Sunday, January 31, 2010

Almost February

Spent most of today recovering from yesterday.  As a result, I have only this to offer you:

With the note that, in true LOLCat fashion, the last bit is grammatically incorrect.  Grammar Brownie Points to the first commenter to explain why.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Got up at 5:30am.

Did not get home until 7:15pm.

Did not pass GO or collect $200 in that time.

Kids totally rocked the meet.

People running awards who do not plan out what they are going to say, speak clearly, or make awards run quickly = FAIL.

Good night.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday snapshots

Husband this morning:
[Nudge] It's BeAtSchoolTime RIGHT NOW!

Cranky, aggressive email from a kid, mad about getting an incomplete:
Ok, this is starting to make me a bit angry with the grading of the english class. My dad has copies of the last few emails that you have sent out for final grades of the term. From the second most recent email to the one from today i have increased my over all points by almost 10 but the criteria is still the same. It still says I am at an incomplete because i have "didnt turn in" my Macbeth word journal. I sent it to you on Sunday night, the 24th. Please make some corrections so i have an actual grade otherwise I will have to talk to the principal. Also after you make the corrections if its not too much of a hassle i would like two new emails sent out. One of which will be sent to my parents, and the other will be sent to me at this email.

Sincerely, Child


Please reread your original email and consider the tone. It seems very accusatory, which is not an appropriate way to address a teacher. You may certainly discuss this with Mr. AP, if you would like, but threatening to do so is unnecessary.

The email I sent on Monday the 25th was a progress report (not a final grade) that said, “Your student is missing one or more assignments. As mentioned previously, Friday was the last day of the term. All work for the term must be turned in order for students to earn an English credit (per the class syllabus). All work must be turned in on or before Tuesday, January 26 in order for your student to receive a grade. Emailing assignments to me is encouraged. Please review the progress report below.”
That email indicated that you were missing the word journal, as did the one I sent last Wednesday.

Unfortunately, I did not receive an email from you on Sunday, just your Independent reading project Friday night. Since turning in late work is your responsibility, it is also your responsibility to make sure the teacher receives it.

When I get the late assignment from you, I will adjust your grade and complete a grade change form.

Have a good day,
Yeah, sorry for it sound so rude and all. I was a little mad when i wrote it because i was getting yelled at by my dad and i still dont understand why i have an incomplete. I sent you the email on Monday (typo from before when i had said Sunday) but aparently you didnt resieve it. so here it is again
Fun with a speecher after school:
"I really want to take someone under my wing, like Recent Graduate did for me.  I was so sad when I found out I would be the only person in my category!"

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Hitting my stride with the new kids.  I think it's going to be a good term.

Tired beyond reason.  Hopefully more tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thankful for thanks

Today was a solid second day.  I talked with one of my new 10th graders who is already driving me bonkers (he didn't want to edit his introduction essay because it was already perfect, and then wanted to know what to do if he didn't want me to know some of the stuff in his essay, but then was "worried" it would be too short).  I pulled him aside after class today and said, I can tell you're very smart.  I can also tell you really like attention.  I you need you to curb your impulse to seek it.

Anywho, after an appointment this evening, I hit up Target Boutique to buy more binder fillin's.  I've sold 5 complete binders, and  four more kids said they would like one, plus another girl told me that her family can't handle any school purchases right now.

The cashier looked at my pile of pocket dividers, binder pockets, Post-Its and notecards and said, "You're a teacher, huh?  I can't believe how much teachers have to spend for their kids.  My daughter-in-law is a teacher, and I just can't believe how much she spends on things for her classroom."  We chatted while she rang up my stuff, and when I was leaving, she said, "I'm going to vote to get you more money!"

I'm still smiling.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A new beginning

I had a great first day of the new term.  I am also completely exhausted.

I can tell you that during the semi-annual first-day question and answer session, I was asked the following:

Have you ever been to a disco?
Are you a good dancer?
What did you want to be when you your were little?
What do you think about nationalized health care?
What is your favorite gaming system?
What is your favorite word?
What do you think about nationalized health care?
What is your political denomination?
What is your favorite color?

I love my job.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I may have mentioned that the term ended last week.  I may have mentioned that I have had the most ridiculously stupid amount of late work in the history of the world.  Srsly.

Hi kiddo [CCed to Papa, since Kiddo failed term 1 due to missing work],

Your Comparative Analysis Essay was in the slot for the Macbeth Close
Reading Essay on I moved the Comparative Analysis to the
right assignment slot. You still need to send me your Macbeth Close
Reading Essay to earn credit for English this term.
--Ms. MIKD
Kiddo says that he isn't sure what this assignment is, could you
please send me and him what it is he needs to do. Thanks.

I am also missing Kiddo's Journal, which he should have a
handout for. I also think we discussed both assignments last week.
--Ms. MIKD

Kiddo is wondering what tpcast means?

He doesn't need TPCASTT for the assignments he is missing. There are
two handouts to help him with the paper on the class website.
--Ms. MIKD

Okay thank you, nothing like waiting until the last minute huh.
Following the advice of colleague friends with more sense than I, I emailed the parents of kids missing assignments (the kids too, obviously), rather than calling as I had planned.

I know I'm letting this craziness infect me, but I have got to figure out a better way.  Maybe the new late policy will work.

BTW, this post got away from me.  Apparently that pressure was justa buildin' up and had to be released.  Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to come up with something sensible to say about today's meetings.  Maybe.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The late work discussion

My department has been arguing about late work.  I have to say, this year I have had more trouble with late work than I ever have before, and two thirds of my classes are honors.

One of the teachers who is new to the building is truly appalled by the problems she has had getting her students to turn in their work at all, let alone on time.

It seems that our building, or at least my department, has a serious issue with getting kids to turn in their work on time (we need to see if this is a more widely spread environmental/population thing, or something to do with what we are doing as a department.

I know the argument against docking points.  That's grading behavior, it's not grading skills, which are, in theory the purpose of assessments/ assignments.

I also know that my own experiments along the continuum have not supported not docking points:

Full disclosure: I HATE the sliding scale percentage for late work.  I like one thing that gets applied across the board, so I don't have to worry about tracking when things came in, etc, etc.

I think my first year I had a sliding scale (I was a long term sub, so I had to use what the regular teacher had in place).

My first few years at Park, I gave 50% for late work across the board.  I occasionally had kids carry on about getting docked for turning things in late the day they were due after working furiously for the hour to do the work that was to have been finished before class.

Last year I allowed late work (no penalty) with a late slip signed by a parent explaining why it's late, but then it turned into something that was more work for me, and, quite frankly, I didn't want to do the follow up and nagging to make sure the kids did it.

This quarter was 80% off for late work, and I was buried. BURIED. Especially at term-end.

Today, Mrs. Bluebird was on a similar thought pattern:
The Team decided after we returned from our Christmas break to really lay down the law on late work. We have kids (and parents) who beg and plead for us to accept late work and we did to a certain extent, often with penalties involved. However, none of the 8th grade teachers accept it, except in the cases of kids on IEP's who get extended time, so it's about time our critters start getting their work in on time so they'll be able to hit the ground running when they make it to eighth grade.

The results have been amazing.

It's been three weeks and I probably have the highest number of assignments turned in I've ever seen. Word got around really quick when we implemented this policy. A few kids whined and whimpered, but once their friends saw that we Really Truly Weren't Accepting Late Work, they got the message. Work is getting turned in. Granted, it's not always complete, but it's better than the big fat nothing we were used to seeing.
 Maybe it's the turn-around we need.  We shall see.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Yesterday, my little friend whose mother seems to care more about his success than he does copped all kinds of attitude with me.  Apparently, he "always asks for help" and I "never help him."  Because really, friends, I'm all about setting kids up for failure.  That's why I've been contacting her moms at least once a week for the past three.  Oh, I know what it is: I make the kids ask me actual questions.  "I don't get it" requires a specific question before I will help; making them think through it before I help makes me an unreasonable biz-nitch.  And of course, there's the ever popular, "we never learned this in the other teacher's class last quarter."  Except, sweetie, that I knoow you learned this in MY class last year, and we've been working with these skills all this quarter.  ROOOAAAAAAARRRRRRRRR.

Slept in this morning, which always feels delicious.

I got up, graded ( is a beautiful thing, friends) the 17 Macbeth Explications I told the kids would be graded yesterday , then rewarded myself with a nap.

I've also been watching the reverse-order Lethal Weapon marathon all day.  Gotta love Mel from back in the day when he kept his anti-Semitism on the inside.  Those guys sure spend a lot of time underwater.

To make sure I didn't get too giddy with the post-grading flush, I found out that a friend of mine who is the only World Language teacher at her semi-rural school in MN just got cut down to half-time. She teaches Spanish and French.  In addition to worrying about my friend and how she is going to make ends meet, I can't help but worry about those kids.  She teaches at a 7-12 school.  Now those kids have only a half-time teacher?

Friday, January 22, 2010

I'm wearin' mah cranky pants.

So, rather than subjecting you to it, I thought I would share the only real laugh I got all day.

I definitely, definitely need some rest.  Definitely missed Burn Notice last night.  Definitely.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

If I didn't love them, I might have to kill them all.

Some tastes for today:

"Ms. MIKD, can I see you during lunch about my grade?" asks one of my honors rats.

Sure, sweetie.  I will be in the teachers' lounge.  Knock on the door and I will come out.
"What is my grade right now?"

You've got an A-minus at 94%; you're just kissing the break to a full A.

"Is that with today's presentation in there?"


"Oh, okay.  Because I had a B, and I don't get Bs.  What did I get on the presentation?"

With the extra credit for being a recorder last week, 103 out of 100 points.


Nice job, sweetheart.

"I was so worried.  I don't get Bs."

Honey, a B in this class is something to be proud of.  You've got to settle down.

"I know.  But I've never gotten below an A-minus on a paper, and then in this class I was getting B-minuses and I just didn't understand why.  But then I finally looked at the comments and stuff on and it made sense."

I'm glad it made sense.  I'll see you in a little bit.

Okay, friends,  what about this is making me insane?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


NY Times Op-Ed by substitute teacher Carolyn Bucior.

The hat-tip goes to Mrs. Mimi, who lays out why the lady is shooting at the wrong target.

Mimi mentions that teachers work in germ-infested petri dishes (I like to call the children my little outbreak monkeys) in response to this:
As much as I became frustrated by the lack of training and support, I was most angered by how many days teachers were out of their classrooms. Nationwide, 5.2 percent of teachers are absent on any given day, a rate three times as high as that of professionals outside teaching and more than one and a half times as high as that of teachers in Britain. Teachers in America are most likely to be absent on Fridays, followed by Mondays.
I was struck by the comparison to British schools, so I snooped a little.  According to Woodlands Junior School,
English schools have three terms (semesters), separated by vacations.
The summer vacation lasts for about 6 weeks from July 20 to September 4; winter and spring vacation both last two weeks, from December 21 to around January 6 and March 25 to around April 5, respectively.
The new school year starts in September, at the end of summer vacation.
The three terms are:
Autumn Term: September to December
Spring Term: January to April
Summer Term: April to July

Each term lasts for approximately thirteen weeks and there is a week half term break in the middle of each term.
By my count, that means that teachers never go more than seven weeks without a week and a half long break in between.  Maybe I'm wrong (and I know I'm being defensive), but I think if I had even a week off every two months, I might not get so run down.  If I didn't get so run-down, I wouldn't have two or three instances a year when my body breaks down on a Thursday or Friday night and I can't get up for three days (never mind the craziness last month).  Maybe, if I had a block of time like that off every two months, it would be easier to get in to see the doctor without having to miss school.

Additionally, most trainings/conferences run over Fridays or Mondays so that we lucky ducks can spend part of our weekend being trained without the district paying for a sub.

Is it fair subs are being put into classrooms without appropriate training or education prerequisites?  No.  Is anyone forcing them to keep the job?  No.  Is there anything to keep them from getting some of that training on their own?  No.  I know they would have to pay for it themselves, but I am STILL paying for my college education and will be doing so for the foreseeable future.  Them's the breaks.

I have more to say about this, but I have to get to bed (so I don't have to call in on Monday, haha), and I wanted to post something meaty-ish before things got ugly, end-of-term-grading-wise.

Sunshine on a cloudy day

Yes, I was at school until 7pm calling the parents of students who are in danger of failing (term ends Friday).

However, until 4 I was working with my speecher who is an absolute delight.

Yes, I still have 50 essays to grade.

However, the kids have been working on their Midsummer Night's Dream scenes, and they are just a hoot.  Performances start tomorrow, and I can't wait.

I think I will make it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Excrement+HVAC Blower=Sucky Day

Had to talk to five different kids about plagiarism today.

One "thought we were supposed to" paraphrase Shakespeare by copying an internet source word for word.

Another "thought he had changed it enough" by substituting every fifth word from an internet site.

We use

We have all year.

The kids can see their reports and re-submit up until the due date/time.

What the hell.  Boo.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Remember the reason

"To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust."--MLK, Jr. in his Letter from Birmingham Jail

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blargh, or Sometimes I wish I could tell them to leave me alone.

From Student X:
I have some questions about how you graded my paper. First of all, the comment you left that I didn't cite a source correctly, the website was just on a line below the rest of the citition. It was all one citation and i think you thought the website was just thrown in as a separate citation. You also said my margins are too big, but on my last paper you told me they were too small, so I don't see how I get graded down for that. I also have a lot of trouble understanding the rubric. If i'm correct though it says my paper is "clear and focused" but at the same time "the paper has no clear sense of purpose or central theme". I really don't understand how those two statements aren't completely contradictory. I'd like to know if you'd look over these things and adjust my grade if necessary without me revising it or before i revise it. I also don't really understand how i talked about plot too much, because I would imagine that's the main way to use the text to support my thesis. I think that's everything i was wondering about, but if i remember anything else i'll send another message.
My reply:
Please remember that conventions (eg capitalization) matter regardless of the medium. I think we talked about tone after your last note. This is reading as very accusatory and almost rude.

Your website citation is missing parts as well as being punctuated incorrectly (you have an example in your student planner). In addition, it's hard to tell if you included all the needed information, since you did not cite the website in your essay.

Margins should be 1". We've discussed that in class.

You will notice that the rubric has a spectrum between the 5 and the 3 scores; you received marks between the two, which means there are attributes from both 5 & 3.

Retelling the plot is not the same as providing evidence. Focus on using specific examples, ie quotations, to support the main ideas in each paragraph. I've read the works: I do not need your to tell me everything that happens. Your job is to analyze the examples, and that is what is currently missing.

No, I will not regrade your essay before you do the rewrite. Part of the work of writing is figuring out how to focus on what is important and cut out what is not.
X's reply:
I apologize if my messages sound rude. I don't mean them to at all. I'm still confused on margins because you told me not to use 1" margins on the first paper so on the comparative analysis I used increased margins just like you told me to. Now you say i need 1" again, and I don't understand why. I see now that i put a coma after the day in my citation. I also understand that it has a lot missing so may be hard to read. The date i gave is the date accessed not the date of the website in case that was confusing. The reason so much is missing is because the website didn't provide the other information I needed. It's a sort of message board kind of posting site if you see what I'm saying. Because of that, there wasn’t one author. It was just a bunch of people with usernames posting things. Should I put in a username as the author or the original speaker of the quote I used instead of a website author? I still don't really understand the rubric. It's really hard to read for me. I don't quite get what you're saying about five attributes. It just seemed like i got two scores in parts and that the descriptions of those scores contradicted each other. Since i don't understand it though there is the possibility I'm reading it wrong. I still also don't understand how you want my papers changed to talk less about plot. I don't really know how to analyze the examples if that's not what i did. Maybe I'm just not an abstract thinker, but if you can’t change my grade without a revision, can i revise it just changing the margins and other small things like leaving out "comparative analysis" in the header? I want a better grade but don't entirely understand what I should change in the paper itself to get one. Again, if any of this sounds rude, it's completely accidental. I always try to respect my teachers.
My final reply:
Retell the story less. Introduce short quotations that illustrate your theme in relationship to the plot element. Explain the relationship. Compare how that is done with how it is done in the other text, repeat.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I'm just a girl who cain't say no

On Thursday, a nervous looking young man who I have not previously met came to talk to me.

He started to tell me about how he wants to be an IB Diploma Candidate (did I tell you the IB accepted us?).  And he wants to take pre-calc this year.  And he would have to switch into a different hour of my honors class.  The one that already has 37 kids in it.  And the counselor told him he would have to ask me if he could be moved into the class.

I said, "Sweetie, look around this room.  There are 36 desks in here right now.  Where am I going to put two more?"

Blink.  Blink.

"Okay, honey.  You can switch."

The truth is, I never turn kids away.  If they want to do the work, I want them.

However.  So far this year, I have had the laziest honors students ever.  Four times this year I have been at school three hours after the final bell because I have been calling the parents of students who are failing my class.

Let me also point out that kids only fail if they don't turn in work.  I don't grade a lot of daily work in honors because the proof is in the pudding of their grades on the more final assessment, and these kids don't (always) need the the external motivation of points to get them to do the daily work so they will be ready for the bigger assessment (unlike my 11th graders, who, honest to Pete, sometimes won't open their book unless they know they will get points for doing the assignment.  I'm not sure about how to get 17-year-olds intrinsic motivation.  The students who do well in my class all have something hanging over their heads in order to...sorry, I digress).

Of 66 children, I only got 54 Comparative Analysis.  They were due on the first day of winter break., with humangous classes, lazy asses mean tons more work for me.

And I kind of resent that the counselor put me in the position of having to say no to this kid's face or have another body in my overflowing classroom (the other class is 35).  MAYBE WE NEED ANOTHER SECTION.

I've already been thinking about setting the tone more specifically with the new term.  Now...I don't want to scare kids off, but for Pete's sake, I cannot nag them all the time, or I will lose my cotton-pickin' mind, and it will be ugly for everyone involved.

Friday, January 15, 2010

How I feel about the papers I FINALLY finished grading today


4th hour today

"I'm going to be really honest with you.  I had a crappy day, and I'm really tired of those of you who really need to find a time machine so you can go back kick yourself in the butt wanting me to do more work  now than you have all semester.  There are four days left in the quarter, and if you come back to me next week wanting me to help you with all your missing work, I'm going to be really mad.  I can't really work with you today because I am afraid that I might say something nasty.  You are going to read silently.  In 30 minutes, I will put your study questions on the board so you can work on them."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ah, THAT's why I do this!

Today I got to spend some time with a girl who started at CoolioSchoolio this quarteras a junior, and we worked through her Drama piece for speech.  This child is full of joy, and I will admit that I cherry-picked her when we were assigning students to coaches.

Sunshine Of My Life was working on her character analysis while she waited for the desperate slackers who are trying to make up 8 weeks worth of work in the 5 days we have left of the quarter.

The monologue she chose is right about 6.5 minutes currently (time limit is 8), which actually excites me, because it means that we have 1.5 to play with while we keep cutting and forming.  The piece did not really impress me at first.  I was afraid it could go the way of awful drama, which sounds like country songs without a melody (my wife left me, my dog died, and now my truck's broke).

However.  We started talking about what's really going on with the character.  I talked a little about determining the character's Victory/Goal for any given action.  SOML asked me if we could pause for a second...while she got her notebook.

Friends, the child took notes.

I did not tell her to do so.


Anywho, the discussion continued, and we got to the idea that the crisis is the rational woman versus her depression.

It's gonna be good.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Teaching Speechers to SLAP

Perhaps you have heard of SLANT:

  • Sit up
  • Lean forward
  • Act like you’re interested
  • Nod
  • Track the teacher
 Someone at school shared it, and I spent some serious time working with the tenth graders at the beginning of the year on being polite, decent human beings.

Today my friendfriend and I came up with an altered acronym specifically for Speech rounds:
  • Sit up
  • Lean forward
  • Act like you're interested
  • Participate
At our last all-team meeting (distressingly poorly attended, BTW) before the season starts, we discussed what participation looks like: laughing when it's funny, making occasional eye contact with the speaker, making mental notes of ideas, not staring off into space and picking your nose, etc.

Also, the importance of positivity (not badmouthing themselves, others, or judges), and celebrating our successes in a manner befitting a graduation ceremony, rather than a kegger.

Chris Sacca's 6 Ways to Help in Haiti

Hat tip Dooce.

And pray.

This morning I heard on MPR that 1 in 8 children in Haiti die before they turn five.

Pray.  And give.  And pray some more.

What I learned from the interwebs today:

Snails hatch from eggs.

The wonders of the world amaze me.  I hope they never stop doing that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Joy for Today

Today, C Jane's post is My Brief History with Beyonce's Single Ladies.

It made me think about how much I love that song.
And that video.

And it led me to this.  Which reminds me that I love dancing.  A lot.

It also included the video below, and the whole thing rocks my freakin' face off.

So, the moral of this post is DANCE! Fall down, get up, shake that ass!

BTW, today I saw the PT, and WE KNOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME! All this nasty bidness was caused by a pinched nerve. I shall now commence getting better.

Long day? Have a tall, post.

As you may have guessed, I read a lot of blogs.  I split them up by four categories:
  1. Friends
    • People I knew before meeting them online
      • Friends who live across the States
      • Traveling family members (my snot little cousins insist on growing up and becoming adults)
      • Friends who are serving in the Peace Corps overseas
  2. Fun--Stuff that makes me purely happy to look at; all learning is purely coincidental
    • The Oatmeal has been making the rounds of the teaching blogosphere (yeah, I said it) lately because of his recent posts on Words You Need to Stop Misspelling (I wish I could use this with my classes unedited, but...) and How to Use an Apostrophe
    • LOLcats, LOLdogs, Daily Squee--Don't you judge me! (Name that show!)
    • Pioneer Woman--I think everyone needs someone like Ree Drummond in their life.  She's a Renaissance woman.  I'm lucky to have some in-person models, but Ree is on-demand.
    • Dooce--Definitely, definitely (name that movie!) have a blog crush on Heather Armstrong.  I love her writing style.
    • XKCD--comics about love and computers, and math, and stuff--helps me relate to my hubby.
    • Elements of Style--about design, not Strunk's book
    • AltF--John Michael Cooper and his wife take some of the most beautiful photos I've ever seen.  Looking at their bridal, wedding and engagement shots is kind of a sweet pain for me: they are so gorgeous, and I can't go back 16 months and have them do my wedding photos.
    • C Jane Enjoy It--a woman leading a joyful life and sharing it with the interwebs
    • etc.
  3. Interest--Stuff I can learn from
    • Lifehacker--how to do everything, better--If you decide to add them to your feed, you're going to want the "Top Posts" feed, or they will totally flood your feedreader.
    • Get Rich Slowly--JD and his crew can help your get your books straight and think about what you spend and why.  Also how I learned that my real hourly wage is $13.90 and hour.  Boo.
    • Unclutterer offers ideas on organization of your physical and mental space.  I also need to give a shout-out to Erin's book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week. It's the best of it's genre I've read: sense of humor, reasonable guidelines, easy to read.  Oddly enough, today's post is about what your free time is worth to you.
    • etc.
  4. Teachers
    • Look at My Happy Rainbow!--Dude is a kindergarten teacher, and he's all up in the meanigfulness and cuteness and higher level thinking.
    • Joanne Jacobs worked for Knight Ridder, and now shares and comments on stories about education.
    • It's Not All Flowers and Sausages--Mrs. Mimi has sass in all the right places.
    • The English Teacher's Companion--Jim Burke was my very first teacher crush.  I sometimes wish I had more of the answers he seems to keep on the tip of his brain.  Sometimes I have to save his posts for later because they require deep thinkings.   BTW, have you joined the English Teacher's Companion Ning yet?
    • Epiphany in Baltimore writes about life as an English teacher.  He's got a good mix of real life, inside and outside of school.
    • The Line--Dina hasn't posted tons lately, but when she does, it's good English teaching juice.
    • dy/dan is my first blog crush.  He teaches math, thinks hard about why he's teaching what he's teaching and how he's doing it, and is always looking forward.  Sometimes he pisses me off, too, which is always good.
    • Huff English--I love Dana's blog.  She's a great sharing resource, and she also started up the Understanding by Design Wiki.  You should join.
When I started this list, I was all ready to write about a particular post, but this list seems to have gotten away from me.  Another post, I guess.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Are they so SMART?

Lately, the Tempered Radical has been wound up about interactive whiteboards (most recently here). I have a SMARTBoard, and I've mentioned before that doing without it makes me sad.

TR has a solid argument, though:
Even the “Internet access, video and audio presentations, and digital assessments” that Ed Week spotlights can all be done with a data projector alone.  The actual whiteboard does nothing to enhance any of these activities.
Now, Marzano goes on to argue that he’s an ardent believer that technology can make good teaching easier—and he’s right.  But Interactive Whiteboards don’t. 
Instead, they are disarmingly insidious gadgets—so stinking sexy to people making purchasing decisions that they're almost irresistible whether or not there are proven strategies for meaningful implementation.
I can't argue this from beyond my own classroom experience, but I have also worried about spending on SMARTBoards when I could get a whole wad of netbooks for my classroom instead.  Sigh.

Something to chew on, regarding the use of new technology, from Unclutterer:
What inspires me most about the Amish isn’t their alleged simplicity (which you can probably infer I don’t necessarily believe is simpler), but their ability to give up a convenience after experiencing it. It is extremely difficult to give up a technology (or habit or vice or any possession) that you greatly enjoy. The fact that the Amish know of the technologies and ways of our world, have even experienced them, and are willing to give them up if they start to interfere with their priorities in life is what I find impressive. They easily get rid of the distractions that get in the way of what matters most to them.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"All My Life's a Circle"

One of the things that I love about my job, about working with kids, and about working with literature, is that everything fits together. Recently, Jim Burke wrote about "teacher brain," when you see connections between you life in and out of school everywhere you turn

I had one of those moments last week: I had been trying to find a way to really get through to kids that what we call "Shakespeare's works" have been through so many different hands that changes have inevitably been made, and we never had a copy that was the one true thing to begin with.  That night, I was mulling over my crummy explanation at dinner, when my cousin started talking about seeing Avatar at our local theater's new "Omni" screen, which isn't really that fabulous.  It hit me: what we have from Will (I like to pretend we're close, personal friends, so sometimes I call him Will.  I don't think he stood to much on formalities) is a lot like old-school pirated movies where once in awhile the picture gets shaky and people sometimes walk in front of the screen.

I don't have any real deep thoughts to share here, but I did want to share one of my favorite songs with you.  I was raised by a mother who missed the sixties but never bought into to much of the seventies, and I think this guy holds that true spirit.
"All My Life's a Circle" by Harry Chapin with his brother Tom

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Breathe in, breathe out

Yesterday I heaved out all my frustration here.  I apologize for the rant.

While I slept away most of the exhaustion and frustration of yesterday, I'm still fighting the mucus monster that is trying to swallow my head.  I thought I'd bring you some tastes of people more able than I.

Oh, and I can't read when I'm this sick, so they're mostly pictures.



Friday, January 8, 2010

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!? or, MIKD and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The good thing about today: I did not go to sleep with gum in my mouth and wake up with it in my hair.

Welcome to Crazytown. Feel free to take a nibble, or just RUN, RUN AWAY.

A. Was shaking due to exhaustion when I woke up.  Am now doing so again.

B. A student, apparently thinking I am an idiot, changed five words from a paragraph on Sparknotes and thought this was sufficient mental effort on his part to get a grade for it.  So he turned it in on  Really.  Really.

C. This student said "This is bullshit" when I informed him that he would not receive credit for the assignment and no, he could not just redo it and get the points (Have I mentioned previously that plagiarism, in addition to making more work for me, REALLY, REALLY makes me angry?  And you don't want to see me when I'm angry.)  He then argued with me when I told him to go down to the office.  NOW.  Did I mention that this physically imposing child likes to loom over me and also only asks me questions when I'm sitting down?  I need to bring back the "step into my office" chair.

D. While I was talking the kids through the plot of A Midsummer Night's Dream (Geez-heck, do I love that play!), a girl sitting in the front row was texting.  I made eye contact, asked her to "put it on my desk," and then kept talking.  When I was done and we were transitioning, I said, "[Insert child's name here], set the phone on my desk."
"It's not a phone, it's an i-Thingy."
"I don't care what it is.  Set it on my desk."
"It's not mine."
"It doesn't matter.  Set it on my desk."
"But I'm leaving right after lunch, so can you bring it to the office right away so I can get it back?"
"I will bring it to the office at lunch.  Set it on my desk."
"[Insert under-the-breath sigh of deep suffering and snottiness here.]"

E. Fast-forward five minutes.
Same child: "Can I go to the bathroom?"
"Is it an emergency?  There are only ten minutes until lunch and I don't want you to miss what we are doing."
"I have to go NOW."

F. Fast forward to the lunch bell.  I see the SAME DARN CHILD ask another student to write a note and sign it for her.  IS SHE KIDDING ME?
After I drop her phone off and mention my suspicion that she has forged a note to leave to the attendance secretary,I run into the girl who was doing the signing.
"Hey, [Insert generally pretty straight-laced student's name here], what was [Apparently a Rebel Without A Freaking Cause] asking you to write?"
"It was a note.  I'm sorry.  Am I in trouble?"

[Insert call to mother of said rebel using up my lunch period.]

G.  3.5 hours after school calling of parents whose scholars did not see fit to turn in the essay that was due before Christmas.

H. The dog pooped in his kennel.

I'm going to lay down, and maybe move to Australia.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On being thankful: making your own luck

Over at Look at My Happy Rainbow, dude is on a roll. Today he wrote about penny luck.
"Living in Manhattan, my grandpa loved walking the streets. He particularly loved finding money on the street. While he often found quarters, dimes, nickels, and even the occasional bill, his collection mainly consisted of pennies.

“My grandfather is ninety-one years old.” I told them.
...“Let’s put the penny up on the board so we can all see it and remember how lucky we are, like your grandpa.”

He came up and gently handed it to me. I took a piece of tape and put it up high so we’d all see it and remember my grandpa and how lucky we are each day.
Today I was looking for things to be thankful for (I'm really struggling throughout the day), and I just kep repeating to myself, "I go pee with the door shut.  I go pee with the door shut.  I go pee with the door shut...."  I sang, "Just keep swimming" to myself in the shower when I got home.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Even more to be thankful for

Seeing this:

made me remember my thankfulness list from when I was tutoring Kindergarten:
  • I can tie my shoes by myself
  • I don't need someone to help me take a drink from the drinking fountain
  • I go to the bathroom with the door closed (which reminds me: when I was in K as a student, I once slammed the very, very, very heavy door to the restroom in our classroom on my thumb.  Did I mention the door was heavy? OW-WA!  That same year, I slammed my thumb in a locked car door with no one within hearing distance to save me.  How I never did more serious physical damage to myself growing up remains a mystery.)
Though these things might be small, consider what your life would be like without them!

Something to be thankful for

Since I have been ill, I have been blessed with some great subs. One woman, in particular, actually moved the kids forward, curriculum-wise. In addition, the kids liked her!

The best subs I've had are all retired English teachers. Today, one of them was in for my next-door-neighbor buddy. At lunch, my mentee was talking about how Teach for America has become a means for some (not all of them, obviously!) Ivy League grads to pad their resumes before entering the "real" workforce. Then, the gentleman subbing for my bud said that he began teaching in California in 1958 with no qualifications other than his degree in what we now call Mass Communications. He spent the next few years completing an English degree and getting his teaching credentials. Sounds more stringent than what they're doing in some places now to get teachers into classrooms.

BTW, this daily blogging thing may be an excellent catalyst for me.  I feel dumb admitting this, but I just figured out that I can save a post on Blogger without publishing it.  Now I have a couple more posts in the hopper for a rainy day, just from this one!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Time to Start Boundin'!

Thanks to Look at my happy rainbow!: Boundin' for giving me a mental kick in the ass.  I have been feeling sorry for myself over the past few days because I can't kick this illness.  Yesterday the doc told me he still doesn't know what the problem is, but we're going to try a couple of things before doing an MRI.

Anywho, Rainbow's post included a link to Pixar's short "Boundin'."

a.  I'm not sure this could be any darn cuter.
b.  I need to shake it off and just keep swimming.
c.  My attitude is what needs an adjustment more than anything else.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Return

Though getting out of bed was tough today (sub zero temps outside did not help), I did make it to school.  I was proud of myself for only being a couple of minutes late (I know, I know...but I figure reversing 12 days of nocturnal living requires a little leeway).  I felt pretty good until I went up the stairs.  Then I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  I made it through today, but will not be at school tomorrow.

On the teaching front, today we started Lit Circles in American Lit.  One of the kids who was in reading recovery last year finished The Old Man and the Sea over break, and he was so proud of himself.  I think a lot of the kids completed reading their books over break, which both surprised me and didn't.  I wasn't sure how much the draw of not having reading homework this week would actually affect their reading over the break.  Of course, there are a few who didn't read and won' was a little disorganized in terms of the kids getting their feet under themselves and work through their roles.  I'm interested to see if the kids will hold each other accountable.

On the speech front, I wound up showing the girls Anna Deveare Smith and Alice Walker.  They both liked what I found, so the next step is getting a script and forming a poetry program.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


One day missed, but I am trying to pick up and start again.

Tomorrow marks the return to school, with only three weekends left until our first speech meet.  Tomorrow morning I meet with two of our newbies, and I don't have a piece for either of them.  I have a vision of what I want, bu I don't know what that will translate to, and I didn't make it back to the bookstore to find anything (I managed to avoid the siren call of the stores after the holiday, even on Boxing Day).

I hate not being ready for the girls, but not as much as I hate being behind in my grading.

I've now contracted my husband's cold on top of my pre-existing lurgy, so the thought of being upright all day tomorrow is not pleasurable.  I'm hoping the doctor will be able to tell me more tomorrow.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Day 1, 2010

Going to try out NaBloPoMo.

I'm still not at my best, whatever the theme may be, but I have cleaned 75% of my house for the annual shindig that's tomorrow.

This afternoon is more cleaning, some cooking with the Mutti and OM, and probably going to see The Young Victoria.  I don't know when I last saw a movie, and I'm looking forward to this one in particular.  I know a fair amount about the results of the Victorian Age, but not so much about the lady herself, other than she really loved Albert and liked to dedicate things to him.

As usual, I have squandered my Winter Break spending time with the fam, reading mind-candy and playing on the interwebs; not a single piece of student work graded, but I'm having trouble feeling guilt or will to do them.