Friday, November 27, 2009

It's official - blog is changing back

I'm barely blogging enough for one blog now, let alone two, so I have decided to just blog at the old blog site: Epiphany in Baltimore. I'll mix my teaching stories and reflections with my life stories like I used to, and hopefully get in a better habit of writing more often. For the foreseeable future, bmoreteach is done - Epiphany in Baltimore (a better title, anyway) is re-animated.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Letters of Recommendation

Grades are due sometime soon (strange new system this year, and it seems like they're due sometime between Nov. 5 and Nov. 9, but I'm not quite sure), and I have a ton of grading left to do. I tried to create lessons this week that would allow me to get some of this grading done during class time, but, as usually happens with this, I'm left jumping around and helping kids, even though I was hoping the assignments would be mostly independent. Today, I had a classroom full of students until nearly 5pm, without much of a chance to work, and, after dinner, sat down to plan my lesson for tomorrow. Instead of grading, I'm now working on Letters of Recommendation, because a bunch of my students have early decision applications out or nearly out.

Despite my busy-ness, I actually really enjoy writing Letters of Rec, especially for students I genuinely enjoy. I feel honored to be asked and, after teaching the current seniors for their junior and senior year, I'm being asked a lot. That's okay. Grading can wait until the weekend.

Back to it now.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween in the English Department

Every year, for the last four years, the English department has all dressed up as characters from literature (generally a 9th grade book, since us 9th grade teachers usually direct everyone else). We have a fun time with it, running into classrooms with goofily planned skits, and give the first kid to get all the roles correct a prize. Here are my roles, through the years.

2006: Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird

2007: Cyclops in The Odyssey
2008: Romeo in Romeo and Juliet
2009: The narrator in "The Scarlet Ibis"

So, this year, I play a teenage kid who has internal turmoil because he's embarassed because his brother is handicapped. He ends up running away from his brother during a storm, during which lightning hits his little brother, killing him. That's just a few hours after the whole family had found a displaced scarlet ibis in their front yard, who promptly dies in front of them. Doodle (the little brother) had felt a strange connection to the bird, and buried him. Within a few hours, he himself is dead. The symbolism blares like neon lights, but the story is still deeply affecting - one of the saddest you'll ever read. We'll camp it up though.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dying Inside Ed

A year or so ago, Inside Ed crackled with energy, focusing primarily on city schools and issues therein.

I rarely check it now, but stopped in last week when they were talking about technology, an issue I'm pretty passionate about. It's infuriating to me that the school system blocks so much material, and that teachers cannot override it. Our students deserve the free and open technology that the WWW offers and that most school districts can access. It's not right that I have to create a blog that students can only see from their home computers with clips from Shakespeare movies.

I made a couple of comments last week, and went back to check it out today. It hasn't been updated in 6 days.

The death of Inside Ed has sadly been pretty rapid. If you're looking for a reason why newspapers are dying, the shutting down of interest sites like Inside Ed is one of the reasons.

May all your fences have gates

Immersed in Fences again with the 9th graders. It's the first thing we've read together in high school and, for many of them, will be their favorite book they read this year.

My 8/9th period has one of the better Troy Maxsons I've ever had. Just a really good reader. Doesn't look like him at all, but has the tone and cadence just right.

My 10th period doesn't have a natural Troy. On Friday, a whip-smart girl played him, and did just fine. She was absent today, so I had a little Latino kid (a good baseball player, too, he tells me - let's hope so) who volunteered play him. Cory was played by a white Jewish kid, adding humor to the "and liking your black ass wasn't part of the deal" that August Wilson never intended. (Troy says this to Cory when Cory - his son - asks Troy if why he "ain't never liked" him.) Today was the day I got to explain all the baseball allusions (Roberto Clemente, Josh Gibson, Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax), so it's one of my favorite days of the year.

What a plodding, rainy day, though. Looking forward to the weekend already.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Beginning Fences

I've taught August Wilson's Fences nearly every year of my 9-year career, but I don't think I've ever had as successful an opening lesson as I did today. And, unbelievably, I got the idea from research done in one of those horrible 'Reading in the Content Area' classes last year.

Photos of characters from the internet, predictions, 'reading' images - it got the kids excited and catalyzed some real analysis. They were already excited about reading the text; now they're even moreso.

I gave them a boring homework reading about The Great Migration to temper that a little bit, though. :(

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A very tired Wednesday night

I have not shared that I'm doing National Board Certification this year. The whole thing. It's a lot of work and I've only barely begun.

I'm starting Fences tomorrow. For some reason, I re-invent the wheel every year, and I'm working steadfastly on a unit plan right now. I want to do less reading in class this year, and more writing at home.

Much Ado About Nothing is going well. I think the students are liking it. I'm contemplating a rather major change to the curriculum (the texts have not been submitted to IB yet) that I will decide on in the next week. Basically, I'm concerned about the length of East of Eden for this part of the curriculum, and might switch it into Semester 2. That will throw everything out of whack, and I have to figure out if it's worth it. There have been a lot of interruptions this month, though, and I'm concerned.