Monday, December 28, 2009

Maybe Next Year

There was no Christmas tree in the Epic household this year. In fact, there were no Christmas decorations of any kind. It's NOT that I'm a complete Scrooge, and I really do generally love the season. But after the trauma of last year, I wanted this year to be as stress free as possible...

Apparently, every other person in the world buys a Christmas tree from the tree farm during Thanksgiving. I thought I was early last year when I showed up two weeks before Christmas. Wrong. I was greeted with the sight of tree-farm-rejects. I’m not saying that some of them wouldn’t grow into fine trees, but, for the most part, they could have benefited from the tree equivalent of braces.

After some disheartened wandering amongst the Island of Misfit Trees, I approached the tree farmer. He had some cut trees that, he earnestly assured me, had been kept watered and would not drop all of the needles into my carpet. I picked one and headed home.

Upon arrival, Mr. Epic helped me attempt to put the tree in the new, high-end tree stand. I won’t go into all of the gory details, but, let’s just say that Mr. Tree Farmer neglected to point out that this fine specimen had a warped trunk. And those well-watered needles showered down in a continuous fall. Mr. Epic’s frustration mounted as the trunk refused to fit into the stand, even after repeated modifications with a saw. I, dripping in sweat and covered with tree needle jabs, eventually flew into a towering rage, grabbed the tree, dragged it out the front door, and threw it into the driveway.

After sitting on the couch for a bit, I decided to give it one more try with the old, metal tree stand. Mr. Epic made the stand work, the tree was forced into submission, and the decorating commenced. Later that evening, as the lights twinkled, I turned to Mr. Epic and said, “I may be having PMS.”

Mr. Epic responded, “What was YOUR first clue? Mine was when you threw the tree out the front door.”

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dumping dogs

On the way home from Deep Southeast Texas (it always feels as if we are escaping a sucking swamp when we leave there), Mr. Epic spotted two abandoned puppies on the side of the road. There really wasn’t much discussion about what to do-I turned around and went back to get them. We would figure out what to do with them when we got home. When we got back to them, it wasn’t two. It was five (I know-that’s a pack). And they weren’t baby puppies, more like adolescents-some sort of wiener-dog mix.

When the Explorer stopped, Young Epic got out to round up the dogs, but they headed into the East Texas trees and underbrush. He headed in after them. You haven’t lived (or felt like you’re gonna die) until you’ve battled East Texas thicket. Mr. Epic finally made Young Epic come back. We had no desire to have to go get rabies shots because we wanted to rescue dogs that had no use for humans.

There should be a special, really hot, nasty place in the next life for people who abandon animals. For Pete’s sake, take them to an animal shelter. They don’t charge anything to take them, and it doesn’t take any longer than a trip to the mall. Oh sure, the people there might lecture you about spaying/neutering your pets, but you can always lie and say somebody dropped them off at your house. What do you care what strangers think about you?

I do have to confess, once we got home and the snow started, there was a sense of relief that we didn’t have Epic Dog (she's an animal shelter baby) plus five strange dogs inside the house until Monday. Couldn't really take dogs from 70 degree weather and throw them out in the yard in the snow. But I wouldn't mind taking the person/people who dumped them and leaving them out in the weather.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


So, I'm a grandmother now. Wow. I seem to be completely wordless. This is going to have to undergo some processing before I can write much about it. Let me just say this-the most marvelous human being in history has now joined the world. At least until the next grandchild comes along...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dipping the Toes Again

I didn't intend to take the summer off from writing here-it just happened. It's been an...odd...summer. I can't put my finger on why, but it's probably just the whole growing older thing.

Young Epic headed back to school today, and that's always a poignant time. I let him take a library book on cd, and I'm not the least bit worried about getting it back. I'll just let Athena know he has it, and it needs to be returned. Ah, the power of knowing the girl friend! His room feels really empty even though he only took his chair this time. And Epic Dog is positively mopey.

"Empty Nest" is an apt term. I find myself wandering into his room and aimlessly moving things around. It has become much easier over the years, and, from experience with Eldest Epic Son, I know that once he is settled into his adult life, I'll move beyond this feeling.

Teachers head back to school on Monday, and I don't feel ready. I'm uploading files to my SchoolWeb site in an attempt to go paperless. That's probably part of my whole malaise this summer. This is a huge change, and there is an underlying sense of trepidation-change is never easy for me.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer Bum

Aside from the week of curriculum writing and the afternoon of looking at and discussing the direction we'll take for vocabulary-I have not done one single productive thing since the end of school. One full week of being a book-reading, TV-watching, couch potatoe. I'm ready to say "that's enough of that," but it's too blasted hot to get too wound up about anything.

I'm finishing Aprilynne Pike's Wings, and it is a charming book. Fifteen year old Laurel has been homeschooled until the age of fifteen, and the move to public school is traumatic. It gets better as she forms a friendship with David, until a bump appears on her back. And then the bump blossoms.

Next in the pile is Generation Dead-or maybe The Shadow of the Wind. I must finish Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for a committe meeting at the first of August. Sigh. So many books, so little time...

Monday, June 8, 2009


Mr. Epic says it's time to stop the book reviews and do a different type of writing. So, here's an excerpt from my reading autobiography. It's titled My Reading Life, or How I Learned to Cuss.

Mine was an extremely conservative family. No one, absolutely no one, in our household used even the mildest of profanity. The only place I might hear the word “hell” was in church. However, as a precocious eight year old reader, I was attracted to those paperback westerns Papaw read. I not only reenacted scenes from the books on horseback, I attempted to emulate the language also. On day in third grade as we stood in the lunch line (I recall being in a plaid jumper and wearing black patent leather shoes, but that may be wrong), I stamped my little foot and proclaimed “DamN it, I’m tired of waiting!”

A boy in my class turned around, stared wide eyed at me, and asked “What did you say?”
I repeated myself, and he responded, “It’s ‘dam it’, there’s no ‘n’, and you better not let a teacher hear you say that.” I was intrigued. He filled me in on a couple of other words I better not say in front of an adult, and let me know that it was called “cussing.” However, he didn’t provide a complete lexicon of cuss words, and about a year later, a book again added to my education.

My older sister and I were going for a swim in the back yard. As we raced down the hill, I yelled, “Last one in is a dirty awld bitch!”

After we hit the water, my sister swam toward me, and in a hushed tone asked, “What did you say?” I repeated myself, and she responded “Where did you hear THAT?”

I replied that it was something I had read in a book. She laughed derisively and answered, “No you did not. That wouldn’t be in a book you read; you heard it at school. And you better not ever let Mother hear you say it.”

I shrugged and continued swimming. I knew that arguing with her was useless. But when I got out of the pool, I went and found the book I was reading, National Velvet, and located the offensive line. In the book the father, or maybe the grandfather, was lamenting the fact that the dog had given birth to a litter of puppies. Ah. So now I knew that the word for “dog that gives birth to puppies” was not acceptable language around adults.

See, reading DOES expand the vocabulary...

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Reading Roland Smith's Peak right now. I'm ninteen pages in (had to stop for a minute to let the dog out) and I don't belive I'll be going to sleep tonight. This one is going to be a cover to cover, one sitting read.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Power of Communication

When we were in the DFW area for Young Epic's conference tournament, we ate breakfast several mornings in the Denny's next to the hotel. A waitress told us one morning that for three different meals, totaling $600+, a coach for one of the tournament teams (not our coach) left no gratuity. The waitress of record (whose ID goes into the computer system) has to pay taxes on 15% of the bill, even if no gratuity is left.

By the time we heard this, that team was out of the tournament. I emailed the president of the university, and within hours had a response from the coach. He thought the gratuity was figured in the total bill, and he is sending $100 to the Denny's.

I wonder why the manager of the Denny's, the second or third time the team came in to eat, did not at least ask the coach if he was displeased with the service and as a result did not leave a tip?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What I Hate

Young Epic's team came in third in their conference tournament. The final game was a wild one-they were down 7-2 in the top of the 4th-2 outs, 2 runners on, and the batter with a 2 balls 1 strike count-yesterday afternoon when the game was stopped because of lightning. Play was resumed at 10:00 AM today, and the batter started his at bat with the 1-2 count. He smashed a single that started a three run rally.

As the game progressed the score was eventually tied 10-10. In the bottom of the eighth, the opposing team hit a bases empty home run, and they went on to winn 11-10. Then came the part I hate. I hate watching young men who have left it all on the field as they cope with that final loss of the season. It's especially tough to watch the seniors, but it's heart wrenching to watch all of them as they stand outside the fence, looking out over the field, certain that with one more inning, the outcome would be different.

I know it's part of their journey to become men, and I know they must learn the lessons it imparts. But I don't have to enjoy it.

Baseball and Literature

Young Epic's team has been in the area for their conference tournament, and we've enjoyed the games and getting to spend time with the guys. My favorite moments came yesterday morning. Before the 9:00 AM game, Young E came over to the fence and said "Achilles was not a Spartan, right?" When I confirmed his belief, he responded "The Canadians are stupid," and walked away.

Shortly, another ballpalyer came to the fence, grabbed a bucket and sat down. In complete seriousness he said, "Okay, Achilles fought in the Trojan War, right? Who were his parents?" For several minutes we had a literary discussion, and the incorrect Canadian players joined us. All had a great time, and then the warrior/ballplayers went off to do battle.

Young Epic came in to pitch in the top of the eighth with an 8-5 lead. He got a fly out, walked one, and had two ground outs. In the ninth he had a 10-5 lead, gave up two singles to start the inning, and then got three fly outs in a row to earn the save.

Epic Dog is in her element. The players call her "Rally Dog" and rub her ears for luck. She does adore her guys.

All is right with my world.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reeling Them In...

I'm an ESPN/baseball junkie-but I only use my super-girl-power-sports knowledge for good. Today before class started some of the boys were discussing Kinsler's 6 for 6, hit for the cycle game last night. One of them commented that he bet that had never happened before. I suggested that he not bet too much on that. It's happened three other times, and the last time was in 1894. When the jocks realize that I know the REALLY important stuff like that, they are much more cooperative in our studies of literature...

Friday, April 10, 2009


I don't like change. Never have. As a kid, I ate fried chicken wings, rice, gravey, and green beans every single day after school during my freshman year of high school. It probably would have lasted longer, but my mother finally refused to cook that meal more than once a week.

Now, in the age of exponential technological changes, change is a way of life. Our district switched to Microsoft Outlook for our email, and I am not a happy camper. My desktop and laptop did not accept the changes, so the tech child came in to handle the issues. His attitude at first was "This won't take a second," but then quickly moved to murmmers of "Huh, that should have worked," "that's odd," and "Hmmm, that's never happened before." He finally got everything running, and now I can no longer access my email from home unless I go online.

Monday, March 30, 2009

What We'll Teach...

I will be out of the classroom tomorrow participatng in curriculum writing. I HATE leaving the kids with a sub (even though mine is a certified English teacher), but being on the curriculum writing committee is my way of making sure that I have some say in what happens.

It's really frustrating though because we are planning the curriculum with our current materials (10+ years old). TEA finally finished rewriting the English Language Arts TEKS last spring (and am I BITTER about that whole process...), and new textbooks have been developed for those. However, it will be more than a year before the new textbooks are available.

Teaching never frustrates me, and the kids never frustrate me, but boy do the grown ups in Austin make my head hurt...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Technological Wizard...

...or not. BUT-I did figure out how to hook the laptop to the TV and watch the episode of Lost that we missed while we were in Brownsville. Now I'm thinking of cancelling the $22 dollar Blockbuster subscription, switching to a cheaper Netflix account, and getting the movies online. Maybe I'll give the Netflix thing a trial run first.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Insane lady?

We are finishing The Odyssey, and the kids are incredibly proud of themselves for finishing it, but most of all for "getting" it. Though they do think I'm a little nuts over the whole thing.

Yesterday we had schedule changes during second period, so there was some down time when over half the class was out of the room. The jocks wanted to hear about Young Epic's pitching, so we chatted about the baseball games over spring break, and I told them about the most recent game. I commented that it's frustrating now to have to depend on the typed, online play-by-play to keep up with games, but it wasn't too bad because last game Athene called and gave us instant play-by-play as Young E pitched.

One of the guys got a strange look on his face, stopped me and said, "You talked to ATHENE?" He exchanged a look with the guy next to him and continued, "On the PHONE?"

I could tell he was ready to leave the room and go fo help until I reminded him that Young Epic's girlfriend is named Athena. His relief was palpable...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Life is good...

Spring break has been amazing, and I'm sad that we're headed home tomorrow. Brownsville is a charming city, and South Padre Island is beautiful. We drove to the north end of the island (no spring break madness there) and enjoyed a little time on the beach. The dog loved romping on the sand, but she had no use for that crazy water that chased her.

The baseball has been wonderful, and Young Epic pitched well. On Wednesday night he closed the game-2 shut-out innings. Following the first inning he pitched, Coach asked if he could throw extended innings the next day. After the game Coach told Young E that he would start the second game the next day. Yesterday he pitched 5 and 1/3 shut-out innings, but ran out of gas. The reliever gave up the lead, but they came back to win in the bottom of the 7th. It was a bummer that Young E didn't get his first college win in his first college start, but all are most pleased that he pitched 7 and 1/3 shut-out innings in two days.

We missed this week's episode of Lost, but I would gladly never watch again if instead we got to watch Young Epic pitch. I DO hope we can catch a rerun though!

We are having lunch today with the parents of Young Epic's girlfriend, and then it's back to the ballpark for another double-header.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring Break!

We are taking our first EVER spring break trip! Of course, we'll be spending it in Brownsville, watching Young Epic's college baseball team play double headers every day for the entire week. When I commented to Coach that we are thrilled to get to see that much baseball while we're there, he replied, "It's spring break. Gotta keep 'em playing baseball and keep 'em off the Island." Coach is a wise man.

We are spending a couple of days at Casa de Grandma on our way. Casa de Grandma has no internet access, no cell phone service, and the tv isn't working. I'm sitting in McDonalds now having paid $3 to check email (I'm expecting some parent messages), and, by golly, I paid for an hour of wireless service, so I'm going to use it! All of this pretty much fits my definition of "camping."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Teacher Joy

One day this past week we were discussing book X of The Odyssey and discussing the leadership abilities of Odysseus. Two former students looked in the window of the door with about 3 minutes left in class, and I waved them into the room. As they joined us I told them we were discussing the part where Odysseus and his men see Ithaka, but they get blown all the way back to the island of Aeolia. I then asked them what caused this to happen.

These two guys are athletes, and, during their time with me did not seem to especially enjoy literature, so I was holding my breath, hoping they would at least remember reading the book! One of them replied, "It was because Odysseus fell asleep."

I was thrilled that he remembered at least that much, but I couldn't resist pushing my luck. So I acknowledged his answer as correct, but then asked the deeper problem, the one that caused Odysseus to fall asleep. The other young man replied, "He didn't trust his men to handle the sail, so he stayed awake for over a week, and then he was so exhausted that he fell asleep. Because he had stayed awake so long, the men thought there was treasure in the bag and Odysseus was guarding it to keep it from them. That's why they opened it and the wind blew them all the way back. If you're a leader, you've got to learn to trust the people around you or they won't trust you."

I love my job.

If your children are in a school that (generally freshman year) does not teach the entire text of The Odyssey but just uses the abridged version found in literature books, may I suggest that you read the entire work with your children. I have really good focus questions that I created for the Lattimore translation. I provide those to students to use for the reading they have to do on their own. The questions really help them focus on the reading and figure out what is going on in the book. I'll be happy to share those with any who would like them.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I don't usually post more than once a day (okay-or week-or two), but a comment from Denny prompted me.

I am fully aware that some teachers in some schools work in less than ideal conditions, do not receive administrative support, and deal with difficult student/parent situations. But that just isn't my situation. In The Iliad, Homer shows what happens when the king (Agamemnon) isn't being kingly. His arrogant, selfish behavior, his "it's all about me" attitude, causes Achilles to stop fighting and go sit down beside his ships. When leaders today (in any profession) don't exhibit true leadership, those who follow them become discouraged, jaded, and, eventually face burn out. They mentally "go sit down beside their ships."

The principal of my school is a leader, and he behaves as one. We work hard, and I am exhausted at the end of each day, but so are the students. Teachers are held to high standards, and so are the students. That attitude filters down from the principal's office to the classrooms. From the classrooms, we communicate with the parents, and once the parents are on board, the sky is the limit.

It also helps that I am passionate (some would say obsessed) when it comes to what I do. I take it as a personal failure if a kid does not reach his or her full academic potential. Invariably, the occasional student, for what ever reason, just will not put forth the effort, and I am always deeply bothered by that. But I never give up on any kid. Outside of the accomplishments of my own kids, nothing in the world thrills me more than when a kid works very hard and has success in my classroom.

Last week, after our first test over The Odyssey (and it was a tough one), several kids made comments about how smart it makes them feel to be able to read and understand this stuff. They ARE smart-they just need the opportunity to realize their potential. My colleagues in my school have the same passion. It's common to see one of us walking in the hall holding a student paper and stopping people to read aloud to them a brilliant written thought.That passion infects our students, and they respond.

So, I appreciate the thought, but I would not trade professions with any person in the entire world.

English Teacher Bliss

  • I spent Friday and half of Saturday at an AP/PreAP English conference in Richardson. The information, and the company, renewed my spirit, and I'm eager to get back in the classroom.
  • The trip was eventful both days. I wasn't expecting to drive on Friday, but a last minute problem changed our plans. I didn't have a map, so we took 35 to 635 to 75, and I HATE driving in heavy traffic. Just think of Lucy and Ethal, and I was Ethal (Lucy, are you SURE this is a good idea...). We arrived in plenty of time, but with frazzled nerves, and had a good laugh about the whole ordeal. On Saturday, Lucy drove. She knew an easier route. When we got to McKINNEY she turned back. Did I mention that I get car sick?
  • Presenters at these conferences often show samples of student work, and that's always helpful. Since it's helpful to me, I assume that it will be helpful to my students. So, I pulled out my phone and snapped pictures. Now I just have to figure out how to transfer them to my laptop. I bought an LG USB cable, but it has no software. I downloaded the software, but when I try to connect to my phone, my phone flashes that there isn't enough memory, and the connection fails. I'm sure a student will be able to help me...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Baseball Rules

  • Never step on the chalk lines when entering or exiting the field of play.
  • If a pitcher steps on the lines, he can fully expect that the baseball gods will hold a bunted ball spinning in the chalk line as the catcher or third baseman helplessly waits for it to roll foul, and the despised batter takes first.
  • A new bat has to have time in the batting cage before use in a game. It won't know what to do in a game if it hasn't had cuts in the cage.
I do love my life. I took a personal day Friday, and Mr. Epic and I vacationed in the south of Dallas. The youngest son was in the area playing baseball-a double-header on Friday and another on Saturday. We watched 14 hours of baseball in two days, and greatly enjoyed 7 of them. Friday was beautiful, and young Epic pitched well in his two innings.

Saturday-not as much fun. As Mr. E said, "I don't mind being cold when I watch baseball, and I don't mind getting sunburned. But it's just WRONG to have both happen at the same time!"

Young E's team lost 3 of the 4 games-each by 1 run. Bummer. But-over the years I've come to enjoy the individual excellence of players on the field. One of the guys went 7 for 7 on Friday, and one was a homerun short of the cycle.

The mothers of pitchers live in our own special hell when our sons are on the mound. In Young E's first inning, the first I've seen him pitch this year, the first batter got on by a short stop error, the next guy flied out. He walked the next batter, and then the behemoth first baseman came to the plate. He hit a ball that may still be going. At that point I had to DO something. As a baseball mom, I know that when things aren't going well, a change must be made. It's the rule of the Baseball Gods. The only thing I could do was move, so I headed for the bathroom, but stopped on the way to watch him strike out the next guy. In order to avoid irritating the gods, I had to continue to the bathroom. He got the final out of the inning on a pop fly.

His next inning he didn't give up a run, and I got to stay in my chair. There was an amazing play that inning. The right fielder caught a fly ball and then threw out the runner who had tagged at third and tried to go home. It was a laser beam of a throw, and the catcher caught the ball and tagged the runner in the same motion. It was a beautiful thing to watch, and I'm glad the baseball gods did not require me to be in the bathroom when it happened.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Odyssey

We start reading tomorrow. Woo-whoo! We talked about Greek mythology today, and I told many of the stories. I told the Trojan War in an hour (with the back stories). Three times. My throat hurts. But it's SO worth it. The kids (even the "cool" kids) got wide-eyed several times.

One guy asked how long I had to study "that stuff" to know it so well. I honestly didn't have an answer. It's always been a part of my life. My grandparents told me many of the stories, and once I learned to read, I read a great deal of Greek mythology on my own. In fact, I got some of my Greek mythology mixed up with my Bible stories. I recall arguing with a Sunday school teacher that God did too chain some guy to a mountain and have an eagle eat out his liver everyday...

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Saturday, January 31, 2009


Pitchers and catchers will report to spring training soon, and not long after I’ll resume my habit of falling asleep with a baseball game, any game, on in the background. The cadence of the game sooths my very soul. It’s different now though. Sometimes I find myself overwhelmed with sadness, and I was perplexed by that. And then I started thinking about the upcoming summer season. Sam will be home again at the end of May; it will be time to pack the lawn chairs and sun screen in the car. And I nearly cry when I think of that.

I love Reverchon Park-it’s my favorite ballpark- a place out of time, with its massive oaks and sycamores standing sentry duty against the modern world. Some of the most interesting, oddest, characters I’ve ever seen hang out in the picnic area adjacent to the field, the freeway is only a few hundred yards away, and Southwest Airlines jets fly over on a regular basis-but these do not intrude on the sense of being in a different time and place. The crack of a wooden bat, the slap of the ball in a mitt are the only sounds that matter.

I thought he was going to be around forever. Oh sure, I knew he pretty much lived on strong black coffee and cigarettes, but, still… He was just so darned alive. When he took you by the hand and those eyes crinkled in a smile, you had no doubt that you were fascinating to him. He was endlessly interested in people in general. He could tell you the life stories of the young people who worked the gate, kept the book, and announced the games. Of course, you never knew if the life stories were real, or if he invented them.

But as interested as he was in humanity in general, HB lived for the boys and for the game. His greatest pride was in the number of players he found college “homes” for-his last summer season he sent over 100 players off to college teams, including the twenty-four on his team. Including our youngest son. He was always interested and pleased to hear what the ball players went on and did after hanging up the cleats, but there was always just a tinge of regret in his voice over those who simply quit because the desired outcome didn’t arrive quickly or easily. His highest regard was reserved for those who gutted through the longest odds and refused to give up until all options were exhausted. The warriors. His greatest respect was granted to those who refused to give in or give up-at the plate, in the field or on the mound. His greatest contempt was reserved for those with no heart, those who folded under pressure, or those who were in the game for themselves alone. Ask him about a guy with loads of talent but no drive, and he didn’t say a word. He just squinted, frowned, and shook his head while tapping his chest. His signal for no heart. He loathed those with no heart.

My hero, a man who helped more boys on their personal journeys to manhood than anyone else I know, HB Kernodle ran the Reverchon Park baseball facility in Dallas for years, and headed DABA. He loved the game, and demanded that those who played under his guidance have the utmost respect for the game. His call of "All right gentlemen let's go, a little pride and dignity..." will ring in my ears always. He loved the warriors of the game, and he loved the players whose hearts outweighed all else. He despised those who saw the game as a means to an end, and he despised those who put their own interests above those of the team and the good of the game.

Baseball will miss him. Reverchon Park will miss him. And I will miss him for the rest of my life.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Friday Read Around

The first day of the new term some of the kids from the previous term stuck their heads in the door to let their friends know what a "cool" teacher I am. They were shocked by my snarl and bark as I sent them away. I guess they don't remember the first day back in the fall...

The new classes were perplexed as we worked from bell to bell on the first day. (Our principal makes sure we have textbooks available-I love him.) The tone has been set, and it's going to be a great spring!

Our first "Read Around" was Friday. Every student has to read aloud something (not an academic paper) he/she has written during the week. I do not assign topics, but we spend a great deal of time discussing ideas and making suggestions and lists. Friday's readings were the best first day papers I've had in the six years I've done this. Several made us laugh so hard our sides hurt, and one or two caused me to pass the box of tissues.

The power of peer reaction never ceases to amaze me. While the majority of the kids want to write their essays well, and they are concerned about grades, NOTHING motivates them as much as how their peers react to their Friday reading. I can't wait to see how much progress these classes make over the eighteen weeks we have together.

Monday, January 19, 2009

New Term

The new term begins tomorrow. I'll have all new students, and that is always nerve wracking. On the first day I always get the panicky feeling that I'll never learn all of their names, but I generally have the names and faces matched by day three.

I also worry that each student won't get the individual attention he/she needs. My eldest child was one of those who tended to blend into the woodwork, and I think that makes me especially aware of those kids.

When the kids come in tomorrow, the early arrivals will fill the back row, unless, of course, the word has spread. Once everyone is seated, I make the two back rows move to the front, and everyone else moves back a seat. I wind up with jocks/skaters/sleepers in front, and eager hand raisers in the back and middle. We'll work from there.

Some terms I never get the seating mix just right. That usually happens when there are not enough front row seats for all the "front row" kiddos. Those are the "blurters" (those who believe that every thought that comes into the mind must exit the mouth...), the "social butterflies" ("Just let me finish telling him/her this ONE thing. It's IMPORTANT!!"), and the "organizationally challenged" ("Oh, I know it's not in your backpack-but just take one more look. Humor me. Huh. There it is...").

Monday, January 5, 2009

First Day Back

  • The first day back at school after a long break is a whipping.
  • Getting the kids to refocus on Romeo and Juliet after 16 days off is a HUGE whipping. But, Tybalt and Mercutio died in sword fights, R&J had their wedding night, and Juliet's father yelled at her "Hang thee young baggage! Thou disobedient wretch!" That livens the discussions.
  • R&J meet on Sunday, marry on Monday, on Tuesday Juliet is told she will marry Paris, Wednesday she fakes her death, and, by early Thursday morning, R&J are both dead.
  • The Reduced Shakespeare Company has a dvd of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare-Abridged. The kids howl over the 15 minute Romeo and Juliet. It's an easy way to bring home to them that literate people find life to be a great deal more amusing than those who are not well read.
  • I've discovered that elementary schools no longer teach Roman numerals. I have to do a lesson in those before we read The Odyssey (Books I-XXIV), and Romeo and Juliet (Acts I-V). No wonder the children don't laugh at the Hercules cartoon when the little character runs from a fire yelling "Call IXII, call IXII".

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fahrenheit 451

Next term test:

Quotes, identify speaker and situation, discuss relevance of quote to various characters and the society as a whole. Use "Those who do not build must burn" and "That favorite subject, Myself." Pull another from Granger (maybe concerning the mirror factory) and one from Beatty.

Discuss Montag's symbolic baptism.

Friday, January 2, 2009

If I ever win the lottery...

...I will hire a graduate student to do my grading. Of course, I would have to buy a lottery ticket in order to win. And, if I had a graduate student do my grading, I would miss some of the blazing brilliance-like this:
"Odysseus could not look back when he threw Ino's immortal veil back into the ocean. He rejected Kalypso's offer of immortality, and looking back would indicate that he had a longing to hold on to immortality. A person cannot go forward while looking back, and Odysseus cannot continue his journey if he holds the desire for things he has left behind."

I love the children.

Edit: 24 essays to go. It's tempting to just sit down and blow right through them, but I have to be certain that I give the final paper the same care that I gave the first one.

It's not Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys...

If you haven't picked up a young adult book since the eighties, you might want to do some reading. There are some amazing books out there, but some of it does make me cringe. I never tell a student what he/she may or may not read (that's the job of a parent), but there are some books that I just will not put into the hands of a kid...

Here's a link to Teri Lesene's blog. She does incredible reviews of YA books (and picture books).


I hate that the new semester does not begin for two weeks after we return from break. It puts the kids at a huge disadvantage going into final exams.

I am looking forward to the new classes in a couple of weeks, but I will miss these kids. I do believe that, overall, they are the best group I have taught. Of course, I tend to say that about at least one class every term!

Grand and Humble

I finished this one a couple of days ago, and, I must confess, I did not see the twist coming. This is one the kids will want to read again to see if there are clues they missed.

While I was waiting in the counselors' suite before the Christmas break, I met a student I did not know, and we had a conversation about his dislike of reading. I took that as a personal challenge. I spent a couple of days thinking about it, and then took a couple of books to him that I thought he might enjoy. He promised to read one of them over the break, and I'm looking forward to hearing his reaction next week.