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.


Anonymous said...

Just a thought: You have mentioned recently that former students visit and their English courses are, by their reports, a breeze. No challenge at all after going through your course and those of your colleagues in your department. Ever think about not working so hard? I mean, I'm not saying you should just show movies all day and hand out the occasional fill-in-the-blank handout, but, really, maybe you should leave something for the kids to do in college. Maybe you don't have to do it all at the high school level.

Like I said, just a thought. I just feel bad for all of the hard work that you have to do all the time. 69 grammatical errors in one essay? And you circled every one of them? Doesn't that hurt your brain?

A BCPSS Parent said...

If you're looking for a different point of view - about 25-30 years ago I survived a Western A-Course education. I was thrilled that all English and writing through my college career (at a fairly decent midwestern private university) seemed easy in comparison. After college that ease with writing has set me up in my career as well.

I also think that breezing through my first semester of calculus (because of an excellent HS calculus course) gave me the confidence to feel like I was one of the kids that would make it through the four years of an engineering major (many of my classmates ended up dropping out).