Wednesday, September 18, 2013

From Kimmie. Snowflake Essays.

This comes from one of my students, but not from something he did in my class. I have a reputation as someone who'll help student writers even though it's not my main field. This student came to me with a rough draft about a personal essay he was writing in a non-fiction class at my college.

It starts like this:
I don't drive. I don't have a license. Sure, I'm old enough, but I don't want the hassle of a car or insurance or driving my younger sibling around.
So how do I get around? My mom and dad drive me everywhere. They take me to school and to my job - they figure they owe me that. And when I want to party, they drop me at a friend's house and pick me up. No drinking and driving for me.

I read that part and asked, honestly, "Don't you want a license? Don't you want that freedom?"

"Nah," he said. "I have plenty of freedom already."

I kept reading.
I cruise in the back seat or passenger seat. I text my friends, look out the window. I figure it's a lot less stress on me, and as I'm still young and developing it has to be easier on me. I know my parents like it, because they always tell me they like to have me around.
I'll get older, I know, but as most things in Kensington are close enough, I can always hitch a ride. My mom only works 20 hours a week so I schedule my events for when she's free. Or I can always call my dad. He came home one afternoon to take me to a job interview, and he often calls this our "private time" to talk.
"Are you going to do this forever?" I asked.

"Sure," he said. "I like it here. Once I finish college I'll stay here and get a better job. I have a nice room in the basement, a lot of privacy, and I know my parents like having me around."

The essay concludes:
I think of it as a favor to my parents. I know some kids who are distant from theirs, but not me. They're always with me in the car and we can talk about our days until we get where I'm going. And when I call, they come and we can talk about the fun I had. In fact I wrote most of this essay while my drove me to and from school this week. I read it to her and she thought it was great.
I guess I'm just not a driver!


  1. Good gravy. This kid is a real fireball. To think he's turning his back on 4 wheels and an 8-track.


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  3. Wow! I wonder if he is speaking the real reason he does not drive? I have know several people who were scared to death to learn to drive! But the essay does make him sound very flaky!

  4. Certainly, my friends and I couldn't (and didn't) wait until we were 16 to drive. It's not like that now, depending on where you grow up. I have nephews who live in highly congested suburbs that don't let them drive without restrictions until they are 17 years, six months old. At sixteen, they can drive with a parent or to/from work before 10 pm. The parents pick up the slack for everything else. The kids not mind it so much since that's the only world that they know. It's certainly a situation that allows a helicopter parent to extend control over the child.

  5. His potential romantic partners must be so impressed.

  6. I think it's stellar satire, and you should congratulate him on mastering the genre so early in his writing career.

    1. I love this essay, Kimmie. And glad to see you posting! Your comments always crack me up.

      And what about the return of F&T...yay!

  7. ... and it's all because he's not a driver??? I suspect something else is going on here.

    I have noticed that several of my students come to college not knowing how to drive. It always surprises me because I grew up hearing about how Americans learned to drive at 15 or 16, and having done my duty by teaching our no-longer-a-kid to drive, I didn't know their 'driverless' status was something to brag about.

  8. I am curious about your willingness to help student writers who aren't in your class.

    When I came to my current place of employment, I was told that the department has a policy not to help anyone other than those in their classes. This was (1) because English professors already have horrific grading loads and need a legitimate reason to turn away any student who thinks that any random writing professors' job is to help them, even when not enrolled in a class; (2) to avoid conflict with the Writing Lab and to encourage use of the Writing Lab; (3) to avoid causing confusion for students or animosity from colleagues teaching the course when our advice may differ from theirs.

    I will admit that it has been a relief to me when I have a stack of 60 essays to grade to be able to tell that student in my doorway (clutching a copy of his essay for another class) that I'm not allowed to help due to our departmental policy. However, is that the case at other places, or are we unique in this?

    In places where I have taught before, it was up to the individual professors to make that call.

    1. I could have added more context on that. I know just about everyone on campus, and as I've got a tiny bit of notoriety as a writer in this town (newspaper, 2 nearly unknown books), I occasionally give seminars on teaching writing.

      I never help a student or read a draft without the go ahead from my fellow proffies.

      We have no standardized writing center, and a number of our faculty simply don't teach writing. And we cut our core curriculum from 2 comp classes to 1, so students are not getting nearly the bang they used to.

      I'd much prefer to send students elsewhere, but I've been here long enough to have earned a sort of defacto tutor status - to go along with my other full time duties!

    2. That's kind of you to help. I wonder about the history of our departmental policy. I'm guessing one person got mad... And then a whole policy was born.

  9. I'd be tempted to reply with links to a couple of "What to do when it's time to take away mom's/dad's keys" articles (say from the AARP or AAA). He's chalked up a lot of IOUs for rides to the doctor, grocery store, etc., etc. (and helping mom on and off the bus is going to get scary as she gets frailer).

    I think Kate's got it right, though: at some point, a potential romantic partner's reaction will send him scurrying off to driving school. Either that, or Mom and Dad's announcement that they're retiring to a nice one-bedroom place somewhere warmer.


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