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

[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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]


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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]


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
[Edit | Delete]


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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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

REPLIES (5): [ Hide Replies ]

* 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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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?

REPLIES (6): [ Hide Replies ]

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 5:26 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: My thesis statement
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

.. 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
[Edit | Delete]

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?

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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.

REPLIES (4): [ Hide Replies ]

* 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?
[Edit | Delete]

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?
[Edit | Delete]

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?
[Edit | Delete]

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?
[Edit | Delete]

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?]

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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:

REPLIES (1): [ Hide Replies ]

* FROM: Student 15 (10/23/08 6:59 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 15]
SUBJECT: RE: films
[Edit | Delete]

What do you want to write about? Have you talked to Mr. Bmoreteach about it?

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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.

REPLIES (2): [ Hide Replies ]

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

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
[Edit | Delete]

What are "stressors"? Do you mean "stresses"?

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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.

REPLIES (3): [ Hide Replies ]

* FROM: Student 7 (10/23/08 7:38 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 7]
SUBJECT: RE: My Thesis Statment
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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
[Edit | Delete]

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.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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.

REPLIES (1): [ Hide Replies ]

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/23/08 9:49 PM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: tims thesis
[Edit | Delete]

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.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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

REPLIES (1): [ Hide Replies ]

* 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.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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.

REPLIES (2): [ Hide Replies ]

* FROM: Student 1 (10/24/08 9:48 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Student 1]
SUBJECT: RE: Puig thesis statement.
[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: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:11 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Puig thesis statement.
[Edit | Delete]

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.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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.

REPLIES (1): [ Hide Replies ]

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:13 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: My Thesis
[Edit | Delete]

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.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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.

REPLIES (1): [ Hide Replies ]

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

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.

REPLIES (1): [ Hide Replies ]

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:17 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: manipulations
[Edit | Delete]

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.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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!!!

REPLIES (1): [ Hide Replies ]

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:20 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Potential thesis
[Edit | Delete]

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.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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.

REPLIES (1): [ Hide Replies ]

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:22 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
SUBJECT: RE: Thesis Statement
[Edit | Delete]

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.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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!

REPLIES (1): [ Hide Replies ]

* 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
[Edit | Delete]

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.

REPLIES (1): [ Hide Replies ]

* 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
[Edit | Delete]

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.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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! ; )

REPLIES (1): [ Hide Replies ]

* FROM: Bmore Teach (10/25/08 6:36 AM GMT -06:00) [ Send a personal message to Bmore Teach]
[Edit | Delete]

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.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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.

REPLIES (1): [ Hide Replies ]

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

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.

[Reply] [Edit | Delete]
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.

REPLIES (1): [ Hide Replies ]

* 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
[Edit | Delete]

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.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Good teaching week

Well, the LCD Projector has been a really great addition to my classroom. So far, I've mostly just shown scenes from films, but it's so nice and easy that I can't quite believe that it's taken me so long to get one.

One of the lessons I took from Folger this summer was performance = analysis, and analyzing performance is analyzing text. When my guest speaker, Caleen Jennings, visited my classes at the beginning of the month, she read Rose Maxson two different ways - once as heartbroken, once as angry. I keep drawing from that, as we see Lady Capulet's cold distance in the 1968 Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet, and her boozy flooziness in the 1996 Lurhmann Romeo + Juliet. We examined the Queen Mab speech on our own, then in both film productions. The kids love it and are saying really insightful things. It was a great week.

With my Juniors, I set up the Internet discussion board that I did a little bit last year. I love it and it helps me help them a little more expediently. Their essays came back to them yesterday and the class average was a 54. They need the help but they're getting it. The transition to Junior year English is a big one. They'll be fine.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Accountability and the HSA: First, do no harm?

Bob Embry, who is one of the leading education advocates in Baltimore and a man I respect a great deal, penned an Op-Ed in The Baltimore Sun, entitled "Does the HSA Pass the Test?"

It's all about the limiting nature of the HSA and its possible deleterious effect on students in the state of Maryland. No Child Left Behind has saddled American public education with a number of problems; it is an unfunded mandate that rewards schools for improving test scores, but the tests themselves are created by the state, so the states are motivated to make the tests as simplistic as possible, and only in limited subject areas. I am all for accountability in schools, but have yet to find a good system. The HSA is not one of them.

That being said, Embry argues that making the HSA a requirement for graduation does a disservice to the students. First, by making the test (which already has questions of effectiveness in measuring and affecting student achievement) a graduation requirement, does this force schools to put the test subject areas closer to graduation, when more college preparatory classes should be taken? Secondly, how much is it costing the schools? Lastly, what is going to happen with graduation rates this year with the first group of students who are required to pass the test to graduate? Will it result in a host of non-graduates in Maryland?

These are all interesting propositions. The state of MD might very well have some excellent reasons for making the test a graduation requirement. It increases the importance that the students feel about taking the test, which definitely has an effect on achievement. If students know the test matters, they will do better - this is obvious. Plus, making it a graduation requirement certainly makes schools accountable, and this is certainly a good thing (though, as aforementioned, school accountability is sort of a buzz word right now and not necessarily a good one, for it is usually attached to often bad standardized tests.)

As our school has become more focused on the HSA in recent years, I have found that the Juniors the HSA course (a 10th grade course) produces have lower higher-level thinking skills than previous years. One wonders if it's because a lot of their 10th grade work was spent on test-taking skills and multiple-choice skills instead of the higher-level thinking and writing that they must do as a Junior. Or, it could be simply the result of a different group of kids or other different programs. I haven't taught long enough to know, and the data from these tests or even from programs is so problematic because the kids change.

I don't have any answers, but I'm sure glad Bob Embry is talking about it.

Photo Day

I stayed up pretty late last night readying my lesson (really, figuring out my equipment) and came in this morning ready to right the ship of my Romeo and Juliet unit (I'm assigning, not teaching, and losing the kids - mostly as a result of a crazy schedule lately) and change the students' lives forever.

I arrived way early, skipping my 5:30am gym trip and getting to school at 7am. I wanted to give myself plenty of time in case the LCD Projector didn't work, or the speakers, or the laptop, or the DVD.

When I arrived, I saw a memo posted in the mail room about it being Picture Day, that staff should make sure and head down to get their ID photo taken sometime during the day. I had a brief second of disappointment, as it meant, I thought, a constant barrage of announcements throughout the day: "All 9th graders with a Last Name between A and L, please report to the auditorium for your photo." But, I figured, that's okay, that I would deal with it, as 9th grade, my primary subject area, would probably be over with by the end of 1st period.

I overheard someone else discussing the day, though, and, it turns out, the onus was on the English teachers to actually bring their students down to the auditorium every period. The memo was supposed to have been put into our boxes sometime yesterday (not that it would have helped... I check it in the mornings), but that was neglected. Our department head was also supposed to tell us, but she forgot. Just a failure to communicate. Grrrr.... It always irks me when English is the dumping ground for things the school needs to do, whether it be Guidance visits or scheduling meetings - but it's the only class that every kid needs to take all four years, and the only subject where students are never out of grade level. Still annoying, at least when I have a good lesson.

So I was steaming mad, because I was excited about my lesson, but, by the end of the day, I was okay. We coordinated as a department to head down there at different times during the period, and ended up losing only about 15-20 minutes of each class time after 1st period (which was a mess and they're behind). It's actually a pretty neat process to see ID photos getting taken; the IDs are spit out immediately from a machine, and I gather them up and pass them out to the kids. It's funny to see all the kids and their smiles, or lack thereof (about 90% of the boys don't smile).

With the different time periods, I was able to at least start the lesson, and tomorrow won't feel as rushed, as we compare the Luhrmann 1.1 to the Zefferelli 1.1. The kids are excited and I feel like I've hooked them again. We'll see how those Queen Mab drawings look tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The LCD Projector

At the end of the Teaching Shakespeare Institute, I used some of the money from the stipend to buy my classroom an LCD Projector. It was a crazy expensive purchase, but I figured I shouldn't really be making money off an NEH grant. Since I didn't have to pay for living expenses like almost all of my colleagues in the institute, so I actually made money on the deal, I decided to invest a few hundred back into my classroom.

TSI was really focused on technology in the classroom. This was, at times, a disappointment to me - I work in a school without much technology. The only computer in my classroom is one I purchased for myself. I purchased my laptop, which I used only for work, for myself. The only computer lab available for my students has only about 18 working computers and I have nearly double that in my classes. An LCD Projector? I'd never really seen one. The DVD player for my department? Mine that I purchased. We have one working television for 14 teachers and the aforementioned DVD player.

This year, with the budget in the hands of the principal, our school has gotten more technology. I've heard rumors of four smart boards in the building, and I just saw the first one when I happened in on a colleague's classroom the other day. We still haven't seen any of it in the English department, but I'm hopeful that someday we'll get something like that. Imagining teaching an English class with a Smart board - teaching text annotation, or revision/editing using it - is pretty exciting.

Anyhow, so I bought the LCD Projector in August, and I've had a lot of buyer's remorse. It was expensive, and, although I can write it off on my taxes and stuff, I doubt it'll make any difference then. Plus, I've been darn broke most of the school year so far. My paycheck of $1092 comes in, and after rent ($600), student loans ($200), car insurance ($120), and phone bill ($98 for 2 months) are paid, it's gone. I'm still owed for tuition reimbursement from the city, and my raise has not kicked in. So, I actually had to use coins from the coin jar last week to get my morning coffees. I'm pretty adamant about not accruing any credit card debt, so I'm trying my best to live inside my means - but I'll have to buy a car soon and a house, if it ever comes, will need a downpayment.

Back to the LCD Projector... the buyer's remorse comes not only from the cost, but the fact that new technology just scares me. I'm not very good at using it, and I had a hundred excuses for not starting it up. Too busy. It'll get stolen. It'll get broken.

But, finally, tonight, I got excited about doing my Romeo and Juliet scene comparison lesson, and busted it out. It took me a bit, but I figured it out. Tomorrow will be a treat for the kids.

My next goal: figure out how to make film clips. I'd like to make it quicker and just sort of have the clips side by side on my computer rather than having to load up the DVD every time. I'd actually aprpeciate any help anyone might be able to provide on that...

Sunday, October 19, 2008


1. I hate it when I plan a whole week's worth of lessons and activities based on the fact that I get a set of essays back to the students, and then I don't get done. It seemed like I spent all weekend working on school stuff (don't worry, had some fun, too), but I'm still not done. Grading this particular set of essays is making me want to gouge out my eyes, but it's okay, it's their first of the year. They need to get them back to start reflecting and thinking about their next essay. I just can barely stand to read them. I've now had them a week and have graded 23 of 34. Class is at 11:30 tomorrow - think I can finish? I hope so. I told them Monday and planned this week's lessons around that fact.

2. I am considering doing part of National Board Certification this year, in a program called "Take One".

3. I think I'm going as Troy Maxson this year for Halloween. I need to find a garbage collector uniform. Any ideas?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Weird Week, Continued

The weird week continues.

Wednesday was the PSAT day. All 9th, 10th, and 11th graders take the test between 8:30 and 11:30. In the past, the building becomes pretty empty after 11:30, even though we officially have class. However, the groups of students that I teach - 9th graders and Advanced 11th graders - have tended to mostly stay in the past. Becaue I don't hear anything differently, and because I think the students are a little too young to be deciding on their own that they're allowed to skip the rest of the day (particularly the 9th graders), I tell them that it's required that they come in the afternoon, that I'm having a graded assignment. However, at 11:30, there is an announcement about going home if the student has a note, and, if they don't have a note, that they can bring one on Monday. I ended up having about 5 kids per class in the afternoon, except for my Juniors, who showed up 12-fold.

They were all great classes. Yes, I really taught. We did some scene work from Romeo and Juliet and had a nice little activity about footnoes in Kiss of the Spider Woman. But still weird, and annoying.

Today was the first of two professional development days. We were away at a different school in the city, one with a lot more space and resources. We had a meeting in a classroom that was set up in a Socratic Seminar style, with room for 22 (comfortable) desks and chairs in the circle, as well as 6 or so spotted around the outside, at computers. They had an LCD Projector in the room, something I bought for my own classroom this year. A ton of nice white boards. Carpet. A/C. It was beautiful.

The meetings were good and productive, with lots of practical ideas. Then we had another meeting that turned me all grouchy. I was grouchy about it all afternoon, until around the time BJ Upton hit that 2-run home run in the 1st inning against Boston. Now, I feel much better. It's 5-0 now.

I'm kind of in a funk right now, though. Romeo and Juliet, which I had such high expectations for, has been a little bit of a letdown. Much of it is the irregulatiy of my meetings with the kids lately - a jury duty day, PSAT day, etc. But I've got to get it back next week. As for Kiss of the Spider Woman, I'm trying my best to create dynamic lessons, but under the heavy burden of House of the Spirits essays do I sink. I've been grading them, and they seem to take 20 or more minutes each, and I'm doing things like numbering the grammatical errors (highest so far: 69) so they can look up their problems and submit with their revision, and writing so many comments that there is often more comments than typing. But I know the effort I put into these first essays, and the second essays, will bear fruit in the end. They will become good writers.

Another former student, this one a freshman at Towson, visited me on Wednesday. English class is easy for her. She's not challenged at all, in fact. It was another reminder that this is worth it. But, wow, I'm working my butt off right now.

As for Kiss of the Spider Woman, I'm really motivated to teach it better than last year, which was my first year teaching it. This brand new guide of methods for teaching the text, whic I ordered last weekend, just came in the mail this evening. It looks good so far. Pretty dense and mostly essays about how to teach it (this is no "make copies of this handout" type of resource), but I like thinking about the philosophy for teaching something. I need to figure out how to effectively teach syntax with this text; I want students to be able to analyze this effectively without me telling them what all Puig's polysyndeton and ellipses might reveal. It's a cool book, that's for sure. I was hesitant two years ago (nixing it altogether from the curriculum) and not that into it last year, but this year, I'm all about it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Weird Week

It's a strange 2-day week for us. Monday and Tuesday are normal, but Wednesday is the PSAT day, and Thursday and Friday are professional development days.

Once a year, the professional development days are consecutive, like this week. I'm really feeling a need for professional development in ways I've never quite felt before; the curriculum teams that I'm on need some face-to-face time, and I'm also wanting to get together with the vertical teams. It's been about eight weeks since the school year started, and meeting times are irregular and the meetings themselves don't feel productive. So, I'm looking forward to Thursday and Friday. Unfortunately, I think a lot of our time will be taken up with other things, but I'll try to remain positive before giving final judgement. In either case, it will be nice to just sort of step back from the day-to-day and just sort of reflect on how the year is going.

For some reason, Romeo and Juliet feels off so far. I think part of it has been the rush, and being out for jury duty, and the weirdness of the days... or maybe I've built it up too much in my mind - you know, THE FIRST TIME I'VE TAUGHT SHAKESPEARE SINCE THE TEACHING SHAKESPEARE INSTITUTE AT THE FOLGER!. I need to do some more thinking about it. And I need to let up on the control in the classroom a bit more. I can't believe I'm still in Act I, that's for sure.

In either case, I'm giving a quiz tomorrow, and then Wednesday is the PSAT day, so I'll have plenty of time to get back on track. We'll see...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sometimes it works

A former student of mine visited today. I taught her in the 9th grade, and later she was my baseball manager for her junior and senior year. This girl loved to read and loved baseball - how could she not have been one of my favorite students of all time?

She's now a freshman at Coppin State, where she's finding every class really easy, which makes me happy. We apparently prepared her well. And, she wants to be a teacher, and is already working in a classroom.

A total success story, she had a baby at the beginning of her sophomore year of high school. She never let the situation turn her away from her studies. In fact, I think the baby centered her, and made her a better student. Don't get me wrong; I would not give this advice to anyone. But after generally being an erratic student in the 9th grade (as many 9th graders are), she seemed to gain a sense of academic maturity after becoming a mother. I'm sure a lot of other factors worked into it, including a boyfriend (not the father) who happened (and happens) to be one of the most solid kids you'd ever want to know (also taught him in the 9th grade). They've been together 4 or 5 years, and, from Facebook updates, look like they plan to get married; he's away at school, studying to be a veterinarian, but everything looks to be going strong with them. She wore a big necklace with his name on it when I saw her.

So she spoke to me today, and I was bemoaning the state of my 9th graders. Thirty-three out of 125 just don't have any clue what it means to be in high school, and have grades of under 50%. I tell the students that anything below an 80 is unacceptable, that they have to shoot for the moon because even if they miss they're still among stars, but only about 15 kids are pulling B's or above. The transition from middle school to high school is a rough one, though; I have heard from my middle school colleagues - and their graduates bear it out - that most middle schools in the city just don't make their kids work nearly hard enough. I'm not thinking this class is any worse than previous ones, necessarily, but, wow - they have got to start to figure it out. I gave long-winded and mildly angry speeches to all of them today, about how after eight years of teaching, I'm just sick and tired of seeing young people throw away their talents and their minds because they are unwilling to work hard. These bright young people can write their own tickets if they do well in high school; colleges will be beating down their doors trying to recruit them. But not if they have an average of a 72.

I have students who can pull an 80 on a test without studying, but do no homework so their grade is terrible. And students who think coming to my extra credit study hall on Wednesdays will help them pass when they don't do the major project for the unit (and they're fun projects, too). Students that beg and plead for higher grades but have no clue that work and actual learning is a requirement.

I don't like being harsh. They need it, but I still don't like it. I do sort of wish I was a college instructor, because I would have liked to have peppered the speech with some f-bombs, but I still think I got the point across. Guilt is my most formidable weapon as a classroom manager. I treat the kids fair and I think they generally like me, so when they disappoint me with their behavior or work ethic, the disappointment is genuine and I think they can see it - and, if not, my much-mocked-after-they-have-me-as-a-teacher line of "I'm so disappointed in you right now" works. And it's no act. So, there were tears. There was anger. But, hopefully, there will be lots of hard work over the weekend on 1.2 and 1.3 of Romeo and Juliet.

But my former student smiled, and told me this: "You know what was one of the turning points in my life? I remember my mother and I were at parent/teacher conferences during my 9th grade year, and we were right behind 'Jasmine' [a brilliant A student who got a full ride to Hopkins and who I taught as a 9th and 11th grader]. My mom and I were waiting in the hallway, and we could hear you all talking in the classroom - about how outstanding she was, about how she's doing all her work, and everything else.

"Then, me and my mom went in there, and - do you remember this? - my mom asked how I was doing. You told her, 'well, you know, I haven't even seen 'M' in 3 or 4 days. She's not doing good at all' and, I remember how disappointed my mom was, and how disappointed I was in myself, and after that moment, I turned it around. I still remember it to this day."

And, at that, I hoped she didn't notice the tear in my eye, and we talked more and more about school and teaching and I sent her on her way back to the home football game. Seeing her was exactly what I needed after the day I spent scolding kids. Because, you know, she reminded me that sometimes scolding works.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I even missed the first few minutes of The Office

I burned the midnight oil at school today, working until 9pm in my classroom. The custodians kept coming into my room, wondering why I was still there. One guy wanted to mop the hallways, and I told him that I was on a roll and didn't want to leave, and, it turns out, the floors were dry by the time I got out of there. I stayed so late that I filled a trash can with trash in the interim between the first emptying at 5pm and the final one at 8:30, and think I got the first workers in trouble. "Dag," the second custodian said, "Didn't they come in here?" He was off before I could explain.

I think the energy came from yesterday's pseudo day off, during which I had jury duty. I hated being away from my students for the day, in a way, but loved all the grading I got done. Luckily, I had a seemingly competent substitute, and I met him in the morning before I went down, and that helps as well.

Anyhow, after my considerable burst of energy tonight, all 9th grade work is now graded, except for one little bitty assignment, and tomorrow they get grade reports and quite a lecture from me. Out of 130 or so 9th graders, I only have 3 A's, and just a handful more over 80. They need a pep-talk, or a verbal beat-down, or a combination of the two, which mine will be. I've actually been practicing. And I'm timing it right before a rather challenging homework assignment I have for them over the weekend; I know they'll do it better because they'll see what their grades are and hear my words of wisdom and know they have to start working harder.

That's the #1 problem with our students: work ethic and responsibility. I feel like that's what I teach more than anything else. Hopefully, it ends up working.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Day 2 of Romeo and Juliet unit

Day two of my Romeo and Juliet unit went slowly, but went well. I'm already a day off from my through-November-7 unit that I wrote, but lots of learning occurred. We read through the first 57 lines of Act I, Scene 1 again, and had the class direct how the actions and movements and tones should occur - the kids' performances really showed their understanding and made me laugh a lot. I have one little boy in my 1st period who came out of his shell playing Troy Maxson last unit - he was one of the few kids who went "off the book" and he really embodied the character - and he played Sampson equally well, adding movements and gestures that perfectly fit that ridiculous character.

We then got through the Prince's speech, which is about 100 lines from where I wanted to get. I had to eschew my homework plan and delay until tomorrow. That's okay. Better they learn the skills (and we were able to go over their writing today) than "cover the content."

Jury duty on Thursday. My first ever! I'll have to prep the kids for a sub tomorrow. It's a first for the year.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bawdy Bard

It is so easy and fun to hook students on Romeo and Juliet.

It's dirtier than Zane. I love reading through the Sampson and Gregory lines, and seeing the kids register at about 25% comprehension. And then I show them a little bit about how to decode the language, and give them license to get their minds in the gutter, and it turns into raunchiness that makes me a little bit uncomfortable but, hey, it's Shakespeare so it's got to be okay, right?

My favorite line letting the kids figure out: "'Tis well thou art not fish; if thou hadst, thou hadst been poor-John." (Gregory is basically calling his bragging friend Sampson's member small, dry and shriveled up.)

I'm so excited about this unit that I wrote, with the huge help of Shakespeare Set Free.

Taking care of myself

I am a creature of routine.

When I started student teaching back in 2000, I weighed over 300 pounds. I had a lot of fun in college, but the lifestyle did not agree with my health. As a post-graduate student teacher, though, I sort of learned how to live healthily. I learned how to eat and how to exercise. I lost 40 pounds in each of the next three years, getting me down to a svelte 195 by 2002. I'm no longer there, but hope to be there again someday.

From August 6th until, well, the Barack Obama trip last weekend, I went to the gym every single day. Generally that was between 5:30 and 7:30am in the morning, at the Stadium Place YMCA. If I ever missed, I would go in the evening, something that I hate because it takes up the entire evening. I was feeling great.

However, in the last week, I've let laziness creep into my routine and have eschewed the morning gym trip in favor of a couple extra hours of sleep. Today, I pushed the outer limit of my wakeup time, not getting my butt out of bed until nearly 7:15. The lack of everyday exercise compounds the exhaustion I feel in the mornings, and it turns into a cycle that I can't wiggle out of.

My lessons have still felt strong lately. I spent some days of reflection in deciding how I wanted to structure my Romeo and Juliet unit, and now feel pretty good about it; I put fingers to keyboard tonight and planned out every class period until Election Day. My Juniors, a class that is finding new ways to disappoint me this year (there are, literally, still over 10 kids who are not reading, and might just be waiting for their reports card failures to start, I don't know), seem like they're doing well in class; hopefully these presentations at the end of the week are good (and hopefully those essays they turned in last week are readable). So, things are feelign good in that regard.

Still, I've got to start gettign back into my routine, so everything starts feeling good. If I'm not taking care of myself, then I just can't be a good teacher.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Feuds: Skills vs. Content, Montagues vs. Capulets

I'm beginning Romeo and Juliet tomorrow. I haven't written the unit plan yet, because I need to turn it over in my head a little bit. I'm partially following the Shakespeare Set Free Romeo and Juliet unit - one of my joys this summer at the Teaching Shakespeare Institute was working with that unit's author, Sue Biondo-Hench - but need to add some writing components.

My big goal, though, is something that I had an epiphany about in the first or second day of the institute: I need to make sure my students take from this unit the skills to approach their next Shakespeare. It's not about them knowing the story of Romeo and Juliet; it's about them gaining the skills of comprehending the language of Shakespeare (or anything else tough they encounter).

"You're a horrible teacher, you know that?" "Well, you would know, because you're a horrible student!"

How did I take forever to see the film Chalk? Talk about being so authentic that it hurts...

There are moments throughout this film that I hope I don't sound like, still. But, wow, it sure is so real.

Thanks to The Smallest Twine for the tip!

Obama trip photo

This is a photo from last weekend. A number of high schools went to the event, including a couple from Montgomery County, which is why, ahem, the racial makeup of the photo isn't quite representative of BCPSS. Several of the students in this photo are my students or former students, though, and my center fielder next year is the kid on the left in the gray hoodie making an "o" with his fingers. He runs like a gazelle and was able to get around on some of the best pitchers in the city last year as a 9th grader; I look forward to watching him continue to grow as a player. I bet he'll be the fastest player in the city this year.

I'm not in the photo. When this was being taken, I was in the back of the building, assisting with an emergency surgery on a student. Thankfully, there was a pharmacy right next door where I was able to get tweezers, gauze, and hydrogen peroxide. And that was definitely the strangest story of the weekend, but, unfortunately, I can't get into any more of the pretty funny details. The moral of the story, though, is to look where you're sitting before you sit down.

Neither the school itself, nor the teachers, had any hand in organizing the trip. It was actually organized by a Mongomery County student, and later some adults were asked by these organizers to go on the trip as well. One kid bragged to us that he had checked, and that he couldn't be suspended for any behavior on the trip, because it wasn't a school trip.

At the last minute, funding for the trip fell through (probably because the donor was a broker, and the financial crisis occurred), so all the teachers chipped in $50, and the kids each $10, for the trip to occur. The weekend was very disorganized, and sort of put me out of whack for a whole week because of no weekend and little sleep, but I'm sure glad I went. It's so cool to have been part of an important political movement, and, more importantly, to see kids actively engaged in the world in which they live. And if Virginia goes for Obama, which I think it might, it sure will feel great.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Parent-teacher conferences

Yesterday was parent-teacher conferences. I've known my students for a little more than a month now, and can give a pretty accurate description of weaknesses and strengths to parents. I had three Junior parents come, and was really glad to have two of them - two kids who, quite simply, aren't doing the reading so far in the class and will fail unless they change up quickly.

Ninth graded conferences, however, are invariably more dramatic. The parents come in, with their only experience of their children as students as star middle-schoolers. Going to high school is a big transition, and most of the time students have been promoted and given excellent grades without working hard and mostly by behaving. Now, in the first five weeks of high school, they have a 46% because they hardly do any work and don't understand that homework and studying are requirements.

So, yesterday afternoon was an afternoon of discussions about organization, about hard vs. working smart, about coach class, about study hall, etc. It had some tears. It had some hugs. And, hopefully, it will have some results.

Still sad that I only got about 10 parents overall, though, out of over 150 students.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


With group presentations, I like the process so much more than the actual presentation. They go long, especially with a big class. Today, though, I had two pretty amazing ones, two sets of kids in two different periods who just presented the hell out of Act II.1. I'm still a little bit blown away.

Very tired, very excited about tonight trouncing of Palin by Biden in the debate. Tomorrow's a half day, and I'm starting Romeo and Juliet.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hearing themselves talk

Despite finishing my Master's Degree after years of taking classes, and quitting my second job, it seems I'm busier than ever. Much of it is the two certification classes I'm taking on Mondays and Wednesdays. It's certainly not the work for them, which generally I finish after school on the day of the class. It's getting there, and it's sitting in them for hours. It literally took me 45 minutes to drive from the east side to the Baltimore Teachers Union today for my 5-8pm beast of a course. I left school at 4:59 pm, so obviously I was late getting there. My students' first essay is due tomorrow, and my room was jam-packed with students from 3:10 until 4:59, when I was able to send the last one home. I certainly could not justify leaving at 4:15 when so many needed help.

Luckily, my professor is nice and doesn't mind lateness, and often partakes in it herself. Still, I just don't understand the folks in my class. We're all teachers, and we all work hard for the BCPSS. Presumably. Yet, the people in this class feel the need to go on and on and on about their work and classrooms. They have got to realize that the professor - who was sick and sniffling throughout class - was waiting for us to get done with our presentations so she could send us home, right? My presentation was 3 minutes. One woman - no lie - went 25 minutes. I felt like banging my head against the wall. We left at nearly 8pm, and it's only because people wanted to hear themselves talk.

So, yeah, I'm beat. I'm grading like a madman lately, trying to get myself caught up. I can never seem to get my head above water. I stayed at school last night until 7:30, and tonight didn't get in until well after 8pm. Running myself ragged, on top of no weekend - the week has been a harried one.