lit lover book

reflections of an ever-evolving educator

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

back to back to back

My planning is almost over and the day will jump into full swing. I have lunch duty today and am just finishing monitoring a standardized test during my planning. Add to that a full teaching day, with me teaching bell to bell, back to back lessons for the remainder of the day and you can share in my joy.

I'm starting the kids on an autobiographical, reflective essay today. I think I've planned the assignment in the best way I possibly can, but who knows? I thought I'd done a good job explaining and practicing adjectives and adverbs with them, but at least 50% failed the quiz yesterday. I'm still mulling over how to handle the situation. I can't just leave it at failure--they have to know this stuff and this is the last time anyone will really spend time on it with them. With the changes in the SAT and college entrance exams, grammar knowledge is no longer optional. It's not enough for them to be able to write correctly (not to say that they do that either, but still). I just haven't come up with a good plan that will help them to really absorb the information.

On a more positive note, I've found a great online journal dedicated to short, creative nonfiction. It's called Brevity and it has loads of really wonderful, and of course, short, nonfiction. I found an essay there that perfectly modeled the structure and development I want the kids to implement. Plus, the works there are just good writing and enjoyable reading.

Monday, September 27, 2004

fat and ugly

Trying to be a good teacher here, but as you can see, I'm blogging instead of generating a lesson plan or grading. Hmmm...what's wrong with this picture? So I'll justify my offtask behavior by calling it "reflection on my teaching practice."

Today I said something I really shouldn't have said, but it did get a laugh. We were reviewing adjectives and adverbs and I was quizzing the kids about all the details. So I asked, "Can more than one adjective modify the same noun?" There was dissension and discussion amid the ranks, and no general consensus. So out of my mouth pops: "Of course, they can, because you can be fat and ugly." Not exactly a nice thing to say in front of the kids--but it got the point across.

I'm trying to inject a little levity into my classroom again. That's the thing that's really lacking this year. My lessons are better planned and more efficiently executed, I have good control of their behavior, and yet...the joy of it all has been missing. I'm definitely less stressed, but more than a little bored. I have to find my creative spark, my own SELF in this curriculum.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

a little swordplay

The assembly Friday was, surprisingly, really interesting. The presenter was a self-taught, self-proclaimed expert on medieval history, literature and swordplay. Of course, the part the kids were the most interested in was the swordplay, and, I have to admit, I found it pretty fascinating myself (which was a bit disconcerting). He began by detailing the similarities between Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and ancient Anglo-Saxon epics (like Beowulf), insisting that the similarities weren't accidental but intended to mimic and draw attention to the ancient texts. Pretty cool on my end, but not too impressive to the kiddies. (They're thinking, yeah, yeah, who really cares?) But then he got into explaining the weaponry and other implements used in Anglo Saxon warfare, and he had them completely. He demonstrated various strategies and techniques, and had student volunteers come up for quick lessons and sparring with both him and other students. Overall, a fun day for the kids and for me (and I even managed to grade a few papers along the way).

Thursday, September 23, 2004


I've been almost completely absent from my classroom this week. Last Friday school was cancelled due to Hurricane Ivan, and the last two days I've been in a vertical teaming in-service. Tomorrow the kids will be attending an assembly. So much for instruction.

I've been grading the interview essays and I'm finding a new dilemma--they're too good. I mean, no way in hell did these kids write these papers. Another very interesting contrast between seniors and freshmen--parents don't generally write their seniors' papers. However, after reading these essays, I feel sure that some parental editing/composing has been going on. I don't quite believe that a fourteen year old would describe her grandmother as a "stunning woman." And that's not even the biggest tip-off. On the plus side, they sure are a lot more fun to read than papers written by teenagers :)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

virgin voyage

I can't believe it. I just wrote this very detailed entry only to have it lost somewhere in cyberspace. So here I go again. Maybe the second draft will be even better--yeah, right.

So I'm skipping the intro this time (sorry, blame blogger) and cutting right to the chase. After MANY years of teaching seniors, I now find myself teaching ninth graders for the first time. There are pluses and minuses to the situation. But oddly, I feel that for perhaps the first time in my career, all the experience is finally coming into play and I am creating a curriculum that is more cohesive, more challenging and more thoughtfully conceived than ever before. Let's hope it lasts.

So here are some great things about teaching freshmen:

  • Freshmen write MUCH shorter papers.

  • Freshmen can still be intimidated by authority figures.

  • Freshmen are really scared (at least for now).

  • Freshmen don't know yet that it's not cool to participate in class or get excited about learning something new.

  • Freshmen ask permission for everything.

  • Freshmen are rarely ever absent.

  • Freshmen sometimes wear these goofy smiles for absolutely no reason.

  • Freshmen still think that I, the teacher, might know a little bit more than they do.

  • Sounds blissful, right? But, alas, there are things about my beloved seniors that I really miss.

  • Seniors really get my sense of humor (and share theirs).

  • Seniors study MUCH more interesting, challenging and complex literature.

  • Seniors enjoy working independently.

  • Seniors aren't afraid of much (I know this contradicts a previous point I made about freshmen, but go figure.)

  • Seniors quickly develop a rapport with me that makes the day less lonely (Don't you ever get tired of being the ONLY adult in the room?)

  • Seniors discuss on a more philosophical and thoughtful level.

  • It would seem that the freshmen are winning, but some of those senior perks are pretty important. I'm trying to develop a curriculum for freshmen that challenges and interests both them and me, but I'm not quite there yet on my end. Still trying though. But just as important as their shorter papers, perhaps more important, is the fact that for the first time in years I am only teaching 2 preps, and it's just great! I feel so much more focused now that there's only ninth lit and yearbook to deal with every day. So overall, the year's looking good so far. Keep your fingers crossed.