Monday, September 29, 2008

Another Hero's Story from 9/11

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Stephen Siller, a fireman from the Bronx, tried to cross into New York. When he reached the Battery Tunnel, he found it closed to auto traffic.
Stephen Siller loaded his firefighting gear onto his back and ran over a mile to the Twin Towers. He died there.
Yesterday, for the seventh year in a row, people (some from as far away as London) retraced his steps in the annual Tunnel to Towers Run. Firemen ran in their gear and people wore weighted backpacks. Proceeds from the run are given to charities for burn victims.

I sat in the car listening to the NPR story about Siller and crying. I can't fathom the depth of his call to do his duty. He left five children and a wife behind, which is heartbreaking. He also left his memory as an inspiration for what it means to care about people.

I spend a lot of time discussing the news with my students, talking about truth and analyzing sources. I give them articles about things they may not have considered, or possibly heard about before. We discuss hate speech and the genocide in Darfur. We discuss fallacies in political ads.

I think stories like Stephen Siller's are the most important, but I don't know how to teach them. Siller is the kind of person I want my students to grow into, the kind of person I would like to be. Sometimes I feel like the kids don't connect with these stories, or they blow them off. I'm stuck.

Friday, September 26, 2008

F is for Friday

Today was one of those days where I was on autopilot. The honors kids got the happy surprise that they would be practicing rather than presenting their speeches today. The got feedback from their critical friends on the text and then the presentation of their speech.
In regular, I've fallen sadly to the siren song of the textbook. It sings of specifically targeted vocabulary and nonfiction criticism and I cannot resist.
My fish Pete has been making the rounds as a kind of talking stick, and I'm still assessing the results. It seems a friendlier take than simply having the kids choose the next person to share their answers, plus they get a chance to throw something.
I finally finished all the bigger assignments the kids turned in this week, so I can catch up on some of the smaller things I've been carrying back and forth. I want to make sure the kids get feedback, even if it is late.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Diving back into the conversation.

I was left slightly slack-jawed in admiration for Todd when he said he had allowed another teacher to tape his class and use it in a new teacher workshop.
As planned, the camera recorded the first 10 minutes of my Support class yesterday. My good-twin Laurie used it to great effect in her presentation on classroom management. I feel that I have very little during that period and so it would be a good thing for teachers-in-training to see. The critique would be valuable to me because I could try a few things out. A few ideas came of it and I put some to use today and things worked a little better.
That, my friends, is the kind of chutzpah that makes better teachers. The viewers, discussers, and participants all learned something because Todd was willing to put himself on the line.
Of course, it sounds like Todd was tougher on himself than those who saw the video. That's probably the mark of a good teacher: the need to push, to look for places to improve, to not settle.
But Todd, take the props, listen to them, and save them for a rainy day. Knowing you can improve doesn't mean you aren't already pretty excellent.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday Blahs

The title might go a long way to explain my tone in this post. Consider yourself warned.
I feel like I've been working and working and I'm still behind. I can relate to Teach Baltimore's grading stash. I've got a pile of little things, plus today I collected kid's outlines for the Great Speech assignment, which they want back tomorrow. Interestingly, one of them actually said, "That's a really fast turn around" if they didn't get them back until Thursday to give the speeches on Friday. In case you were wondering, no, that does not mean it might be a fast turn around for me with 70 to look at.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Welcome back, friends.

I had a fabulous time with my third hour today. Truly glorious. We started out discussion prefixes--not always the most scintillating subject, but it segued into a discussion about Minnesotan dialect and dialects in general. Totally delicious, since this is the class that I've been trying to dance harder for since the first day.

On the other end of the spectrum is the meeting after school with one of the big dogs from Downtown. It was meant to be a discussion about moving to a 3x6 schedule for next year. The example schedule had kids down to only two trimesters of science and social by their junior year, and only two trimesters of world language.

Big dog wasn't very helpful. Questions from staff like, "have you asked students who have been through schedule changes how prepared the felt for college?" were dismissed. Even though the district mission is to be in the top 10% of schools and be exceptional, the big dog said he had long resented the NCAA's influence on education and made a comment along the lines of, 'and how many NCAA athletes come from here, anyway?'

So, not feeling respected or understood by downtown. In fact, feeling steamrolled and mistreated. Boo.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Persuasion and Magic Assignments

Today I had one of those "well, duh" flashes for an assignment that tied some reading the kids have done forever into the unit as a whole far more closely than before.

In honors Nonfiction, we've been working on persuasion, specifically the three types. We identified logos, pathos, and ethos in the Statement by Eight Alabama Clergymen and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail. They annotated the text as homework over the weekend and today they looked at the arguments in groups and picked what they believed where the top three arguments in the text, then identified and supported their top pick to the class. I love the buzz as they discuss the different examples and really pick them apart.

Following that, for the past couple of years I've had the kids read "Running for His Life" by Michael Hall and then we've discussed purpose afterward. I've been way off on my planning, timing-wise, so far this year and I thought we might have time to fit in reading and discussing the essay, but I was way off. I sent them off with the task to write up a paragraph analysis of persuasion and Hall's purpose, due tomorrow. DUH! Now they'll be prepared and accountable in the discussion tomorrow. Hooray!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Week 1

This week felt pretty good. I'm getting more smiles instead of just stares, and kids at the open house last night said that they are enjoying Of Beetles and Angels, which is a good way to start the term for them and me.

I'm so tired. Late nights waiting for my husband to get home from work have kept me from getting my eight. By the time I've danced through first and third hour as hard as I can, there's not much left by three o'clock, and I still have so much planning to do.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Day Uno

I will admit that I did not start the day as my best self. I was sweating as I ran around chasing 10th graders to and from their orientation (couldn't be held until today because of the construction), sweating as I threw my seventh row into the other six (because I realized in the middle of last night that seven rows would mess up my plans for critical friends) as the newly orientated kids poured into first hour (after admin told us the kids wouldn't come to second hour), sweating as I tried to figure out what I was going to do with myself and the kids, sweating as I said bad words during my prep because my computer and phone were still out and my SMARTBoard was nowhere to be found.

My third hour stared at me. A lot. The first question was, "When is this class over?" As my friend-friend says, I danced harder, with little effect. We were all so hot it was hard to even think.

HOWEVER, my fourth hour was a hoot. I love having them ask me questions on the first day, and we had fun with it. They were a kick in the pants and left me smiling.

AND, the nice guy who tease-said he was setting up my room last week ACTUALLY came and set up my room today! Get my network connection working and I'll be in business!