Talking about tone

I had an English class today, one section is especially talented and teachable, a rare combination.  They are constructing a persuasive essay. Their research is completed, their arguments are selected, they are weaving together a draft of a “persuasive” nature.

We talked a bit about persuasion, how it works and how foolhardy that work can be, if undertaken unwisely. Such can convince, without argument, one entirely otherwise. Tone is everything, argument is only somewhat important. I told them what I thought was the secret to teaching high school, gaining trust and allowing the love of learning to grow. I told them how I would never dare to tell one of my students what was so. How the whole point is for them to discover  and come to more and more understanding on their own. A key is to always use a back door, never come barreling in the front, “The Answer,” or worse, “YOUR answer, is here!” It seems better to knock at the back door, the friends’ door, with cookies, warm. I try to let another come to their own answer, present understanding, to honor that, respect it as untested by life as it yet is. Give them that grace to learn, to truly learn and gain “what is valued above all else, wisdom and understanding.” – Proverbs 3:13

As I demonstrated plainly one’s reaction to frontal attack, immediate defensiveness, instinctual, ingrained defensiveness, some saw that I spoke to more than the essay before them. Some saw what I was saying to them in our own back porch conversation.

Then I explained to them that as a writer, I have come to learn that a back door approach is nearly mandatory, most good story is told from that perspective. The young, will be writer in the room, looked up and wide-eyed at me, Aha! all over her face. Back door, baby! I silently shot toward her quick eyes, as she nodded, yes!

My day’s work was done.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Talking about tone

  1. Ah, the back door. This is how I try to write, and live. Thank you for this, Kim.

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