Archive for September, 2012


So a year or more ago–I’m writing this before school and don’t have time to find the post–I told y’all about how my colleague Elinor always starts a new text (or “unit,” as I still usually forget to call it) with a PowerPoint about the author, the work, the historical context, etc.  I said that I do this sometimes, but it’s not my standard M.O.–if I have a standard M.O., it’s to look at a very short passage from the opening of the work, to read it closely and observe whatever there is to observe, usually stuff about the voice and how it gets established, what the syntax is like, the vocabulary, the imagery, and so on.  It’s the first splash of the work on your face, and I want my students to learn that they can handle it.  Also to get into the habit of turning on all those noticing faculties–not critical faculties at this point, just noticing.

This morning, though, I was putting together a few PowerPoint slides on Hawthorne to get underway with SL, and I found myself predicting what would engage them (Brook Farm!  Hawthorne complaining about manure!  His getting and losing his various jobs!  The picture of the house at 14 Mill Street!) and thinking that my attitude has probably deprived some students of support they could use at the beginning of the novel–or maybe even just a few nice pictures to put in their minds.  Also, just the predictability of starting with a slideshow is comforting for some kids.  I can already tell which ones love my digressiveness–for example, we had a short detour in class on the subject of authors’ papers and what happens to them after the writer dies, and how Ginsberg’s sneakers went to Stanford along with the rest of his papers.  It was totally connected to what we were talking about–an article about the light that Steinbeck’s journals shed on the ending of The Grapes of Wrath–but I could see some of the students totally lighting up and others getting anxious, like Should I write this down and will we be tested on it later?

Have to go teach, but more on this later.  In other ways, the class is becoming–successfully, I think–more student-centered and genuinely discussion-based, and I’m interested in that too.  Maybe that’s partly why I am not cranky about the PP?

gasp gasp weekend gasp

That was a normal week.  I’d forgotten what a normal week is like, I guess.  Oh, except there was a bit less grading than usual–though I did turn around the summer reading quiz in all of my classes.

Classes taught: 13

Teaching hours: 16

Meetings: 3

Recommendation requests: 3

Writing goals met: yes

Other goals met: some

Emails received/read/sent: Oh god please make it stop



Crossing the line

Hi, I’m the maudlin, tipsy, inappropriately tender person who is teaching your children.  Nice to meet you.  Embarrassingly, I dreamed last night about a senior boy who shared a bunch of his worries with me (and also, not incidentally, came out to me) a few days ago.  The dream wasn’t sexual, but it felt very intimate, as though he were my child and I was trying to soothe him.

I actually had three pretty good classes today, including my somewhat challenging senior class, who are challenging mostly because of the passivity of some of the students, including Ted.  Poor old Ted.  He is slipping through like a ghost–so passive that he’s almost boneless.  He looks like a normal person, but I’m not sure there’s anybody home.  I think it might just be possible that he’s stoned some of the time, but I don’t trust my own perceptions on this–despite my interest in my own alteration by drink, I’m notoriously poor at perceiving when other people are altered in some way.  I think tomorrow might be the day to poke a stick into his shell and see if he snaps at it.  (He’s a turtle now?  Wasn’t he just a ghost?  I haven’t even had any wine tonight, really.)

Deirdre seems to be doing okay.  She and I are getting along well, although she hasn’t had any major pieces of graded work back from me yet, so what’s not to get along?

And Betsy seems cheerful enough to be in my class, still somewhat reticent, but peeking out of her shell some, too.

I don’t see Deirdre or Betsy tomorrow, though, so the other students, besides Ted, whom I shall poke with a stick are Jennie, in my homeroom, who needs prodding to show up at writing group, and Robyn, in one of my AP classes, who is underconfident and needs to feel noticed.  Watch out, Jennie, Robyn, and Ted!


I am one of those annoying people who, when she drinks, really can’t shut up about it.  If I go out to dinner with Stubb and order a beer, about halfway through the beer I will announce, “Oh, this beer is nice.  I feel just a little bit less concerned about everything.”  If I actually drink up to the point that I feel a little wobbly when I walk to the bathroom, needing to concentrate just a bit more than usual on walking in a straight line and not bumping into anything, I will peer interestedly at my flushed face in the mirror, then return to the table and say, “I think I’m a little buzzed!  I feel a little woozy.  It feels good.”  Seriously, I am very boring in this way.  Maybe if I drank more often, I would learn to shut up about it.

Anyway, I’ve had two glasses of wine.  Can you tell?

Because I have to drive so much, I often can’t drink when I would really like to; for example, after yesterday’s NLNRU faculty meeting.  I was going to run at the track instead, but I had to get home to the Snork Maiden.  But the meeting was basically okay.  It meant that the week was pretty front-loaded with NLNRU, but I may not have to go there again this week (until an event on Sunday), which would be great.

So far, this year at SA seems to be a particularly good one in terms of connecting with students.  Even in my sixth year, there are still surprises–and growth, too.  I am naturally a somewhat reticent person, and while I think I’ve always been receptive to students who want to talk about personal things, I’ve probably erred on the side of not encouraging it.  (I’ve found it creepy sometimes when teachers seek out personal connection, which of course it can be, but isn’t always.)  This year, I have found myself pressing just a little, if I sense a student wants to talk but needs encouragement.  With my new classes, I’ve become a bit more familiar in my manner, a bit earlier than in previous years.  It’s subtle, but it feels like a change.  It might also be that instead of having mostly ninth-graders, I now have mostly eleventh-graders, and it feels like we kind of know one another already.  I’ve taught maybe a third of them before, and a lot of them I just kind of know and/or they kind of know me.

It feels good.  Kind of like this glass of wine.  Oops, there I go again.  Shut me up already.


Oh, it’s been great to have this weekend.  And it’s still Daylight Savings Time, and the days are still longish, and these have been two quite satisfying weekend days, with not too much planned, and with a lot of tasks struck off the list–and still more to come before bed.  And Stubb will be getting home late tonight and staying until Wednesday.

This week will be the first one in which everything is going full blast (because Labor Day gave us a four-day week and also a miss on my Monday night class).  I have to go to NLNRU both Monday, for class, and Tuesday, for a meeting, thereby missing most of Stubb’s time at home–which obviously I don’t love, but at least he can stay with the Snork Maiden.  And then my “hard day” this term falls on Wednesday this week–“hard day” meaning teaching three classes for four hours in the morning with only a ten-minute break and the usual five-minute passing periods, but with the afternoon free.  Some people do have hard days that have them teaching every period, which, thank goodness, I do not have.  In spring, I’ll have one day on which all four of my classes meet, but there’ll be breaks in the form of assembly and lunch.

Still working out the kinks in the new schedule with all the room-changing and like that.  I have to think ahead a bit more in terms of what I need to take with me from my own room.  Teaching in Gamma’s room is actually quite comfortable, and Gwendolen’s room is okay so far, although it’s a class of somewhat passive seniors and I think it might help to reorganize the chairs somewhat.

I hit the writing goal I set in Dame Eleanor’s group, and set a less ambitious one for this upcoming week–also set a couple of fitness goals, because exercise went pretty much out the window from Tuesday to Friday.  So we have the following goals:

  • 1,000 words on a lyric essay (wrote 270 in a short burst this afternoon)
  • 3 20-minute sessions on another project (did one)
  • 2 bodyweight workouts (did one) and 2 runs

I’ve also got several writing-related tasks I’d like to complete this week:

  • Monday: Create and send simultaneous submission to two different lit mags, P. and G.; write note to conference person.
  • Tuesday: Print the book ms. and send it to: a) Contest B; b) R.M. (person who has expressed interest); order books relevant to independent study
  • Wednesday: Spend half an hour working on application for summer residency (in the afternoon following that long teaching morning)
  • Thursday: order books for spring course
  • Friday: catch up on whatever didn’t get done from this list

I might be overloading on goals; we’ll see.  In case you’re curious, I am still using WorkFlowy, still finding it a big help in keeping all the current lists in front of me.


Quickie Friday post

I’m actually writing this late on Thursday night.  This was a lighter teaching day–a double block of AP, a few free blocks including lunch with the teacher I’m mentoring, and one world lit class.  I turned back one creative writing exercise that I did with the world lit class, so my grading is off to a start.  I went to NLNRU for a meeting this evening and managed to squeeze in a half-hour of writing on one of the projects for which I’ve set goals in Dame Eleanor’s 15-week writing group. Tomorrow is a much busier day, and unfortunately, I’ve got some things left to do–chiefly, a quiz to write, and some refreshments to prepare for a summer-reading-related celebration in my classes.

But I just had a snack, and I feel a second wind coming on–I think I can probably whack out the quiz in half an hour or so, which will make my morning much better, so I guess I’d better do that.  I’m feeling a little cranky, though, about sleep.  It really is hard to get enough when I’m waking up at 6 a.m. at the latest.

A few thoughts:

  • I’m so pleased with the way discussions are going so far in my AP classes.  One of the things I really want to focus on this year was making discussion more student-centered and student-led, more productive and less performative/show-offy.  I like the progress I’ve made so far.
  • Nice discussions this week with two seniors I had last year who asked for college recs, and with a boy I taught freshman year and have again now as a senior.  I probably won’t write him a rec–he’ll ask people he had junior year–but it was nice to hear about his college process and the school in which he’s become very interested.
  • After a year, I can say that sharing a room with Romola has been positive for both of us.  I really do like her and respect her work, and she’s become a colleague I trust and confide in.  I’m so glad it went this way.
  • Very enjoyable conversation with the colleague who is the Snork Maiden’s English teacher this year.  Feeling good about her prospects for a good year, at least academically.  Friendships continue to be complicated and difficult–she feels the lack of a really good girlfriend.  She’s still pretty good pals with a loose group of boys, several of whom are in band, which she has rejoined this year after a year off.  And the band teacher is a terrific woman–I’m really glad she’s gone back to band!

Off to knock out a quiz now.  It’s been a good week, but I expect to enjoy the hell out of this weekend.

Second chances

I password protected the post in which I discuss three students (pseudonymously, but still). Here’s the first part of the post.  Email me if you missed it yesterday and want to read the rest.

Well, I know you’re all dying to find out how the room thing got sorted out. Penelope actually got a pretty clear directive (from the GGE, actually) not to put Dinah in with the senior social studies teacher. I kind of get this, for reasons I oughtn’t to blog about, but I’m also kind of annoyed that all these social studies teachers get all these free periods in their own rooms while we go a-wandering. However, a room was found–Dr. Tea’s, I think–and Elinor is going into it during one period so that Dinah can teach in the room they share, which means two periods for Dinah to teach in her own room. And if you’re keeping score, you know that that’s more than I get this semester. During the other period, Dinah will come into our room as scheduled.

So! Now that that’s settled, we just have…well, everything else. I’m actually not too badly off for the first day of classes on Tuesday, but I do have a ways to go in planning the rest of the first week.

As I plan, though, I’m getting excited about the classes and the students in them. I know I complained about the makeup of my sections, and it’s true that I’m disappointed by not having some students I think are particularly terrific. Actually thinking about what I will do on the first day of class, though, is bringing everyone into the classroom in my mind’s eye, and there I am getting a glimpse of the wonderful community each one of those classes has the potential to be.

In particular, I’m thinking about two or three students I wish I’d connected with better when I had them as freshmen. Now I get another chance to teach them and to bring out something wonderful. Let me think about a few of them for a minute.


Protected: Second chances

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