Current/Recent Reading List

24 October 2008

Three Terrific Things About Today

1. I seamlessly moved from giving instructions to my honors class about a writing assignment, to blistering, Marine style, an impertinent little bratty girl who got up out of her seat for the second time in the middle of my lecture, to moving back into lecture mode, all while barely drawing a breath or missing a beat. Outstanding!

2. Early voting! I voted today, and it was the most pleasurable presidential-year voting experience I've had since those great absentee-ballot days of my college years. Serioulsy - no lines, no annoying people, in and out in 10 minutes. There is nothing romantic about actual election day at the polls. Since we have an optional workday, I'll now be spending Nov. 4th in leisure, with the Boy. As for the t.v.? When it's on that day, it'll be limited to cartoons or sports stations (at least until around bed time).

3. With our seven-year olds down by a run, in a blowing rain storm, against a hyper-competitive rival team whose coaches always send their kids for extra bases even when it goes beyond the bounds of sportsmanship, I sent the tying runner home from third base under potentially dubious circumstances. The next hitter struck out for out three, and then the game was called due to rain, so we secured a non-loss, at least. Those guys really wanted to beat us, too, so our head coach and I shared a nice chuckle after the game.

Don't look at me that way... they totally deserved it. I swear.

22 October 2008

The Old Standby

In the midst of English departmental strife, misbehaving kids, sordid tales about things the adults in the school building do (both in and out of school), and that upcoming voting-related event which shall henceforward remain nameless in this space, it lifts my spirits a little to know that tonight begins yet another World Series, which is the huge sporting event I always look most forward to. The older I get, the more sentimental I get about baseball, moreso than any other sport.

Ah, yes, at least there will always be The World Series to count on... except for, uh, that one year back in the 90's, but never mind that.

21 October 2008

Carpooling: A Cautionary Tale

So, at the end of last year three English teachers and a science teacher decided that in 08/09 they would meet up at a central location in Raleigh and drive together for the 20-some miles it takes to get to school from there, for all the usual reasons of saving money and going green(er). The cinching criteria that the science teacher met, since the other three had already planned this, was that she could speak in similarly glowing terms of their preferred presidential candidate, thus ensuring their ability to speak openly and freely about the topic that sooooo commands most of their attention outside of school, namely politics, politics, politics. But, I happen to know, they are also pretty fair shots when it comes to trashing others, complaining about their personal lives, and deciding to stop for drinks, occasionally, on the way home.

Well, I share a first block planning period and a planning lounge with the other sophomore English teachers, including the youngest of the carpooling foursome, and we have been pretty good friends since last year, when we were both newbies at our current school. She is quite mature for her age, but she is just 24-25, and lately around her I've been reminded just how impressionable an age that still can be. You see, at first it seemed the carpooling was going swimmingly, but after a few weeks we noticed her coming in grumpier and grumpier, swearing more than usual. Soon she was prone to mini-rants (personal or political) every other day, some of which included harsh trashing of other school employees (notably, the science teacher mentioned above). She would also volunteer what others on the car rides were saying, and intentionally or not, painting not-so flattering portraits of them (two of them are my age, by the way, and I have been present for savage rants of theirs before as well).

A couple of weeks ago my young friend blurted out that she realized she had become quite cynical and negative, and wondered aloud if it was because of all the time she spent with her largely cynical and negative carpool buddies (Ding! Ding! Ding!). Last Thursday she came in looking sunken, had a rough day at work, and on the ride home had to hear about how one of the other riders was called onto the carpet by the principal for a lost temper at some meeting earlier in the week. On Friday, my friend was not at school, and the other teachers said she was taking a "mental health" day. Then, on Monday, upon her return, she told us she was no longer carpooling, and instead would live with the higher gas costs.

I will venture a guess that she will seem much happier within a week or two.

12 October 2008

Wonders of the eZine

It is a rare occasion, indeed, when I can tout my groundbreaking work (ha!) in using technology for the classroom. However, over the summer with the Writing Project, I learned about how to set up a private class "eZine" at Writing Matters, and so decided to give it a whirl with my honors class. I'm certain that more advanced teachers having been doing this sort of thing for years, but this was a bit of a plunge for me.

What you do is set everyone up with a password (so you can track deviant behavior), and then allow them to post a variety of academic, creative, rhetorical, or informal writings, which all others in the class can then post comments about. Of course, once I set it up, explained the rules, and displayed it for them, I didn't get the instant, "Oh, Mr. P this is the most wonderful, inspirational, rad, awesome idea ever! We're all going to post ten writings and comments tonight!!" reaction I was looking for, so I had to rely on one of my ingenious motivational techniques to get them going. Namely, I told them to post something, or get a "0".

Well, it worked, and the eZine really has taken off. There are something like 60 or 70 pieces of writing now up, and a plethora of comments. Fortunately, these have all stayed within bounds, and have been positive. I was hoping for a little more in the way of communal constructive criticism, but perhaps that will come as they get more comfortable sharing their writing and participating in give-and-take commentary.

In any case, I am so pleased with the results. Each week a few new things pop up there without prompting from me, and the kids seem to be into it. Now, the next frontier is to try it out with my standard English class, where many a reluctant writer presides. Still, I want to see how it goes with them, if I don't murder them for their fifth-grade mentalities beforehand...