Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Parent Trap


Some quick thoughts while I wait in class for the evening to start. There's nothing like the feeling of campus in Fall. It's good to be a student again.

The year is off to a strong start, and I'm feeling confident about how the classes are going and my ability to sustain the effort I'm putting into them. Last night was open house from 6:30 to 8:00. Rather than go home for a couple of hours I stuck around, worked on grading, and put in a long day. Parent night can be stressful if you let it, but there's no need to. Everyone is very friendly, and just wants to know how to help their kids succeed. I've often worn a suit in order to overcompensate for my youth, but this year I just gave up, and presented who I was. There were no questions about my amount of training, as there were several years ago, so I think the night was a victory.

Too busy right now to produce anything but text, so a quick hour update as of this evening...

166 hours & 55 minutes.

I've got a three day weekend planned, so tomorrow's my last day with the kids, and with the internet for some time. Keep up the good work everyone!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

First Day of School


So, things went well today. Besides a sore throat (I'm not used to talking this much right now) and some sore feet I'm still excited for the year. First day introductions went well, some jokes were laughed at, and all three courses (six classes worth) have homework for tomorrow. I like giving everyone a chance to succeed early on in the classroom. It also sets high expectations, which is what I'm all about.

Last year I had freshmen and sophomores in my classroom for the first time ever, either in study hall or in Sophomore English. So, I actually knew some juniors and sophomores coming into class today, which is a first. It's always nice to see some familiar faces in the audience as the first few days are an awkward ritual of the class feeling itself out. By just the second week the classroom atmosphere is being established, and it can either be amazing or detrimental to your work. The removal or addition of even just one student can turn the tide in your favor or against it.

I've also moved mostly into my new room. It's smaller than my last one, which was seen briefly in my introduction video in a state of emptiness. However, it's carpeted, a bit dimmer colors, and forces me to purge what I don't need to have. Teachers can become hoarders very easily. It's hard to let go of something that worked once, even if you know it will never work again. A lesson needs to be adapted slightly year to year, and sometimes, from section to section. One class may crave lecture and quite reading while another can talk intelligently for days.

In any course, here are some photos of my room. Larger resolutions available on my Facebook group page, so stop there!

A quick sign for students to help them find my room.  Yes, that is a Safe House from the Left 4 Dead series.

Entering the room you see the back right corner with my desk, files, and bookshelf for British Literature. Dwight Schrute's vengeful gaze watches over all.

The back left corner of my room. Sort of a mess, but some posters are up and my film frame bulletin board shows famous characters or scenes from 45 classic films. Most students can name 90% of them.

Today's lessons for my three courses. Fairly standard stuff for day one. I'm toying with the notion of taking board photos daily.

So, that's day one. So far I'm 120 hours and 45 minutes in. Possible video this weekend. Enjoy your last days of freedom or your first days back everyone!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day One


Not much to say right now, except today was really exciting and I'm really hopeful about the coming year. I did grind out a quick five hours yesterday working on my room, reading A Sand County Almanac, and working on my American Lit Anthology. So, I got 80 hours for the summer, and have already dropped 10.5 today. It's time to walk the dog and get ready for tomorrow. Look for more substance later. Hopefully.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Radio Silence


A quick update for everyone about hours and getting ready for the new school year.

I haven't been producing videos the past couple weeks because we're getting new laptops and I'm currently without mine. When I get the chance I'll post a video detailing the past few weeks, and reviewing the summer overall. Also, facebook and twitter should start seeing more updates soon as well.

Second, my hours over the past two weeks add up to 14.5, adding up to a grand total of 75 hours! That's not that much over the span of the summer, of course, but it's 75 more hours than most people would have assumed. I had a personal goal of 100 hours, but I've really enjoyed myself and relaxed this summer. I feel much more at peace and ready to tackle the challenges of my new students and classes.

The past two weeks have been a tough balancing act of preparing for the new school year while also trying to enjoy my last days of freedom for the next ten months. I feel guilty doing either, so my first day back is quite a relief!

I may be going in this afternoon to work on the classroom. Forty-odd teachers swapped rooms this summer, so it's time to arrange desks & tables, put up posters, and stack the bookshelves. Maybe I can bring my summer total to 80 hours, or two week's time.

Students are back on Thursday, I have meetings and conferences starting tomorrow. Time to enjoy one last day as a free man. Good luck everyone and have a great year once you begin!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A fortnight of polyster & lycra


It's been a couple of crazy weeks, so I'll do my best to summarize the most interesting parts.

San Diego Comic Con:

Highlights: Got to hear and see a plethora of artists and authors, including Grant Morrison, Jim Lee, Jonathan Hickman, Brian K. Vaughn, Robert Kirkman, and Bill Willingham. I also saw the Dr. Who panel, starring Matt Smith and Karen Gillan (Dr. & Amy Pond respectively). Everyone was kind and gracious!

Best Moment:  Questioning Jonathan Hickman about the difference between writing creator owned works and for hire, such as FF at Marvel. I got a really heartfelt and personal response, cool (and genius) guy!

Serious Thoughts: This was the second time at SDCC for me and I noticed dozens of handicapped attendees, whether in wheel chairs, deaf, or blind. I wondered both about escapism and wish fulfillment, but also about diversity in handicapped heroes such as Charles Xavier (paralyzed) or Daredevil (blind).

Now: Reading Pax Romana and The Nightly News, as well as Supergods.


Highlights: Biking 175 miles over three days, a giant slip & slide outside of Baxter, brisket and pulled pork sandwiches, not giving up on any hill.

Best Moment: Getting hosed by kids. Each kid with a hose is a godsend.

Serious Thought: (kind of). It was fun to compare the costuming of skin-tight ill-fitting bike jerseys and skin-tight ill-fitting Superhero costumes in San Diego. Why is one utilitarian and the other odd?

Now: Sleeping past 5 a.m. for the first time in two weeks. Also, my shoulders don't hurt anymore.

So, with less than two weeks to go I'm back and working. Put in four hours yesterday reading and readying myself for the grad school application process. Looking to do more classroom work in the upcoming days.

A few other things before signing off. First, as posted on my twitter and Facebook, I was interviewed by the kind people at education portal. You can see the interview here.

Lastly, I caught this interesting video from ReasonTV via reddit this morning. It's a fun exercise in loaded questions and quick cutting/editing.

I'll let the video speak mainly for itself, but I quickly want to comment on Matt Damon's insight on incentive. He's right, and has said it more clearly than maybe I've heard before. This notion that teachers need punitive incentive in order to teach effectively is insulting and scary. If we're really serious about putting incentives and punishment as a means to privatize and reform schools than perhaps the effects should be felt throughout the community. Should we raise taxes in a district if their student's don't perform well?