Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What's Wrong With Me?

I wake up at 5:00 or 5:30 every morning. I work from 6:00 or 6:30 until my first class at 9:10. I work through my planning period (10:00-10:50). I work through lunch (on the rare days that I actually get lunch and don't have class or a parent-teacher conference). After school, I work for about two hours until I leave. If I have time, I'll drop into the gym for a half-hour for a walk or weights. Once I get home, I work from about 7:00 until 11:00 or 11:30. Then I repeat it all again the next day.

Of course, I work all through my classes--the actual "teaching" part of my teaching job.

That means I'm working about 16 hours a day. And it's not like I'm trying to go "above and beyond." I feel like I'm just barely doing the bare minimum. I've not once felt "caught up" since the first week of school last semester.

It's been like this since late August, with Christmas break being my only respite from the grindstone. I typically work 6-8 hours on Saturdays and 4-5 hours on Sundays.

What work is involved, you ask? All kinds of things. Grading papers. Writing tests. Reading the material that I'll be teaching. Planning the lessons. Making worksheets. Writing quizzes. Grading homework. Doing research online. Finding materials for science labs. Thinking. Finding things at the library. Checking out films before showing them to students. Writing assignments for projects, papers, etc. Tutoring. Meeting with students to go over their papers or explain a concept they didn't understand in class. Working out schedules to ensure that I'm not bombarded with essays to grade from more than one class at a time. Et cetera.

What am I doing wrong here? I am endlessly amazed at the fact that I actually find time to go to the bathroom.

It's 10:23 and I just finished grading a bunch of papers (4 hours). Haven't gotten around to grading all of the other turned-in homework yet (1 hour). Or planning tomorrow's classes (1-2 hours). Or writing tomorrow's peer-editing worksheet (15 minutes, thankfully). I literally have about three more hours of work to do before school starts tomorrow.

What's sick is that I don't dislike the job. I actually enjoy most of it. Love it, in fact. Really, truly love it. Love the work. Love my students. Love my school. Wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

I'm just so very tired all of the time. I don't know what to do--what corners to cut--in order to make more time for rest.

Quick Update

Just thought I'd come up for air for a few minutes and post a quick update.

Thanks to all for your kind comments and prayers. The depression hasn't lifted, but I do seem to be making it through. It has been difficult because the depression doesn't just affect my mood, it affects my ability to think clearly. And it's difficult to do my job when I'm walking around in a mental and emotional fog.

It's time for science ... My science girls always whisk me right out of whatever funk I'm in. Even though I go right back to it after they leave, it makes for a nice 50-minute class period.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Playing by Ear

Part of my piano lessons and practice involves playing by ear. This is something I can't quite get used to; all through my childhood, piano teachers always discouraged my desire to play by ear. I fought them tooth and nail; I always found it necessary to listen to pieces in order to "know how they're supposed to sound." Whenever I was learning a piece, I'd find a recording and listen to it a million times, using the recording rather than the written music as my primary guide to playing the piece.

This was not necesarily a good thing. As a result of my dependence on recordings (rather than the written music), I managed to play classical piano for many years and never really learn how to differentiate a written half-rest from a whole rest.

That's a big reason that I found a private music theory teacher last year. I hated that I couldn't sight-read a piece unless it was in 4/4 time and had no dotted notes.

I'm a quick learner. Everything came easily, and my ability to sight-read has increased a million-fold (maybe not that much ...) in the last year. I definitely don't have to hear a piece in order to be able to play it.

Strangely enough, after a lifetime of being told I shouldn't use the "sound" of a piece as my primary guide, my current piano teacher is big on playing by ear (in addition to playing by the written music). Part of the whole Suzuki mentality is for kids to learn their instrument by picking things out by ear.

Playing by ear isn't hard for me. I can pretty much play a melody for you after only hearing it once, and I know enough of music to be able to pick out the chords as well, if not the exact notes of the harmony.

I'm supposed to be learning the Liszt transcription of the Schubert song "Standchen (Serenade)" once the music comes in (we ordered it last week). It's not supposed to be a particularly difficult piece, but it's beautiful and I've always wanted to learn it. (Deborah is so cool. I can say, "Hm, I've always wanted to learn _____. Can we work on that next? And she'll usually say, "Sure, sounds good to me!")

I was tired of waiting for the sheet music to "Standchen", so I downloaded several versions onto my iPod and started trying to play it by ear. I have the entire melody and all of the chords. All I have left is to figure out the exact notes that are being played in the left hand. It was surprisingly simple. The piece itself is surprisingly simple--more so than I thought it would be.

So I'm having fun with that.

I do love playing by ear. I can understand why my teachers discouraged me from it--they wanted me to learn to read music and not merely be dependent on my ear. But still, I wish I'd been "granted permission" to work on things by ear. I've avoided it for many years because I always thought that it was somehow "wrong."

What silly ideas we can get into our muddled little heads.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Blogging From Class

I am in class right now. My comp students are writing an in-class essay. I was planning to have them write it next week, but I was so tired last night and didn't have time to plan, so they're doing it today. It all works out. We'll save Punctuation Celebration Day for next week.

Today has been better, though I warned my principal that I might need to take some time off next week if this depression-like mood doesn't lift.

I bought two huge "birthday cookies" for Mozart's birthday. We sang "Happy Birthday Mozart" in science, blew out candles (I bought a "2" candle, a "5" candle, and an "0" candle), and ate before dissecting earthworms (I figured they'd have better appetites before rather than after). We dissected to Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat.

In English Lit, we ate leftover cookie and played the Jupiter Symphony in the background as we read some of Blake's prophetic poetry. (Beethoven would have been more appropriate, perhaps, but hey ... it's ain't Ludwig's birthday.)

Now, in Comp, we sang "Happy Birthday Mozart," re-blew out the candles, and started on Birthday Cookie No. 2. They're now writing an in-class essay and listening to the A-major piano sonata (for some reason, they like writing to piano solo music).

In Fundamentals of Lit, we'll finish Cookie No. 2 and act out the scene in which Romeo first meets Juliet. I have some Renaissance-sounding music for that. But it's Mozart's birthday, so maybe I'll put on a sweet, Mozartean minuet-style piece instead.

So, even though I feel awful and depressed, the day itself isn't turning out to be so bad.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

And Now, For Something Fun

I've been tagged by Cuz Spiehler, and I bet I'll beat Cuz LaVronica and Jonathan in doing this ...


My good quirks:
I literally jump up and down and dance when I’m excited about something.
I am always singing and making up new words to old songs about how much I love my family, friends, and cats.
I buy presents for people when it’s not their birthday or Christmas ... just because.
I’m somewhat witty.
I have the most amazing long-term memory of anyone I know, with the possible exception of my autistic half-sister.
I still refer to myself "an English major."

My bad quirks:
I’m seriously moody.
I’m seriously scatterbrained.
I have no short-term memory. At all. (That's kind of related to the scatterbrained quirk. Hubster honestly thinks I have Adult ADD.)
I always forget to buy people presents on their birthdays and at Christmas.
My brain never shuts down. It's very tiring.

My food quirks:
I will not eat potatoes or beans at breakfast. Yuck.
I have to have a little bit of chocolate every day.
I will not eat it if a pickle has touched it.
I will not sit next to you if you are eating eggs or tuna fish.

My sleep quirks:
When at home, I sleep best when I have a cat on my head.
I’ve been an insomniac ever since I was a baby.
I want the room to be warm, and I want three layers of blankets on me.
I sleep best in a tent, on a Z-rest, with a sock-stuffed jacket as my pillow.

I Wanted to Make Mozart a Birthday Cake ...

... but our stupid oven went and quit working again.

This just isn't my week. Whine, whine, whine.


Why I Don't Share My Problems With Anyone

1. People mistakenly assume that I'm soliciting their advice when I'm not.

2. People assume that, because I've dealt with Depression in the past, the problems must be due to Depression and that another round of pills are the answer. (They're not, and they aren't.)

3. People worry about me, and I hate it when people worry about me.

4. I get tired of "tsk-tsks" and roundabout "I-told-you-so's."

I am not sharing my problems with anyone on this blog, or anyone else. All I ask is that you remember me in your prayers because I am going through a very difficult situation right now and can see no light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


A lot of bad things happened today. Some good things happened, too, though.

For example, my science girls were their usual awesome selves. I love them.

For another, today is Robert Burns's birthday, and it just happened to be our day in British Lit to read Burns. We read him and listened to him. My 4th period BritLit class went particularly well.

I'm glad that we're getting into Romantic Lit. I just hope my students like it at least half as much as I do.

I May Not Last After All

I am very frustrated. That's all I'm going to say. I'm just very, very frustrated.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Link Added to Blogroll

Ah, I remember the days when I used to add links to my blogroll all the time. Those days are past. Long, long ago, when I got too busy to blog, I was forced to ignore the blogroll. I've added a few to the list here and there, and I've deleted a few that I never visit anymore, but it hasn't been the busy listing that it once was.

Alas, I have added a new blog to it. My hiker friend eArThworm is a retired librarian from Floridy, and she's working on a trails bibliography of AT--related books. It seems her blog will primarily be for introducing and discussing new hiking books, and she warns us that it may not be updated often.

Her blog is called From Ol' eArThworm. All you trail-loving bookworms out there (and there are a lot of us!), might find her site useful. (She's also a very funny writer. Not to put any pressure on her or anything!) :-)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Self-Reflection for January 19

It's January 19. Happy Anniversary, Mrs. Gwen and Mr. Hugh!

It was a pretty good day at school. I've been in a bit of a slump ever since Christmas, so I was glad to have a good day, finally.

When you teach five different classes, you try to plan different things for different days: a test in 2nd period, a unit introductory lecture in 4th, in-class writing in 5th ... so you don't have to do full-fledged lesson plans for every class, every day.

Every now and then, you get full-fledged days. Today was supposed to be one of those.

I had a lot of work to do for composition, since we're starting a new unit. I had to write a science test. I had to prepare for English 9. I just didn't have the energy to plan the "Introduction to C.S. Lewis" lecture for English Lit, even though I probably could have given it off the top of my head (not a good idea, in my experience).

As I began to work on the lecture notes, I remembered that I'd checked out the video of Gulliver's Travels, staring Ted Danson (what a cutie) and Mary Steenburgen. I'd wanted to show it to my English Lit classes a couple of weeks ago, but something happened with snow days and scheduling, and I wasn't able to do it.

Hm. They had their 18th-century lit test on Wednesday. We have two more days of the week. We start (1) the Romantics and (2) Lewis next. Why not let them watch Gulliver on Thursday and Friday, and just start all the new stuff early next week?


So we're watching Gulliver. I'm glad, because the dumb ol', stupid ol' schedule didn't allow for us to dig into the story itself in class.

My science girls had their test on "How Flowers Reproduce" today. We spent last week learning about pollination.

I found a cool video at the library on bees. Bees pollinate. Bees are the coolest little critter out there. Even cooler than ants. So we're watching a video in that class tomorrow, too.

I rearranged my classroom desks to be shaped like Globe Theatre. We acted out Act I, Scene i of Romeo and Juliet in English 9 today. We even had some light sabers (for swords) that I borrowed from the fourth graders. We had fun. They even laughed heartily at the "Do you bite your thumb at me, sir?" section!

Life is good!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It's Late Again

No snow day today. We only had a half-day of school (supposedly ... I managed to stay there until 4:00). It's the last day of the grading period, and all last days of grading periods are half-days. I'm not sure what the logic is behind that, but I'm sure there's a good reason for it.

Good news. My SAT Prep class has been cancelled due to lack of interest. That's bad news for the kids who don't think they need a class to prepare for the SAT, but it's good news for me, their would-be teacher. I'm already exhausted, and it's only January. I have enough on my plate.

More good news. In English 9, we've finally started Romeo and Juliet, and in English 12 we're getting ready to start the Romantic Era. Yes, folks, I'll be teaching the poetry of my beloved Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats. Oh, and Byron and Shelley, too. I'm so excited. The only danger here is that I'll under-prepare as a result of overconfidence since I'm probably more familiar with the Romantics than with another group of writers in English literature.

One of my best memories of high school was in Falz's class the day we read Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" poem. And the day we read "Ode to a Nightingale." And the day we read "Ode on a Grecian Urn." And the day we read "To Autumn."

My silly planning guide only allots one day to Keats. Silly planning guide. I'm going to blatantly ignore it when we get to Keats.

Tonight, I still need to plan a short lecture on C.S. Lewis, outline the next two weeks of composition, and re-read Act 1, Scene 1 of R&J and look over my lesson notes.

It never ends. I'm exhausted. I love school, but I won't complain when summer finally gets here.

It's Late

It's midnight. Tonight I made a big pot of gumbo, wrote an English test, and planned the next two weeks of my composition class. We'll be working on the art of the cause and effect essay.

During the first semester, my comp students wrote "personal essays," almost exclusively. Every essay was in some way related to their lives, their rituals, their personalities. Now we're moving beyond "the self." We've spent the last two weeks talking about summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting other sources. I'll be assigning a research paper soon. The cause and effect essay will be a way of practicing the research paper.

For this essay, they'll need to read a couple of sources, do a bit of research, and quote and cite sources in the course of the essay. They'll be doing this on a regular basis for the rest of the year. Writing an essay is one thing; writing an essay that incorporates other sources is a whole 'nother ballgame, and I want my students to be well-practiced in doing this before they head off to college.

Tomorrow is the last day of the grading period. School may be cancelled ... looks like we have some snow coming our way.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I Love My Seventh Graders

I'm so glad I have seventh grade science for my first class. The girls are angels, and they have the power to make my bad moods fly right out the window.

Monday, January 16, 2006


I didn't go to school today
Said Little Waterfall--Oy vey!
My back hurts, so I have the blues
I cannot even tie my shoes.
It's hard to turn o'er in the bed
(I just stay put and sigh instead).
And if I sit down very long
Something in my back goes wrong.
Sharp pains keep me from kids and chalk
And hurt me when I try to walk.

This morning I drove through the rain
To visit a PT named Jane.
She said it seem's my back is wrenched,
Or strained, or 'haps a disc has flinched.
She thinks that I will be OK
(Unless, she said, you find one day
That all this pain has not abated
And has to your legs migrated).

"Quit lifting weights!" was her solution
(So much for New Year resolutions
To get my lazy self in shape
From head to foot, from knee to nape).
I have to rest at least two weeks
(I listen when a PT speaks)
And if my back improves, she says,
I can resume the New Year's rez.

Meanwhile, I'm at home and my electric blanket has become my constant companion. I seem to have pulled something during a session with my Christmas-present trainer. He didn't seem to think the leg presses would hurt my back, but I was scared they would. I guess I should have listened to my intuition.

Hubster's Now-Famous Butt & Calves

If you plan to fly American Airlines this month, be sure and check out their in-flight magazine, American Way. That silly old Hubster of mine has managed to be featured in one of their articles.

In IN FOR THE LONG HAUL, writer Jenna Schnuer writes about Carlin “Buckwheat” Donahue, who's on a trek from Florida to Alaska; Joe Bowen, who hiked from California to Kentucky; and Dan Rogers (a.k.a. Sheltowee, a.k.a. Hubster), who hiked from Ohio to California.

And that picture at the beginning of the feature? The one of the sexiest Popeye calves in the hiking community? Yup. Those are Hubster's calves. And that picture was taken very recently. You should see 'em when he's been hiking for a few thousand miles!

Plans are still on to continue the hike, but we've had to adjust them, thanks to "real life" issues that have crept up. We'll keep you posted on when the next leg of the journey will begin.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Back from the SORUCK

What a great weekend the Hubster and I had, visiting with friends and talking about trails. We went down to the Nantahala Outdoor Center near Bryson City, NC, for the annual "Southern Ruck" (a.k.a. SORUCK) on Friday and just got back today. (Yes, I did my weekend re-reading while I was there.) It was great seeing old friends and meeting new hikers who are planning to thru-hike the AT soonly. 2006 Southbounder Clyde had an awesome slide show of last year's SORUCK and of previous thru-hikers. Sly did a great job of organizing it, and many people contributed to the eats, which made for some great meals.

Little Bear put on an informative presentation on the Southern Appalachians Initiative of the American Hiking Society last night, and then Weathercarrot showed his PCT DVD. We unfortunately had to miss Spur and Ready's presentations because of a necessary trip into Bryson City, but it was great to see both of them again yesterday.

The weather was great!! It snowed Friday night and all day yesterday, then we had blue skies and melting snow today. We did a little trail walking, and the woods were beautiful.

Here are some pictures from last night in Cabin C*:

Stumpknocker, LiteShoe, and Miss Janet on Saturday night.

Hubster managed to make an awful face for every picture that he managed to be in. Silly Hubster. This is a picture of him and Weathercarrot. When he's not hiking or eating chocolate cake (as in this picture), Weathercarrot makes cool trail DVDs and maintains this website.

We had two Mardi Gras king cakes at the Ruck, thanks to Louisianian hiker Bayou. Interestingly, the two people to get the babies were Fallingwater and Waterfall.

2006 Northbounder No Chance chats with Hubster (not pictured), Scrunchy, and Cheryl. Hopefully the advice he got this weekend will increase his (no-)chances of making it to the Big K. :)

Really funny things are happening here. But as they say, What Happens at the Ruck, STAYS at the Ruck. That's Shelly in the back (on the ground), Stumpy and Lone Wolf (standing), and Clyde and Hotdog (seated).

Bald Eagle, Linda, and Hubster talk trails. Bald Eagle and his wife Spirit Walker (a.k.a. Jim and Ginny Owen) have an excellent website, Spirit Eagle--visit it to read about the thousands of miles they've hiked, and of the wisdom they've gained along the way.

As you can see, it was a fun, refreshing weekend. Hubster and I have plans to hike the Foothills Trail later this year, so you'll see more hiking posts soon, I'm sure!

*Nearly all pictures that included grass skirts and coconut bras have been destroyed, though I am saving a few for blackmailing purposes, if such a need should ever arise. ;-)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Weekend Re-reading List

1. Romeo and Juliet
2. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
3. Student essay revisions

I realized the other day, with a sort of mild horror, that I actually enjoy grading student essays.

So I guess this means it'll be a good weekend. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I Laughed So Hard I Cried

Fred of The Fredösphere has written a parody of Bunyan's allegory, which he has titled, "The Composer's Progress, in the Similitude of a Dream." I didn't get all of the references, but it's amusing all the same.

"Tonality! Tonality! Tonality!"

(shakes head, wipes eyes, and laughs again)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What's Going On With School

No self-reflections today. I'm madly making some worksheets for composition. I love teaching that class, and my students are great, but it is so much work.

Here's a little update on what's going on at school, for the benefit of my mom and anyone else who cares.

Science: We're finishing up a unit on Functions of Plants and are starting Plant Reproduction tomorrow. The dead of winter is not the time of year to study plants, though!

English: We're reading Pope's The Rape of the Lock. The kids aren't really getting into it. I'm disappointed. But then, I remember not liking it very much when I was in school either.

Composition: We're looking at the difference between summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting, and how to incorporate sources smoothly into your writing. We're going to talk about citations, MLA style, etc., but for the moment I'm mainly interested in the writing aspect of research.

Fundamentals of Lit: Verbs. And getting ready for Romeo and Juliet.

SAT Prep: Starts next week. First-year teacher, five classes. I hope I survive.

I Hate Contacting People

I hate contacting people.

I'm very shy. My students would never believe it. Most of my friends don't believe. Ever since I started teaching and stopped being depressed, my reputation as an misanthropic introvert has pretty much gone down the tubes.

But I still hate contacting people. I hate calling people and asking for things. I hate asking for things, period. I even hate calling Domino's to order a pizza. And if anyone tries to call me ... I'm not answering.

I did it today, though. Contacted people, I mean. I talked to the man at the health club about signing up for one of their "get fit" programs. I talked to the library lady about getting a library card for the school so that I can check out books for longer periods of time without the fines. I talked to the reference desk lady about having a workshop on using library research materials. I talked to the English teacher at another school about borrowing some of her resources as I prepare for the Romeo and Juliet unit. I talked to the Sears stove-man about fixing our stove. I talked to the health insurance lady about supplemental insurance. I announced at a teacher's meeting that I desperately need used copies of 1984 and To Kill a Mockingbird, and I asked them to consider donating (or otherwise finding) a copy or two. I talked to the nice lady at the local Christian book store about getting copies of The Chronicles of Narnia ... with a discount. I peppered my trainer with workout-related questions while he tortured me with lunges, squats, and other Exercises That Will Make Me Beautiful.

I'm all talked out. I hate contacting people. It's not so bad once I'm actually talking to them. Everyone is always so nice and helpful.

Still, I feel utterly exhausted after of this talking.

Monday, January 9, 2006

The Portrait Gallery

I have a portrait gallery in my classroom. I change it with each unit; right now it consists of pictures of 18th-century English writers (for British Lit) and pictures of 19th-century American poets (for Fundamentals of Lit). The "portrait" includes the years of birth and death of the author, as well as a couple of interesting facts about him or her.

Well, we're starting to study Shakespeare in Fundamentals of Lit and will begin Romeo and Juliet next week. So I'm going to take down the American poets and replace them with "portraits" that are more in line with Romeo and Juliet.

Of course, I have a picture of The Bard. And a picture of Queen Elizabeth. And ... oh, I couldn't resist.

The "caption" of the picture says, "Joseph Fiennes, Actor (born 1970); very nice-looking actor who plays dramatist William Shakespeare in the movie Shakespeare in Love (1998)." (I thought the word "hot" might be inappropriate.)

It'll sure beat looking at pictures of Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, and Daniel Defoe all day.

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Piano Practice

This is an introductory practicing post, for any new people out there.

I am an amateur pianist (amateur in the good sense ... I hope). I love to play, and I minored in music in college, but I never pursued music as a career. Actually, I never technically completed the music minor because of "issues" my senior year that forced me to withdraw from school for a semester. But that's another story.

I started playing by ear when I was four, and I started taking lessons when I was six. I took lessons all through school, then went on to take lessons in college as well. I've taken lessons on and off since grad school, but I've moved around so much and maintained such a busy schedule, that piano pretty much stayed on the back burner for a decade. I've been through about 15 piano teachers, and my piano-practicing history has at times been very focused and regimented, and at other times been non-existent. In other words, it's been spotty.

I have no dreams of being a concert pianist, competing as an "adult amateur," or even giving a recital, but at the same time, I do have high standards and am a bit of a perfectionist. I take great joy in practicing a piece until I can play it as "perfectly" as I'm capable. I love to practice.

When I met my current piano teacher, Dr. Deborah Belcher, I told her that I wanted to start working hard on piano--the way I did when I was in college. I haven't quite been able to do that, but I've definitely spent more time practicing and playing in the last two years than I have in the last ten. I had to re-learn a lot of things, and un-learn even more, and lessons have been a struggle. They've also been rewarding, though. So far, I've learned these pieces:

Bach, Invention in A minor
Bach, Invention in A major
Bach, Sinfonia in Eb Major
Bach, Sinfonia in G minor
Mozart, Fantasie in D minor
Dett, "Juba"
Chopin, Nocturne in Bb minor (Op. 9, No. 1)
... and a few other things

I'm currently working on Suzuki Book 2 (don't ask) and Bach's Sinfonia No. 15 in B minor.

I know that doesn't seem like much for two years of playing. Progress has been slow because I'm an adult who works full time and really has to make time for practicing. It will continue to be slow, but that's OK with me. I just love being able to play.

I've made a new year's resolution to practice more. My practicing has really suffered ever since I started teaching school. That must change. God has given me a gift for music, and I feel like I have an obligation to keep working at it.

I'll be updating this post periodically as I log my practice times. I don't have very many readers anymore, so I'm not going to try the "practice pact" thing. However, if you are interested and want to log your own practice hours in the comments, that would be great. Anything to help folks get back on track with their practicing!

Saturday, Jan. 7: Practiced for 1.5 hours. I've been listening to different pianists' versions of the G minor sinfonia and trying their versions on my own. Glenn Gould's version is very slow and romantic sounding, and Wanda Landowska uses so much ornamentation. Angela Hewitt sounds very business-like and has very little ornamentation, other than what's already written in the music. I can't remember the others ... I have about five different versions.

How do pianists know when it's "okay" to add a trill or a mordent or any of the other little ornaments that you play in Baroque music? I'd love to just add things when they "feel" right, but I don't want to be overly romantic or untrue to what someone in Bach's era might have played. It's something to ask Deborah ... or any of you readers, if you know the answer.

I'm not really supposed to be practicing the G minor sinfonia. Technically, I "graduated" from the piece a couple of weeks ago, but I'm not happy with it yet. It sounds beautiful, but I have the feeling that there is something more to it, something I'm not getting ... something that will make it transcendent. Not that I'm such a great pianist or anything ... I just feel like there is still treasure waiting to be found.

What I'm supposed to be practicing is the B minor sinfonia. And I actually did practice it for a long time yesterday. By the end of yesterday's practice, I had the first page, hands together, sounding pretty good (at a slow pace, of course). It's fun, though it doesn't have the haunting beauty that keeps luring me back to the G minor piece.

January 8: Practiced for 1 hour. I got up early to practice the praise music for church. When I finished that, I had plenty of time left for my beloved, bejowled, and bewigged one. I played through the G minor a couple of times, experimenting with adding different ornaments on my own, but then I really got down and dirty with practicing the B minor. There is one measure at the bottom of the first page, and it just didn't feel ... comfortable. So I drilled the heck out of it for a while, then practiced playing that first page, hands together. It came back quickly, and I was happy about that.

My plans for the next few days are to work on the next (and last) two pages of the B minor. The first page is really the trickiest (other than one section at the bottom of the second page, which I've already learned). Now that I've gotten the hang of it, I think the next pages will be a little easier for me to learn.

Whew. That was a long post. Again, if you're a reader and amateur musician and would like to post your practice minutes and comments about your practices, I invite you to do so in the comments to this post. You can also click the link under the piano icon in my sidebar, and it will bring you here.

Monday, January 9: 15 very focused minutes on three measures of the Bach Sinfonia in B minor. That's all I had time for, but I actually got a lot done.

Saturday, January 7, 2006

Who Knew? ;-)

Well, considering I decided in the sixth grade that I wanted to be "an English major" when I grew up, I guess I shouldn't be surprised at these results. I'm not sure how "Dance" rated so highly ... I love music and I love to dance, but I'm not the most graceful girl I've ever met.

You scored as English. You should be an English major! Your passion lies in writing and expressing yourself creatively, and you hate it when you are inhibited from doing so. Pursue that interest of yours!





























What is your Perfect Major? (PLEASE RATE ME!!<3)
created with QuizFarm.com

I found this fun quiz over at Kim's blog, a.k.a. The Upward Call.

Friday, January 6, 2006

Finally Friday

Ahh ... I just love Friday evenings. Hubster and I are going out in a little while to listen to a local band, but I'm going to blog while he's getting ready.

It was a good week back at school, for the most part. I just love my students. I really do. I was so happy to see them again and to get back into the swing of things.

In Science, I complained several weeks ago about the fact that our "plant units" are falling right into mid-winter--when there are no leaves out there. So one of my students brought a Chia Shrek to class, and another brought a Chia donkey. So we did Chia planting today after their quiz. Fun. I get to plant Chia pets and have Chia/Shrek paraphernalia as classroom decor. I love being a teacher.

In English Lit, we're reading Alexander Pope. I must admit, I wasn't looking forward to teaching 18th-century writers. I love the Renaissance, I love the 17th-century metaphysicals, and I love the Romantics ... but the 18th-century writers (excepting Jonathan Swift) just never did much for me. I'm having fun teaching them, though. Of course Swift made a big impression. And the students have found Pope a challenge (understandably), but I think we've had some good class-wide "close readings" in the last couple of days.

In Composition, we've moved from the class essay to research-related topics. The last couple of days have focused primarily on the art and skill of paraphrasing. What an important skill to have, whether you're writing a research paper or simply reading or studying materials for a class. It's painstaking and not the most interesting work, but I think this skill will really help my comp students in the long run.

In English 9, we had our poetry test yesterday, but ... we don't have to say good-bye to poetry, because ... we start SHAKESPEARE on Monday! Woo hoo! Wee hee! They're going to read Romeo and Juliet, but we're going to spend a full week learning about the English Renaissance era, the Globe, iambic pentameter, Shakespeare, his plays, etc. I can't wait. I really need to spend some time this weekend on lesson plans to ensure that these next few classes will be as good as I imagine they'll be. Unfortunately, we have to pepper our Shakespeare unit with lessons on verbs, but I'll try to make it fun.

As for our Narnia unit, our principal is going to sit in on the classes (when she can) because she's a lot more grounded in Lewis's theology than I am. I'm going to teach it as a literature course, but I know they'll have theology questions. She'll be able to field the questions I can't.

Also, she and I are teaming up on research papers. She teaches philosophy, and most of my comp kids are in philosophy. So, her research paper is going to serve as a research paper for my comp class. I'll grade 'em primarily on their writing, and she'll grade 'em primarily on content. The two aren't mutually exclusive, of course, but I think these kids will get a good grounding in how to write a research paper that has substance.

I love my principal. I love my kids. I love teaching. Life is good.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Good Day, Not-So-Good Day

Self-Reflection for January 3 and 4

Yesterday was awesome. Classes were fun and/or interesting, students did their homework and were alert, and even my chatty ninth-graders were attentive. We did labs in science, "A Modest Proposal" in English, a "round table discussion" on the class essay in comp, and "Richard Cory" in English 9. Life was good. I was a happy teacher lady.

Things went well because (1) I was prepared and (2) the majority of my students actually did their homework and were thus able to participate in class discussions. I was also rested, which helps a lot.

Today was different--not a bad day, but definitely a ... not-so-good day.

Part of the reason is this: After school yesterday, I met my trainer (a Christmas present) and worked out. Then I showered, got re-dressed in my school clothes, and headed over to the library. Spent a half-hour doing some school-related work and looking for a poem to read for the poetry group. Then, poetry started at 6:00. We usually finish around 8:30, but I left at 8:00 because I was exhausted and still had a lot of work to do.

Came home. Hubster had dinner ready for me (he is a saint), so I sat and ate while we talked about our respective days (gotta love quality time). By the time 8:45 rolled around, I was ready to get to work.

Sort of. I stared bleary-eyed at the science lesson for today, and none of it computed. I stared bleary-eyed at my preliminary notes for my "Welcome to the 18th Century" lecture for English lit, and none of it computed. I stared blearily at the grammar material for ninth-grade and tried in vain to formulate a lesson plan, but I was pooped. Couldn't keep my eyes open.

Fast-forward to 2:30 a.m. I'm in bed. I still haven't fallen asleep yet.

How is it possible to be so exhausted, yet still not be able to sleep?

Anyway, as you've probably guessed by now, I was a zombie at school today. My kids seemed tired, too, and I wondered, "Are they really tired, or is my tired attitude affecting them?"

Not a good day. Science was merely okay. One of my English Lit classes didn't happen because more than half the small class was out with some respiratory thing that's going around. Comp was okay, but the students seemed distracted and not particularly interested in thinking about revisions. Ninth grade English wasn't bad, but it wasn't particularly good, either. Just kind of blah.

My over-full schedule (workout and poetry after school) made me unable to prepare adequately for school. I probably couldn't sleep because I was so revved up from such a busy day. I need to give myself more time to relax after school, and I need to get to bed earlier. Too often, I'll be tired at 9:00 but will stay up until 11:00 or 11:30. When I get tired, I just need to go to bed. I'd much rather wake up early and work than stay up late to work.

I'm still exhausted, but I have to do the following tonight:

1. Plan tomorrow's quiz review for science. I was going to get materials for another lab, but I don't have the energy.

2. Grade English Lit homework and classwork. Look over Pope's Essay on Criticism and lesson plan (I've already written the lesson plan, so it'll just be review).

3. Put together something for comp tomorrow. We're going to discuss research-related things for the next week and a half, and tomorrow's topic involves the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. I've found some paraphrasing exercises at Purdue's Online Writing Lab that I think will be helpful.

4. Revise the study guide for my freshmen. They were supposed to have a test before Christmas, but snow days got in the way. So their test is Friday and will include a couple of things we did this week.

Those are the urgent, must-be-done-before-morning tasks. I have a few other things I need to do as well, but they can wait until tomorrow.

Did I say I was going to fit in 30 minutes of piano each day? When did I say that?

Maybe I'll go practice now. Thirty minutes can't hurt.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Teaching The Chronicles of Narnia

At my students' request, I've decided to teach a once-a-week-for-nine-weeks unit on Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. I have a teaching guide that I plan to use as an outline, but I want to incorporate sections of Surprised by Joy, Mere Christianity, and some of Lewis's letters. I probably know more than the average person about C.S. Lewis, but I am by no means an expert. If any of you teacher-readers (or theological folks) can offer any advice for teaching this course, I would welcome it.

Words, Wonderful Words

Mental Multivitamin links to a Houghton-Mifflin press release that lists 100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know. A lot of them were on the GRE word lists and are on the SAT word list, so, seeing as I took the GRE and am planning to teach SAT Prep, I have an unfair advantage. M-mv has provided a study guide in case you're interested in learning them.

I'm disappointed that "abstruse" isn't in the list. I used it the other day and thought to myself, "My, my. Waterfall used an SAT word-list word. Smart Waterfall!" :)

Does anyone else do this? Use a word and immediately remember when, where, and/or on what occasion you learned it?

Monday, January 2, 2006


When I was in grad school, we had to write "self-reflections" after teaching each class (I was a TA and taught freshman comp and business writing). I've been meaning to do "self-reflections" every day, but I've been too busy. I'm going to try to do more of these. Basically, I give a report of how things went at school, then I write (in blue) a "reflection" on it.

School just ended, and my classroom is now empty. It was an okay day--much better than I would have expected, seeing as I did very little planning over the holidays.

Science was fun. We played science jeopardy in order to get their brilliant little minds back into the groove of school, and then I gave them time to complete tomorrow's reading assignment. I hesitated with this "plan" because part of me wanted us to dive right in to schoolwork. I'm glad I did it this way, though; one of my students was absent, so she ended up not missing too much.

English Lit was okay. We did an exercise on satire from the Center for Learning book of lesson plans for English Lit. I use CFL's stuff pretty often as a supplement. It makes things easier, and it helps me to remember that this is a high-school class and not an in-depth college course (oh, would that it were. Would that it were!) Tomorrow we're discussing Swift's A Modest Proposal, and I hope it will be a good discussion. It's such a fun piece of literature. I'm looking forward to seeing the reactions of those who actually read the assignment. The lesson in CFL was much too lengthy for a 50-minute class period. Next year, if I re-do this lesson, I'll either need to pick and choose certain aspects to present, or make it a two-day lesson.

Comp was okay. They mostly worked on their paragraphs for a class essay we're writing. We did all of the prewriting and planning before Christmas. The plan was to complete the class essay before the holidays, but a series of snow days and delayed schedules got in the way. Once we finish this essay later this week, we're going to start looking at research writing. I'm glad we're doing the class essay because I think it helps them to "walk through" the essay-writing process with their peers and with me. I do regret that we weren't able to finish it before the holidays, though. It's hard to come back to the middle of a unit after taking two weeks off.

Ninth grade English was pretty good. They were actually quiet and seemed somewhat interested when I explained rhyme scheme and meter. I also gave them a pretest on verbs, since we're going to spend the next month of our lives moving between ♥Shakespeare♥ and verbs. (I always put Shakespeare in hearts in my class. Fitting, I think.) We begin Romeo and Juliet in a couple of weeks.

I taught the ninth-grade class with very little planning. It went okay, but could have been much better (for me) if I'd planned a bit more. It worked out, though; scansion and rhyme scheme aren't the easiest concepts in the world if you're learning them for the first time, and we spent a lot of time on both today.

For tomorrow, I need collect lab materials for science, re-read A Modest Proposal for English Lit, do nothing whatsoever for composition, and plan a lesson for ninth grade that focuses on (1) verbs, and (2) "Richard Cory," by Edward Arlington Robinson. Oh. And grade two essays that were due before Christmas but were turned in late.

More later!

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Resolutions for the New Year

Life has changed drastically for me since I became a teacher. I'm not sure how realistic it is to make the following resolutions--my schedule seems to take over and get the best of me--but it doesn't hurt to write them down and at least strive for goals.

I love goals.

1. Start a workout routine. I had one before I started teaching. It's time to make time for exercise again.

2. Schedule regular practice sessions with George. Thirty minutes a day, five days a week. That's all I'm asking of myself. It would be madness to expect more.

3. Finish "Hiking Haywood County," the hiking guidebook I started two years ago but never finished because life kept getting in the way.

4. Finish the draft of my novel this summer.

That's all (so far). Really, I guess the overarching resolution should be this: Don't let my teaching job, which I love, continue to take over my entire life.

Hubster's resolution is to hike 500+ miles this year.

We had an awesome new year's weekend. I'll post pictures later, whenever I can find another snippet of time for blogging.

Blogging Elsewhere

Hi, Strangers! I've been blogging with my friend Anh over at Then a Gentle Whisper . Check it out!