Monthly Archives: April 2009

Grammar Wednesday

Still no word on the charter school job.  I promise; as soon as I hear something, I’ll toss up a post here, even if I have to do it via my phone.

Here’s today’s Grammar Wednesday puzzle.  Can you tell me what’s wrong with this picture?


I stumped a couple of former students with it yesterday, but I suspect this is going to be easy for you.

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!


Filed under Grammar, out in the real world

Counting Chickens

I’m putting this post up at both The Blue Door and A Teacher’s Education, because I have the same story to tell, but I’m not sure that all of you cross over.

My interview ROCKED.  I left with the distinct impression that I’ll be offered the job, though I have to admit that I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that.  I also have to admit that I’m not certain exactly where my hesitancy is coming from, either, so you may have to just put up with me while I write my way through it.

The gig is at a tiny public charter high school in my town (Wayfarer, I’m betting that their charter is similar to yours; it’s heavily rooted in the arts).  The director is interested in me primarily, I think, because she feels that her curriculum lacks a strong foundation in critical thinking and analysis – which are things that my own personal curriculum is stuffed full of.  She’s looking for someone who can integrate the curriculum standards for the state into a program that draws from several different disciplines (the math, history/social studies, English, and science teachers all work together – so if, say, the social studies teacher is working on a unit about the 30’s and 40’s, the science teacher would work on the inventions or discoveries of that time, the English teacher would read novels and plays either written in or set in that era and the math teacher… well, I’m not sure WHAT the math teacher would do, exactly, but it would tie in somehow).  She’s also looking for someone who can give the students a strong foundation in critical reading and analysis, and the writing skills to go with it.

She’s also interested in someone who can create her own curriculum.  Basically, she said that her hope was to print out the state standards, hand them over, and let me do the rest.  The school doesn’t have to teach to the NCLB tests, so there’s not that nonsense to worry about.  Assessments are based far more on performance and demonstration of mastery than tests (which I love, because I hate writing tests almost as much as the kids hate taking them).  She was delighted when I told her about this, and she said that’s exactly the kind of thing she’s looking for.

I can totally do all of that.

I think that my biggest concern is the full-time nature of the job, though, to be fair, the hours required are just about perfect with my priorities as my girls’ mother.  Beanie will be in middle school next year, so she’ll be leaving the house with Punkin’ at 7:00.  The job requires that I be in the building by 7:30, and said building is about 6 minutes away from the middle school, so I don’t see a conflict there.  The girls would likely beat me home, but literally only by a few minutes.  The job also requires that I teach something other than my discipline (in my case, I’d be teaching yoga for the health and wellness program, and may be teaching introductory ASL, but I’ll have to look in to that; my ASL is a bit lot rusty).

I sent an email to my boss at Local U. explaining what’s going on with me and asking him if he’d be willing to stick me with night courses.  His response was pretty favorable – he actually said “You did a good job last fall, and I do want to keep you with us.” – so I’m thinking that I’ll not have to sacrifice my beloved L.U. job to go on this new adventure.

So, the upshot is that now I wait to hear back about whether or not I get the nod.  Trust me; as soon as I know, you’ll know.


Filed under concerns, critical thinking, job hunting, self-analysis


Guess what I’M doing this morning.  Yep, that’s right, boys and girls; Mrs. Chili is going on a job interview.  I’ve put on nice capri trousers and a pretty sleeveless sweater (with a jacket, of course) and I’m even considering mascara (those of you who know me in real life know that make-up is only for special occasions.  Really, it’s a wonder I even have the stuff at all…).

The gig is at a charter high school in my town.  I found out about it because the director of the school – her name is Carrie – is the mom of one of Punkin’ Pie’s friends, and the first time we met, about a year ago, we exchanged “what do you do” small talk; when she found out I’m an English teacher, she lit up like a Christmas tree, but nothing ever came of it.  A few weeks ago, we happened to bump into each other on the way out of the girls’ band concert, and Carrie asked me to email her my resume.  I did, she called back, and I’m going in to see her after I put Beanie on the bus this morning.

I’m not at all nervous.  I think I WILL be, though, if I get offered the job.  I’m not sure where my priorities should be; I’ve not really thought through the possibililty that I could actually be in the running for this position.  I’m not going to get ahead of myself, though; I’ll go in and talk to Carrie and wait and see what happens (though I probably WILL call Tom this afternoon to find out what my L.U. schedule is likely to be this fall; I’d like to have that information in hand if and before Carrie offers me a position).

And away we go!


Filed under colleagues, concerns, job hunting, Local U.

Grammar Wednesday

… two days early.

I COULDN’T wait to post this.

Here’s the scene; I’m at the computer waiting for the oven to beep telling me that the brownies are done, the girls are busy trying to move the huge box that the grill came in up to their room so they can turn it into a fort, and Mr. Chili is watching Pardon the Interruption on the TiVo.

“Babe!’ he yells, “you’ve GOTTA come in and see this!”

I come around the corner to see Tony and Mike telling us that the Washington Nationals baseball team sent out all their players in MISSPELLED UNIFORMS.  Observe:


Tony was incensed; he wants someone fired over it.  I think he’s right.

The question is, though, WHO gets fired?  How many people saw these things before they went out (on television and in front of who knows how many spectators) on the field?  Did the uniform company not catch it?  How about the manager?  One of the players?  The number of times this could have (SHOULD HAVE!) been caught – and wasn’t – is boggling my imagination.



Filed under dumbassery, failure, funniness, out in the real world, popular culture, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

Irons in the Fire

As of today, my resume is probably languishing in a charter high school, three area colleges, and the community adult education center in my town.


image credit

I’ve only heard back from one of place, and I’m suspecting it’s an automated “we got your resume” sort of email; there is nothing about it that distinguishes it as being sent by an actual person.

I’m strangely optimistic about my prospects.  I will, as always, keep you all updated as events occur!


Filed under job hunting, little bits of nothingness, out in the real world, self-analysis, winging it

Grammar Wednesday

This isn’t so much an error, really, as it is funny.

Mr. Chili called me on Monday to tell me that I needed to drive to the middle school, and that I needed to bring my camera.


He had brought Punkin’ Pie to school and was laughing that it looked as though the person who put up the signs for the local church is also the person who’s putting up the signs for the middle school.

We’re not Christians, but we’re very interested in the Scripture according to the holy book of April Vacation (verses 18-16)!


Filed under funniness, Grammar, out in the real world

Grammar Wednesday

I was at Local U., walking in front of a college student on my way back to my car the other day and listening to her talk to someone on the phone.

“So, David was like “where do you want to go?” and I was like, “I don’t know.  I DON’T want to go to Lisa’s” and he was like “Why?” and I was like “I don’t know; she’s just been bothering me lately.”  I mean, it’s not like I don’t like her or anything, it’s just, like, annoying lately, you know?”

I’m finding that I’m hearing people using the word “like” in a lot of inappropriate (and profoundly annoying) ways lately, and I’m trying to be mindful of my own speech to be certain that it’s not a habit I’m picking up unknowingly.  I’ve noticed that Beanie’s started in with it, too, and I’m trying to gently call her attention to it.

Where do you think this new use of the word “like” comes from?


Filed under bad grammar, concerns, Grammar, out in the real world, popular culture, self-analysis, speaking

The Dream Course: Questions and Suggestions

As I was sitting at the table last night trying to put together another few weeks’ worth of lesson plans, Mr. Chili wandered over and mentioned that I might want to restrict the number of films I actually show in class.

His point – and I think it’s an entirely valid one – is that students should come away from the class having learned something vuluable.  To that end, he thinks that a good portion of class time should be devoted to discussion and lesson and that film screenings should be limited to either pertinent scenes or films that aren’t readily available from Blockbuster.

While I get his point, I see a couple of problems with it.  First of all – and this doesn’t really matter a tiny little bit, but I’m getting it out there because it’s the first thing that occurred to me when Mr. Chili mentioned it – I’m pretty sure that your average student wouldn’t feel cheated by spending a significant portion of class time watching films.  *I* would, were I a student, but I’m not certain that the current culture would find an equal percentage of viewing vs. active instructional time a problem.

Second,  I’m not sure how to make less screen time work for a couple of reasons.  I don’t know if it’s reasonable to expect students to spend money to do their homework (an average movie rental is about 4 bucks in my neighborhood).  I don’t know if the films I’m asking the students to watch would be available in the kinds of quantities they’d need to be if a whole class were watching them at the same time (I mean, really; how many copies of Torch Song Trilogy do you think Blockbuster has?!).  While I don’t think that many students would object to watching movies as homework (I know *I* certainly  wouldn’t), I’d rather that they be writing as homework; if given a choice between a writing assignment and watching a film in class, I as the teacher would prefer the film (watching kids write is boring).

What do you think?  What would a reasonable percentage of class time spent viewing films be?  Is it feasible to just show clips of a movie instead of the entire piece?  (I’ve got a strong opinion on that, but I’m keeping it to myself until I hear what you all have to say.)  Would it be feasible to assign films for homework and run on the assumption that everyone can a) afford the rental fees b) find the film and c) watch it and pay enough attention to speak with reasonable intelligence about it days later?

This is a bit of a monkey in my works.  Help a Chili out, wouldja?


Filed under concerns, Dream Course, film as literature, Questions

The Dream Course; Part I

I don’t know how many of you would remember, but a while ago, I posted some musings about a film as literature course that I want to design to put in my arsenal of teaching ammo.  As I get ready to fire off my resume to a couple of different institutions of higher learning, I would like to get this course out of my head and onto paper so that I can pass it around and wow potential bosses.

I’m coming to you, as I usually do, to beg for your critique, your input, your stories, your suggestions, and your expertise.  For those of you who don’t know me very well, please understand that I’m a terribly collaborative person; I don’t take critique personally and I’m eager to learn from anyone who has anything to teach me.  If you think I’m heading in a bad direction or you think that one of my lessons could be improved by this or that, say so, please!

I’m going to post these as I put the class together and I’ll link them together under the category of “dream course.”  Nothing is ever “finished,” either; if you come back in a month and revisit an old post that you think you can improve, comment!  I have my comments automatically emailed to me, so I’ll be sure to get it.


I’m planning the class as a 15-week, three-meetings-a-week course (I figure it’s better to plan for the maximum number of potential classes and pare it down than to plan for 12-weeks, two-classes-a-week and have to expand it out).  So far, this is what I’ve got – keep in mind that this isn’t what I’ll give to students; it’s a sort of combination syllabus /lesson plans / discussion starters and notes kind of thing.  Okay, enough hedging – here it is:

Objectives. Students will:

• analyze works of fiction, poetry, and drama for plot, character, setting, conflict, theme, and point of view (the elements of fiction).

• apply analytical and critical thinking skills to investigations of both written and cinematic texts.

• acquire and apply the language of scholarly critique in discussion and written work.

• investigate the relationships – and the contrasts – between written and cinematic works.

• develop and practice active listening and observational skills.

• communciate clearly and effectively, both in speaking and in writing.


In this course, we will investigate a number of written and cinematic texts.  Through these investigations, we will find that there are a number of universal themes present in the stories that humans tell, and that many texts contain variations on several different themes at once.  Our encounters with the material of this course will offer opportunities for us to talk, think, and write about:




growth and change

morality and justice


Schedule (subject to change):

Week 1, Class 1

Introductions, syllabus, waivers (Chili’s note; some of the material may be objectionable (sex, violence, homosexuality, language) to some students; I intend to offer them full disclosure of the course material in the syllabus, and I’m going to have them sign an agreement to interact with those materials before the class begins), expectations, and required materials.  Whole-class discussion questions:

• Why do we love movies?  • What qualities and characteristics make a movie “good”?  •  What are some of your experiences with film and literature?  Do you prefer one over the other?  Why (or why not)?  • Do you have a favorite text-to-film adaptation?  A least favorite?  What criteria do you use to judge a film inspired by a text?

HW: Begin reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (students will read in 1/3 sections to complete the novel by the end of the week).  No written work due for class 2

Class 2

(themes; relationships, personal responsibility/accountability, choice)

Whole-class discussion:

• learning to see film and literature as separate – though related – works of art.  • Why do we feel the need to compare them?  • Why do we expect films to “follow the book,” and why are we disappointed when we feel they don’t?  • How do the experiences of reading and watching differ?  What parts of our brains are engaged in each activity (Chili’s note; is there research on this topic that anyone’s aware of)?  •  what are the strengths and shortcomings of both written works and films?

HW: read 2/3 of Frankenstein.  Answer critical thinking questions for class 3 (Chili’s note; I still haven’t thought these up yet; I’ll have to re-read the novel and make them up as I go).

Class 3: Frankenstein

Discussion of text, mostly student directed; what’s coming up for them?  What do they see as the major themes?  What intrigues/frustrates/excites/fascinates them?  Show the Hallmark Presentation of Frankenstein in the 2nd half of class.

HW: Compare and relate the film and text (Chili’s note; this is what they’re going to want to do, so I’m going to let them get it out of their systems early.  This may be the only time they get to explicitly compare text and film).  Finish last third of the novel for next class.

Week 2, class 4

* “Compare/relate” paper due

Show Branagh’s Frankenstein.  If time allows, discuss each film’s treatment of  what students determine are the themes of the text; how does (does?) each film portray what you see as the important points Shelley makes in her novel.  Where do you (do you?) feel the films get it “right” (or exceeds the novel) and where do you (do you?) think they fall short? (Chili’s note; if time does not allow, assign this as homework).

Deliver rubric for first paper, due class 6 (this will be a pure analytical response paper.  I’ll be looking mostly to get a feel for the students’ writing abilities and where they are in terms of being able to think analytically, rather than just offering up a personal review or a recap of the material).

Class 5

Poetry and discussion

• This story is 191 years old.  Why does Frankenstein still capture our imaginations today?  • What does the image of the Creature represent to modern audiences, and how, if at all, do you think that this is different from what Shelley’s contemporaries might have seen?  •What do the texts (written and visual) say about feminism?  Personal responsibility?  Agency and free will?  Choice? The idea that there are some things we aren’t supposed to know or be able to do?

•Relate the novel/films (either/or) to modern debates about things like cloning, stem cell research, and abortion.  • Finally, why does the Creature not have a name, and how does that inform how he functions in his world (Chili’s note, I’m bringing up the idea of self-identity with this question; how does our name, or the labels we apply to ourselves – or have applied to us – impact who we actually are and how others respond to us)?

Class 6

Finish Frankenstein; closing remarks; response paper due.

Hand out Brokeback Mountain.  Discussion:  • How does (does?) society impact our behavior?  • What is “normal”?  Who gets to make that standard, and how does it get transmitted/enforced?  • What is identity and how is it formed and expressed?  • Discuss the concepts of insiders/outsiders (haves/have-nots, mainstream/fringe, etc.).  • What risks are we willing (or not) to take in the search for the self?

Ugly Duckling handout; selections of love poetry, including pieces from the LGBTQ community (blog posts?  I’m looking for suggestions here)

In-class writing prompt: “I’ll tell you that I’m tolerant, but *blank* really makes me uncomfortable…”

Students will read Brokeback over the weekend.

Week 3, Class 7

Screening of Brokeback Mountain.  Students will answer critical thinking questions for class 8

Class 8

Critical thinking questions due.

Screening of To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Numar.

Class 9

Screening of Torch Song Trilogy

HW:  Analysis paper.  Discuss the different approaches each of the three films we saw this week took to the themes of love, self-identity, and acceptance, along with any other themes you believe were important in the films.  Address specific scenes that you feel were particularly effective for each of the themes, as well as any that you found to be distracting or difficult to follow.

There you have it, Dear Readers; my dream class so far.  What do you think?


Filed under Dream Course

Communication SHOULD Go Both Ways, Right?

Stop me if you think I’m wrong, but it seems to me that, given the ease of modern communication systems, it would be the exception rather than the rule that people in professional positions NOT respond promptly to emailed requests or concerns.

TWICE I have sent out emails – properly and politely worded but with no question that prompt action was expected on the part of the receiver – and twice I have received precisely bupkis in return.

Almost two months ago, I sent an email to Punkin’ Pie’s principal (say THAT three times fast!) with my concerns about not being able to reach my child during after school activities, and I’ve not heard a peep from the man, despite the fact that he’s seen me twice at school functions and Punkin’ asked him to get back to me (or, at least, she said she did – I can’t swear that she didn’t chicken out on that one).

Three days ago, I sent a polite and professionally-worded request to the president of TCC asking that the contents of my personnel file be photocopied (I want to have that information as I move forward in my job search), but I’ve not heard anything back from him, either.  I re-sent the email this morning, and cc’d two other folks in the office, just to get the point across that I’m serious about wanting this done sooner rather than later.

It’s impolite and unprofessional to ignore emails, especially if one’s job description includes communicating with employees or parents or constituents.  It’s not terribly difficult (or especially time consuming) to hit the “reply” button and, at the VERY least, zip back an “I got your message and am working on a solution” note.  Even if these people can’t attend to my concerns today, it would at least be nice to know that they received my messages and that I’ve not been completely blown off.


Filed under concerns, critical thinking, dumbassery, ethics, failure, frustrations, General Griping, job hunting, out in the real world, politics, Questions, You're kidding...right?