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Preview: anonymous teacher blog...

anonymous teacher blog...

a third-year teacher's escapades in the realm of the public high school. sometimes witty. sometimes sad. sometimes angry. always exhausted. it's a bumpy ride, but i wait for the moments that make it worth it.

Updated: 2017-12-28T19:09:47.729-08:00


Oooh, man...


It's been a while...nearly a school year.

I only have the energy for a bloggette tonight, but I figured I'd put the pinky toe in the blogosphere pool and try to get back into blogging.

It's been a long year, mainly because of master's classes and co-teaching issues involving a complete lack of respect and professionalism.

But I was given one of the best compliments I've ever received the other day...not necessarily because of what was said, but because of who said it.

I was in talking to a colleague during my prep. This is a man who has dedicated his life to teaching. He gives his students his home phone number on the first day of class, has them over to his house for dinner, and is the epitome of dedication to the profession. We don't always see eye-to-eye, as I am beginning my career, and he is towards the end; he teaches honors students, and I teach basic; he is rather old fashioned and conservative, and I am not...typically. Anyway, I began to walk out of his room, and he called me back in; I assumed it was for computer issues.

When I walked in, he became rather awkward and looked down at his desk. He finally said, "Mrs. Anonymous, I just wanted to let you know that I think you're a hell of a teacher. We may not always agree, but I think you're great at what you do." Even thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. To have this man, who is such an amazing teacher and whom all his students look up to, compliment meant a lot.

p.s. Maybe this isn't a bloggette.



I've now done everything except what I'm supposed to be doing. I've got a ton of reading to do for my class (but luckily I don't have class tomorrow), and I've got several small assignments to grade from each of my classes. Clearly this is going to be a horribly disorganized post, as I'm really just typing to avoid work. I don't really have anything to say, as I haven't even gotten into my routine, let alone started analyzing my kids and my teaching. I'm also making lists of things I can do besides work while I type, which isn't helping my organizational skills at all. (p.s. The grocery store is pretty high on my to-do list. I'm trying to avoid cafeteria food this year by bringing my lunch.)

I was going to start the grading yesterday, but I really wasn't feeling well. I napped all afternoon instead while hubby cleaned and mowed. I'm still not feeling exceptionally great, but I could pop a few cold pills and do my grading if I really wanted to. The assignments I have to grade really don't take any sort of a brain to go over, but I'd rather veg on the couch and watch awful tv or even read some of my for-fun books. (I just finished The Black Tattoo this morning. Really good.)

I'm really having a difficult time getting into the swing of things this year. I think it's because I taught summer school. It took so much extra work that it really drained me. The kids were a rag-tag bunch...all those who failed the year before in one room. You can imagine the motivation they had. Plus, there was no administrator available. I had to handle all discipline problems myself...and boy, were there problems. To top it off, I didn't have access to the student information, so I couldn't get phone numbers to call or even send letters home. Even the extra padding in my paycheck didn't make it worth it. Unless they completely overhaul it for next summer, I think they'll find it difficult to staff it...but, we shall see.

I said in my last post that my kids are great, and for the most part they are. But I have a few I think will be challenging. They're just very moody kids. Some days are great and we get along well, then other days...I also had a student who refused to do an in-class assignment on the first day off class, but I think I scared him away. I gave the blank sheet back to him several times and told him I wouldn't give him a zero. He could either do it, spend lunch with me until he did it, or take it up with Assistant Principal Bulldog. He eventually decided to do the assignment, but he has since been moved to another class (or possibly another school). I can't decide whether it's a good or bad thing. (p.s. Another thing to add to the to-do list: paint my nails. I've actually stopped biting them, so I have nails to paint.)

I'm also not sure what to think of my co-teacher this year. This will be our second year together, and I adored her last year. But she's gotten in pretty thick with some people I can't really stand, people who are in it for themselves and promotions and not the kids. So far I haven't seen that in her, but they're the type of people that most of us avoid. I suppose we'll see.

Anyway, afternoon to-do list:
  • paint nails
  • grocery shop
  • make lunches for next week
  • grade (??)
  • get coffee
  • plan for next week
  • make brownies for hubby
  • straighten living room
  • veg on the couch like a lazy bum watching "I Love Money" and TLC



I've got this printed out and hanging behind my desk. I love it!! Excellent, Bud.

Oh, holy cow!!


How long has it been?? Way too long. I'm going to quickly update you all, then I have grading to do. I miss blogging!!

  1. I've been married for nearly a year.
  2. I taught summer school over the summer and will never do it again. It was horribly disorganized, and the kids were a mess. Imagine all those kids who failed junior English in one classroom...not a good time at all.
  3. School has begun again. I have remedial freshmen, and average sophomores and juniors. My students are great so far (knock on wood). I don't have any one class that I think will be challenging...but we'll see.
  4. I've got a Romanian exchange student, and she's about as adorable as it gets. She calls me "teacher" in this very respectful tone. I feel like she should be bowing whenever she says it. My kids are learning a lot from her.
  5. I'm going back to school to get my Masters in Reading. I'm really excited/nervous to be a student again. I don't know if I remember how to do it. I find my coursework absolutely fascinating, but very difficult. I'm nervous for the first paper I have to write, as it's been a looooooong time. We'll see how it goes. I'm really excited to share what I learn from it though. So far we've been checking out picture books and looking at how young students discuss them. The program is really popular among elementary school teachers. I think I'm the only high school teacher in the program, but I'm excited regardless. I'm finding things that I can use with my own kids...even if they are a bit older.
  6. We already had a meet the parents type night, and I had very few show up. It was really disappointing. I'm not sure how much parent support I'll be getting this year.
  7. My dept. is a lot different from what it has been in the past. We have so many open-minded teachers this year. I'm actually being allowed to try literature circles in my freshman class. I'll definitely be keeping you all updated on that. I'll need to remind myself how its going and how to improve it for next year.
  8. Oh, freshmen. Need I say more??
I don't think I have anything else. I will be checking up with my "Must-reads." If anyone still reads this, let me know. I've missed the Edublog world!!

busy month


February was a busy month for me...term paper season, too much cold weather, illness, getting my tonsils out.

Hopefully I won't be ill as often once they're gone.

I don't have a whole lot to say...just wanted to post something.

Is that like Karl Marx?


I decided to use an old Groucho Marx bit to demonstrate subtext to my sophomores doing Julius Caesar. I don't remember where I got the idea, but I used a bit from Animal Crackers where Groucho has two women fighting over him. From the scene, you can't tell whether or not he likes either of the women; until, he says to the women, "Pardon me while I have a strange interlude." He steps forward and rants about how he can't stand either woman.
After I showed the bit, the kids and I discussed the "strange interlude" and what it meant. We discussed other times where if we took a "strange interlude," we'd reveal something that isn't obvious from what we're saying. I then divided them up into groups and gave them scenarios--a first date that isn't going very well, bringing someone home to meet the parents, parent/teacher conferences--and asked them to act them out, including their own strange interlude. I gave them five minutes or so to get a general idea of what they were doing, and I gave help to those groups who were struggling. Then they performed their small skit for the class.
Let me tell you, they were hysterical!! I had a group of all boys on the "first date." They were my best boy (the boy on the date) pretended to check out the waitress. The "girl" made a comment about her being cute, then had a strange interlude where she called him a pig. We couldn't stop laughing.
I then tied the strange interlude idea into "subtext." I told the kids that they're essentially the same thing in the context of Shakespeare. We discussed some places in the play where subtext played a huge role. Then I had them find five places in Act III, Scene 1 where understanding subtext is essential to understanding the scene. They then had to write the "strange interlude" each character would have.

My second class I did the lesson with was still a bit fuzzy on what subtext was. We had to go through and discuss several examples of it. They couldn't quite wrap their brain around the idea of getting inside a character's head, so we had to do a mini-lesson on characterization and motivation. I'm still not sure if they understood it, but I suppose I'll see when I collect their assignments this morning.

Overall, I really liked doing this lesson, and I think the kids did too. It was something different, which was nice for both of us. I'm tired of doing line-by-line explanations of Shakey.

Now, does anyone have any suggestions on how to wean them off of the "American" Shakespeare? They still try to sneak it out during class and quizzes. It's irritating as all get out.

ugh...worst. blogger. ever.


Yes, it's been a month...Is it obvious that school is back in session?

I'm attempting to teach Julius Caesar right now, and with one class I feel like I'm asking them to rip their teeth out. They're hating every minute of it and are letting me know it.

The class isn't my best behaved class, and they aren't my most hard working class...and many of them had a teacher last year who gave them the "Americanized" Romeo and Juliet and told them that reading Shakespeare is "stupid"...which they've pointed out to me a couple of times. I would say that they've shut down on me, but I don't know that the ignition was ever on. (Like that analogy?) I'm really trying to be patient with them, but it's becoming difficult. We're in Act III, and they won't even attempt to read it. All I hear is, "I don't get it. This is stupid."

I sat down with the reading specialist after school today to brainstorm some strategies for opening up their minds (without giving them the American Shakey). It's funny how talking to someone else will help to create ideas. We started discussing what I wanted, and the ideas just kept flying out of my was great.

I don't know how much my kids will appreciate it, but I'm excited to try some new things tomorrow.

the weight of term papers on my shoulders...


Right now I'm blogging instead of grading, and I don't feel guilty...because, for once, all my grading is finished...done...gone...finito. And I feel like the weight of the world is lifted of my little anonymous shoulders because I'm not one of those teachers who can "aim at the next class period to give back exams and two weeks for feedback on papers" (Dr. Kirk). Let me take that back, I can aim all I want, but it's virtually pointless and simply makes me feel guilty when I don't.

Recently on Are We Doing Anything Today? there was a post about being inundated with grading. Now, I said earlier that I'm able to type guilt-free because I don't have any grading; however, that's only because I spent four hours yesterday finishing essays I'd had for nearly a month.

I really do try to get it back in a "timely fashion," but then I get caught up in planning and life...and grading falls to the wayside, despite the fact that I think feedback is one of the most important parts of the writing process, but teachers are people, not grading machines as some people seem to think.

Next semester will begin, I'll be on top of my grading for about a month....then all of a sudden, I'll look back, and my collection trays (what my students call the trays where I keep their homework) will be spilling over with essays...and I'll walk into class every day to a chorus of, "You don't have them graded yet?! Are we ever going to get them back?"

Punish in public?


In one of my first education classes I took, my teacher shared this idea with us: "Praise in public, punish in private". I've always thought this is the way it should be, and as a teacher, I've really tried to follow that rule. I can't say I'm always successful, as it's difficult to not lose it occasionally; however, the other day, I actually broke this rule intentionally...and the more I think about it, the more I realize it may not have been the best choice.

Last week we had women from China who are studying to be teachers visit out school, and I had a group in one of my classes. During the lesson, one woman raised her hand and held out a sheet of paper. I walked over, and she showed me the paper and asked if it was a student's essay. I skimmed it over and realized it was a note.

I told her that, but she didn't quite understand and asked me if it was in French. This made me laugh because she was pointing at words like "ur" and "bc," then she points to "bitch." I just say that yes, it's a French essay and take it from her. I read a little further and notice that I'm the one who's a bitch because I won't let a student paint her nails in class or talk to her friend during speeches.

The note made me slightly annoyed, and I wanted to let the girls know that first off, the note was unacceptable, and second off, whispering in class is unacceptable. So, during lunch I told the story to the rest of my department and asked for their advice. One of the older teachers told me to call the girls out on it in it in a somewhat joking way, but embarrass them so they won't do it again. I left lunch thinking this was a good idea.

So, the next day during the last two minutes of class, I sit down on one of the desks and tell my kids, "Guys, I have a really funny story for you..." Then I tell them about the Chinese teachers and the note, the entire time looking at the two young girls who wrote it. I end the story by saying, "First off, I don't know that it's bitchy to ask you to show some respect to your peers and not paint your nails or talk during speeches, and second off, if you're going to think that, don't make the dumb move of writing it down and leaving it on the floor for me to find."

By this time, the rest of the class was up in arms or laughing at the two girls. One of the girls was bright red, and the other looked as if she was about to cry. These girls don't fit the social norm, and I think I may've made it worse for, now I've got a case of the guilty conscience, and I'm wondering if I did the right thing.

Introducing...Mrs. Anonymous!!


Yes, folks, the wedding is over!! I'm officially a Mrs....although none of my students have quite figured it out yet--at least not if you go by the fact that they're still calling me Miss Anonymous. Oh, well.

I'm in a state of disgustingly wedded bliss...I couldn't be happier with my husband. He's wonderful...makes a good Mr. Anonymous. He's got the teacher's husband thing down already--smile whenever a student runs up screaming in public, and quickly say that we have somewhere to be when I get that oh-dear-it's-that-one look.

The kids haven't adjusted yet, but I suppose it's only been a week.

More later.

"eating crow..."


I love the imagery of that saying...

Anyway, apologized to the boy from yesterday and made a deal with him...I'm calling his parents Monday; however, what I say to them is still to be determined. If he can show me that he's willing to try to work with me, then I'll let them know that he had a bad quarter, but we're working to do better. If he doesn't, then I'll let them know that. It's on him now, and he knows it. He also knows that he can come to me if he needs a break...let's see if he does it.
We also discussed his classroom behavior. I let him know that he can have one outburst each class period, so he'd better use it wisely. Today he had one, I let him know that was it, and we didn't have a problem for the rest of the hour...He's also let me know that he will be getting a glowing note from the sub since the last one wasn't very good for him.
I was also ecstatic (although I didn't show it) to see him taking notes as I discussed the test they'd be taking tomorrow.

Day one goes down in the books as a success.

"waste of my time..."


I lost my temper yesterday with a student. I told him that he was wasting my time by being in my class when he refuses to do homework or even crack open his book. This occurred after I asked him to read the last four chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird, and his response to me was, "What's the point? I haven't read the first 27?" We've been reading the novel for four weeks now. I've given them time in class, and they haven't had much homework besides reading. But this kid hasn't done anything.
The thing that frustrates me is that he's such a bright kid. He has a crappy home life, and works 40+ hours a week. I get that, as I've told him countless times. But he also has to understand that I can't stop the class and not give homework because of him. I can work with him, if he'll work with me. But he won't. He just wants to act like a jackass and disrupt my class and refuse to do work. So, I finally snapped.
And I know this isn't the way to get this kid to work. He gets yelled at at home. He gets told how crappy he is at home. He doesn't need it from me. So he just shut down. He became a smart ass and ignored what I was attempting to get through his head. I realized it was a mistake as soon as I saw him shut down, but I'd lost him at that point. I'm going to pull him in the hallway and apologize to him today. I'm also going to attempt to reason with him. I don't know how reasonable he'll be feeling, but we'll see.

I'm really well aware of my temper....I just always realize too late to stop it. Gr!



This week is going much better. It's the end of the quarter, and I've been putting off grading I'm a bit tired. But I'm nearly finished with them, and the squirrels seem to have put effort into them.

A colleague pointed me to this website today. I found the way it was marketed to be brilliant really. To an unsuspecting (read: desperate) high school student, this really doesn't sound like plagiarism:
Our service is tailored to High School, College and University students who need expert assistance with their daily writing tasks. Hence, we assist with all types of academic writing assignments including, but not limited to, basic 5 paragraph essays, argumentative essays, cause-and-effect essays, critical essays, descriptive essays, compare-and-contrast essays, expository essays, narrative papers, process essays, etc. term papers or research papers on all subjects and disciplines in all citation styles (MLA, APA, Turabian, Chicago, Harvard, AMA, etc.),book reports, movie reviews, article critiques, applications and admission essays, speeches, grant proposals, theses and dissertations.
We even did the price can get a dissertation for around $2000. In a couple years, it would pay for itself...

the monkeys.


The students have had two four-day weekends in a row. They are bouncing off the walls this week. We (the teachers) have all decided that there is such a thing as too much time off. They've completely gotten out of the routine. I have an odd feeling it's going to take the next several weeks to get them back in the routine.

Also, the assistant principal bulldog has caught me being a bad teacher twice this week. I'll admit that I'm still feeling emotional and slightly apathetic as a result of my experience last week. But I'm trying. Anyway, at one point a.p.b. came in while the class and I were discussing Homecoming. Oops. At another point I left the room to use the restroom. Of course, he came in at that point. I wanted to tell him that it was either go to the restroom or have to go home and change...he didn't ask though. Gah!! Twice in one week...lucky me. I suppose I'll have to be on my best behavior for a bit.

I'm just really having one of those I'm-a-bad-teacher weeks.

I don't know if I'm cut out for this...


Something happened today that's making me wonder if I'm cut out to be a teacher. It has nothing to do with my knowledge of my subject matter or my ability to manage a classroom. Those things are easy compared with what I had to deal with today. I think I become too emotionally invested to be a teacher. I can't deal with what some of these kids have to deal with.

One of my girls was raped over the weekend, and I'm the only person besides her foster mother and hospital staff that she told. I don't know how to comfort her. I know I can't comfort her. I don't know how to speak to her because I don't want her to think that my crying for her is because I think less of her, but instead because I can't believe how strong she is for having the courage to not only report what happened, but to also name her attacker and press charges. And that I'm crying for her loss because she'll never have that childhood back. And there will be a part of her that will never get over this. But I can't say this to her. She called, and I was helpless.

And I can't deal with that helplessness. I know if this is something I'm going to do for the rest of my life, I'm going to be helpless.

a touching email.


I just received this email, and I wanted to share it. The context really is in the original email I sent:Mr. Kotlowitz, I am a second-year teacher at an affluent public high school **in the Midwest**. My class and I just finished reading your novel There Are No Children Here, and I am writing to let you know how much it meant to us. While the majority of the school is very wealthy, I teach lower-tracked students, and my students are often living in poverty. So, many of them understood very well what the Riverses were going through, and I understood what you must have been going through watching them live that way. I've struggled this year with this class. They are not readers, many because of home-life (or lack of), some because of disabilities and some simply because they don't want to be. I have had to work with them and find creative ways to get them to read everything this year...except your novel. And I want to thank you for that. While it may not have turned them into avid readers, it has, at least, taught them that reading can be enjoyable. And they have enjoyed reading this novel. For whatever reason it spoke to them. This helped to get me excited because I had students coming in to discuss the characters and their situations on their own time. Many of them were chapters ahead of what was assigned, and they were eager to discuss it with one another. I have never seen them that excited before, about anything. So, thank you for letting me see that in my students. I'd also like to thank you for helping me to see what my students' lives are like. I am a second-year teacher, as I said, and I'm somewhat naive, I suppose. But in discussions with this novel, I learned so much about my students and the struggles they go through on a daily basis. Because I grew up in a middle class home, I take that for granted and forget that not everyone does. My students picked up on the title immediately, many because the idea is applicable to their own lives. While they don't deal with the violence outside their homes as the Riverses do, they understand the poverty, and some experience the violence inside their homes. So, they really did understand this novel. I'm sure you get letters like this often, and in fact, I've seen some on websites, but I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated you telling the children's stories. My children are so proud that they've read this novel from cover-to-cover, something many of them have never done before. As a final assignment, they are writing letters to you to share their experiences with your novel; however, I wanted to send mine and share my appreciation. Sincerely,**Anonymous Teacher****Anonymous High School**The reply:Dear **Anonymous**, A much belated thank you for your note -- and for your kind words. It's always good to hear from teachers whose students got engaged with Pharoah and Lafeyette, especially students whose only lives mirror their lives. I hope you can pass along my regards to your students from last year. best, alex kotlowitzI was simply in awe that this author took the time to write a reply to my email. I never expected it. I can't wait to visit my kids on Tuesday and let them know that Alex Kotlowitz sends his regards. They'll be thrilled.Also, sorry for the hiatus...beginning of the year business. I know you all understand. I'm taking a long weekend on top of my long weekend and visiting a friend in Oklahoma. I'm actually missing being in the classroom today, but I have a friend subbing, so I know that my classroom is s[...]

Back to school...


Today was our teachers' in-service day before school starts tomorrow. I've been dreading it, as usually my colleagues make me frazzled beyond belief (as those of you who've read my blog for the past several years know). But today wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. In fact, it went quite well. I had no desire to gorge on the chocolate in my bottom desk drawer. I don't know that I've ever left a department meeting feeling that relaxed.
The reason? Several new teachers. We have three first-year teachers beginning in our department, plus one student teacher. I don't know if people were just on their good behavior today or if the people who left to make room for the new teachers were that bad, but our entire dynamic has changed. I can't express how smoothly our meeting went.

I also met our new superintendent today. Again, a wonderful change. Our last superintendent insisted on being called "Doctor," while our new superintendent insists on being called by his first name. That is only one of many changes, but I think it speaks volumes about his character. As I think I've already said, I've heard great things about this man, and he lives up to the hype thus far. He seems as if he will be fair in making decisions, and he seems as if he supports the teaching staff, which is a huge change from what we had before. Plus, he's working to allow us to wear jeans on paydays...can't complain about that, right?

I'm really optimistic about this year. I'm feeling very prepared for all my classes. I feel good about both my department and my administration. And there are some younger people in my department, so I finally have teachers my own age to interact with. Plus, in a few short months, I will be a Mrs. Anonymous.

When the stress of the first few weeks hits me, someone please remind me to look back at this post. I really hope I don't end up eating my words...(gah!! Can't get rid of those pessimistic thoughts. Conditioned response, I suppose.)

Stress Eating...


I've really enjoyed being at school the past few days. I've gotten a ton of work done, and my classroom actually looks as if it can fit students in it. I've blissfully danced around my room with the radio turned up...until today. For whatever reasons several of the other teachers were in today, and it reminded me why I eat so much during the school year.

I had a really quiet morning, but this afternoon when I got back from lunch, I was bombarded by questions and criticism. If today was any indication of what my year is going to be, it's going to be a long one. I'm hoping people are just crabby because school is starting, but i'm not feeling too optimistic.

On another note, totally related to this one, I have to rewrite my sophomore curriculum that I've worked all day for the past week or so on. I've even made all the copies I'll need for the first three weeks of school. Now I have 75 copies of three weeks of handouts and worksheets that I don't need anymore.

On a better note, I'm excited for the first day of school with kids in the building. I get so excited to meet my kids for the year and scare them with the syllabus and expectations. It's so fun to watch their reaction when I first give it out because I know what satisfaction will come at the end of the year when we accomplish all that they thought they couldn't and more.

Anyway, as schools are beginning to start, good luck to everyone!! Here's to a learning-filled and fun year!!

The mating habits of freshmen...


For some reason my school dedicates two hours a day for eight days to freshman orientation. This isn't a required thing, but many of the more involved students (or students with more involved parents) attend. It's not fun by any stretch of the imagination, so students and teachers alike have to create their own fun...mine was watching the freshmen in all their immature glory.
They're like foreign beings to me. Even after nine months with the little buggers, they're still an alien species. I don't think I can express to you how much they still weird me out.
I did enjoy meeting the kids. It isn't like I had anything better to do (only reading several new books and planning for two new preps). I got paid to plan, which was really nice, and I got to interact with an interesting bunch of kids.

Two things I learned...

  1. Freshmen are immature. We were reading a portion of a geography textbook aloud, and the word "dike" came up. The boy who was reading couldn't even say the word he was laughing so hard. I tried to explain to him and the rest of the class what it was, but I'm not sure that anyone could hear me over the heyena laughter. Another example: I was breaking the students into pairs and had an extra person, so I told one group they'd be a "threesome". Big mistake. Again with the heyena laugh.
  2. Freshmen smell. For whatever reason they haven't figured out that deoderant is important. My room got so stinky after two hours of heat and sweating that I gave a lecture on the importance of personal hygeine. I let the boys know that after football practice they must shower. Apparently no one had told them that.

At one point I saw a little boy who had just come back from football practice (and, mind you, it's over 100 degrees out, and they practice for several hours) running around in his sweaty, dirty clothes. I think to myself, Hmm, that's disgusting. But I almost lost my lunch when he walked up to a young girl and rubbed himself on her. I shouted at him, asking what in the world he was doing.
His response? "It's my girlfriend. It's okay."
Why, exactly, would he think it's okay to rub sweat all over his girlfriend?

Nevermind...don't want to know.

I lied...


Okay, so three times a week didn't happen...obviously.

I've been roped into a freshmen orientation week, and I'm really not liking it at all. It's very disorganized, and we've got so much down time that the kids are getting bored and acting out. Plus, it's cutting into my time and desire to plan for the upcoming year.

I've created syllabi for all my classes. I'm working on fleshing out each of the units now. The fiance and I are heading to Panera tonight to work on school stuff/web design stuff (guess who's doing what). One of the other sophomore teachers has been really generous with her materials, so I'm feeling better about my two sophomore classes. For a couple units, she went so far as to give me entire units, complete with lesson plans, handouts, tests and worksheets.

I really don't have anything intelligent right now. The freshmen are already wearing me out...

Where does curriculum come from?


I'd like to begin by saying that in this post, I'm mostly reflecting on the nature of the English curriculum; however, I suppose the thought is applicable to all subjects.I was just working on my plans for next year, going over my lesson plans for Oedipus. I'm not a huge fan of the play. In fact, I think it's over the head of most seniors, let alone freshmen. I taught it to both my levels of freshmen. They both read it. They both understood the storyline, but did they really understand the nuances? Not a chance. Try explaining the "paradox of blindness" to a bunch of 14 year-olds. They simply wanted to get to the part where Oedipus gouges his eyes out...and even that was overshadowed by the fact that he had slept with his mother. From what I saw, they didn't get a lot out of the play.Possibly it could've been my teaching...I had no clue what to do with it, as I'm not big on it and that could've (most likely did) show through in my teaching and planning. Ultimately, we focused on the ideas of tragic hero, tragic flaw and catharsis. Then we tied those into Romeo and Juliet; however, I could've done that much more simply (and more quickly) with an overview.I asked other teachers in my department why we teach Oedipus in its entirety, and ultimately it came back to the fact that it was in a former textbook. Now, that being said, it's no longer in the new textbook we have...and the department has had a heck of a time trying to find it (at least the translation they want). But it's still being taught.The question that keeps bugging me is how much should a textbook dictate a curriculum?The Oedipus thing is obviously somewhat extreme, as we don't even have the textbook anymore; however, I'm just trying to illustrate my point. I can just as easily give my students an example of tragic hero and tragic flaw using a more modern-day they will be more likely to get something out of.I don't want to dump all the classics by any means. I see the value of Shakespeare; besides the fact that he is the most referred-to author in literature, it has also been proven time and again that Shakespeare makes students' brains work and also improves their writing and vocabulary. (If you still are Shakespeare-shy, head over to Englicious to read more detailed reasons for reading Shakey.)I simply want reasons for what I teach, and "that's how it's always been done because of a former book we used" is not a good reason. Give me objectives. The thing many people don't realize is that objectives can be met in a variety of ways using a variety of texts. If I suggested using something by Tennessee Williams to hammer home tragedy, while only touching on Oedipus, I think I'd be immediately kicked out of the department. But I also think the students would get more out of a Williams play.Then again, there are some teachers in my department who would use the freedom to water down the curriculum...Make it easy on themselves, while also making it easy on their students. I suppose it somewhat boils down to professionalism...both on the part of the that's-the-way-it's-always-been-done'ers and also the I-don't-understand-it-so-I'll-dumb-it-down'ers.I really haven't reached any conclusions. I don't know that there are any to reach.Anyone have thoughts? Please share. I'm sort of at a loss on this one, I think.[...]

Miss me??


I took a "brief" hiatus from blogging. I got overwhelmed by end-of-the-year work (i.e. even more term papers), and lately I've been working on wedding preparations, as fiance and I have decided to move the wedding up to November.

Anyway, I'm making a promise right now to you (and especially myself) to blog at least three times a week because I know I'll need that habit once school starts. I need the catharsis this blog brings me. Plus, I love getting feedback from all of you.

Besides wedding preparations and such, I've been really researching using podcasts and wikis in the classroom. I'm really interested in including more technology in my students' education next year, but I'm really finding it difficult to find good examples of podcasts. Many are password protected to insure student privacy and safety, which is understandable, but it makes it difficult to find examples. I've so far only been to the library and Googled it. After I finish writing this, I will be exploring the blogosphere.

I'm teaching my lower-tracked freshmen again next year. I'm really happy about that because I've developed a really strong curriculum for that class. I've been tweaking it lately, as I will be teaching a different novel from last year. I'll be doing Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, which is really exciting for me because I can tie it into the short story (by showing the students how authors flesh out stories but use a similar format to create a novel) and the epic. By the end the students will be showing me how TI and the Odyssey are related (that's one of the goals anyway).
I also have two new preps, which should be interesting. I've got two different tracks of sophomores. I really love the novels taught the sophomore year, and the curriculum focuses more on speech rather than writing, which will be a load off grading-wise. Plus, I love a new challenge. For the next month or so, these are the classes I will really be focusing on preparing for. I feel very confident with my freshmen class planning, so I would like to be as confident with my sophomore classes.

This was sort of a dodgy return to blogging. I'm out of practice. It will get better, promise.

Chocolate is dangerous...


As I was sitting at my desk during my prep, I opened my desk drawer to get staples and found a box of Fannie Mae chocolates that I'd forgotten about over break. You can guess how surprised I was. (And by "surprised," I mean I was tearing into that box of chocolates like there was no tomorrow.)

They were Trinidads, my favorite. I ate one, which took me a bit of time because I have a very specific way of eating Trinidads: I eat off the white chocolate coating, then I eat the dark chocolate inside. Anyway, I finished my first one and picked up my red pen to continue grading (yes, political incorectness aside...I still use red). And the chocolates sat there and mocked me. They were calling my name and laughing at me.

So, I ate another one...and another.

That's why I should stick to Triscuits and granola bars in my desk.

Preparing my speech...


I'm up for a Blogger's Choice Award--"the blogitzer." I won't complain about it. In fact, I'm going to go with some shameless self-promotion...


Click and vote!! Please!!

On another note, Spring Break ends tomorrow. I have done nothing teacher-related for over a week, and my kids are going to kill me when I go back. I want to make up some horrible excuse as to why I couldn't do any grading over the break, but I think they'd see through that. Alas, I'll either have to grade 50 term papers in the next several hours, or enjoy the last afternoon of my break and deal with the consequences tomorrow. Whatever will I do??

I have read several good books over break. I'll give my thoughts on them when I get back from the dog park. (You knew I wouldn't grade. I'm worse than a freshman.)

2 days...(this morning anyway)


And two minutes that I've been home all day...It's been a long one.

The kids are getting sillier and sillier the closer we get to Spring Break. My freshmen couldn't even sit in their desks for more than ten seconds. They were squirming and giggling like crazy. I hate trying to fight with them when they're like that, so today I tried to run with it. I gave them a hands-on review game. That gave them an outlet for their energy, but it also made them do it in a productive way.

My goal is simply to get through tomorrow....

Tomorrow morning will mean one day...I can do one more day of patience...