Current/Recent Reading List

28 March 2008

Congrats To Me; Let the Whining Commence

So, I attended a one day writing workshop back in January at N.C. State, and was so impressed by some of the tips I got that I decided to apply to the summer institute the Dept. of Education there puts on in conjunction with the National Writing Project. I was also highly motivated by the fact that I have two years left to get the rest of my continuing education credits out of the way, and thought I might as well do it in one big potentially enjoyable chunk.

Well, I applied to the summer institute, and just found out I was accepted. There were only 15 spots for 35 applicants, so yay for me, etc., etc. In reading the material, though, I began to seriously contemplate the pain in the rear this will be. In April, I have to go to a day long orientation one Saturday, followed by an even longer workshop and debriefing the next Saturday. That means working - gasp! - 12 out of 14 days. On top of that, it means missing two tee-ball games. DON'T YOU PEOPLE KNOW I'M AN ASSISTANT COACH?!!

And, as for the summer institute, it goes on for almost three full weeks, and, because it also counts for graduate credits, will no doubt involve some sort of research project/paper, in addition to heavy writing practice, as one of the core principles of NWP is that "Effective professional development programs provide frequent and ongoing opportunities for teachers to write and to examine theory, research, and practice together systematically." Whoo.

I need my Mommy.

25 March 2008

Even the Prom Has Its Melancholy Side

Well, Wyfe has now spoken on the prom, but I wanted to add something bothersome that I quite accidentally observed.

We had to man the registration table for the latter, interminable half of the prom, and after the king and queen had officially been announced, it wasn't long before a sizeable group of prom-goers gathered in the lobby, ready to head out for (ahem) other doings, which I had heard a little about from passive eavesdropping earlier in the week. Now, I did not know most of the these kids, but I knew enough to know this was the ultimate creme-de-la-creme in-crowd, partly because a few of my yearbook girls were among the throng. I watched a couple of these girls more intently than the rest, because I noticed how preoccupied they seemed. In fact, they walked right by us several times and never even noticed us at the table. I don't take this as a slight, because they are always friendly, and if they had seen us they would have spoken. They are good girls, off to good colleges, and in fact, though these particular girls are in the in-crowd, they are in no way partiers - I've heard them rail about the partying life before. I don't believe it was their intent to get too involved in doing the wrong things, but clearly they were going to be escorted off to the site of the proceedings nonetheless.

One of these girls is not currently dating, but her prom escort, a red-faced, overly self-assured seeming chap, was rubbing her back as they stood there talking with the others. Let's just say she did not look relaxed with this, but also was not discouraging it. Another normally confident girl shifted nervously, and went into the bathroom twice in the span of 10 minutes - I never saw her smile (in fact, if she had broken into tears it wouldn't have been a shock). Other girls whispered among themselves with serious expressions, and there was little jollity among them. As for the the boys in the group, I know I'm probably exaggerating a bit, but mostly they were what you might expect: the jocks and other cocks-of-the-walk who (in my jaded opinion) were clearly on-the-make, and disgustingly, smarmily professional in their on-the-make demeanors. I realize I flatter myself, but any decent man would have shared the same urge to punch every one of them.

Yes, the girls must make their own decisions, but I can't help but remember the horrifying seduction scenes from I Am Charlotte Simmons. I hope these girls made the right calls, but in an effort to stay popular they already gave in by putting themselves in a bad situation, I feel sure. Why, oh why, do we allow our girls to go through this, and allow our boys to become such predators?

As a counter image, I also noticed that most of the couples who stayed for the entire time seemed to be really enjoying themselves, and were not nervous or shifty at all. Some of their parents dropped by to see them briefly, and some of these kids I know are labeled as being "real Christian". Others were nerdy types, happy in their nerdiness. In contrast with the early departers, I felt relieved to watch these remaining couples. Believe it or not, some of them actually came to the prom in order to enjoy, you know, the prom!

24 March 2008


Last week's tour-de-force probably took years off my life, but I did survive, as you can now see. The week started with a wonderfully-timed three-hour leadership training session, scheduled right after school, that is required by the county for all employees who haven't undergone the training yet (so that each year the poor saps new to the county have to participate). From Monday to Thursday, my entire life was yearbook-related, except when I was trying, you know, to teach, or help coach tee-ball. In the last three weeks, I swear I've worked harder than at any point in my life (cue the sad violins).

Then, Thursday night was prom chaperone night, which I'll refrain from giving too many details about now in deference to my kind Wyfe, who was forced to join me and now wishes to blog about it herself (hint: it wasn't that interesting, and we were there from 7:00 to 12:40). Friday it was in the car and off to the in-laws while still in a daze, and after yesterday's Easter service and Sunday dinner we finally limped back in to town.

So... I plan to blog a lot this week, though I've threatened that before and fallen short. Since I have the week off, though, I may plague your in-boxes with many a new post. Bear with me!

15 March 2008

Yesterday's Highlights

(Which I whine about simply by passing them along)

7:30 - 1st period thrown behind by donut deliveries from a DECCA fundraising event (yes, of course I bought some - they were Krispy Kreme!)

8:25 - 1st period finally gets around to the Prologue of Oedipus Rex after class members whined their ways for thirty minutes through a slightly harder than usual vocab. test. We only squeeze in 15 mins. of reading.

9:10 - I determine I have to write-up a student, who by the way failed my same class last semester, because he snuck out of my room during his mandatory remediation time and never returned except to get his stuff at the bell.

10:10 - I have to actually take a time-out and upbraid my entire 2nd period for their rude talking and laughing (first time I've had to do that all semester). One normally good boy in there pouts on one side of the room, after I made him change seats, while his buddy pouts on the other side.

10:20 - The real prize of 2nd period - a loud and rude white girl who seems to have talked herself into believing she is a loud and rude black girl - continues to be disruptive and refuses to hand over her phone after I catch her texting someone. Mental note: second write-up of the day to turn in.

11:40 - 12:05 - Hateful tri-weekly lunch duty, at which I find out my prom duty (since I'm a junior homeroom sponsor), will last from 7-12:30 next Thursday - five and a half hours of sheer boredom, with an unhappy Wyfe in tow!

1:45: One of my English colleagues, who has the same planning period, stops by my room to ask about some vocabulary word activities, and just to shoot the breeze for a few minutes. About five minutes later, her nose twitches, and she says, "That smells an awful lot like pot!" We walk out into the hall, and trace the smell from the boy's room across the hall. I go in, but no one is there. Whoever it was must have just left. I call the principal, who investigates and then goes off to check the security cameras.

3:30 I leave with my bag full of 50 tests to grade and 20 yearbook pages to proofread. If I were a drinker, I know where I would head next...

Can't wait 'til Monday!

11 March 2008

Yearbook Blues

It is easy to look ahead at a challenge that lay far into the future and say, "Yeah, that will be tough, but we'll deal with it then." Then, then is suddenly here, and it turns out it is not just a challenge, but a giant, pulsating pain in the rear.

At my old school, we ran the yearbook on a rare fall schedule, so I had the summers to wrap up any yearbook issues (i.e., doing pages that certain kids let go by the wayside and quit caring about as summer break approached). Not so, now that I am in the big leagues. We have a spring book, and it is supposed to be finished by next Thursday, before our spring break. So, my staff and I are all running around with our hair on fire, while also in the midst of other classes we are taking/teaching. We'll get close to being finished, but I'm already preparing my plea for the mercy of my yearbook representative's court. Just a couple of late pages won't be a disaster, will it (will it)?

Speaking of yearbook, my editor was scheduled to go to Spain, France, and Germany on a Spanish Club trip for 10 days. For weeks she's been pinching herself over this, often saying (excitedly), "I can't believe I'm going to Europe!" So, the plane left last Tuesday. A couple of days before that, my editor started feeling bad, and by Monday (the day before the trip), she sounded awful and apparently felt awful. She went to the doctor that afternoon, sat in the waiting room for an hour, and was summarily told she had the flu and under no circumstances could go on the trip. So, she sat at home for a week, sick and devastatingly depressed.

Well, we did our best for her by throwing a little "We're Bringing Spain/France/Germany To You" party on Monday, when she returned to school. Of course, all the food the kids brought was Italian-like (not counting the thoroughly American Chips-A-Hoy), so they were a little off geographically. But hey, at least they got the right continent.

06 March 2008

Some Tidbits

First of the penis joke variety (got your attention?). Our department head, a woman about my age, was helping one of her students - "a sweet redneck boy" to use her description - work out some details of his senior project. She began to sit in the chair beside him, and ended up half missing the chair, causing her to teeter. She attempted to reach out and grab her student's arm in order to steady herself, but she began falling and her hand caught his leg area instead. Again, to her description: "My thoughts were, 'Oh, I've got his leg... OH!, that's not his leg my hand is on. I really wish I would have just fallen."

Can we say, "Teenager scarred for life?"


The next afternoon, I sauntered into the cafeteria, along with other department members, a few minutes before the scheduled faculty meeting. Another of my female colleagues greeted me and then was about to ask me a literary question, when she interrupted herself to say, "Uh, Mr P., your fly is kind of open there..." Well, there are no easy places to duck behind in the cafeteria, as you can imagine, so the best I could do is turn my back on everyone and act quickly. Too late, though, to avoid the tale being told around the table within a mere minute or so. Can you say, "Me scarred for life?"

Like I've said before, it's tough being a man in the English Department, what with women looking at your fly and all. I'm sure Wyfe agrees with me.


My Lenten reading of late has included (surprise, surprise!) Flannery O'Connor's first short story collection. My biggest belly laugh so far came from the following passage of "The Temple of the Holy Ghost", when two silly teenage Catholic school girls sing in Latin for the guitar-toting evangelical farm boys who live near the house the girls are visiting. Spying on the scene is the precocious child who set up the date in the first place:

The girls dragged out the Amen, and then there was a silence.
"That must be Jew singing," Wendell said and began to tune the guitar.
The girls giggled idiotically but the child stamped her foot on the barrel. "You big dumb ox!" she shouted. "You big dumb Church of God ox!" she roared and fell off the barrel and scrambled up and shot around the corner of the house as they jumped from the banister to see who was shouting.

02 March 2008

PLC's? Puh-leaze! (Part III)

Though in practice I think PLC's can be promising, helpful, and flexible enough to fit local, particular needs (something most educational trends, coming from on high, fail at miserably), irritants still abound in PLC-land (natch). The two most problematic irritants are that 1) PLC people like to talk way too much about PLC's, and do so in a hubristic "we can save the whole world" tone, and 2) there is already an unhealthy amount of crap jargon that has grown out of PLC-ism (something probably related to irritant #1). Here is a sample:

1)"PLC's concentrate on students learning, not on teachers teaching": This is the philosophical pearl of PLC-ism, a mantra insisted upon as profound wisdom. Translation: some teachers get up and go through their motions, and don't care whether their students are getting it or not. Well, o.k., we all have known teachers like this, but the point is that these were/are bad teachers. Good teachers have always been concerned about whether or not their kids were learning. I find this mantra daft, and the point it is making only profound in that it is profoundly obvious.

2)"Each PLC should set a standard of norms for each meeting": Norms? Norms? Sounds like we are on Cheers. Whatever happened to the word rules? I know, too masculine and heirarchical... Anyway, translation: People in PLC meetings should act like adults.

3) "PLC's help identify specific, attainable learner objectives": In many ways No Child Left Behind is the co-author of little nuggets like this one. Translation: Let's figure out what even below-average students can learn, and establish that as our goal. As for upper level students, well you're on your own kiddos.

4) "PLC's use collaborative teams and collective inquiry to achieve school goals": Yes, there are a lot of scary words that begin with "c" in PLC-land. Unkind Translation: Communism was a failure but the old lefty's among us still need a place to use the word "collective". Or, Kind Translation: If we work together a little more, we might be able to make the school a better place. If you aren't interested, the Borg will probably assimilate you anyway.

Well, there is a brief tour for you. My final, omniscient pronouncement is that PLC's can be good for a school if they are taken seriously, but not too seriously. I think most people like the idea of working more closely with their colleagues in a productive way. However, no one wants to be thought of as merely a faceless part of the team. Value me as an individual, and I'll value my contributions to the effort.

For God's sake, though, lose the jargon!