- Yeah, I missed Day Two of my plan from just two days ago. I did, however, grade a bit, take my kids to a park, and see the new Lion King movie with the fam. Finished Rainn Wilson’s book just before bed. In short, a full day but no real writing.
- Is this real writing? Discuss…
- I’ve been reading some very well-written but incredibly jarring creative nonfiction from some online students. Even if half of these stories are historically accurate, it’s a long-overdue wake-up call for me as their teacher. We tend to forget the human side of education, especially in online courses where the students are just names on a screen.
- My kids like Fuller House, which is fine for now. The writing is pretty hokey, but I have to remember that I was likely drawn to similarly droll stuff when I was their age.
- In all my spins around the sun, I’m afraid my only invented life-hack is using a candle warmer beside my computer to keep my coffee at an appropriate temperature. Kudos to people who come up with all of the other really good ones out there.
- The missus and I started Pulp Fiction just before going to sleep two nights ago. Damn, I forgot how brilliant every aspect of that movie is.
Some Monday ThoughtsStandard
Just a few things on my mind as I’m (slowly) grading stuff online…
- Getting my fiction or poetry published is going to be even harder than I already imagined.
- As I’m reading Rainn Wilson’s autobiography, I am understanding how much dedication to one’s goals is necessary for success.
- Climate change is happening, and we’re really damaging the lives of future generations by bickering about it.
- Misinformation is rampant and destroying original thought and even stifling some from seeking truth.
- Our children are growing up way too fast for my wife and me.
- Observing nature–especially harmless, undomesticated little guys like bunnies–can be a tremendous escape from grading (or whatever it is you do to keep the lights on.)
- I should have started most mornings by adding something to this blog if, for no other reason, so I can say that wrote something each day.
- Perhaps this is day 1 of the idea in #7.
- The new collaborative album TINY CHANGES, which includes cover tracks by many amazing musicians of Frightened Rabbit’s 2008 THE MIDNIGHT ORGAN FIGHT, is officially my Album Selection of Summer 2019.
- THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY (Netflix series) is really well done, and everyone in my household is excited for Season 2!
The House on the Highway (updated Nov. 2018)Standard
The boy is sleepy
But becomes alert when reminded
He’s dressed in minutes
His cowlick springs up
Over dry cereal at
An empty kitchen table
I cover a stained shirt
With a sweater
That fits tighter than last month.
We say goodbye
To a sleepy mama.
Her pregnant belly
And winces and ooohs.
She oozes exhaustion
Mumbles words of plans for plants.
Will the missus miss us?
Now we’re a mile away from her
When the first red light
Stifles our progress
The rain hardens, stiffens,
The sky sends pellets,
Mini-bombs onto my windshield.
Green light. No movement.
The head of the driver
In front of me
In his side
His phone’s more important.
I honk and say
He can’t hear.
The missus wishes
I wouldn’t say
when the boy is around.
Seconds pass. The guy looks
Up and eases forward.
Waveless and unapologetic.
Another point-eight miles of green lights,
Blades wipe away wetness.
The next stop is our turn.
The left-arrowed lane fills behind me
As the rest of the east- and west-bounders
Pound down the splashy path.
A long, loud transporter
Booms by on our right,
Bearing one-half of a modular home.
“Look at that house,” I say.
The boy, of course, looks
For a stable structure
Each letter filled with wonder.
“Is there people in there, Daddy?”
“Not likely,” I say.
But I fixate on its
Its future inhabitants.
Where are they at this moment?
Waiting at the lot?
A few cars behind me?
Boxing up picture frames
And kitchen utensils
In another area code?
Did they pick that color?
Is this their forever home?
Will this rain ever quit?
The half-house punctured the flow.
The fractioned structured caused
I prevented traction.
I delayed the day.
The missus misses us.
We miss her.
Work should wait some days.
Moving along, the boy bites
Into the lull.
“I’m glad you’re taking me to school today.”
My son really says this,
Just like that.
I lower my window,
Brave the rain,
And stick out a sleeve
To wave my apology
To the cars behind me.
Teachers: Discourage White Letters!Standard
Teachers: I was just reminded of something I recently learned from one of my college freshmen: Students have been (and will continue to do so) writing X amount of nonsense words at the end of an essay, then change the font color to white. This means the word count you see (grade?) will be larger than what they actually constructed.
Of course this is ridiculous, but then again, so is assigning a word-count minimum (in my opinion).
We need to stop the “easy-to-grade/penalize” mentality of counting words, correcting spelling, and writing in missing commas. Instead, work with young people to develop their thoughts in a clear and organized manner.
If you are reading this and you plan to use this in a future paper or assignment, please re-consider. Your teacher may dock you for not meeting some arbitrary number he/she established, but you can continue in life knowing that not every one of your readers will concern himself/herself with how many words you can write.
When it comes to your words, quality will always outweigh quantity.
New Gig, New Digs – Fort Wayne #2Standard
So, I’m already off my previously announced schedule….but I have an excuse!
Yesterday, I woke up in my new city for the first time. I didn’t sleep all that well, but it wasn’t for a lack of physical comfort. C and V provided a very cozy queen bed with an excessive amount of plush pillows. I had some issues on my mind, and I was also worried I would oversleep for my first day. Sidebar: For someone who gets up every day around 7 am, I sure do worry a lot about missing my alarm!
C was frying bacon, and V eventually offered me an egg as well. Over medium, I think. It’s funny—I used to sell eggs on the reg, but I really only eat them scrambled. I waited far too long to try eggs another way…and this blog is tanking quickly.
Got to school and met a few more faculty. Someone bumped a round folding table, causing it to tip over, which meant lots of hot coffee spread everywhere. Thankfully, no once was seriously injured and even more importantly, no electronic devices were damaged.
It was a day full of presentations and welcome-back information. I would wager that a small number of people can tolerate sitting in a large room listening to a guest speaker for hours on end without letting intrusive thoughts or shiny objects arrest their actual attention. Teachers, in my opinion, are the worst at this. We love school so much that we dedicate our lives to being in (at least, some version of) the classroom and not pursue other avenues that meet our professional interest. However, when invited to professional development, we are often subjected to sitting for hours on end with nothing more than room-temperature water or stale tortilla chips to keep us from running outside into traffic. That is, of course, unless the presenter is engaging.
While the speaker yesterday had many good comments and ideas, her presentation lacked something which I feel is absolutely (ironically) required: constant (and REAL) interaction with the audience. Her slides were projected onto two enormous screens, but this took place in a gymnasium and the people by the back doors were a good thirty yards away. She constantly made reference to how she knew no one could read the content of her slides and said at least half a dozen times that she’d email them to us. [Sidebar: Many presenters do not produce printouts anymore, I feel, not just because of the cost, but also for the notion that many attendees leave them behind, discard them immediately, or (probably) file them somewhere deep in their work-space. However, sending them via email is often an empty promise and/or might as well go straight to the SPAM folder.]
She was knowledgeable and funny at times, but it all seemed so depressingly rehearsed. Comedians have to sell jokes to new audiences several times a week, and the really good ones have a way of making it seem like each night is the first time they’ve told those jokes. More than once, her delivery on a pseudo-punchline reminded me of Robin Williams’ voices. Is it odd that my focus was on her delivery and not what she was actually saying?
But we were simply not engaged. And that’s a major problem.
Because we became the students. More precisely, we were teachers who were put in to role of students. A large, echoing room. An intelligent presenter. Visual aides. Several questions posed by said presenter. An offer or two to answer any questions.
But it wasn’t engaging. We had very little time to interact with one another. It would be uncouth to have a conversation with a colleague while the presentation went on.
This is not the first time I’ve attended such an in-service. What I find the most alarming about all of this is that teachers can often times be the worst “students”. We ask so much of those who attend our classes, yet so many of us shy away from initiating dialogue and meeting new professionals at these types of engagements. Every time I go to one of these seminars, presentations, conferences, etc. I see the same thing: Teachers who are over-the-top with enthusiasm (a very small percentage), some who have come with an enormous amount of other stressors and use that event to unload a lot of their pent-up anger, and the ones who attend with the least possible amount of interest.
The last category is the most worrisome to me.
I have had the luxury to attend those that identify this setup as severely problematic. After seeing it done this way (providing a fluid combination of humor, interaction, and information with the obvious goal of keeping us attentive and involved), I’ve realized how absolutely vital that is to education.
Teachers should know that students learn in different ways. We should know that presenting in the “classic” lecture style is really only beneficial to a small percentage of students. We should know when our students are bored or disengaged and we should work to fix that.
That’s it for today. I’m at my in-laws with my family for the weekend. Look for the next entry in a couple days. Soon, I’ll write something about how if blog posts, articles, etc. go beyond a certain word count that very few will read it to the end.
NCTE Day 3 (Saturday) Notes/ReflectionsStandard
After a short sleep, I woke up this morning at probably 5:50 to another roommate’s trash-can lid sound emitting from his iPhone. It might have been a gong. Either way, it did the trick…for me. I wasn’t upset about being up because I had wanted to get to the convention as early as possible. A friend had a poster session that began at 8. With a bagel in my belly, I hit the road with my Chestnut Praline Latte and got there around 8:20. It was good to see my colleague, and I was inspired by her work and our brief catch-up chat. More on that in a moment.
Let me speak to the exhibit hall of my convention. I know thousands of English teachers under one roof sounds, perhaps, like a raucous group of activists who bleed red ink, but the people I spoke to while in lines or at tables were some of the most genuine and funny people I’ve ever met. They love books; they love teaching; they love sharing stories.
I caught the end of a session on blogging for teachers, and I learned about two pretty well known sites:
Everyone I spoke to at these sessions felt these blogs were among the best going for teacher-writers. I had not considered writing about my profession; I have decided that will be coming soon.
This leads me to my day’s highlight!
Just after the session with the bloggers, the same room was used for a session entitled “Meet the Editors.” These editors were from NCTE’s journals. In short, attendees had a chance to learn submission guidelines and pitch ideas for upcoming issues. I was able to speak to a column editor for English Journal, who gave me very positive feedback about an idea I have for a column. At the same table were the chief editors, and I spoke with one of them who identified with my concept and also encouraged me to write it! I’m going to start on it soon and submit it. I might have a real shot, folks!
Anyway, it was a great day overall. I met a few more authors (including Cory Doctorow, above) picked up about 8-10 more books for my classroom, and left the conference feeling rejuvenated and excited about my profession! While I may not be able to attend each year, I do hope to attend again in the coming years. Who knows…maybe I’ll be one of the authors this time!