Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How the Grinch stole Christmas with a dumb schedule

I survived 2008 in school, all without holding a holiday party in my class.

Someday, I'd like to figure out why BCPSS decides to conduct a 2-day week. I realize that a few other counties in the area do it as well, but, wow, is it ever dumb. When I went to IB Training last week, with teachers from around the country, BCPSS was the only school represented that did not dismiss on Friday, Dec. 19.

This isn't a teacher who wants less work (indeed, I'm a proponent of yearlong school). After all, these are easy days, because so few kids show up. They're just wasted days. It's such a bummer that we are allotted only 180 days of instruction and BCPSS, through an unfortunate calendar decision, decides to make two days so inconsequential. Simply put, it's bad for the kids.

Having to drive 13 hours on Christmas Eve in order to make it home for Christmas kind of sucks, too.

That all being said, the school year has been pretty terrific. Instruction feels aligned and organized, and the kids have been mostly great. I need this break, though. Woah.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


I know I've been having a 9th grade love-in lately, and it's true: I really like freshman, especially when I'm in the middle of a really great unit. But another reason I love it is because I can have conversations like this:

Student: How come like every book we read, the movie comes on tv like all the time whenever we're reading it?

Me: Oh, it's because I call up Comcast and ask them to play the movies to match our curriculum. It helps them with ratings and they send me a check every month.

Student: Really! Cool! How much do you get? Can we have a pizza party?

They're so easy. Unfortunately I can't keep a straight face very long around them for long.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Getting grades up

My excitement for the upcoming baseball coaching season started a little bit earlier this year. After losing two key players in the middle of the season last year due to grades, I decided to start early on my players this year. I pulled several kids' report cards a couple of weeks ago.

Unfortunately, early ended up being not early enough. I was shocked to see my best player (best pitcher, best catcher, my best hitter who hits #3), a senior who has a pretty decent chance of playing college ball somewhere, had failed three classes in the first semester, and three of his other classes were borderline. He's never been a bad student before, but (he says) he was suspended this fall for some sort of weird fight involving eggs (I don't know) and he never really caught up from the work. A regular B-/C student for most of his high school career - and it's not that hard to maintain those grades in high school - he didn't put for the effort required to catch up, and ended up failing way too many classes.

I like the kid a lot and I'm determined to help him get those grades up, and that means walking around and talking to his teachers a lot about his progress. It means calling him up on Friday nights to double check that he's studying. It means making him report progress to me every day. It means making him go to Coach Class every day, and making him get as much face time with all these teachers as he can. That way, if he's borderline, they'll be more likely to lean one way and not the other. One course he is failing is Honors Japanese I, a class he was randomly placed in as a Senior with no previous experience. He thinks he can't catch up in there because he missed so much class time and missed so many of the formative Japanese language tools that he was supposed to get early. I talked with the teacher, though, and hopefully the constant Coach Classes will help him catch up. Thankfully, the teacher is from Japan, where baseball is a way of life, and he loooves baseball. Maybe that will help him want to help the kid more.

I'm worried about a couple of other kids, too, and have been following them around like a specter lately. Their numbers are programmed into my phone and I will be checking on them throughout the winter break.

I kind of hate being that guy, the coach worried about his kids because of grades. And it's not because I want to win - I just know what it feels like to not play sports your senior year, and how that is something that can really be a regret for a very long time. I did it for a job, not grades, but it was still there, and I regret it. Plus, this crop of kids has a chance to play college ball and to use sports to get scholarships into college - something that last happened two years ago - but only if they're playing.

We'll see how it goes. Next year, I start even earlier. I'm still trying to work out how I'm going to help them maintain their grades during the season. I guess probably daily study hall with starting practice later than usual.

Leading up to break

School couldn't be going better right now. First of all, I'm teaching To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time in a few years. Last year, it was made summer reading, which was a bad move because so many kids just don't do their summer reading. The year before, I taught 10th grade, so it wasn't part of the curriculum. So now we're eight chapters into Mockingbird and I'm reminded how it feels to teach this book. I wrote perhaps my best unit plan ever - the MYP Unit Planner helps with that - so everything is focused on that question of why and how people grow up, and who guides them along the way. The students are really engaged, so much so that yesterday, after I was told I was "the only teacher who is making us do anything today," there was only a few seconds of grumbling before we got right back into the discussions we've been having.

I don't quite believe the kids about what they told me, but yesterday was the Holiday Assembly. It's partly my favorite day of the year, because the assembly itself is just so wonderful - the choir is amazing and gave a typically awesome performance, complete with a really goofy "12 Days of Christmas" and my favorite song (I have to hear it every year) "We Need a Little Christmas". A couple of former students of mine collaborated on a rap that sounded so good that it felt like it could be the radio, the Step Club was really cool, and even the artsy dance troupe was moving.

In the old days, it used to be the last day before the holiday break, so it was a great way to send all the kids off. Now, they're worried about attendance on that day, so they made it on three days before we leave for the holiday. That's annoying, which is why it's only partly my favorite day of the year. Regardless, I will corrall all those kids into my classroom on Monday and Tuesday and teach them; there is no time to waste on holiday parties.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

First Socratic Seminar of the Year (9th grade)

The week has gotten better. I attempted my first Socratic Seminar of the year with my 9th graders. I started small - 10 kids on the inside, using the passage when Scout comes home from school all upset and Atticus makes the compromise with her and tells her to walk around in other people's skin.

It went really well. Even my squirrelly 6/7th period did alright. My 2nd period was dynamic; that class might be one for the ages. Unfortunately, one of the stars of the class, and one of the stars of the seminar, got in a big old fight right after class in the cafeteria. Sigh... She's suspended until the new year. She's definitely one of my projects this year, a girl with a blazing intelligence and desire to do well in the classroom, but you can see a pull tugging on her, you can see it tattooed on her forearm with a tattoo that her mother just let her get (yes, I'm judging - that's not something a 14-year old should have), and you can see it in actions like this.

Cheering me up from that was a message sitting in my inbox tonight: Mr.______, i LOVE open discussion. I like taking my thoughts of the paper and putting them into a educated statement. It's so fun, and i think you can see that my classmates and I understand more! I'm so enthralled by it. Can we do that more often?:)

Awwww. And this girl is no teacher's pet, either - failed first quarter, currently failing 2nd quarter. Yup, I'm going to bed happy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Arne Duncan named Secretary of Education

Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan apparently will be named Secretary of Education by President-Elect Obama.

I couldn't be happier. I've had my eye on this guy for years, particularly because the Chicago Public Schools has really done some innovative things, particularly his use of The International Baccalaureate as a way to increase student achievement in urban schools. He's done great things in Chicago. If I were ever to leave Baltimore City Public Schools, it's Chicago Public Schools where I would probably look first, for the things I've heard this guy implementing in that system. From the outside, it's not Michelle Rhee-style union-busting and scare tactics, but a real commitment to teacher and learning quality.

This is, of course, just my perception from 700 miles away, so I reserve the right to be wrong. But, seriously, the guy has impressed me for years. He seems to be a real reformer, and parent groups and unions have both given him praise. He could be too much of a testing guy, but I don't think NCLB will be as bad as it is now under him. We'll see, I guess.

Read Joanne Jacobs' Blog on the selection.

Here he is, testifying before Congress:

"For the love of God, does anybody else need a copy of this handout?"

Is it the Christmas break yet? No? Would you mind telling my students that?

Yep, it was a long day, my throat hurts, and I actually used the following sentence, "For the love of God, does anybody else need a copy of this handout?" because, well, they just weren't listening. That's a career-first phrase, though.

I can't believe we go all the way through next Tuesday. Thank goodness that tomorrow is quiz day. I'm writing it tonight and think I'm going to make it extra long to increase the time it will be quiet in my room.

I'll we'll all be back on our A-games tomorrow. Part of it, I'm sure, is my general exhaustion - a three-day conference (which did end up getting better) over the weekend meant no weekend for me. I came home today and crashed into a post-school nap deeper than any since the first week of school.

Tomorrow, no garish holiday tie for me. This is even though I have about ten of them and have about a week-and-a-half window in which it's somewhat acceptable to wear them. I even have two that play music (my sister buys them at the dollar store and sends them to me because she knows they delight me). But, not tomorrow. I do not want to remind them of that holiday.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lame conference

I am not exactly sure what it is, but I have hit a peak of busy-ness and exhaustion that I don't remember having hit for a long time. I have spent two nights this week at school until 9pm, a number so incredibly crazy that it's hard to even type. But it was real, and I was really doing work for all that time, to the point where I had to be asked to leave the building. I didn't quite get all the work I needed to get done completed, but I nearly got there, and that felt good.

Part of the work, admittedly, came from being one of the volunteers to drive members of the GSA to see Milk yesterday. It just happened on a bad day, being out the next day and all. We went to the movies from 4:30-6:30, then I was back at school from 7:00-9:00. Still, I'm really glad I went. The movie was really good and the kids liked it a lot.

Today was Parent-Teacher conferences, but I was at a conference/training elsewhere. I wanted to get everything done, so I could have grades posted for parents who did show up. In addition to these progress reports, my room's leak sprung again, so folks came into the room to fix it. However, since I wasn't going to be there, I had to change my sub plans so my students and my substitue met in the library instead of my classroom. There were so many notes on my door when I left Thursday night - one to the repairmaen, one to the parents, one to the substitute, and one to the parents. But I got it all done and was able to feel okay about leaving the students.

Unfortunately, after all that work, the training/conference was lame. I am ready to swear off big pieces of paper for all time. I've never used them as a teacher (do you know how much money it costs to buy one of those jumbo post-it pads? do you know how long one would last? about three classes), but am beginning to absolutely hate them as a presentee. I feel like giving us a marker and a big piece of a paper is just a sign of laziness in the presenter. And that whole thing where you go around the room and add to other people's big pieces of paper? Also lame. We did that twice in our three sessions, most of which was really lame.

I'm hoping tomorrow is better. I'm giving up my entire weekend to go to this training, and my school has invested plenty of money into it, but so far, I'm not taking much from it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Milk, Grading

I think it's pretty cool that I teach in a school where the GSA has organized a trip to The Charles to see Milk tomorrow afternoon after school. The man at The Charles always offers us a deal, and I think it's $5/kid. They asked me to be a driver. So that's tomorrow's task. I hope it's as great as all the reviews suggest that it is; I've been hankering to go to the movies lately and the weekend will be eaten up by a Fri-Sat-Sun training/conference so my free time in the next week is zilch.

Today's task was staying at school until nearly 9pm finishing up on all of my grading. I can now feel good about filling out progress reports. Now I have to plan tomorrow's lesson. I'm so exhausted I can barely keep my eyes open. Isn't it Christmas break yet?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bleaching the Desks

Kids write on desks. I try to stay on them, but it's sometimes hard. It's especially hard this year, when I have another teacher with a rowdy class who uses my room everyday. On Monday, she caught a young man writing in magic marker on a desk. I was already getting frustrated with all the writings and doodles on the desks - and it also includes several gang signs and callouts to gangs ("Crypt Nation", for example - but this was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I went out and bought a gallon of bleach and some Clorox bleach spray and soaked and then scrubbed the desks. By the end, they were gleaming, and the bleach got out everything but the very harshest magic marker.

Some of the kids were impressed today. Others just complained about the bleach smell in the room, which will probably be there for weeks. Still, it felt good. And I'm watching those desks like a hawk now.


Pretty exhausted this week; I feel like every day is a 14-hour day, as I leave the house at around 5:30am and return after 8:00pm. Still, my To Kill a Mockingbird unit is starting off well. My goal - get kids to love this book. There are other skills goals and stuff like that, but, really, I'm feeling the need to foster a love in reading that I don't think I have yet this year.

Here's my first assignment of the unit:

MYP English I
To Kill a Mockingbird HW #1
Description of Setting

Directions: Read Harper Lee’s description of Maycomb. Notice that its tone is nostalgic, meaning it looks back at the past with wistful reflection or longing. Read it with a slow, even rhythm and notice the following:
 How the punctuation she uses (particularly the semicolons and colons) helps to create this rhythm naturally. What would the passage be like with a lot of short sentences?
 How all the details she includes help to set the scene – you can see and feel the lazy and hot summer day. What details are especially important?
 Any choices of diction that are especially striking.
 Lee’s use of alliteration, visual imagery, foreshadowing, tactile imagery, personification, parallelism, and historical allusion*
* The last line, about having “nothing to fear but fear itself” comes from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Inaugural Address in January 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression.
Mark the following passage for the above devices and details:

Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.
People moved slowly then. They ambled across the square, ambled in and out of the stores around it, took their time about everything. A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to go see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County. But it was a time of vague optimism for some of the people: Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself.

Assignment: Write a similar 2-paragraph description of Baltimore with a nostalgic tone. It should sound like it was written by Harper Lee, but be about Baltimore, with details that describe Baltimore (or the people of Baltimore). After you finish, text-mark it for the devices that you use.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Conference thoughts

I spent all day yesterday at a Baseball Coaching Clinic, something I spent $75 out of pocket to attend. I usually love it, but have been less into it as the years have gone on. First of all, it's all lectures. The guys who do it are pretty engaging, but I am not an auditory learner, and with no visuals or ability to try out the things ourselves, I don't feel like I get much out of it. I remember really loving the vendors they had at these conferences, but they only had four this time, and that was another thing that hindered my enjoyment of the event. I don't think I'll go again, at least for a few years. I'm skipping today, as well - driving an hour down to Bethesda (aka the 7th circle of Hell) just doesn't seem worth it.

The conference did get me excited about the upcoming season, though, and I spent a lot of time sketching out ideas, lineup combinations, and possible practice schedules. I spend the same sort of intensity on practice schedules as I do lesson plans, if not moreso (practices are 2-3 hours, so require a lot more planning than a 50-minute lesson plan).

I raced home early from the conference to attend an acting showcase at my school. It was really good, and I was especially impressed to hear Alanis Morissette's "Forgiven" as an intro to the scene from Doubt. That album came out when I was in high school!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wanting to Blog Mockingbird but...

My To Kill a Mockingbird unit begins on Monday. What I really want to do is have students write about the book in something less than a vaccuum, like in a blogging situation. The thing is, I have no real idea how to do this, and I've spent a few days fiddling with Edublogs, but it doesn't seem very user-friendly and I just can't picture how it will work. I want students to all have their individual blogs but to comment on each others'. I want them all connected but independent. It doesn't seem that hard to set up, but I can't figure it out.


I'm at the Mid-Atlantic Baseball Coaching Conference right now down in Bethesda, MD. Getting excited about the season, which doesn't begin for nearly three months!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Michelle Rhee

The big talk in our English Department today was of the Time magazine cover story about Michelle Rhee. Some strong language was aimed at her. She's a former Baltimore City school teacher; did you know that? I didn't.

I do not know how I feel about it all. Another thing I need to sleep on. I didn't much like the bias of the article or some of Rhee's language (wow, she really just seems like an unpleasant person based on the article), but I agree with the sentiment that bad teachers exist and it's important to get rid of them. But who is the judge of bad teachers? I've not yet heard a satisfying answer, and there are a lot I-can't-expand-on-a-public-blog reasons for my worries in this area.

That being said, this summer I got to know Peggy O'Brien a little bit, and gained a lot of respect for her. She started the Teaching Shakespeare Institute, for example. Meeting her, it was clear she has a huge passion for teaching and learning, especially city kids. She one of Michelle Rhee's chief officers, and, well, I trust her a great deal.

So... I'm not sure. I'll be watching Washington DC very closely in the next couple of years. So will Baltimore. The post-it on the Time article, written in the familiar English-teacher hand of a veteran colleague, was, "Is this a sign of things to come?". Indeed, it might be.


P.S. - It's too bad you all aren't my facebook friend. You would be able to see the awesome pic I just posted of me dressed as Odysseus for Greek Theme Day last Wednesday.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Taking control of Homer

It sure was hard to get up today, but the day went super well; I meticulously planned every lesson for the week, and it's so much more satisfying knowing exactly my goals and direction than going fly-by-night, which sometimes happens. It's nice to be confident that my kids really learned and produced something today, and I know it's going to happen every day this week.

This has been a strange unit, as we are co-teaching The Odyssey with the Social Studies department. It was, and is, hard to get everyone on the same page because both departments are large and a key member of each has been out for important stretches of the unit. Overall it's been successful but it's also made me feel a little like I've been teaching without a rudder. I'm a control freak and like to have complete control and knowledge about where I'm headed with the children, specifically what my goals are. For the first time doing it, we did fine, but I look forward next time to knowing a bit more of our collective subject-related goals and assessments before we begin the unit.

I just decided to take control of what I could control in my classroom and wrote detailed lesson plans for the week. Part of it is necessity - I'm going to be out on Wednesday and Friday and needed to get my plans for my students just in case they don't have a sub (or have sweet, wan 86-year old Mrs. Mabel Smith, who wears a floppy wig and who the children take more care of than vice versa) so they know the expectations. But it was also about me, about knowing where I'm headed. It feels good.

I'll be finished with Homer and moving onto Harper Lee on Monday. Teaching To Kill a Mockingbird is like putting on a pair of socks warm out of the drier, so warm and comfortable. Yet I still seem to notice something new in this wonderful novel every year, (I'm thinking about getting this tattoo, or something like it, at some point in my life), or figure out some other way to approach it. I'm still playing around this year. I sort of want to do blogging about it, over at Edublogs. I need to educate myself more, though. We'll see if I can get it together this week; I'm hopeful that I can (too bad I have completely ridiculous, time-wasting assignments for my two required Reading Comprehension courses to complete this week, plus sit in the 3-hour classes).

Off to bed early tonight.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Teaching Tasks for the Weekend

I have had a mostly fun and relaxing weekend so far, so much so that I feel the need to make myself a list of teaching tasks to complete before Monday.

1. Create a week of lesson plans for the 9th graders, especially since I'll be out Wednesday (jury duty) and Friday (a conference)

2. Create a week of lesson plans for the 11th graders, especially since I'll be out Wednesday (jury duty) and Friday (a conference)

3. Write six (three are due on Dec. 1, the other three by Jan. 1) letters of recommendation.

4. Finish The Unbearable Lightness of Being and write a quiz for Monday.

5. Run to Red Canoe and pick up my 100 copies of To Kill a Mockingbird

6. Complete my Directed Reading activity for my Reading course, due on Monday. I could probably just do something really easy and move on with it, but I'm doing King Lear.

7. Write my King Lear unit (starting in about a week, so can put that off).

8. Figure out the www.edublogs.org website. I really want my 9th graders to be doing some of the technology-driven things that my juniors do, but I don't think the nicenet.org site is the best place to do it on. I need to experiment with more sites that aren't blocked at school (I do most of my thinking and planning at home, though, so it's hard to know what is blocked and what is not blocked.)

Not bad.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving, finally, has arrived

Thanksgiving has finally arrived, and not a moment too soon.

Sickness has spread around the school like wildfire. The woman who teaches right next door to me got so badly sick and dehydrated that she was hospitalized on Tuesday. Kids are sick all over the place. And I left during my last-period-planning-period twice in the three days, as I felt pretty crappy myself.

My school was brilliant in making Thanksgiving arrive more quickly. They scheduled a fire drill for 2:55 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, fifteen minutes before our actual dismissal, and then just sent the kids away from that. Worked out perfectly.

I still have no idea why Baltimore City Public Schools feels the need to have us work a full day on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and to keep us in school right up until the last day possible before Christmas. Days of instruction are lost to the pre-vacation flutter (only three-fourths of the kids attend school, if that, and the hall-walking is rampant), and sometimes violence erupts as teachers from out of town take off early. I don't do that; I resign myself to the fact that I simply can't spend Thanksgiving with my family. But I sure wish our schedule would be changed up a little. Sending us to school on Monday, Dec. 22, and Tuesday, Dec. 23, really strikes me as just mean, and not very good for the kids. Ditto the day before Thanksgiving, when nearly every other school in the area has either off or has truncated into a half-day. I'd much prefer to work longer into the school year and have more breaks throughout than jam-packing it all into as few days as possible.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Deleterious is the vocab word of the day

I entered my classroom prepared for the worst, but apparently the leak has been fixed. I say "apparently" because the fixers left their ladder in the middle of the floor and didn't clean up anything, so the room itself looked terrible - broken tiles everywhere with grime and sand (where does that come from?) across the floor. The heaters still don't work so I allowed hats, coats, and gloves today in the room - at least for first period, before I decided to take all my classes down to the library.

I put a sign on the door saying Due to the deleterious conditions of the classroom, all Mr. _______'s classes will meet in the library today. You know, never miss an opportunity to teach a new vocab word!

As for my classes, they went wonderfully, after first period. I'm trying Recriprocal Reading, something I researched a bit for one of my Reading classes this fall (I'm not ready to give the classes any credit, though, so don't think I'm going there - tonight was my 2nd to last meeting for one of the classes and it will be so nice not to waste three hours of my life every week after next Monday). I put them in groups of three, and had them read The Odyssey stanza by stanza. One kid was the reader and questioner, one kid was the summarizer and dictionary look-upper, and one kid was the literary analyst and device finder. Hopefully, in a couple of days, I can wean them off the small groups to having them read it independently. I had a few whines of "I can't read this, I don't understand anything" once they realized we weren't going to do the whole-class-reads-and-I-and-the-smarter-kids explain thing, but they got it eventually. The Fagles translation is very modern so there really is no excuse not to comprehend it as they are reading.

As for my Juniors, I'm steadily making my way through the essays. Somehow I have 15 left but, of those 15, I've started graded all of them. I just can't seem to stick with one bad essay more than a page or so before moving onto the next one. I have the patience of a saint but these try my patience. It's hard not to take the bad, sloppy writing personally. I mean, remember Ace of Base? That band back in the early 1990s, which had lyrics that seemed like they were translated from a different language by someone who really didn't know English very well? That's what the students' essays remind me of - bad translations. There is no fluidity and not much logic, and it's so disappointing. They have no voices. I can understand what they say when they talk to me, as there is a logical progression of ideas. Why is it so much harder with the writing? I know part of it is something I've certainly been guilty of before - peppering an essay I really didn't want to write with enough obtuse BS so hopefully the professor didn't read it too closely. That, I am sure, is part of it - they just don't know how to write about literature very well and try to get themselves up to the minimum word count by writing purposefully in circles. At other times, though, I'm mystified. My favorite comment to write on these papers is one that I cannot write, but only think in my head: "WTF?".

On the positive side of things, several students improved dramatically, and I gave my first grade over an 80. But there are several grades below a 50. I just have to remain faithful that they all will become decent writers by the end of the year, and figure out (more) ways to help them.

Another main weakness is the lack of devices. IB requires students to examine the effect of literary devices, and our students are unprepared to discuss devices as much as they should. I spent a good chunk of the weekend creating a document that listed a number of devices that will make it easier to discuss Unbearable Lightness of Being, and today we did an activity surrounding that. Hopefully that helps the next set of essays. It was good for me, too, to research the difference between all those terms dealing with dualism and opposition: antithesis, juxtaposition, dichotomy, foils, oxymoron, paradox, etc.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Leak

I'm still without the Internet at home, but am enjoying the wireless at Evergreen right now as I prepare to get through my stack of IB essays so I can return them tomorrow.

I realized that I missed the big news of last week: that my classroom is a huge mess.

I love my job, but teaching in a very old, crowded building definitely has its detriments. For about a year and a half, I have had a slow leak in a corner of my classroom. I reported it right away, and folks from North Avenue have looked at it a number of times over the last year and a half, but nothing has been done. When part of the ceiling crashed on a student last year in the middle of class, they came and looked at it again; I believe that at that point, they tried to duct tape the pipe to prevent it from leaking. It was also at that point that they moved some shelving from that corner and noticed a ton of mold/fungus/mushroom-type things growing on the ground - not very hygienic! Our building manager bemoans the fact that they were (almost literally) putting a band-aid on the problem instead of really fixing it, but apparently there were budget issues preventing more.

This year, I thought the leak had been fixed over the summer, as the first few weeks of the school year were dry. I even put my Free Book Library in that corner. I was saddened one day when the leak popped back up, destroying lots of free books carefully culled from weeks of going to The Book Thing. I also had to pitch the bookshelf that I purchased and built from IKEA, another $50 down the drain. I was pissed off, but didn't know who to be pissed off at. I just told my building manager, raided the janitor's closet for a mop bucket to catch more of the leaking, and re-arranged my seating chart so no kids were sitting near it. A couple of weeks ago, in an attempt to add some humor to the situation, I started putting my plants under the leak, so they would get water.

This week, though, it got much worse. I think the Biology class above me must have used the sinks much more this week, as they did frog dissection, because the leak quadrupled in size. On Take Your Parents to School Day, the school put a huge bin to catch all the water, and it got halfway full overnight, and I taught with the constant din of a surprisingly loud "kerplunk" as my soundtrack. Then, another leak, totally independent of the first, on Thursday started coming from the radiators, which were not working at all on Friday - meaning my classroom was soaking wet and freezing. I ended up with a huge icy lake in the middle of my floor, plus a huge bin of water in the corner.

I ended up teaching in the library all afternoon, and am sort of planning on having to continue being there until Thanksgiving. They tell me they're going to be working on the leaks all throughout the weekend, but I've heard that before. We'll see what happens.

I've over being mad. I just want a new classroom; I have no faith at all that this will really be fixed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Weekly update

A surge, or something, killed our internet at home last weekend, so I've been without internet access for a while. We're still waiting for the replacement - I have my fingers crossed it comes in the mail today, so I can plan my lessons for Monday without heading again to the library (where I am now) - but, until then, blogging will, of course, be limited.

News from the week:

* a charismatic former student I taught as a 10th grader was arrested for armed robbery in the county. He's a senior and has been suspended from school for 45 days. It sucks.

* On the other hand, another famously prolific hall-walker, also in the senior class, shaved off his braids on Thursday night. It was the talk of the school on Friday. He came in a dress shirt and slacks. He credited Barack Obama for the change, for a new his desire to live up to more than what he seemed destined for.

* Very teacher-centered week with the 9th graders, as we get through a few sections of The Odyssey. I hate that. Have to plan some lessons that get my students figuring out things on their own more.

* Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I was dreading teaching for months (it was my colleague's selection) and could barely make it through when I read it in the summer, has been a magnificent teach. The kids are really into it and the book is perfectly suited for IB English. I'm also finding myself loving the book on re-read. Strange, but good.

* I am busily planning my King Lear unit. That was sort of the compromise - I got Lear if she got Unbearable. My students are different from what I was expecting when I planned the curriculum, but I still think it will work. I am nervous because I have built it up in my head. We studied Lear closely this summer at the Folger TSI, so I want it to go well. My big goal is to get the kids to really like it, even love it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Baltimore City High School Fair

I ended up helping to staff the table for our school at the Baltimore City High School Fair. I had no idea what to expect, a fact that became very apparent when I showed up in a shirt and tie to a large room that was probably 80-90 degrees. Everyone else was in t-shirts.

I talked our talk for hours, and it was a really great experience - lots of wide-eyed 8th graders checking out which high school to go to. During breaks, I walked around and checked out the other high schools, and, wow, there sure are some neat, innovative high schools in the BCPSS. The "small schools" and charter movement seems to have brought with it lots of great opportunities for the students, and it made me happy to be part of the system.

I talked so much that now I'm hoarse, though. You'd think my vocal chords were in better shape after all the talking I do during the school day. I guess raising my voice over the din of the swarms of people (it was really crowded) did it.

On another pleasant note, I shook Dr. Alonso's hand for the first time.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Busy Week

It's been a really busy week. I left school a short time ago, after open house, which is when prospective 8th grade students come in and see demonstrations by the kids and teachers. It's fun - I showed the film of Kiss of the Spider Woman for extra credit for my Juniors between 3:30 and 5:30 beforehand - but it makes for a long day.

It seems all of my other non-teaching hours this week have been soaked up by these ridiculous certification courses I am forced to take. Luckily, they are almost over.

Report cards came out today. I would not be surprised if I have the highest failure rate in the school. It's not on purpose, but my expectations are high and I find that rigidity in the first quarter is important for maintaining a very consistent policy throughout the year. It'll lighten up as the year goes on. I feel like I teach two very high-learning curve years, and the first quarter is a tough one. They'll come around.

Tomorrow is professional development day. We've got a very full schedule. Still, it should be good.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Custody issues and e-mail

The strangest thing has happened to me this year, now a couple of times.

Parents can e-mail me from the school's website, and do from time to time. I'm a big parent e-mailer myself, often jotting off quick "_______ didn't do his homework last night" e-mails to concerned (or even unconcerned) parents.

Twice this year, two different parents have emailed me to ask about the progress of a student. I, of course, promptly reply. And in both of these instances, I get a somewhat angry or concerned email or message from the opposite parent, saying I had no business e-mailing the parent who inquired because that parent does not have custody.

I have no desire to get in the middle of family disputes, and want only what is best for the youngster. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to take the second parents' word in both cases that I shouldn't contact the other one, or if I'm supposed to ask for some sort of proof. I want to get as little involved as possible, but I also want to contact the person who is going to affect change. In the first case, for example, I had been totally unsuccessful contacting the first parent and it wasn't until I contacted the second parent - who obviously went back to the first parent with some sort of a "Why aren't you making _____ do any homework?" accusation - that I got any response from that parent at all. Still, if I'm not legally supposed to share information about grades because of custody issues, I'm obviously not going to do that.

This is something I've never dealt with before as a teacher. I think it's mostly a product of having public e-mail addresses for the first time in my 8-year career. I'm going to have to ask a few folks on this one...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Because I like to use the internet to spread probably ludicrous rumors...

A small buzz around the school towards the end of this week?

That Dr. Andres Alonso is on President-Elect Obama's short list to be Secretary of Education.




As far as my opinion goes, the jury is still out on Dr. Alonso, but I sure hope he sticks around to see what he can accomplish here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Busy times

Despite the day off on Tuesday (which, to be fair, was such an emotional rollercoaster that it wasn't exactly relaxing), I've been exhausted all week. Now that I sit down at the end of the day, though, it's not hard to see why. This is what I've got going on this week:

1. Grades due on Friday. Thankfully, they didn't give us a time they are due. Hopefully 3:30 will be just fine.

2. Outward Bound, which I organized but am sadly not participating in, is on Friday. I've ran applications over to the facility, organized a school meeting with the instructors, called parents, and, tomorrow, I'm carpooling nine kids over during my first period class, assuming I get a little bit of coverage.

3. We're trying to plan a unit together with the Social Studies department. I've become the point person on the English side, and the point person on the Social Studies side just had a baby, so it's a bit of a mess. The unit is supposed to start Monday. I was called this evening about having an emergency meeting with the guy whose wife had a baby and all the rest of the Social Studies teachers at 7:55am tomorrow morning. It should be a really cool thing when it happens (they're teaching the cultural aspects of the epic, we're teaching the literary aspects), but it's taking some work.

4. I'm trying to finish up Romeo and Juliet so I can move on the The Odyssey. It means really tight, a little bit rished lessons. I prefer slow and steady.

5. Classes all across the city for my required Reading courses. I'm getting home after 8pm most night.

So, yeah, exhausted. I'm glad it's Friday tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Teaching in an Obama world

Pretty amazing being in school today with students so excited about national politics.

I didn't do anything different, except briefly ask students if they watched all the returns. Most did, some shared stories about crying or moms or grandmothers crying, some wore buttons or t-shirts. We talked for a while about witnessing history and going to see the inaugeration, about high expectations for Obama and the fact that now he has to meet those expectations, and then moved back to Romeo and Juliet.

I hope I can organize some sort of trip down to see the inaugeration. Could be easy - just jump on the MARC train and head down. It's probably going to be a big mess down there, but if I'm not driving and each adult is only responsible for a few kids, then it could work. I would even consider taking a personal day so I can do something like that; otherwise, I'm guessing too many other teachers would want to do it and substitutes would be an issue.

As a citizen, I've never voted for a politician before that I really trust to make sound decisions regardless of the situation. I've never voted for anyone whose thoughtfulness and reflectiveness, combined with his knowledge of the Constitution and communities and education, make me excited about the direction of the nation and its people, even as times darken around us. For those reasons, I'm thrilled at the victory of President-elect Obama.

However, as a teacher, my support has a different tint. From a policy standpoint, I expect a smarter No Child Left Behind, and am excited about the ideas about service in education that I have heard from Obama. However, the real excitement comes from a more subjective view - I teach primarily African-American students, and they are students who have often been beaten down by life. Most are below the poverty line. Many do not have stable home lives. And while most will be first-generation college students, the vast majority don't understand the connection between hard work now and future earnings later, and most just don't see education as the path to upward mobility that they should. The pull of the violent streets, or the pull of having a child young like their mother and grandmother before them, and the pull of instantaneous easy money all tug at them insistently. Seeing Barack Obama, a brilliant, bi-partisan and inclusive politician, ascend to the Presidency from humble beginnings, through grit and determination and inclusiveness and hard work, can give them a sense of hope that they might not have had before. They no longer have the excuse that they shouldn't try hard because society won't let them succeed anyway; rather, they see that hard work is a mandatory part of success, and that anything is possible.

Now, Barack, you can't let us, or them, down.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Wouldn't it be funny if a teacher thought it was Pajama Day at school when it really wasn't?

It's Homecoming Week.

As such, we have theme days every day. I try to show school spirit and participate. Last week, I saw the flier, and immediately registered the fact that Pajama Day was Monday. This is always one of my favorite days, because it's so darn comfortable to wear sleep pants to school! So I did, as I have for the last eight years.


I sort of realized as I drove up the parking lot that none of the kids were in pajamas. Hmmm, I thought. That's weird. Maybe just not that much spirit this year. Or maybe the advertising hadn't worked out.

But, it was Support Your Candidate Day, a day to wear political gear.

Oops. Kids gave me weird looks all day. I had to explain myself a hundred times. It was really funny. Totally a thing I would do, too. It was a long silly day, one in which I laughed at myself a lot.

It would be all in fun, except my Department Head was apparently "reprimanded" this afternoon about it. I hope she was kidding about that... my lesson today was tip-top and I literally had 9th graders that didn't want to leave when the bell rang. Yet, that's what I hear in the afternoon... ugh...

Apparently my science teacher friend did the same thing, and I saw a kid or two that made the same mistake. We just didn't get the message that it had changed (in fact, they're scrapping Pajama Day totally, for fear of girls wearing lingerie).

No school tomorrow, for Election Day. For the first time in my life, I'll be voting for a candidate with hardly any cynicism at all.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Slots, again...

I'm about 55-45 on the no side. But still open-minded.

Here is a miniature discussion with both sides commenting, over on the Inside Ed blog.

I've spent a lot of the last week talking to friends and colleagues about the issue. Here is a summary of what I have found:

Arguments in favor of slots:

1. The funds will go to education, which really needs it.

2. Even if the funds are diverted from education and used to patch other holes, the state is in a huge deficit and needs the money.

3. Concerned with taxing a "sin" - why aren't you concerned with alcohol or cigarettes being taxed? The state already makes a whole lot of money on "morality" taxes.

4. The people who would be gambling are already going to other states to do it, so all that tax money is filling other states' coffers.

5. We acknowledge that it's not ideal, but it's the only thing on the table in terms of bringing any new revenue into the state without raising more taxes on everyone. Without them, there will be draconian cuts to education and other state entities.

6. Sheila Dixon, who somehow has managed to put me strongly in her corner after her decent-so-far tenure as mayor, says that property taxes will dramatically decrease from the revenue of slots.

7. My environmentalist friend tells me that he figures if slots pass, that the horse tracks will be more successful, meaning they'll stay open instead of being bulldozed in favor of development.

Arguments Against Slots:

1. According to Adam Meisner, the language of the proposed law does not guarantee new money for schools, which likely would not get an increase in funding at all. He also discusses a scenario where slots operators realize that with the current tax structure, that they cannot even build or operate the slots without a tax break from the state, and that the said tax break will come out of the pockets of the schools.

2. Public perception - Few go beyond "we passed slots for education," but what if the education budget remains static, or even decreases, despite the passage? I mean, we are headed for dark economic times and this is perhaps even likely. Then, next time teachers or education advocates look to Annapolis for more money, they'll say, "Well, we already gave you slots. What more do you want?"

3. It's taxing the poorest and most vulnerable in society. The poor get poorer...

4. Gambling and all the addiction and pain that can come with it can be detrimental to society, and this is a government-funded addiction possibility.

5. They're advertising as pro-teacher. Is there any evidence that this is a pro-teacher plan? The teachers I speak with are about evenly split. I also was really put off by a misleading flier that attempted to connect Obama to the anti-slots movement.

6. Detroit did the same thing years ago with slots. Funding for education has decreased (because, although money does fill up the education fund, the education fund has been cut) and crime/addiction have increased. I've heard from Baltimore Diary that the same thing happened in New York.

7. That slots simply bail out bad legislators who should have left plenty for the education budget without relying on this source of revenue to work within a budget.

I'm still capable of being able to be convinced either way. Most of my teacher colleagues are similarly up in the air, while others are vehemently in support (one did canvassing for slots (he posted this on my facebook: "From where I sit, including not having enough books again and having new students added WEEKS into the year PURELY for money reasons, I have to ask 'where is the money going to come from?' Think about how forthcoming people and politicians outside of Baltimore have not been sending money our way, even with a court order. I understand that the numbers thrown out there in support may not be entirely accurate, especially with the economy headed down the shiesshaus, but it will bring in something, some of which has been leaving the state already. Now ask yourself: If the slots issue is not passed, where will ANY of the money needed to pick up the short fall come from? As Ms. ________ said to me, 'We shouldn't HAVE to do this!' But I see no other option at this point in time, nor anyone even proposing an alternative other than letting the kids' education, particularly that of the ones in Baltimore, rot") or vehemently against (a colleague told me that addiction is already the biggest problem in Baltimore and this is just something that makes it much worse, and doesn't trust that schools will see any of the money).

Still don't know what to do. I'll be thinking long and hard for the next 36 hours on this. (I can't believe I'm an undecided voter on this issue.)

National Board Certification and Letters of Recommendation

1. It's official: I'm in for National Board Certification. I'm just doing Take One! this year.

2. I taught the Class of 2009 as 9th graders, 10th grades, and 11th graders, and, because of this, I'm writing a lot of letters of recommendation this time of year. I don't mind it, as I kind of like writing them, but they get harder and harder to make sound original as the year goes on. (That's one reason I really like writing them for my baseball players, because they end up being really different.) My most interesting dilemma this year was a young woman who asked me to write her one. I taught her for three years in a row; she didn't impress me with her work ethic last year, and, this year, her mother called me a "lying snake in the grass" because she received a failing grade in the 4th quarter. Still, she impressed me through much of her three years with me, and I'm not going visit the sins of the mother on the daughter, no matter how ridiculous her accusations are. Hers will be an interesting one to write. I try to write one every two days, because, last year, I ended up writing so many during Christmas vacation and that sucks; the deadline for most is Jan. 1. When the kids hand me the letter, I want them to give me a deadline, so that I start working on it quicker. I'm glad for Howard University, which had a Nov. 1 deadline, so I got that out in the mail yesterday and was able to scratch another one off my list.

3. Next week has to be very tight, because I have to finish Romeo and Juliet. I'm taking out a page from both Carol Jago and the Folger, realizing that it's not that the kids know every single plot detail from the play, but rather attain the skills. I'm just sort of assigning Act 4 and Act 5 as homework reading assignments while we continue to do cool things in class. We'll see how it goes. It's a truncated week, with Election Day on Tuesday (no school) and Homecoming Week culminating in the big pep rally on Friday (which will not be a totally academic day).

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween as Romeo

Two years ago it was To Kill a Mockingbird, and I played Jem Finch.

Last year, it was The Odyssey, and I played Polyphemus.

This year, for Halloween, the English Department all went as Romeo and Juliet. We had 15 roles spread out, and did scenes around the building all day. The costumes were hard - all the Montagues and Capulets wore opposing colors, and I basically just put a bunch of sayings on my shirt like "Fate Sucks" and "Sprung" - but it was a very active and fun day. We ran all around, deciding when and where to do random scenes. We performed the balcony scene between classes as kids filed around me on my knees. The Mercutio/Tybalt death scene caused all the security guards to run up to the floor, thinking it was real. The Lord Capulet and Juliet monologue also caused a big stir.

A whole hell of a lot of fun. Also the first time I've wore jeans in my career (I just thought Romeo wouldn't wear khakis... I know it seems like I must be super formal for not ever wearing jeans, but I just plain old never wear jeans anyway, so even on dress-down Fridays I wear khakis and a school-related t-shirt).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tableau Vivant and Romeo and Juliet

I've used the Shakespeare Set Free guides for years, but I've always shied away from the Tableu Vivant ("Living Pictures") activity described in there. The activity basically asks students to present a series of still photographs of a scene by editing down Shakespeare's lines to their bones, then setting themselves in a formation, having one actor read his line and make a movement while the other actors are frozen, then pause two seconds, and continue on through the scene. I didn't really get it until this summer, when we did it as part of our Teaching Shakespeare Institute.

That gave me the confidence to do this sort of activity, and I did it today - exactly as described in the guide, for Act 3.1. It's difficult to do things like this in my small, overcrowded classroom, and I sometimes worry about making too much noise, but was able to find nooks and crannies around my corner of the hallway to put groups of kids in. And today's class was just amazing.

The things I heard the kids saying, the arguments they were having - "No, he wouldn't do that, dummy! He just killed his best friend!" and "We can't take that line out, it wouldn't make sense anymore, nahmean?" - really showed them jumping into the text and getting it.

I've been battling kids throughout the unit who just give up with this language. "It's too hard," they complain, and wait for me to explain it. And the unit hasn't gone as remarkably as I would have hoped, mostly because of the timing and lack of continuity I seem to be having. But, wow, today was awesome. It is 100% clear to me that the kids are getting it.

Tomorrow are the performances of the living pictures. I guess that will be the true assessment. But, wow, the conversations and movements I saw certainly suggest an understanding that rote 'question and answer' would not have.

It was also pretty cool that I posted an update on Facebook tonight about the success of the Tableau Vivant, and, within a few minutes, a couple of my TSI colleagues had commented on my status. I've been a little disappointed with sort of losing touch with almost everyone so quickly into the busy-ness of our careers, so that was really cool. I really wish I could afford to get myself down to San Antonio for NCTE next month, but, alas, I won't be able to pull that one off this year in the midst of new car and new house buying.

Tomorrow, by the way, the entire English Department at our school is dressing like characters from Romeo and Juliet. Unfortunately, I'm whiny, boring Romeo, but that's okay; it's going to be a fun day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The best field trip ever

The field trip involved 47 ninth graders speaking with about 25 prospective teachers at Towson University, about the book A Hope in the Unseen. The idea was that the kids would get something by speaking with the college students, focusing on questions from the college life section of the book, while the college students would get something from talking to some students in an actual urban high school today.

It was a distinct success, one of the best field trips I can remember ever having.

Favorite moment #1: Having two representatives from the Class of 2008, two representatives from the Class of 2006, and a representative from the Class of 2005 there. I invited them for a little "keep it real" discussion with the kids after the other college students left. They all had me as their 9th grade English teacher, and what a joy it was to see them all there, together, as near adults.

Favorite moment #2: One of my favorite new kids this year, we'll call him "Kevin," came up to me with a grin after his discussion with the college students. "Guess what, Mr. M?", he asked. "I asked them what major I should take if I want to be a President, because that's what I decided I want to do someday, and they told me I should think about Pre-Law or the Military because a lot of our Presidents have military experience and then they said I should..." and he went on and on and on, and I don't think that conversation could have happened any other time in our history. (A colleague wrote a piece that covers this theme; it's really good - check it out)

Favorite moment #3: Speaking with Cedrick, one of my most memorable former students, for the first time in a couple of years. I taught him in the Fall of 2002, my second year of teaching, the year that I felt like I really belonged, and he was one of that year's most memorable students. He would just listen to me with undivided attention - the absolute highest compliment a kid can pay a teacher. He was an average student at first, but I remember I would write the top scores on the weekly quiz on the board every Monday, and his name showed up once, and, after that, he wouldn't accept anything else, and he would compete with his classmates about who could score the 95 or 100. Such a neat kid, one who worked his butt off and took care of his mom through breast cancer and took higher level courses an upperclassman even though he was placed as a 9th grader in the lower track. He is now a Junior in college, something unbelievable to me, taking classes towards an Exercise Science degree. And he was so good with the 9th graders today, kids who were are six years younger than him, kids who needed to hear the things that he said - stuff about hard work paying off, about high school only being four years and the whole rest of your life is in front of you, that if they play all the time now than that's all they'll be doing when they're twenty like he is, that taking advanced coures put money in his pocket when he went to school and is helping him graduate a semester early. All of that.

All in all, a great day.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Diarrhea of the mouth

Today was one of those days: carefully planned lesson goes awry. Kids suffering from extreme diarrhea of the mouth. So much so that I went off on a class in ways that I don't ever go off. I did not raise my voice but my anger level was raised to the highest point.

Have field trip tomorrow. It's poorly planned. I'm the planner. Hopefully 26 kids arrive with their permission slips in the morning because I need to bring 40. It should be a cool event. And, thankfully for my colleagues who are staying behind, I'm taking most of my misbehavers with me. Should be a fun day. Watch out, Towson University.

We're doing a book talk about A Hope in the Unseen with a class of prospective teachers there... I'm hoping my students learn some things about college life and hoping the college students learn some things about the wonderful kids that I teach. Or, wonderful except for today.

Tired. After school, went to that horrible required-for-recertification reading class. Words cannot quite describe just how this class is going. I wish I could write about it. Not now. But it's a crime that the state requires me to take this class to continue teaching.

Got home after 8pm. Back awake at 4:45am. Not a way to live.

Slots and Education

I've never been so excited about an election before, to vote for a candidate who I truly believe in, to set the United States on a new path.

Yet, despite literally years of research on my candidate, and hours of discussion and writing about it, I still have some work to do before Election Day.

Ironically, I don't at all know how I'm voting on slots.

I'm generally for less government interference (which, ironically, is why I'm not a Republican), but have seen what having casinos in Detroit has done - increased crime, increased homelessness. I'm just not too big on bringing in (not much) state revenue on the backs of old people and poor people.

Additionally, while I know the funding is supposed to go to education, I'm worried it'll be used as an "instead of" funding rather than a "in addition to" funding.

On the other hand, we certainly need more education funding (the big dirty word at school is the $50 million budget shortfall for the BCPSS next year, with rumored teacher layoffs and horrible material shortages), and there is a difference between slots and full-blown casinos.

I'd like to see a debate on this education issue. I'm certainly open-minded about casting my vote for either side at this point.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rush and band-aids

Starting on Nov. 11, we're doing something we've never actually done before. The Humanities department and the English department are teaching the same unit together. We're both doing The Odyssey, and they're covering the cultural part of it, and we're covering the literary part of it. Not exactly sure how it's going to work out, but I'm excited.

It also means I've got to rush a little bit more than I'd like through Romeo and Juliet. I'm okay with that, I think. I have seven class days to finish it, and I'm on Act II, Scene 3 right now. Every day has to be tight. I'm trying to write lesson plans through next Friday.

Tomorrow, I'm going to see how big the puddle is in the corner of my room. The leak from the ceiling, which has been intermittent for the last couple of years, returned with a vengeance yesterday. The system keeps trying to fix it with... tape. Seriously. That's almost a literal band-aid on the problem.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Internet Discussion Board

This is a page from my new Internet Discussion board. I'm having a good time with it. It's so much quicker than having the students turn something, having me comment on it, and then turning it back to them. Feedback is near-instantaneous.

I'm using http://www.nicenet.org.

[Edit | Delete]
FROM: Bmore Teach (10/22/08 5:39 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: Post your Puig thesis statements here

This assignment is due by Saturday at 8pm.

You must post yours and post 2 other comments on other people's. Comment on their validity and intrigue, and whether they are literary enough. I'll be commenting as well.

REPLIES (24): [ Hide Replies ]

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/22/08 5:50 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
[Edit | Delete]

This reading of the book, I was really intrigued by this idea of Appearance vs. Actuality. I noticed this throughout the text, and started marking "A vs. A" in the margin as I read.

As I'm thinking about it, I think I would write a paper with a thesis along these lines:

Shakespeare famously wrote that people are all players on a stage, and to an extent this is true; people perform throughout their lives, whether it is in their job, their relationships, or their social lives. In his novel Kiss of the Spider Woman, Manuel Puig develops this idea of lives as performance pieces by telling his story without a narrator, much like life. Puig utilizes his shifts of narrative structure, particularly his shifting from dialogue to official governmental reports, to juxtapose the idea of appearance versus actuality as presented in the novel. Paradoxically, Puig is equating life with an acting performance in order to expose that humans actually are performing to a rubric of who we think we are, not necessarily who we actually are.

So that would be my working introduction, I think. What do you all think? You may use it as a model.

Post yours with your intro, I think that's better.

* FROM: Student 1 (10/23/08 3:06 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 1]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
[Edit | Delete]

In the novel Kiss of the Spiderwoman, the author, Manuel Puig, illustrates a connection of manipulation which creates an understanding of what the characters are able to lose in their lives. This in terms shows how everyone can be influenced in some form through their wish to gain or hopes not to lose.

* FROM: Student 2 (10/23/08 5:11 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 2]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
[Edit | Delete]

The most manipulative character in the novel: In the novel, The Kiss Of The Spider Woman, Puig's characteristics in Luis Alberto Molina makes him the most manipulative character. An example of Molina being manipulative is how he almost always gets Valentin to step down from his pride and apologize for anytime he offended him. Overall this shows that certain personalities in an individual can have a critical impact on those surrounding them.

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 5:19 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
[Edit | Delete]

Okay, everybody, reply to the initial message, not my thesis statement. Also, don't forget to respond to other people's.

In the novel Kiss of the Spiderwoman, the author, Manuel Puig, illustrates a connection of manipulation which creates an understanding of what the characters are able to lose in their lives. This in terms shows how everyone can be influenced in some form through their wish to gain or hopes not to lose.

D - There are some clarity issues here. What is "connection of manipulation"? It does not seem to be literary enough to write a paper about at this point - figure out what aspect of manipulation you want to write about. The larger implication seems okay, but I don't know how it's being achieved yet.

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 5:21 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
[Edit | Delete]

The most manipulative character in the novel: In the novel, The Kiss Of The Spider Woman, Puig's characteristics in Luis Alberto Molina makes him the most manipulative character. An example of Molina being manipulative is how he almost always gets Valentin to step down from his pride and apologize for anytime he offended him. Overall this shows that certain personalities in an individual can have a critical impact on those surrounding them.

Who is Jainez Rodriguez? Please use your actual name so I can grade this assignment.

As for your thesis, make sure you realize that the device you are using is the manipulative character. Puig is characterizing Molina (no need to get all high-falutin' with his full government name) as manipulative in order to... . Then get into your larger implication.

As of now, it seems a little vague. I worry about this essay topic in the first place because I worry it's going to bring about too many plot-based essays. But it can be done.

* FROM: Student 3 (10/23/08 5:47 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 3]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
[Edit | Delete]

Everyone would like to escape from reality when times are rough. In the Kiss of The Spider Woman, Puig coveys Molina's need to escape from reality as juxtaposition which is shown from his parading fantasies within the classical movies that he tells Valentin. Molina only speaks of romantic movies; therefore from his focus in each movie his personality is shown. Thus, his personality, in oppostion of what people expect of males, is a factor of why he wants to escape from reality.

* FROM: Student 4 (10/23/08 5:58 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 4]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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i really want to write about the importance of the title but for right now until i get that approved this is my thesis statement
In the Kiss of the Spiderwoman by Manuel Puig, films are symbolized to convey how Molina and Valentin escape the pressures in their current lifestyles. In the real world humans telnd to find ways to release the stressors of everyday life.

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 6:22 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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Make sure you are focusing more on Puig - what Puig is doing with his narrative structure - rather than what Molina is doing/feeling.

Also, this is to everyone, it's a lot easier to reply off of the initial message rather than replying off of replies - that way, you can see the responses easier.

* FROM: Student 5 (10/23/08 6:49 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 5]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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im not sure what i want to do for i my thesis statement but i was thinking about something to with gender roles and sexuality i.e gay men being feminine and Valentin's shift in behavior and how be becomes less emotionally shut in and hostile as he develops feelings for Molina this is a very rough draft of my potential thesis and i would appreciate some feed back thx

* FROM: Student 6 (10/23/08 7:23 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 6]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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Everyone remembers a person for something. It could be their favorite color, a scent they have or a type of food. In Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig the minor characters are represented through the food Molina and Valetin choose to eat and share. What people choose to eat is a reflection on influences of their past childhood friendships and relationships.

* FROM: Student 7 (10/23/08 7:23 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 7]
SUBJECT: homosexuality
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Homosexuals are normally rejected from society. In this, homosexuals, in most cases and in history, would be considered inferior. But puig enables Molina to be the stronger manipulator of the story. So:

Puig uses romantic imagery to depict the argumental nature of the relationship between sexuality and identity by expressing Molina as the main manipulator.By opposing the cliche of a homosexual, Puig creates the larger theme that.......(not sure)

Im pretty sure the device is too vague. my thoughts arent all the way together yet.

* FROM: Student 8 (10/23/08 8:33 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 8]
SUBJECT: RE: student 8's thesis statement
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In Manuel Puig's compelling novel The Kiss of the Spider Woman, he uses strong literary devices such as footnotes in coherence with the events of the novel to saturize the differences between the ideas of homosexuality and masculinity. This reveals that everyone in some way, shape, or form are homosexual, the true difference is whether or not you choose to embrace your destiny

* FROM: Student 9 (10/23/08 9:02 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 9]
SUBJECT: comment on student 8’s
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are footnote literary devices. if so i like your observation. your l.i is radical but im not sure if it fits.

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 9:51 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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X: If you want to write about a shift in attitude about sexuality - perhaps a conflation of sexuality? - then this could be interesting. Get this more specific so we can work with it more. What exactly are you trying to say?

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 9:53 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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Another food paper. Use the word "symbol" or "symbolize" in the thesis. Seems, as of now, a tough paper to write - the minor characters are represented by the food? I'm thinking you might discuss the waiter and the salad... what else? Remember, saying something is symbolic isn't the same as proving it. It could be interesting, but make sure you have enough there. The larger implication needs some work, doesn't seem very intriguing.

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 9:56 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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Your paper has potential but, you're right, the device of "romantic imagery" doesn't mean much. You know, your device could be that Puig characterizes Molina as stronger and more manipulative than his counterpart, and then lead into your other ideas.

Or, you may want to think about why you think Molina is more manipulative than Valentin. There are sure to be devices within the dialogue that you find to be more manipulative.

Of course, you need to work on the L.I.

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 10:00 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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Student 8:

First off, don't praise the novel by calling it compelling. It just makes me think you're sucking up. "strong literary devices" sounds kind of BS as well. :)

As for your idea, it's certainly interesting. I don't think "coherence" is the word you are looking for. And you don't seem to have an immediate textual effect - you jump right to a larger implication, or two of them (the idea of satire and the idea that everyone is homosexual). Stay in the text and use that effect to prove an larger implication.

One interesting thing that your paper reminded me of is the idea that the characters' dialogue sort of conflates the two characters into one, making the masculine/macho/straight and the feminine/gay the same. I mean, there were probably plenty of times in the text where you confused the two characters, right?

* FROM: Student 10 (10/24/08 7:01 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 10]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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I really dont know what to write about, I want to do something with the use of elipses, I really like what they stand for ... and how they convey meaning. Its just I think they are powerfull in this book. I dont know, help?

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/24/08 8:23 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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Student 10:

Go through the text, and start to categorize the ellipses. One type of ellipses might suggest reflection, while other types of ellipses might suggest discomfort. How does Puig bring these different types of ellipses together, or juxtapose them off one another, and what kind of effect does it have on the meaning of the text?

This has lots of potential.

* FROM: Student 11 (10/24/08 10:16 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 11]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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In the Kiss Of the Spider woman by Manuel Puig. Puig use the motif of food to reveal comfort and acceptence. Puig uses verions stories where food was in one way or another a sight of confort. Puig is implying that people today still food to display emotion they wish not to share.

* FROM: Student 12 (10/24/08 10:17 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 12]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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I think tha your idea is very original. I could not have even gottent he right words together to say what you said. Sound like a good essay!

* FROM: Student 12 (10/24/08 10:20 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 12]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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X your thesis seems to be coming along. Are trying to say that Valentine is trapped and tortured by his feeling s for molina, because he does not know how to handle them, or does not want to admit to them?

* FROM: Student 11 (10/24/08 10:23 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 11]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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In the novel Kiss of the spider women, the author Manel Puig use framestories to forshadow the acual story. Each story reveal an event that is going to happen.

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:08 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Post your Puig thesis statements here
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Student 10:

Your first thesis statement is okay... as you can see, a couple other people are also writing about food, and that's okay... make sure you have the word "symbolize" in there. The larger implication perhaps needs a little work.

Your second one is a little too vague. What events does it foreshadow? Also no larger implication.

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FROM: Student 13 (10/23/08 1:01 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 13]
SUBJECT: spider woman spiderwoman does what ever a spider woman does

Many people say a picture is worth a thousand words well a film must be worth more than a thousand words. In mauneil puigs kiss of the spiderwoman puig uses the motif of films to convey behavior this suggests that people can explain themselves and there meaning to life

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 5:23 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: spider woman spiderwoman does what ever a spider woman d
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X, trying to write about just films in this novel is too much. Choose an aspect of the films that seems to run through many of them. An obvious example might be strong heroines. "Convey behavior" is too broad - what about behavior? The L.I. is also a bit broad... work on narrowing your focus so you can delve deep into a topic.

* FROM: Student 7 (10/23/08 7:31 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 7]
SUBJECT: RE: spider woman spiderwoman does what ever a spider woman d
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you can tell your thoughts arent together. most of it is too vague. the L.I wouldnt make a good conclusion honestly.

i would think about how in each film the female is the weak and vulnerable character.....and with Molina wanting to be a female, you would think he would have a different interest. Also, he mentions how men are dogs, i think, so that should be supportive

* FROM: Student 14 (10/24/08 10:21 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 14]
SUBJECT: RE: spider woman spiderwoman does what ever a spider woman d
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I agree with Student 7. I feel that you shouldwrite about the correlation between the fact that the main characters are always women in each of these films, and how Molina wants to be a woman. Itotally nderstand where you are trying to go with your thesis statement though.

[p.s. watch your punctuation...i though it was a run on at first.]

* FROM: Student 13 (10/24/08 10:23 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 13]
SUBJECT: RE: once your stuck in a web you cant get out
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Spiders spin webs in areas where their prey lives in order to lure their prey into getting trapped in their web. In Puig's Kiss of the Spider Woman, Molina acts as a metaphorical spider, luring and trapping Valentin with his stories. Puig uses the motif of luring throughout the films he tells to make Valentin defenseless to whatever molina does. This suggests we are just like spiders we distract others in our web to get to our goal.


* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:43 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: spider woman spiderwoman does what ever a spider woman d
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Student 13,

Don't freak out about the larger implication right now. It will come. It's more important at this point to be looking for evidence and proving your effect.

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FROM: Student 12 (10/23/08 5:04 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 12]
SUBJECT: My thesis statement

I'm still trying to work out the kinks in this thesis. It's kinda hard for me to put this the way i want to say it.

Communion is a spiritual aspect that brings people together. In the kiss of the spider woman, Piug uses the meals and types of food incorporated into the novel as a symbol of the eventual realtionship that will unfold between the characters Molina and Valentin, creating the effect of what actually is going on between them before it happens. This creates the larger theme that certain foods givin in a certain way often reveals what type of person someone realy is.

It's still a little shaky , im gonna need some help organizing my thoughts..and it's very wordy. any idea how i cabn fix this?

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 5:26 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: My thesis statement
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So, you're basically saying that the food foreshadows their relationship? This is interesting, though seems kind of hard - your biggest weakness in your last essay was saying things were so without proving it, just thinking that saying it was enough. Be wary of that, without being afraid to tackle a tough topic.

As for this, the issue of communion in the hook seems lost in your actual thesis - it doesn't flow into the next sentence. The larger implicaton does not seem a natural outgrowth of your effect. Work with this more and more, it could work. Perhaps re-read the food chapter in Foster's text for some ideas.

* FROM: Student 4 (10/23/08 6:07 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 4]
SUBJECT: RE: My thesis statement
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are you implying that food shows personality?
i think your paper would be worth reading. you have a unique topic its something that i would not have thought about

* FROM: Student 7 (10/23/08 6:51 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 7]
SUBJECT: RE: My thesis statement
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i swear i had the same thoughts but i didnt understand whether food symbolized personality or the relationship. so im going to be very interested in the essay. also i love the wording of the L.I

* FROM: Student 15 (10/23/08 6:56 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 15]
SUBJECT: RE: My thesis statement
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This is a very interesting subject to talk about and you could give alot of evidence to support your thesis.

* FROM: Student 8 (10/23/08 8:38 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 8]
SUBJECT: RE: My thesis statement
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.. this sounds interesting... I think as of now your larger implication is the weakest part.. It might help if you add a sentence before it to kind of verify it a bit more... but I think you're off to a good start

* FROM: Student 14 (10/24/08 10:23 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 14]
SUBJECT: RE: My thesis statement
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Okay... so how does communion tie into your thesis statement? Are you insinuating that food is giving a hint to where Molina and Valentin relationship end up?

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FROM: ona (10/23/08 5:41 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to ona ]
SUBJECT: Do opposites really attract?

In the novel, The Kiss of the Spider Woman,Puig puts two strangers in a cell with pretty much nothing to talk about. However he uses the discussion of movies to distinguish each character and reveals their personalities. Thus showing that a friendship can form between two very different people.

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* FROM: Student 4 (10/23/08 6:05 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 4]
SUBJECT: RE: Do opposites really attract?
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your thesis statement really isnt a thesis statement. it lacks the components of oel. what you have posted is more of a hook or introduction for your thesis statement

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 6:23 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Do opposites really attract?
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X and X have it. You don't seem to have a device/author's technique here. Focus more on the choices that Puig is making and how it creates meaning.

* FROM: Student 8 (10/23/08 8:54 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 8]
SUBJECT: RE: Do opposites really attract?
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I agree with student 2... there definitely isn't an o at all... it is also kind of vague.. I think the concept you are hinting at can be thoroughly supported an make a good argument if done right. I think you should also work oon the l.i. because it doesnt concretely answer the "so what" question..

* FROM: Student 14 (10/24/08 10:18 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 14]
SUBJECT: RE: Do opposites really attract?
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i am definitely no expert on writing thesis statements, but i do agree withthe above statemnets. i understand what you are aiming for, but ther is really no format. [do you understand what i'm saying?]

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FROM: Student 4 (10/23/08 6:00 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 4]
SUBJECT: films

films is not the topic i would really like to discuss but until i get it approved this is my thesis statement:

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* FROM: Student 15 (10/23/08 6:59 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 15]
SUBJECT: RE: films
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What do you want to write about? Have you talked to Mr. Bmoreteach about it?

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FROM: Student 4 (10/23/08 6:04 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 4]
SUBJECT: films

this is not the topic that i would like to write about but until i get it approved by bmore teach this is my thesis statement:
In The Kiss of the Spiderwoman by Manuel Puig, films are symbolized to convey how Molina and Valentin escape the pressures of their current lifestyles. In the real world, humans tend to find a hobby that allows them to forget about the stressors of their everyday life.

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 6:21 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: films
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Student 4 -

Was films a topic? The title is symbolic, so that is a topic. What do you want to write about with it?

* FROM: Student 15 (10/23/08 6:50 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 15]
SUBJECT: RE: films
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What are "stressors"? Do you mean "stresses"?

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FROM: Student 15 (10/23/08 6:47 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 15]
SUBJECT: My Thesis Statment

In the past, stories and legends have been shared by word of mouth. The stories that were shared were mostly fictional but had some truth in them. In Puig's novel, The Kiss of The Spiderwoman, Molina tells stories about the movies he had seen to Valentin which reveals a little more about him than before. Puig is trying to convey a kind of parallelism between Molina's life and the movies that he tells.

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* FROM: Student 7 (10/23/08 7:38 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 7]
SUBJECT: RE: My Thesis Statment
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Student 15, i dont see the L.I which is suppose to relate to real life. you have the relation tothe story. You also mention "conveying parallelism" but i can't tell if that's the device or just another point.

If you could get anymore specific, you can tell what aspect of molina's life and the movie because it sounds a little general

* FROM: Student 9 (10/23/08 9:05 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 9]
SUBJECT: RE: My Thesis Statment
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This is very vauge. what exactly does it reveal about him. how does this connect to the way that stories are told? needs work.

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 10:02 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: My Thesis Statment
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Student 15,

I agree with both of the commenters. This could be a very good thesis, but, yes, what exactly does it reveal about Molina, and, secondly, what is the "so what?", the larger implication, to that effect?

Try another draft.

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FROM: Student 9 (10/23/08 8:54 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 9]
SUBJECT: tims thesis

There are many materials used to connect and stablize. one general material is thread. In the novel The Kiss of the Spider Woman Manuel Puig uses the motif of thread to convey the state of mind and level of composure or control of the situation in the characters. This shows that the threads of sanity can not stay strong for ever.

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 9:49 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: tims thesis
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Tim, I noticed the thread/yarn motif this time through reading the text as well. It's a good topic. As of now, your effect is a bit wordy and your larger implication a bit wobbly. Keep working on it and I think it has great potential.

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FROM: Student 16 (10/24/08 5:02 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 16]
SUBJECT: Possible Thesis

Puig uses the metaphor of minor characters to symbolize the connenetion that Valentin and Molina have with the outside world..... Once I have said this I get confused

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/24/08 8:21 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
[Edit | Delete]

This is a start, but I'm not seeing what they symbolize. "bringing happiness" is not an effect of a symbol. Get more specific and think about what your larger implication might be.

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FROM: Student 17 (10/24/08 9:43 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 17]
SUBJECT: Puig thesis statement.

Puig uses the juxtaposition of the protaganists behavior and their ideal of what a "real man" is. To show contradictions which the character must strugle with to gain integrity and self esteem(i need to work on this). Genderoles learned in childhood effect everyone no matter how radical a subvert one is.

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* FROM: Student 1 (10/24/08 9:48 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 1]
SUBJECT: RE: Puig thesis statement.
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In the novel Kiss of the Spiderwoman, the author, Manuel Puig, illustrates a connection of manipulation which creates an understanding of what the characters are able to lose in their lives. This in terms shows how everyone can be influenced in some form through their wish to gain or hopes not to lose.

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:11 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Puig thesis statement.
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Student 17:

The main issue is your wording right now. I see what you're trying to say, but the wording is device-free and vague. Work on it.

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FROM: Student 1 (10/24/08 9:50 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 1]
SUBJECT: My Thesis

In the novel Kiss of the Spiderwoman, the author, Manuel Puig, illustrates a connection of manipulation which creates an understanding of what the characters are able to lose in their lives. This in terms shows how everyone can be influenced in some form through their wish to gain or hopes not to lose.

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:13 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: My Thesis
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Student 1: You have some clarity issues. I keep reading it and wondering what you're trying to say. Pick a more concrete motif/symbol you can track to say what you want to say.

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FROM: Student 18 (10/24/08 9:52 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 18]
SUBJECT: My Thesis Statement

Black vs. light imagery.


In Puig's novel, The Kiss Of The Spider Woman, imagery of darkness and light stands as a metaphor for the evil and good portryaed by charcters concerned. His descirption of settinbg and character traits are plagued by the theme of black versus white, showing his interest in the concept of a battle between malevolence and benevolence in all forms of media. The poinbt he is relating is how quick human nature is to jugde that which is not yet explained, and to frequently classify concepts as either good or evil.

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:15 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: My Thesis Statement
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Student 18:

This is a strong thesis.

I worry that your second sentence might be too broad - descriptions of character traits as dark/light *and* setting? But, I'm not sure. Maybe your evidence is really specific and it will be effective that way. In either case, I'm intrigued and ready to read your paper.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
FROM: Student 19 (10/24/08 10:02 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 19]
SUBJECT: manipulations

In the novel, the Kiss of the Spider Woman, Puig uses manipulations to create a sense of trust and security to Valentin and Molina. Many times when people hurt each other then make up, it just makes the relationship between them stronger in the end.

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:17 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: manipulations
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Student 19: "Manipulations" is not a literary device. Think about what creates that manipulative effect - it should almost certainly be the effect of your thesis, not the device. Maybe it's a type of dialogue that creates the manipulation? Or something else? Think about it.

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FROM: Student 20 (10/24/08 10:04 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 20]
SUBJECT: Potential thesis

I wanted to write about how Puig uses the minor characters in the book to symbolize a common ground between both Molina and Valentin, because the minor characters are a sacred part of their lives....BUT IdK..
Need help!!!

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:20 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Potential thesis
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Choose one minor character for each and see if you can come up with some interesting connections you can make between them. Perhaps something about gender roles - the idea of what a "real man" is vs. the idea of what a "real woman" is?

This topic has potential to be mundane and too concerned with the feelings of characters as if they were real people, but also the potential to be intriguing and literary. Make sure you are always focused on what Puig is doing, not what the characters are concerned about.

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FROM: Student 21 (10/24/08 10:07 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 21]
SUBJECT: Thesis Statement

In Manuel Puig's Kiss Of The Spiderwoman Puig uses characterization to portray the manipulators within the novel. I find this interesting because, Puig uses both the warden and Molina to get information about Valentin and his Comrads, while also breaking the characters away from themselves.

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:22 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Thesis Statement
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Monyai: Your device is the minor character of the Warden, not characterization. This could work, but you don't seem to have a larger implication. Also could tend to get too plot-driven... make sure you are concerned with literary devices.

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FROM: Student 14 (10/24/08 10:13 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 14]
SUBJECT: Escaping From Your Troubles

To escape can be defined in many ways. The dictionary's definition of escape is to slip, or get away from confinement or restraint; to elude; or avoidance of reality. People usually want to escape from the troubles of their mind, body, and/or soul. In the novel, "Kiss of the Spider Woman", the author, Manuel Puig, uses a series of characterization techniques and types of imagery to illustrate how Molina and Valentin escape their troubles by listening and telling stories of previously viewed movies, which redefines the idea of escape.

[I know that this is a rough start, but please give me feedback. I feel that this is too wordy, and is lacking something...alot. I would greatly appreciate some comments. Thanks!]

**I'm slaowaiting for an approval from Bmore Teach!

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:25 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Escaping From Your Troubles
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A paper about escape is a good topic. Right now, your devices are too vague (characterization and types of imagery), and you need to focus more specifically on what is it that creates this idea of escape. Is it nautical imagery, for example? (This is just an example, I'm not sure if it'll work, but it seems to be a few of the films had boats/water in them.) Or, you could discuss the films as a narrative technique that brings about escape for the characters.

You'll want to revise your larger implication (redefine the idea of escape? what does that mean, exactly?), but worry first about the device and effect. This could be a good paper.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
FROM: Student 15 (10/24/08 10:21 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 15]
SUBJECT: My Improved Thesis Statement

In the past, stories and legends have been shared by word of mouth. The stories that were shared were mostly fictional but had some truth in them. Puig uses the motif of woman who fall in love and die in the movies which creates a sort of parallelism between Molina and the love struck women in the films he talks about with Valentin. This implicates the irony of love in this story because love is supposed to be happy and about life, but in this book if the woman fell in love, they died.

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:28 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: My Improved Thesis Statement
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Student 15, this is a good idea. You are still way wordy, and the flow needs some work. For example, "movies" in that second sentence is uncontextualized... someone who has never read the book will have a real hard time with that sentence. And "implicates the irony of love"? What story is it? The novel? Why did you call it a book and not a novel later in that sentence?

Really get yourself in another mindset and read the paragraph again as if you were not the writer. This is a great idea that I don't want to be messed up by wordiness. Keep editing. Good job so far, though, this is definitely much better.

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FROM: Student 22 (10/24/08 10:23 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 22]

I am having difficulty writing a complete thesis statement (OEL format) but I have succefully chosen a topic. I would like to discuss Puig's use of foil characters to convey the idea of the split personalities of Molina, Valentin, and the characters within the films. For example:

- Meak and mild woman versus her inner Cat Woman

- Molina's masculinity versus femininty

- Molina's strong personality versus weak personality

- Valentin's masculinity versus femininty

- German woman's loyalty versus betrayal

- Witch doctor's old body versus young face

- Drunken husband versus sober husband

I will compose a full thesis statement by the deadline. Until then..this is it. IM THINKING! ; )

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:36 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
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Student 22: Good idea. I've cut and pasted some definitions that might help you. I'm not so sure, in looking at your evidence, that it's foils you want to discuss. Also, make sure your device is those characters in the films, and the effect is the revelation of character traits/split personalities with the two protagonists (M and V).

In fiction, an antithesis can be used to describe a character who presents the exact opposite as to personality type, moral outlook, etc. to another character in a particular piece of literature. This does not mean however, that they are necessarily in conflict with each other. Some examples of an antithesis in fiction include the characters of Locke and Jack in Lost (TV series), Dumbledore and Voldemort in Harry Potter, the doctor and Kino in The Pearl, and Théoden and Denethor in The Lord of the Rings.

A foil is a character that contrasts with another character, usually the protagonist, and so highlights various facets of the main character's personality. A foil usually has some important characteristics in common with the other character, such as, frequently, superficial traits or personal history. The author may use the foil to throw the character of the protagonist into sharper relief.

A foil's complementary role may be emphasized by physical contrasts. Dreamy and impractical Don Quixote is thin; realistic, practical Sancho Panza is fat. Sherlock Holmes is tall and lean; Doctor Watson, although at first, on his return from Afghanistan, described as lean, is later described as "middle-sized, strongly built."

In some cases, a subplot can be used as a foil to the main plot. This is especially true in the case of metafiction. One example of a plot being used as a foil can be seen in the graphic novel Watchmen, in which a comic book within the Watchmen universe presents a story similar to that of one of the main characters.

The "straight man" in a comedy duo is a comic foil. While the straight man portrays a reasonable and serious character, the other portrays a funny, dumb, or simply unorthodox one. The humor in these partnerships derives from the interactions between these drastically different personalities.

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FROM: Student 23 (10/24/08 10:23 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 23]
SUBJECT: Thesis statement

In Manuel Puig's Kiss Of The Spider Woman, the author uses stories to convey Molina as the manipulator by using the motif of beautiful women. In doing so, Puig shows how people use others to get what they want.

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:39 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Thesis statement
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Student 23:

"Stories" is not a device. Look exactly what you think of as that causes the manipulation. Is it a type of imagery? A type of punctuation? A type of dialogue? A type of characters portrayed in the films? Manipulation should be the effect.

Your larger implication is too broad - maybe once you revise the earlier part of the thesis, this will become clearer to you.

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FROM: Student 24 (10/24/08 10:24 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 24]
SUBJECT: Student 24's thesis statement

On Halloween people walk around in costumes pretending to be some kind of character they are not. Sometimes these characters will be something very strong. But when that costume comes off we are finally able to see that weak person under the strong exterior. Mauel puig does something similar to this, by creating a charcter that is weak on the outside yet strong on the inside. In the novel, Kiss of the SpiderWoman,in the films told by Molina Puig uses the motif of internally strong women who have weak exteriors to depict the personilty that Molina possesed. This suggest that people are more than what is presented on the outside.

This is just an idea of what i want my thesis statement to be structured around. Please let me know what you think. Be harsh, i want the truth.

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* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:42 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Student 24's thesis statement
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Student 24:

Somewhere in the description of the device, you should put that it's the "motif of internally strong women who have weak exteriors" as described in the narrative device of Molina's film-telling. The larger implication is dull - can you fit it into an irony or paradox, perhaps? (Yes, you can. Play with it.)

I like your idea a lot but the idea of mask/costuming doesn't strongly flow into your internal vs. exterior strength idea in your device. Stick with this idea but revise.