Monthly Archives: February 2012

Teaching the Pigs to Sing

Honest to God, you guys; I feel like barnyard the choir director.

image credit

The last few weeks have been an unending shit storm of apathy and belligerence.  Tuesday, for example, 4 out of my 25 freshmen actually did the reading I assigned.  FOUR.  Out of TWENTY FIVE.  They had a major project due – for which I’d given them at least 3 in-class opportunities to work – and only two of them were able to present the project on time (and of those two, one of them was so poorly done as to be laughable).

This morning, three of my 16 seniors read the article I posted on the website.  I should mention here that the reading was due Tuesday, but I extended the date to Thursday because no one had read the article on Tuesday, either.

The thing that astounds me about all of this is that no one can give us any indication of what the cause of the problem is or of how to fix it.

I’ve about had it with this shit; I’m disheartened, I’m tired, and I’m sick unto death of caring more about the students’ grades than they do.

Thank God vacation starts tomorrow.


Filed under dumbassery, failure, frustrations, General Griping, I can't make this shit up..., really?!, student chutzpah, That's your EXCUSE?!, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

Film and Lit

I’m about three weeks into the new semester, and even though the new Film and Literature class isn’t really off the ground yet, I’m starting to feel really good about the class.

The central focus of the class is systems and the ways in which they work – or not – on both a micro and macro level.  The kids will be reading What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson, A Time to Kill by Grisham, Orwell’s Animal Farm, and The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal and, as each story gets read, we’ll watch films that deal with many of the same big-picture ideas.  The kids will be working on reflective essays that get them to think beyond the plots of the stories and into some of the “so what?” questions the films and stories ask us to consider.

Last week, the kids watched Forrest Gump (a couple of them, surprisingly, for the first time).  Here’s the prompt I gave them:

Consider the interplay between the system and the individual. How do personalities affect the way we perceive the effects of a system on our lives, and in what ways do personalities affect the systems that act upon us? Consider the several characters in the film; how do they deal differently with the same stimuli, and how do their different responses affect the trajectory of their lives, and the lives of others?

How would YOU answer this question?

Tune in later; I’ll give you the Shawshank Redemption prompt….


Filed under analysis, composition, critical thinking, film as literature, lesson planning, Teaching

Ten Things Tuesday

I’m doing a low-pressure creative writing unit with my juniors and seniors while I wait for them to get the next book we’re going to read.  Here are ten prompts I’ve given them to work with:

1.  Write 6 (nice!) fortune cookie fortunes, then develop a short story around someone who receives one of your fortunes after their dinner date.

2.  Write a 6 word autobiography.

3.  Go to and peruse the offerings, then compose one (or two or more) of your own.  Keep in mind these don’t have to be YOUR secrets; you are free to write fiction here.

4.  Write a narrative from the perspective of an inanimate object – your car keys, the coffee maker, the door to the post office….

5.  Go to and peruse the offerings, then compose one (or two or more) of your own.

6.  Finish this sentence, “The worst part of my favorite thing is…” with a short story.

7.  Personify a color, an emotion, or a sound.

8.  Write from the perspective of your favorite fictional villan.

9.  Imagine someone in an unusual circumstance – say, a man wakes up one morning and remembers, fully and vividly, a past life experience, or a 9-year-old girl walks up to a stranger in a store and tells them something will happen that later turns out to happen.

10.  Write a five sentence short story.


Filed under about writing, Teaching

The Patron Saint of Charter High School

So, remember a few weeks ago I told you that Glen sent me a time turner?

Well, I made him a facebook friend and we’ve since gotten to know each other pretty well.  We’ve emailed back and forth, we’ve shared recipes, and we’ve become, I think, pretty close (well, close in the way people who’ve only met through the computer can be).  I have always strongly maintained that the very best part of keeping a blog is the community I’ve gathered as a result.  I’ve met some incredible people through my online writing; some of the most important people in my life, in fact.

Well, two weeks or so ago, CHS opened a wishlistr site and uploaded some things we need onto it.  A few days later, 150 rolls of paper towels were delivered, thanks to fermat.  I nearly burst into tears over the delivery, You Guys; it was a simple little bit of nothing that felt so incredibly generous and thoughtful, and it touched me in a way you wouldn’t expect paper towels could.

This would have been more than enough, but something else came today.  As I was in the kitchen getting my lunch, the receptionist was sorting the mail and handed me an envelope with my name on it from a publishing company.  I wasn’t expecting anything, so I opened it expecting to find a solicitation,  Instead, I found a disc.  On that disc is the APA manual with 10 licenses.  This disc was not free; it wasn’t even cheap, and here it was, in my hands.  I brought it out the social studies teacher, who requested the manual; he is beside himself.

Just when I start thinking that the bad well outweighs the good in the world, something like this happens.  Thank you, Glen; I really needed a shot of good today.


Filed under admiration, compassion and cooperation, I can't make this shit up..., out in the real world, the good ones