Saturday, December 31, 2005

Last Post of the Year

I have so much to write. Will I ever find time to write it all down? Hopefully, though I've had time for neither "A Sort of Notebook" nor "A Sort of Blog" lately.

I'm going to start posting my piano-practice times and reports again, when I can. George collected a lot of dust last semester, and I'm determined to give him more attention this year (a New Year's resolution?). Practiced last night for about an hour. The B-minor sinfonia (which I started last summer, then set aside after a couple of weeks, then picked up again a couple of weeks ago) is fun. It's so different from the G-minor sinfonia, but it's a treasure in itself. I'm also excited about starting the Liszt in January. I haven't played much Liszt, so it'll be fun to explore something new.

I'm so glad I still take piano. I love having the chance to learn all of these beautiful pieces that I've always wanted to play. Sure, I could teach them to myself, but I like having a teacher who will guide me and push me beyond my own standards.

Hope everyone has a happy new year! We'll be celebrating with friends, but I can't party too hard ... school starts back on Monday.

More to come!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Life Lately

At the request of my mom, and practically everyone I saw when I was back home in the Gret Stet of Loo-zee-ana, I'm trying to blog more often, even if just to update my loved ones on my life.

It's quiet here. I like that. :)

Christmas: We had a nice Christmas in Louisiana. I was a little reluctant to come back to the frigid North of the North Carolina mountains (when you grow up in south Louisiana, everything north of Shreveport is "up north." Heck, even Shreveport is "up north," now that I think about it.) We've been back for a few days, and I've been very busy cleaning house, practicing piano when I can, and planning for next semester. I've been so busy, in fact, that I am only just now downloading tunes for the newest member of the family, my iPod nano.

Louisiana: I wanted to go to New Orleans and see some of the damage with my own eyes, but it was not to be. I picked the Hubster up at the New Orleans airport, but I had a lunch date with friends back in Baton Rouge, and we didn't have time to go down there. I was disappointed, but somehow I doubt it will be much changed when I go back down to visit this summer.

Friends: I got to visit a number of friends in the week that I was down there. Had lunch with my IEM friends Staci and John, but unfortunately didn't get to see Weaz, Kim, Becky, and a few others I'd hoped to see. On Christmas Eve, I got to visit briefly with Brad, a.k.a. Sojourner. Christmas night, Hubster and I met my high school friends Erv, Jan, Andye, and Mary at a bar in Baton Rouge and had a great time visiting with them. I must say, my high-school friends are looking pretty good. They don't seem to have aged a bit. Really. And they're all so successful. I an a very proud friend. The next day, I had lunch with my old friend Kris and got to see pictures of her little ones.

On our way home, Hubster and I stopped in Jackson to visit/meet my long-lost Cousin Stacey. She and I have e-mailed and followed each other's blogs for over a year now, but we'd never met in person before. We also got to meet her husband, Drew. Too bad Aunt Donna and Jennifer couldn't get to Jackson in time, 'cause we had to head to NC and missed seeing them.

Piano: Because my life wasn't stuffed full of work-related tasks, I was able to practice piano a few times while at home, and practiced a good hour today. As a result, I had the best piano lesson today that I've had in months. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. I've resumed work on Bach's B-minor Sinfonia (#15), and I "completed" the G-minor Sinfonia after months of 40 minutes per week of practice time. Slow progress is ... progress, if nothing else. We're going to add a short piece for me to work on during next semester; both Deborah and I are leaning toward Liszt's gorgeous transcription of Schubert's "Standchen." It's not too hard and will be something good to work on when I have so little time for practicing.

iPod: You would not believe what I'm downloading tonight. Dance mixes. Club mixes. Whatever you call them. Disco and eighties music with a drum machine beat to it. Not my cup of tea, usually, but it's the perfect music for working out on Stairmaster or the elliptical machine. And cleaning house. Two of my annual New Year's resolutions are to (1) work out more, and (2) be a better housekeeper, so who knows, maybe club mixes are just the thing I need to get me going.

Teaching: They've added a fifth class to my teaching load: SAT Prep. I'm not particularly stressed about it. I was looking through the materials today and was amazed at how many vocabulary words I knew. When did I learn them? How did I get so smart? I amaze myself. Seriously, the class that's requiring the most preparation is composition. But before I begin rambling about school ... I'll just promise a school-only post a little later, either tomorrow or early next week.

School begins in four days. So enjoy this lengthy post while you can. :)

Hubster: I'm madly in love with him--still, after these 2+ years of wedded bliss. Amazing, isn't it!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

I Can Now Satisfy That Craving ...

Ah, I'm happy to announce that one of my lifelong cravings can now be satisfied with the mere touch of a screen.

Santa brought me an iPod. I didn't even ask for one. How cool is that?

Anyway, I occasionally get the strangest cravings to hear "Stars and Stripes Forever." I know. It's strange. Other march music, too: Radetzky March, Anchors Aweigh, etc. Even the "Grand March" from Aida. I generally have to satisfy my craving by humming the music in my head. Marching tunes among the best of hummed tunes for hiking, in my opinion.

So. You can probably guess which selections were the first to be downloaded onto my iPod.

I'm a sick, sick woman. I'm going to listen to "Pomp and Circumstance" now.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Not Exactly Clamoring

People aren't exactly clamoring for me to start blogging again, but when I checked my e-mail today for the first time in nearly a week, I had quite a few e-mails from people I don't even know, saying that they really love my blog and wish I wouldn't quit blogging. Why, even Coturnix says he'd like to see me blogging again.

So. Not exactly clamoring, but giving me a pleasant little ego-trip all the same. (Thanks, by the way!)

If I'm online more next semester, I'll blog more. I promise. I guess I'm just an all-or-nothing kind of person, though. If I can't be a good blogger, and if my blog can't be educational and insightful, then I'd rather not blog at all. I don't want to blog the minutiae of my everyday life, day in and day out. Some bloggers do just that and have good blogs, but it wouldn't be a good blog if I were to do it.

I've been writing in my Sort-of Blog, but it's becoming infested with lesson plans. Christmas holidays have been good, but I'm feeling pressure to plan for next semester. It's very frustrating because of the roadblocks that have been put in my way (no English class on Fridays, seniors gone five weeks of second semester, etc.). Oh, and another class (SAT Prep) has been added to my schedule. That means that this first-year teacher now has five classes to plan and teach next semester. Sigh. I feel like I'm going to have a panic attack, just thinking about it.

I owe e-mails to many of you, dear readers, and I'm sorry I haven't written. As has been the case for the last few months, I'm not online much and have never been good about returning e-mails anyway. I'm also feeling very electronically antisocial.

I'm home in Plaquemine for the holidays and enjoying being with family. That's part of why I haven't had much time for the computer lately.

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

My Notebook

I bought a real, live notebook. No, not one of those electronic gadgets they call "notebooks." I bought a notebook. A spiral-bound, one subject, 100-page, college-ruled notebook with a red cover and a pocket folder in the front.

It's my new journal. My new real-life journal.

Whenever I buy a new notebook for a journal, I give it a title. I always give these titles a lot of thought. After about four seconds of deep deliberation, I titled my new journal "A Sort of Blog."

Heh ... just had to share that for the fifteen of you who still visit each day!

And now I slip back into blobscurity ...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The End!

This is my last post. Already I feel this wonderful sort of relief, not to be wondering about daily hits, not to be concerned with whether I'm a rodent or an amphibian in the TTLB Ecosystem. No, I actually haven't even looked at my own blog but once in the last four days.

Thanks again to all of you who have visited. Bye now!

Best of Waterfall

I don't know if this is really a "best of" list. The posts listed below consist of my favorites, along with several that were most often linked by other sites. Enjoy!

MUSIC POSTS

Beautiful!: The story of why I used to hate J.S. Bach

Pianokeysia: A humorous story about piano addiction

Cursed Animosity: Trials and tribulations of learning contrary-motion scales

Severus Bach: A dream about Bach

Wherefore Art Thou George?: How my piano got its name

Casals on Bach: Pablo Casals on J.S. Bach

Castrati Bad. Composer Good. Happy Birthday, Papa Haydn.: How Haydn almost became a castrato

The Beatles Invasion of 1985: My discovery of the Beatles

Latch-Key Piano: Fun with children


WRITING/POETRY POSTS

The Romance-Writing Career that Wasn't: Why I decided not to be a romance writer

Alas! Forsooth! A Golden Poet Story!: The extent of my fame as a poet

Adoption Birthday Poem: Where I'm From: My "Where I'm From" poem

Prufrock Thoughts and Mitty Moments: Neuroses shared with great writers and poets


OTHER THOUGHTS & STORIES

Rodent in Residence: A short piece about my cat, Beau, and some of the friends he picks up

A Humory: A happy-birthday story for my dad

Vestis Virum Reddit: A rather long piece about my poor fashion sense

May the Sexiest Candidate Win: My commentary on the '04 elections

Giddy: A happy post

Two Chopin Trips, and a Jealous Sister: More on my poor fashion sense

2004: The Necessary Year: A recap of 2004

Beach Reading and Mating Signals: How a studious nerd picked up a hot lifeguard

Homesick: Places I love

In My Birthmother's Words: A post by my birthmother

J-Hat Cleaning Frenzies for a P-Brain: Fun post regarding MBTI personality types

No, I Wil Not Be the Next Falz: Memories of a high-school English teacher

Big Fat: Memories of when I was fat

Cafe Teria: My first non-professional job after a decade of professional jobs

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Classroom Pictures

I've received several e-mails reminding me that I'd promised to show pictures of my classroom on this blog. I don't know why it matters, and I hate to post because I said I wasn't posting anymore, but here goes. These are pictures of my classroom, for the two-and-a-half of you who e-mailed me, plus any others who are interested.



This is a very nice semicolon ("Mr. Semicolon") that the students can pet, or talk to, or smile at when they walk into my room. We love semicolons in my class. We especially love Mr. Semicolon.



This is the "view" from my desk. The big purple banner ("Turn the pages of your imagination. READ!") keeps falling, so I'm going to attack it with extra-strength duct tape this weekend. The bulletin board on the right displays a genetics project that my science class did. It's since been replaced with a "life in a drop of pond water" display of protist mugs.



Here's one of my two bulletin boards. This one is devoted to composition and English. I've changed the ugly English half (on the right side) since this picture was taken. It looks much better now, as it features drawings from my students' English Renaissance projects.



This is where Yours Truly paces while giving her brilliant lectures (ha). I've since added a portrait gallery that runs along the top of the whiteboard. It features whatever poets we're studying in English Lit and Fundamentals of Lit. I'll also add pictures of other writers and of scientists to make the "portrait gallery" more relevant to my composition and science students.

So, those are my classroom pictures. It'll be a much more exciting classroom next year when I actually have some time to plan and set it all up before school starts. It's a pretty good classroom, though. Nice and roomy.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Can't Shut Down Completely

Well, I was going to dismantle this blog altogether, but it looks like p*rn sites have a way of taking over discarded URLs. So, "A Sort of Notebook" will exist as long as Blogger exists, I suppose. If I get to a point where I want to blog again, well then, it'll be here for me. Thanks to all for your comments and e-mails.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Welcome to my Classroom



Here' s my door shower curtain. My doors are supposed to arrive in about three weeks. Some kids have taken to running down the long hallway and sliding into the room on their stomachs. Ah, those crazy kids.

More pictures later!

"Your So Dumb!!!"

That sentence is my pet peeve today. I saw it written down at school. I'm pretty sure it wasn't directed at me, seeing as I'm the brilliant Mrs. Waterfall and all.

"Your so dumb." It just makes ya shake your head, know what I mean?

Somehow I Figured This ...

You scored as Hamlet. An intense, creative person, your moods swing up and down like a yo-yo. You appear eccentric to those who don't know you well, but there is a method to your madness.

Hamlet

79%

Romeo

71%

King Lear

42%

Brutus

38%

Macbeth

38%

Othello

29%

Which Shakespearian Tragic Hero Are You?
created with QuizFarm.com

I'm Still Here!

I've been grading papers and essay tests like a madwoman. Not really, but I do feel surgically attached to my paper-grading pen these days. Today is going to be a free day for most of my students. I gave several tests yesterday, and we start completely new units on Monday. Today's a half-day because it's the last day of the six-week period.

Someone mentioned to me that "you really should go to work for the public school system" because they pay more and have benefits. But the truth is, unless we move or I get fired, I don't want to leave my school. It's not a public/private school thing, it's simply the fact that my school is a wonderful place to work. I love it way too much to want to leave. Plus, I think that (wonder of wonders!) I'm really teaching some of these kids.

One other thing: I want to play a role in our school's goal to become a School of Excellence. I'm such a geek. I can't help it. I just love the idea of academic excellence. I think I was indoctrinated at a young age, since the school that educated me was a School of Excellence and was always letting everyone know it.

School is almost relaxing now that I have my own classroom. It has made such a difference. I'm taking my digital camera to work with me today so I can get some pictures. Of course, dear readers, I shall share them with you once I've downloaded them.

Did I mention that they may put a piano in my room?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Morning Music

I think things are starting to come together. I think I'm going to be able to get several doses of music in this week, even though I have a huge stack of papers and tests to grade before the weekend (this week ends our six-week grading period).

I'm no longer having to get up at 4:30 a.m. to plan. And I actually got to sleep before midnight last night. I got to school early today--around 7:30--which meant that I had about 20 minutes to play Chopin on the clunker piano in the cafeteria. Oh, my. It's the worst piano ever. I'm trying to think of a good name for it, but all I can think of is "Clunk."

But still, I played Chopin and Bach. The Chopin didn't sound so bad because it has so many pedaled chords anyway. But the Bach sinfonia sounded awful. Bach should never be played, I have concluded, on a poor piano. It sounds awful, and it's an insult to the great master himself.

I have a lot to blog ... naturally, this revival of piano-practice has sent my brain waves crashing around inside my head ... but I need to plan today's review lesson for science.

Does This Mean Aragorn Might Fall for Me?

Elvish



To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla

I found this at Rohirrim Pious Agnostic's blog.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Another Thirty Minutes!

This is a true miracle. I wrote the Renaissance Lit test, developed the study guide, and created an essay-revision exercise for my composition class, based on their in-class essays from Friday. I planned my English Lit class's penultimate Macbeth lesson and made a grading sheet for my ninth-graders' presentations tomorrow. I planned everything. And I still managed to squeeze in 30 minutes of piano practice this evening.

Folks, this means that I practiced piano for nearly five hours this weekend. Last month, I doubt that I logged that many hours for the entire month. Who knows, I may not get to practice again for several days. But still, I'm looking forward to my piano lesson this week.

Two More Hours!

Yes, folks! It's a miracle! I practiced for two more hours today!

I have a ton of stuff to do for school, but you know what? It can wait.

Here are some things I've given up because school takes up such a huge chunk of my life:

- piano
- my novel
- time with Hubster
- time with friends
- exercise
- sleep (because I'm so wired)
- blogging
- hiking
- any semblance of a spiritual life

I know, it doesn't make for a very balanced life. Now that I have my classroom, things are starting to get much better. Plus, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are just around the corner.

A thought just came to me this morning: I'm not going to be a first-year high-school teacher all my life. Just this year. And this school year is almost half over.

I am soooo looking forward to Year #2 of teaching. It will have to be easier than this year has been.

I think I'll go for a walk now.

Links Updated

I've been updating links on this blog for the past couple of days, on and off. Some were no longer good, and some are links I simply don't visit much anymore. I was sad to see that the Piano Education Page is no longer functional. I used it a lot when I was in Cubicle Land.

I haven't touched the blogroll, so my next goal is to visit everyone and see whose blogs are still functional. I have a "core" of blogs that I've continued to visit regularly (meaning, once every couple of weeks or so), but it's been a while since I've darkened the e-doors of others.

Before I do that, though, I need to write a study guide for next weeks Renaissance Literature test!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Two Hours!

I practiced for two hours today! I just happened to have two hours free (how rare of an occasion is that?), so I went to George's room and practiced, practiced, practiced. The Bach g-minor sinfonia (the one I've been practicing for thirty minutes a week since late August) sounds so gorgeous ... it's amazing, the difference that a couple of intense practice sessions will make.

I played all of the contrary motion scales, all the way through, just for fun. Just because I can.

Then I went back and played the Chopin Bb-minor nocturne, my Mozart piece from last year, the Dett, and the E-flat sinfonia. It's sooooo nice to just play, and to play something other than that three-chords-per-song praise band music I play on Sundays. It was so nice to practice. Practicing Bach is like doing yoga for the brain. I stretch muscles I never realized I had.

I love my beloved, bewigged, and bejowled one. Housework and dinner just seem so insignificant in comparison with the beauty of those three voices intertwining in the sinfonia. So ... I can make dinner, or I can practice. Hmmm ...

I'll practice for a few more hours minutes, and then I'll make some grub.

A Weird Thing about Contrary-Motion Scales

Remember how much trouble I had learning contrary-motion scales last year? I even had a nightmare about them. Remember?

I worked so hard on those crazy scales. I wasn't sure why it was important for me to learn to play things like c#-minor in contrary motion, but I trusted Deborah (my piano teacher) and practiced, practiced, and practiced. I can honestly say that I have never worked harder on anything in my life, piano-wise, than contrary-motion scales. It was like I had musical dyslexia or something. They just didn't make sense to me. I spent dozens of hours playing through those things at a snail's pace. This is not typical for me. I generally pick things up on the piano pretty quickly. But contrary-motion scales were a whole different ballgame.

I suppose things "clicked" at some point, but it was a very slow "click."

I've practiced so little since school started. I'm still going to lessons, but sometimes my once-a-week "practice lesson" is the only practice I get for the week. I've all but abandoned contrary-motion scales, after all that hard work.

But do you know what? Each week, when Deborah asks me to play a different contrary-motion scale ... I play it. I play it perfectly. I play it at a fast pace. I don't make a single mistake. Even with the tricky ones like c#-minor and e-flat minor. It's like all that painstaking practice has carved those scales indelibly into my brain. I doubt that I'll ever forget them.

How cool is that? I'm going to stop blogging and go practice now!

Naxos.com (and Music) Revisited

Ahhh ... it's back. Yesterday, I welcomed Naxos.com back into my life.

My one-year "membership" to Naxos.com ended months ago, but I didn't renew it because I wasn't on the computer often enough to enjoy it. Now that I have a school computer, things are different. Yesterday was the first time I really got to sit down and play on my computer-- change the desktop, make an "I love semicolons" marquee for a screensaver, set up some favorites, etc.

A top priority was gladly parting with $19.99 for a year's worth of full Naxos.com access.

Right now I'm listening to a cello-piano version of the gorgeous Liszt transcription of Schubert's "Standchen."

It's making my fingers itch to practice piano. And it's giving my brain cabin fever. It wants to go explore music history and theory.

Part of it might be that, yesterday, in the middle of a one-on-one session about sentence structuring, a student asked me a question about music theory. Next thing I know, I'm at the board, drawing a music staff with a treble clef and a bass clef, and explaining how most of the "top notes" correspond to the right hand on the piano, and how most of the "bottom notes" are left hand.

So he asks, "So, do some chords sound better with others? You know, are there like chord sequences or something that you can memorize because they sound good?"

Next thing I know, we're upstairs at the piano, and I'm explaining the joy of cadences and the circle of fifths.

So. I now have a classroom, I'm now a bit better at lesson planning, and I now have naxos.com back. And, I have a student who is interested in learning about music. It's opened a little crevice in my busy brain, and lo and behold, some music has seeped in. Who knows what'll come next ... maybe even a music-related blog post or two.

Imagine that! Woo hoo!

My only real concern is that I'll get manic and start my crazy emotional reeling from extreme to extreme. For some reason, music, more than anything else, seems to have that effect on me.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Four Years Ago

Four years ago this weekend, I fell in love with a crazy hiker man who was on his way, by foot, from Ohio to California. I ended up marrying him a couple of years later.

Here's what we looked like then:



Happy Falling-in-Love Anniversary, Hubster!

Best. Students. Ever.

I love my students. I really do. Every last one of them.

My composition students are awesome; they are intelligent, disciplined, and willing to work. I just read the in-class essays that they wrote today and noted that their writing skills are really beginning to show improvement. They're making fewer and fewer errors in the realm of "low-order concerns" (grammar, punctuation, etc.), and we're able to focus more on the "high-order concerns" (structure, organization, content, etc.). I don't know how much influence I've had, really, but I was impressed with these in-class essays on the whole. One student may have had a mediocre essay but a searing introduction. Another may not have worked out her thoughts clearly, but had one lone paragraph that articulately posed original and thought-provoking questions. Most of the essays were like that: none of them perfect, but all with bits and pieces that just shone through, like glints of mica in rock.

Does this excite me? Yes, it does! I know. I'm easily amused. It's really sad. I probably need to get a life. But writing is a difficult, time-consuming thing to teach (which is why most English teachers avoid it like the plague), and it's just thrilling to witness little bits of improvement here and there in my students. I have no doubt in my mind that, if they continue to work hard, the seniors in this class will be more than capable of excelling as writers on the college level.

And no, it's not because I'm a good teacher. I've been good on some days, and not so good on others. They're improving because they've been willing to do the work and (especially) to put up with my ridiculous red-pen hemorrhages on their drafts every two weeks.

OK. Time time put down the red pen and take off my teacher-nerd hat. It's the weekend. I'm not going to think about school again until Monday morning.

(Yeah ... who really believes that?!)

Made It

School's over. I made it. We all made it. Friday wasn't as horrible as expected. We had a very moving chapel period, a memorial service for a student who was killed in a car accident about a year ago, November 13, 2005. Now I'm in my classroom, listening to the Goldbergs and just resting before I head home.

Life is good.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Tomorrow is Friday ...

... and I am dreading it. I've logged about 2 hours of sleep every night this week. School has been good, but trying. I lost my temper a little bit in one class today. Not really ... I just got frustrated with a few students and made it clear to them that I was frustrated.

I was so tired that when my composition class said, "We're all grammared out" after a whole 20 minutes of grammar, I said, "OK" and basically let them chat for the rest of the period.

I'm so tired right now, but I have that jittery-manic feeling that tells me my body won't want to sleep until 4 a.m. again. I would call in sick tomorrow, but I want to save my sick days for real sick days.

A student said today that I'm one of the hardest-working teachers at the school, and I guess maybe I am. If I did any less work, though, I'd be the most unprepared teacher in the school. I guess that all goes with the territory of it being my first year and my teaching so many different classes that I've never taught before. And it probably doesn't help that I hold myself to notoriously high standards.

Or maybe there's some kind of formula or something that I, with my all-book-sense and no-common-sense brain, haven't figured out yet.

Or maybe I just need to sleep for a week.

Lessons Learned

I think some of the parents at the school think of me as Mean Old Mrs. Waterfall. I give too much homework. I’m expecting too much of their children. I push these students too hard. My standards are too high. I’m entirely too stingy with A’s when I give out grades.

Maybe these things are true. I’ve asked the administration to tell me when I go too far, and no one’s said anything yet—except that it might do to ease up on the homework a bit. So I have. Just a bit.

For essays, I always require a draft and a final. The draft doesn’t count, gradewise, toward the final; their draft grade is a “dummy grade,” an indicator of where their essay stands so far. I bleed a red pen all over the draft—all instructions, observations, and suggestions for them to consider for their revision. Students who take those red-inked comments to heart and use them end up with A’s and B’s (and no, I’m not that stingy with A’s … on revisions, at least). Students who don’t consider them, or who don’t revise at all, end up with the same grade, or a lower grade than the draft.

It is a hard job, particularly now that I’ve come to love my students. I hate giving anything lower than a B. It pains me, literally (though they would never believe this!). I particularly hate giving the really bad grades. I handed back a D-minus paper yesterday, and the look on the kid’s face made me want to go scratch out the “D-” and replace it with a big “B+” and a smiley face.

I don’t like to see anyone suffer, but at the same time … their revisions are always so much better than their drafts. Usually. I’ve also found that, if a student really makes an effort, they’ll find that they’re capable of getting a good grade out of Mean Old Mrs. Waterfall.

For some reason, all of this reminds me of a tech writing job I once had. My assignment was to work with a bunch of retired Army guys on a literature review for some important department in the U.S. Government, like the Department of Defense. The literature review was supposed to cover a very specific aspect of U.S. military readiness. These HOOAH-shouting military guys researched everything under the sun, from secret military documents to The Hot Zone and, in the end, had looked at several hundred documents, most of them written within the previous ten years.

Their job, then, was to group them according to general topic, and to rank them according to importance to present to the DoD, or whoever. My job was to take all of their data, organize it, and put it into a clear, easy-to-read document that named each report researched, summarized it briefly, and later indicated its importance in the great scheme of military-readiness literature out there.

We had a guy working on MS Access who was supposed to somehow rank, based on into the HOOAH guys gave him, that importance of each document and category through some big statistical algorithm thing. I don’t know if he screwed up or if MS Access ended up to be the wrong tool, but, at the last and worst possible moment, this rank approach failed.

Panic ensued. This was nearly ten years ago; the company was small and resources were limited. How could we work out this ranking thing?

They asked me to see if I could figure out a way to do it in MS Word using forms or something.

I know. Word? Word may be great for word-processing, but big ole algorithms? They were trying other approaches, too. Word was a harebrained idea, but they asked me to seriously consider it and see what I could come up with. It was urgent. We had a deadline looming.

So I did what all exhausted, overtaxed tech writers do on PMS. I went to my car and drove around town, bawling and feeling overwhelmed while playing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” at full blast. Then I went to a coffee shop and drowned my sorrows in a latte. Then I went back to the car and cried all the way back to work.

Then … a miracle. I somehow came up with exactly what they needed. In Microsoft Word, of all things. We were up for probably 16 hours, putting the information in, but it worked. We did what we needed to do, I incorporated all of the new info into a polished final report, and we submitted it to the government.

The report got much praise. Of course, no one said, “Wow, that must be one heck of a tech writer who wrote this report!” No, it was the HOOAH guys that got all the glory. But the HOOAH guys made it clear that I’d played a vital role in the report’s success.

If they hadn’t challenged me to do the impossible, I never would have spent nearly an hour in my car, crying in a blind panic and drowning my groans in ear-splitting music. But I also never would have met the challenge—something I didn’t at first know I could do.

It was an amazingly good feeling—though unbelievably painful at the time—to be pushed beyond what I knew to be my limits. Also, once I'd met that challenge, my confidence and capabilities seemed to go through the roof. And that is the point of this story. The other point is that I want to push these kids just a tad beyond what they think they can do. Even those kids who have been labeled “learning disabled” may find that they’re more capable than they thought they were. And the ones who are smart may find that they’re capable of any challenge they put their mind to, as long as they’re willing to push themselves.

Maybe I am pushing them too hard. But I know one thing: my students are learning and improving. And that’s what was hired to help them do.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Macbeth Test on Thursday!

My classes have their test on Macbeth next Thursday. We'll finish the play a week from today.

It's dragged on and on, thanks to school cancellations, volleyball regional tournaments, class assemblies, etc., and I still wonder if we'll ever finish it.

At the same time, I'm kind of sad to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've really enjoyed teaching Macbeth. At first, I was disappointed because I'd much rather teach Hamlet or Othello or Lear, but Macbeth has turned out to be great fun. I learned, reading it, that I'd never read it all that closely before--even though I've read it for several classes in the past.

I guess it's true what they say, that you never really, truly learn something until you have to teach it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Class Observation

My class got observed today. I was getting ready to start English Lit during fourth period, and another teacher came in to sit and do an evaluation. I was nervous because I wasn't as prepared as usual; we were covering the end of Act III of Macbeth, which I think of as "in-between" scenes--they're not as meaty as those immediately preceding or immediately after. So, instead of crafting a detailed lesson plan last night, I focused instead on finishing up the grading of their literary analysis essays.

The class went all right, though. It wasn't one of my best classes, but it wasn't bad, either. Probably a 6.5 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Later, for sixth period, he came in and watched my ninth-grade English class. I was nervous again. I taught on Emily Dickinson's "She Sweeps with Many-Colored Brooms" and on pronouns and antecedents. The class went pretty well. Afterward, the evaluator told me I'd done a great job, but that we'd need to have a meeting to discuss the evaluation later this week.

I told him that, as much as I like and need praise, that I really wanted him to tell me, in detail, what I'm doing wrong and what I can do better. I've taught college, but most of my adult life has been spent outside of the classroom. I'm new to this experience, and I need to know where I can improve.

I'm tired now. I handed back the English Lit papers, but now I have a batch of composition papers that I need to return before fifth period tomorrow, in time for peer editing. At least I've written the peer editing sheet.

For now, I have a science quiz and an English Lit quiz to write, and then I'm free to go to the coffee shop and do what I do best most: grade papers.

Monday, November 7, 2005

I'm a Little Hiker, Short and Stout

I just got this picture from my friend eArThworm, taken at Trail Days 2005, just before I started my two-week hike on the AT. It's kind of a cheesy picture, but I thought y'all might enjoy a non-teacher pic for a change!



Meanwhile, I'm back to grading literary analysis essays. It's kind of neat to read them; most of these kids have never written a literary analysis before. It's exciting, for me at least, to help them learn how to do this.

More later.

Oh yeah, my first day in the new classroom was wonderful!

Sunday, November 6, 2005

The School Family

My last post made it sound like my school has been beating me to death all year. I didn't mean for it to sound that way. The work for the new classroom would never have gotten done if moms, dads, and students hadn't shown up. Two of my ninth-graders did a bunch of the painting, several moms and dads helped with the scraping, clearning, painting, hauling, etc. You hear the cliche' about a school or workplace being "like a big family," but it really is in this case.

I love these people. I love this job. I can honestly say that I love this job more than any job I've ever had. And these kids and their families are a big reason that I love it so much.

I love my administrators, too. I've been blessed with some good, kind, and competent bosses in the past, but no one is better than my principal and vice-principal. I love these people. We private-school teachers don't make much money, but I think I'd work for these people for free if they asked me to ... of course, the Hubster might not go for that idea!

So, I just wanted to make it clear that I wasn't complaining about the school in my previous post. I was just explaining how things have been for me ... and how much life is going to improve from now on!

No More Left to Give

I was supposed to play with the praise band at church this morning (like I do every Sunday), but I just called and told them I couldn't do it. That I'd be at church, but that there was no way I could make it the hour early to practice with the others. That I hoped they could do without the piano today.

I'm just exhausted. Completely exhausted. Really. This morning when I woke up, I felt as if I were made of lead. Maybe I'm in one of my bipolar lows, but I don't think so. I think this is just plain, normal physical and mental exhaustion.

Part of it is relief. I guess I had become accustomed to the stress of living out of a bag for two and a half months. When I first started teaching at this school, I felt like I was in a chronic state of panic because I had nowhere to lay my head, nowhere to place my stuff, no privacy, no little space to do my work. It's like I could never just stop and just breathe. I adopted the big conference table in the foyer as my "landing strip" for a while, but it became the spot for displaying science projects. It didn't do to plan lessons among bug collections and scale models of cells, so I moved.

For the last month, I've been doing my lesson plans at student desks in other teachers' classrooms.

If I try to do work at a coffee shop or at home, I have to carry everything with me: all the books, all the essays, the big three-ring planning binder, the red pens, the calculator, the liquid paper, the grade book, the assignment, the grading rubric, etc., etc., etc. Inadvertently I always end up forgetting something, so I'm running back to my car to find what fell out of the big bag I carry.

Or, I'll get to school to learn that I've left something of vital importance--my grade book, or the science tests the kids are supposed to take in an hour--at home. So it's back into the car for the 30-minute drive back home, with hopes that I'll make it back to school before second period.

Part of the problem, too, is that I'm naturally a very scatterbrained, unorganized person. All of this is in addition to the fact that my house is a wreck and I can never find my keys.

It has been very stressful, but I feel like I've become accustomed to it. I've almost become accustomed to the fact that sometimes I'll be so harried that I'll forget to assign homework or hand back homework. By the time sixth and seventh periods roll around, I'm edgy and irritated--NOT a typical way for me to be. And I think my classes suffer from my stress level, and from the fact that my school life is in a constant state of uncertain suspension.

So when I saw my classroom yesterday--that huge classroom, the largest in the school, big enough for a bunch of desks, two lab tables, and loads of storage--something in me just shut down. It didn't happen immediately; part of me still couldn't believe this classroom was really mine. But then, that tightly wound sense of stress that's kept me going just snapped sometime last night, and told me, "OK. You can relax now."

So this morning my body felt like lead. It still feels like lead, though I've managed to get a shower and start getting ready for church. I hope I have the energy this afternoon to write a science test, grade a bunch of essays, and finish moving in to the new classroom. It would be nice to have a weekend in which I could rest, though. Because I don't have much left to offer to anyone right now.

Maybe next week I'll be back on track.

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Just To Let You Know

I just played the piano for an hour. Now that the classroom is here, I think I feel sufficiently relaxed to do such a thing.

It was wonderful. I've been practicing tiny little bits and pieces of Bach per 5-minute practice session over the last two months. It was nice to play the whole piece at once, all the way through.

Then I played my Chopin Nocturne that I learned while living in Cubicle Land. I still have it. Yay!

I'm exhausted. I need to put a second coat of blue paint on the cabinet tomorrow after church, plus I want to move a bunch of books in and do one of the bulletin boards. Oh yeah, and I have sixteen literary-analysis papers to grade before Monday. Gotta get 'em done before then, because my comp students are turning in their exemplification essay drafts on Tuesday.

Ack ... and I almost forgot, I need to write the week's lesson plans. Sigh.

I need a good night's sleep tonight.

It's Here!

It's here, it's here! My classroom is here! Am I happy? Why yes, I believe I am!



I went to the school this morning to find that they had torn down the wall separating the miniscule fourth-grade room from the miniscule fifth-grade room. Mrs. Fourth Grade and Mrs. Fifth Grade had moved into their new rooms, and their combined leftover room was a mess.

We spent several hours scraping, wiping, sweeping, mopping, hauling, and painting, and finally, around 5:00 this afternoon, my classroom seemed to have become a reality. Twenty-two blue-and-grey desks, two whiteboards, two bulletin boards (one for English and one for science), and a REAL DESK. But wait, there's more! I also have a storage room with two huge bookcases, 20 copies of The Hobbit, a hanging bookcase for my most treasured books, and a four-drawer filing cabinet.

But wait, there's more! I also have two huge tables in the back part of the room for science labs, four science-lab cabinets, and another storage cabinet.

But wait, there's more! Have I mentioned that I also have a brand-new Dell computer? Well, I do!

Toward the end of the day, a mom, one of my students, and her little sister helped me paint an old cabinet. It was fun. It's really cool how the parents and students really came together to help me get my classroom ready. It's still not quite ready; I have yet to order and hang up all the cool wall decorations and bulletin board designs I have planned. But for now, I have what I need to teach. I am, indeed, the happiest teacher alive.

Sojourner is Sick

Sojourner is back from India but got very sick upon his return. Please keep him in your prayers.

Friday, November 4, 2005

New Classroom Tomorrow! Woo Hoo!

I'm going to have a brand new Dell, and a desk, and a bulletin board, and a white board, and everything!

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Good Thing I Became a Presbyterian



You scored as John Calvin. Much of what is now called Calvinism had more to do with his followers than Calvin himself, and so you may or may not be committed to TULIP, though God's sovereignty is all important.

John Calvin

87%

Karl Barth

73%

Martin Luther

73%

Anselm

73%

Jonathan Edwards

67%

J?Moltmann

60%

Friedrich Schleiermacher

53%

Paul Tillich

40%

Augustine

33%

Charles Finney

20%

Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Tennis

I've started playing tennis. Actually, I guess I should say I've resumed playing tennis. I first started playing at the age of three (or so), and I continued playing until I was about 10. Other than a brief stint of tennis lessons at age 14, I hadn't played since until about six months ago.

My frienda Linda got me back out on the court. I was awful at first, but I've been improving. It helps that I had really good coaches early in life; many of the techniques they taught me have slowly come back. Add to that my passable athletic ability, and I'm actually not a half-bad tennis player.

I had a rough day at school today. So after school, I went to the tennis courts and served. And served. And served. And served some more. It just feels so good to whack that ball across the court, you know, after a rough day at school.

Then my friend Renee met me, and we played a match. It was fun. She's in the same boat I am, and we're at about the same level. So, while no one is going to film us and study our techniques, we still have some pretty good games.

There you have it: my exciting life for today. Stay tuned for more exciting play-by-plays in the future!

Prufrock Thoughts and Mitty Moments

Several months ago, I was at the county's bi-weekly poetry society meeting, and we were discussing some poem or another when T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” came up. Now, we typically focus on stuff written by modern (read: living) poets, but every now and then we’ll stumble upon the subject of a dead, canonized poet such as Eliot, Keats, Yeats, or Dickinson.

I have always been under the weird impression that “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” while a great poem for many reasons, finds much of its appeal in the universality of its speaker, J. Alfred himself.

I mean, don’t we all have Prufrock moments, if not necessarily Prufrock lives? Am I hopelessly neurotic because I have “Prufrock moments” from time to time? Because I think Prufrockian thoughts--by that, I mean that quotes from the poem actually come to mind--when certain events occur in my life?

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet …

One older man at our poetry meeting claimed never to have had a single Prufrock moment, claimed not to understand why anyone would identify with the pathetic J. Alfred Prufrock. Others didn't say either way if they'd ever experienced a Prufrockian thought. I ended up being the only neurotic-sounding person there.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say:
“How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

I just knew he had to be the rule. Not the exception. So I did a Google search on “Prufrock moment,” expecting to find thousands of hits. Nope. Just 48.

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall...
Of the people who admitted to having Prufrock moments, we have the following:

- A teacher
- A writer who keeps a copy of Eliot’s “The Waste Land” in the car and whispers stanzas to himself as he drives
- A movie critic
- A poet
- Another writer
I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

So. Maybe only neurotic writer-types have Prufrock moments. I don’t know.

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

And speaking of literary characters, am I the only person in the world who admits to having had “Mitty moments”? This term derives from James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” which my ninth-grade English class read last week. A Mitty moment is a moment of dreaming the impossible, in a way. Particularly if you’re dissatisfied at your job and dissatisfied with your life: that's when you're more likely to let your mind wander and get lost in a fantasy of what life should be. Walter Mitty's fantasies included being a pilot, a surgeon, and a military captain--always a hero of some kind. I dreamed of … well, I’ll keep those dreams to myself. But one of those dreams was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Granted, I haven’t had the leisure to wallow in Mittyesque imaginings much since I started teaching school, but I definitely had Mitty moments when at my cubicle job.

Can Mitty moments be as rare as Prufrock moments? I Googled “Mitty moments” and got 285 hits. Still not a lot. But I did find a few interesting things.

Here’s a short piece on Mitty moments in which a Christian writer tells of Peter’s Mitty moments. He concludes with this:

Yet I wonder where we would be without our Walter Mitty moments. "Where there is no vision, the people perish", says the proverb. Without the dream of a new, free land, the Pilgrims would have stayed in Holland. Without the dream of liberty and justice for all, many of our citizens would still be shackled in slavery. Without the dream that all should know God, Christianity would be a minor Jewish sect.

Without our dreams we would all be condemned to the life of Walter Mitty. For Walter Mitty's fantasies never went beyond the tiny box of his brain. His fantasies never became dreams.
Meryl Streep had a Mitty moment, too ... sort of. Actually, I'm not sure what she means here.

"I had a ball, it was a real Walter Mitty moment." --On what it was like to play Carnegie Hall
So I guess Mitty moments aren’t as rare as Prufrock moments.

Or maybe people have these moments, but they don’t have a name for them because they didn’t listen in their high-school English classes.

Are Prufrock thoughts and Mitty moments really as rare as Google would have us believe?

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

A-ha!

Well, since Jeanette don't need no culture, I will no longer feel obligated to be cultural. :) Seriously, I miss my culture-related posts, so maybe someday (when I get my magical classroom and computer in the sky!) I'll have more time to collect interesting information and post it here.

For now, you're stuck, dear readers, with random reports of my mildly exciting life.

I spent yesterday evening cutting out construction-paper chromosomes for a spudoodle. The time and effort were definitely worth it; we had mama chromosomes and papa chromosomes, and then we donated one chromosome from each pair to the baby spudoodle, then we "built" the baby. I wanted to get a picture of our spudoodle, but I didn't have the camera at school. Maybe tomorrow, if Freddy (for that's his name) is still on his perch on Mrs. S's lectern.

After school, I headed for Asheville and piano. It was a good lesson, even though my practice time this week has (as usual) been pathetically limited. It's amazing how I've retained my contrary-motion scales, though. Today I played the c#-minor scales in contrary motion, at a nice, brisk pace, and I didn't make a single mistake.

The rest of the lesson, I focused on two measures of the g-minor sinfonia by my Beloved, Bewigged, and Bejowled One. Two measures. Over 40 minutes. I love digging in and focusing on a tiny, small section. I love playing the same four or five notes over and over again, s l o w l y, until all of the sustained notes, all of the dynamics, all of the shapings, are perfect. It's like with poetry: I love to focus, focus, focus on a short bit of poetry, and just let my brain do gymnastics over the potential meanings of a word or phrase, and then let it do more gymnastics on how each potential meaning might fit into the greater scheme of the poem. Eventually, after enough gymnastics, the brain finally goes "Ah!" and all of the joyful effort is worth it. Usually, the whole experience is fraught with those awesome "A-ha" moments.

A-ha moments. Ah, yes. Those very moments, I explained to my freshmen today, are why I majored in English in college, and why I later got an M.A. in English. All because I thrill over live for those "a-ha" moments.

It's the same way with Bach. When I get those five notes perfect, when I can play them at a normal pace as part of the larger piece ... there's that "Ah!" and that sense of ... fulfillment? joy? completion? A-ha?

Y'all know what I mean.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Oh, Poop

I just wrote my first interesting post in months. It was on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his belief in spiritualism. I wrote it in Notepad, then cut and pasted it into Blogger. I always save my posts, always, but I guess it's early today and I forgot this time. When I went to publish the post, Blogger told me that I needed to add a tag somewhere ... but it had also cut out most of my post. What was about five paragraphs had been cut down to three sentences. About three seconds before, I'd closed Notepad--without saving the file.

So y'all are going to have to wait a little longer for something culturally interesting here. Sorry!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Handwriting Analysis

I found the link for this handwriting test over at The Upward Call. I can't resist a fun online test, so I took it. Here are my results:

This first "analysis" relates to my loopy y's.

Waterfall exaggerates about everything that has a physical nature. Although she may not intend to deceive or mislead, she blows things way out of proportion because that is the way she views them. She will be a good story teller. This exaggeration relates to all areas of her material world. Waterfall allows many people into her life because she is accepting and trusting. She is sometimes called gullible by her friends. That only really means that she trusts too many people. Waterfall has a vivid imagination.

Waterfall has a healthy imagination and displays a fair amount of trust. She lets new people into her circle of friends. She uses her imagination to understand new ideas, things, and people.

OK, so yes, I do exaggerate a lot. That's a good, creative thing to do, right? :)

This next one has to do with how I cross my t's.

One way Waterfall punishes herself is self directed sarcasm. She is a very sarcastic person. Often this sarcasm and "sharp tongued" behavior is directed at herself.

Heh ... moi? Sarcastic?

Now for the part that makes me sound like I need a therapist, or lots more drugs:

Waterfall's true self-image is unreasonably low. Someone once told Waterfall that she wasn't a great and beautiful person, and she believed them. Waterfall also has a fear that she might fail if she takes large risks. Therefore she resists setting her goals too high, risking failure. She doesn't have the internal confidence that frees her to take risks and chance failure. Waterfall is capable of accomplishing much more than she is presently achieving. All this relates to her self-esteem. Waterfall's self-concept is artificially low. Waterfall will stay in a bad situation much too long... why? Because she is afraid that if she makes a change, it might get worse. It is hard for Waterfall to plan too far into the future. She kind of takes things on a day to day basis. She may tell you her dreams but she is living in today, with a fear of making a change. No matter how loud she speaks, look at her actions. This is perhaps the biggest single barrier to happiness people not believing in and loving themselves. Waterfall is an example of someone living with a low self-image, because their innate self-confidence was broken.

Mabye that was true when I was ... well, not so long ago ... but I'm much better now! :)

In this next analysis, I sound smart and good again.

In reference to Waterfall's mental abilities, she has a very investigating and creating mind. She investigates projects rapidly because she is curious about many things. She gets involved in many projects that seem good at the beginning, but she soon must slow down and look at all the angles. She probably gets too many things going at once. When Waterfall slows down, then she becomes more creative than before. Since it takes time to be creative, she must slow down to do it. She then decides what projects she has time to finish. Thus she finishes at a slower pace than when she started the project. She has the best of two kinds of minds. One is the quick investigating mind. The other is the creative mind. Her mind thinks quick and rapidly in the investigative mode. She can learn quicker, investigate more, and think faster. Waterfall can then switch into her low gear. When she is in the slower mode, she can be creative, remember longer and stack facts in a logical manner. She is more logical this way and can climb mental mountains with a much better grip.

"Climb mental mountains." I like that! Now, for my diplomatic abilities ...

Diplomacy is one of Waterfall's best attributes. She has the ability to say what others want to hear. She can have tact with others. She has the ability to state things in such a way as to not offend someone else. Waterfall can disagree without being disagreeable.

Actually, my diplomacy is one of those things that always get high marks in performance reviews at jobs. Now, for more of my neuroses:

Waterfall is not facing something going on in her life today. She is deceiving herself about it. Often, Waterfall's opinion of herself is different than those around her. This trait gives Waterfall the ability to deny anything that does not agree with her "truth." This trait is not always something negative. It is only a defense mechanism allowing Waterfall not to face some reality in her life at this time.

Now, for my sensitivity ...

Waterfall is sensitive to criticism about her ideas and philosophies. She will sometimes worry what people will think if she tells them what she believes in. This doesn't mean she won't talk, or that she feels ashamed. It merely means she is sensitive to what others think, regarding her beliefs.

... and my bipolar overly emotional nature ...

Waterfall is a very emotional person with a broad range of emotions from the highest highs to the lowest lows. She feels emotional situations very strongly. She'll flash to the very peaks of elation, sweeping everything before her. Then, for some reason unknown to herself, she will burn out emotionally. These mood swings can be very disturbing to her. Sometimes, she feels that she can no longer produce anything. But, after given some time alone to "recharge her emotional batteries", she will spring back into action. Because Waterfall feels situations intensely, she relates easily to others' problems. If she is not careful, when she comes into contact with someone who is in a depressed frame of mind, she will also suffer the same emotions and change moods.

(Actually, that last sentence is quite true ...)

Waterfall reacts impulsively, without much thought before hand. She may plan everything in detail before she even begins, then do it completely different when the time comes to carry it through. Waterfall has a strong need for affection. She thrives on touching and being touched. Waterfall desires being told that she is loved, every day. She enjoys being the center of attention. She loves attention, sometimes she even retells stories that got her attention earlier. Waterfall has the possibility of being a actor or natural born salesperson, simply because she relates so well to other people. She likes expressing how she feels, what she is doing, and what she plans to do. She is a people person. She will work most efficiently in a people orientated job as opposed to a job working alone on an assembly line (that would drive her insane.)

No! No! I am not a people person! And I hate the word "orientated"!! And is there anyone who would rather work alone on an assembly line?

People that write their letters in an average height and average size are moderate in their ability to interact socially. According to the data input, Waterfall doesn't write too large or too small, indicating a balanced ability to be social and interact with others.

So I ended on a relatively healthy note. Whew!

That Magical Classroom in the Sky ...

Well folks, it's not gonna happen next weekend. My classroom, I mean. It's been pushed back again. Maybe I'll get to move in over the Thanksgiving holidays.

I do have a bit of good news, though ... I got my first cell phone this weekend. I've never had my own cell phone before.

I also started a private blog for whining and complaining. I've been doing a lot of that lately, which is why it's been so quiet on this blog. :)

Hope everyone is having a good weekend!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Snow Day!

It's our first snow day, only there's no snow!

There was a water problem at the school today, so they sent everyone home. Good thing, because I didn't fall asleep until 4:30 this morning. If only I had known ... I could have stayed in bed!

I'm happy as a clam, though. All the teachers are. We're all pretty exhausted and could use a snow day like this one.

I, for one, am going to get my oil changed, go to the library, work on my schedule, and wash our ever-growing pile of laundry. Then I'm going to sit on the couch and read for a few hours. The crock-pot is on, and Hubster brought a bunch of wood up yesterday for a few days' worth of snuggling in front of the fireplace. Life is good.

I love snowless snow days!

The Latest Classroom Prediction

I was supposed to be able to move into my new classroom on Saturday, but--surprise!--it's been pushed back a week. It'll definitely be next weekend. They promise.

That's fine with me. It's one more week of carring my one-ton bag and having nowhere to work, but I'll be able to spend this Saturday shopping for cool classroom stuff at the teacher supply store in Asheville.

I'm getting a cell phone this weekend, too. That way, I will no longer have to have parent-teacher telephone conferences on the student phone in the noisy, not-very-private main office.

Life is looking up. Now, if only I could sleep at night!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Writing, Macbeth, and a Manic Crash

It's amazing, the things I've written since becoming a high-school teacher. I just wrote a really good (if I may say so myself) "unofficial guide" for writing a critical analysis of a poem. I mixed a bit of what I've found in books, a bit of what I found online, and a bit of my own experience-based knowledge, and wrote it. My English Lit students have to write a critical analysis of either a Shakespeare sonnet or one of Macbeth's early soliloquies (their choice), but their writing experience is limited. Hence the unofficial guide, which we'll go over (for the first of many times) in class tomorrow.

Speaking of Macbeth, I am experiencing the play on a whole 'nother level now that I'm reading it as a teacher. Sure, I knew Lady Macbeth was evil when I read it the first dozen times, but I've never been so struck by her evil as I am during this reading. I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that my fellow readers--the students, some of whom are brand-new to Shakespeare--are reading Macbeth for the first time.

I'm very tired today. Remember that manic high I started on the other day? Well, it all came crashing down today. I'm not sure how I made it through the afternoon. Lots of prayer, I guess.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sojourner Update

Everyone's favorite Plaquemaniac Baptist preacher, Sojourner, is doing missionary work for several weeks in India, and he just updated his blog today. I'm so glad he's able to update while he's there. Check it out here.

A Spam Haiku for Today

Oh tin of pink meat
I ponder what you may be:
Snout or ear or feet?

The best ones are here.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Music Rejuvenation

Why is it that, as exhausted as I am, an evening with George literally infuses me with more energy than I can handle? Poetry doesn't do this. Exercise doesn't do this. Music does this.

Some might say it's because I'm manic, and that George tends to hit the "manic switch" in my brain. I think it's something simpler than that. Clearly, George is so happy that I finally visited him, so his pure pianistic joy is now overflowing into every cell of my body. That's it.



I played Bach. Sigh. I can rest now.

More happy piano pics are here.

Favorite Pundit Mentions Macbeth

When I was in Cubicle Land and glued to the internet all day, I was a bit of an NR (National Review) junkie. My favorite feature there is Jay Nordlinger's "Impromptus"--an informally written collection of bits and pieces of news and comment (with links to his music reviews thrown in here and there).

Since I took up teaching, I haven't visited NR as often as usual, but I did visit it today in preparation for a composition lesson.

Much to my delight, there was a new "Impromptus" column up. To conclude his brief points on the Ruth Miers nomination and upcoming hearings, Jay writes, "I imagine, up above, that some of you thought of Macbeth: 'If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly.'"

And would you believe, we're reading that very line today in class? How cool is that?

Once again, Mr. Nordlinger proves himself worthy of being my favorite pundit.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Running

Do I have any running readers here? I'm thinking of taking up running. I've tired of the elliptical machine, the bike, and the stairmaster; I can do an hard-core hour on any of them without breaking a sweat. Really. So I'm thinking of taking up treadmill-running for my indoor aerobic activity of choice for the winter.

I went to my health club yesterday (such a luxury on my private-school teacher salary!) and did an hour of walking and running, with approximately 20 minutes devoted to running. Today I did the same thing, only with 30 minutes of running.

I'm not getting tired the way I expected I would. After all, running is hard work! I guess I just need to keep increasing the running intervals, but at the same time I don't want to injure myself. Physically, my body is definitely not used to this motion!

Several months ago, I mentioned to a trainer that I was bored with my workout, particularly the aerobic aspect. He said the best thing for me to do would be (1) to go on another long-distance hike, or (2) to train for a marathon, or at least a half-marathon.

I'm thinking about a half-marathon, since another long-distance hike is a months and months away.

I'd be glad to hear any advice from any of my readers who are into long-distance running and have trained for such long-distance races.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Pandemonium

pan·de·mo·ni·um

NOUN: 1. A very noisy place. 2. Wild uproar; noise.


Today we reviewed our vocabulary words in my ninth-grade English class. One of those words was "pandemonium."

I said, "Class, I'm now going to demonstrate an instance of pandemonium."

Then I tossed about 15 pieces of chocolate at them, all at once.

Pandemonium immediately ensued. :-)

A Good Friday

Fridays are usually my least favorite days at school. For one thing, I'm exhausted by the time Friday rolls around. For another, my schedule is weird and stressful on Fridays: Because of a snafu in the schedules, Friday chapel falls during the same time slot as my afternoon English Lit class. The kids can't miss chapel, of course, so on Fridays we have what I've dubbed "Literary Lunch." We meet during the lunch period--the only time that everyone had free. The students bring their food to class and eat while I teach.

It's rather distracting to me as a teacher, and it's frustrating because "Literary Lunch," thanks to the short lunch period, is a good 15 minutes shorter than the usual class would be. Add to that the fact that students sometimes get stuck in line for lunch and can't always show up on time ... and that I have to let them leave a little early so they can put their trays up before going to their next class ... well, you get the picture.

Oh, and since I'm teaching, lunch--as in the eating of food--just doesn't happen for me on Fridays.

So you can see why I dislike Fridays.

Today wasn't so bad, though. Oh, we had the usual class-at-lightning-speed "Literary Lunch," where students read their Macbeth parts between bites of food. Frustrating. But the rest of it was good.

For one thing, my morning English Lit class was missing a few students, and the remaining students were more talkative (in a good way) and enthusiastic than I think I've ever seen them in this usually sleepy class. There's a group dynamic thing going on in that class, clearly, and it really helped to see how the present students were so much livelier than when the whole class is there.

My science girls were wonderful as always. I even hugged one of them, I was so excited about her Powerpoint presentation on Watson and Crick.

Composition went well, too. It was Day 2 of a short creative writing activity in which students work on their "Where I Am From" poems. I teach the class in the classroom of a teacher named Alyssa, and Alyssa sometimes sits at her desk and works while I teach, since it's her planning period. She "joined" the creative writing class yesterday, and she sat in the circle with us and read her "Where I Am From" poem to us today. It was a great poem, and she said she really enjoyed writing it! One other student had actually written a poem for today (they were only required to make notes so they could work on their poems in class today), and she read hers, too. It was good! As soon as it's available online, I'll let y'all know!

I love teaching creative writing (I say after Day 2 of my creative-writing-teaching career!). Since it's a composition class (read: expository essays like what they'll have in freshman composition in college), I really can't focus on creative writing ... but I've decided to pepper it liberally with creative writing projects for the rest of the year. Composition is lots of fun, but talk and practice of parallelism, coordinating conjunctions, topic sentences, paragraph coherence, and transitions can cause a class to get a little dry.

Plus, these kids need to learn to write with greater skill, and creative writing is a great way to teach it. I just need to be careful when it comes to grading; the last thing I want to do is turn someone off to creative writing (or even creativity) by telling them their comma usage needs work.

Ninth grade was fun, too. We did vocabulary and talked about one of my favorite short stories, James Thurber's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." That class could fill a whole blog post, so I think I'll wait and write one a little later on this weekend.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Happiest Teacher Alive!

It looks like (crossing fingers) I'll be able to (praying hard) move into my new (thinking, "please, please, please!") classroom over Halloween weekend. If this happens, I will become the Happiest Teacher Alive.



Can you imagine it? My own classroom? No longer will I have to live out of a one-ton tote bag, hang out in the main office, have "planning period" on the bug-collection display table, or drag a gazillion books and supplies back and forth to school every day.

No longer will I have to rush from borrowed classroom to borrowed classroom. No longer will I have to waste precious time writing assignments on the board (I'll be able to do that in my own classroom before classes start in the morning) and collecting and handing back homework (I'll have special boxes for students to drop off and retrieve their work). No longer will I have to go from the computer lab (where we have science) to the cafeteria (where we have lab) halfway through class. No longer will I have no place to go when I need a bit of privacy. Woo hoo!



No longer will I run the risk of forgetting Something Important at home and having to go back home to get it after arriving at school (which is 20 minutes from home).

No longer will I be up till midnight every night, because I'll be able to do my lesson planning on my school computer in my own classroom after school.

Did I mention that, with my own classroom, I'm going to get my own computer? I'll be able to, like, store files of tests and worksheets and print them out at school! And if I find a typo in an assignment (and oh, how my students love it when Waterfall commits a typo!), I can, like, fix it in Word and print it out again.



I know. It's unbelievable. And it will remain unbelievable until I actually, really, truly have my own in-the-cement-blocks classroom.

Oh, happiness. Oh, joy. I may even get a white board. Of my very own.

Now all I need to get is a cell phone, and I won't have to use the very non-private student phone in the office anymore! Yay!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Blogging from School

I just stuffed a bunch of cardboard-paper ribosomes and amino acids, along with several paper chains of DNA, mRNA, and tRNA, into my school mailbox in the main office. It looks like there was a paper explosion in there.

Have I mentioned that I love being a teacher?

Yet Another School-Related Post

Day 1 of Macbeth went well. I think I get high on discussing Shakespeare. I feel sorry for my composition class, which meets immediately after English Lit. I'm distracted for the first ten minutes of class because my mind is so completely soaked in Macbeth.

Wanna know what else I did yesterday?

In Life Science, I taught DNA replication. I don't know, it just seems so cool that I get to be the one to introduce kids to thymine, adenine, guanine, and cytosine (and don't forget uracil!) for the first time. Such an honor!

In composition, we discussed paragraph unity and a paragraph-building technique called downshifting, in which you move from very general sentence "levels" to very specific ones. Downshifting helps you to keep your focus on the topic sentence of a paragraph and helps ensure that every sentence in your entire paragraph is related to the topic sentence. I've been on an "Avoid Paragraph Sprawl" kick lately in that class.

In English 9, we discussed count and noncount nouns and I assigned a book report. Sounds boring, but it wasn't too bad. I really like my ninth graders, even if they are a bit rowdy. Some of them are hysterically funny, and I enjoy teaching them.

Today, I'm teaching RNA transcription; Act 1, Scene 2 of Macbeth; and characterization in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." In composition we're doing peer editing, and then on Thursday we're going to take a little break from essays and play with some poetry. I'm having the class work on individual "Where I Am From" poems. Aren't ya jealous? Should be fun!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Today's Lesson

I can barely contain my excitement.

We start reading Macbeth today!!

We'll begin at the beginning: Act 1, Scene 1, with the three witches.



I'm so happy. I hope they like Macbeth. Even if they don't, I'm still happy. Why? Because I'm reading Shakespeare and not software documentation drafts for a living!

Here's today's reading selection. Imagine it being read in the witchiest voices you can think of! And imagine lots of thunder and lightning! And stick an imaginary exclamation point at the end of that last line!

[A heath]

Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches

1. Witch When shall we three meet again In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
2. Witch. When the hurlyburly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won.
3. Witch. That will be ere the set of sun.
1. Witch. Where the place?
2. Witch. Upon the heath.
3. Witch. There to meet with Macbeth.
1. Witch. I come, Graymalkin!
[2. Witch.] Paddock calls:—Anon!
All. Fair is foul, and foul is fair; Hover through the fog and filthy air.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Great Pumpkins!

Go visit Amy's blog to see her cool jack-o-lanterns for this year. I love the one with the goofy face the best!

My Kids Don't Stink. I Promise.

I guess this woman really wanted to get fired. Not only did she blog from a school computer about personal matters (okay, her sexual exploits), but she referred to her students as "stinky kids." Unbelievable.

The only exploits you'll find here, folks, are of an asexual nature and involve socks and silly amoeba cartoons. Move on, now.

Hat tip: Education Wonks

Amoebas and Fission


In our continuing romp through the wonderful world of asexual reproduction, we'll be talking about amoebas and fission today in my seventh-grade Life Science class.

I wonder, what is it about amoebas that makes them so ... amusing? In Dead Poets Society, when Robin Williams asks a student, "Are you a man or an amoeba?" I just laugh uproariously. Is it just me, or are amoebas really kind of funny, in their own way?

Enjoy the cartoon! (Even though it should probably say, "My parent split up when I was very young ...") (Heh ... yep, that was an instance of uproarious laughter, that "heh" ...)

Puncture Wound

Last night, while "playing" with my cat (though he had a weird idea of "playing"), I sustained a puncture wound to the knuckle of my right index finger. I thought nothing of it, since I always have a scratch or two on me from "playing."

But today, my finger is swollen, stiff, and painful. I can barely type, much less play the piano or hold a tennis racket (two things I'm supposed to do today).

I wonder if it's swollen because the (somewhat deep) puncture is right in the knuckle, or if it's infected. If I'm still in major pain after another day or two, I guess I'll go see the doctor.

Ah, what a nice way to start the week! (My freshmen would tell you that this sentence is an example of verbal irony.)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Tar Heel Tavern is Up

This week's Tar Heel Tavern is up at Mister Sugar's. Go read about t-shirts!

Little-Known Facts about Waterfall

I've been tagged by Amy to write down facts about myself that few people know ... but, to be honest, I can't think of much that I haven't already told you, dear readers. The few things that I haven't told you are typically pretty morbid and depressing. So I'll try to think of non-morbid, non-depressing things to tell you. Please forgive the fact that they're very random and not all that interesting.

1. I used to have a really good serve in volleyball. In high school, we played several games where I just went to the serving line and served 15 aces in a row. I was never a great athlete, but I made up for it with my killer serve.

2. I once learned from a friend that she had been sexually abused by a family member, so I told my mom (even though my friend made me swear to tell no one). My mom told her mom, my friend had to get counseling, and major problems erupted in that family. I don't know if that friend ever forgave me. I haven't seen her in many years.

3. I decided to become a smoker when I was 13 or 14. The day after I "started smoking," I learned that my grandmother had been diagnosed with smoking-related cancer. I figured God was trying to tell me something, so I "quit smoking" immediately. So ended my brief smoking career!

4. My first concert was John Denver in 1976 or 1977, and my second was Rick Springfield in 1982.

5. I'm not just an introvert, but I'm also painfully shy in social situations.

So, who wants to be tagged? Paula? Erin? Dulciana?

T-Shirt Tyme

For this week's Tarheel Tavern, North Carolina bloggers were asked to tell about their favorite t-shirts.

I don't know if I have any favorite t-shirts these days, but I thought I'd share two of 'em with you. For whatever reason, these two have survived wardrobe-purging events and have avoided the family's annual trip to Goodwill.

This is probably my oldest t-shirt. I bought it in the summer of 1988 on a family vacation to Vancouver. I had just graduated from high school and was gearing up for my first (and what would be my only) semester at Tulane University. When I bought this t-shirt, I told myself, "This is it. I'm wearing this t-shirt on my first day of college."

Even though this t-shirt is over 15 years old, I still get compliments on it every time I wear it.

Now, I got this t-shirt at some little tie-dye booth in the French Quarter (actually the French Market) in New Orleans. It was May Term 1989, and I was taking a course titled "History of Jazz in New Orleans." When I signed up for the course, I thought it was about the History of New Orleans Jazz, to be taught at my college, which is located in Virginia. No ... the course was "History of Jazz" ... IN New Orleans. So I got to spend four wonderful weeks living in uptown New Orleans while taking a course in jazz. We were required to attend all seven days of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. What a tough class! :)

Anyway, I bought this t-shirt one weekend while hanging out in the French Quarter during that time. It's been a favorite t-shirt of mine for many years, even though I'm not much of a hippie-peacenik type anymore. It's another t-shirt that often gets compliments, though it's getting pretty threadbare and may end up on the family Goodwill trip in another year or two.

So, readers ... even if you're not from North Carolina, I'd love to know what your favorite t-shirts are. Please let me know in the comments, or better yet, post something about it on your own blog!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Bistro at Biltmore

My brother just moved from Seattle to my neck of the woods, and he's working at The Bistro over at the Biltmore Winery in Asheville.

If you live in Asheville and happen to eat at the Bistro, be sure and give your compliments to the Ghentry the Chef Line Cook.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Carnival of Education

This week's Carnival of Education is up at Jenny D.'s blog. Lots of interesting stuff there!

Fun with Mitosis

Yes, kiddies, Waterfall can make even asexual reproduction fun. All you need is the internet.

We started the "Genes and Mitosis" unit of science today. Last night, as I looked at the material, I remembered learning about mitosis when I was in seventh grade. I hated it. I didn't understand it. The day we covered mitosis was one of the few boring classes I remember ever having with Mr. Marvin.

So I needed to do something. I needed to make mitosis interesting.

I found this lesson plan online and decided to give it a shot. Basically, it involves using some cord and several pairs of socks to "enact" mitosis. Here's the beginning of anaphase, for example:



I have five students in my class, so I used five pairs of socks. I lectured on mitosis, and while they didn't seem as confused as I'd been in seventh grade, they still weren't entirely comfortable with the new concepts.

Then we did the "sock lab." And it was as if I could see the lightbulbs going on in their little minds. "Ohhhhh, now I get it ...!"

What a great exercise. I showed it to one of the other science teachers, and she's going to use it, too.

I'm just glad I could make mitosis as painless as possible for my students.

We finished the lab up early, so we went to the piano and played fun songs for a few minutes until the bell rang.

I love being a teacher.