cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

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Drug Free Teaching


Today was the first day back to school. I went home just before lunch after confessing to the principal I couldn’t handle it any longer. The look on my  face made him step back and say: “Go home.” Good thing it was only staff day and not class day. 

It’s been a month since I ditched my  mountain bike on the bike path embankment to avoid crashing into anothet cyclist. It’s been a long month of adjusting to using my left hand instead of my right, learning to love ice packs, and enduring physical therapy. Tolerating pain meds is it’s own post.

Being a lightweight (wave a cork at me and I’m tipsy), I take half doses of my pills in order to maintain some state of functionality. This means I’m always at about a three on the pain scale–I think ten is an elephant standing on your head (like when I first figured my wrist must be broken after I crashed).

Apparently, I cannot teach or drive, if I take my pain meds. Driving a car or teaching teens under the influence is frowned  upon .  Something about impaired judgement. So, to prepare going back to driving and teaching I have been cutting back on my dosage. Way back. How about no meds for a day? Yeah–that didn’t work so well. 

Thankfully, my understanding principal let me go home and nap so I could return for open house. Yes, it was a long day first day back.

At this moment I have ice on my wrist and I’m hoping to go back to sleep and go for another day of  staff meetings and prepping my classroom. During staff introductions I held up my black air-cast wrist and joked I had on my Wonder Woman titanium bracelet. The joke was on me when I said, “And it’s my first day without drugs.” And the quip? “In your teaching career?”

Yeah. 

I went home and napped for three hours. Ice is nice. 

  

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Of Purple Cows and Ending of School Year


Monday is the last week of school. My seniors are already done with their finals and have vamoosed. There is an empty spot in my schedule, and in my teacher’s heart. I so enjoy my AP Lit classes. I hope they remember the stuff I taught them or attempted to teach them when they are sitting in their university lecture halls.

This week the sophomores take their finals. They will be tested on their knowledge of Julius Caesar, the last unit of their tenth grade English. For the most part they enjoyed learning about this important Rome leader. They still have misconceptions about him though–such as him being the inventor of s salad. They were amazed July is named after him.

Some complained about how much history goes with English literature. One influences the other, is what I tell them. They still grumble.

My one another AP class, my AP Language, affectionately known as Langsters, will be presenting their Senior Project Starters this week as their final. Most will be moving on to AP Lit, so not too much sadness, although they did make my first year of teaching AP Language quite enjoyable. Juniors are done with underclassmen drama, aren’t infected with Senioritis, and realized that with a wee bit more effort it’s possible to get great SAT scores which can open doors to desired colleges.

After June 12th I’m free to get back to “me” pursuits, such as reading books, instead of essays. I also hope to finish up a YA novel I started (about five years ago). It’s tough finding time to write as a teacher.

Surprisingly enough, I’m on the short list to teach creative writing second semester. It’s been about four years, so I’m brushing off some of my lesson plans. One them involves parody writing. Tell me what you think:

Parody Poems

“Imitation is the best form of compliment” or so they say. A Parody Poem emulates or copies a known style of poet. Special attention is paid to tone, diction, rhythm, meter—basically getting the poet’s style so that it is recognizable.

Here are some parody poems using the famous “Purple Cow” poem:

 A Purple Cow  (reading by Stuart S.)
by Gelett Burgess

I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one.

Image result for purple cow

And here are the parodies:

Edgar Allen Poe
Parody by Susan and David Hollander

One lonely, gloomy, windswept eve
A mournful sound did I perceive.
I cast my eyes beyond the pane
And to my horror down the lane
Came a sight; I froze inside
A spectral cow with purple hide.
Emily Dickinson
Parody by Susan and David Hollander

On far off hills
And distant rills,
Sounds a distant moo.
A purple spot
I think I caught,
Yes! I see it, too!
In Bovine majesty she stands,
Her purple tail she swings,
The amethyst cow,
To my heart somehow,
Perfect joy she brings.
And yet the thought of being
Of that race of royal hue,
Though glowing like the violet sweet,
It really would not do

My contributions…

Dr Seuss
by C. Muse

Hey Sam–
Who cares about greens eggs and ham?

I like cows.
I like cows here and now.
I like cows and their moo.
Do you like cows?
You like them, too?

I like cows brown or black and white.
A purple cow?
I think not.
That can’t be right.

Shakespeare
SONNET 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art so lovely, as thou eats hay.

Gentle creature, thou shows its color true,
Of thy hide of which you are adorned
A rich amethyst, a most unexpected hue.
Some may give shriek and others scorn
Yet, it matters not, thou still dost moo.

So long as all can breathe and see,
So all appreciate the purple cow that is thee.

A Bit of Bard–maybe a bit late


Depending on where you are located, it’s April 23rd and William Shakespeare’s birthday. Today he is an amazing 453 years old! Last year the world celebrated the 400 years since he passed from immediate view–going out on his birthday in 1616. I believe Mark Twain is another writer who did the same, except being Twain he did so with more flourish by coming in with Halley’s comet and leaving the day it returned.

As for William, his influence is ageless. I’m currently undertaking the starting of a Shakespeare club on campus: Students for Shakespeare. I actually inherited the title of the club. A few years back a group of students who wanted to put on Macbeth at the local theater and by doing so, made enough from ticket sales to create a little nest egg for future ventures. Their tidy profit helped in bringing Shakespeare to our school. With some tight management of funds, I manage to bring in annually Shakesperience, a team of actors who travel around the state performing at schools for a small fee. For some students, this will be their first and only exposure to a live performance of Shakespeare.

In the classroom I no doubt wear out my students with my enthusiasm for Shakespeare. I have his poster up on the wall and once a month I create crazy iMovies that are played on the morning announcements that promote the Students for Shakespeare Club. And four is the number of students I commandeered to be in the yearbook photo since no one has actually showed up for our monthly meetings yet. I shall once more to the breach…

April also happens to be National Poetry Month. I usually provide a poem a day as tribute to the month. I save them up all year. This year spring break happened the first week of April, I succumbed to getting a cold, then became dizzyfied by SAT testing, followed by reviewing for AP exams, became distracted by class registration–well, let’s just say Eliot wasn’t kidding when he said April is the cruelest month. Maybe not cruel. Daffodils are blooming. I get happy when the flowers return. It is a busy month though.

So–my poetry plans fell through, but I shall, as Puck says, try to make amends. Here is a link that is definitely worth watching, especially if you relish really amazing acting. This is Sir Ian in his prime (around 43), performing a one man show of Shakespeare. And this fulfills my poetry and Shakespeare efforts for April since Sir Ian performs both sonnets and play excerpts. Enjoy!

Bardinator Mission


Tuesday, over one hundred teens experienced live theatre for less than the cost of a latte. For $2.00, a group of middle schoolers and high schoolers decided to take a break from class for one hour and invest in Shakespeare. 

The Shakespeare Festival troupe travels around the state performing for students and this year’s play was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I think it important students experience live theatre. It’s such a radically different experience than watching a film. That connection with the actors as live drama enfolds right there in close proximity is such an invigorating, unique experience. 

I almost feel it’s my mission as a Bardinator to encourage as many students as possible to see Shakespeare performed. He was never meant to be read from a textbook, or watched as a movie. That’s one reason the acting troupe advertises the event as Shakesperience. Experiencing Shakespeare as performed theatre should be a requisite of education. 

Currently it’s a once a year option and it’s a tough sell to get students to buy a ticket, to invest in a memory that costs less than their daily caffeine candy in a cup.

Last year the audience was barely fifty students. A few years ago we used to have double performances with a full house of 250 each.  It makes me wonder if trying to infuse culture on our campus is a lost cause. This year’s jump in attendance gives me hope. And I will continue to make the arrangements for the yearly visit (even though I vow to not do it again).

I shall prevail. After all, as it’s been said, “the perchance to dream.” And Tuesday’s performance showed students that life is but a dream. A magical one they will remember for a long time.

Image:libbeybowl.org

Lite vs Literary 


It’s often my dilemma when I’m shopping at my local library for my weekly rations of reading material: do I go lite or go literary?

Almost sounds like choosing cheesecake, doesn’t it? Go for less calories and sacrifice taste? It does apply to reading.

Before I offend too many people (hoping I haven’t offended anyone yet by saying your reading material choice is tasteless), let’s define literary merit. This is from a 2010 article by College Board’s Advanced Placement folk, the same people who run all those smartypants AP classes that students take and hope to learn enough to do well when they take those really tough and excruciating exams in May:

The Definition of Literary Merit in work of literature: 

  1. Entertains the reader and is interesting to read. 
  2. Does not merely conform to the expectations of a single genre or formula. 
  3. Has been judged to have artistic quality by the literary community (teachers, students, librarians, critics, other writers, the reading public). 
  4. Has stood the test of time in some way, regardless of the date of publication. 
  5. Shows thematic depth: themes merit revisiting and study because they are complex and nuanced.
  6. Demonstrates innovation in style, voice, structure, characterization, plot and/or description. 
  7. May have a social, political or ideological impact on society during the lifetime of the author or a erward. 
  8. Does not fall into the traps of “pulp” ction such as clichéd or derivative descriptions and plot devices, or sentimentality rather than “earned” emotion. 
  9. Is intended by the author to communicate in an artistic manner. 
  10. Is universal in its appeal (i.e., the themes and insights are not only accessible to one culture or time period.

My students tend to get in a snit when we start discussing novels appropriate for in-depth study which they can refer to on the May exam. Inevitably Harry Potter comes up. I’m certainly not passing judgement on the popular wizard-boy–I just hold the book up against the list. The snitting does not quell. Potter fans do not easily diminish their devotion. I always leave the decision up to them. After all, the exam is three hours and nearly a hundred dollars, if Harry means that much to them, they can exercise their option. Personally, if going for risky entries I would choose Bradbury’s F451. 

Back to my off duty reading choices. 

As an AP literature teacher, I try to practice what I teach. After a long and fulfilling week of extolling Hamlet to my students, I’m ready to unwind with a plot of my own selection. I have a long list of meritable titles I want and need to read, yet I’m sidetracked by titles that require minimal effort since the plot is as thin as the page it’s printed on. It’s rather nice not having to struggle through ponderous diction, and nuances of layered theme. Coasting and flipping. Much like reaching for that cheese danish when I should sit down to a salad.

I end up with a compromise. For every book that meets most of the Lit Mer test, I drop in a mystery or a Chick Lit, or a dystopian YA. Or even a Kid Lit because I have yet to fully embrace grown up reads as being my only option.

And I hope my students don’t surprise me in the checkout line. Then again maybe I would earn cool teacher points when they realize that reading is the ability of flexible options. That is nothing to be embarrassed about.Shakespeare does manage to find a way into my reading–be it historical or a plot where Ophelia finds herself a happy ending with Horatio.

Paper or Plastic?


“I would rather have a hard copy, if that’s okay.” This is from a new AP recruit wanting the summer reading text How to read Literature Like a Professor in book format rather than the PDF version I found on-line. Curious, I asked why. Her response? She had difficulty connecting with the on-screen type. Not what I expected from eyes way younger than mine. I, of course spout off about how much I prefer hard copies to e-copies as well because of my need to connect sensory-wise and as I’m talking, I’m flipping pages and smelling them and listening to them and when I finally notice my student nodding and edging toward the door, like she’d really like to leave because I’m a looney lady (more than one student has commented on me being a bit crazy), I hand over the book and wish her a great summer.

I am a looney lady when it comes to books–hence the Book Booster thing I do. Books aren’t just a pasttime or a channel of information, they are an introduction. Ahem, a new quote from moi:

A book in hand is a friendship in the making.

Beyond making a new friend, there is joy, a celebration of the senses holding a book in hand. I’m talking honest to goodness REAL paper-in-hand book. I do so enjoy paper, maybe that’s why I always answer “paper” instead of “plastic” at the store. Perhaps it’s because paper comes from trees and trees come from the earth and holding a book bound in paper produces more connection to the world around me.  I have little or no sensory connection to my plastic e-reader even though it’s a book in hand.  Oh oh–I feel the looney lady coming on and before I go on about trees, books and their connection to the world and mankind, here is my list of reasons for preferring a book of paper when reading:

1. Smell: that inky pungency stimulates my imagination to anticipation

2. Hearing: the flip-swish of pages signifies my involvement and commitment and helps me to further escape

3. Taste: no, I don’t lick the book, but reading a paper book whets my appetite for setting aside time to open up the pages to fall into another time, another place, another person’s story

4. Touch: there has got to be a study out there concerning the connection between the tactile aspect of reading and brain synapse when communing with a book–I am so much more involved when I am holding the book instead of just listening to it by audio or thumbing up a new screen. Think about this: glass does not conduct electricity, which means no synapse boost. Plus, when I see my book lying on the bed, table, chair it beckons me to pick it up, so there must be a some kind of magnetism involved.

5. Visual: perhaps the most notable because of the cover has all those colors and interesting bits to feed my eyes and mind, and then, of course, there all those illustrations and photographs and drawings sometimes waiting inside.

I’ve shown this video before, yet it definitely illustrates the visual appeal of books.

Reading is definitely a sensory experience for me.  What about you?  Paper or plastic?

POETRY WORKSHOP


Both my sophomores and seniors are in the midst of studying poetry. I like poetry. Lots.

Image result for i like poetry tshirt

image: zazzle

However, I understand the deeper truth in the popular saying:

Truth is like poetry..most people hate poetry.

I suppose this statement is saying truth is found in poetry, yet while most people desire the truth, they really don’t want to hear it. Connect this epiphany to poetry. If poetry represents truth, then people don’t want to hear or read poetry.

Welcome to my world.

(Most of) my students don’t want to hear, read, and most of all, study poetry. I make them anyway. Yes, I’m that kind of teacher.

I do try to make it a bit more fun, (after all I did dress up like Mary Poppins for homecoming week) by adding clips and such that discuss the importance of poetry or I present poetry in an paradigm shifting way.

Do you know that if you write poetry you could become a famous award winning writer?

Beyond analyzing and writing responses to poetry, I have students create their own poetry. Here is a mini-poetry workshop from my Creative Writing I files:

REPETITION POETRY
1.Pick a word or short phrase for the first line
2.Add a word or phrase to it for the second line
3.Take the ending line to create the consecutive lines, adding a new word or phrase each time until poem reaches a satisfactory conclusion.

In the garden there is a tree.
And in that tree is thinking spot.
And in that thinking spot are my daydreams.
And in my daydreams are pathways.
And on those pathways are choices to make.
And from those choices to make I will decide.
And from those decisions will become my destiny.

And from that destiny I will live my life.

And I will live my life always dreaming, always thinking.
I am thankful for trees.
                                                                     pdw

I have
I have a
I have a nap
I have a nap hiding
I have a nap hiding in
I have a nap hiding in my
I have a nap hiding in my backpocket
I have a nap hiding in my backpocket and
It found me.
                                                   pdw

DEFINITION POETRY
Take any word or concept or topic and define through a mix or poetical flow and concrete definition to better understand what it is all about, especially on a personal level.

Grammar is the spine
Of prose and all we know
That is called language,
Which can be spoken
Or written down.
And all those nouns
And verbs
And prepositions
And modifiers that often dangle
And nominative clauses that
Sometimes tangle
Up
Our understanding
Are the vertebrae.

And without our vertebrae
There would be not enough spine
To stand us up.

So it is with language.

                                            pdw

SECRETS REVEALED POEM
All of us carry secrets.  Some should stay hidden and some can be released. Secrets Revealed poems help ease the burden of confession in a light-hearted manner.  Secrets can be real (“I ate the last piece of cake and blamed it on my cousin Bobbie”) to creative (“I am Captain America’s favorite niece”)

Chocolate Cake Ache
It’s said secrets nestle in our stomach like tasty morsels,
yet, I don’t think that can be said for stolen chocolate cake.

For there it sat like a lump,
like a great big chocolate bump
of guilt.

Oh, it was tasty: fork-licking, hit-the-spot, lick-my-lips, glad-I-ate-it tasty,
until the realization settled down on top of that confectionary indiscretion.

“The last piece?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe Bobbie.”
“Yeah, I think she did.”

For undisclosed penance I passed on dessert that night.
And I do like tapioca pudding.

“Sure, Bobbie—you can have mine.”

Unexpressed confession, even though it is rerouted through unexplained acts
of sudden generosity,
does not relieve the ache of stolen chocolate cake.

This I know.
                                                    pdw

INSIDE, UNDERNEATH, AND BEYOND
This is a poem of exploring matters contained within, or underneath, or beyond something everyday, or even unexplained.  Choose something to explore and decide which direction of discovery to investigate: will it be to dive inside to see what makes it tick, or will it be a burrowing sense of exploration where layers are removed and examined, or does the exploration go beyond known boundaries?

Inside all poems
Is a question
And inside this question
Is a quest

The poet rides out

on a journey to find
the meaning
or an answer–
or maybe to hear
an echo of reply
from one who seeks
an answer to the
same question quest.
                                                  pdw

Underneath
is not a place I like to be
places especially not chosen
would be:

underneath our house–
dank earth of spider habitat
bug haven and perhaps where
the neighbor’s cat did hide and done died.

No, not under the house.

Not under the sea either–
All fishiness, and no way to breathe.
Sharks and stingrays and eels—oh, my…

And thanks, but no for caves.

In fact, anywhere it’s dark.
Dark is underneath and where the light
Cannot be–

You’ll not find me.
pdw

 

SNAPSHOT POEMS
The idea is to write with imagery and detail in a way that it places the reader in that particular moment of time.  Actual photographs can be chosen for inspiration as can a reflective moment.  Employing the senses, playing with figurative language such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, internal rhyme can help create a moment rich with remembrance.

AIRPORT
The crowd swelled, receded, and swirled
Around you

Yet you did not pay heed

To the push and jostle
Of the nameless faces.

Anticipation’s scent lingered in the air.

Shuffle and adjustment of frustration, excitement
Mingled and settled
As the one face in a million became spotlighted
As he traversed the passenger-smoothed steps

Into your arms.
                                              pdw

Review Round Up


This last month has definitely been hodgish-podgish in reading. I’m transitioning from summer reading to preparing for school while trying to wrap up a major writing project. This involves reading for fun, reading for class, and reading for facts. I’m a bit dizzified at the stretch of diversity. Here are the top reads from this last month:

Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey

image: GoodReads

I picked this up along with Tey’s Daughter of Time, which was about Richard III. In the back of my mind nudged the basic plot of Brat Farrar. I hadn’t read it, or had I? I seemed to know how it was going to turn out. Than the “aha” tinkle bell sounded. I had watched it as a BBC series, ages ago. Books are always different from the film adaptation, and as I became more involved in the story I realized I didn’t remember the ending after all. I do so enjoy books, especially mysteries that I can’t guess the ending. Tey does an excellent job of twisting and turning the plot. One of the most satisfying reads of the summer. Intrigue, betrayal, double identities, red herrings, hinted romance, and horses–I’m trying to find the BBC series now.

 

 

My Memoirs

 by Alexandre Dumas

image: GoodReads

The man who brought The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask didn’t just write about adventures, he lived them. As part of of my author/cat project, I needed to read up on Dumas and found a slim adapted volume of his memoirs (the original ran to about thirty). He accounts for his life just up to the point of receiving acclaim for his novels. Like all really great biographies featuring rags to riches stories, Dumas begins his story sadly. His father, a Creole general in Napoleon’s army is tossed into prison, and upon release his health fails and dies when Dumas is four. Thrown into poverty, he, along with his mother and sister moves in with his grandparents. From their Dumas recounts how he preferred hunting to school and eventually makes his way to Paris with hopes of becoming a playwright. He brashly secures a clerk position in order to pay bills, while still trying to get his plays published. With success comes recognition and a life filled with all sorts of escapades including involvement in a revolution and a duel. I better understand why the action in his books is so mesmerizing–he knew adventure first hand.

Everything’s An Argument by Andrea Lunsford

26872224

image: GoodReads

Okay, so reading a textbook may not be on your TBR list. If I wasn’t slated to teach AP Language for the first time I probably wouldn’t have read this book either. Teaching AP Lang is going to be very, very different for me. I’m not a huge nonfiction reader, only doing so for research, not so for pleasure. Yet, as I waded into this book I became more fascinated by the fact that everything truly is an argument. We live in a world where everyone is trying to convince someone of their point of view and there are strategies for doing so. If interested in learning more how you are influenced, I’d suggest this as a means of getting more insight in how argument is something we need to reckon with.

Reader Round Up


As I prime for lots of unfettered summer reading I’ve been able to start my freed-from-grading daze with a few truly amazing books, an eclectic mix of non-fiction and novels.


First up is an Audrey book. I’m not much for reading full-blown biographies because they often reveal aspects of the person which might change my comfortable opinion. So when I spied this petite photo biography about Audrey Hepburn and her style relationship with Givenchy, how could I refuse when it practically hopped into my library book bag? If you are an Audrey fan, this is a must read.


This title was circled as a “want to read” selection in my Book Page circular. Be Frank with Me almost falls into “seen this before” trope of precocious kid, odd famous parent, and the Mary Poppins who is hired to bring order to chaos. Surprisingly, I ended up really enjoying this fast read. One reason is it has that forties comedy film feel to it with its madcap, impossible hijinks, situations, and characters. I simply accepted the break in versimilitude and let the show roll.


Yet another DE Stevenson. My list of her forty or so published titles is rapidly approaching completed unless her granddaughter finds more manuscripts in the attic. This one is post-war Britain and has Young Mrs Savage dealing with widowhood and four children all under the age of eight, and she’s not even thirty yet. There’s mystery, a variety of suitors, and delightful Scottish pluck and scenery. There is even a snarky set of villianesses to boo at.  I also adore the old school cover art.


Another non-fiction involved a flashback to my past, all the way to 1962 and the Seattle World’s Fair. Being a young thing then, the memories are a bit sketchy, so I definitely added this coffee-table photo historical to my checkouts.I reveled in forgotten exhibits, vendors, and magic moments of the fair. There is also that behind-the-scenes info the feeds my  craving for trivia snacking. Seattle remains a top fave for favorite cities, in case anyone is doing a poll. It’s such a unique, iconic landmark and I have some of the best family memories involving that futuristic trademark of the Emerald City. 

As of Monday afternoon I shall be released from the classroom and will gladly kick into summer vacation mode. Woo hoo!

Any other teachers out there ready to get their summer on?

Oh, for a muse of fire


As an senior English teacher I have the distinction of being the last of a long acquaintance with school literature for my students. Many, if not most students, come in with a surly attitude about English. My goal is to get that frown turned upside down. While I don’t resort to extremes, I have been known for some surprising antics to liven up class. I inject movie clips, silly voices, and theatre activities into the lesson plan.

I enjoy teaching English because I’m actually a librarian at heart (budget cuts). To infuse the love of books is a mission, not a vocation.

At the end of the month my students will have studied a handful of sonnets, examined three Shakespeare plays, watched one live performance of Hamlet, analyzed two of the Bard’s speeches, and have performed one of the speeches from a play. They will be so full of Shakespeare at the end of this unit they will leak iambic pentameter onto their desks. This might cause consternation with the custodians, yet it is all part of my mission to turn these Bardihators into Bardinators. I would be Bardilating even if it wasn’t Shakesyear.

My extra effort Barding might be paying off; I think I might be making headway. We began with Taming of the Shrew, a farce that they could relate to because of Ten Things I Hate About You, and then we went onto a tragedy. I surprised them with Othello, a complicated study of villains and heroes and racial issues that resonates with my students even after 400 years it was first performed.

We moved onto my personal faborite: Hamlet. We explored the first eleven lines together and they realized Shakespeare’s language does not present the barrier they thought they would encounter. We preparedfor the climatic duel of act five by going outside andlearning  stagecraft fighting with duct-taped yardsticks.

I teach the same lesson six times, slightly modified, due to being the only senior English teacher this year, so my Shakespearience becomes even more enriched over the years because the math computes to a lot of repetition of knowledge. I’ve always said the best education I’ve received is from teaching. 

As for students and their absorption of English? I wonder how much impact I will have. Will students fondly or disdainfully remember my efforts to interject the muse of Shakespeare’s fire into their lives? Will there be Renaissance Man moment, when they will recite a few lines or carry the meaning of a studied play with them into their future life? I hope so.

For now, my librarian-teacher  heart will continue to thrill when students make comments like: “I really like this. I really like digging into this Shakespeare stuff.”

My fire is amused.

image: pintrest

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