Thursday, July 29, 2010

anticipation, summer writing camp update

No lie: I'm starting to panic.

I haven't written any concrete plans yet. I probably jotted down notes in my personal journal. (That's my habit, even for school plans/lessons. If I'm in brainstorming mode, I jot ideas in the personal journal. Good way to fill up that journal AND feel productive about "real work".) I wrote a post about it for this blog.

I know what materials to use. Yep, I jotted that down in my journal. That's why I can give you specifics:
- Portfolio folder, simple 2-pocket folder, cover to be decorated, inside to contain 2 things:
- writer's notebook, with both plain and lined pages, that I will have to make because I don't usually see that kind of notebook in stores, maybe 20 pages, enough to write in some good ideas and details aka raw material for formal writing pieces, but neither daunting nor wasteful.
- finished, presentation-ready writing piece(s)
- pens, pencils, lined paper, blank paper, color pencils and markers

I have scheduled 6 sessions over 2 week period, 2 hours each session. (This is my dream "block scheduling" that seems unattainable in my school/work life. Will block scheduling work with three 5 year olds and three 9 year olds? We'll see!)

I planned to read and produce 2 genres: poetry and memoir. I realized today that every time I tried to focus on specific lesson plans, I KNOW that's too much to cover and hence panic. Although I hate to give up either, I will keep memoir. Making an executive decision is soooo liberating! I credit/blame this attitude to my being an only child.

Update: My daughter came home from soccer practice after I posted the above, and when I told her I decided instead of poetry and memoir, we would only cover one, and she immediately replied, "Oh yay! Poetry! I love poetry!" Hm. So now I'm undecided. I'm thinking about how easy it is to obtain sample poetry vs sample memoir, to write poetry vs memoir for 9 and 5 year olds. Suggestions?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Introduction to Poetry"

One of my favorite poems: "Introduction to Poetry" by Billy Collins. (I have a date with friends to see him speak at Chautauqua Institution on July 30!)


what not to wear

Clothing police is my least favorite, least rewarding, biggest pain-in-the-rear, and absolute lose-lose job as middle school teacher.

Some reasons why I teach: to make a positive difference in the world, to help children learn the power of language, to help children grow up with the sense of independence and interdependence, and the list goes on and on.

Clothing police is one of my jobs because children need trained professionals to build a positive learning environment in which they feel safe enough to learn and grow. Children need such trained professionals to set guidelines and boundaries within which they develop identity, seek knowledge, and grow healthy relationships. "Do whatever/whenever/however you want" is the OPPOSITE of "the real world", the world in which they will one day rule.

True story: We visited a family (parents our age in their, ahem, 40's, plus two teenage children) in early July in the Washington, DC area. We were very happy for this rare chance to catch up with each other, and the father shared this lament. He often chides/admonishes/yells at his 16 year old daughter for wearing revealing clothes, and his daughter's response is, "But what you want me to wear makes me look like a NUN!" One day he acquires the task of driving her to school, and when they arrived, he remarked, "Why are all these prostitutes hanging out at your school?"

Yes, this friend is very sarcastic, but his point hurt my heart so much! I knew EXACTLY what he meant and what he saw (do YOU know? underwear worn as outerwear, essentially), and I feel like we (aka trained educators, aka parents, aka adults who by our mere existence are models for our children) are failing our children!

What I don't mind: setting standards (by my own example, by stating the rules, by explaining the rules), reminding students who stray/forget/push the limits because that's their nature, enforcing the rules, and following through on consequences.

What I HATE: being responsible for CATCHING wayward clothing choices because it's a CATCHING game to students, being alert at all times to judge too low/too short/too revealing, being pitted against my colleagues because supposedly "other kids do it!" and "my other teachers didn't say anything!", and getting absolute grief and whining and "that's not fair!" nonsense from students and sometimes parents.

After seven years of the clothing police job, I seem to be in a middle school building that works to push back at kids who relentlessly push past the limits of our dress code. It's very exhausting work. When our students go to the high school, they can wear whatever they want. I start to protest, then I look at other public high schools and hear the "true story" I shared above, and I think, this problem is systemic, this is our society, our teens live in a world where the girls are expected to expose as much skin as possible without being arrested by police, ie acquire a sexual identity at an early age. (Boys don't seem to have the same problem about clothing and sexual identity.)

But modesty (thanks, Sal, for the timely topic!) is not the only concern. Students (and parents) want to be able to chew gum, use cell phones and iPods, drink coffee or soda pop in the hallways, wear hats, flip flops, bandanas, pajamas and sunglasses in school. So why are those items (and many others) prohibited in school? I know safety is one standard answer that actually responds to most of those complaints. But here's what I say to students:

YOU ARE IN SCHOOL. SCHOOL IS YOUR JOB. You're not at the beach or in the mall. You're supposed to FOCUS on learning, so stop WHINING about your lack of freedom. You think uniforms are a bad idea? I think all the t-shirts that splash expensive store brand names are tacky and annoying. What do you think jeans, hoodies, logo Ts, sneakers, flip flops, athletic sandals worn with ankle socks are anyway? UNIFORMS. Yes, some teachers drink coffee in front of you, and yes some teachers may use cell phones during the school day, hopefully not when they're supposed to teach, and yes some teachers chew gum while other teachers yell at you for doing the same thing. SO WHAT? Get over the "injustice" of it all and learn something new!

Nature's first green is gold

Remember the Robert Frost poem that Ponyboy recited and discussed with Johnny in The Outsiders?! "Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold." *sniff*


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Happy 3 year blog anniversary!

WOW! I almost missed my own anniversary! Here's my first blog post from July 16, 2007. (That's a day apart from my wedding anniversary, which MAY help me remember them both. Possibly. Speaking of wedding anniversary, we celebrated our 11th yesterday.)


254 posts in 3 years! Many thanks to my friend Sonya Chung who first introduced me to blogging, and many thanks and hugs to blog friends such as you - this is a journey that allows me to create, reflect, learn, share, and *sniff* grow as a human being.

In July 2007, HP and the Deathly Hallows was released! Writing this post (and posting pictures) about waiting at a local independent bookstore to buy the book at midnight of the book release was a revelation that I have fun adventures to share with people all over the blog world.

Experiment - poetry cinchcasts

I just learned about CinchCast - social media web site that allows you to podcast audio recordings. I started a little poetry reading project called "Poetry Everyday" - just my reading aloud of poems I like. Cinch seems much easier than GarageBand podcasting - the former allows me to easily post the recordings on Facebook, Twitter, and here. Are any of you folks podcasting?


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

summer writing camp


This was a little dream of mine that materialized last summer. I wanted to lead a small group of children, including my daughter, our neighbors, and a few friends, to create little writing portfolios via workshop style. Summer is such a laid-back, easy-going time for us - why not take advantage of the our leisurely days to play AND write?

The picture above was taken at my daughter's third grade class "memoir celebration" in June. The full subtitle (part of which I cropped out) was "a memoir is a walk into a life". These students wrote two memoir pieces and created illustrations, and their magnificent teacher (*sniff* I miss her!) compiled all the writings and illustrations in a book. Each child has a copy of that book!

Memoirs/personal narratives and poetry are two writing genres that I love to teach in workshop style. So right now I'm preparing to lead six children (three 9-year old girls and three 5-year old girls) to create their own little self-illustrated books of nature poetry and memoir stories. One mom is an art teacher who will share some art techniques. ISN'T THAT COOL?!?!

This will be the first summer "WORK" that I've done since I became a teacher 7 years ago, not counting child care, with practically no pressure because it's SUMMER (and I'm not charging any $$$). We're going to work outside as much as possible in our front/back yards. I'm going to incorporate games, of course!!! Stay tuned :)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Eclipse movie verdict - decent!

I watched the movie this afternoon with friend Sandra (who also accompanied me to watch "New Moon" last year - here's my review of that fiasco), and we both liked "Eclipse" OK. We agreed that neither of us had read the book recently, so our non-recollection of book details left out of the movie enhanced our viewing enjoyment. Usually, knowledge of omitted details is very distracting and usually distressing for me.

Last year, I think around this time, I re-read all four Twilight books (2nd time for each). That resulted in my re-ranking them from best to worst: 1, 2, 4, 3. (The first reading resulted in this ranking: 1, 2, 3, 4.) Knowing the end helped me enjoy New Moon for itself, I thought Eclipse was just super pointless and dull, lots of talking in circles (I love you, you love me, no I don't, I love him, I love you more, blah blah blah!), so perhaps my lower expectations of Eclipse helped me enjoy the movie more than the "New Moon" movie. Maybe. Plus I'm prejudiced against "New Moon" director for taking Catherine Hardwick's job. I understand "Twilight" wasn't the best movie ever made, but Hardwick transformed the romantic dreamy parts of the story well on screen for ME, so I loved it plus loved the soundtrack to pieces. I bought the movie on iTunes and watched it many times. I HATED the "New Moon" soundtrack.

I have low low very low expectations for the Breaking Dawn movies. Baby Renesme was a major ICK factor in the book for me, and I don't know how it could be done tastefully on screen. I've seen the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movie trailer, and I'm already upset that there are so many months between THOSE 2 movies (from November 2010 to July 2011) - UGH!!! Honestly, just make a 5-hour movie, I'll sit and watch it, take a bathroom break if I need it, get a quick recap from someone sitting near me, and keep watching! OK fine I'll pay double! I don't want to pay double, but I'd rather pay double than wait 8 months!!!

I'm moderately satisfied with "Eclipse" movie, enough to now buy "New Moon" movie.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

War memorials

Visiting the Vietnam War Memorial and Korean War Memorial in Washington was a special experience to share with our 9 year old daughter. She knows war veterans in her family, such as her grandfather who served in the Korean War, her great-uncles who served in World War II, and cousins who served in the Vietnam War, but she doesn't know anyone personally who died during military service. At each war memorial, we talked about some basic facts about the war (who, where, when, etc.) and the symbolism of different aspects of the memorials, but otherwise the memorials spoke for themselves. I think the shared experience of being there and our thoughts (both spoken and unspoken) add to our understanding of history, though I doubt our understanding of war could ever be complete.

Top picture: our reflections in the wall of the Vietnam War Memorial
Bottom picture: reflecting pool of the Korean War Memorial

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Happy July!

How fun to visit the National Mall and various monuments in Washington, DC right after reading The Red Pyramid! We had a great trip - yes, it was hot and sunny! My best souvenir was OFF! Active with LOTS of Deet - it really works!!!

We also attended a Mets v Nationals game at Nationals Park, spent July 4th and 5th in Jamestown and Williamsburg, Virginia. We would have visited a few museums in Washington today, but we came home a day early to escape the HEAT.
Originally, I asked my husband to take an extra day off work so we would have more time to sightsee, but I'm glad we came home today. I'm super thankful for a wonderful trip, seeing old friends, learning American history, etc. but I'm ready to start my "normal" summer tomorrow!