Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Lesson Learned

Never drink two liters of water in the morning when you have to give a 2.5-hour exam in the afternoon.

Ah, yes. Words of wisdom from someone who learned the hard way.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Comp Exams are Graded!

They didn't take me nearly as long as I though they would. The grades weren't particularly high. I think they would have been higher if my "A" students hadn't been exempt from the exam. From listening to students talk, I also got the impression that no one studied particularly hard, if at all. True, it's an elective, but composition isn't exactly the easiest class in the world.

Oh well. Not my problem anymore. I love my composition students, but I've done all I can possibly do for them this year.

Tomorrow are the two English exams. I hope to finish all the grading by Friday. I have piano tomorrow evening and don't know what we're going to do, now that George and I have become perfect strangers.

Life becomes normal again in June. Until then, it's all school, no piano, and no play for Waterfall.

Four more school days left!

Birthmother's Birthday

Today is the birthday of my birthmother.

All together, now ...

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
You look like Happy birthday, dear Sherry!
Happy birthday to you!

Hope you have a wonderful day today!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Monday Night

I know. I'm Miss Originality when it comes to post titles.

The hiking trip was a huge success. The girls had a great time, and so did the adults. The weather was awesome. The short trail I chose turned out to be plenty long enough, and a ranger actually led us on a guided hike. We had a great little picnic afterward and made it back to school 15 minutes before the final bell rang.

Hubster and I celebrated Memorial Day this afternoon. We sat outside and had grilled burgers and enjoyed the weather. Then he took me to his camp and showed me around.

Tonight, I received some good news that made me feel like my months-long stress was finally starting to melt away. I wrote about it on my complainer blog. I'll write more about it here later on.

For now, I'm really tired and am going to bed now. I think that, now that school is winding down, the insomnia won't be so much of a problem.

'Night, everyone!

Going Hiking Today!

I'm taking my science class hiking today! I've decided on a couple of hikes--a short one, and then a second short one if the first one is too short.

I'll be driving. I'm always nervous about transporting precious cargo, so I'm nervous about this trip today. It should be fun, though. We had our last "official" science class on Friday of last week, and this is probably the last chance I'll ever get to spend any time with this group of girls. I have loved every single minute of teaching them this year.

Other plans for today:

Copy and staple all of my exams.
Celebrate Memorial Day after school with Hubster and some friends.
Tickle a few ivories.

I'm exhausted from the weekend, but the prospect of hiking has me feeling pretty good. :)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Little Encouragement Goes A Long Way

To those of you who have commented lately, thanks. It means a lot to know that you are reading, even though my blog has been nothing but a whine-fest lately.

I promise, things will get better. :)

Exams Are Written!

They're done. What a relief.

Students are exempt from exams if they have an "A" in a class and fewer than three absences. I'm glad for the students who "placed out," but I hate the rule. It means I have to make my exam a lot easier if I want people to do well. If I make them the usual level of difficulty, I'll end up with a bunch of C's, D's, and F's. Most of the kids who usually get A's and B's won't be there to even out the grades.

I ended up making them the usual level of difficulty. I think my composition exam may be really hard. Composition isn't a question-and-answer kind of subject, though, so it makes sense that it would be harder than the partial multiple-guess exams I'm giving in my English classes. I didn't give a single composition test all year; their papers were their "tests." So it was a challenge coming up with an exam that would test all of their composition-related skills--from finding and fixing sentence errors, to prewriting and outlining, to writing essays, to determing what rhetorical modes are needed for different types of essay assignments.

Now I need to take some time away from the exams. I'll come back in a few hours and look over the hard copies, find any errors, and fix them. Then I'll go to school and copy them all out so they're all ready to go.

Then I'll be ready to face the week. I will have worked about 20 hours this weekend on school stuff.

Oh geez, I just remembered that I still have to grade a stack of papers my freshmen turned in last week.

Make that 23 hours.

I'm going to stay in bed and read all weekend next weekend. Just because I can. Plus, I don't think I'll have the energy to do much of anything else!

Update: Hubster just reminded me that we are having houseguests tomorrow night. Our house is so messy that you can't even walk through the living room without stepping over things. Our refrigerator hasn't been cleaned out or restocked in weeks because we've both been so busy. Shift focus. Time for housework.

Alas, I believe I am entering self-destruct mode now.

Alert! Alert! I am imploding! I am imploding! I am implfpfpflfpflfpffff .....

Saturday, May 27, 2006

One Down, Two to Go

My British Lit exam is DONE. All I have left to write are the Fundamentals of Lit exam and the composition exam. I'm going to keep writing until I'm finished with all of them. I don't care if I'm up until 3:00 this morning. I will not sleep until my exams are written.

Update: Fundamentals of Lit exam is done, except for the essay question. I'm still thinking about that one.

It's after midnight. I've worked all day. I'm tired. I'll write the comp exam tomorrow.

Today is Gonna Be Good

I write exams today. I'm actually looking forward to the process. I won't have to do a lot of writing, per se ... just re-wording and restructuring questions from old tests. It wll be fun to take a walk down memory lane of all the wonderful literature I've shared with folks this year. I know that sounds very Pollyanna-ish, and I hate that it sounds Pollyanna-ish, but I supposed I'm feeling rather Pollyanna-ish today. I'm very happy because there are only six days left of school.

So, here's the schedule:

1. Go to coffee shop. Sit. Write. Think.
2. Go through old tests and pick out questions that will be on exams.
3. Draft exams.
4. Come home. Start writing exams.
5. Take periodic breaks to do clothes and other household chores.
6. Continue writing exams, and don't stop until I'm finished.
7. Okay, maybe take a break to work out.
7. Maybe take another break to play some piano.

If all goes on schedule, I'll have a productive day, school-wise, plus I'll have some piano time to finish it up.

I'm really happy today. Six more school days left!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Evolution of Dance

This is hilarious.

HT: Scheiss Weekly

Last Day Before Exams!

The high-school students seem to be living in mortal fear of exams, but I'm a pretty happy girl myself. I've written the review guides, run off copies of old tests, and begun drafting the exams. This weekend will be one last big production-push as I write and finalize the exams, and next weekend will be one last big grading-push as I grade them and enter grades. A week from Monday, after our half-day is over, I'll clean out my classroom, turn in my keys, and breathe a deep sigh of relief.

The last school-related event will be graduation that night. I teach all but a couple of the seniors, so it'll be like watching my own kids graduate. I'll probably be all misty-eyed and emotional. :)

They made it. And it looks like I'm going to make it, too.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

Here's a bit of Emily to celebrate the fact that we only have one more day of school before exams begin. I'm beginning to feel hopeful that I'll survive this year after all. I haven't felt hopeful in a long time. The song of Emily's "little bird" is growing louder ... or perhaps all the noise of my life is simply beginning to subside. Whatever the case, it's good to hear the little bird again.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Skeleton Jokes

One of my favorite things about teaching seventh-graders is that I can put really corny jokes on their tests, and they'll laugh at them every time.

Today's test is on skin, bones, and muscles. For the bone and muscle identification section, I have a two pictures, one of a human muscle guy and one of a skeleton, with numbered muscles and bones for them to identify.

I couldn't resist. I drew two bubbles coming out of the heads of the muscle guy and the skeleton.

The all-muscle guy is saying, "I'm MUSCLE MAN! Look at my muscles! I am good-looking!" And the skeleton is saying, "He's so cute. I really want to talk to him, but I just don't have the GUTS!"

They will laugh at that.

Here's another one:

Q. Why did the skeleton cross the road?
A. To get to the body shop!

Heh, heh, heh. I crack myself up. Back to school.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

2:24 a.m.

I hope the following things stop when summer begins:

- chronic insomnia
- messed-up stomach
- grinding of my teeth to nubs
- waking up in a blind panic several times a night
- fatigue so severe that I'm scared to drive
- the worse-than-usual mood swings

I'm so tired of being tired all the time. I've never felt so tired in all my life. And I have to be up in four hours to go back to school.

Ten more days. Graduation and the last day of school are two weeks from yesterday (Monday).

The countdown continues ...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Unplugged

I unplugged myself from the world this weekend. No computer, no TV, no cell phone, no Palm Pilot, no iPod, no elliptical machine at the gym.

Okay, so maybe I'm telling a little white lie about the iPod and the elliptical machine.

It was nice, being unplugged. I'm plugging back in now. The computer's going, I'm blogging, two printers are spitting out stuff, and my iPod is being updated.

Back to the real world.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Complainer Blog Updated

Update: Complainer blog was updated again on Monday, May 22. No complaints this time. Today's post is actually kind of exciting, in a teacher-nerd kind of way.

I've updated my complainer blog, if anyone's interested. Again, if you want the URL, just e-mail me and I'll be glad to send it to you. It probably wouldn't be of interest to anyone except teachers, and it probably isn't even all that interesting for them. :) But I do appreciate the feedback they have given me so far.

After-School Activities

What I'd planned to after school yesterday:

1. Work out for a half-hour
2. Write the science quiz
3. Plan the science lesson
4. Go over the comp lesson
5. Pick up TKAM and Narnia CDs from the library
6. Grade a bunch of tests

What I did after school yesterday:

1. Wrote about 10 pages in my journal
2. Worked out for an hour and a half (burned 700 calories on the elliptical! Yeah!)
3. Practiced George for the first time since April
4. Created new workout playlists for my iPod

Each of the activities that I did do took quite a while. I kept thinking, "Self, you really need to do school stuff." And then I kept thinking, "Nope. I'm tired of doing school stuff, and you, you tyrannical, drill sergeant of a Self, can't make me do anything I don't want to do."

Looks like my motivation level is somewhere near that of my seniors this week. And they've been on senior trip since last Saturday.

12 more days. (If you don't count exams and half-days, I have six more days. And no more lessons to plan for either of my literature classes. And I'll be absent on Monday. And classes are canceled here and there for end-of-year stuff. And those are a lot of sentences starting with "and." Woo hoo!)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Rescheduling Piano Lessons

I've rescheduled about six piano lessons this semester. That's about the same number that I rescheduled last semester. Why do I reschedule? No, it's not because I haven't practiced (though it's true that I haven't). It's not because I'm too busy with after-school activities. No, it's not for the expected reasons.

It's because I'm too tired. I'm seriously afraid that I'll fall asleep at the wheel on the way to or from piano. It's because I've been to several piano lessons where I can feel my eyes glazing over with sleep while playing.

I've been doing something similar when working out, too. Picture a petite blond Waterfall with a bad haircut, going to town on the elliptical machine or Stairmaster, head resting in her arms on the little display screen, eyes closed. That's how I've been working out lately. My body is going, but my brain is on leave.

I had to reschedule piano yesterday. I hate rescheduling. I hate the fact that I haven't practiced, that, even though my after-school life is getting less busy as the year winds down, I don't have the energy to practice.

I miss my Bach. This has been my longest "dry" period, practice-wise, since I started taking lessons again in 2004.

School will be over soon, though, and those long-awaited long summer days will get here eventually. And George will be one happy piano.

So Many Visitors

According to Sitemeter, my visitor population has exploded this month. Before May, this blog averaged about 80 hits a day. Now I'm averaging in the neighborhood of 140. And, according to Sitemeter again, people are staying and reading. There are more page views per visitor, and they're staying for one minute, two minutes, sometimes more.

Has anyone else noticed such a trend on their blogs? As much as I'd like to think that my brilliant writing style and word-of-mouth raving about "A Sort of Notebook" are the elements that keep people coming, it actually seems that Google is picking up every little word in my blog and sending readers here. People looking for such random things as "morphodite," "Haydn," "fantasie," "classroom pictures," "planaria," "English essay" and "mitosis" are ending up here and staying for a few minutes. It seems that Google, which is already wonderful, is getting even better. So, I'd be interested in knowing, from those of you who use a counter program like Sitemeter, if your blogs have also had an increase in Google visitors.

At the same time, my comment numbers have tanked. I used to get several comments per post, and now I'll go days without comments. No, I'm not begging y'all to start commenting; I'm not a particularly big commenter on other blogs myself. I just find it odd that comments have gone down while readership has gone up. Are people just skimming dozens of blogs per day, not really reading them to the degree that they're inspired to comment? (That's what I do, a lot of the time at least.)

OK, enough blogging about blogging.

Is anyone else really sad that Miss Borgia was murdered on Law and Order last night? I am. I've turned into such an L&O couch tater, particularly now that I'm too exhausted to do any real work.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Utter Exhaustion, Indeed

I know just how this first-year teacher feels.

Read These

Diane from A Circle of Quiet and Ann V. from Holy Experience have written "Where I am From" poems. Both poems are beautifully written; if you've ever spent any time at either of their blogs, you'll know that the writing of both these ladies is poetic, senstive, and always a delight to read.

Diane's poem is here, and Ann's is here.

Kids are Learning

Have I mentioned before that I love my science girls? They are brilliant, and we have so much fun in that class. Sometimes we'll play Science Jeopardy, and these girls remember everything. They remember things like endoplasmic reticulum and metaphase and triploid--things that they learned last semester. I gave them a high-school level question on a quiz yesterday (about predator-prey relationships, game management, and populations), one that involved induction and critical thinking, and most of them aced it.

They'll only be in eighth grade next year, so I won't have them for English. I will miss them so much. Part of me wants to stick around for two more years, just so I can have them again when they get to ninth grade.

And one of my comp students just told me how much she loves writing now that she knows "how to do it." Said she used to hate writing, but she doesn't anymore. And that her friends are jealous that she can whip out the outline and partial draft of a short essay in a single class period.

Yep. My kids are learning stuff.

Carnival of Education

Don't forget to check out this week's Carnival of Education at The Education Wonks.

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog

I stumbled upon Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog the other day (remember my romp through Internet t-shirt land?) and immediately added it to my blogroll. As can be expected of a blog by Chaucer, it's absolutely hilarious. I mean, how can it not be hilarious, with post titles such as "To Kalamazoo, wyth Love," and "STRAIGHT OVTTA LONDOUN." He has an "Aske Chaucere" section, and even his profile is entertaining. Chaucer recently posted his version of The Da Vinci Code ("The Cipher of Leonardo"). It's pretty clever. OK, so it's an absolute scream. Here's a snippet. My favorite half line is "'Tonighte' pale weirdo seyde ..."

‘Thou liest’ thalbino sayde, ‘Thou and thy brotheres
Kepen sum thynge that by ryght longeth to otheres.’
Adrenalin in Saunieyres veynes dide synge
‘How coud he,’ thoght he then, ‘knowe of thys thynge?’
‘Tonighte,’ pale weirdo seyde, ‘the rightful men
Thys thynge in seisin holden shal ayein –
Telle forth and lyfsblud for thynselfe reservest
But telle me nat and by my gunne thou stervest.’

Be sure and check out his blog, if you haven't already. Chaucer doesn't post often (it must take some time to write these things, I imagine!), but when he does, it's definitely worth the wait.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

God Bless Aldus Manutius

While reading Semicolon's delightful blog today, I learned that Aldus Manutius, an Italian printer and publisher of the Renaissance, was the first to use the semicolon as we use it today. The Greeks seem to have invented this most divine of punctuation marks, but they used it more as a question mark.

It's no secret that the semicolon is my favorite punctuation mark. I love it way more than even the en dash and the em dash combined. I love it more than the bracket. More than the exclamation point. More than any punctuation mark in the whole world.

I am proud to say that my composition students are regular users of the semicolon. And they mostly use it correctly, too. They know how much it warms the cockles of dear Mrs. Waterfall's heart to see a semicolon used correctly.

So, in addition to being thankful for my composition students, today I am thankful for Aldus Manutius. Does anyone know where I can find a cheap framed portrait of this guy? He'd look absolutely smashing in my classroom.

A Day at Mount Mitchell

On Sunday Hubster and I visited the highest point in the eastern U.S., otherwise known at Mt. Mitchell. It's part of the Black Mountains east/northeast of Asheville, and it rises to 6,684 feet above sea level--that's 400 feet higher than New Hampshire's Mt. Washington, and over 1,000 feet higher than Mt. Katahdin in Maine. (Though I must admit, Mt. Mitchell is much easier to climb than the other two!)

I was actually trying to decide where to take my science girls on our hike, and this area would be a great place to show how the forest changes from deciduous to mostly coniferous with increases in elevation. I checked out the ranger station to see about having a ranger do a program for them, and then Hubster and I strolled along the Balsam Trail, a short little self-guided thing that took us back to the summit walk.



The view from the top was similar to the views offered by Mt. Washington.



It was a nice little outing. We didn't get to hike much, but to be honest, I don't have enough energy these days to hike very far. It was good to get out, good to smell the Frasier Firs, good to spend some quality time with the Hubster. Note Murphy the Weather Poltergeist posing in the picture behind us.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Tar Heel Tavern

Check out this week's Tar Heel Tavern, "Learning for a Lifetime" at The Magic School Bus. Many thanks to Bora for hosting it (again) this week!

T-shirts For Your Inner Geek

Zazzle.com has Shakespeare sonnet t-shirts for sale. They actually have a lot more than that--t-shirts for your favorite medievalist, posters galore, and an item or two that I would like.

Of course, the t-shirt I really want can be found here. I'd like to have five, in various colors and styles: one for each school day of the week. :)

And would you really trust a professor who was wearing this punctuationless tee?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day to Mrs. Gwen!

I won't be at the computer on Mother's Day, so here's wishing a very happy Mother's Day to my beloved mom, Mrs. Gwen. I love you!



This picture was actually taken on Mother's Day of 2003. She's in Louisiana right now but will be in North Carolina for the summer, starting a few weeks from now. I can't wait!

A Bloggasbord of Thoughts on My First Year

I know. "Bloggasbord" is an awful word. I shouldn't have used it. But there it is.

I started a new, temporary blog this morning, one in which I reflect on my first year of teaching. Okay, its main purpose is to voice many of the frustrations that I've hinted at here, or that I've written about and then deleted because they sounded too whiny. I started writing ... and couldn't stop. I wrote for two hours. I missed church. We're going to be really late for our hike. I just couldn't stop writing.

I'd like my temporary blog to remain relatively private, so I'm not going to post the link to it here. However, if you are interested in reading and commenting (I particularly welcome--okay, beg for--feedback from more experienced teachers), please email me at infpeace at gmail dot com, and I will send you the link.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

All Better Now

George is all better now. He feels so different--the keys go down farther (they were "shallow" before), and there's this wonderful, crisp "snap" to them when I strike them with my unpracticed little fingers. It's so nice! It's weird, too. I've gotten so used to the "shallow" feel (though I've never liked it), that this new feel will be an adjustment for me as well as for George.

I haven't practiced in two weeks--pretty pathetic for a woman who wants to plan a recital for next fall. So I'd better get to work. Now that George is fixed, practicing will be a much more pleasant experience.

Not For the Faint of Heart

Here are some pictures from George's operation. It's kind of interesting to see the inner workings of a piano, don't you think?



The piano doc, Gary, is still working on him, but I thought I'd let y'all know that, despite some unexpected circumstances, George is doing fine, and so is our bank account.

Here's a head-on pic of George: dontcha love his toothless grin?

It's George's Big Day!

The piano tuner should be here soon to work on George. He's a little nervous--wouldn't you be if someone was going to take you apart and spend a few hours digging around your insides?

I'm hopeful. George has not been easy to play of late--he's getting that "old, abused piano" feel that free-for-all fellowship-hall pianos have--and practices, when they've occurred, haven't been particularly satisfying. So I'm hoping Gary (the tuner) will be successful in his valiant attempt to make my thirtysomething piano good-as-new.

Meanwhile, I have excellent news: I fell asleep last night at 8:30 and didn't wake up until this morning at 8:30! Around 9:30 last night, Hubster tried to get me to move from the couch (where I'd fallen asleep) to the bed, but I wasn't budging. I vaguely remember him asking if I wanted to move to the bed, and I vaguely remember thinking that I was paralyzed by fatigue and couldn't have moved if my life depended upon it.

So the girls (Hideaway cat and I) slept together on the couch, and the boys (Hubster and Beau cat) shared the bed. It was kind of like a slumber party at the Hubster-Waterfall household. It is good to feel rested. The cats agree.

I'll post the results of George's operation later today.

Friday, May 12, 2006

I Love My Students

This morning, one of my students said something so genuine, so giving, and so selfless, that I got misty-eyed. Went right over and gave her a hug and told her how blessed I am to have her in my life. No, she's not a brown-noser type. She's real.

There are days that I think I literally want to walk away from this job--kind of like I did the other day--and not come back. Ever. Then there are days that I am just overwhelmed by how lucky I am to be able to teach such good kids.

A parent called me today and when I answered the phone, she said, "Hi. This is Zeebo's mom. Do you have a few minutes?" My heart sank. I was in for a long conversation about how I'm working Zeebo too hard, and how I'm doing something, something wrong, and how I need to let up on poor Zeebo. I sighed. Should I say that I don't have a minute? Should I tell her to call back another time, preferably a time when I'm more up to being berated?

But I told her I had a few minutes. She proceeded to talk for several minutes about what a great job I was doing with Zeebo, and how Zeebo had really grown in so many ways as a result of being in my class. Of course, I kept waiting for that dreaded little three-letter word ("but"). Kept waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop.

But it didn't drop. She just wanted to tell me how much she appreciated me. And she had a question about commas and wording. And she was so thankful that Zeebo was able to have me for English this year, that he had learned so much and was so much more confident about his writing.

How cool is that? We ended up having a really good conversation, since I had lots of positive things to say about Zeebo as well.

So it wasn't a perfect day, but it was a pretty darn good one.

Lack of Piano Updates

I know that some of you are probably wondering what's happened to George. Did he fall ill? Did he fall (God forbid) through the floor? Was he stolen by an evil and very, very strong robber? Was he kidnapped and held for ransom?

Perish the thought, dear readers. Nothing of the kind has happened. George is safe and sound--no need to worry about his health, his condition, or his whereabouts.

I haven't spent a lot of quality time with George lately because I've been up to my eyeballs in work. Am I bitter that I've had to work so much, for so little reward, and therefore miss potential hours of bliss with George? You bet I am. Am I going to make up that lost piano time with a vengeance this summer? Hmm ... what do you think? :)

There's another reason George has stood silent and still lately. His keys are a little creaky, a little echo-y, a little hard to press. The piano tuner will be here tomorrow to work on the action (the keyboard and stuff under it) in order to repair my dear, neglected George. I have to spend the weekend writing exams, writing a TKAM test, and grading British Lit tests. No rest for the weary, as they say. But George will be waiting, and I have an inkling that there will be a few piano breaks between all of the writing and grading.

At least I hope there will.

16 more school days. Then I am done.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Liberating Epiphany

Don't you just love epiphanies? Don't you just love that moment when certain realities are thrown into sudden relief, and the previously hidden truths become glaringly obvious, and you're able to make decisions based on real, live facts and not merely vague, confused desires?

I had an epiphany today. It was like I turned the corner and suddenly the haze and fog of daily living, of struggles for thought and action, had lifted. Everything made sense. Suddenly I can see clearly again.

I feel liberated. I feel free. I feel pretty. Pretty me!

I also feel very tired. Just wanted to share the good news with friends.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Our Turn

It really isn't a good idea to schedule a field trip for a class when the same class is going on one other field trip per week for the rest of the year.

But today my science girls and I were talking about biomes, and I was telling them how we can find snippets of other forest types in western NC's mostly-deciduous forest, and how it would be so neat to go to Mount Mitchell or the Smokies and observe them firsthand ...

Then I thought, "Screw it." (Yes, that's what I thought.) I thought, "Screw it. I'm taking them on a field trip. I don't care if other teachers' classes are interrupted or other people are inconvenienced. The girls and I have been talking about this hike since the second day of school, and we're going on it, weather permitting."

So I scheduled it. It's still a couple of weeks away, so there's always the chance that I will be told we can't do it. Of course, it may rain. But for now, I'm planning the field trip.

The girls are excited about it. It'll be fun: Waterfall, six brilliant, lovely, and intellectually curious seventh-grade girls, and a mom or two. Tree and wildflower identification, forest-type discussions, hiking, and a picnic. And maybe ice cream on the way back to school that afternoon. It'll be a good day. It'll be a good way to end the school year with this class that I love so much.

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Three Today

Three classes were canceled today, two for nonacademic reasons, and one because of a field trip that wasn't announced until recently.

I was so disgusted and frustrated that I left. Just like that. OK, so I made sure there was a substitute and wrote assignments and left work for my last two classes before I left. But I left.

Dear readers, you must understand that I'm generally a flexible person. Very flexible. Laid-back. Easy-going. Intense in my passion for life, but pretty non-intense in my dealings with other people. Type-B personality, all the way. But the past year of my life has done something really ugly to me--both on the inside and the outside.

After I left school two hours before I was supposed to, I went to the gym to work out, but I could only do 20 minutes on the treadmill. I thought I was going to fall asleep--had no energy at all. (I'm normally the Energizer Bunny when it comes to aerobic exercise, but lately I've been this tired.) So I went to the locker room to get my stuff to leave. I walked past a mirror that I didn't realize was a mirror and, for a split second, was disturbed at the face I saw--tired, looking twenty or more years older than me, skin pale, hair flat and tired-looking, and circles under the eyes so dark that it almost looked like some sort of Halloween mask.

After just a second or so, I realized that it was my reflection.

And at some point I realized that I don't want to do this anymore. Maybe the feeling will pass. But something in me snapped today.

I'm going to go take a long walk. I have no lesson planning to do tonight because I've already done it all. I'll just have the same classes tomorrow that I was planning to have today.

First Steps

I've sent off to several universities for graduate school information. I've been tossing around the idea of going back to grad school (I was in a PhD program in English Lit but dropped out) for a few years now, and I think it's time. I can teach for one more year and then plan to start grad school in the fall of 2008. Meanwhile, I can get my financial ducks in a row, get myself ready for the GRE, and do what I need to do to make this happen. Hubster's in favor of this ... he just wants me to shut up about going back to grad school already.

My subject is, of course, English, but my interest within English is Rhetoric and Composition. Rhet/Comp includes many different areas of study, but my main interests are English language/linguistics and writing program administration. I love teaching, and I apparently have a gift for it, but I really would rather teach on the college level. It's what I always wanted to do, only I wasn't ready for it when I was in grad school before. Besides, my Rhet/Comp focus before was technical writing, and I'm so glad I didn't continue in that direction.

The ultimate goal, besides having a job with easily accessible research libraries, piano practice rooms, and coffee shops, plus time between classes to grade, think, practice, and write? To teach writing. To teach others to teach writing. To research the teaching of writing and publish all the cool stuff I come up with.

I'm not idealistic about much of anything anymore, and I know enough about the university life to know that it's no picnic (it's one reason why I dropped out of grad school in the first place). But the rest of life is no picnic, either. So I'm going to go back.

Morning

It's morning, and my science class is canceled today because of a field trip. This means I have three planning periods this morning. I'm going to sit back, relax, and enjoy them. Well, I won't relax, but I'm going to enjoy the extra time to plan today's and tomorrow's classes. On the agenda today? More James Joyce, more exercises in characterization, more To Kill a Mockingbird. It should be a good day.

Four weeks from today will be the first day of summer vacation for us teachers. It seems so close, yet so far. But it'll get here eventually!

Monday, May 8, 2006

So Many Visitors

This blog's biggest month, in terms of visitors and page views, was last April. I was still in Cubicle Land, blogging my fingers off, and getting ready to quit the job, relax all summer, and begin my teaching career in the fall. I made it all the way up to "Marauding Marsupial" for a few days in the TTLB ecosystem.

I didn't blog so much this summer, and, understandbly, my readership decreased. Then, in November, I decided to give up on blogging altogether. I was tired of it, didn't feel as though I was writing anything of interest, and besides, I wasn't on the computer much anymore.

Naturally, I wasn't able to stay away from blogging. It's sort of an easier, more convenient version of the journaling I've always done--plus, I get feedback. So of course I couldn't stay away.

My readership, which has never been huge, was at about 100 visitors per day a year ago. At my lowest point, I got about 20 visitors a day. Now I'm well over 100 visitors per day--more than I had a year ago. Even though I'm much lower in the ecosystem--"Flippery Fish"--I have more visitors.

What's weird is that my posts are more self-absorbed and whiny than ever.

So, what's the deal? A lot of people are finding this blog through Google searches, but they're staying--spending 5, 10, 15 minutes here, and then coming back. I cannot understand it. I haven't written a single interesting piano posts in over a week, yet I have more visitors than ever.

Strange.

Back to work for me.

Is This Man for Real?

I'm not much of a talk-show watcher. I don't even like the Oprah show. But I was making leftovers for the Hubster (he'll be home late ... so I made dinner ... and by the time he gets home, they'll be leftovers), so I flipped on the TV just to listen to/watch something while I prepared dinner.

Dr. Phil McGraw was on. He was interviewing a couple that abuse their children. The mom was the main abuser, but from what it sounded like, the dad wasn't a whole lot better. The mom would yell and scream and hit and kick her kids. They played video of it. If it was real, it was chilling.

So Phil interviewed this couple and the mom was all weepy and I-don't-know-why-I-do-this-I-just-wish-I-could-stop-it whining and such. The dad came on and watched the video and was like a stone, such was his emotion at seeing his wife beat their 10-year-old son. So all of this happens and Phil interviews the kids, and they're all, "I just want mommy to be better and not be sick anymore." Et cetera. These poor children. They are probably terrified of telling the whole truth or of appearing as if they have anything at all against their parents.

It made me so sad. But then--here's the kicker--at the end of the show, Phil says to the parents, "Can you promise me that you won't hurt these kids in the interval before we're able to get some intervention for you and your wife?" And the dad says, "Yes, we promise." So then Phil sent those kids back home with the abusive parents.

Is this stuff for real, or just made to look real so that viewers like me will have strong reactions and thus watch the show again and again? I'm not watching it anymore (not that I ever watched it on a regular basis anyway). I was simply horrified that this respected TV shrink would actually send helpless children back home with their abusive, cruel (however sick) parents on the basis of an "I promise" from the dad.

Did anyone else see this? Was anyone else as disgusted as I was?

This Many More Days!

19 more days of school! And that's including exams, tests, test and exam review days, and everything!

Today, we finished playing the predator/prey simulation game in science. What fun. In English Lit, we had an introduction to James Joyce. In English 9, Atticus made his closing remarks and they lost the case. In comp, we talked about characterization and I sent them home with Welty's "A Worn Path"--what a great story. Creative writing class. What a wonderful excuse to introduce kids to all these wonderful storytellers.

Not much to write today ... it's been a busy day and I have much work to do tonight. Need to work on writing some tests, as well as get started writing the exams and the test/exam guides ... which means a lot of review for me as well. Argh!

It'll be fun. But blogging will probably be light for a while.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

I'd Rather Read

It's a grey, dreary day. The warm weather of spring is somewhere else today, and the damp air out is downright chilly. It's the perfect day to put on some jazz, curl up on the couch, and read all afternoon.

Alas, I must grade papers. I was doing fine until I got to a short story one of my students had written: a continuation of "The Cask of Amontillado," in which Fortunato miraculously gets free of his walled-in prison. It made me want to put on some jazz, curl up on the couch, and read Edgar Allan Poe stories all afternoon.

Alas, I must grade papers.

Four more weeks!

Friday, May 5, 2006

Good Things that Happened This Week

It was a rough week. Seems like school would get easier as we get closer to the Last Day, but it's the same old same old. So here are a few good things that have happened recently:

1) I got to introduce kids to the poetry of Dylan Thomas. I'm sure some couldn't have cared less, but I have an inkling that some of them really liked it.

2) I got to talk to several students one-on-one about their creative writing stories. I'm seeing an enthusiasm for writing in them that I never saw when we were writing essays for composition. At the same time, I think part of it is that they are more confident in their writing as a result of the comp class. Whatever it is, I'm glad to see them taking such an interest in their work.

3) A co-worker and I are starting a reading group for the summer. We're going to focus on two or three books that are of interest both theologically/spiritually and from a literary standpoint. We've decided to start with The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Lucky for me, it's one of the high-school summer-reading books, so I would have needed to re-read it anyway!

4) My sister, who is also a teacher (albeit a MUCH more experienced one), called tonight. I vented and vented and she told me I wasn't crazy and that, yes, the demands of my job are highly unreasonable, even for a teaching position. And she understands that, despite that fact, I still love my job and would be very reluctant to leave it.

5) I got my seventh-grade science class back today, since Iowa testing is over. I love those girls. I am really going to miss them next year.

6) I worked out three times this week. Aerobics, weights, the whole shebang. It's the first time I've worked out that many times in a week in I don't know how long.

7) Most importantly, I have the most wonderful Hubster and am madly in love with him. He is, without a doubt, the sexiest little fortysomething balding man alive.

8) Speaking of hair, I grew a few more white hairs. I'm apparently surpassing the grey stage. It's coming out silvery white. So is Hubster's beard. Someday he and I will look like Santa and Mrs. Claus. For some reason, that makes me smile.

I didn't get to work on George tonight because I'm too tired. In fact, I should have gone to bed an hour ago. This pesky computer is addictive. 'Night, everyone!

Where My Dear Friend Amy is From

Amy has posted her "Where I'm From" poem on her blog. My favorite line? "I am from One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in a town full of protestants."

Deletions

Some of you who have blogrolled me may have noticed that I'm doing a lot of posting and then deleting the posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. This blog is in danger of becoming a tool for venting my job frustrations, and I don't want it to become that. Sometimes I end up venting anyway. So then I have to go back and remove it.

No, I don't want to start a special blog for venting. I've tried starting other blogs for various other things, but I never end up posting anything, and then I forget the username and password, and that's that.

The weekend is here, and George awaits. I am very, very tired. One more week down. Four more to go.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Fern Hill

English Lit Class #1 didn't work out, but we got to have the whole class period for Dylan Thomas in English Lit Class #2. When it was over, I felt like I was on the most delicious high. "Fern Hill" just does that to me. I also played a recording of Thomas reading "Do Not Go Gentle" (which we'll discuss on Day 2 tomorrow). When the class was over and everyone had left, all I could think was how good I felt and things like ilovedylanthomasilovedylanthomasilovedylanthomas, etc.

So that you, too, dear readers, can experience my rhapsodic mood, here's "Fern Hill," by Dylan Thomas (whom I love, in case you didn't know), for your reading pleasure. Best enjoyed if read aloud.


FERN HILL

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs

About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,

The night above the dingle starry,

Time let me hail and climb

Golden in the heydays of his eyes,

And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns

And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves

Trail with daisies and barley

Down the rivers of the windfall light.



And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns

About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,

In the sun that is young once only,

Time let me play and be

Golden in the mercy of his means,

And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves

Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,

And the sabbath rang slowly

In the pebbles of the holy streams.



All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay

Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air

And playing, lovely and watery

And fire green as grass.

And nightly under the simple stars

As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,

All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars

Flying with the ricks, and the horses

Flashing into the dark.



And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white

With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all

Shining, it was Adam and maiden,

The sky gathered again

And the sun grew round that very day.

So it must have been after the birth of the simple light

In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm

Out of the whinnying green stable

On to the fields of praise.



And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house

Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,

In the sun born over and over,

I ran my heedless ways,

My wishes raced through the house high hay

And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows

In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs

Before the children green and golden

Follow him out of grace,



Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me

Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,

In the moon that is always rising,

Nor that riding to sleep

I should hear him fly with the high fields

And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.

Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,

Time held me green and dying

Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

The students smiled all the way through class. Either they love Dylan Thomas, too, or they were amused at the way really good poetry sends their all-work English teacher into a strange state of happy, playful, manic overdrive.

Yep. It's the latter. Oh well. If they've learned nothing else this year (and they've learned plenty), they've learned the Waterfall does indeed love poetry. And Bach. (That last thing has nothing to do with this post. But it's been so long since I mentioned Bach, I thought now was just as good a time as any to do it.)

What a Day

Oh my, where should I begin? Today was a day of noble Sisyphean efforts on my part ... yet is was also a day of (surprise!) scheduling snafus. Two classes got canceled because of a planned event for which I either missed the memo or got it but didn't register it in my overstuffed brain (highly probable). Either way, after I'd worked so hard to make room for two days of Dylan Thomas, I lost a day in one of my English Lit classes.

I also lost a day of composition/creative writing. We were going to discuss the drafts that are due tomorrow. I will not be surprised if a handful of them "forget" that they have a draft due. Not only did we lose today in that class, but we lost Tuesday as well due to a senior event.

Then, tomorrow I lose a 25 minutes from my science class (I'd already lose Monday through today due to testing, but I thought I would have them back tomorrow) due to a long-planned field trip that I just found out about. So the full-class activity I'd planned, and that I'd attempted last week, will have to be somehow cut short a second time.

Oh, and I learned recently that the middle-school kids are going on a series of field trips each week for the rest of the school year. Know what that means, folks? Yep. No cool hiking field trip for me and my science girls. They're already missing a full day per week of classes as it is, so more field trips--particularly ones that haven't been set in stone yet (i.e., mine)--are out of the question. I am very sad about this. Booing and hooing, I am.

I'm sorry that I've spent so much space this year outlining all of the schedule-snafu frustrations I've had this year. I think I'm going to go through this blog and my hard-copy journal, and see if I can add up all of the lost classes, just to see the percentages of teaching and learning time that has been lost. I wonder, is it like this at most schools, or just mine?

Stay tuned ... I'll write a non-whining post next. I promise!

Whitman and Pictures

I love Whitman, and I really love these pictures at A Circle of Quiet.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

A Thought

It is truly a painful experience to have to "teach" "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in a single 50-minute period, particularly when there are more intercom interruptions than usual.

It can't be done to any semblance of satisfaction. But I did the best I could.

Happy Anniversary to Amy and Rich!

Today is the ninth anniversary of my dear friend, Amy, and her husband Rich. Amy was my closest friend and roommate in college, and I've missed her ever since we graduated; we've kept in touch, but probably not as well as we should have. I was supposed to visit her five years ago, flying out on September 15, 2001 ... but obviously, that didn't happen. I never did make the trip to see her in northern Virginia, though we did see each other a few years ago when she was in Hubster and my wedding.

Enough rambling. Amy and Rich, I hope you have a wonderful anniversary celebration!

Carnival of Education

The Carnival of Education is up at the Education Wonks. Go visit, if you haven't already!

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Courtroom Scene

When I was planning my English 9 class this morning(!), I thought to myself, "Self, To Kill a Mockingbird is a great book, but these classes lately have been really boring." So I racked my brain for ideas on making it more interesting, and decided we'd do a bit of acting.

Since the plan was to discuss the courtroom scene today and tomorrow, I decided we could just have fun dramatizing the courtroom scene. I set up the classroom like a courtroom, with a "court reporter" spot and a jury and everything. I assigned a narrator and parts, and they used their books as the "script," and everyone seemed to enjoy it. We stopped every now and then to talk about English-teacher stuff like setting and characterization, but mostly we just had fun.

It's just like "Law and Order," only different. And this time I'm rooting for the defense (Atticus Finch) instead of Jack McCoy.

Maybe I'll go to law school and become a lawyer and be just like Atticus.

Twenty ... Four ... More ... Days

Will I make it? We'll see. I am so unbelievably tired. The fatigue of Saturday never really went away. It is so hard to get up there and teach (and think and deal with chattering kids and a few sullen students) when I feel like this. Report cards have reached the parents, and I now I have the onslaught of angry parents to deal with because their kids are failing my classes.

Just a side note: While it's hard to get an "A" in my classes, it's even harder to fail them. In most cases, you really have to work at not working in order to fail my classes. Every now and then, a kid will really bomb a test or lose (?) their major paper and get something like a zero, but most students, as long as they do their work, show up for class, and make at least a high "F" on the test, will pass my class. It may not be the grade their parents want, but they'll pass.

I'm so sick of being the bad guy these days. Hubster thinks I should take a less taxing, higher-paying job--work as a part-time secretary or something like that.

All I want to do is write. Piano is wonderful and a big part of my life, but writing is my true calling. It is so frustrating to hear that calling at all hours of the day, but to have to ignore it, again and again, because I have "real" work to do. I feel like I'm drowning in school stuff, and I haven't been up to breathe since last August. When I'm finally ready to heed the call to write, I'm so exhausted beyond recognition that it's all I can do just to crawl into bed so I can sleep for six hours (like I did on Saturday). I actually started to fall asleep last night while standing up.

How do you find time and energy to write when you wake up and start working at 5 a.m., and then, after exercise, dinner, and dishes (no piano, even) don't finish paper-grading and lesson-planning until 10:30 or 11:00?

Tired, tired, tired, and in too bad of a mood to blog. So I'll go now.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Guess What I'm Listening To

A Beautiful Theme, the newest blog on classical music, has linked to the University of Indiana's chamber version of the Mass in B Minor, available for listening online. Not only can you listen to the Mass, but you can hear a lecture on it by Christoph Wolff, author of Bach: the Learned Musician and The New Bach Reader. Would that I had time to listen to it now!

Counting Down the Days

25 more days. If only I can just hold out for 25 more days ...

I tried to plan classes this weekend (and this morning), but my mind is pleading to be shut down. "Don't make me think about school anymore!" it complains. And I say, as if it's a mantra, "Five more weeks. Twenty-five more days. You can do it, mind."

No, the students' minds aren't on learning the way they might have been weeks or months ago. But I have a job to do, and some of the best stuff (Yeats, Eliot, Thomas, Woolf, Joyce, Orwell, Heaney, and Shaw's Pygmalion) is yet to come--even though we'll be flying through it, and even though some of those authors may have to be omitted due to scheduling snafus.

Here's one of the Yeats poems we're reading today. It's not too hard for Yeats newbies, and can discuss the "carpe diem" theme, which they are familiar with. I'm saving "The Second Coming" for tomorrow's class. It's a bit more challenging (and disturbing).

WHEN YOU ARE OLD by W.B. Yeats (1865-1939)

When you are old and gray and full of sleep
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead,
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Find more Yeats poetry here at one of my favorite websites, Bartleby.com.