Monday, August 10, 2009

Books Books Books Meme

I swiped this one from Tense Teacher- check her out via my blogroll.

1) What author do you own the most books by?
I believe Janet Evanovich, since I recently became addicted to the Stehpanie Plum mysteries. Isabel Allende would be a close second. If we count Mr. T's books, then Kurt Vonnegut would be in there as well.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
I'm not really in to having several copies of the same book, although when I see copies of "The House On Mango Street", I snatch them up so I can loan them to students. I also have several copies of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"- one in hardback for me, one in Spanish, one in paperback for my kids and one that I bought in the Heathrow airport because it's called "HP and the Philosopher's Stone" and I think that's so cool.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Yes and no. I have long ago come to terms with the whole "prescriptive" vs. "descriptive" grammar thing. I suspect that ending a sentence with a preposition will soon be acceptable, much like the word "snuck".

5) What book have you read the most times in your life?
When I was a kid, it was "Starring Sally J. Freidman As Herself", by Judy Blume. I guess it would have to be "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" or "Anne of Green Gables".

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
"Anne of Green Gables"

7) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
"Down River"- it was too stiff for me.

8 ) What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

"A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius", by David Eggers. I laughed out loud, I cried, I fell in love with David Eggers...

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?

"A Prayer for Owen Meany"- what a fabulous book with much to ponder. Love, loyalty, friendship, war, faith.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?

Hands down, the Stephanie Plum novels.

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?

I assume the question is referring to fiction, so that's how I'll answer. Maybe "American Wife", by Curtis Sittenfeld. Since it's a fictional account of Laura Bush's life, I'd rather not see it on the big screen.

13) What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?

I'm going to concur with Tense and say the "Twilight" series. Though I did enjoy them for their entertainment value, I really did not think them to be well written at all.

14) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?

Apart from stuff I had to read for lit. classes (in English and Spanish), I'd have to say "Atonement", by Ian McEwan.

15) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

I guess I'm too lowbrow to prefer either.

16) Roth or Updike?

I've only read Updike, and even then, just recently, so I'll go with him.

17) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

I couldn't possibly choose between the 2, since I am a HUGE fan of both.

18) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?


19) Austen or Eliot?

Jane Austen, although I'm not a huge fan.

20) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?

I'd say that while I was in college and the several years after- I had done so much reading for school, I just didn't do it much for pleasure. Kind of like the postman going for a walk on his day off.

21) What is your favorite novel?

Very hard to choose just one. In my top 5 are "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", "A Prayer for Owen Meany", "Middlesex", "To Kill a Mockingbird", and "A Handmaid's Tale".

22) Essay?

Um, ??? I seem to recall liking several by Joan Didion when I took a Personal Essay class in college.

Can I include anything written by David Sedaris in this? If so, then I'd go with several from his book "Naked".

23) Work of nonfiction?

"Mountains Beyond Mountains", by Tracy Kidder. (an amazing author)

24) Who is your favorite writer?

Amy Tan, John Irving, Richard Russo, JK Rowling, Sandra Cisneros, Anne Tyler, Anna Quindlan, ...

25) What is your desert island book?

Well, hell, if I'm going to be stuck there for a while, I'd better make it good, right? Maybe "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare". It would certainly keep me occupied and I'd get in some good learnin' to boot.

26) What are you reading right now?

Just finishing "The Other Side of the River", by Alex Kotlowitz for book club, next am going to read some fluff- "Certain Girls", by Jennifer Weiner.

27) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?

Jake Spoon in "Lonesome Dove", Atticus Finch.

28 ) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?

I don't know. I've read some "winners" and many just didn't do it for me.

29) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.

I got nuthin.

30) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?

"The Two Gentlemen of Verona"- we've got a local theater company that does Shakespeare and Greek plays in the park during the summer.

31) Favorite Poem?

William Carlos Williams- "In the summer, the song sings itself."

32) Favorite Short story?

"Rappicini's Daughter" (Hawthorne); "Axolotl" (some Latin American author).

33) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?

I don't know- it depends on what you're going for, I guess.


Thursday, August 06, 2009

13 Crazy things I've encountered at school

Remember that show "Boston Public"- crazy show about a public high-school in Boston? So many people (not teachers) criticized it, saying "oh, there wouldn't be that much crazy stuff happening at a school." I'm here to tell you, YES, yes, it is possible. Here are some (13, to be exact) examples of real-life/I-can't-make-this-shit-up things that I have encountered first-hand either as a student or a teacher, or relative of a teacher. I'm hoping to hear your own crazy stories. I know you've got'em.

1. Several principals ago, the principal at my school had to leave town in the middle of the night because he got arrested for soliciting a prostitute a few blocks from the school, just a few short weeks before school was about to start.

2. A teacher in my building had to quietly resign because he was arrested leaving a crack house. (yeah, the kids were so funny about it- "I KNEW it!", they'd say.)

3. One of our social studies teachers came to school in a chicken costume for no apparent reason. The kids say she also had a cat figurine in her classroom that she'd talk to. When I expressed my disbelief ("Nuh-uh!!"), they assured me that oh yes, 'tis true.

4. Assistant track coach (not a teacher- he's an insurance guy who helps with the coaching)dated one of the girls, then got her pregnant. Sure, they didn't technically start dating until after she graduated, but I still think it's a bit smarmy.

5. Old, curmudgeonly psychology teacher who was VERY strict with his students brought a newly-graduated former student to a colleague's wedding as his date. Not illegal, but still a bit tacky. One thing to date her, quite another to parade her in front of the rest of the faculty.

6. 30-something English teacher divorces in November. Starts dating 23-year old Science teacher in Feb. 2 of them coming to school in the morning together in April. Expecting his baby in June.

7. Speech teacher with sallow complexion because of chain-smoking. Chews nicotine gum furiously (like a cow) during the rest of the school day. Never knows what's going on.

8. District's interim superintendent agrees to stay on another year while the search for another superintendent continues. School board agrees to hire a "head-hunter" to do this. They hire the interim superintendent and pay him an additional $40 K. to find his own replacement.

9. This was at a middle school where I taught about 15 years ago. At the end of the year, everyone was getting their rooms all cleaned up and ready to leave for the summer. It was pretty hot, as it can be in Iowa in June. The school was all one level, with a series of interior courtyards, the classrooms all had sliding-glass doors that opened up into them. One of the English teachers was emptying her watering can in the courtyard and happened to look into the classroom across the way. She was pretty sure she saw the sewing teacher folding and sorting fabric wearing nothing but her bra. (Not to be unkind, but it wasn't anything anyone needed nor would want to see.) So, Mrs. English marched down to inform the principal, a little, tiny tough-as-nails woman. Mrs. Principal went to see for herself. "WHAT are you doing???" was what she inquired as to why this woman was working in her bra. "I got hot!" was the response. "You're in your UNDERWEAR!" "I'm more covered up than 90% of the people you see at any swimming pool." Um, yeah, but you're at WORK!

10. Also at one of the middle schools- I arrived to work one morning to find that the cafeteria was closed, that breakfast would not be served that morning because they had to clean up the mess caused by a DEER who had jumped through the window. There was blood and bits of broken glass (and probably deer poo) all over the floor. The custodians (2 awesome old guys who are now retired)managed to seclude the poor deer in one of the bathrooms and called animal control, who tranquilized it, and probably ended up having to euthanize it. No, they didn't serve venison for lunch that day.

11. My mother worked at a school named for a local person of some notoriety. Her portrait hung in a prominent place in the hallway outside the main office. One day, many years after her death, her nephew came to visit the school. The principal took him on a tour and proudly went to show him his aunt's portrait, only to find that it was not there. It was not there because one of the crazy English teachers (who is now a priest) had stolen it months ago. I guess the really funny part was the announcement over the PA. "Would whoever stole the portrait of Mrs.Benefactor please return it to the office, please?" Years later, when asked about it, Mr. English said he had hung it in his bathroom, because looking at her face would "scare the crap out of anybody".

12. When I was subbing at the Catholic high school, we attended the "living" Stations of the Cross. It's a very somber event and the students who presented did a wonderful job. That is, until towards the final stations, when a bucket of white lab mice were let loose in the darkened auditorium! They did look quite striking, since the auditorium was lit only with black-lights.

13. When I was in second grade, one of the 5th grade teachers stabbed and killed his wife. Their only daughter had been struck and killed by a car just months earlier, and it was a strain on their marriage. They were fighting, and he stabbed her. The weird thing is that as little kids, we were always afraid of him- even though he was not our teacher, he was on recess and lunchroom supervision. He was a big, big guy with a big voice. Coming to school the morning after was very strange- probably stranger for those kids who had him as their teacher. Can you imagine recovering from that?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Ducks? In a row.

At the beginning of every school year, I vow to try something new in my classroom. This year, I've mapped out my entire semester (which on our block schedule is equal to an entire year). When I look at all the short weeks and interruptions that are already on the school calendar, I kind of start to hyper-ventilate. A term is only 43 school days long, including the first 2 days of school, on which we will be dismissing 2 hours early, and the last 2 days of the term/quarter, which are for final exams. That bumps me down to 39 good days. Well, then we've got homecoming, which won't be good for much, and a week at the end of Sept. where the kids are off on Thurs. and Friday due to parent-teacher conferences. I feel like I'm going to have to hit the ground running in order to make the most of the time I have. But enough about the time. What I want to do this year that I've not done in the past is incorporate more writing. I'm going to have them journal in college "blue books". I will only grade them on completion, and not necessarily on content and form. In addition, I plan to have them do 4 other writing assignments- one of them will be part of their final. In the past, I've not given many writing assignments because they are so laborious to grade. One of my friends and colleagues goes through and corrects ALL of their mistakes for them, returns their papers and requires that they recopy their papers, making the noted corrections, not just once, but twice! I would have to shoot myself if I did that. So, instead, I'm going to take the advice of my instructor at my AP teacher training institute, and go with "holistic" grading- looking at the forest, instead of each tree individually. I will basically use the AP guidelines as a rubric. That way, I've got something concrete to back me up when some jackass with a strong sense of entitlement wants to dicker over his (or her, to be fair) grade.
I've even mapped out what the writing assignments will be- crikey, I'm NEVER this organized!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Finish It Meme

1. My ex … is MIA. I always wondered what happened to him after I broke his heart in 17 places. (what is that from?)

2. Maybe I should...lose weight, start an exercise program, balance our checkbook, clean my damn house…

3. I love… my life.

4. People would say that...I’m fun (?), that I’m a smart ass, that I make a mean guacamole, that they can’t sit next to me at meetings because I’m BAD.

5. I don't understand...finances. When people start to talk “money”, I very much WANT to understand, but all I hear is “blah, blah, blah, blah, interest rates, blah blah blah, stock market, blah, blah, blah.”

6. When I wake up in the morning...I say “Crap! Already?!”

7. I lost…this really cool star-ruby ring. Man, I wish I still had that ring.

8. Life is full of...people I haven’t met yet!

9. My past is...really, really boring. No jail time, no kidnappings…

10. I get annoyed when...I forget to take clothes out of the washer and they sit there and get all sour smelling and yucky.

11. Parties much fun when with the right mix of people, a lot of work when they are at your house, and not fun when you are required to go to them because of work obligations. (except for Mr. T's work Xmas party- that’s pretty fun).

12. I wish...I had more time to spend with the ones I love and to do the things I want to do. ( I have a funny “I wish…” story from my early teaching days. I’ll tell you about it sometime…)

13. Dogs...can hear things we humans cannot. They also have some disgusting personal habits that involve licking and eating things that should not be licked or eaten. In spite of both of those things, I love them dearly.

14. Cats...have always been a part of my life and I can't imagine not having at least one around.

15. proof that the earth rotates on its axis every 24 hours.

16. I have low tolerance...for stupid people. There, I said it.

17. If I had a million a “Bare Naked Ladies” song my husband used to play with some friends of ours. You know how it ends….(I’d be rich!)

18. I'm totally terrified... of rats, bats, snakes. And possums. Give me a spider, a cockroach, a praying mantis, no problem.

19. My mission live my life with no regrets.

20. When I die...please don’t play that awful song “Wind Beneath My Wings”. I’ll come back to haunt you if you do.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Sunday Snapshot

This is an oxcart in Costa Rica. They were used to haul harvested coffee beans before the invention of pickup trucks and the like. Each artist had his own particular style, so that you could tell who had painted the oxcart just by looking at it. They had some small ones (more like a goat cart) for purchase, but I thought it might be hard to carry back on the plane. Instead, I bought a miniature one, complete with oxen to display in my classroom.


Saturday, August 01, 2009

I'm Back in the Saddle Again....

So, I took the summer off from blogging - intentionally, and now here I am again. I was recently looking over some of my notes from the summer I participated in the Eastern Iowa Writing Project and I decided that I really do want to continue the blog- it's kind of like exercise, you've got to schedule it in your day, or it just isn't going to happen.

In case you are wondering what I've been up to, I took 16 high school students to Mexico and Costa Rica for 9 days immediately after school got out. It was fabulous and I learned a lot about Costa Rica- what a beautiful, clean, wonderful place! At the end of June I turned 40 and celebrated with a big party at our friends' photography studio. We provided some yummy gyros and salad from a local Greek joint and everyone brought potlucky stuff. I made a music file of songs from every year I've been alive, which was a big hit. I chose 4 songs from every year of my life- thanks to the Billboard top 100 lists I found archived somewhere on the internet. I also spent a week doing AP training so that perhaps one day I will have the opportunity to teach AP Spanish. (Provided that this man either dies or retires.)It was amazing and intense and I really feel ready and qualified to teach it.

My daughters went to camp and got to be in the same cabin- the only year they'll be able to due to their ages. It was a great experience for them- I was a tad nervous about Lydia- she has a history of being clingy and bashful, but she did great- there were 2 of her friends in her cabin and her counselor was her 2nd grade teacher's daughter. (We don't really live in a small town, it's just that Iowa is just one, big, small town).

We've had unseasonably cool weather and tons of rain, so we've not been up to our usual summer activities.

I don't know if it's the weather, or what, but I am actually getting my ducks in a row for the start of school. Aack! I'm never this far ahead of the game, and I must say it's a good feeling. This fall I'll be teaching 2 sections of Spanish 4 and have Student Council for my other class. (on the Block schedule, we have 4 blocks a day, we teach 3 and have a prep. Student Council is considered a class and they will meet every day for a semester. Most of our big projects will take place at the beginning of the year- with only a few at the end of the year.) The Student Council gig is new for me and I'm both excited and nervous about it.