The House on the Highway (2017 early draft)

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transport1

Rain again.

Pre-school day.

The boy is sleepy

But becomes alert when reminded

Of school.

He’s dressed in minutes

His cowlick sprayed out

My shirt is stained

But I cover it with a sweater

That wasn’t tight last month.

 

Coffee.  The boy

Asks for a leftover doughnut.

We say goodbye

To a sleepy mama.

She Misses

Coffee but rubs

Her pregnant belly and Ooohs—

She mumbles something about having a lot to do.

 

Will the missus miss us?

 

We’re a mile away from her

And home when

The first red light stifles

Our progress

Toward timelessness.

I hate being late.

Rain hardens, stiffens,

Strengthens.

The sky sends pellets

And creates tension inside me

While each droplet is just doing its job.

Green light.  No movement.

The head of the driver in front of me is visible

In the side mirror.  He’s

Clearly looking at his phone.

I honk and say something

The missus wishes

I wouldn’t say when the boy is around.

Or ever.

Seconds pass.  The guy looks

Up and eases forward.

Waveless.

My tension heightens.

No recognition of fault.

No request for my forgiveness.

 

Another point-eight miles of green lights.

The next stop is my our turn.

The left-turning 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 the right,

Bearing a modular home.

Look at that house, I say.

He of course looks for a stable structure

Off the road

Whoa, he says, in wonderment.

Is there people in there, daddy?

Not likely, I say.  But I can’t stop thinking about

Its future inhabitants.

 

Where are they at this moment?

Waiting at the lot?

A few cars behind?

Boxing up picture frames

And kitchen utensils in another area code?

Did they pick the color?

Is this their forever home?

<<EEEEEP!!!>>

Will this rain ever quit?

<<BLAAMMM—BLAAMMMM!!!!!!!>>

The impulse to turn around has never been stronger.

The missus misses us.

We miss her.  Work should wait some days.

Daddy?

Yes?

I’m glad you’re taking me to school today.

My son really says this just like that.

I stick a sleeve out my window

To wave my apologies to the cars behind me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Teachers: Discourage White Letters!

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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 #2

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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.

Why?

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/Reflections

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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:

twowritingteachers.wordpress.com

and

writerswhocare.wordpress.com

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!