This tells you how tragically out-of-touch I have been while sequestered far, far away at an ill-fated school in an ill-fated town and, you know, breeding and stuff. I'm so excited to see how she's translated the blog into a book because I, of course, adore her writing and attitude about teaching. My doorstep awaits a happy Amazon box.
Note: I haven't counted, but I think I've used the word "excited" about 87 times in my posts tonight, which I don't at all recommend in the interest of keeping, you know, interesting. I'm just so jazzed to be writing again and doing something for myself, even if it means typing, as with my last post, while my baby cries a bit while trying to gum off my husband's shoulder because she was so ready for bedbye. I will attempt more, um, diverse word choice at some later date.
I am trying to carve out some time for myself to do some reading, movie watching and music listening, but it is very difficult to manage with a new baby in town. In the last week, I have tried a new bedtime routine where I lay down to nurse while reading until she goes to sleep. It usually takes her awhile to tell long stories and sing songs to my chest and to eat her feet before she dozes off, so I am able to actually read. She is very distracted by trying to crumple up all the pages of my book and take off my glasses repeatedly, but it's better than nothing, which is what I have been reading for the past six months since she's been born.
And if there was ever a time to work out a way to read, it is now. Today I picked up Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow. I got to meet Doctorow a couple years ago, and I think he'd just started writing this novel. As he described his writing process to a small conference room full of upper school students, I got really excited because I a) adore Doctorow and b) have loved the story of the pack rat apartment tragedy since I was very young. My grandparents' house did not have a trash can in it, ever. Yes, you read correctly. Nothing was thrown away. My granny washed and reused everything in a variety of totally insane ways. When she died, I finally checked out her closet which was lined with about two hundred layers of newspaper clippings, milk jug labels, family photos and church social flyers. We won't talk about the jars of fingernails and cut-off braids. My grandpa did his best to sneak things out of the house, but granny's mental problems definitely ruled the roost. So I am ready to read Doctorow's take on a real pack rat's mind and see how it compares to my impressions of my granny.
Then I am very excited for two more books: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger because The Time Traveler's Wife is one of my favorite books ever, and The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. I first read Atwood in the 10th grade because my English teacher told me that I wrote like her in the margins of one of my papers. I don't, but I'm sure glad he wrote that anyway because she was and continues to be a wonderful discovery. John Irving has a new one out too, but I'll probably wait for that one. His last few haven't really done it for me.
So here's to happy, long-anticipated reading!!! Hopefully the babe is down with my new plan.
Note: I have no issue with D.B. and will probably read his book once I can pick it up for 50 cents at the Goodwill.
Subject: It doesn't look like you are teaching anymore, but...
a very long time ago, you did this lesson
that, for whatever reason, had a major impact on me. You played this clip of
NYPD Blue, just the crazy urban noise music of the intro, and related it to an
a very long time ago, you did this lesson that, for whatever reason, had a major impact on me. You played this clip of NYPD Blue, just the crazy urban noise music of the intro, and related it to an Auden poem.
I was a complete reject in high school--not much of a student for reasons beyond my control--but I snapped to attention that day. I fell in love with Auden, with poetry, and the idea that teaching didn't have to be completely mundane. You could develop a creative way of presenting information and actually reach your students.
My class was full of duds, so I'm sure we didn't show much appreciation. I'm pretty sure one of the only things I did that year was try to teach the College Park-transplant-football-player-dude who sat behind me how to read. Probably while you were talking.
So, I wanted to tell you that even though you may not have known it at the time, you planted a little seed that took a good while to grow, and now I am a kick ass high school English teacher with a couple of degrees under my belt. And I'm published.
Pretty cool, huh.
I have decided after listening, once again, to students wax poetic about the potential of doing a Grateful Dead/ tie dye/ trippy-colored yearbook, that most young people are developmentally delayed in the area of taste. Struggling with the boundaries between having a student publication that is the true voice of the students and my utter distaste for any color scheme involving full-color hot pink and lime pages, I focus on remaining open and constructive about their theme ideas. Some were ok, and some were god-awful. The discussion will continue tomorrow.
But for a moment, I lost focus and came up with my own not-exactly-serious idea for a yearbook theme: The Divine Comedy. There's the hell of freshman year, the purgatory of sophomore and junior years and the paradise of senior year and graduating. You could do a black-gray-white color scheme that would have very little need of hot pink, rhinestones or stupid dancing bears.
But since my school is pre-K through twelfth, I don't think it would work too well.
Plus, it's all a PR game anyway. Hell analogies don't work too well for recruitment.
Conclusion: I will cross my fingers and magically figure out how to teach tasteful design.
The first week went pretty well. As usual, I wasn't mean or strict enough with my new ninth graders, and by the end of the week they a) loved me and b) acted a little K-RAZY. On Friday, though, the crazy factor wasn't entirely their fault.
It was our first day in the computer lab. Of course, all but three didn't know their passwords and the nice IT help desk lady was at lunch, so I had to sweet talk the PC tech guy* into breaking into help desk lady's office and getting the passwords for us. It was a laborious process, and the tech guy and help desk lady, once she returned, complained for some time about how the students keep having to get their passwords over and over. I nodded in commiseration, but it was a bit forced. I mean, if my password was "iU8pC4l1", case-sensitive, and I wasn't allowed to change it to something I would remember, I no doubt would be visiting help desk lady on a regular basis for a refresher.
So that took awhile.
As students logged on, I directed them to Edublogs to begin creating their own blogs. Unfortunately, due to site traffic or local weather or some other magical, mystery techno-beastie, the site's homepage would come up, but none could get past that screen to start accounts. My edublog would come up, however, so I randomly decided to show them how to leave comments on mine. I don't know what the kids think about blogging after that semi-lesson because it was all so anti-climatic, but it wasn't a total wash.
And I did get about four comments from girls in my class pretending to be girls from that show "Gossip Girl," filling me in on the activities of their characters and anticipating the new season of the show. So, I learned something too: some of my students have a natural ability to write cheesy copy for TV ads AND I better at least check that show out so I can have some clue about what the hell they are talking about all the time.
We were left with a few minutes in the period, and we are under strict instructions not to allow ninth graders to leave early for lunch, so OF COURSE, one boy goes right to a video of my band on YouTube (word gets around fast in a small school like this). They all rush over to watch it, but one kid who can't see it from the back of the group asks, "Hey, is her husband good looking?" A football player type with blond hair that falls across his forehead in a wave turns around and says, "Yeah, he's hot," which makes all the girls totally fall out laughing. One girl yells, "Dude, you're a boy. You're not supposed to say that!" And football boy is all like, "Yeah, but what was I supposed to say? I didn't want to be rude!" And that's the point when I just started marching around the room booming, "LOG OFF AND LEAVE. LOG OFF AND LEAVE."
So that was awesome.
The next time we go to set up our blogs, I pray everything works according to plan, and they can use any extra minutes creating avatars and experimenting with widgets instead of watching embarrassing YouTube videos.
*the same gentleman who once told me that it was not one of his job responsibilities to ever, ever talk to students. This he informed me of directly after asking me to ask a student to move six inches to the left so he could get to the computer he was supposed to service. We were all sitting within five feet of each other and the whole thing was a little awkward.
Today was the first day of my fifth year of teaching.
I've decided that my ninth graders will be choose their own vocabulary words. So, instead of handing them worksheets with vocab exercises from a book or using a list of SAT words, I asked each of them to identify one word to contribute to our class vocabulary list each week. I asked them to pay attention to the words they don't yet know as they read magazines, watch television, listen to music, or whatever. Each week when they turn in their words, they will write the word, the definition and the context in which they heard the word, and then the next week they'll be quizzed on all the words chosen by the class.
I'd gotten tired of my old vocabulary book, and I want to allow the kids ownership of what we're learning whenever I can. Plus, I think it will still prepare them for future standardized testing. I got an email from a student I taught three years ago last night.
By the way, moppet was one of my vocabulary words on the SAT. I thought you would like to know that since you used to call me a moppet all the time.
So, real words from real life. I like it.
After my explanation, a cute blond in the front row waved her hand.
Um, can I pick the word high-maintenance? 'Cause people are always telling me that I'm all high-maintenance, and I don't even know what that means.
I dunno if high-maintenance is gonna be on the SAT, but I guess learning for personal growth is a good thing too. Sure thing.
I have two new students from Korea in my ninth grade class. One speaks no English whatsoever. The other can hold a basic conversation. They both seem like very good students and have willing attitudes. They both have cute pencil cases, very organized notebooks filled with my notes and the Korean translations, and brightly colored, nifty-looking translators.* But now what to do?
They are both getting one-on-one ESL tutoring after school several times a week, which is great, but I teach at this sort of college-prep, wannabe pretentious private school that often gets college level work out of its freshman class. I started the semester with the Fagles translation of the Odyssey, and the kids are reading one or two books a night. This is faster than I would like to go, but I also have to teach three plays and poetry this semester. (My school is talkin’ "depth and not breadth," but they’re not quite ready to do the walkin'). So what do I do with my two new friends to make my class fair and useful to them?
I asked my head last semester what I should do for "Darren," the first of my Korean arrivals, when final time came around. He suggested that I give Darren a totally new story to read along with reading comprehension questions and an essay. That seemed insane to me. The kid needs to use his translator when I say, “Good morning!” So instead, I had him read and write chapter summaries of most of "Lord of the Flies," which took the whole quarter. He answered some short answer questions about characterization and symbols in the novel, and then he wrote an essay. I gave him the final a few days before the test so that he could make sure he understood the directions. His answers were simple but good, and I was happy with the result.
But the Odyssey? And Henry IV, Part 1?
Friday, my brand new student, “Edward”, who speaks a good bit more English, tried to take a reading quiz along with the rest of the class about the Cyclops book, but he wouldn't turn it in. I smiled and promised that I wouldn't grade it; I just wanted to know where he was so I could help him. He said he was sorry, but would not give me his paper. He was quite adamant about it. It was sort of embarrassing for both of us in front of the whole class, so I let it go. He came the today day to apologize to me, which was very sweet, but he still wouldn’t let me see his paper.
I think he wants to make sure his work is perfect, and he doesn’t want to show me imperfect work. But I want to help him and need to know how much of the reading he understands so I can decide if it is appropriate reading for him at all.
I think I am going to find out who the ESL tutor is and contact her to see if she can give me some advice.
*and brand new “American” names. Why? I admit the Korean names are a little challenging to pronounce at first, but that’s my challenge. I think losing your name is pretty big deal.
I got tagged by bellringers.
The rules are:
I'm feeling sort of random tonight, so random info seems appropriate.
i'm not going to tag anyone (see nyc educator). i'm also not very good at following rules.
note-to-self: consider this your toe in the water. it's time to jump in and make regular posts. do it.
Next week I am going to give a presentation about blogging at a conference. I want to talk about why teachers blog, not for their students or classes, but for their own personal and professional growth.
I would LOVE it if you answered the following questions in a comment:
1. Why did you start blogging?
2. What do you blog about primarily?
3. Professionally, what do you get out of blogging?
4. Personally, what do you get out of blogging?
5. What advice would you give to new blogging teachers?
I'm going to make a handy dandy Power Point presentation incorporating the responses I receive and post it on the blog when I am finished for anyone that is interested.
Thank you in advance!!!
I'm tagging a few people, but I'd love to hear from everyone...
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It's Not All Flowers and Sausages
Life After the Rubber Room
Closing the Gap in NYC