Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A gift

Last year, one of my students got a concussion midway through the term. He was supposed to memorize and recite some poetry, but he was having an awful lot of trouble with his memory. So I told him that as long as he had it done before the end of the term, I'd accept it for full credit, and I emailed his parents to let them know that was what I was doing.

He did his recitation the last day of the term and did fine. I'd forgotten the incident entirely, to be perfectly honest.

Then last week, I was at my small group meeting, and one of the other women told me that she'd taken her child to the pediatrician's office to see the nurse practitioner. She and the NP were chatting, and the NP mentioned her son went to my school. My friend said, "Oh, one of my friends teaches there," and mentioned my name.

It turns out the NP was that student's mother. She told my friend about how much it had meant to her that I'd given her son extra time and been so understanding.

My friend told me that story, and I felt humbled. What hadn't seemed like a big deal to me at the time had made a difference for that kid and his family.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Overheard in class today...

Student 1: Did Beowulf have a father?*

Student 2: No, he was spawned out of awesome.

Student 3: If Hardcore and Awesome spawned a child, it would be Beowulf.

Beowulf as Chuck Norris?

*He does, in fact, have a father: Ecgtheow, who has died.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Brilliance of Students

Today, as the beginning-of-class writing prompt, I asked my students what one thing they would change about our school if they could and why. It's not the first time I've ever asked this question, and it's usually good for some lively discussion about the value of uniforms, the brevity of the lunch periods, the quality of the cafeteria food, and things along those lines.

Today was different. One student raised her hand and said "I'd change the way we do our service hours." (Each student is required to complete a minimum number of community service hours per term s/he is enrolled in a religious studies course; it works out to ten hours every twelve weeks or thereabouts.) I thought she was gearing up to talk about how busy our students are and how it's just another demand on their time and why we shouldn't require it.

I was wrong.

"Okay, why would you change it and how would you do it?" I asked.

She replied, "The way it is now, most people wait till the last weekend before it's due and cram it all in somewhere, and that's not how service should be. It would be much better if kids went to the same place the whole time they were here and really built a relationship with the people and communities we're serving. Now we can say we have a whole lot of hours, but it doesn't mean very much if we don't have those relationships."

Her classmates were nodding in agreement. She went on to say, "What if we got together with our homerooms freshman year and chose a site, then we all went and did our service hours there for all four years?"

Other kids chimed in with their concurrence and why they thought it would be a great idea. I pointed out that doing service with their homeroom group would also be a way of keeping each other accountable.

I left class feeling so energized. In my senior class this term, we discussed the concept of servant leadership and how important it is to listen to others, especially your subordinates. Often they have wisdom or insight or perspective that you don't. I told this young lady that I want to help her pursue and present this idea to the group in charge of service hours, because not only is it an awesome idea on its own merits, it's also an idea that came from a student -- and in a school that's like many other schools and tends to be governed top-down, any time a student's idea becomes a reality is a victory for the kids.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Back in the sub pool

Watching seventh graders do worksheets. On "rise/rose" and "lie/lay."

One of the reasons I don't teach junior high is my detestation of worksheets.

On other fronts, the teaching of Hamlet went well and I'm pleased with how it turned out. I wish I could spend a whole term on Shakespeare, and maybe one of these years I will do it. I'll blow through Beowulf and Chaucer and Sir Gawain in four weeks and then spend eight wallowing in Bardishness.

Fantasy Lit is coming back next year for another two-year cycle. I did two things differently than I did in previous years: I made potential students fill out an application and I strictly limited the class size to twenty. I think it's cut down on the number of goobers in the class pretty significantly. The students who've signed up are all die-hards, so they may be teaching me quite a bit!

I don't get to teach seniors next year, which is a disappointment; I've enjoyed world lit way more than I thought I would. I hope there will be a need for me to take a section in 2011-2012.

And since I'm not having a baby this summer, I'm exploring my options for more school. In all that free time I have.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Two weeks left till school starts!

When I was a student, I dreaded the beginning of August, because it was The Beginning of the End of Vacation. Like many teachers, I think, I did not love being in school. (Maybe that's why I got into teaching, in part: to rectify everything I thought was wrong/bad/unpleasant/pointless/mediocre about how I was taught.) As a teacher, I look forward to it. As a mother of two under two, I look forward to it even more since being in school means I get a whole five minutes between classes to go to the bathroom BY MYSELF as well as twenty-five minutes to eat my lunch in peace. Perspective is everything.

I have a ton of reading to do, and probably won't get all of it done before school starts. I have great plans and expectations for this year, some of which will go spectacularly well, some of which will go spectacularly badly, and some of which won't happen at all. It happens every year. One of the greatest lessons I've learned from teaching is that you're endlessly tweaking and perfecting and shifting and changing what you do, no matter how experienced you are.

I do get to teach Hamlet this year, which thrills me no end. If I can swing it, I'm going to cram all the early and middle English literature into the first few weeks and spend the entire second half of the term on Shakespeare. The great perquisite of being the teacher is that I can spend more time on what I like best. I've enjoyed teaching Midsummer Night's Dream or Henry V for the past few years, but getting to teach Hamlet is total English Nerd Crack.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I really haven't disappeared (again)

Well. In news of my world, I went back to teaching and found out how little time a full-time teaching job and a full-time mothering job leave one. :-)

Especially when one is pregnant with Numero Due.

So. The first child (the girlchild) will be one in a month. The second child (a boychild this time) will be here in the next few weeks. The teaching career picks back up in August with a new course; I'm picking up a section of world literature for seniors in addition to three sections of British literature for juniors. I'm thrilled about the change, especially since I truly enjoyed the students I taught this year who will be seniors next year!

My fellow teachers and I have a few new tricks up our sleeves for next year. The nicest thing about teaching is that it's never the same thing from year to year, or at least it doesn't have to be. One thing we're implementing is a mandatory grammar test for juniors because we're all tired of correcting the same errors multiple times throughout the year. Another great change we're making is moving the junior research paper from term 3 to term 2.

I'll reserve judgment on these changes for now, but my feeling is that these changes will be positive ones for both the teachers and the students.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


I'm not teaching this term. Instead, I'm being taught...by my daughter.

It's strange to see those words in print, especially since this time last year, I never thought I'd write the word "daughter" or "son" preceded by the first person possessive pronoun.

Motherhood has turned my entire world upside down and inside out. Like the vocation of teaching, it's many things I expected, many things I didn't, and both better and more difficult than I imagined it would be. I look at mothers of more than one child with awe now. They went through all of this and still had the courage to go back and do it a second, third, fifth, or eighth time.

I do understand it, though. Despite the sleep deprivation and the physical strain and the emotional toll that a new baby puts on his or her parents, I still find myself returning to the words of the psalmist: "The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy."