Witchy Weekends: I Wish…

When I was a child watching the Saturday morning animated special movies for kids every weekend…

Okay, so you’re probably either groaning because you remember those or groaning because you’re conflating them with After-School Specials.

Seriously, though, sometimes those animated shows on the weekends were kind of cool. But the only one I really remember now was called maybe “My Teacher Is A Witch” or something similarly creative, and it was about a class of kids who got a new teacher one day whom they believed was a real witch. What tipped them off? The day she erased a really full blackboard full of chalk with a single swipe of her arm.

And I know it was just a cartoon and life doesn’t really work that way, but I cannot tell you how often, especially since becoming a teacher, I’ve wished that it did. I could really, really use that kind of speed and efficiency during the school year.

Especially this weekend, when I’m mired in grading and comments (two-paragraph narratives I write for the report card of every student in every one of my classes to discuss each student’s individual progress). But I don’t have that power, so this anecdote is about as substantive as my blog is going to get at the moment.

But here, to tide you over, have this lovely picture.

Advertisements

Monday Earworm: Rush

I love this song. I think I might actually like the studio version better than this live one, but this live one is still pretty great.

My relationship with Rush is tangential and hardly worth fangirl status. Several of my friends in college loved them, and so I started listening to them as well, and while I’m hardly well versed in their entire discography, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a song of theirs I didn’t like. Concept albums really appeal to me as well, so there’s that.

This song always reminds me of my students, especially my seniors, whose potential stretches out before them like an ocean. It also, oddly, reminds me of Justin Trudeau. Not really sure why. Maybe because he’s making a very good case for being the leader of the free world now that the U.S. has clearly relinquished that position? (And sorry, Angela Merkel, you’re otherwise kind of awesome, but no one who doesn’t support same-sex marriage can be the leader of the free world in the 21st Century, so.)

Okay, political rant over. Please to enjoy.

 

Poem-A-Day: Elizabeth Sewell

I’ve always been struck by the fact that the name we use for someone who suffers mightily, unjustly, and beyond all sense or reason is the same name for the work we do in order to earn payment that we might gainfully live.

I teach, and sometimes — like around this time of year — the beckoning breath of a break — in this case, summer — magnifies the stress of the workload I and most of my colleagues are laboring under. I’m lucky in that my administrators understand that “every ask is still an ask,” but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a basketful of asks awaiting each of us — teachers, students, and administrators alike — around every turn. The weight of it is like stones piling on my chest, and like old Giles Corey, I keep coming back.

Case in point: here is my current grading stack.

This giant mug holds 20 ounces of tea and is nearly the size of my face. You know, for reference.

 

And here is an ekphrastic poem by Elizabeth Sewell. Note the rhyme scheme and rhythm, how they mimic orderliness, how they taunt. You know, like the act of grading papers.

Persist, my friends, persist.

***

 

Poem-A-Day: e.e. cummings

I don’t remember whether I’ve posted this poem before, but even if I have, I don’t care. It’s one of my absolute all-time favorites, “Me up at does” by e.e. cummings. It would be redundant to say that cummings plays with language conventions in ways that are conspicuous and interesting. So did Emily Dickinson, whose work I also love. (So does Marie Marshall — but more on her poetry tomorrow.)

“Me up at does” is one of those poems that I like to splash up on the board in class when we’ve got fifteen or twenty minutes to fill and want to do a little analysis work that can be contained and stretchy and fun, and that can make my high school students feel perhaps a little more accomplished after they’ve done it. (If anyone wants the lesson plan for this assignment, let me know.)

***

Me up at does

 

Me up at does

out of the floor
quietly Stare

a poisoned mouse

still who alive

is asking What
have i done that

You wouldn’t have

 

 

Thanksgiving 2016

Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday.

Worn-out Wednesday. (Okay, I might have made that one up.)

It’s a lot to take in, isn’t it? Yet sometimes the banality of life’s daily routine can shock us out of our paralysis.

Even in a year which I will be glad to see the end of, I have more than enough to be thankful for, and I am. I hold those things in my heart when I could easily rail against the unfairness of the world, the moral decrepitude of society, the crumbling state of…well, basically lots of things, including our environment, both literal and figurative.

I had been hoping to make this post on Facebook on November 9th:

30 Days of Gratitude: I’m standing here, with my daughter, in a field of broken glass, staring at the beautiful sky. There is no limit.

But that’s not a post I had the opportunity to make, no matter how many days, weeks, months, years I’d been looking forward to its being a reality.

I reminded my students, when they came to me that day seeking guidance, that culture is not always top-down. It also radiates outward from each person’s choices. It rises from the ground up when we lay its foundation through our actions and voices.

Our school adheres to four core values: honesty, respect, responsibility, and kindness. And even when we don’t see these values modeled for us in the public sphere — and oh, my goodness, we don’t see them there nearly enough — we have the ability to be honest and respectful and responsible and kind. We have countless opportunities every day to choose to adhere to those values, and we must.

If we treat others in every daily interaction, be it in person or online, with those four values, and if we do it consistently, then we can and will change the toxic culture around us.

It will radiate outward.

It will rise from the ground up.

It will shatter what holds us down.

What I’ve Been Reading: Student Edition

I asked all the students in my sophomore English classes to recommend a book they’d read for pleasure — one not assigned for school — in the last five years. It had to be a book they liked enough to recommend it to someone — in particular, their classmates, as we embarked on the new free choice reading unit in my curriculum.

Here’s what they came up with! Any books here you’re interested in? Any you’ve read? Please leave a comment below.

 

sophomore recommendations 2016

***

P.S. — The subtext of this post (and its chronological distance from the last one) should indicate to you I’ve been really busy getting the new school year off the ground. You would be correct in that assumption.

P.P.S. — I shamelessly gathered the inspiration for this post from John Scalzi’s New Books and ARCs posts, which I find interesting, that he puts on his own blog Whatever, which I find marvelous. I hope he doesn’t mind.

Is It August Already?

I go back to school this Friday. After the last five weeks, I am more than ready. I’ve been on three trips, yes, but we’ve also had quite a few crazy things happen in between them, and I’m eager to get back to a consistent routine which includes my children being in school.

I have not done enough writing, or reading, to satisfy myself, though I concede I’ve done quite a lot of both. And with the way I’m revamping my curriculum this year, I’m hoping to have more time to do both even when the semester is in session. We shall see. (More on that later, perhaps.)

Last week, a short piece I wrote about how what I do in my personal time informs my teaching career came out in my school’s magazine. I was thrilled to be asked to contribute it in the first place, but even more so when I saw the illustrious company I was somehow included in — which was comprised of some of the most talented colleagues I’ve ever worked with.

Because I’m headed back into my classroom at the end of this week, I thought I’d repost (with permission) the piece I wrote for the school’s magazine. I hope you enjoy it, but even more, I hope you enjoy what’s left of your summer (if you still have some).

***

The first time I ever read one of my short stories to an audience, I was in fourth grade. It was a character-building experience.

Even though very few of my classmates had gone on that fantastical narrative journey with me — and my teacher looked at me sideways while trying to figure the story, and probably me, out — my love of writing could not be dampened. By the time I hit middle school, my path to becoming a writer had been paved.

From there, teaching was an easy choice. The ability to share my love of writing with others, to teach them how to do it and to appreciate its value, contributes to my sense of purpose. Through literature we more clearly understand our humanity and our place in the world. The enjoyment and creation of literature is something I hope to instill in my students, and it’s one way I spend my personal time as well.

How can one teach something that one does not also do? If I didn’t need sleep, I would keep reading past my bedtime all through the quiet hours every night. And each break from school finds me writing, writing, writing. This pursuit feeds my creative, thinking self, yes, but also feeds my teaching self. The more I explore different forms and genres in my own work, the better I’m able to teach my students how to do it — and hopefully how to love it as much as I do (though I’ll settle for mastery of skills).

Literature — reading it, creating it, teaching it — guides me always. It gets me out of bed way too early on Saturday mornings to meet other writers and stay on word count. It makes my summer breaks a little hectic, heavy with deadlines. And when school starts up again each August, it motivates me to share with my students everything I’ve learned, too.