DRINK COW URINE… for any reason… ever… STOP SUGGESTING THAT! (yes, this is an actual suggestion I have received, several times.) BUT there are other ways to deal with the headaches, and they are things that a lot of concussion and sports medicine doctors don’t understand. Don’t thumb your nose at acupuncture, if you think there’s a small chance it will help, try it. If you think the keto diet will help because your child’s brain needs protein to heal, then you owe it to your teen to try. We went to a Neuro-chiropractor who attached electrodes to my son’s head three times a week for three months, and you know what?  It made things so much better. Was it a cure? No. But it made the pain bearable. My point is… if you have the means to do so, try it. Try whatever you can. Disclaimer: always talk to your child’s doctor first.

“It’s just a concussion, stop being so dramatic.”  I know you’ve heard these words.  I’ve heard them too. I understand the frustration. And, honestly? I think everyone with an invisible illness hears this. People are jerks. How do you explain what is going on with your child to people when they are behind in research, and don’t even believe Post-Concussion Syndrome is a real thing? I’ll give you a hint… You don’t. They won’t believe you. Maybe they, or their child, sustained a concussion and it took a week or two to heal, so your child should not be any different. Maybe the last time they saw your child was on a particularly good day, and they are basing their assumptions on that.  It doesn’t matter, they are not in the exam room with your child, they are not the ones dealing with it all day in and day out. Forget them, they are not worth your time. You have more important things to concentrate on. Anyone who takes the kick them while their down mentality is not worth your time or energy. WALK AWAY.

This is a long journey but let me give you some good news. My son, and his friends who have been diagnosed with PCS, are all okay. They may have more headaches than other young adults their age. They may have more things to deal with; vision and hearing problems, neck pain, or fatigue. But they are all in college, they are all doing well, and they all have a close-knit group of friends they have grown to trust. More importantly, they are all empathetic souls. They understand pain, and they understand what it’s like when the rug is pulled from under them. They give people grace, and aim to understand others because they know, first hand, that life is messy. Their resilience helped them to grow into understanding adults. I have faith your child will grow into a fully functioning, empathetic, caring adult.

I could go on and on about Post-Concussion Syndrome, because there’s so much I want you to know, from one mother to another. So, I will write more posts about this topic.

What would you like to know?

What is your experience with Post-Concussion Syndrome?

How is your teen doing with it?

How are YOU doing with it?

I want to know what you are going through.

Post comments below, I want to hear what you and your teen are going through.

I want to know you are okay.

With Love,

Abby

Dear Teen with Post-Concussion Syndrome

Post-Concussion Syndrome is a concussion that does not heal within three months after the initial injury, some concussion symptoms are still present a year later or more, with a large majority of patients having more than one concussion preceding their diagnosis of PCS.  School districts don’t know how to handle the PCS student. Teachers don’t understand how far the long-term consequences of a simple hit in the head can go. Not everyone who sustains a concussion ends up with Post-Concussion Syndrome, but for those who do it’s traumatizing and anxiety inducing. The effects of PCS can have drastic consequences on any bodily system or mental functioning, depending on where scarring happens in the brain. This letter is specifically for the teen with Post Concussion Syndrome.

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I see you fighting.

I see you struggling.

But I know you can do this!

I need to tell you something. You are strong, stronger than you realize. I know loved ones have already told you that, and you should listen to them. It’s the truth. At a time when most teens only worry about grades, crushes, the newest drama, and other things that don’t truly matter, you are fighting something they could never begin to understand. That makes you a badass.

I know you were told that you would heal in a week, and now that feels like a lie. I know sometimes it feels as if doctors dismiss your pain, or worse yet, dismiss you. I know it seems like you’ll have a headache for the rest of your life, or that you’ll be forced to wear sunglasses forever, or you’ll always be dizzy. But I promise you, you will heal. This is not your forever.

I see how hard you fight. I see you stand there while people accuse you of faking it. I see you sit in class when a teacher refuses to follow your personalized education plan because one time they had a concussion and it only lasted a week. I see you deal with friends getting pissed off at your personality changes. I see you getting frustrated with your personality changes. I see you standing there while old people tell you to take off your sunglasses, then snap at you for being rude, and I see the tear behind those glasses when it happens. But you know what? Screw them! You are stronger than they could ever know. You are stronger than they could ever be. Your strength is why you are my hero.

I can feel your guilt. I know you are keenly aware of the medical bills and the never-ending litany of doctor’s appointments your parents miss work for. I promise you; your parents love you more than anything else in this world. They will get you the care you need, because you are everything to them. They will do whatever it takes to get you from specialist to specialist, paying for every experimental therapy possible. Why? Because you are worth it. Read that again…. You are worth it!

I see you falling to pieces. Allow yourself those moments. Lean into them. They are real. They are raw. But don’t live in that place forever.

Don’t let the negative emotions lead you into doing something to harm yourself. If you feel like you want to hurt yourself, please talk to someone; your parents, or a doctor. If you feel like you don’t want to fight anymore, that you don’t want to live, call 1-800-273-8255, please.

You HAVE to heal, and you WILL heal. Do you know why you will heal? Because the world needs you.

Through this experience you are learning some things that will make you stronger, more compassionate, and more aware. You will gain a sense of empathy that will help you navigate life in a way the world has forgotten, through love and understanding. You will be able to look past the tough exteriors people wear and see their struggles. You will understand that when people lash out, there is something big going on in their life. Maybe it’s even too much for them to handle, and this is something you truly understand first hand.  Someday you will help someone else, maybe in a way you have been helped.

Every headache, every painful physical therapy session, every rude comment endured, every doctor shaking their head in bewilderment has led you to a point of awareness that the rest of us can’t even begin to imagine. All of this will work for you. Through the headaches you will learn how much you can handle. Through physical therapy you will regain your balance. With every rude comment you will learn how much weight a word can hold. You will use them to build others up instead of tearing them down, the way you have been torn down. Through doctor’s appointments that are frustrating you will learn to advocate for yourself.

Please remember:

You have anger, but anger is not the end of the road.

You have anxiety, but anxiety doesn’t own you.

You’ve been let down by the people around you, but they do not define you.

You will get to the other side of this…

Just keep going!

 

With Love,
Abigail Wild

 

 

My Hook for Yale — Hi, I’m Ishmael

radek-grzybowski-74331-unsplashHi, I’m Ishmael. I’ve been playing this Ivy League admissions game since I was in second grade when my mother made sure I chose the oboe for my instrument on Orchestra Day in school. I wanted to play the drums, but that wouldn’t get me into Yale, or Harvard, or Penn, not even Cornell. Yale being the ultimate goal… at least for my parents. I listened to my mother, as any good second grader would, and picked up the oboe while the other boys flocked to the percussion section. Since that day long ago, I have spent all my time studying and practicing, with one target in mind: Yale.

Every day, I quietly walk to my practice room passing the other students as they stand around gossiping. I stop and watch them sometimes, wondering what it’s like to be a regular teen. They don’t notice me, so I quietly move on to my practice room. My practice room has become my refuge and my oboe my friend. This is all I know. No one else can hear the deep soulful vibrations of the sound my oboe and I make when we are together in my refuge; I prefer it this way, they wouldn’t understand. My classmates only hear my music when they are forced to go to the Youth Orchestra on field trips. They hear me loudly in Model UN, and the campus newspaper, but they don’t know me. I’m too busy chasing the immense white whale that is Yale, constantly hoping I’m doing enough to claim my spot in the 2022 class.

The Symphony of the Contemporary

 

j-kelly-brito-256889-unsplash            As a reader, I enjoy contemporary works more than classic works. When I curl up with tea to read, I do so to escape. I want to feel comfortable; I want to know the world in which the protagonist is living; I want to understand the social constructs at more than a cognitive level; I want to be able to walk out my door and find the same things. I enjoy reading books when a conversational syntax is taken; which is why I gravitated first to Leviathan, with its witty conversant style. Reading Leviathan felt like a conversation among friends. I enjoyed the mid-paragraph breaks for side information, such as his brother’s love of juicing. This style breaks the rhythm of the story to add something interesting and worth noting. When read aloud this style of diction feels like home, exemplifying William’s description of “good rhythm” as being “like a perfect symphony orchestra where all the different instruments in the orchestra blend together beautifully to create sweet, soothing and enjoyable music.” (William) I want prose to be like a soft hug after a long day. Even though Leviathan dealt with the heavy topic of an aging father, it felt like that hug–like William’s “perfect symphony.”

As a writer, I also prefer to use a more contemporary approach. I want my work to be accessible to teenagers and to appeal to kids who wouldn’t necessarily read work written in a more classic style. In short, my reading goals are exactly the same as my writing goals: understanding today’s world and conveying that understanding. Contemporary fiction gives me an outlet to meet those goals. I want my writing to greet the reader at an intellectual level and feel like a conversation with an old friend at the same time.

Good style is the same as good design: if the message is understood, educates, entertains and pleases or bothers the audience, it has done its job.

 

Sedaris, David. “Leviathan.” The New Yorker, 5 Jan. 2015,

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/05/leviathan-3. Accessed 06 Oct. 2017.

 

William, David. “What’s Your Writing Style? Do You Even Have One?” The Web Writer

Spotlight, 21 August 2012, http://webwriterspotlight.com/what-is-your-writing-style.

Accessed 08 September 2017.

 

 

The Vices of Stephen King

 

Stephen King’s final words in Chapter 38 of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft touched me deeply “Life isn’t a life support-system for art. It’s the other way around.” (King 101) This is the way I live my life, this is the way I create my designs, and this is the way I write. Art is a safety net for the absurdity of it all. What strikes me most about King’s early career is how his stories became a metaphor for his life. He used what he was going through, turned those experiences into characters, and worked his way through his problems by personifying them and learning to vanquish them, or fall so deeply into them that the writing becomes a form of self-actualization. He shows this distinctly when he talks about writing Misery: “…Annie was coke, Annie was booze, and I decided I was tired of being Annie’s pet writer.” (King 98) He took his frustrations about himself, the alcoholism and drug abuse, and turned them into a character. While substance abuse is not something I struggle with, unless you consider coffee and Chapstick, I think drawing from life experiences and personifying them into characters is an amazing idea. One that could turn the notion of ‘writing as therapy’ into a concept I can use. Imagine turning Lupus into a relentless stalker.

There is not a lot in On Writing that I can’t benefit from, however I was surprised to read that he did not like writing Carrie. He explains: “For me writing has always been best when it’s intimate, as sexy as skin on skin. With Carrie I felt as if I were wearing a rubber wet-suit I couldn’t pull off.”  With that type of feeling toward the story itself, I can’t imagine where he felt the energy to go on. I would have given up on the challenge, I’m glad he didn’t though. So while it’s something that I can’t imagine for myself, it does teach me that I don’t have to drop everything that doesn’t work for me personally. What I do appreciate about this is that it was always King’s mother and wife that pushed him to continue and complete his works. No one, not even writers, can exist in a vacuum unto themselves. He exemplifies this in the following quote: “Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.” (King 74) With that type of belief from your loved ones, no wonder he was able to continue writing Carrie.

I’ve learned a lot from reading On Writing, however there is one piece of advice I need to explore further. That was the advice of one of his early employers, John Gould, editor of his town’s weekly newspaper: “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.” (King 57) There are two things I’ve taken away from this statement, one of which was probably not intended. The first take-away for me is the fact that you need to write the story, in the beginning, for yourself. There have been so many times that I’ve become afraid of what others will think, mainly my parents and priest, that my writing becomes completely ineffective. I need to learn to get them out of my head and keep moving with my ideas. Art is meant to make people think and effective art shocks. I’m fine with shocking, as long as I don’t have to confess it on Saturday nights, or talk about it over Thanksgiving dinner. I need to get over these apprehensions and let the words flow. The second thing I took from the quote above is that if there is something that does not move the story forward, it should be deleted. If there is a conversation between characters that does not propel the story, no matter how awesome I think the conversation is, it should be dropped. This is a hard lesson for me. I grow attached to certain aspects of my stories, but there are time when those aspects need to be removed, which is hard, but it must be done.

While the portion of On Writing that I’ve read so far has been about King’s life and how writing fit into it rather than his actual craft, I have learned a lot about how he views writing and how it adds to his life. The main thing that I’ve learned from King is to keep writing. Don’t give up. There are many times that he could have walked away and would have been content teaching high school literature, but he wanted more. I want more, he has given me the inspiration to keep moving forward with my writing. There is no better lesson better than that; without that everything else is impossible.

 

Works Cited

King, Stephen. On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft. Hodder, 2012.

 

Reading like a Writer

david-iskander-599066-unsplashOne of the major themes across my art classes while growing up was about “seeing like an artist.” This concept is something that forever changed the way I, not only, perceive the master artworks, but also the world. This included more than seeing how parts become a whole, but also how each individual artist makes choices that web together to form their beautiful artwork.  It is a way to learn from what you see, as well as being inspired by the techniques of the masters. This is the same concept as “reading like a writer” as explained succinctly in Mike Bunn’s essay entitled How to Read Like a Writer.

When reading for pleasure you read to be swept away. To be entertained. To enter new lands and have new experiences. When reading for literary context, you read to notice plotting techniques, rising and falling action, characters are examined and analyzed. You read to find greater meaning. The student reads to better understand their world, to gain empathy for the human condition, and to learn who they themselves are. Reading like a writer is different the other ways of reading. This type of reading inspects the construction of the writing, the word choices themselves.

Writing is a series of choices an author makes. These choices are what should be noticed when you read like a writer. When reading like a writer word choices are noted as well as techniques that the writer employs.  Each choice is examined critically, deciding for yourself if it is effective and can be used in your own writing. In the article Mike Bunn states, “You are reading to see how something was constructed so that you can construct something similar yourself.”  Taking note of these choices helps the writer to build their own voice and learn new ways to express yourself.

 

Works Cited

Bunn, Mike. “How to Read Like a Writer.” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, vol. 2, Adobe Ebook,      2011, pp. 71–86.

 

 

 

On Feedback

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Submitting your work for feedback or critique can be a scary affair—An affair that demands you build a thick skin. However scary, it’s necessary that a writer takes this leap to have their work read by others. Not only does it help the writer make their work stronger but it also helps to flesh out characters, make world building more convincing, and check for comma splices. The thicker skin is necessary for going out into the publishing world, for reading reviews on Amazon, and for facing trolls on Twitter.

My main concern in receiving feedback is figuring out which comments are important for me to consider to help make my story better and which are not. I took Fiction Fundamentals (Eng 529) last semester—a wonderful course that helped me build a short story. We went through several rounds of work-shopping and critique as we built our stories. Going into the last workshop, I was very proud of the story I had written. During the workshop, however, many changes were suggested. As a result, I made every change my classmates suggested before submitting the story. In going back and reading it again, I realized that by taking every suggestion I actually made my story weak.  I decided to go back to an earlier version and make edits more judiciously. I learned an important lesson: writers need to stay true to themselves and their work throughout the writing process. Responding effectively to a writer’s workshop requires an open and confident mind. You do not have to make every change that is proposed to you in work-shopping. This is your work and you have to stand behind it. Accept changes that go along with the story you are telling.

A deep breath is required before going into a workshop session, especially when they are focusing on your writing. You should whisper this mantra throughout: “This is not a personal attack.  This is not a personal attack. This is not a personal attack.” Once you have your feedback you have to search through it, trying out each suggestion to see if it makes your writing stronger. If it makes your writing stronger, keep it. I usually end up with many versions of the same work while trying out the different suggestions, then bring together those changes I accept into one file. After going through all the changes and throwing out those things that do not help your story or writing, it’s time to look at grammatical suggestions. These are the changes you should accept. and keep.  I should know, I’m the comma splice queen and I need to be exiled. After I’m finished with this process, I generally send my work to a friend who is a much better writer than I am for more suggestions.

After 20 years in the graphic design world, I have developed a thick skin concerning critique of my work. Calling your work your “baby” is beaten out of you in design school, but here, here the students are extremely gracious, so no beatings have taken place in this program.  The well thought out work-shopping philosophy of the school is a major reason for that and a real benefit of the program. I generally feel safe sharing my work within our ‘classroom’ space—something for which I am extremely grateful.

Pigeons at Daybreak

 

Pigeons at Daybreak by Anita Desai is a masterfully told short story in which we meet an older married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Basu. Mr. Basu is suffering from many maladies, one of which being asthma. Mrs. Basu, Otima, spends her days and nights caring for him tirelessly.

In this short story there are two flashbacks. The first flashback happens when Otima Basu and their neighbor Bulu is strenuously bringing Mr. Basu to the terrace so his breathing can be helped by the outdoor breeze. The narrator tells us why they no longer sleep there: “They had given up sleeping there on summer nights long ago, not so much on account of old age or weak knees, really, but because of their perpetual quarrels with the neighbours on the next terrace.” (Desai). The second flashback happened as Mr. Basu remembered a time when he brought his grandson to the roof to see the pigeons: “Basu recalled how, not so many years ago, he had taken his daughter Charu’s son by the hand to show him the pigeon roosts on so many of the Darya Ganj rooftops…” (Desai)

This short story has a very understandable timing / narrative profluence. It takes place throughout a day and night. Just before lunch the reader witnesses the reaction of Mr. Basu as he learns the electricity will go out. The events go on in time order from that point, with two flashbacks. The rise of narrative arc is mirrored by Otima and Bulu carrying Mr. Basu up the stairs toward the terrace, using the symbolism of the stairs to show the rising action.The reader is then taken through the night, then into the next morning when Mr. Basu’s passing is juxtaposed with the flying of pigeons. It is told in a way that makes the reader feel the narrative flow.

The rising tension in this story happens when Otima Basu reads to her husband about the electricity outages their area will be experiencing. That is when he starts to have a sort of anxiety attack which caused his asthma to surface: “‘How will I sleep then?’ he gasped fearfully, ‘without a fan? In this heat?’ and already his diaphragm seemed to cave in, his chest to rise and fall as he panted for breath. Clutching his throat, he groped his way back to the cane chair. ‘Otima, Otima, I can’t breathe,’ he moaned.” (Desai)

Reversals happen toward the end of the story. The first time we see Otima Basu start to falter under the pressure of caretaking for her husband is right before she realizes the electricity came back on: “Her eyes drooped, heavy bags held the tiredness under them.” (Desai) She seems to be losing hope at this moment, then the moment the electricity comes back on, she’s back to her old personality: “The relief of it brought her energy back in a bound. She bustled up the stairs.” (Desai) While she is bustling up the steps Mr. Basu is in his terrace cot having memories of his son and finding comfort, accepting where he is, and ultimately accepting death. For the first time in the story Mr. Basu is not angry; he is fully accepting of where he is and what is about to happen.

In Pigeons at Daybreak the reader finds a sick man who needs much aid, but is taking his caretaker, his wife, for granted. Mrs. Basu spends her days and nights caring for a man that seems a bit insufferable, but she does so without complaint to him. They bicker as an old married couple would. When he starts having his anxiety attack, she worries that the attack will produce a real asthma attack, and she was right.  She and a neighbor struggled to get him to their terrace so he could breathe better during the power outage, it was no easy feat: “Of course old Basu made a protest and a great fuss and coughed and spat and shook and said he could not possibly move in this condition, or be moved by anyone,…” (Desai) Once the night was over and he could have returned to his comfortable bed, he said the most pleasant thing to pass his lips: “‘It is cool now.’” (Desai) as he has memories of his child. He’s ready to pass on.

I think there are several themes in this short story, but one that I note most readily is the theme that love doesn’t wither away at illness. Here we see a wife caring for her sick, grumpy husband who seems much older than his age. She scoffs at his demands at times, but ultimately she does what she needs to do to keep him comfortable. When I was finished reading this story I tried to picture their wedding day.  Was he handsome? Was she windswept by the idea of this older man? Was it an arranged marriage? At what point did he become sick? Did it change his personality? We don’t know. But, over the years it’s clear they became exceedingly comfortable with each other.

 

Work Cited:

Desai, Anita. “Pigeons at Daybreak.” Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings edited by

Linda Anderson, The Open University, 2006. Pgs 98-107.

The Yellow Wallpaper

shttefan-280960-unsplashThe Yellow Wallpaper  is a short story that has haunted me since my undergrad years. For a setting to still haunt me after 20 years can only mean that it is an extremely effective setting. Why would this setting, one that scares me, be my favorite? It’s compelling, it makes the reader think, and it makes the reader terrified of what is going on in the mind of the narrator.  The setting doesn’t only feel real and believable, it feels as if it’s actually alive.  The setting is not just a place where the action takes place, it IS the action, it’s an actual character. “And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern—it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.” (Gilman)

There is a strong impact in studying the settings in the works we have studied in class; I now look for clues in the setting of a written piece, the setting isn’t just background, sometimes it is the main character.  There is always something more hiding there. In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the tunnel represents freedom, in The Yellow Wallpaper the walls come alive and point to the narrator’s psychological distress by being hidden away in a room without much human contact.

As a writer, I realize how much weight the setting can have in a written work. It’s not something to be thought of last, it’s a meaningful part of the narration and should be handled as such. It can set up tension, signal romance, tell when the character is going insane, show if something tragic is about to happen. As I write, I need to look for ways to bring setting to life, whether that be through metaphor, symbolism, or even more. I will work harder to develop the settings of my writings, it is just as important as character development.

 

Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Project Gutenberg, 25, November 2008.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1952/1952-h/1952-h.htm. Accessed 12, October 2017.