Archive for March, 2010

Affairs of state

Conferencing yesterday with an NLNRU student who’s writing a novel set in a certain period of our state’s history, I confessed my relative ignorance of our state’s history and blamed it on growing up in another state (as I did in this post). Today, for unrelated reasons–actually, for no reason I can think of except that I have to go to the public library to return a DVD (and by the way, I’m annoyed that I can’t renew this DVD online. It’s three episodes long, so it’s not unreasonable that I’m not finished with it, and believe me, no one else is waiting for it), I used the power of the internet to find this wonderful list of state holidays and which states celebrate them.

In unrelated news, it’s Passover, so I’m craving a Twinkie.

Long time gone

Over the weekend, I went to a reading by students in my program at a bookstore over by NLNRU.  In the milling around afterwards, I met up with a soon-to-graduate student who introduced me to his girlfriend as “This is Meansomething, I took a class with her a long time ago, when I first started this program.” 

“A long time ago” = two years.  Two years is an unimaginable eternity for the Snork Maiden, so by about 25, “a long time” represents a lot of shrinkage, I guess.  Still–two years! 

This guy’s work has  changed quite a lot in the interim, though, which probably reinforces his sense that he was just a completely different person way back then, in 2008.

I’m going in to NLNRU early today, taking advantage of the first weekday of SA spring break to get down there and get some work done.  I will find out what the morning commute is like–not looking forward to that so much–although it should be on the light side of whatever it usually is, because most schools are closed this week.

In the time of the butterflies

Goal: 20 hours of writing during spring break. 

SA is finally on spring break,  O frabjous day!

I took my book ms. out for coffee this morning, figuring that (just as I told my freshman students about their most recent paper draft) since I hadn’t looked at it in a while, I would be able to view it with fresh eyes.  Indeed, this is a good thing to do.  Now I’m excited about getting back into it.

There are lots of things I’d like to write about.  More than two years into teaching at SA, I’m still discovering what’s weird and special about teaching high school, and there’s lots to reflect on.  Over at NLNRU, my program has had some successes and some setbacks.  I’m not really happy with the job I’m doing with my current class, but I’m making adjustments and trying to improve what’s within my power to improve. 

The Snork Maiden is on break this week, too.  We’re not going anywhere much that I know of.  We’ll celebrate Passover here with family, hang around–and tidy up–the house, have her friends over, maybe visit a local attraction or two, and then the following week I’m off to AWP in Denver. 

NLNRU already had its break, so the net effect of SA’s spring break is a reduction in my workload to a bit more than what I usually do for NLNRU when SA is in session–but that’s still a reduction, and I’m a very happy camper about that.

Getting past no

Probably a lot of us who wind up doing something in administration got there because we like to find ways of making “Yes” happen. 

And then we realize that no matter how constructive we are, a lot of administration involves saying “No.”  Sometimes to people who deserve it, and sometimes to people who don’t.

A student of mine wrote a cranky email to my NLNRU chair, and I had to weigh in on what to say to the student and how.  “No” was the right answer in this case, with a lot of padding tucked lovingly around it.  But I still didn’t like saying it, or helping it get said.

A burnt-out case

Well, almost the end of the first week of March and I’m not sick (knock wood), but I am TIRED.  We had a wonderful visit at both SA and NLNRU by an esteemed writer friend of mine, and I enjoyed having my friend see both my habitats and getting to talk at luxurious length.  Then, though, I had to catch up on the work I’d fallen behind on–am still not quite as caught up as I’d like, and am not ready for Monday’s graduate class!  But Dr. Tea and I did finish prepping our workshop for Monday morning–it’s on teaching poetry, and a few of our very own colleagues have signed up for it, as well as people who teach at other schools. 

Dr. Tea and I also co-chaperoned the community service event this afternoon and helped our students restock shelves at a local food bank.  They were all seniors, so once again, all but one were students I haven’t taught and don’t really know, but Dr. Tea has taught most of them, so they were mostly jokey with her and a bit aloof, or simply shy, with me.  Once again I reflect that becoming a known quantity within the school is a powerful thing and chiefly a function of time.  I was more at ease than I would have been a year ago, but starting next year, I’ll have taught more than 1/3 of the students in all four grades–heck, it might be almost half, actually, and I bet that will make a noticeable difference.

Here comes the weekend AAAAGGGHH

Friday evening: Snork Maiden soccer practice/Shabbat dinner

Saturday: Before 10 AM: A run, grading, laundry. 

10:00–Drive to in-laws’ for brunch.

12:00–Leave to chaperone SA students at food bank.

4:00–Home again, maybe a nap?

6:00–At my sister’s to take care of the kids with my mom and the Snork Maiden (I’ve told Stubb this one is optional for him!).


Sunday:  Morning: relaxing with Snork Maiden (Stubb playing the theremin at groovy church service); laundry/household stuff; grading; preparing for a workshop and class on Monday.

3:30–Leave for Snork Maiden’s soccer game.

8:00–NLNRU event.

10:00– Bed.

What I can do to make the weekend a bit less crazy:  Use Friday at SA really well; get a chunk of grading done; plan (and make photocopies for) Monday’s events; cultivate a good attitude, for these are, after all, good things.

Wacky Wednesday

So it’s the third day of March and no one in my family is sick, though the Snork Maiden is finishing up a course of antibiotics for a nasty skin infection, and I’m due to go back to the ENT next week. February was a rough month; my motto for March is Health for Everybody!

Today I asked two of my classes to work together to create a rubric for their next assignment. They have seen multiple versions of my writing rubric, which I tweak from one assignment to the next, but which is always three major categories: content, organization, and mechanics. I know that not everyone is a fan of rubrics, but I believe that they help my ninth-graders perceive their own strengths and weaknesses and track their own progress. 

This current assignment is a prepared speech from a Shakespeare play they’re studying, so it’s more of a performance, and I had sat down to craft the rubric myself (in part because I wanted to reassure the students who don’t believe they have any native acting ability–and if they don’t think they do, then they probably don’t!–that there were many variables they could control).  Then it occurred to me that this might be a good opportunity to ask them to think about what constitutes a good performance on this assignment and to tell me how they hoped to be evaluated. 

We brainstormed some line items and combined them into categories–four in one class, three in another, though the rubrics did not differ much otherwise.  The speech is worth 20 points, so then they haggled over the distribution of points.  In both cases, the classes came up with very reasonable rubrics, not that different from what I would have designed myself, covering general quality of preparation (as evinced in delivery, pronunciation, and ease with the language), tonal choices, and physical choices, which I typed up and copied while they were watching part of the film of the play we’re studying.  The whole exercise took 20-25 minutes.

Now I’m thinking that I might have them test their rubrics by asking them to evaluate one another, which I often did when I taught public speaking at 2YC.  What do you think?

The groves of academe

As you may remember, I taught a year-long junior course last year and a junior elective, for a total of–if memory serves–about 24 juniors (of a graduating class of something like 110).  I wrote 10 college recommendations, and some of those students have already been admitted to schools with early action/early decision or rolling admissions.  As What Now? warned me, they don’t always come and tell me when they’ve been admitted.  (And I don’t necessarily like to ask.)  I do know that one of my students was thrilled to be admitted early to a fabulous women’s college in NYC, and that another was disappointed to be rejected early from the university that my sister always mocks because its athletic teams are represented by a color (rather than, I guess, a leprechaun or something).  Another one (though I didn’t write a letter for this one) is up for one of those fabulous scholars programs that nationally selects a few dozen amazing students–my fingers are crossed for this one!

I’m glad I don’t teach seniors, though.  When the early decisions were coming back, they were very distracted and anxious, and I’m sure there will soon be more of the same, as the waves of acceptances and rejections start rolling in again.  There were also some sadly tactless moments, which is one of the reasons I found this article on the website of the National Association for College Admission Counseling so interesting. The title is “Show and Tell: Should High Schools Post College Admissions Results?” The article points out that at some schools, the publicly posted results are cause for community rejoicing, while at others, it’s more about painful, even disastrous, comparisons.

At SA, as the acceptances come in, the counselors put up little star-shaped cutouts with the names of the schools that have accepted our students. (I think it’s mostly for the parents to see when they come in for their conferences, since the students themselves seem to announce their news on Facebook pretty much the instant it comes in. And the counselors–I’m sure they enjoy seeing the school names go up.)