Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Yuh All Come Back Now, Here?

So here I sit, gainfully employed to help in tutoring every Tuesday afterschool, with not much to do because 99.9% of the students are here for math purposes and the only help I could give to math students is point out where the calculators are or where the math teacher who is in here is located. Therefore, I have time...I usually play the bouncer: "If you aren't working on something or have something to do then you have to leave!" Then there is always what I call the Lighthouse Disciplinary Methodology. I just look up and use my best 'I know what you where doing' look and then act light a lighthouse and scan from one side to the other and back. If a student pauses what they are doing then you look at them and raise on eyebrow. It's quite amazing how many apologies and excuses you will hear when you actually had no idea what was going on. This will eventually lead to a "omniscient" status and then you can get away with just looking up once in a while.

This group, however, are very good and thinning out rapidly as they finish makeup tests for math. It is quiet. I like quiet. I remember what it used to be like having quiet in a classroom in the B.M.S. time (Before Middle School). In high school, the students have figured out how to not be a blip on teachers' radar. "You don't bug me, I won't bug you" is alive and well in public education. It is somewhat of a necessity in a classroom setting of 30 or more students: sad but true! In middle school, the students all want to have attention for good or bad. They need to be seen. "Look at what I can do!" type of mentality reigns supreme here. It has taken some getting used to these past months. For all intents and purposes, I haven't taught at this level since 1989, nearly (choke!) twenty years ago! I am much older now and you'd think I have less patience. My daughter, however, came in a while back and observed me. She commented on how much more patience I have developed.

Once you can get over the idea that the students are acting this way from some deep-seated evil tendency and realize they are just, well, stoopid then it gets easier to be forgiving. I came up with a way to describe how I feel sometimes about middle school: "Middle School is like Lord of the Flies with a Bell Schedule." There is also a great video about herding cats. You can find it easily on YouTube.

Well, enough of that topic or I will wax or cement cynical and I had a nasty bout of the recently. I think I am over it for the nonce. I don't think I ever had occasion to use that word in something I was writing. How fun! As promised, I will tell you about when I heard some nice things about my writing.

I was encouraged by my department chair to go to an all-day staff development presentation done by a fairly well-known woman who had the loveliest Texas accent. She's been working with middle school for a while in the area of writing and had some marvelous ideas. It was very good. For part of it, she had us write a quickwrite about anything and we had to incorporate some of the improvements in writing we wanted to see in our students. The idea being we would then read over them with others and write down all the nice parts so we would see how to dissect student writing in the same quick manner. Well, I wrote something about basketball since my son was playing in a game that evening. I had fun with it but was careful about it and tried to capture the essence of being the player and the emotions he would feel plus I tried to describe the Roman Arena feel of the contest between two opponents. It was fun...I don't have it with me or I would just post it.

She asked for 3 volunteers to read theirs out loud and we'd all write down the parts we could find in it that fit with what we were learning. She was very happy with mine. I got the coveted "I-hate-you" look from her. Later, at the lunch break she was very adamant that I should try to publish and needed to be published. Now, I know others have told me similar things but they have always been family or friends. This was a stranger who owed me nothing but has been published herself really urging me. It was very cool. She also told me about a website called Glimmer Train that publishes short stories submitted by internet to them. So I will try harder to reach that lofty goal of being a "published author." I have blabbered sufficiently for now...until next time.



Sunday, February 10, 2008

Long Time No Write

Okay, sooo it has been a while since I've written in my blog...geez, it's only been 10 months - that's not even a year!

Well, to recap...I am no longer coaching debate and no longer at Hillcrest. I am...gulp...a Middle School English Teacher. I've been told that being such assures my place in the Celestial Kingdom but there are days that even that incentive becomes questionable. I suppose 45 years old isn't that much but my patience is not what it used to be. I have learned how to be more patient than I thought possible. There are days when I wonder why I went to college to have the pleasure of saying, "Tom, get up off the floor, we've talked about that!" or "Please, get off that student." or my colleague's favorite "Take the markers out of your nose!" These are 8th graders we're talking about; however, my family sees a lot more of me than they used to last year.

I will try to update this more often and...dare I type it? I plan on trying to write a complete short story before March is out. I will tell you my adventures of being prompted by someone who didn't even really know me to get published...so I am excited about it.

L8R - Opus

Friday, April 20, 2007

Just shoot me now...

...with something good liiiiiiiike...morphine?

I think I will call the doctor after school is out to see if he will need to see me to give a prescription for an inhaler. I'm not sure how picky they will be or if they will want their $20 pound of monetary flesh. I hope not. You never know how much you take something simple like breathing for granted until it becomes painful to do it.

I think I have figured out a way for youse peoples to be emailed when I blog. To the right of the blogs is a window for putting in your email address. When you click on the button below it, a window pops up and you have to prove you are human by putting in the letters and numbers as shown. We'll see how it works. I tried to do some research on the company to see if anyone was complaining they got spam from them but couldn't find anything about it.

We were working on Parallelism the other day and I was using King's "I have a dream" speech as an example. I then had the students write their own version of a speech where they used the phrase as many times as he did (9 times). I thought about doing my own version of it for a blog entry but, honestly, it started sounding too mushy or too sloppy and I couldn't get past the first two or three. I will, however, comment on dreams.


Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?
I always think of this poem when talking about dreams. It is always important to dream. I often joke about being a sometimes visitor to reality but I don't live here. Those who know me realize this is not much of an exaggeration. One of the excuses I use for this habit of being in other worlds than this one is related to this subject.
It kind of comes down to "the more you know, the more you wished you didn't know." Being an insatiably curious individual and an observer of the "human condition," I have seen lots of things and lots of situations. Humanity is capable of tremendous things that awe and inspire but the other side of the coin is just as depraved and depressing. I cherry pick my way through reality as we know it to take what I want of it and leave the rest so that my ability to dream doesn't die.
I think that might be part of what happened to my dad. He was pretty much stuck in this reality because he hated to read and, although he loved movies, tended to stick with reality. When it became too much for him, he retreated into his head and hence the paranoia and such until he got medication for it.
What I am describing in myself is not unique or unusual. Most of us do this to one degree or another but I am me and therefore everything is more pompous and grand than for anyone else (yes, I said it before someone else did ;)! So dreams are very important and necessary. Without them, we would all just curl up in a fetal position and die or wish to...which brings me back to where I began this thing except my problem is just chest pains from allergies.
Until next time...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Let us sit upon the ground...

...and tell sad stories of the death of kings.
Richard II Act 3 scene 2

Today is weird. I feel...melancholy? Depressed? Hmm...somber: that's it....somber.

Every time (sad that I need to use that phrase) there is another shooting rampage on a campus, I am more and more affected by it. I'm not scared but I am worried. It makes me sad...duh..everyone should be that way about it. It probably doesn't help that my chest hurts from allergies and it is hard to breath today. The dark weather attributes to it as well.

I was teaching about analogies today so beware that there will be a few in here. Uh oh, here comes one: When you are young tragedies and serious situations roll of fairly fast like water on a duck's back but as we get older the oil that makes this take place gets diluted, or, as in my case, I don't have as many "feathers" up there as when I was younger. It gets harder to let these things roll off and let life go on. Well, it is easier for some people in one very sad way. By sheer numbers of incidents, we become more and more inured (had to look up my spelling on that one) to it and that is a tragedy unto itself.

*sigh* Someone just said it started snowing...I am in class by the way. They are writing analogies so I writing analogies.

I find it a bit alarming how quickly and easily we throw words like insane or disturbed as if these give excuse to actions such as killing. As a world, we are uncomfortable with assigning rationality or sanity to those who chose to drastically violate deeply held social laws like pre-meditated murder. We are quick to try and find some excuse or reason to put such abhorrent people in a separate category from the rest of us; if we don't then we must admit they are the same as us but just made different choices.

Lucifer made a choice. He was the same as us, no, better than many of us as the descriptions tell us. He made a choice. His choice doesn't make sense to many of us and could be considered insane or disturbed, but I contest it was a rational choice. I like Milton's explanation the best for his motivation: "It is better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven." The fact that most of these gunmen kill themselves at the end goes further to prove my point. It was planned, thought out, and put into action carefully. They kill themselves to alleviate any consequences to their actions. "The ends justify the means?" No...the "means" justifies the end.

I worry about it happening here: wherever my "here" is at the time. I know what it felt like for those instructors, students, staff as the shots rang out. Liviu Librescu, a holocaust survivor, barred his door to allow his students to reach safety at the cost of his life. To have survived the harrowing experience of the holocaust only to die in a campus shooting? No, you misunderstand if that is your view of this. He gave his life nobly. He made a choice, too. It was the right choice in a very wrong situation.

John Donne - Mediation XVII

No man is an island. entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Professor Librescu understood this quote. I actually told my students that this came from a meditation (blank stares) but if it were done in our time period we would refer to it as a...come on....you guessed it? Blog. Donne's Blog XVII. I do hope Mr. Donne (Father Donne?) will forgive me but the blank stares went away to be filled with understanding. Wow, if Shakespeare had a blog...cool.

Well, the cathartic effect has taken place. I do feel better now. Thanks for putting up with it.
Until next time...


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

To Blog or Not To Blog...that is the question...

Ok...FINE! I will blog. I suppose it would be the pinnacle, the peak, the height of rudeness to start a blog without a post; however, it is still "very tempting, Hammy, verrry tempting..." to go ahead an leave it blank buuuut I won't.

Well, as fond as I am of change, I will be going through another one - noooo, not male menopause...I've got to have something to look forward to in my fifties or sixties...besides grandchildren (spoil them rotten and send them back home with noisy toys)...the change to which I am blithely referring is of job. Due to circumstances beyond my control, and after having said I don't want to do Debate next year, I am a penguin without a school for next year. Oh well. It is okay - I am doing the right thing for the right reasons so everything will turn out all RIGHT, right?

I am getting trunky (as in my mental bags are packed - WATCH IT!) for Summer. The weather is turning nicer---sometimes. It is only about 6-7 weeks away from my next installment of "earlier retirement" al la Summer Months. Perhaps this will be the Summer of my Grand Novel/Short Story? Perhaps I will write down some music? Perhaps cockroaches will dance the watusi in my shorts? No...you have to draw the line somewhere!

Well, that will count for my first blog....for now...for all time....for get it.


Penguin Dreams & Stranger Things

Where I whimsically get to, need to, want to - might - put down some serious, silly, salient thoughts...or not.