Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oh, Florence. . .What Have You Done?

Here's the story. . .
The big kids, Cole and Meg, are enrolled in a wonderful creative writing class called the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).  This class meets every other week at a local church where the students are divided by age into 5 or six classes.  Each class is taught by a home schoolin' mom whose children have previously taken the course.  Each class session is two hours in length and the information absorbed by the students (and this parent) is valuable.

We take IEW seriously, very seriously.  Entire days of school have been dedicated solely to its assignments.  This week is IEW week and we've been hard at it.  The kids are learning to write reports and the assigned subject of this week's report is Florence Nightingale, nurse extraordinaire.

While editing Cole's writing, I noticed that he had described the conditions of the Crimean War, in which 60% of wounded soldiers died from infection, as dirty.  I felt that he was vastly understating the war's conditions and was emphatically trying to get him to ponder using a stronger word than merely dirty. 

"Cole, we're talking serious dirt here" I said, my eyes growing wider (which tends to happen when I get excited about a subject).  "You need a better word.  A more serious word for dirt."  For some strange reason, the thought of serious dirt made him grin a bit.

"How about just using that Mom, 'The Crimean War had some serious dirt.' "

This was not going like I thought it should.  I just wanted him to get to the word filthy on his own (ok, not totally on his own...).

"Cole, really.  Let's think about this, we need a better word.  Cole, what is the dirtiest word you know?"  (Oh, yes I did!)

It was now his turn to make "big eyes" at me.

"That's not what I meant," I said before he could speak (thank goodness).  "How about filthy? Does that work?" I said throwing in the towel.

"Yes," said a relieved little boy as he took pencil to page.

I don't need to worry about Meg's creativity for this project.  As she was reading her report on Florence Nightingale aloud, I learned that this amazing woman was able to get patriotic English folks to donate hand sanitizer to the war effort along with other needed supplies.


"Hold on a minute Meg.  Hand sanitizer in the year 1854?"

Impishly she said, "I was just trying to make it more interesting."

Here's interesting for you.  Before Florence Nightingale began her work with wounded soldiers the death rate from infection was 60 soldiers out of 100.  After Nightingale's efforts to adequately supply medical wards with the necessary sterile supplies, the death rate from infection decrease to 1 in 100 soldiers.

For that statistic and many others like it Miss Nightingale, I heartily say, "Go Flo!"  I also forgive you for nearly causing me to make my son say a dirty word.  Oh, and for making my daughter embellish , we'll say, her report about you.  All's fair in dirt and war?


G'ma suz said...

Great reporting. The need for nurses like Flo is perhaps at an equal or greater level if the truth be known about this day!!
Oh, yeah, I saw my old nursing "cap" is a box the other day. The one that was so sought after and caused many late night and early morning study times (and yes perhaps some "dirty words". The beauty of it when received in its white-stiff-starched appearance compared only to Meg's reading book in my eye's preception. Now it appears just like Flo's in the above picture.... Love G'ma
Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, dear Gretchen, from saving me from censoring your son's "dirty" word in class! You made my day by showing me a photo of Cole with a thesaurus, and alerting me to Megan's "creative cleanliness" report on Flo.

Keep up the great work!

Mrs. Clarke
Blessed IEW teacher for Cole and Megan

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