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...