lit lover book

reflections of an ever-evolving educator

Monday, February 28, 2005

class of a different color

Each day, I teach the same class three times. I teach the same material, pretty much the same way each time. So why is it that one class, the one in the middle, is so much more enjoyable to me than either the first or the last?

I've tried to analyze the situation using logic. There are, however, many variables. For instance, in my first class, only about four of the students have been with me all year. The rest shifted into my class with the beginning of this semester. I still feel tentative and uneasy with them, like I don't know them well enough. My jokes feel stilted and forced. Everything I do feels awkward and unnatural.

My last class has only about four students I haven't had all year. So there's not that awkward getting-to-know-you thing going on. But still, for some reason I can't identify, they bug me a little. Don't get me wrong--they're great kids, smart and energetic, hard workers, all of it. But somehow, I just don't feel it.

Alas, my class in the middle is the high point of my day. They laugh at all my jokes (even the lame ones), and they look at me as though I have finally solved the mystery that is writing, or literature, or grammar--whatever the content may be that day. Bottom line, they make me feel like I'm doing a good job.

Aha! Mystery solved.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

perpetuating the digital divide

We've got some major technological opportunities simmering in my school district, potentially wonderful opportunities, and all the majority of citizens want to do is gripe and spout elitist, stereotypically prejudiced speculation about the doomed nature of the project.

In a nutshell:
The county is proposing to lease laptops for every teacher and student in middle and high school, and to install a wireless network in all schools to support said laptops. Money for this adventure is already being generated via a special options tax that was passed last year.

Our county is pretty much divided down the middle economically, with the north and east ends being the haves, and the south and west sides being the have-nots. Interestingly, I grew up with the have-nots, but have spent my entire career teaching the haves.

I am embarrassed and disgusted by the elitist crap that has been coming out of the mouths of the haves regarding this proposal--both teachers and parents. The ignorant, bigoted affluent of the county believe that the have-nots will immediately pawn the laptops for drug money. I'm not kidding.

When I try to reason with said idiots, I get huffs, puffs, and scoffs. I point out that the more affluent students may be even less likely to value the laptops because they have always had easy access to home computing, while the have-nots are more likely to attach real value to something they may never have had, something they haven't had the opportunity to take for granted. Eyerolls ensue.

More and more I am aware of the bigotry inherent in our society now, and it's not based in race. It's class-ist, elitist. It is supported by the Bush administration. It perpetuates a system in which the wealthy get wealthier, have access to every opportunity, and the poor are judged by their economic situation and deemed not worthy of further consideration. After all, this is America, right? If they had worked hard enough, they wouldn't be poor, now would they?

It makes me sick and ashamed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


It's that time of year again, the time when I find myself on the verge of tears all day, the time when I wonder how any human is supposed to cope with all that's being demanded of me, the time when I think of summer and it seems 5 years instead of a mere 3 months away.

I keep asking myself why I'm still sponsoring yearbook. It's been a long time since I really enjoyed it. Probably not since 2000. That's a long time to sponsor something so demanding without having any real fun doing it.

I'm hoping next year will be different. I've already chosen my editor, a dedicated and responsible young woman who seems excited. I'm excited about having her in the position. I just hope it doesn't overwhelm her, since I kind of talked her into flying solo (co-editors just never really work--in my experience, somebody always gets screwed).

On top of all that, I'm swimming in paperwork and grading for my ninth lit classes. Wouldn't you know that I would choose right now to suddenly start pouring the work on them (and me)?

I need a nap.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

writing prompts for you

Check out my new blog just for writers--The Writing Room. This one will boast a new writing prompt daily (almost). Prompts should be appropriate for just about anyone--from teen writer to fledgling author to frustrated, blocked blogger. Please post comments, suggestions--I'd love to make this a source of inspiration for other writers out there.

geek speak

I have this student who troubles me. Actually, he's been troubling me since the school year began, but lately, it seems to be getting worse. Much worse.

You see, he's a bit of a geek. No, a lot of a geek. It's painful to watch sometimes, his social ineptitude. I was a bit of a geek myself in high school, but I was a rank amateur compared to this kid. As if the transition to high school isn't difficult enough, this little guy is also coping with the transition from a private Catholic school. And my guess is that, even there, he was nowhere close to fitting in.

I don't know how to convey to him that he does and says things that make him even more of a target to his classmates. Like constantly making references to obscure video games, when most of these kids aren't into that anymore. Or dragons. Or anything else that only 1% or less of the population has any interest in.

He laughs too soon--before anything is funny. He wears shorts and socks that are too long and that make him look like he should be carrying a metal-detector on a beach somewhere.

And he posts things like this to our class blog:
...-The following has nothing to do with the prompt, I'm just bored right now-

Since I have nothing more to say about this prompt, here is another example of 13375p34|<. (For more info, see the Geek section of "The Laureaete."


Translation: Leetspeak is used when people talk in this ridiculous typing!

and this:
Joke: Find proof that black holes are really where God divided by 0.
I don't know how to help him. But I worry.

Monday, February 14, 2005

funny man?

It's Monday and I'm already overwhelmed. We had our "deadline party" Friday night, which lasted until 9 PM. The good news is that a good number of kids stayed and got some work done. The bad is that most of the work was old stuff that should have been done weeks if not months ago, so we didn't really get much accomplished on this deadline. At some point, I have to bear down and push through all this stuff--our final deadline is looming ahead of us and I am not ready.

I'm supposed to be continuing with my humor unit today, and I'm supposed to be working with a story by Bill Cosby. Here's the problem: in case you haven't heard, Cosby is in the news right now for definitely having cheated on his wife and for possibly having commited rape in order to accomplish this. Not exactly the kind of guy I want to use as an example.

Friday, February 11, 2005

yeah, me!

I'm amazed to announce that I've been nominated for Teacher of the Year! I'm pretty sure I won't win, but still--I feel like one of those people who gushes "it's an honor just to be nominated." Ironically, my best friend at school was also nominated, along with 8 other teachers. It's so nice to even be in the running though. After 18 years of feeling pretty well ignored, it's a real lift to think that somebody out there is noticing. Yeah, me!

In other news, I am preparing for my second deadline party this evening. I created the oxymoron in an effort to inspire my yearbook staff to stay late and complete their spreads. Last time, it seemed to work. I ordered pizza, lots more of them stayed, and there was much giggling, no whining, and plenty of work accomplished. Also, a fierce sock-race in the skylight hall, witnessed by an ap, but that's another story.

Friday, February 04, 2005

techno HELL!!

I have entered a new ring Dante never had the misfortune to discover.

Today began beautifully, a continuation of the previous afternoon when I was unable to boot the hard drive that contains ALL of the files necessary for producing our yearbook. Yes, I know we should have a backup. The problem is, the damn drive has been crashing every time we try to do one. So, this morning, I come in full of hope, praying that a good night's rest will grant me one more day of life from the hard drive--just enough life so that I can copy all the files and give it a proper burial.

However, the drive opted for a prolonged and difficult stay in ICU instead. I'm still fighting with it at this very minute, trying to squeeze the last little file from its almost lifeless body. God bless the tech, who responded immediately today to my frantic email plea and performed mouth-to-mouth for over 3 hours. Unfortunately, the patient will not recover.

Besides this, I had also planned a lovely webquest in the lab today. My colleague and I were both going to be observed by baby dept. head while conducting this lesson, so it was important that it work properly. However, IE was absolutely not cooperating. Several pages of a critical site WOULD NOT load in IE in the lab (yes, I had tested it before and it worked fine). Panic for my friend, who was facilitating the lesson 1st period, and for me, since I was already having a techno meltdown.

So I do some quick research, download and install a version of Netscape that will function on our ancient Macs, and save the day--sort of. That takes my entire planning period.

Then the tech arrives and I spend lunch wringing my hands and nervously pleading for the resurrection of my yearbook drive. No such luck.

Next comes my observation, complete with obnoxious-today-but-otherwise-okay kid, who insists on dangling tissues from his snotty nostrils, among other things. I make the mistake of asking the class how they felt about the previous day's test, only to hear that Mrs. ____'s classes (my aforementioned friend) got to use notes, their books, etc., etc. (a patent lie). All of this in front of the one person who will decide what I will be teaching next year.

Now it's almost 6, and instead of heading out for a nice dinner with my hubby, I'm still hear trying like hell to get the last of the files off this gasping, creaking hard drive.

Great day. How was your Friday?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


We had Open House last week. It was generally painless--as one teacher observed, "like a cocktail party, without the cocktails." Okay, maybe not so painless.

Here's the funny thing: I had this kid last semester, Slacker-boy, whose father decided he (the father) would take my course via email correspondence with me. It got to the point that the dad was emailing me 2-3 times A DAY, asking for clarification of assignments, wanting to know exactly what I had SAID in class that day, etc., etc. I thought I was going insane. I even printed out all the emails one day to show to my dept. head (and to allay my fears that perhaps I was being uncooperative). In just the first 6 weeks, the stack was thick enough to qualify for a healthy novella. Needless to say, I was SOOO happy to see that Slacker-boy was no longer in my class this semester.

So here's the funny part: The dad stops by my room during Open House to say how sorry he is that Slacker-boy is not in my class this term. I assure him that Mrs. ___ is a great teacher. The dad shakes his head, "Yes, but she's not you. I just can't think of enough good things to say about you." I thank him. He continues, "You may not remember, but Slacker-boy started out with a 29 in your class. He ended up with a 77. You're the best."

I didn't remember. I thank him again. I am grateful for his kind words. And even more grateful that Mrs. ____ has Slacker-boy this time around.


Why do I feel so guilty lately? Okay, my mom's been really sick, and I have missed several days as a result, but I've managed to stay caught up, haven't I? (except for Yearbook, and we won't even go there) So recently I've had to come in late a couple of mornings, and I didn't do the morally correct thing and claim those hours against my short term leave. That doesn't make me a bad person, or perhaps worse, a bad teacher, does it?

I justify my lapse in ethics by recounting the numerous (too numerous to count) extra hours and days I have spent working at this job, in this building even, hours and days for which I was not and will never be paid. Not that I mind (okay, I mind a little). But then why do I have this attack of conscience about coming in late a couple of times to avoid taking whole days off?

Are we all like this? No matter how much we give to this work, our school, our students, we feel that it is never quite enough. Bottom line, I go around most of the time thinking, "I should have done that better. Next time..."