Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Gift Won't Stop Giving

We had a moment in my department this week that made me channel you all and love you more.

A Debate kid of mine (call her Katie) is reading Night in her English class. All the English II kids read Night. It's the only book that all of us choose to teach. So her class, an honors section, is reading it now.

The book affected her. She had to stop at page 74 and evidently got so upset she threw up. She told my friend, her English teacher, and asked for an alternate. She came to me for sympathy. I told her the same thing my friend told her. Hang on, there's redemption at the end.

Somehow, that didn't seem like enough. That night, I thought about literature that demands reaction. I thought of so many reactions we shared this summer. I remember reacting to Lady MacDuff, reacting to Ariana's Gertrude, to Brutus, to Hamlet, I could go on forever.

I was so proud to hear from Katie the next day. She finished Night. She found the redemption, she was ready for the call to arms that I am proud we teach with this book (can you really teach the Holocaust in this time without discussing Rwanda or the Sudan?). I told her so, and when I did, I heard your voices in my head and remembered reacting to so many powerful words.

I think more of Katie now and I got to tell her that day. I think more of people who let themselves react to literature because I am that person too. I am more that person today than I was a year ago and I hold very dear the fact that when I read Shakepeare's words, I will remember reacting with you.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Bling goes to Fenway

Check out my cousin Christopher, the bling and me at Fenway Park on Monday, August 21. This is the day that the Yankees completed their historic 5 games in 4 days sweep of the Red Sox. One of the greatest baseball days of my life! It is before the game so Chris is still smiling. That is the green monster in the background.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Today's lesson

I split my class into groups of six or seven. I gave each student a piece of paper with this wrriten on it:

Enter a King and a Queen very lovingly; the Queen embracing him, and he her. She kneels, and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck: lays him down upon a bank of flowers: she, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the King's ears, and exit. The Queen returns; finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The Poisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The Poisoner wooes the Queen with gifts: she seems loath and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts his love. Exeunt.

I had each student underline the words they didn't recognize, then compare with the rest of their group. Each group got dictionaries, and each student was responsible for knowing what all the words meant. Then I led them in a little discussion of the words.

"What does 'protestation' mean? How can one make a 'show of protestation'? What about 'anon'? How does one 'make passionate action'? Who are these 'mutes' in the story?"

After everyone understood the words, I told them to prepare a presentation. One student in each group would narrate the presentation (not a "performance") while the others communicated the language of the story nonverbally (not "acted"). I gave them about fifteen minutes to prepare, then each group presented.

As you can imagine, most made similar choices in the physicality, but all made some choices that made their presentations unique. Sometimes the queen seemed more "lovingly" than the king. Sometimes the poisioner entered stealthily, looking over his shoulder, while sometimes he entered with complete focus and determination on the task at hand. Sometimes the Mutes looked upset, sometimes they looked like they were in on it.

Then I led them through non-judgemental feedback ("What feelings came up for you when..."). I had to put words in their mouths sometimes and make it seem like some of their wishy-washy physicality was actually a series of strong, purposeful choices. I think the students probably didn't realize how different their presentations were until I pointed out the differences.

After that, I started to ask questions dealing with character motivations. I asked if the same scene, with the same words, could be played so that the poisoner killed the king because he wanted the crown? What if he just wanted the queen? What if the queen was in on it? The class discussed different ways they could show the different motivations for the same story.

Finally, I ended the class by telling them this: "This story was written just over 400 years ago, and it's probably been presented nonverbally millions of times. Each time has always been just a little different. Today, you used the same words, and you even used the same dictionaries to define those words, but the words still have different meaning for different people. That's why it's important to understand your own message. If you don't know what you're trying to say or why you're saying it, you'll never really communicate with anyone." And I think they got it.

Tomorrow, cross your fingers. I think I'm doing air broadswords.

still flower

Yes, I am at work. Yes, we had a meeting during which 75% of the time was wasted. Yes, I have had to move three years worth of materials out of my office into one with no bookshelves and two (EDIT: THREE) other people.

My crap is piled all over the floor, I've got textbooks (which I still haven't really looked at) and coffee cups and pens and last year's final exams all over my desk; nothing is organized.

But on my corkboard there are two slips of paper, one yellow, one blue.

I feel -- I perceive that I am at home.

So I know I'm a sci-fi geek . . .

. . .and I've accepted that about myself.

I was reading last night and refound this quote in one of my favorite books. It seemed fitting to share. We are all trying to figure out how to use everything we have learned, and I know I am struggling with "what ifs," and then I read this again last night:

"He who is certain he knows the ending of things when he is only beginning them is either extremely wise or extremely foolish; no matter which is true, he is certainly an unhappy man, for he has put a knife in the heart of wonder." -Tad Williams The Dragonbone Chair

We may not know how this journey is going to turn out, but isn't the ride going to be great?


Monday, August 28, 2006

Teacher Revitalized!!

Hey friends!!!

So, I finally figured out how to actually post on the blog!!!! I have really been enjoying reading all of your posts over the last few weeks.

I wanted to share with you my experience of driving one of my students to college last Friday. I had promised Cristina that I would take her up to school back in May. She was going to the University of Rochester, my alma mater, and I planned on driving her up and visiting the family I used to nanny for...kind of an old home week.

Over the course of the summer she was forced to switch to Clarkson University after she missed her Rochester orientation because she couldn't afford the bus ticket to go, she lossed her scholarship and her place in the class. So now she was going to Clarkson...which is in Potsdam, NY...nowhere near anyone I know and about 7 hours from New York City...and she still needed a ride.

I agreed to drive her, but very begrudgingly. I would not get to see the Toscano's or reminice on campus. I no longer was willing to spend the money on a hotel room in Potsdam or a second day of the car rental, which meant that I was going to have to do the round trip in one day.

I woke up at 6AM on Friday really pissed off and bitter that I had gotten myself into this mess. I mean it was still going to cost me money I really don't have and all the benefits were gone. No other teacher at my school went through this.

I picked Cristina up at about 7:45. We packed her stuff into the car and hit the road. We drove through torrential rain, Cristina's car sickness and literally the most desolate parts of New York...and had a blast!!!

We made it to Potsdam at about 4:30 and headed over to the local mall to buy the last minute essentials that Cristina didn't flipflops for the shower and sheets (my recent Smith experience helped considerably with this list).

We got completely lost trying to find where to go on her campus and then made it to the orientation barbeque where all the incoming freshmen were eating with their families. Cristina's family could never have afforded to take her up to school, they can't even afford a phone for their apartment and mom had to work...I can't express how much it meant to me to be able to be there when she was surprised to see all of the parents and families and say to her that I would be her family. She wasn't alone.

We moved all her stuff into her room (having to go through the window once to get the key after I locked her out ;) And then it was time for her first dorm meeting and I left her at about 7:00. I cried my way out of the campus...she isn't even my kid and it was so emotional. I was so proud of her.

I thought that the drive home...7 hours alone in the car at night after waking up at 6 and an exhausting day...would be hell, but it was the opposite. I felt so great!!!! I cried out of happiness for Cristina, but mostly out of happiness for myself. As has happened with most of the good deeds I have begrudgingly done in my life, it ended up being far more rewarding for me than it was for the other person. I pulled the car into the Avis lot at 1:45 AM (definitely drove a bit faster on the way home) just as the last pitch of the Yankee game was thrown.

I realized how fortunate I am to be in a profession where I get to work with and have an influence upon wonderful people like Crisitina. Her success is my success and her ability to leave the South Bronx and continue her is such a success. I love my job and I love my students and now I can't wait to get back and do it all over again.

This summer I got so excited about the craft of teaching, but I wasn't excited about where I was practing my craft. Now I remember why I choose to work in the South Bronx...and I hope that there will always be students who will allow me to drive them to college.

In the words of mastercard..

number of hours speant on the road and in Potsdam: 17

number of miles driven: 941

memories and value of the experience: priceless


Tales from "Meet the Teacher Night"

I'll let you guys in on a little secret: for the first nine years of my teaching career, I was a complete prick. I had a little mental checklist I went through every morning as I walked from my car to my classroom, and I used that checklist to leave my emotions outside. I spent nine years as Mr. Spock. I never frowned, but I never smiled. I didn't have affection for my students.

For the last two weeks, the other teachers in my school (whose names I never bothered to learn until two weeks ago) have been amazed not only at my lack of desks, but also my cheery demeanor. "You seem... different. Happier, or something. What happened this summer?" And I just say, "Near-death experience."

Tonight was "Meet the Teacher Night," which has always been a waste of time in high school. Usually, only two or three parents show up, and I never have anything useful to say to them. Tonight, I had a couple dozen parents show up, saying things like, "Every day my son comes home to talk about what happened in Speech class today," or, "I came up here just to meet the teacher my daughter keeps telling me about," or my personal favorite, "So why aren't you teaching theatre, anyway?"

The revolution will be televised.

Well, it ain't Shakespeare . . .

Some of you asked me to post the poem, so here you go.

The Green World

For a time I lived it,
true and free of ill.
What happened there I know
and will remember still.
Each day was but an hour,
more glorious than the last--
Of things unknown but longed for;
Brief echoes of the past

We cannot linger here;
to know is still too much.
Impatient worlds await
a new and surer touch
Shadows dance with joy,
regrets and fears collide
with impish glee and mirth--
too many things to hide

There is no perfection there
only honesty and truth--
Things unknown,
yet every sense alive--
In this land of make believe
Where even faith must rise


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Not As Brave As the Rest of You...

While so many of you seem to have been diving headlong into the adventure of putting our amazing summer experiences into practice in the classroom, I've had far more... trepidation... in my attempts.

But I have found, to my amazement, that a seemingly slight thing -- a baby step, really -- has already made a huge difference in all of my classes.

Check-in, and check-out.

The first day the students thought it was silly. The second day, they found ways to make most of their check-in comments bad jokes and innuendos. The third day, they were really in the groove. By the fourth day, I was getting scolded if I forgot to do check-in or check-out for a particular class.

It's a ritual that my kids seem to be drawn to, and I think it has a lot to do with the power of choice -- they can tell us exactly how they are feeling, or they can choose to keep that information to themselves. It also, of course, has a lot to do with the opportunity to be listened to (something we learned this summer). I suspect a lot of my kids go through the entire day without being listened to at all.

I'm doing some other things, too -- vocal warm-ups in my speech classes, milling/seething and dictionary work for my drama classes... and I'm sure the benefits for these activities will soon be evident... but nothing has been so impressive to me as the power of this small, beautiful thing -- check-in and check-out.

I'm ready for the rest of the year. To quote my brilliant pal Neale, "I'm good to go, ready to rock and roll."


Something You Should Read

High School is like The Divine Comedy? Worth pondering...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

"Shakespeare in the Shoe"

From Ariana...

"Hi Everyone!

I just saw an amazing segment on MSNBC on a program
called "Shakespeare in the Shoe". It is program in
which inmates in a maximum security prison study
Macbeth. They study the play through the lens of
choices and their consequences. After reading and
discussing the play, they create their own version and
then perform their play for their fellow inmates. In
the segment, many of the participants were interviewed
and their reactions were astounding. One man, serving
60 years for murder mentioned that he wished he had
studied this play as a teenager because it might have
changed his path. What a powerful reminder of the
role literature and teachers play in creating a more
humane world. Carry on!"


Did anyone else see the climactic last scene of Little Miss Sunshine and think of Ariana?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Rehearsal in the classroom

I've been doing a lot of our new activities in class, but not mentioning the word "Shakespeare." I'm going to start with some simple Shakespeare text stuff next week (the third of six weeks in the grading period), and I hope to end the six weeks with the presentation of short scenes, like our Macbeth scenes.

If all goes well, I'd like to spend next six weeks (it's only a twelve-week class) rehearsing a cut version of a play with changing roles, just like we did for Julius Caesar. The problem is, I don't know how to do that in the regular classroom by myself. How do I work with two actors on their scene when there are thirty-two other kids in the room? They aren't going to stay quiet and let us work, and I can't just send everyone else into the hall. I could divide the class into two or three groups like we did for JC, but that brings back the same problem. I can't have the bulk of the class running wild in the hallways, and I can't expect them to sit quietly and watch while others are working on a scene. So is this even possible? How does one do a class play with 34 non-actors?

I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You A Sculpture Garden

...A Tale Of Cautious Optimism

I had every reason on earth to put my Institute binder on a shelf and promptly go back to whatever I was doing before. My one section of English II (I have two sections of Debate in the fall) has something like eight Special Ed kids and, in the words of my co teacher, "about ten more who act like it". Very few girls and very lots of ADD. They're endearing, but hard. All of this combined with a dark and Hamlet-y (Hamlet-ish? Hamlet-esque? Globiness??) homecoming (minus my mother marrying my uncle, but I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my damn mirth) would make it easy to "change back".

I know, however, that all of the things I do will be like planting slow growing seeds, so we work at it. We have been checking in and out, but that's low risk. It was time to pile the desks against the wall and do something. So today, we did.

The plan was Sculpture Gardens with the "words to own" from Tom Godwin's The Cold Equations. Vocabulary is always hard for my kids, we many times seem only to rent those "words to own" and so I thought a physical representation would work with this class.

It didn't right away. I had to step back from the vocab words and do some tableaux (I am at this moment on the G chat with Emily who informs me that tableaux is the correct plural) to warm up. The results, again, were not what I expected. The sunny Florida postcard was a straight line of kids, the girls waving and the boys pointing at the girls. I do think, however, that it eased the tension a bit and we did have some luck with the "words to own". Getting them silent for the work was impossible. I think that's discomfort with even the suggestion of touching one another (we did the puppet thing, but that's still pretty close for some kids). I would welcome your thoughts on encouraging (without pimpslapping and demanding) silence for the exercises.

I will allow some time to work through the discomfort, because I think the results were worth it. Reactions included "I liked getting to moving around" and the best one ever "I never understood what ponderous meant until I saw it". Worth the trouble, I would say.

It's started.... kinda

I got my schedule for this quarter at Cal State LA. I've got a class on middle and high school literacy and (finally) one specific to my subject matter (even though the subject isn't really mine--there's no Theatre credential in good ol' Cali, so I'm getting my English credential).

Also, my portfolio has been sent to one of our rival schools in Santa Monica. I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

I'm still stalling on actually prepping for the year, though... I've come down with my annual "Back in the City" cold/allergy thing and have been using that as an excuse to do exactly what I'm supposed to be doing on my vacation.

Kim, your room looks beautiful. I wish I could do the same. Hmm.... I wonder if I could commandeer all THREE or FOUR of the classrooms I'll be teaching in...? No one else seems to do anything with them. I saw this upside down map in Boston that inspired me to fill one of my classes with maps that challenge our perceptions.

I digress. Oh wait... I didn't really have a point. =P

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

So, it's not green, but...

I did redecorate my room with you all in mind.

Behold the gray ugliness before:

And the starry night after:

The quotes, if you can't read them:

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves." -- Shakespeare

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -- Gandhi

I read them and think of all of you, and hope to carry those good vibes with me as I begin my school year tomorrow.

Love, Kim

P.S. I was precariously perched on a twelve foot ladder hanging the star lanterns and the twinkle lights when a teacher came in and asked: "What on earth were you smoking this summer?" :)


Also, on viewing the newest photos, I think it's amazing that in all the Air Broadsword pics you can't tell that there's no weapon. The energy is so focused that there's a physical presence. Awesome.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pen Pals, Anyone?

Anyone interested in doing a pen pal thingy with some kids in Los Angeles? I'd definitely like to do it with my 6th and 7th graders, and if I get that 12th grade English class I'll do it with them too. My classes are small (20 or less, usually), but I have no problem making them write two letters at a time. School starts Sep 6.

Any takers?

Also, I taught a class on status and clowning at my camp last week. It was many campers' favorite class! Yay us!

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Status of "Status"

Man, status games rock the freakin' house!

We started with the "playing cards on the forehead" game. After each kid had a card, I said, "If you'll look around, I think you'll find that there are two groups in this class. You should find your group, nonverbally." They didn't get it at first, but I didn't give them any other hints. After a minute, some kids took leadership roles and started dividing the class into red and black cards, and that's when the rest caught on. Then I told them that each group has two families, and they divided by suit. Finally, everyone got back together again to arrange themselves numerically.

Then I did some of the excercises where two lines of kids walk toward each other, one line with high status and one line with low status. Next, the high status kids became even higher and the low status kids became even lower, and we ended with the lines switching status after meeting in the middle. When I asked kids why they switched status, I expected them to say, "Because you told us to," but they came up with the greatest stuff! One kid said, "I was high status, and when I passed the low status person I thought she looked happier than me, and that made me sad." Another said, "When I passed the high status person, he looked at me like he really saw me, and that made me think that I wasn't that bad after all." Isn't that incredible?

Then we did "Sorry, wrong door," which went over like gangbusters. I've had problems with audience behavior in the past so I was worried that the kids wouldn't be paying attention to each other and disrupting the exercise. Instead, they were fascinated to see what everyone came up with for their schtick. The kids took great pride in doing something original, so every kid worked on finding another way to show that they're in the wrong room.

Finally, we did the game where a person leaves the room, and the group decides on a role to assign the missing person. We did a leper, the queen, a movie star (girls love him, boys don't like how they're girlfriends are acting), the school principal, and the invisible man. I ended the day by talking about how the crowd makes the king.

Today was probably the best day I've had at my job in several years. The kids were actively engaged, and the material was as challenging and relevant as each kid wanted it to be (why didn't I save this stuff for my annual appraisal?!). Today taught me how important quality curriculum is. For "Sorry, wrong door," I could have given instructions to the class on how each kid needed to come up with something different, or how they needed to be good audience members, but such micromanaging wasn't necessary because the activity was well-planned.

I have no idea what I'm going to do tomorrow in class, but it's going to have to be great. The bar has been raised, and my kids are expecting something awesome.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Thank God for Password Protection

Oh, wait a minute! This site isn't protected! AAAAAAH!

Corleone - The Shakespearean Godfather

Those of you in or around NYC may be interested in this. It's currently part of the Fringe Festival and runs through Friday 8/25.
-Dave W

Pictures Gallore!

I've uploaded a ton of photos to the Kodak collection. This includes the photos Danon mailed to everyone, a few more from my camera, and the plethora Karen gave me during the last week. I've divided Karen's into ten different albums to help you sort through them. Each of those albums start with "Karen's - " and include: Air Broadswords, Cutting and Dictionary, Goblin Dance, Grad Presentations, Misc., Moon Dance, Rehearsing JC, Rose Footprint, Status, and The Scholars. There are some terrific photos there, so much thank's to Karen for shooting them. You can click on the title to this post to link there, or on the Kodak link in the sidebar to the right.

Happy downloading!

The Toast Miracle Of Northampton Finds Its Way To Middle America!

Remember the Holy Toast maker that we couldn't make work in the dining hall? It has found its way to its new home and works like a charm!

Behold the miracle.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Dave's List

I've been a bad blogger. Below is the list of short story recommendations that Dave W. gave me a few weeks ago. I promised to post them, and I fully admit I took way too long to do so. My apologies are offered to Dave, and my excuses are on my blog. Without further adieu I give you

Dave's List

Stories (tragedy)

Raymond Carver
"Why Don't You Dance?"
John Cheever
"The Sorrows of Gin"
"A Miscellany of Characters Who Will Not Appear"
Anton Chekhov
Tim O'Brien
"Speaking of Courage" from "The Things They Carried"
Ernest Hemingway
"Soldier's Home"

Enjoy! (Or, given that they're tragic stories, writhe in misery!)


Thursday, August 17, 2006

I killed my students and revived them with geese!!

So 2 things I tried that ended up very successful: DIE! and Wild Geese!


We are spending some time working the power of words and being specific with our language. I passed out a sheet of boring nouns and asked my groups of kids to make them more interesting. Then each group sent a representative to the center of the room (in my thrust) with their most interesting choice. They each had to present it to “The Queen” (Yes, me – I do have crown in the room) in a passionate way. If I was not pleased they died! They loved it. We did the same with verbs and adjectives. Good fun!

“Wild Geese”

My students all found a place on the floor to lay down and rest. I asked them to notice their breathing. when they were calm I put on some mellow acoustic guitar (George Winsten) and asked them to allow any emotions or images this invoked to just come up. I read “Wild Geese” aloud. They listened. I read it again. They listened. I asked them to slowly get up, find their journals and a place in the classroom. they journal whatever came up for them. We talked about what came up for them and me and how amazing words are. A woman that doesn’t even know them wrote words that made them think, feel, imagine! I read it again and they listed words, phrases and images that touched or spoke to them. We checked out with our favorite! What a wonderful day! (Kim – thank you for sharing such a wonderful poem!)


Text Lay-ups

One of the first things I did when I got into my classroom was take down every single piece of crap that was on the walls. I just wanted a blank slate so that I could start over. Yesterday I gave each student a Shakespeare quote and a piece of posterboard, and they worked on making visual and/or artistic representations of the quotes.

I had planned to use those posters for text lay-ups tomorrow, except I just realized I have no where to do them. My room is too small, obviously. The other teachers won't like it if I have kids running up and down the halls while the class claps and yells. The stages and gyms are all taken. I can't take them outside because it's hotter than Satan's balls.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Prime Minister Of Present

It's the first day of school. First hour is my English class. I have sold my co teacher completely on my new frame of mind (In fact, if she'd leave her dogs and husband for a month, she belongs at the next NITS. Leave your persuasive attempts to her in the comments. I promise to share them.) and we are all set for the new class.

We open with teeney dictionary work on the word present. This year in English, it's not enough to show up, our work is so important that they need to be present. So we're off to the races. I get about ten definitions from them and in comes the first latecomer.

Is anyone else plagued by all the lateness the first days of school? About a quarter of our kids don't bother to come to schedule pickup and some even show up to enroll on that first day. It's fair to say that what we have at the first bell for class is only 3/4 of what we'll have at the end.

We've already checked in and Fred is the first latecomer. The kids start in with "Ooooh, you late!" and we pull them off.

"Someone tell Fred what present means."

They give him some idea and I fill in the blanks just in time for latecomer #2.

"Hey, Fred, tell #2 what present means."

Again with a half explanation that I guide to a full definition.

Aaaand a big welcome to latecomer #3.

"#2, tell #3 what present means."

#2 is a bit unsure. Fred chimes in.

"I got it now, Ms Uhhh. Present is that you totally here. Your brain and everything. You gotta put down that other stuff and be present in here."

"Fred, you rock! You are the Prime Minister of Present."

"I'll tell anyone else that come in, Ms Uhhhhh."

Part One in an Ongoing Study: Things My Students Say That Make Me Weep For the Future

We're playing an improv game that requires the suggestion of a person, place, and object from the audience. For the place, I give them Cuba.

"Cuba? Is that the place with all those Puerto Ricans?"

Monday, August 14, 2006

Welcome to the first day of school!

First day is done! Phew! Wow, it’s hard out there for a teacher with no prep… The day was filled with triumphs and snags. CHECK IN WORKS! My honors Frosh are the cutest things on the planet and are ready to play, no problem. I have one class of 35 sophomores and half of them are ED. This was a test and will continue to be one. I am happy to report though that my 5th hour of sophomores are great! So, I get to end my days with fun. Overall very fulfilling day. I love this!


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Ooooh, I Like It

I mentioned that King Branagh was directing another WS film this year. Principal photography has been completed, so I think we are looking at a winter/spring release.

Here's Branagh on his inspiration: "I visited Kyoto, Japan for the first time fifteen years ago and felt the sublime landscape and fascinating culture could be an inspired setting for this quintessential romantic comedy. With sumo, martial arts and cherry blossom we hope that the drama and the joy can combine to produce a wonderfully enjoyable film."

Hamahawaaaa?? "With sumo, martial arts and cherry blossoms...."

Did he really say that with a straight face? Oy vey.

The Day Before Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the first day of school. I took down everything off the walls in my classroom, got rid of the textbooks, and stacked the tables against the walls. I only have the tiniest idea of what I'm going to say tomorrow to fill 75 minutes each class period, and I have no idea how I'll explain that we're going to spend the entire semester doing Shakespeare stuff instead of the old public speaking stuff.

Uh-oh. Clown in trouble.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Catcher in the Rye

I don't remember who I was talking to about it, but here's a cool unit for Catcher in the Rye:

At the end of a close reading of The Catcher, you will act as part of a peer case review committee at the hospital from which Holden is telling his story. With access to the transcript of Holden's own words, plus selected related materials, you will write a diagnostic report for the hospital and a prescriptive letter to Holden's parents explaining what (if anything) is wrong with Holden.

In addition to this culminating performance task, you will be given three quizzes on the reading and a writing exercise in which you will describe Holden from the perspective of another character. Following each reading assignment and before the next class, please respond in your Reading-Response Journal to two questions: "What is the most important thing you learn about Holden in this section of the novel?" "What is the most important unanswered question about Holden at this point in the novel?" Your responses to these questions will begin and end daily class discussions.

At the end of the unit, you will be asked to reflect on your evolving understanding of the novel, as chronicled in your daily journal entries. Final questions for the last days are: "What changed in the way you saw Holden as the book went along" and "If, as some people claim, "misunderstanding is inevitable" when you encounter new material, what were your misunderstandings at any point during this unit?" Finally, if you were to teach this novel to next year's students, what would you do to ensure they understand the novel as apposed to just knowing some facts about it?


Friday, August 11, 2006

Or am she just a crazy teacher?

It has begun…My tables (I don’t have desks) line my walls and create a perfect thrust in the center of my room. My syllabus suggests students keep a towel and/or pillow in my room for floor activities. My new honors frosh assignment deals with a reflection on self and oh yes, my colleagues are beginning to wonder, “Am she real? Or am she just a crazy teacher?” Now, I’ve always been out of the ordinary in my teaching style, but this apparently takes the cake. Upon visiting my room and having the occasional conversation about my classes some have actually asked, “Are you nuts?” To which I must reply a resounding YES! And I like it that way. Another factor that leaves the English faculty believing in my insanity is the addition of yet another class to my already busy day. I no longer have a prep and will be teaching another section of Sophomores Julius Caesar and couldn’t be more thrilled!

I dearly miss all of your warm smiling faces and hope to see each and every one of you within the year.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

She Left For The Coast And Came Back All Funny

Today was the first day of meetings at school. I really do work in a supportive environment, but I am pretty sure they wonder about me...
  • When they ask "How are you?", I wrinkle my forehead and think about it a moment before I answer.
  • I was seen in meetings attempting to relax my jaw (all the more hilarious given that the "shake your jaw" command never worked for me as well as the mythical spaghetti sauce jar).
  • Perhaps most puzzling was my answer when my Special Ed co teacher asked how I wanted to spend room money. Sometime, I will have to go back and explain the far away look in my eyes as I tilted my head to the side and wistfully declared, "Well, for starters, I have to get my hands on a drum..."

Kim and I are in love...

Teaching Shakespeare - The Blog! with Kevin Coleman! We admit it!


Where Ariana Feeds In An Entry To Jen...

Until Ariana can blog herself, I will post this for her...

Hello all! This is my first experience blogging and I'm proud to say that I find this much easier than climbing stairs or sitting in chairs.

I am surviving the sweltering heat here in Puerto Rico (seriously, Northampton seems like the arctic right now). While in the midst of moving and looking for a job, i have been trying tofind time to do Bob's warm-up. I have found one large difficulty. It has nothing to do with the strange looks I get from my husband or our neighbors (The walls of our apartment are paper thin. I can only imagine how they interpret "huh" "zool" and "ahhhhh"at 6:00 in the morning.) No, the main problem is thatmy two dogs, seem to view the sounds as some kind ofmating call can imagine the rest. Instead of relaxing and finding my natural voice, I spend 30 minutes prying a dog off each leg.

Alas, I digress, I miss you guys so much already and I'm glad we have this blog to stay in touch.

Umm...Ariana? Are you sure the dogs are attracted to your warm up? Did you ever do your lioness in their presence? Not even once, just for fun? Just asking...

A Man Without a Country

During staff development yesterday, they announced an afternoon department meeting. I showed up at 2:00 in the choir room for the fine arts meeting. The choir teacher came up to me with a confused look on his face.

"I was looking at my list," said Mr. Overbite, "and you're not on it."


"Are you teaching theatre this year?"

"I doubt it."

"Is public speaking in another department?"

"Well," I said, "Dr. Bouffant is the one keeping me from doing what I love, and as since she's the head of fine arts for the district, that tells me she must hold some authority over me. So I'd say I'm still in fine arts."

"Well, you're not on my list."

I went back to my room to work, and Mr. Overbite stopped by a half hour later.

"Hey, I talked with the principal, and she says you're in the ELA department now."

"What the hell is an ELA?"

"It stands for English Language Arts."

So apparently, even though I am not certified in English, and I only took four English classes in college, I am now in the English department. No one in the English department came looking for me yesterday, which is fine by me. Hopefully this means I'll be a department of one until I can manage to find another job.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Looking for Something to Read?

Thanks to Jessica's ingenious idea, we now have two new lists on Amazon. If you're looking for something non-Shakespearean to read (gasp!), check out the "Just for Fun" and "Just for Fun- Part 2" lists, created from your recommendations.

See the lists either by clicking on this post's heading, or by clicking on the "Amazon Lists" Link on the left.

Happy Reading!

Letter to the Authorities and Such

Hello, my friends!

It occurred to me that we never (to my knowledge at least) wrote a letter for Kevin to send out to our principals, superintendents, etc. I feel woefully inadequate writing such a letter by myself, but perhaps you faithful participants could post ideas for content of such a letter here (under comments), and we can get something going on it. Thoughts? Sentences? Etc.?

Danke, gracias, and marci!


Eval Link--Updated!

The evaluation link for the NEH is here.

Does this link work better?

So you fill in your first and last name with email (FYI, it doesn't seem important what email you use. I just tried it with my gmail as opposed to my school email and it worked). So, those blanks are filled in. Proceed down the page and hit the "select" button next to the NITS. This should get you to the page with the eval questions.

Did this link work for anyone besides me? Anyone have some light to shed? Help!

Message from DW

Hello folks. I hope you are all well. I know that I had promised to send some people CDs of my band, but I forgot to write down addresses, etc. If anyone is interested, please drop me a line and I'll get one in the mail to you.
Enjoy the rest of your summer and keep in touch.

Here are links:

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Real Live Conversation Upon My Re-Entry

I. Swear. To. God. This story is real.

I spoke to my friend Beth just now for the first time since returning home. She is a former colleague and a wonderful friend.

After exchanging the niceties that happen after a month's absence (Yes, I had a wonderful time. I had unimaginably deep experiences. So much so that I might not even be myself anymore. "Jennifer is the name the pigs gave me. Call me Tania."), she clearly has business to share.

"Sister, you have missed the news!! There has
been a bigfoot sighting in Southeastern Oklahoma!!
(I'm not giving you
the Daily Oklahoman article because you'd have to register with them.)"

"Seriously, where!?!"

By this time, her hysterical laughter makes it impossible to understand
her, it's something like
"Phlroggy Bottom!! Right by my Uncle's house!!!"

"What!? Froggy Bottom? Boggy Bottom?"

"BOGGY BOTTOM!! It's been in the paper. There's people who
say it's a guy in a costume, but why would someone dress in a costume in 100+
degree heat in an area so remote he might now be seen?"

"Unless it's just a cry of love for your uncle."

"Which it's not. So the only question is when do we go!?"

The answer, friends, is not this weekend. Rest assured that if I do go, there will be pictures and we will be but one step closer to the age old question, "Am he real?!".

If we didn't learn anything else from this Institute...

Monday, August 07, 2006

So that I'm no longer staring at myself at the top of this page every time I obsessively check it...

as per request, "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

I miss you all,

Saturday, August 05, 2006

If You Ever Doubted It...

I offer proof that Kim is Kevin's favorite.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Recognize the hat? Kim owns it now. Why? Because she is his favorite!

Reports from the airport

Kim, Jennifer, and Rachael here from the Bradley International Airport, waiting for our flights...

Thought you might like to know that Rachael tried to take off her pants here in the terminal... we'll explain that one later. Go on and try to imagine the reason for that one right now.

In the meantime, pictures! I'll put all mine up on Kodak Gallery soon, but here are a few of my favorites.

Shiny happy people:



wait for it...

be forewarned: do not look directly into the Quinn:

We're having separation anxiety already... let your arms be brilliant. We love you.

R, J, K

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Craig's List That Offers Nothing In The Way Of Used Stuff

So a friend of mine blogged about this McSweeney's list today (and I laughed heartily), and while I was there I remembered our own Craig has a list on The McSweeney's (superfluous article used for comic effect).

He deserves the link. Go read his stuff.

Also, this just in!

My blogfriend Ms. Cornelius (don't you even hate on me for having blog friends or you'll get three straight hours of my Tina Packer impression. She might even start to sing...and no one wants her to sing.) has a post today that deals with specificity of language. It's important to remember that you will have allies in your revolution (Ms. C is a History teacher) and you must find them to solidify your bond!