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Showing posts from December, 2008

2009 Goals

For teachers, New Year's Day isn't our "begin anew" date. For us, it's the first day of school. That means that Jan. 1st is sort of a mid-point, a time for reflection. So where am I on my goals for this year?

I'm still constantly falling behind in grading... I really need to figure out something to do about it. Of course, the first thing I should work on is procrastinating and screwing around instead of grading. Yup, that should be my first step.

To be honest, most of the time I feel like I'm running to catch up. Part of the reason is my procrastination but it's also part disorganization, part poor planning. Both are things I also need to reevaluate in the coming months... am I letting too many seemingly inconsequential things slide? It's so true that the devil is in the details. Plus, I'm one of those people who when confronted with a wide open schedule get nothing done.

Finally, my energy level has been lagging. I'm convinced that this due …


Thomas Friedman had an interesting Op-Ed piece on the 23rd in the NYT - Time to Reboot. The basic premise of the article is that the US citizenry needs to make a shift in thinking from profit to creation. I totally agree, but that's another rant that I could write a very lengthy post about. No, instead I'd like to apply this idea to our education system. A system of creation, rather system of graphs and numbers.

In my experience (and yours may differ), our education system, our communities and we, as parents, aren't really interested in students actually learning. We're interested in numbers. How many African-Native-American-low-income-boys can read at some arbitrary level set by someone who wrote a book one time. If that student went from reading "Clifford The Big Red Dog" because he could read it quick, to reading "Night", do we care? Does this mean his reading level went up or that he finally found a book he liked? By studying the numbers, what ar…

The Road

Several of my students are reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I have to admit that it was a hard book for me to read. The plot centers around a journey after some sort of apocalypse. What happened in never really fully explained - the relationship between the father and son on the journey is more important... or is it the lack of relationships amongst the other people also on the trail? What would people do if there was a complete break down in our society? No law, no infrastructure, nothing. Just you and yours, trying to survive after living in a society where everything comes in trucks to the store. When the trucks don't come, what do you buy? What do you eat? How to heat your home? And while you're trying to gather these things, who do you share with? Or do you? Who can you trust? All interesting questions for a society.

FWIW - Do not read if you have a weak stomach. Do not recommend to those with parents who are squeamish.

I'm impressed that students are reading it. Th…

Juvenile Liaisons

Since it's it's a holiday, I thought it only fitting to bring on the "loose-television" (something my college roommates always accused me of watching). Today it's the documentary channel and a fascinating little movie called "Juvenile Liaisons". It appears to have been shot sometime around 1975 in the UK. Apparently, having police personnel devoted to small juvenile crimes was new or having a success or something... anyways, it's fascinating. The kids are pretty young, seven and up; mostly the children have been caught truant or 'pilfering'.

First, there is a police woman who doesn't taken any crap off of these kids. One 13 year old is being vigorously interrogated because she's been using bad language (telling her mother for F*&%-off). The police woman looks her straight in the eye and tells her only sluts use that kind of language and then asks if she's a slut - and not in a nice manner. She goes on to tell the girl that if …

More Weather

I feel like all of my posts lately have been about the weather, but since it's barely the start of break, I'm avoiding references to school.

I measured it at 12 inches, but a lot of was blown around yesterday. This morning it had a nice crunchy crust over the top. Poor Keavy wasn't quite sure what to make if it and spent a few minutes hopping around trying to figure out how to potty without getting snow in bad places.
The blowing wind formed drifts on the roof and apparently formed a little ice roof in the corner. Kinda cool to look at it and wonder how long it will last? It's snowing again. Earlier this morning it was nice, fluffy and fat flakes. Now it's small, hard, icicle particles - probably creating more ice on the roads.

Another Snow Day

My phone rang at 5.15am this morning, letting me know that there was no school today. Given the state of the roads yesterday, I was a bit surprised... but who am I to complain? Christmas break starts a day early! Of course, I still have to go to school sometime today since I didn't bother to shut everything down for the holiday or gather up the papers to be graded, etc. But that will have to wait until the coffee is done and I'm feeling a bit more motivated.

In the meantime, do you have a classroom website? What do you put on it? Do your students use it? Can I look at it? I've done more than a couple classroom website, but none has really worked out for me... partially because I get too busy to add to it and partially because the students do not access it. I'd really like to see an active one in action.

Back in the day...

Our local paper has a remember when section and today's featured a classroom activity about 50 years ago - it involved working on "gross motor skills, problem solving in a group and character development". That's right, the children were making holiday decorations for some building. I especially like the fact that the teacher was quoted in the newspaper describing the academic purpose of the activity... have we come full circle or was it a hint of what's to come? I'm sure you remember these types of activities. I remember they were a heck of a lot of fun and I'm sure we learned all the things we needed to.

Then I think about education today and read this and this and I start to wonder if we're fighting a loosing battle against a thousand voices who all claim to know what is best for all children, slowly killing all the fun with a death by a thousand cuts.

More Snow?

We did have a snow day on Monday and a delay on Tuesday. Today was our Clubs day, so all the periods were shortened again. The threat of possible snow days on Thursday and Friday loom large and it's nearly Christmas... Can you imagine trying to do work on a week like this? I didn't.

For the first time, I was one of "those teachers". You know, the ones who shows a movie with minimal amount of academic purpose attached to it... yup, for once it was me. I thought about it. I thought about trying to rush through A Christmas Carolto get it done, but in end I decided that it really wasn't worth the stress. Instead, we're finishing up with the movie. If there's no school tomorrow, we might be able to still finish on Friday. If there is school tomorrow, then Friday perhaps we'll read "The Gift of Magi" or something else. We're still looking at character development and picking out the clues of Scrooge's transformation, so the end goal is stil…

Snow Day?

It started as soft, fat flakes and has slowly been turning into a winter storm. If it was a bit colder, I'd say we were actually having a blizzard, but really it's not that bad.

Luckily, living in an area that doesn't get a lot of snow means that many, many people are freaked out right now. Hopefully, one of them is the superintendant. Let's all send thoughts of school cancellations my way. Come on snow day!

Banning the Book

A couple of days ago, a school district in Oregon banned the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indianby Sherman Alexie. A parent objected to a reference to masturbation, which he felt was not appropriate for young teens. Which has to make you laugh out loud at the irony of that statement... or seriously wonder if the parent is suffering from some delusional mental state. Also, apprently a school board member felt that it wasn't appropriate because there are cartoon drawings that were "inappropriate". Sadly, the article didn't mention which ones because I wanted to check it out. Anyways, I think the book is great and all the students who've read it (mostly teen age boys) loved it too. If you live in a conservative area, it may be an issue if you recommend this book to your students.

In the meantime, Sherman Alexie should also send a large "thank you" basket to the Crook County school board for banning his book. I know I'd be running to get…

Snow is on the way

Storm warnings have been flashing over the tv news for the past few days. I guess it finally started about an hour ago. So far, it's not cold enough to snow, but we're getting lots of sideways rain and wind. The lights just flickered twice... can we loose power? And if so, would we go home? or sit in the dark like last time?


Washington state has an advisory program for the high schools. Our school decided to participate in it last year - it was, well... umm.. not well implemented. This year some changes were made in hopes of making it better and in some ways it has been. The bulk, however, is a misable failure.

Twice a month my "advisees" and I look at each other wearily and proceed to do the same damn thing we did last time and the time before that. Guess what? It's the same crap we did last year. The curriculum for this program is quite possibly the most boring curriculum ever developed. And it's not even scripted. I have a degree in English Literature, obtained by reading books about paint mines and city businessmen. I know boring!

If anyone has the ear of the evil creators of this program, please inform them that one does create goal oriented people by shoving the word goals down their throats. It, in fact, makes them less goal oriented because the last thing they want to is think &quo…

How big is the print?

yes, it's getting nearer to the end of the semester. Today I spent 10 minutes with students trying to induce them to read a decent book for AR. One that doesn't include Clifford the Big Red Dog. Not that I'm against ol' Cliff, just that he's a bit below the reading level of your average high school student. Or should be.

While I waxed on about great story lines, exciting plots, and interesting characters the questions burning in the minds of my students were "how many pages does it have?" and "how big is the print?"

Does your school do Accelerated Reading (AR) for high school? Our school has an interesting history with it. Originally, the teachers assigned at least two more novels for students to read during the year than is done currently. Students did not like being forced to read all these boring and stupid books that had no reflection on their own lives. They wanted to be able to choose their own books. So, doing AR was added into the curricul…

Seven Random Things

1. My favorite cereal is Captain Cruch with Cruch Berries. I haven't actually eaten it since college, but the memory of it's sugary goodness lingers.

2. I'm nearly 40 years old. It is possible for me to actually be a grandparent... wow.

3. I prefer to have goose for Christmas. Nothing against turkey, it just doesn't seem all that Christmasy to me.

4. I'm very organized in a very disorganized manner. It almost always looks like a bomb has gone off under my desk, but I mostly know whats in the seemingly random piles. I also forget things that are in them too... but they probably just aren't needed any more.

5. If my time is not heavily scheduled, I will literally become immobile. Procrastination takes over and I get nothing done.

6. All of my jewelry is fake. I loose it all the time, so I never purchase anything I would be sad to loose. If I did get anything real, I'd probably put it some place "safe" and never see it for another 40 years.

7. My lifelong …

Am I Crazy?

I really thought about it... I did. Some years it was good, but most of the time it's been not so much. The Christmas Carol is a tough sell to sophomores who don't have a large vocabulary. They get lost in the extensive descriptions of items that no longer exist in modern society. The "misanthropic ice" is a mind bender for them... how does ice congeal into something that hates people?

Then I realized that I really love the story and all the language and surly there is one student amongst the crowd who will discover a love for Dickens. So we're starting off very slowly with figuring out word meaning in context and building characters through allusion, metaphor and Dickens' favorite, the simile.


As I mentioned previously, I'm always on the look out for new books my students will be interested in reading for themselves. Reading "choice" books are part of their grade throughout the district, but we always have many students that just don't do it. Over the years, I've become pretty flexible on what constitutes a "choice" book, rather than using the list provided by the school library. For example, I had a student who read a book about guns - the history of guns, their invention, how the early versions worked, etc. There were a lot of pictures, but most of the language was technical and definitely more complicated that some books I've seen on the library's list. Plus the kid's hobbie was building guns, so he was very interested. (yes, in rural schools guns occupy an interesting ethical arena... if a kid forgets the hunting rifle in his gun in the truck, does he really HAVE to be tossed out of the school forever?)

Every year we have books…