School of hard knocks

Finished with my 20 letters for kids with November 1 application deadlines.  For college, that is–I actually still have a couple of grad-school recommendations to write for students from NLNRU.

Now I just have to do–well, everything else.  I’ll be finishing up the quarter grading for my five classes over the next, um, maybe four days?  The last major AP Lit paper is graded; they just have a small quiz that needs grading.  But I have 41 AP Lang papers (for Gamma’s students) and 25 World Lit papers–oh, and 10 portfolios that I somehow overlooked a while back.  And some quizzes.

If I didn’t have to teach during this time, it would all seem somewhat more doable, but alas…And anyway that’s the fun part.

Not that I’m doing such a hot job at that, of course.  Trying to go easy on myself about that–it’s not like the kids haven’t seen a frazzled teacher now and then.

Thinking that maybe on Wednesday morning I will have my AP Lit students work independently, with some kind of structure to keep things in place.  They are supposed to have read 1.1-1.2 of Hamlet.  Maybe put them in groups to work on some questions, get them to report back to the whole class, then watch those scenes?  Of course, I’d need to prep this–it’s not really a time saver for me; if I don’t prep at all, I can wing the first act of Hamlet, no problem, but their engagement will be better if I don’t.  I’d actually like to get them reading and working together in class more rather than going home to read and coming in to process/discuss.  (Flipped classroom?–sort of.)

Dr. Tea went to some AP Institute years ago where she heard a lecturer say, “High school is where young people go to watch old people work hard.”  We often say that to each other when figuring out ways to put the work back in their hands.  Sometimes it feels easier just to wing it and tell them a whole bunch of stuff they need to know in a lively and interactive way.  Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing; sometimes that’s just what teaching is.

Right now, though, there’s stuff they can do themselves while I am doing more of the stuff they can’t usually do, like grading their papers.


6 responses to this post.

  1. This is a big question for me–how do you flip English classrooms? If they do their reading in the classroom, what are they doing for homework? Does that mean we lose discussion time altogether? I know this isn’t the main point of your post, but it’s a question I’ve been tossing around recently and can’t figure out in my head what that would look like.


    • The whole flipped thing seems to depend on one’s always doing the same thing in class and having that thing be transferable to at home. I think a lot would be lost if I recorded myself and had the students watch or listen at home–so much depends on interacting with them. I’ve liked having them read a difficult text together with pauses to discuss, and the flipping idea makes me occasionally do more of that than I otherwise would. They can also “discuss” through blogging at home–though they’re never all on at the same time. As far as I can tell, it’s an interesting provocation for English classrooms, but perhaps not a regular mode.


      • I’m going to try an experiment in the second quarter–assigning grammar exercises for homework, but also making a few short videos of myself explaining the concepts, along with some recommended YouTube grammar videos, instead of spending class time. I figure grammar is closest to mathematics in what I teach, so perhaps this repeated exposure to the rules would be a good “flipped” experiment.

  2. Posted by Bardiac on October 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Have you tried the Hamlet performance project? I got it from my grad school roommate (she’d done a NEH program after grad school), and it’s brilliant. I’ll share it if you want! (Seriously, all you’d have to do is run off some copies.)


    • Yes, please! I always do some acting and some staging, and some things are much clearer if you actually do them (e.g. Ophelia’s passage “He took me by the wrist and held me hard”). Also they prepare a soliloquy. But I’m assuming this is more, and I’d love to see it!


  3. […] the less I prep, the more present I am, and I’m reminded of the aphorism Dr. Tea repeats, “High school is where young people go to watch old people work hard.” I’ve been getting them to work more, which is good, I guess–and at this point in the […]


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