cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Teachers”

A Ponderance of Quarterly End


This post is devoted to teachers who are nearing first quarter completion:

As we madly try to stuff in more knowledge into the unwilling minds of students, it’s important to pause and reflect on what education is all about. If only I could get my students to realize these astute observations:

  • Poetry is not useless–do they not realize all that music cascading into their brain is poetry?
  • Spulling mahters–just ask the person hiring from what job applications reveal
  • The classroom is not an extension of the cafeteria–socializing and eating in class may seem like a good idea–but really? Nope.
  • Bringing a charged laptop, the right folder, pen, paper, textbook actually does help in the learning process.
  • I do see everything. Texting, writing notes, whispering, sleeping.
  • Turning in something is better than nothing. Half points on a late assignment beats out a zero.
  • I believe they can do better. And I will keep after them until they believe the same.

UPDATE: I did survive quarter one grading rush and I’m gearing up for the second night of parent teacher conferences. Onward to second quarter, which means first semester closing to open up second semester which means countdown to summer.

Have I mentioned how difficult it’s been teaching while recovering  from a broken wrist?

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The Bliss of SSR


Teen Read Week is coming up. It got me thinking about the need for teens to read.

Back in the day before screens ruled the scene, books were on student desks and in their hands. Accelerated Reader got kids reading — even if it was just for points. That ingrained habit stuck and most high schoolers kept up the practice of reading. Okay, Harry Potter helped as well.

Since we did not prescribe to point system reading at the high school level I initiated ten minutes of sustained silent reading or SSR. Before I get too many Book Booster kudos, I freely admit I did it mainly for classroom management purposes. My ninth graders were volumes heavy in energy and it would usually take ten minutes to call them down. With the routine of SSR they sat down, silently read, and class resumed in a calm manner. Why did I stop?

I have often asked myself that.

Something about increased curriculum needs, not enough time, correcting badly written, mostly plagiarized book reports.

After a five plus years hiatus SSR is back in style in my classroom. Frustrated with students who brag about never reading, getting them away from thumb swiping into page flipping, and needing to boost their SAT scores I decided to return to SSR. That class management aspect too.

Our district has gone to the one to one system where every student receives a laptop. That’s a whole different blog post. What this does allow is changing the format of the dreaded book report. They are now PowerPoints. Google Docs even provides a template.

I’m actually looking forward to them.

As the end of first quarter approaches, I notice that students are actually engaged and interested in reading. And even if they aren’t they are at least quiet for ten minutes.

I read along with them, and share my thoughts about the book I’m currently reading. Sometimes they share too.

The funniest aspect of SSR is the one book that gets grabbed off my shelf. Because if they forget their book they need to be reading, and I’ve got quite a few to choose from on my bookshelf. So which book is the go to book? Moby Dick. I kid you not. Is it to prove they are a mighty reader to take on this whale of a story?

I watched one student grab it, smirk to his friends his choice, and surreptitiously snuck glances at what he did with it: looked at the front and back covers, flipped the pages, gazed at the maps, flip more pages, and then he began to read it. From the front.

Yeah. SSR is a three letter word for bliss.

I’m Whoopin’ cuz I’m Shmoopin’


Shmoop - We Speak Student

Well, Andy Warhol might not count this as my fifteen minutes of fame, but it’ll do. Last year I filled out a survey about how I use Shmoop in the classroom and sent it off. Little did I expect my blitherings to be noticed, yet they did. I have been informed I am among the ranks of other Shmooping Teachers. While there is no prize, it’s kind of a kick to be hanging out at Shmoop. You can check it out here.

Happy New Year!


For most people, January marks the start of a new year. However, as a teacher, September is the beginning of the year for me. September is when the odometer of the year’s passing begins once again. August is the last of my holiday months and each day draws me closer to the start of my calendar year: September. I actually consider January as my mid-point.

As I write this post I am lounging in bed at 8:25 am. This is the last Monday of the school year where I won’t have either essays to grade or think about assigning. I’m usually up by 5 or 6 am, so staying in bed past 8 0’clock is borderline sloth for me.

As I proofread this post it’s 6:09 am and I have four minutes before I must scamper into my morning routine. It’s Friday of my first week back to school. How can four days make one weak?

A new year typically calls for new year’s resolutions. I don’t much prescribe to resolutions,  instead I form goals. Here are a couple so far:

1. Go deeper instead of wider. I teach seniors which means they are maxed out on absorbing much more information. This year I’m going for them really understanding at least one aspect of each unit. They don’t need to know the entire litany of Anglo-Saxon history,  but knowing that Beowulf was one of the first epic hero archetypes is something that will distinguish a faithful film adaptation from a ridiculous one (Angelina Jolie’s version).

2. Mix more fun in with firm. I have the reputation as a toughie–my son would bear the brunt of this distinction when he was in school. “Dude, your mom yelled at me.” He would then say something like, “You probably deserved it.” They had nowhere to go on that one. But, I also have a sense of humor, and I’m sure I can combine a jib with a jab when the occasion calls for it.

3. Be a more of duck than a sponge. Both deal with water, which I translate to stress.  A duck lets water roll off its back and swims merrily around in the pond, whereas a sponge absorbs the water until saturated and can’t properly function anymore. 

4. Work smarter, not harder. Testing for comprehension is big news these days. We are all tired of being over-tested. Students especially. Grading tests is not so great either. Measuring academic success can take the  form of discussion, a presentation, or a project. I’m hoping for less paper proof of knowledge and more creative measures of learning achievements.

5. Respond more than react. Reacting is typical: “Are you kidding? You are 20 minutes late to class and now you want to go to your locker?!?” Or “Admin is switching to early release schedule for a pep assembly!!! Finals are coming up–what are they thinking?!?” If you have a proper response to these scenarios let me know. I realize it involves something to do with removing exclamatory tone and waving of arms.

Anyone else consider September their new year beginnings? Parents? Students? Other teachers?

As with my resolutions, these will no doubt epic fail before October is ready to roll. That’s why I disguise  them as goals–if I fail, I have an excuse to keep trying.

A Trio of Shakespeare 


Considering I had no exposure or any real knowledge of Shakespeare until I began teaching his works in high school, I’ve certainly made up for lost time.

In the twelve years of morphing from a displaced school librarian to an AP teacher I’ve developed an appreciation for Wm. Sh. to the point of labeling myself a Bardinator. *

“Yo, thou intensely doeth Bard if thy be a Bardinator.” image: flickr.com

Bardinator /n./ a person who goes beyond face value knowledge of Shakespearean works and dives in to study, appreciate, and revel in the works of William Shakespeare to the point of total commitment. Simply put–a dedication to the Bard’s works beyond what is considered sufficiently normal. 

This summer I have reveled in more Bard than usual. It began, appropriately enough on July 4th* when I landed in Washington DC to study Hamlet for a week at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Later that month I finally got around to Anonymous, which is actually anti-Bard, as it is a ridiculous conjecture that William Shakespeare was not a brilliant playwright but actually a drunken sot of an actor fronting for some earl who was a closet playwright. The only takeaway was how stunningly the time period and the theater was portrayed. I squirmed through this insulting and terrible premise to absorb the glory of the Elizabethean stage snippets. One star of note was Mark Rylance. This observation led me to–

Twelfth Night starring Mark Rylance in the role of Olivia. Yes, finally. A Shakespearen production as it might have been presented because of the all male cast. The play was filmed at The Globe with a live audience (groundlings included) in sharp, glorious HD. Mark Rylance and his troupe superceded expectations. It was unprecedented theater. I will have problems readjusting to women playing women now in Bard dramas because Shakespeare wrote the parts knowing men/boys would be playing women. Or in the case of Viola/Caesario-, a youth playing a woman disguised as a youth. The lines and meaning take on a whole new dimension with the knowledge it’s two men playing they are attracted to each other but the manly man doesn’t want to admit to it . But thr audience knows the fair youth is really supposed to be a woman since it’s a boy playing a woman dressed as a boy. The confusion is intentional, as is the jovial mistaken engendered double meanings.

“Yonder sun doth the moon, y’all.” Image: YouTube.com

To round out the summer I watched my first ever Shakespeare in the Park or more precisely, on the grass at the local fairgrounds.  A group of thespians out of Montana traversing five states presenting either Cyrano or Taming of the Shrew graced our fare (or fair) town. And what a turn out. Beginning at three o’clock people arrived to claim their patch of grass and browsed the various booths ranging from spun wool goods to sword play. A lively Renaissance trio added appropriate musical ambiance. At six o’clock the western-themed show begun and the audience whistled and hooted out their appreciation at all the puns and ribaldry. The best bit was unplanned when a wee little lass wandered onto the stage at just the moment when Petruchio instructs Kate to speak to the “maiden” (Vincentio).

“Speak to yonder maiden, Kate. Not that one–the other one.”

Not missing a beat, Vincentio grabs up the sweet interloper and announces: “This is my granddaughter” and managed to return her to an embarrassed audience mother.

A truly fun community event to commemorate the closing of summer. Soon I will be bringing Shakespeare to the classroom, but perhaps we’ll Bard out on the lawn. BOOC–bring our own chairs.

Did anyone else have a bit of Bard along with their beach and BBQ days this summer?

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*yes, there is a connection of studying Shakespeare during America’s independence week–Wm. Sh. became our nation’s first playwright when his plays sailed over from England. In fact, the Folger has the first Elizabethean stage. A regular Tudor de force (upon which I played a hammy Horatio).

*I just spent an hour hopscotching about the Net trying to find that nifty definition I stumbled across years ago. No luck. I did find a new blog concerning Shakespeare. I have created my own definition. This will be a work in progress and I am quite open to other interpretations.

‘Tis No Place Like Home


I learned through my Washington DC trip that seven days of Hamlet makes one weak. *ka-boom* Seriously, between the humidity, challenging schedule, walking briskly everywhere, and trying to eat healthily on a restaurant diet, I was glad to return home. I am ever so glad to have experienced Summer Academy, yet Dorothy got it right when she told Auntie Em, “Oh, there’s no place like home.” I freely admit to being a creature of known comforts such as my closet, refrigerator, and favorite health food store. 

Before I move on to my next big event of this summer–an AP Conference (no planes or time zones involved), I want to close out my Hamlet KWL chart: my What I Know, What I Want to Know, What I Learned.

What I Know

  • I already knew Hamlet was my favorite Shakespeare play, hence the  incentive to apply to the Folger Summer Academy.
  • Once I accepted, I knew there was going to be some personal discomfort ranging from dipping into the savings account to flying all by my lonesome and finding my way around megatropolis east coast city.
  • I knew I would would be pushed out of my social comfort zone. Gregarious hermits tend to exhibit coping problems at intensive social events.

What I Still Need To a Know

  • I still need to figure out how to assimilate all the wealth of information into my curriculum.
  • I need to know how I can return to the Folger Institute without having to fly there.
  • I would like to know how I can express my enthusiasm and wonder of Shakespeare to not only my students, but also to my friends and family, without appearing as a crazy English teacher. I am terming myself as a Bardinator, someone who appreciates Shakespeare to the point of edginess.

What I Learned–that’s a blog entry unto itself

  • I learned I get crazy before a big trip, worrying and anticipating about details that become trivial and insignificant in the grand plan.
  • I painfully learned when it comes to packing–go for the wheeled suitcase. The weight of a strapped bag increases significantly with each change of planes.
  • I can learn to adapt to most situations.
  • I also learned hotel pillows are never as comfortable as the ones at home.
  • I continually learn about selecting common sense over fashion sense, especially when walking in the rain.
  • I also continually learn that meeting new people and exchanging ideas is an integral component of a fulfilling life.

 For your viewing enjoyment–a wee bit of our Hamlet week: 
NOTE: thanks to the absolutely incredible staff at both the Folger Education Center and at the Folger Library for their hospitality, expertise, generosity, and impartation of how thrilling it is to live and breathe Shakespeare.

Cricket’s Hamlet Adventure: Last Day–Flights and Angels


All really great things come to an end. Today was the last day of the Summer Academy. The day consisted of presenting our projects and acting out our scenes. What amazing projects the talented  participants  provided! They ranged from exploring the historical context of the ghost to women playing Hamlet (Sarah Bernhardt) to studying how Hamlet has been visually represented in old illustrations–and so much in between. I am humbled to have been part of this cavalcade of ingenuity. Since these 29 teachers are from all parts of the continental US, you  can rest assured quality education is still very much and profoundly around.

The second highlight involved performing. We only had two practices but some people managed to memorize their lines! Our group was assigned Act Five and we stylized it as a cocktail party. Hamlet played some melancholy blues on the stage piano and when Laertes walked into the party they fought with the cocktail swords. It brought down the house. I played my Horatio a bit too heartfelt. In retrospect, I would have camped it up considering my BFF was basically a lush and tended towards rash actions with deterimental consequences. 

What was really cool was the fact that we acted on America’s first Shakespearean stage.  Yup, my first and last stage Bard play appearance (maybe) took place on an authentic stage. The film crew did not return, which took a lot of pressure off our already ramped up nervousness.

Last events included food, fun, and fellowship–the best parts of the day.

Tomorrow I head back to (still) hot (but not muggy) Northwest. 

See ya around, DC. The rest will be a much anticipated silence from the continual hum of a great city. 

twice a day I passed the Capitol–wow!

Trivia: Folger broke tradition and kept the reliefs low so that people could see them. Each represents a Shakespearean play.

Cricket’s Hamlet Adventure: Day Five–it’s reigning wonder and frightening


Aah–midpoint. Two more days to go and I graduate from Hamlet school. I just gotta polish up my project and present it and practice our group scene and perform it. The wonder (at least part of it) and the frightening is due to the film crew returning on Friday to film our presentations and performances. Forsooth!  

I believe this is the Supreme Court building which is in the neighborhood of the Folger Library

 One of the lesson cappers we use is “I observed…” For example:

  • I observed there are some shoes that definitely cannot be worn in the rain
  • And I observed when necessity calls for walking barefoot in the rain it’s lovely that DC neighborhood sidewalks are primarily brick

I finally managed to get into the LoC reading room.My Intention was to locate my Marvin Composes a Tea Highlights anthology and snap a photo of it; however, NO photographs are allowed in the RR. I was content looking at my LoC call number on the screen with the LoC RR in the background.

The LoC bookstore actually had more people in it than the RR. I could have spent HOURS deciding whst to buy. Alas, I had to hurry and get back to Folgering since I snuck away on my lunch break. I snagged a few buttons, yet wished for more time and a larger suitcase. Really, really cool stuff beckoned from the shelves. Okay-I’ve just talked myself into going back. Good thing I have leftovers from dinner because I will be skipping lunch again.

All my adventuring after hours has caught up to me and I am determined to go to bed before midnight tonight. I even slept in until 8 am today! *gasp*

“Perchance to sleep, to dream–ay there’s the rub.”            

Cricket’s Hamlet Adventure: 3rd Day–of Words and Rarities


Hamlet School began today.

Up at 6:30 am I quickly rustled up a yogurt cup over at Union Station and trotted over to Folger’s with several members of our Hamlet crew. We hoped we would remember together how to find our way there. If all walked in late we couldn’t get mass detention, right?

A very full day. I will say this–reflecting upon my years of teaching Hamlet, I know I could have taught it better. That’s one reason I applied to Folger’s Hamlet Summer Academy, to learn how to engage my students. Plus, Hamlet is THE favorite of all Shakespeare’s plays. After today, I could go home today fulfilled. I picked up so many tips and ideas I might have to teach Hamlet in the fall instead of spring I’m looking so forward to revamping my unit.

After a morning of focusing on the words and ways to enliven the interest of our students, we traipsed off the  Folger Library. This is no ordinary library. In order to access the reference material we had to apply to become readers (ahem–scholars) and then receive photo IDs. No books leave the room. It’s all about Shakespeare–and then some.  

 We were taken down to a special viewing of rare books, including a First Folio, and the lease for Shakespeare’s house, meaning I touched an artifact that the Bard handled. *tingles* For a Bardinator that’s cool stuff. If you’re aren’t a Bardinator, this might not be so impresssive. 

The afternoon involved reading lines, scenes, and eventually the play. Yes, it was a long day. I wonder how our students would fare if school consisted of 12 hour days?

I bid adieu to the remains of the day, exhausted, but still hoping to see more of the sights. My body tired, my mind is whirling from all the Hamletting done today. 

“O, there had been throwing about of brains.”

End of Year Cheer


Last night rounded out the academic year of 2015. I actually feel somewhat refreshed instead of the usual frazzle.

My, to borrow a phrase, “parting of sweet sorrow,” began early in the day. Having posted my grades the day before, a perk of having seniors, and having already tidied up my room, I decided to plant lavender and poppies outside my school window. One teacher greeted me with “Hey, Miss Maudie!” I took that for a compliment.

I then listened to essays of future AP students–promising beginnings. After that I polished some lesson plans for next year, arranged books in the library (you can take a librarian out of the library, but never the library out of a librarian), rearranged my room, and waited for the final bell. Having no students, I listened for how students would react to their release from captivity.

“Summer!” “I can’t get out of this building fast enough!” 

I’m not sure if those were student or staff voices crying out their jubilation.

  
After a quick power nap, it was off to help ready seniors for our community graduation at the football field. A few moments of the usual panic–“my walking partner isn’t here yet!” “I lost my tassel!” “The valedictorian can’t find her speech!” “Do I have time to go to the bathroom?” but we managed to line them up, march them off over to the bleachers to the repeated strains of commencement’s “da da dada da da”. Many speeches later,  and after no pranks of slipping the principal interesting bits of memorabilia, the class of 2015 tossed their hats in celebration.

Next stop: grad nite.

How to persuade new grads from going to parties and ending a happy day with a series of unfortunate events? Easy. Throw a party for them. Having done this rodeo three times with my own kinder, I help out by selling tickets and wandering around as a floater. Fun, food, and a chance to hug students one last time? I’m all in–at least until midnight. And the band played on until the wee hours of the morning.

This morning? I still woke up at 5:30 am. I guess my body isn’t quite ready for vacation yet.

I am hoping to dust off the laptop and get some writing projects cranking before fall arrives sooner than I hope it will.

Any other teachers, students, or parents embracing the delights of school being out?

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