Friday, March 30, 2007

Maple deliciousness

Today I received a small jar of maple syrup from two of my students. While this may not seem like a particularly noteworthy event, it was because the students had tapped, boiled, and bottled the syrup themselves.
Why was I a recipient? Well, the students had actually gathered the sweet, edible, goodness for a biology project, and used one of my class periods to teach a lesson to other biology students about the science of syrup gathering.

It came from our school's own maple trees, and is fabulous. It has a rich, textured sweetness with a complex finish that hints of honey and nuts. I cannot wait to pour it over pancakes or French toast tomorrow morning for breakfast.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Shakin' the spear

Or something like that... Today at school the English Department had an in-service about engaging ways to teach Shakespeare in the classroom. It was essentially a primer on theater 101. One thing I took away from the workshop was that it is not sufficient to sit in a circle and read a play out loud. Students need to be out of their seats, interacting physically with the text. I am looking forward to trying out some of what I learned when my students and I read Romeo & Juliet in April.

Another benefit from today's activity was that we got to bond as a department. Just like Tolkien has his nine ring-bearers, our school has its nine English elucidators... It was fun cavorting around the auditorium stage as we attempted to tame the physical space around us. At first we were timid and awkward, but by the end some of us really grew into our roles.

In other news, I'll be proctoring the 2007 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System for the next three days. Most students take the exam pretty seriously, as they must pass it to graduate. More importantly, the scores they earn determine how our district will be perceived by education officials and the general public. I wish our students well. I know if I was taking the test I would want to do as well as possible - not just for myself, but for area bragging rights. Just as I ran as fast as I could during high school cross country meets with rival neighboring towns, I would want to utilize every ounce of intellectual fortitude I possess to also beat them on the exam. It's a matter of pride as much as anything else. Bonne chance.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Intro to Web 2.0

This video has received millions of views, and depicts well the developmental, transitional, and influential powers of the Internet's effect on the way we create, understand, and communicate knowledge.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Emptying the mind

A random and periodic collection of musings and observations...

- Midterm grades were due Tuesday.

- Students finished their Old Man and the Sea essays, and I posted them to our respective class blogs. It's a fairly labor-intensive process, akin to laying out pages for a newspaper. Each story must be formatted correctly, then the images need to be sized and oriented within the blog post. Before this can occur, however, all the stories and images need to be saved in the proper places. Most students were able to save their stories on my USB drive, but some e-mailed them and others had the essays on their own USB drives that I downloaded to my computer. Everything's up now, and some of them are really well done, while others could benefit from a bit more revision.

One of the things I really like about having students post their work to the blog is that their audience expands beyond the teacher. I gave them comment criteria, and they offered some good feedback to each other in the form of blog post comments. I feel that if I am able to alert students on what to look for in each others' writing, a critique or constructive comment almost means more coming from them than me.

Thinking back to my high school days, I - for whatever reason - didn't place much credence in the feedback my teachers gave me. It's not because they weren't good teachers; it was likely due to my mindset as a teenager, and the natural resistance I had to adult directives. Some of my friends were very smart - one was the son of a successful children's book author. Because of this, and because they were my friends, I was more willing to listen to their advice and suggestions. The blog provides a format and forum for these types of peer-to-peer interactions to occur that I didn't have when I was in high school.

- Our school's basketball teams are each in final tournament games. I attended both of the semi-final games this week. Needless to say, I've spent almost every hour this week either at school, thinking about school (I'm starting two new units), or at the games. It's been a long week, and I'm grateful it's Friday.

- I was impressed to see members of our school's administration at both of the games, and developed an additional sense of respect and admiration for the hours they put into the job. I know there are countless meetings, conferences, games, activities, and events that they and other school staff attend regularly in the afternoons and evenings. I hope that as I build my teaching repertoire, I am able to find additional time to attend more of these events, as it is fun to see my students interacting in an environment other than the classroom.

- I've included with this post a picture of Antoine Walker, one of my favorite Boston Celtics players of all time. I just love Antoine's enthusiasm for the game, his attitude, and his swagger. Yes, I will admit that he wasn't always the best decision maker, and that some of his on-the-court antics were completely inane, yet I am willing to overlook these flaws out of respect for his joie de vivre. Employee # 8 wore his heart on his sleeve, and you've got to respect him for that. Best of luck to our basketball teams this weekend.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

OMS essay comment instructions

I would like your Old Man and the Sea essay comments to answer the following four questions:

I - How strong is this essay's thesis? Is it clear and concise? Is it focused? Does it engage you ?

II - Of all the examples and quotations contained in this essay, which is your favorite? Why?

III - What is one thing this essay does well? It could be its organization, word choice, writing style, choice of quotations, introduction, conclusion, etc.

IV - What is one piece of advice that the author might consider the next time he or she is asked to write a similar type of analytical essay?

Comments should range from one to three paragraphs. Your comments should appear below the story you are responding to. When asked to choose an identity, click "other," then sign your comment with your first name and last initial. Comments not posted according to these instructions will be deleted.

I would like you to respond to a minimum of one essay per class. The essays will be up by the end of school on Monday, March 5th. Due date change: Please bring a printed copy of your comments to class on Tuesday, March 6th, as I will check them then. Thank you for your valuable feedback.

Three comments = a "check"
Six comments = a "check plus"