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.