Month: September 2011

Holy Teaching Moment

Last week I started teaching an excerpt Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur. I’m not a huge fan of this time period of literature, and we had already read a chunk of Beowulf and a chunk of the Canterbury Tales so the thought of reading another work out loud was making crazy. Like any good English teacher I allowed for my students to use the last ten minutes of class to read quietly. I sat down at my desk and started doing work. Not even five seconds later I started to hear talking. I looked up and my students were reading the story to each other out loud.

I almost fainted.

I was almost afraid to say something to them because I was worried that if I did the behavior would stop. They’d just start talking high school nonsense. I did tell them that I was very pleased and reinforced the good behavior. This of course didn’t work because this was the same class that a week ago all needed hall passes to the library because they hadn’t printed out their papers (something they also did this Thursday). I wonder if I can take credit for this behavior, both the good and bad. I doubt it. The good behavior was a case of straight up self motivation. I love it. It was the first time since school started that I felt happy to be in a classroom. Of course, this all went out the window on Thursday when every single one of my classes were the classes from hell. Sometimes, I think there is something in the water.

Watching my students break into little groups to get their work done and then actually doing it made me wonder why older people (I guiltily admit I sometimes do this) talk so much smack about the younger generation. While my students are not as motivated and disciplined and academic as I’d like, on occasion they show me that the potential is there. The possibility that when the world is in their hands they won’t disappoint us.

I will admit that I did tell my students, when they didn’t come to my class prepared, that I feared for my future as they would be the generation that would responsible for taking care of mine. Seriously, how do you not come to English class without a pen and paper? and how do you not get your crap printed when you’ve been reminded for a week? and why do you complain when you’re given a writing assignment in a writing class? Seriously?

God-willing the students will continue to surprise me (in good ways). I know I’m not built to teach high school, but there are days when it’s not all bad.

Have your students ever surprised you?

9/11 Through Teenage Eyes

Last night I had one of those dreams where you wake up exhausted. I dreamt that I was with my family and FH, and we were in New York City visiting. Our hotel was on 42nd Street and close to Broadway, maybe like a block or two away. Our hotel was over taken by Muammar Gaddafi. He wasn’t really Gaddafi, he was like a hybrid Gaddafi-Bin Laden (don’t ask, my brain is so messed up). My parents wouldn’t let FH and I be alone together so we tried to escape, and we managed to escape the hotel just before Gaddafi-BinLaden Hybrid took over and locked down the hotel. We were running away being chased and shot at by terrorists. I don’t know how we got to my apartment (which isn’t in NYC) but we did. We decided to hide in my walk-in closet. We wrapped ourselves in clothes. My walk-in closet turned into an enormous room (not that I’d be opposed to this happening in real-life). The Gaddafi-Bin Laden Hybrid was chasing after two girls he wanted as wives, and one of them was this young blonde girl. She came into my closet and started taking clothes off of the rack and our cover was almost blown. I woke up thinking about terrorists, guns, and 9/11.

I can’t believe ten years has passed since 9/11 happened. When I look at my students, I can’t imagine what they remember about it, because they were only five, six, or seven years old. I was a senior in high school. I was sitting in my AP English class. We had just finished watching something lame like Camelot. I don’t know why we were watching that crap, because I don’t remember reading it. When we finished watching it, for whatever reason our class decided to discuss who would take over for the President if he was killed or died and so on. We were laughing at how it was strange that the Secretary of Agriculture would take over if God-forbid the Presidential Line of Succession was to be needed. A student walked into our classroom and told the teacher what was happening. Because we were in a portable she couldn’t turn the news on, so we had to wait until our next class to see what was happening.

Looking back I realize how I didn’t understand what was happening. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. When I look at footage from 9/11, it blows my mind at how clueless I was. I had a teacher who had children who worked in the World Trade Center, and this same teacher had another child who was flying to New York that day. I remember seeing her running around school freaking out. Teachers aren’t supposed to freak out. I remember driving around with my best friend and flipping through radio channels and hearing Osama Bin Laden’s name for the first time.

9/11 is similar to Kennedy’s assassination in the way that you don’t forget where you were when it happened. You remember strange details about that day. I can tell you what seat in my English class I was sitting in, and where my friends were sitting too.

Two weeks after 9/11 my drama class took its annual field trip to NYC to see Broadway shows. A few parents didn’t want their children to go, but my mother (smartly) thought it was important that my sister and I go. Only a few kids dropped out of that trip–I think 2 or 3. My mother said if it was our time to go, it was our time to go.

I stood at Ground Zero while it was still smoking and it wasn’t until then that my seventeen year old brain began to process it all. I remember native New Yorkers yelling at us. Telling us it wasn’t a tourist site. To go away. To leave New York alone. I remember one of my teachers explaining to the New Yorker that it was important that we see the devastation so we could understand the evil and what happened.

While I still can’t understand the evil, I won’t forget the smoke and the ash that was still there after two weeks and beyond. The pain. The devastation.

Today, I couldn’t stop thinking about what that day was like for me (selfish), and trying to empathize as best I could with those children whose mother’s were pregnant with them as their father’s died, or those who survived and don’t know why. One of the most difficult things to face about 9/11 is the helplessness that the country experienced watching as the attack unfolded live before our eyes. So instead of feeling helpless, I’ve prayed that the victims, the family of the victims, and America one day find peace.

In Full Swing

Well, the Fall semester is in full swing. We’ve had our first rained out home football game, I’ve had to rearrange the seating charts in all three classes, and I’ve already written five referrals.  Welcome to secondary education.

When school started I told my students my year’s goal was to not write one referral. Well that was shot straight to hell when the principal announced that every time a student is late they get a referral. Very nice. Thank you first block.

Overall, things are good at the new school. The faculty is made up of predominately young teachers. This means there are very few teachers with that negative attitude where they are constantly bitching about the current state of education. While there always teachers that bitch about students and how awful teenagers are, there aren’t as many at my school. Most of the teachers don’t complain, they are, instead, proactive. It’s a very nice, positive change from the adjunct office.

I am struggling to adjust to things like hall passes, bells, and the PA system. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Teachers, please excuse this interruption,” I’d be rich. It’s weird being interrupted while teaching by the administration, the phone in my classroom ringing, and the bell. I don’t really like that aspect of it, especially since educators repeatedly hear “The time in the classroom is sacred.” I don’t see priests, pastors, and ministers being interrupted. Church is sacred. Right? I’m also not accustomed to students trying to talk over me and all the meetings and rules. Sometimes I forget they are teenagers and get really irratated during discussion when they  are talking over me and each other.

In this economy, however, I’m grateful to have something steady. I started working towards to my teaching license so that I can have high school teaching to fall back on. Still, high school is definitely not the end goal. It’s just not stimulating enough for me. I need higher level thinkers to talk to daily. High schoolers just aren’t there yet.

As you know, I feel very strongly that things happen for a reason. I’m pretty sure I’m teaching high school because I finally have some time to write. My life is slowly stabilizing, and it’s time to publish the crap out of  my writing.

I am busy as hell. I’m currently working as band staff, am a co-sponser of the creative writing club, and am training for a half marathon–not to mention, anything and all things wedding related. I like being busy. When I’m not busy, I don’t do anything. I’m totally unproductive. It’s awful. One of my best and favorite girlfriends from grad school and I have decided to begin exchanging writing to each other starting this month. I’m so grateful for this because 1) She is brilliant 2)I have someone to be accountable to 3) I have been itching for some feedback. Good feedback.

So far the energy for this school year feels right. I feel good.

It’s going to be a great year.