Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Inspiration and more

The principal came in today to observe me in the classroom. Now there was not much direct instruction going on because the students were writing an essay so he'll be back next Thursday to conclude his observations and then give me the news. Now it was on purpose that the kids were doing an essay. Not so much because I was afraid to teach in front of him, but because this class has been out of control since August and they have not changed even with TWO teachers in the room.

So yesterday I finally had a "Come to Jesus" talk with them and I gave them this assignment. "You will go home and think about what kind of class you want this to be. You can A: change your behavior and we can have some fun and interesting projects, or B: It will be nothing but worksheets and if you open your mouth, you're gone. You as a class tell me which way this is going to go, because it's up to you, not the instructors."

So today when they come in, I have them vote and they decided that they didn't like the enviornment and wanted to change how they behaved in class. Now you and I know that words are cheap and that actions matter. So I let the matter drop until the second half of the class when I gave them their writing assignment where they had do not only tell me what they did to turn the classroom into a grease fire, but what actions they personally were going to take to correct the situation. I made sure they knew that this was about them and their actions and not what they thought someone else needs to do. I'll be reading them this weekend and making comments and giving them a grade.

Next week should be interesting when I hold them to their words. That and I'll be teaching the unit that I blogged about earlier. It's very ambitious and will either be really cool or the Hindenburg part II. It will certainly be interesting to see how they respond to the meeting and if they were serious about their decisions and essays, because I sure as hell am.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


So tomorrow I get my first real observation by the principal. I've been observed by the NSC adviser before but those weren't real observations like the kind your job hangs on as a teacher. To say I'm a bit nervous is an understatement of monumental proportions, especially since the period he will be here is the 8th grade class, who tend to act like a bunch of 5 year olds on a sugar high. Let's not even mention the fact that tomorrow is the day before a four day weekend so their minds will be on everything BUT school and that this week's lessons are fairly simplistic due to the short week.

Hopefully it will go well, I would have preferred next week when we have a really cool set of lessons set up where the kids will be reacting to different kinds of prompts (visual, written, auditory) and then writing about them.

I hope everyone has a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

13 favorite movies... more or less

Saw this on another blog (Churcheria). She listed 13 movies she never gets tired of, so I thought I would do the same thing just for fun. I can complain about my students later!

This is not in any particular order and technically it's more than 13 but it's my list so there!

1. Star Wars: The original one from 1977. Saw it in the movie theater when I was 10. I've probably seen it at least 100 times since then. A classic in every sense.

2. The Matrix: What science fiction movies should be and aren't. Great story, seamless effects and a great cast.

3. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm: The first of several animated movies. It had a great plot, great animation and some great one liners. Mark Hamill is the Joker in this one.

4. Akira: A one of a kind anime movie from Japan. I still don't get the ending but it does not matter. And this was done before all the GC animation as well.

5. Ghost in The Shell: Another great movie. The anime version of what science fiction should be. It spawned a very good sequel and a great series to boot.

6. The Patriot: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, a great villain and solid plot.

7. The Fellowship of the Ring Trilogy: As good an adaptation of the books as you could do... ever.

8. Fantasia (Both): An incredible mix of music and animation. The first one was way ahead of it's time, and the second one was a great sequel to the first.

9. Any John Wayne western: If I had to pick 2 it'd be "Rio Bravo" and "The Shootist"

10. Rocky I: "Adrian!" I saw this one at the drive in and loved it instantly. The only other one in the series that was as good was the last one.

11. Freedom Writers: Man I hope I can make that kind of difference with my students one day!

12. Spirited Away: I like anime... get over it. Seriously it has a great story and characters you can really care about. I'd use this in the classroom if I could come up with a lesson plan that works.

13: King Kong: The original. I know it's dated, but the action scenes still get me on the edge of my seat and King Kong is a tragic figure that endures.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Unit plans

One of the hardest things that I do is to come up with unit plans either for the future or retroactively. I'm pretty good with weekly math plans, but math is easier to plan for than English because it's more straightforward and logical. English is comprised of so many different aspects that coming up with a coordinated unit is more challenging that it seems.

Now I can usually come up with a single lesson pretty easily for both regular and block classes, but this is a bird of a different feather because everything has to be coordinated from day to day.

The first challenge was simply to come up with a unit to teach. I know that it's a target rich environment in many ways but it needs to fit into what was done and what needs to be done, not to mention fit into the schedule and keep the test scores up. It took me over a week just to come up with a unit where the students will react both verbally and in writing to several kinds of prompts, from political cartoons to pictures, a speech, poems (they will read and hear them) and finally a short story (one I swore I'd never teach).

Then I had to lay the plan out day by day and make sure I had 50+ minutes of potential learning built in. That got harder as the week went on, much harder which is why I used that short story I was never going to do because the idea tank was E-M-P-T-Y... but heck why reinvent the wheel?

It's pretty much done I just need to attach the materials by Tuesday and post it online for my class and then teach it the week after Thanksgiving. No big deal right?

On the plus side I was able to track down some short stories I had been looking for online. they were "The Yellow Wallpaper", "She Un-names Them" and "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas". The last of the three had become a quest of mine because it's a great story to illustrate scapegoating in literature, plus not every teacher in the Western Hemisphere uses it.

Oh and the poems I'll use? "We Real Cool" and "Dust"

And the short story? "Eleven"

And Karlana, you can stop laughing...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You learn something new...

A few weeks ago, the students and staff at the super cool prep school, had their pictures taken, the students for the yearbook and family memories and the staff for the yearbook. After all, who better to do a Captain Morgan to than the teacher who gave you hell for a year or two?

So today I check my normally empty mailbox and was shocked to see something other than dust bunnies occupying that slot, the very photos I had taken no more than a month ago! Now I was surprised and a bit bemused. The last face I expected to see in one of those photo envelopes was my own.

My wife is thrilled to death of course, (I'm not sure I want to get her eyes checked, she may not like what she sees with glasses or contacts!) as are my kids. My wife is not only going to bring a photo to work, she wants to send a pic to the parents along with the pictures of the kids.

And hell no, I'm not putting them up here! The last thing I want to do is to scare off my last 12.3 readers!

So my question to the other teachers is this... Do all schools do this or just this one?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Book Meme

I forgot who I stole this from because I started it last week and just now finished this meme...

Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback?

Paperback, they're cheaper and I am very broke. But if money is not an issue, then hardback.
Usually if I shop at the used bookstore (proof there is a God) then I'll get the hardback because the price is the same.

Bookmark or dog-ear?
If I have a bookmark I use it, otherwise I dog-ear. Not nice I know, but I'm just bad about that.

Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random?
By author, and then by series. (Shannara, LOTR, etc.) But that usually does not last very long and then it descends into chaos. So I guess the answer is yes!

Keep, throw away or sell?
Keep, I read books more than once, and I put them in my classroom for students. Book-a-holic be me!

Keep dust jacket or toss it?
Book jackets make great bookmarks, nuff said, plus the artwork is usually pretty cool on the dust jacket.

Last book you bought?

I bought ten, here are a few of them...
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Robinson Crusoe
The Elfstones of Shanarra

Last book someone bought for you?
My wife got me "The Reagan Diaries"

What are some of the books on your to-buy list?

More classics, some Louis L'Amour, a couple of Terry Brooks Shanarra books, the list is endless.

Collection (short stories, same author) or anthology (short stories, different authors)?
Yes! I have both and enjoy them. They are good when don't have much time to read.

Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, or the velvety embrace of Death?
To be honest I have not read HP or LS, but I'll start on HP first.

Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?
Do I have to choose? Because more than once I've started reading when the sun came up and stopped when it went down...

The books you need to go with other books on your shelves?
Some of the books I need will fill in holes in my library where I have a series that I don't have every book to anymore.

Do you read anywhere and anytime you can or do you have a set reading time and/or place?

I read when I can depending on time more than anything else.

Do you have seasonal reading habits?
I read more when school is not in session because I have more time. But as far as topics go, anytime is a good time...

Do you read one book at a time or do you have two or more books going at once?
I usually read one book at a time but not always.

What are your pet peeves about the way people treat books?
I don't like it when they trash them on purpose, but my biggest peeve is when people give up on a book after 20 pages...

Name one book you surprised yourself by liking.
Ella Minnow Pea, I was not looking forward to reading it and ended up liking it.

How often do you read a book and not review it on your blog?
Just how much free time do you think I have anyway? I don't do book reviews on my blog.

What are your reasons for not blogging about a book?
No time and no interest in doing that, at least for now.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Congratulations to the Obama campaign. They have now broken the color barrier for the highest office in the land. I am writing this as someone who voted for John McCain so you will have to forgive my lack of enthusiasm for his election. However, the American people have spoken and I will respect that decision.

President Obama it is.

But, I will cut him no slack for the next four years, and if you don't like how he governs, don't look at me. I voted for the other guy...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Be careful what you wish for

I have coworkers who are incredibly excited about the prospect of Obama winning. Some of them have been wearing Obama t-shirts and buttons to school and have been well very sure of themselves. Either they are also socialists, or they really don't know who they are voting for. It finally drove me to staple a McCain/Palin sticker to my wall. It'll stay up until Wednesday win or lose. Not surprisingly, I am one of the token conservatives at the school where I work. I cringed when I saw the Obama shirts and buttons and I wondered more than once what would have happened if I had worn a McCain shirt? I did have a McCain screen saver that would flash up on the LCD when I had my laptop hooked up to it, and I left it up there just to be a Palin er pain.

But I think that people who support Obama will soon find out that they've been sold a bill of goods in short order. Do they know that all Obama has to in order to raise taxes is let the Bush tax cuts expire in 2010. Then on Jan 1, 2011 everyone's taxes go up and I mean EVERYONES! The poor, the middle class, and the ever expanding 'rich'. And the AMT? Watch that exception go by the wayside as well and boom 20 some odd million people get nailed with higher taxes.

And Joe Biden is right, Obama would get tested and quickly because our enemies view Obama as a weak leader and will jump at the chance for another big attack at the 'Great Satan'. Russia will continue to more closely resemble the old USSR than a real democracy. Don't be surprised to see more Russian military intervention in the old Soviet bloc because Putin knows that Obama won't do squat about it.

I keep seeing the old Cox commercial where the digital Max does not know the microphone on a camera is on and the words 'BUYERS REMORSE' echo through the store.

Buyers Remorse indeed.

Don't say you weren't warned.