Friday, March 31, 2006

Sucked In

I was going to grade papers tonight and, if I had time and energy left over, work on analyzing the C#-major fugue. But I was so tired to begin with ... so I flipped on the TV to catch an episode of "Law and Order: SVU" on USA.

One of the major pitfalls of being a "Law and Order: SVU" addict is that I've seen most of the reruns. Of course, I'd seen the ones that were coming on tonight, so I had to switch channels.

Instead of being productive--instead of grading papers and analyzing my Bach--I ate pizza, drank merlot, and watched three straight hours of Clinton and Stacy on "What Not To Wear."

Lucky for me, I've only seen this show maybe three times in my life (all on a multi-day road trip in which I was stuck in a hotel room after driving all day, too tired to do anything but be a couch bed potato). So there were no rerun issues. I was free to be sucked in by this mindless, shallow, trendy, appearance-oriented cable television show on a lonely Friday night.

Say, do you think y'all can recommend me for that show? I need it. I'm the laziest dresser alive. I sorely miss the good old days of high school and my brief stint in the medical field, when uniforms were required. Oh, how I loved not having to think about what to wear or what not to wear. I just threw on a plaid jumper or my scrubs and faced the day. I'd wear the same outfit to school every day if I could now. Oh, how I envy my students, who show up every day in jeans and the regulation knit shirts.

You know, one of the things that I love about long-distance hiking is that I never even have to wash the clothes I wear. I just put on the same stinky, sweaty shirt, sports bra, shorts, and socks every day, day in and day out, and hit the trail. It's all so simple that way.

I sure do miss those periods of my life when I never had to worry about clothes.

These days, I wake up and throw on anything that might remotely match. I wear Smartwool hiking socks with everything. And I'm bad about wearing the same shirt two or three days in a row because I'm too lazy to think about other possibilities from day to day.

So, if anyone wants to give Clinton and Stacy a call, I'm sure they would have a field day with me. I can imagine their grimaces and shrieks as they spy on me and observe my shopping habits with horror.

But I do, after all, need a stylish, figure-flattering dress to wear to my piano recital in the fall of 2007 ...

Much, Much, Much to Write

[I'm going to start bolding things in my more random, rambling blog posts, in order to spare you, dear readers, the hassle of actually reading through them.]

I have so much to write. I want to write a Piano Lesson Part II because there's a Part II floating around in my head, some interesting thoughts about being an adult piano student and the insecurities one must deal with when doing so. Boy, do I have an arsenal of thoughts on that subject.

But no, there is no time to write at the moment. I have a mountain of papers waiting to be graded--so many that I'm going to get started tonight, on a Friday night, and continue through tomorrow and Sunday.

School was not very memorable today. I haven't slept well in several days and was a bit of a zombie. Classes weren't bad, though; my British Lit class is really taking to Oscar Wilde and The Importance of Being Earnest. I'm glad about that.

We had group piano (performance class) this afternoon. I played my Bach sinfonia. It was OK, but I started it as a slightly too-fast tempo, and, while I was able to play the entire piece at that speed, it wasn't as clean as it should be.

Speaking of Bach, I realized something the other day. At least once daily, and usually more, I literally find myself thanking God for Bach. And thanking Bach for God. The long, arduous, devoted hours of one beloved, bewigged, and bejowled one in the first part of the 18th century have enriched my world beyond comprehension.

Hopefully, I'll be able to write Part II of my piano lesson report before my next lesson. Until then, y'all have yourselves a goodly weekend.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

It's Official

I'll be teaching Fundamentals of Lit, World Lit, American Lit, British Lit, and Composition next year. And I won't be surprised if they throw in, oh, an Earth Science class as well.

I won't lose my mind, though. I have the groundwork for three of those classes since I taught them this year, and I'm familiar enough with World and American to feel reasonably comfortable at the prospect of teaching both.

It's going to be a lot of work. I'll spend my weekends grading papers. But I'm kind of excited about it.

When I told my ninth-graders that they would have me for their teacher again next year, I was delighted to see quite a few of them looking happy about it.

Yep. That made me feel pretty good.

Guess I'll be brushing up on my Hawthorne and my Homer, my Twain and my Tolstoy, my Dickinson and my Dante.

This is gonna be good.

Imagine

Imagine a schedule is a rug. A small rug on a slippery hardwood floor. It can be moved around, and it slips every now and then, but you like to think that it's going to stay put when you're standing on it.

Now, imagine this: Every time you set foot on the rug, someone comes up behind you and whisks the rug out from under you. You go flying and crashing as if you've stepped on a banana peel.

That's what being a teacher is like. I tell myself that no schedule is set in stone, and I'm well aware that schedules are subject to change, but the constant sense of having the rug yanked from under me is really getting old.

In a nutshell: The eight or so hours I spent reading and preparing for "Narnia Day"--our last of the semester--are wasted because of schedule changes. There's no time to make up for it before the end of the six weeks because of a last-minute schedule change last Tuesday in which English Lit was cancelled (again).

And, as sure as I'm sitting here, I know that we'll have more unexpected class cancellations before the six-week period ends in mid-April.

It is very, very frustrating. It quite literally makes me sick to my stomach.

Piano Lesson, Part I

Yesterday's lesson wasn't really a lesson. It was strange. Since I started teaching school, I've typically had one of two types of lessons each Wednesday:

- If I've practiced, we have a "real," traditional lesson
- If I haven't had time to practice, we have a "practice lesson," in which she basically lets me practice and merely offers tips and pointers as she listens and does other things.

I had practiced this week, but not a lot because I was swamped in school stuff. So I told Deborah I thought I needed a practice lesson. She was fine with that. (It's nice having a piano teacher who doesn't get mad when I don't practice; she knows it's not because I'm lazy, and that very few things--other than wild horses and a crazy school schedule--can really keep me away from George.)

We started out going through some contrary-motion scales and arpeggios before she left me alone. The strangest thing happened then: I felt as if I was brimming with musicality. Like I was bringing the most lovely tone to the piano--rather than simply striking the keys and hearing the piano make plinks and plunks. Think of Spiderman releasing his web from his wrist. It was as if I was doing the same with musical expression.

I played my C-minor contrary-motion scale with the same feeling I might give a Chopin nocturne. Only it felt more musical than anything I've played since I started playing piano again. Maybe ever.

After I finished it, Deborah said something like, "Wow, that really sounded good!" So I went on to other scales and arpeggios and had the same result: all this odd new musicality, just flowing forth into the keys. I felt so relaxed and so confident, like the piano was finally starting to "break in" after two and a half years of struggle. (I know. I'm probably the one who's being broken in.)

So after I played the scales, I said, "Let me try the Bach sinfonia. I think I have it by memory."

So I played it. Or, I should say, my hands played it, and I just watched and listened, slightly befuddled but delighted at the same time. The dynamics weren't completely there, but the notes were. The dynamics would have been there if I hadn't felt like a novice skier whose skis have just taken off and are gliding me gently and expertly down the slope. I just felt like I was along for the ride of the sinfonia. And a very pleasant ride it was.

When I finished, Deborah said it sounded "amazing." Or "unbelievable." Or "really wonderful." Or some other superlative I'd never earned in playing that piece.

I'm not sure what's clicked. All of that drilling, slow practice, concentration, and focus on rectifying my bad technique--more than two years conscientious practicing now--are finally, I guess, revealing their magical effects. I don't remember the last time I felt that much at home at the piano.

I've loved every minute of playing since I started playing again. And this isn't to say that I haven't played well in the last two years, because I think I have. But yesterday was different. There was something new in my playing. Something good.

I have more to write about the lesson, but I have a date with my Narnia notes when the coffee shop opens at 6 a.m. Must run for now!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Out of Steam on Piano Day

Today is Piano Day, my favorite day of the week, and I am completely out of steam. I'm trying to get excited about piano day, but it's hard because I worked a lot this weekend and wasn't able to practice. I love going to piano, but I hate when I haven't been able to practice.

Plus, I'm very, very tired. Too tired to do class planning, which is why I'm blogging during my planning period. I have so much grading to do ... I just want to hole up in a cave and do nothing but grade for about six hours so I can be done with it.

I was worried that I might be burning out on teaching, but I talked to my sister (who is a seasoned teacher), and she said it's normal for teachers to run out of steam at this time of year, and that March is always a difficult month for her.

So. Fifteen more days until spring break. I'm hanging in there.

The Blog Roll

When I switched to using Bloglines, I somehow lost a lot of the sites I'd been linking to. I'm not sure how that happened, but it did. Every now and then, on one of my rare visits to another blog, I'll see a link to a blog I used to read often, but that I never read anymore because it didn't make it to my Bloglines list.

So I've added back a few that got neglected. Some are already categorized, and some are in "New to the Blogroll." Not that I have time to visit any of these ... it's just nice have them back in my blog-reading life, limited as it is!

Dreaming of Summer

According to my countdown, we have 70 more days before school is out for the summer. Included in those 70 days are weekends, spring break, a week-long school trip to Washington, D.C. (which means a restful week at school for me), and senior trip (which means another restful week for me, since many of my students are seniors).

According to the school schedule, that means 2.5 more weeks of this six-week period, plus one more six-week period.

I think I'm going to make it. I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but I do see some faint glimmers of spring weather, and that will help a lot.

Thoughts of summer ... ahh, I feel like a fifth-grader looking forward to a summer of swimming, bike-riding, and Little League. Part of me pessimistically thinks, "Summer can't be that wonderful. Someone--maybe me, or maybe someone I love--is going to get deathly ill. There's going to be an accident. Money will become and issue and I'll have to get a full-time job for the summer. It can't possibly work the way I want it to."

Then, I push those thoughts out of my mind and think, "If I'm able to have an ideal summer, I want it to consist of ..."

Practicing piano. Practicing for three or four hours a day for the first time since college. Giving it the time and energy I've been wanting to give it ever since I started playing again back in 2004.

Resuming work on my novel. Remember "TNP"? It's been sitting on my bookcase, waiting patiently for me to come back to it.

Hiking and writing the hiking guide for my area. This is another project that got shelved because I didn't have enough time. I'll have time for that now.

Spending time with that stranger who lives in my house, a.k.a. The Hubster. We both work so much that our time together is severely limited. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but this is ridiculous.

I've already worked out a schedule that allows time for all of these things. In addition to that, I have a couple of freelance jobs early in the summer.

I want to take it easy and do the things I love: making music, writing, hiking, and being with Hubster.

70 more days.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Springer Fever

Every spring, thru-hikers and dreamers get something known as "Springer Fever"--an intense longing and desire for Springer Mountain, Georgia, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, and the starting point for northbound thru-hikers.

I hiked from north to south (Katahdin in Maine to Springer), but that doesn't mean I don't get Springer Fever each spring. In my seventh-grade science class, as we discuss the daily and seasonal rhythms of plants and animals, and I find myself saying things like, "Look for animal tracks in the morning near the water sources ..." or "One really cool thing you can hear when you're camping is ..." or "If you go hiking in late March, you'll see ..." or "Take note of how the leaves look when they first start to emerge after the winter ... it's so cool!" (Yes, I over-use the word cool when talking about hiking.)

All of these things just feed the flame of Springer Fever. It's gray and cold outside, but that doesn't matter. I want to be on Springer, with 2,100+ miles and six months of hiking ahead of me. I want to be out there.

Go Girls!

I'm not the world's greatest sports fan, but this is pretty cool.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Bright and Chipper

I finally feel human again. It took two days off from school and lots of sleep, and I'm still not at 100%, but I do feel much better than I did last Friday. Here's the latest with school:

Science: We're doing two units on ecology this week and next week, then the frogs should finally be in on the Monday before spring break. I love studying ecosystems and habitats, so this is right up my alley. I'm planning to take the girls on a hike as a field trip in May, and we'll look at different habitats and the types of vegetation found in them. Fascinating stuff, and I think they will enjoy it.

British Lit: We begin reading The Importance of Being Earnest tomorrow--the last reading selection for our unit on Victorian literature. If we have no schedule snafus and no delays, we'll be able to have the test on a Tuesday and spend the last three days before spring break watching a movie adaptation of a Victorian novel or play.

Composition: It's crunch time for their research papers. Drafts are due Friday, so I'm probably going to let them use class time this week to work on the drafts. Of course, if they don't take advantage of it, I have many evil worksheets waiting in the wings. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Fundamentals of Lit: Between vocabulary, grammar, writing, and To Kill a Mockingbird, these kids will be a busy bunch for the next few weeks before spring break. This class will probably be my most time-consuming for the rest of this six-week period.

All and all, things are good. We didn't get to spend as much time/energy on Gerard Manley Hopkins as I would have liked, due to my days off. Oh well. Maybe next year will be better.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Disheartening

The Hubster used our new digital camera to "videotape" me practicing my Bach.

I was very disheartened as I watched the video. The music sounds okay (if you ignore the fact that George is more out of tune than ever), but my poor hands look like they're undergoing the tortures of the, uh, darned.

In the picture to the left, do you see how my thumbs are in "hitchhiker" mode, bent stiffly back? Try bending your thumbs back like that, and notice how much muscle effort is required to do so.

Needless to say, my thumbs are not supposed to do that when I play. They're supposed to be relaxed and restful. They stay like that, though--all tensed up. I have to concentrate really hard to make them relax.

Now, if my thumbs are so tense that they're bent back as far as they can go, imagine how the rest of my hands must be. Not to mention my wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, back, etc.

Tense, tense, tense. Those hands look so tense. I need to do something. I don't care if my stress and tension make me difficult to live with, or make it impossible for me to sleep, but ... oh, the sight of those poor, frozen hands with their stick-like fingers trying to play Bach just breaks my heart!

For the 100th time, I am so ready for summer and the relaxation it will bring.

Three Types of Music I Simply Do Not Like

There are three types of music that I simply do not like.
  • New Age piano music
  • Bluegrass
  • Contemporary Christian Music

It's awful. I should like all three of these, seeing as I am a Christian piano player living in western North Carolina. But I have no ear for most of it. There are a few New Age pieces I like, I suppose, and some bluegrass isn't as bad as the rest ... but, no matter how much I expose myself to this stuff, I just can't seem to gain more than a smidgen of appreciation for any of it.

Give me classical music, classic rock, folk, jazz, blues, Broadway show tunes, Big Band, and even my beloved 80s pop music. I'll even embrace country music if it's on the folky side or makes me want to get drunk and sing off-key with my friends (not that I've done that in a very long time). Heck, I even like hip-hop for my speed-walking and iron-pumping soundtracks. But play your New Age, bluegrass, and CCM somewhere else, please.

Whew. I just had to get that off my chest. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Movin' On Up

Today I spent a lot of time working on the Liszt and the fugue.

My assignment for the Liszt: finish writing in the fingering, then list the sections in order from simplest to most difficult. (We had divided the entire piece into sections at our last lesson.) So I did that, and decided that Section 10 was the hardest (sorry, I don't have the measure numbers with me ... I'll add 'em later). So I worked on Section 10. Amazingly, it really isn't too bad. Nothing's too hard, I guess, when you're just working on a measure or a part of a measure.

I really love this piece ... I love all the voices going here and there. And, since I'm very familiar with the vocal version by Schubert, and with the words, it's really neat to see what Liszt did to make the piano transcription.

With the fugue, my assignment was (again) to write in all of the fingering and then to familiarize myself with each voice. I spent some time on that this evening.

Whew. This is a difficult piece for me already. The Liszt, at least, is simple enough when I break it down. The Bach isn't. There is so much going on in; it's a little overwhelming, but in a good way. Kind of like a huge hot tub or a tray full of amaretto truffles would be overwhelming.

I feel like I'm moving up. The inventions and sinfonias have been good, but I was playing at the same level when I was in high school and college (though I adamantly refused to play Bach after ninth grade). The P&F, and even the Liszt, are a step up in difficulty. They are challenging, but I'm excited about them because I know my technique will improve as a result of playing them. (I also thing one's brain becomes smarter from doing such things ...)

During a brief stint of piano lessons back in 1997, I played a couple of Mozskowski etudes. They were too hard, above my level, but boy, did my technique improve as a result of playing trying to play them. I think these pieces, or at least the fugue, will have a similar effect.

It's almost midnight. Time to go read.

Boo Hoo. George is Sad.

The piano tuner called today and said he had a terrible cough and fever and would have to cancel today's appointment with George. He sounded pretty bad, so I think he was probably telling the truth.

George is really sad. I'm really sad. There are notes that won't play when you strike them. The A string that he had to replace last time sounds terrible, which is a pain when you're practicing a piece in D-minor. I've been saving money and saving money, and I finally have enough to pay a piano tuner, plus I'm actually home, and today would have been perfect.

Alas, we'll have to reschedule.

I think I will go comfort George with some hands-separate work on the C#-major fugue. C#-major is good because it has A# and not that twangy old A.

Ho hum.

Friday, March 24, 2006

George, a Day Off, and The Recital That Never Happened

George's piano tuner, Gary, is supposed to come visit tomorrow and fix ol' George up good as new. Last year, we had major snowstorms on the two days that he was supposed to come, and we had to postpone and reschedule twice.

Is it mere coincidence that, even though I made the appointment on a sunny, 68-degree day in mid-March, we have snow and ice the day before Gary is supposed to be here? And that snow flurries are expected tonight? I wonder ...

I didn't go to school today, and I truly hope my students, who are pretty well-behaved for me, didn't torment the poor substitute too much. I am recovering from several things--a stomach virus that seems to be making its rounds among the faculty, a state of insomnia-induced fatigue that has lasted since early February, and the state of severe depression that has been my on-and-off life companion for the past 20 years. I doubt that I'll recover from everything over a couple of days, but I must admit that the quiet and solitude of today have been nice.

I spent the morning planning school-related things, and I'll be working with George for the rest of the day until Hubster comes home. My points of focus for this week are to be the C#-major fugue and the Liszt. I'll be playing the B-minor sinfonia at the group class on Friday, and I expect that I'll "graduate" from that piece at that time. I hate "graduating" from pieces, but it is definitely time to move on to other things.

After piano on Wednesday, Deborah and I went out to dinner and had a wonderful couple of hours catching each other up on our lives and talking about music. She's planning a program that features South American composers, and she's pretty excited about that. We also talked about my upcoming recital.

I think I'm going to call it something weird and Waterfallish, like "15 Years Later: The Recital That Never Happened." That is a reference to my senior recital in college, which never happened because I ... well, it's a long story. But I basically had to withdraw from all my classes and never got to do the recital. Ever since then, I've thought, "You know, I really should do a recital someday. To make up for the one I missed."

So yeah, I kind of have something to prove to myself. And that "something" will be 15 Years Later: The Recital That Never Happened.

It will probably be in the fall of 2007, which gives me about 18 months to prepare and two full summers for intense practice. I fully expect life to be easier during Year Two of teaching, so I hope to have more practice time next year than I do now. Below are the pieces we're thinking about including. It's no mistake that they are typical pieces one might play for an audition for music school, since, when I was in college, I seriously thought for a couple of years about studying at a conservatory after getting my B.A. (I was so naïve ... I'm not sure how I expected to afford such a thing!). Anyway, here are the potential pieces for 15 Years Later: The Recital That Never Happened:

1. Bach, C#-major Prelude and Fugue from WTC 1
2. Something classical but not huge like a sonata ... maybe some Bagatelles by Beethoven*
3. Liszt, Two Song Transcriptions (one will be "Ständchen"; we haven't decided on the other one)
4. Chopin, Ballade No. 3 in A-flat major
5. Something else that is either romantic or classical, and not too big, and that will wake folks up after the langorous Liszt and Chopin
6. Something 20th century that will really wake them up if the previous piece didn't do the job

None of them are virtuoso-style pieces, but then again, I'm not a virtuoso pianist. Maybe someday ...

Enough rambling about piano. Time to go practice.

*Deborah recommended against doing a sonata because it would be a lot to accomplish, with my limited practice schedule, over 18 months. Yet, we still need something classical, so we're thinking of alternatives. I may end up doing a sonata after all, though; I've started numerous Beethoven and Mozart sonatas, but have never finished a one. It would be nice to learn one in completion, for once.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Home

I went to school for a couple of hours today, then came home. Luckily a sub was available. I am just so tired. Going to take a nap in a minute.

We're doing ecosystems in my seventh-grade science class. I read them some things I'd written in my book about Louisiana ecosystems. I get so excited about stuff like pioneer species, habitats, and forest succession. I daresay, I get as excited about those things as I do about Wordsworth and Bach.

There is a slight chance of snow tonight. That would work out quite well for me. I've already arranged for a substitute for tomorrow, but if school is cancelled or delayed, I won't end up having to miss as much.

This is a really boring post. It's naptime.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

So Much on my Plate

I'm having another roller-coaster week. I haven't had a chance to visit other blogs since Saturday. I miss all of you!

I got up at 5:00 this morning and wrote a quiz. I still have two outline assessments and one more quiz to write before 11:55. Oh, and lesson plans ... heh.

I haven't planned British Lit because we're discussing Hopkins, and I spent a lot of time reading and researching Hopkins this summer because I love him so much. I planned Science two nights ago, so I'm OK there. Comp ... I have a grab bag of things planned, so I'll decide later just what we'll focus on. And for Fundamentals of Lit, we're having a quiz (the one I have yet to write!), and then I'm giving them a general introduction to To Kill a Mockingbird (that I haven't written yet ... I may just do this one off the top of my head, which probably isn't the best idea). I was hoping to have a writing assignment ready for them today, but that's not gonna happen until Friday at the earliest.

Heck, I haven't even planned what chapters we'll read when, or how long I expect the book to take us. I'm so tired. I think we're just going to read it little by little, discuss it, do vocabulary, learn about characterization and the south in the 1930s, learn how to write about literature in bite-sized (paragraph) pieces, and just have fun.

The worst thing about school is that it always manages to take the enjoyment out of reading a really good book. It's my goal in life to not squeeze the love of reading out of kids (and to instill a general tolerance for reading into the rest of them). I know. Doing vocabulary and making them write isn't going to advance anyone toward that goal.

Oh well. Maybe someday!

I'm happy today because it's piano day. I just hope I'm not half-alseep by the time my lesson begins!

It's 6:23 a.m. I've already been up for an hour and a half. *yawn*

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Pretend for a Moment that You're in Ninth Grade

OK. So you're in ninth grade, which makes you about 15 years old. You're reading To Kill a Mockingbird in your class, and you have to write a major paper. What would you rather have as your assignment?

1) Interview a person born in the mid-1920's about what it was like to grow up during the 1930s. You'll have a series of questions that you should ask regarding various aspects of life in the Great Depression--school, games, friends, trends, family, music, politics, economics, etc. After you have interviewed the person, you must write an article-style paper in which you not only tell about the person and report on your interview, but also introduce information about the 1930s that you have researched on your own.

2) Pretend you are a child in the 1930s. Research this period in American history, and then write a series of letters to a child of the first decade of the 2000s in which you tell them:

- what your home and neighborhood are like.
- what your family is like (family activities, standard of living, parents' jobs, etc.)
- what your school and friends are like (school, classes, teachers, activities with friends)
- what is going on in the world around you (politically, economically, fashions, music, radio, etc.)

I think #2 would be more work, but I also think it would be more fun. The final "paper," whether an article or a series of letters, will be about five pages.

I think it will be fun because they can really get an idea of what the "real people" and the "real world" were like during the days that Scout and Jem were running wild around Maycomb.

I will definitely be assigning a paper; I just can' t decide if I want to assign the journalist-style paper or the creative paper. Both will require research and citations (I know, I know, that takes all the fun out of the creative paper). I've thought about giving them a choice.

So ... those of you who have commented that you wish you could be in my class (and whoever else wants to put in their two cents): Which assignment would you rather be given?

Or would you just rather do a research paper on some aspect of the 1930s that gives a clearer understanding of the issues in the book--Jim Crow laws, expectations of women, etc.?

Here's what I think: Atticus Finch is just about the sexiest man in all of American literature, and Scout Finch is without question the coolest female ever conjured up in a writer's brain.

Special Birthdays Today

Today is the 35th birthday of my very best friend, Amy Powers. So head over to her blog and wish her a happy birthday!

It's also the 321st anniversary of J.S. Bach's birth. Happy birthday to my beloved, bewigged, and bejowled one!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Back to School

Ah, it was a good weekend. I was bone-tired all weekend, but being bone-tired is OK when you don't have to be anywhere or see anyone.

I spent much of the weekend with George (as you can tell from my recent blogging). I also spent a few hours at my favorite coffee shop, writing. Clearing my head. It made it worth it to spend most of my Friday afternoon grading papers and planning classes for this week. I got to rest on Saturday and Sunday.

Now I'm back at school, listening to the chattering of my new homeroom kids. A teacher left several weeks ago, and the other teachers had to take on her load. Luckily for me, I only got a new homeroom and didn't have to take on any new classes. Very lucky, since she was the other English teacher and it would (logically) make sense for me to take her classes. Psychologically, I would have suffocated under all the work and ended up in the nut house, and I think my principal knew that when she reassigned the classes.

So I have a somewhat busy day ahead of me. My science girls have a test, and we're discussing The Magician's Nephew in British Lit as part of our Narnia series. The composition kids get to discuss and practice sentence variation (they probably won't be thrilled about this), and my ninth-graders will begin a unit on modifiers (adjectives and adverbs). We start To Kill a Mockingbird later this week in that class. Yay!

OK, I have a lot of work to do before classes begin. Hope everyone has a happy Monday!

(Don't forget--tomorrow is J.S. Bach's birthday!)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

One Last Piano Update for the Weekend, and a Recital Report

One Last Piano Update for the Weekend:

The Liszt truly isn't so bad after all. Oh, it's difficult--I have no argument about that. But it's not out of my league. In fact, one of my challenges will be to keep working to perfect it, even after I have it sounding good.

This is a change from all the Bach I've been playing. Bach is so exacting, so perfect, so ... pure. Working on the Liszt, with its rubato, heavy pedaling, shimmery chords, and lack of polyphony, I almost feel like the music is beckoning me towards laziness.

I don't think laziness will be that much of a problem. It will be more an issue of trying to cut corners because I don't have adequate time to practice. I must not do that!!

The Bach sinfonia is sounding wonderful. I'm playing it quite confidently by memory, and am really enjoying the freedom from the sheet music. 72 at the metronome now seems slow. Yep, looks like I've moved up a few notches. I really like the faster speed. However, since I'm still a little sloppy on a few of the broken-chord sections, I'm forcing myself to remain at a slower speed (most of the time!) until I get those parts straightened out. They are minor, so I expect it to sound quite good at my lesson on Wednesday.

Recital Report

Deborah had a recital today. She played Schumann, Scriabin, Schoenberg (lots of S's!), Piazzolla, and Gershwin. I had heard her perform all of it before, except for the Scriabin and the Schoenberg. I loved the Scriabin. It was early Scriabin, but I don't remember exactly what she played. :-/

It really got me thinking about my recital. I don't know when it will be, or what I will play. But I'm thinking about it. :)

A Little More Accurate

I took this test again because the first time I took it I was in a hurry and very distracted. I think these results fit me more. (Not that these tests mean anything ... but they're so much fun!)


My Personal Dna Report

Out of My League

This Liszt piece is out of my league. It's harder than anything I've ever played (I think). I thought it would be a relatively simple piece. Some parts of it are very easy, but Liszt makes up for them on the last two pages. Oh, I guess these hard parts would be easier if my hand could reach a span of 14 keys or so ... but alas, I'm a petite girl and have small hands.

I've been writing in the fingering for the entire piece tonight and playing through it to see if the fingering works. I've written and erased, written and erased. I've never been so confused by fingering in my life. Deborah will definitely have to help me with this. And the unfamiliar stretches ... oh, my. Just playing through it with different fingerings, my hands feel like they have been to a hand-yoga class.

I hope it's not too hard. I hope it's hard enough to take me to the next level, but not so hard that I get discouraged. It's such a beautiful piece, and I want to play it as beautifully as it's meant to be played.

P.S. My hands feel really, really good right now. They are happy hands. :)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Memorized!

I did it. I memorized the B-minor sinfonia.

No, it's not a big deal in the great scheme of things. The B-minor sinfonia isn't the most complicated or difficult-to-memorize piece in the world.

But it's Bach, and it's in three voices, so it's not the easiest thing to memorize, either. It's also the first real piece I've memorized since 1991, when I was practicing for my college senior recital that never happened.

Deborah doesn't require that I memorize anything (since I'm a grown-up and all), but I want to memorize. This is funny because twenty years ago, if you'd told me I'd have a teacher that didn't require memorization of pieces, I would have jumped for joy. But now, I want to memorize pieces because I want them to be mine. Once I have them in my head, it's like being to go out and play with a friend without parental supervision (Mama Sheet Music).

I'm playing the sinfonia by memory at 76 on the metronome now. 80 is a bit fast for the moment, but it's not too far in my future.

Playing by memory has never been particularly hard for me; I just haven't made it a priority to memorize anything since I started playing again a couple of years ago. But, if I'm going to plan a recital, I need to get accustomed to memorizing things again. And this sinfonia--even though it won't be a recital piece--is Step 1 of the process.

Why I Play the Oboe Piano

Here's an interesting article by writer and musician Isabel Bradley. She asks why musicians play the insruments that they do, and after informally interviewing a few different instrumentalists, she writes this in Open Writing:

"The need to play an instrument stems from the player’s delight in the sound it produces. If that basic affinity with the instrument is absent, there will be no joy in playing it – or in listening to that person do so!"
She also writes of her own experience playing her chosen instrument, the flute:

The sounds of the flute seeped into my soul when, as a child, I listened to my
father practising each night. In all its moods, the flute sounds beautiful. It can be silver, crystal, gold, or honey; rippling, soaring, singing and floating. It is this potential for creating heavenly tones that leads me to practice and play my flute as often as time allows. In return for “polishing my talent” by practicing often and carefully, I receive both physical and emotional pleasure when playing my flute. The vibrations caused by that silver tube soothe my soul, heart and mind; the physical delight of conquering difficult passages, the deep, controlled breathing feeding oxygen to all parts of my body, is as beneficial to me as road-running, riding a bicycle, or conquering the physical intricacies of soccer, rugby, tennis or any other sport is to the sportsman.

I try to think of why I chose the piano, and all I can think is that the piano chose me. That, and I never knew of any other instruments (except maybe the guitar) until I was several years into the piano. I envy those who grew up around people who played less ubiquitous instruments--flutes, bassoons, violas, etc.--or at least grew up in musical families.

I love playing piano more than just about anything. Ever since I first sat down at it, it felt natural and made sense. It's as if it responded to me in a way it didn't respond to the other kids who took lessons from my same piano teacher. I can't imagine playing any other instrument. Except maybe ...

As far as the sound of an instrument, I think the oboe is without question has the most beautiful sound in the entire orchestra. When the oboe plays--even if it's not soloing--it's like all of the other instruments are just humming in the background. My heartbeat seems to quicken just a little bit whenever I hear that lovely, familiar, mournful sound among the others. It has a warmth to it that the other instruments (except for the piano, which is just a little bit warmer) don't seem to have.

Do you know that sense of familiarity you get whenever you hear your name called out in a crowd? Someone may be calling out to someone else, but you turn anyway because it's your name. Well, that's the same feeling I get when I hear a piano or an oboe. It's understandable with the piano, since I've played it for so long, but it's kind of a strange thing with the oboe.

Either my weird, part-deaf ears are specially tuned to the oboe (this may very well be the case), or else I'm a closet oboist wanna-be.

It's probably my weird ears, seeing as they hear certain pitches acutely, others as merely rumblings, and still others not at all. But still, maybe I should hang out with Patty and Hilda just a bit more ...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Still Awake

I can't believe it's 9:28 p.m. I was going to go to bed at 7:00. Yes. I'm that tired.

I was actually going to go to bed when I got home at 4:00 this afternoon, but I talked myself into a walk up the mountain. I guess I can't be that bad off if I can walk up a mountain, even as tired as I am.

Truth is, I don't know how I do it. Today, I was thinking, "I miss myself." I love my job, but I miss my quiet times. I should have been at the school fundraiser tonight, playing in a staff vs. students basketball game (not that I know anything about basketball), but I came home. I just couldn't take it anymore--the crowds, the conversation, the craziness. I love teaching more than any job I've ever had, but teaching is by nature a very extraverted job. I'm not an extravert. I need to get back in touch with my introverted self.

So I went on a walk up the mountain and cried because we're not hiking the PCT this year. Cried because I feel so lost in everyone else's lives, and so far removed from myself. How can a job that I love so much take so much out of me? Or perhaps it takes so much out of me because I love it so much. Because I give so much to it.

But I have to save something for myself, or I'm going to die. I know that sounds melodramatic. But I really haven't been doing very well lately.

It's 9:35. Time for sleep. Hopefully sleep will come tonight ... it's been a stranger around here lately.

The Latest on Piano

I meant to post a piano update earlier this week, but I've been to tired to post much of anything. On Wednesday, I had my first piano lessons in several weeks. I hadn't practiced this past week, but I'd practiced a lot the two weeks before, so it was still a better lesson than usual. I'm just about finished with the B-minor sinfonia; Deborah's instructions there are to "keep drilling, and drilling, and drilling ..." I've been drilling my fingers off and can play the piece smoothly and musically at 76 on the metronome. The suggested tempo in the Alfred edition is something like 96, but I've heard several recordings at slower tempos and think I like the slower tempo better. Still, I think I want to speed up my version just a bit more.

We spent most of the hour on the C#-major P&F. Okay, the F(ugue). This is my first WTC fugue, and as much as I've read about fugues and counterpoint, actually learning a fugue is a whole new ballgame. I love it, though, and I think my love for the piece is going to motivate me past the frustrations involved in learning it. There will be frustrations ... I love learning, and I love challenges, but I think there will definitely be frustrations. My left hand is overly dependent on my right hand, and learning this fugue will mean cutting a few purse strings. Forcing the left-hand baby bird out of the nest. Pushing the left hand out into the cold, cruel world to make it on its own. How many metaphors can I think of for this?

For the Liszt, she said my fingering so far is pretty good, but made some suggestions about playing my left hand over my right hand instead of right over left. (The hands are sometimes sandwiched (handwiched) over each other, and the fingers run the risk of ending up in a bony, fleshy Gordian knot.)

My assignments for next week:

- Keep drilling the B-minor sinfonia
- Practice the Prelude hands-separately
- Finish the basic analysis and write in the fingering for the Fugue
- Finish writing in the fingering for the Liszt

So, the main playing I'll do will be on the sinfonia and the prelude. I'm still doing pre-piano work, mostly, for the fugue and the Liszt. Good thing, because I don't have time to practice four pieces (boo hoo).

I noticed something weird. I think of myself as a "piano student," and Deborah refers to me as a "pianist" or even a "very talented pianist." When I refer to myself as a "pianist," I feel like I'm being presumptuous. Strange.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I Wish I Could Share Pictures

The Spanish teacher took practically the entire high school on a field trip today. Since most of my students wouldn't be there for my classes, I decided to take my seventh-grade science students to the WNC Nature Center. It was fun. I got a lot of great pictures of my kids. I wish I could share them here, but the thought of some predator happening to see them kind of really creeps me out. That probably makes me paranoid.

It was a good day. It was very good to get away from school. I have been seriously running out of steam, and, even though today was still a "work day," it was restful in many ways.

One more day till the weekend. I'm hoping for some good weather and some hiking in the Smokies.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Carnival of Education

This week's Carnival of Education is up at the Education Wonks!

No Wonder I Feel So Misunderstood!

I'm an Artist. But at least I'm a nice one.

Today is Hubster's Birthday

Happy Birthday, Hubster!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tennyson Love



I'd forgotten how much I love Tennyson. Of the 19th-century poets, my favorites tend to be Hopkins and Hardy (I know ... polar opposites in some ways. Many ways.). Tennyson, Browning, and Arnold are all great, but they're not Hopkins or Hardy.

But reading "Ulysses" with my class today, I wondered why I don't read Tennyson more often.

Here's a snippet:

Come, my friends,
’T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Mov’d earth and heaven, that which we are, we are:
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Here's the whole poem.

I share this stuff with people for a living. How cool is that?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Throat Hurts. Swallowing is Painful.

A couple of my students were out with strep throat today.

I really, really, really hope I don't have strep throat. I would be so disappointed if I had to miss the trip to the Nature Center later this week. We're going to take the kids to McDonald's and everything.

Please God, don't let me have strep throat.

Reflections after a Marathon Grading Session

I just spent the last three hours of my life writing assessments of my comp students' note cards, source cards, and scratch outlines. (They turned in all source cards, plus their first 25 note cards, today, along with informal outlines called "scratch outlines.")

My assessments were detailed and were about a page each. Some students will toss them. A few will use them and benefit from them. The assessments included observations of what was working and what wasn't working, suggestions for the "next step" of the process, and (hopefully) a few encouraging words. I also included my questions: How do you plan to unify all of this information? Do you have a draft thesis in mind? Which poems, specifically, do you plan to focus on? Et cetera.

Research papers are difficult, hairy things, particularly for high school students, and I'd like the process to be as painless as possible. At the same time, they need the experience of digging deeply into a topic, of seeing connections in a variety of sources, of communicating their conclusions and ideas on paper. When they get to college, they'll be glad they had this kind of experience in high school, even if they weren't entirely comfortable with the process.

I just remember my first couple of semesters at college--first at Tulane, then at Mary Baldwin. Then I remember teaching freshman comp at LSU. When I was an undergrad, students in my dorm would be so stressed over freshman comp; they had no idea what to do. I placed out of both freshman comp classes and actually (informally) tutored a few other students. Then at LSU, so many freshmen shed so many tears over their initial inability to adjust to college-level academics. I was horrified at how poorly my college freshmen wrote, and they were even more horrified when their high-school A's and B's were replaced by Waterfallian D's and F's.

I love my students here. I don't want them to go through the frustration that I've seen so many college freshmen suffer. The adjustment to college is hard enough as it is. There's no reason that my kids should have to go through that. They're a very smart bunch of college-bound juniors and seniors. I want them to be ready for college-level work. Unfortunately, the road to being ready isn't completely painless, and it certainly isn't a walk in the park (more like a walk up Katahdin). But it's necessary.

I know I can't perform miracles in the single year that I have most of these kids, but I can do my best. Some are responding, and some aren't. But that's fine. Those that are responding help me to see that I'm not wasting my time. So I don't feel so bad when I spend two hours writing assessments of stacks and stacks of note cards, source cards, and scratch outlines.

No Date With George

I forgot that I had to review my comp students' note cards for their research papers. Major task. No piano tonight. I could cry. I can't put off the note cards because they need 'em back in time to do their formal outline, which needs to be in by a certain time so they can have their draft in by a certain time, and I need to have enough time to grade their drafts and get them back to the students, and they need enough time to write a final paper, and then I need enough time to grade the final paper and enter the grades.

All before spring break.

Otherwise,

they'll have research

paper homework after spring break.

And I'll have a big grading job

hanging

over

my

head

for the entire

vacation.

No thank you.

So, tonight, as always, school wins and George loses.

Sadness.

Don't ask me why I suddenly got all pseudo-poetic there. I think it was so my "All before spring break" didn't seem like such an out-of-place fragment.

I've only been teaching English for eight months, and it's already been too long.

Date with George Tonight!

Woo-hoo! Yee-hi! I get to go on a date with George tonight!

I have about 20 minutes of preparation to do for science. Maybe 20 minutes of prep for British Lit. Maybe 30 minutes for Comp. maybe 10 for English 9. All because I did some of my work in advance this weekend. That leaves a good couple of hours for George!

Wednesday is my first real piano lesson in three weeks, between Deborah being sick and her being away for spring break last week. So I'm really eager for Wednesday to get here. I didn't practice much this week, but I practiced my little fingers off the week before. And I have sooo many questions about fingering in the Liszt. I feel like I can't really start working seriously on it until I'm certain of the fingering. In that piece, the right hand and the left hand overlap a lot, so I'm wondering if it's best for the right hand to play left-hand voicings and vice-versa, or if I should just play the treble part with the right hand and the bass part with the left hand. It's more confusing than it sounds.

So I'm happy. Time to get to work so I'll have plenty of time left for George!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Bad Haircut Update

You may remember the bad haircut I got last month. It was about a million different lengths, and the worst length of all was the shortness of the bangs. I have never looked good with short bangs, and I had not asked for short bangs. However, due to some unseen force in the universe, I got short bangs.

It's finally beginning to grow out. It's not as awful as it used to be. The bangs are nearing a decent length, and the multi-layers are not quite so bushy. It's almost long enough that I can cut a little bit to even it all out (somewhat) without ending up with a bob.

The bad thing is that I'm going to have to continue putting gunk (mousse, gel, etc.) in it for some time. One reason I generally wear my hair long is so that I don't have to put gunk in it. I hate gunky hair. I have to have gunky hair until it's long enough that it doesn't stick out in a hundred different directions.

So, I know you'll all be hanging on the edges of your seats. Not to worry ... I'll post another bad-haircut update soon, or at least as soon as there are changes to report. :)

Friday, March 10, 2006

An Update

I'm sitting in my ninth-grade English class, and they're doing a bit of creative writing about their 25th high-school reunion. I'm going to collect what they write and get it back to them in, oh, a decade or so. Won't that be cool?

I took my comp class to the college library today so they could do research. It went quite well. Between checking to make sure they were doing OK, I curled up with a copy of C.S. Lewis's The Discarded Image, which I found while helping a student find C.S. Lewis criticism. It was wonderful. Reminded me of how much I loved spending those long hours researching things in the library when I was in grad school.

Hoping to have a restful weekend.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Leipzig Pictures

Check out On an Overgrown Path for Pliable's pictures from a recent trip to Leipzig, "Creative home of Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Wagner, the setting for a scene of Goethe's Faust, birthplace of GDR dictator Walter Ulbricht and home to the dreaded Stasi secret police, victim of Allied bombing and Communist urban planning, a thriving university city with a dynamic arts scene."

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Soooo ...

So I'm going to be on a field trip Friday and we have a lot to cover, so I spent an hour planning my British Lit class last night, figuring out how I would fit the rest of the "Intro to the Victorians" information in so that we could move on to poetry tomorrow. Ran off the handouts, wrote up an assignment, etc.

At the start of class, they called a student government meeting that has now gone on for 25 minutes--half of my class.

Three of my five students in this class are in the student government.

Sigh.

Monday, March 6, 2006

Good Day at School

Ahhhh ... I had a good day at school. I needed a good day at school.

It started with my wonderful science class. I love my science girls. I teach five of the brightest seventh-graders in the school, and it is a pure joy to meet with them every morning. We had our last day of "movie watching," so it's back to all-work-and-no-play tomorrow. :) We've been watching The Blue Planet, which is just fascinating.

Then, in English, we spent the first 15 minutes on a Silver Chair quiz and finishing Shadowlands (what a sad movie). Then, I did a little introductory lecture to the Victorian Era, complete with funny examples of Victorian advertisements like this one:




As I looked over the Victorian Lit materials after school today, I started getting excited; we're going to read Tennyson, Browning (both of 'em), Arnold, Dickens, Darwin, Hardy, Hopkins, Houseman, and Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest). Hopkins is my favorite of all the non-Romantic poets. I think my students will love him, too.

In Composition, I wanted to talk about misplaced and dangling modifiers, but the class needed a review/introduction to the concept of modifiers, so we spent a lot of time on that. Weird ... you'd think students would quit paying attention the moment you start talking about grammar. Yet, as much as they complain about it, they're always very attentive when we do grammar. For that reason, I actually kind of enjoy teaching grammar. (I must admit, one of the most fun aspects of teaching grammar is coming up with goofy sentences for the grammar worksheets ...)

In English 9, we're watching West Side Story. They find it amusingly dated so far, but that's OK, because I do, too. It really is wonderful, watching all of the dancing. And they now have the context of Romeo and Juliet to see how West Side Story really is a modern-day (1950's modern?!?) adaption of the Romeo and Juliet story.

I also turned in my grades today and, on the whole, all of my students did pretty well. Am I getting easier, or are they learning how I grade? Hmmmm ....

OK. Gotta run. Hubster's ready to go on a walk.

Updates

I'm in the mood for updating.

School

Science: We're starting the study of birds and mammals today. Our frogs are on back order from Carolina Biological, so we'll probably have to interrupt birds and mammals and go back to amphibians at some point.

British Lit: As part of our C.S. Lewis study, we've been watching Shadowlands and should finish that movie today or tomorrow. Then, we start learning about the Victorians. Although I'm more into the Romantics than mid- to late-19th century writers, some of my favorites are from this later period--Hopkins, Hardy, Wilde, Arnold, etc. So it should be a good unit.

Composition: We'll be starting a long-overdue study on sentence variation today. Fun, fun, fun! (Actually, I think it's fun. My students may beg to differ, however.)

Fundamentals of Lit: We just finished up a big unit on Romeo and Juliet. The kids wanted to watch the Leonardo DiCaprio version of the movie this week, and I said that would be OK ... until I previewed it this weekend. The library's copy of Romeo and Juliet (the Zefferelli version) is checked out, so we're watching West Side Story instead.

Piano

B-minor Sinfonia: Sounding good. I'm working on speed now, using the metronome. When I flub at a new speed, I stop and drill that section, slow down, and then work up to speed again. It's a process.

C#-major Prelude: This really does not seem like a difficult piece. There are a few tricky sections, and I've been drilling those almost exclusively, hands separately. It's a delightful piece of music, and I'm so looking forward to the day when I can play it well, at speed.

C#-major Fugue: Hands separately. Right hand only, so far.

Liszt Transcription: Hands separately, some together, for the first 14 or so measures. I'm really uncertain about the fingering, so I'm holding off on practicing this one too much until Deborah and I discuss it and we agree on the best fingering.

Other

Life in General: I've been really down lately. Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's that I'm just overwhelmed (as usual).

Whatever I am, I know that I'm more than ready for spring break. It's still more than a month away, but I'm counting the days.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Yesterday

Yesterday was a foggy day--foggy in the head, I mean. I kept spilling things and forgetting where I was going. Felt like a crazy person.

It was a good thing I decided to play hooky.

I pretty much spent the entire day holed up in a soundproof room at UNCA, playing piano. I did a lot of focused work on my new pieces: the Liszt, and the Bach Prelude and Fugue. I played through each slowly and marked all of the most difficult parts, then I went back and worked on learning/drilling those most difficult parts. A very daunting way to begin practicing a new piece, but it's an approach I've found useful.

I took a break and went to Zen Sushi for some lunch and writing (they were very nice in saying it was OK for me to sit there for an hour after I finish eating and write ... of course, it was 2:00 and not exactly crowded).

Then it was back to UNCA, woo hoo! I worked on easier stuff: drilling my B-minor sinfonia (all that drilling on all those broken chords have done their job--it's really sounding good), and learning the easier sections of the Liszt and the Prelude. The first part of the Liszt is not hard at all, save for a couple of tricky spots where the hands crowd up--but the result is that, after yesterday's practice, I can play the first page and have it sound beautiful, even if it isn't quite perfect.

It felt so good to be on a college campus yesterday. College campuses feel like home. They always have. The Ph.D. thoughts were strong yesterday. I want to go to a school that has (1) an English department with a strong Rhetoric and Composition program ... and (2) lots of practice rooms in their music buildings. :)

I wish we lived near a university with a doctoral program in English. Alas, we don't, and I won't be able to start on my Ph.D. until fall of 2008. Blah.

I'm still foggy in the head today, but it's not quite as bad. Good thing, because I have days of school-related procrastination to catch up on. Blah again.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Crash

I am so tired. I'm not going to school tomorrow. I've already arranged for a sub. Planning to get some rest, finally. Blogging will be light, if at all.

Quoting Poetry

I can't begin to explain what it means to me to have lines and lines of poetry floating around in my head all the time. Sure, I have my own poetry, but I'm talking about "canonized" poetry. Keats. Wordsworth. Shakespeare. Dickinson. Eliot.

At certain times in my life, certain lines of poetry are more prominent, as they tend to serve as a kind of "background music" for my life. When I was hiking the AT, I constantly thought about Dickinson's "I taste a liquor never brewed." All through high school, it was Dickinson's "I'm Nobody! Who are you?"

When I've been depressed, I've most often gone to the melancholy Romantics. When teaching the Romantics over the past month, I'd find myself quoting big sections of poetry by heart, and the reason I can quote them is that they've played some sort of major "theme music" role at some point in my life.

I didn't realize until I was standing in front of my classroom last week that I have this entire stanza from Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale" memorized in its entirety:

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.

I think I must have memorized those lines at Oxford, when I was so depressed. I don't remember ever sitting down and making the effort to memorize them. They just found their way into my brain somehow. Or my heart. It's always like that.

I just love poetry.

Bach Birthday Coolness


Later this month, on March 21, we will celebrate the 321st anniversary of J.S. Bach's birth.

321 on 3/21. How cool is that?

I mentioned it to my science girls, and one yelled, "Yay! Birthday cake on March 21!"

I grinned and nodded. They know me pretty well by now.

An Old Favorite, and an Umlaut to Boot

Pianists, do you remember when you first learned Für Elise? I remember playing it over and over again, thinking, "I've finally learned a real piano piece," and how captivated I was by its charm and beauty. Very thrilling.

Here is a video of pianist Ivo Pogorelich playing this "old favorite." (Click on the "Für Elise" link once you get thre.)

And I'm not just linking this video so I'll have an opportunity to use an umlaut. Though the umlaut is yet another reason to love Für Elise ...

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Dear Abby, Dear Abby, You Passed Your Test

Since you were wondering, and all. :)

My Piano-Lessonless Day

It was an unfortunate piano-lessonless day. It was an unfortunate day all around. Wanna hear about it?

I forgot my science book at school last night, so I couldn't write the science test my girls had to take this morning. So I got to school at 6:45 this morning to write the test. And write it I did, in record time. I sent it to the printer, and ... printer's jammed. No. Printer's BROKEN. As in "Call the technician or I'll start smoking and emitting burning smells."

Grumble, grumble, grumble. Then I also realized that the e-mail I'd sent myself last night--the one that was supposed to include the Romeo and Juliet study guide that had taken me an hour to write--had no attachment. [Insert expletive here.] This meant I had to go back home and call it up on my computer, then go back to school.

It wouldn't have been a big deal, only we had a half-day and a compressed schedule today.

Long story short. Another teacher offered to oversee my girls as they took their science test while I raced home to print the study guide.

Then I realized I'd forgotten to grade some things I needed to grade. And I misplaced a student's class project that she was supposed to present to the class today.

And then I got the phone call from Deborah that piano was cancelled.

One thing after another.

This evening was better. I worked really hard on the Liszt fingering and played through it a few times. There are a few tricky parts, but overall it doesn't look as difficult as it did at first. I'll be married to it for a while, but not for the rest of eternity as I'd feared. There are a few parts that require my fingers to be about twice as long as they are, so it'll be interesting figuring how how I'll play them. Luckily it's Liszt so I can employ pedals and arpeggios as needed.

This evening I took a walk around Lake Junaluska and listened to my beloved iPod, whom I've named Ichapod. This evening's playlist was "Opera Trek," or a bunch of opera arias that I downloaded. Only problem with walking to classical music is that I start conducting and don't realize it until some other walker looks at me with an amused expression.

Now it's time to grade those science and English tests.

No Piano Today :-(

Deborah called, and she's sick. We had to cancel piano. And it was supposed to be a long lesson because we had a half-hour to make up, plus, the regular hour-long lesson. I was really eager to go over the new Bach and Liszt pieces. I don't want to spend too much time on them until we have gone over the fingering. The fingering for the Liszt is really confusing me.

I am so sad. I was so looking forward to piano. It's my weekly dose of sanity. I was going to go to Asheville early (we have a half-day at work), plant myself at a coffee shop for a few hours of paper-grading (the never-ending task), go to UNCA and practice on a good piano (unlike poor, out-of-tune George), and then go to piano.

Maybe I'll do all of that anyway, and just not do the piano-lesson part.

Seventh Inning Stretch

If the school year were a baseball game, we'd be somewhere around the start of the seventh inning right now. It's the last day of the six-week period, and everyone at school--administration, teachers, and students--is feeling stressed and overworked, from the principal on down to the students.

So I'm having a seventh-inning stretch in my classes. Spring break isn't until mid-April. We need a real break now.

(I never dreamed I would do this.)

We'll be watching movies for the next three days in my science, composition, and English Lit classes. Then we'll be watching movies for three days next week in my Fundamentals of Lit class.

Here's the showing schedule:

2nd period Science: Finding Nemo
4th period English: Shadowlands
5th period Composition: Amadeus (I hope. I'm going to give them a choice of movies.)
6th period English: Romeo & Juliet (the Leonardo DiCaprio version)
7th period English: Shadowlands

Meanwhile, I'll finish up my grades for report cards and prepare for new units in all classes. Here are our new units:

Science: Birds and Mammals
English Lit: The Victorians
Composition: Definition and continued research papers
Fundamentals of Lit: A stretch of grammar and writing before we start To Kill a Mockingbird

I get to read To Kill a Mockingbird as part of my job. For all of my complaints, for all of my exhaustion, this really isn't a bad job.

This is What Happens ...

... when the British Literature teacher also teaches science.



The microscope ends up wearing a conical princess hat on English Renaissance Day.