Sunday, January 25, 2009

A New Look

I've decided to mix things up here at Mr. B-G's English Blog. After stumbling across what just might be the most helpful Blogger site out there, Blogger Buster, and perusing its beautiful link list of blog templates, I made the decision to make a switch.

A word of warning to any of you newer bloggers considering a switch: Most - if not all - of your widgets will be lost, and chances are the things you liked about your old blog won't necessarily reproduce themselves in your new blog. However, if you keep searching for the right template, it's likely you'll eventually find more things that you DO like with a new look that will make a switch worthwhile.

I suppose I grew tired of my bland background. I wanted something a bit more graphically appealing, yet still visually simple and easy to read. This template, called Zen, seemed to satisfy both of those requirements.

Monday, January 19, 2009

From the Teacher's Desk

A sampling of musings from the mind of a suburban high school English teacher:

School administrators are using adjectives like "bloody," "gloomy," and "bleak" to describe the current financial state of affairs for the rest of this year and next. I am hopeful that Barack Obama will authorize federal legislation to help cities and towns deal with declines in state aid revenue. I find it a bit disconcerting that we can easily lend billions of taxpayer dollars to automakers and finance companies, yet are forced to pause and deliberate when it comes to ensuring all our country's students receive a solid education. Anyone who has ever worked inside a school can tell you, every dollar does make a difference.

Are there any teachers out there with writing centers at their schools? When I was a M.Ed. graduate student at Plymouth State University, I worked in the college's writing center. It was one of the most enjoyable jobs I've ever had. In order to get the hang of it, I underwent training in the non-directive approach to writing consultation. One of the most valuable things I learned was "silent and wait time." For the non-directive approach to be effective, the writing consultant must be patient and give the student time to ruminate on an idea or improvement. This was quite different than my days as a newspaper reporter, when editors would explain everything I did wrong and then fix it for me. I hope to eventually create a student-staffed writing center at my high school, as I've seen how they can be effective. I believe that if implemented with care, they can work at the secondary level. Please contact me if you have experience with high school writing centers.

Launching a high school newspaper advertising initiative in the middle of the year is difficult. For years my high school's newspaper was published in-house on an archaic printing press that only one teacher knew how to use. When he retired last year, so did the press and all that it produced. Left without a means to publish our newspaper, I was relegated to performing evening prayer rituals to Joseph Pulitzer in hopes of securing funding. My calls were eventually answered by my principal, who offered to give us enough money to publish five papers this year. My goal for next year (or perhaps even later this year) is to create an advertising department with a business manager responsible for generating enough ad sales to allow each issue to pay for itself.

We finally got around to hosting our Poetry Out Loud Recitation Contest. The original date was a wash due to a snow day. As a result, interest waned, and only two students ended up reciting a poem. We do have a winner though, and she'll represent our school at the Massachusetts semi-final recitation contest this March.

Second quarter grades close this Friday. I should be in decent shape grading wise, as unlike years past, I made sure to not have a major essay due right before the close of the quarter. It took me five years to figure this out, but I am learning, albeit slowly.

I plan to add a new section to my blog called "student work." Recently two students did stellar jobs on their Outside Reading Book presentations. One created a movie trailer for Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," which he published to YouTube. I highly recommend checking it out, as it's professional quality. Another did answering machine messages for five characters from Stephanie Meyer's "Breaking Dawn." She captured the characters' essences to the T.