Monday, March 24, 2008

My IT Guys Rock!

It was interesting on Thursday. The Internet connection here at the school went down for a little while. I wasn’t too alarmed, as it is not an unheard of occurrence. And besides, at some point I got an email explaining it was likely to happen (but after it did). Apparently there were some system wide upgrades to software being made. The kind of software that protects one from the dangers of the net.

I found that my access to my class website on wikispaces was blocked. As was access to my blogs. I was bummed. And when I found the connection to gmail, which I use with my students, also blocked when I got here today; it was not a good feeling. I left Thursday a little deflated. And I started today the same.

But then my access to wikispaces was restored. And later, when I checked again, the access to gmail was back. And, wonderful also, my access to my blogs is back! I missed my blogs.

The IT guys in my system rock! And they respond quickly to email and requests. It is so nice to work in a system like this.

Just had to brag on my IT guys.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I recommend that you grab a copy of the December 2007 issue of Writer's Digest. It was an issue that spotlighted creativity. Several of the articles are available online: "Meeting of the Minds," "Overcoming Too Many Ideas Syndrome," and "Falling Down the Rabbit Hole." There was also an interesting and informative article on mind mapping, complete with references to Gabriele Rico and Writing the Natural Way, which I first read in 1987 during my first Sun Belt Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute. Unfortunately that one isn't online.

I think that as a writing teacher this magazine is an extremely important resource. It helps me to remember to focus on the writing and to remember that it is not as easy as it sometimes seems to be. It takes a lot of work and dedication to create a worthwhile piece of writing. And that is why I am in the job I am: helping the students realize that good writing isn't a matter of luck, but a matter of craft.

Book Review: Fires in the Bathroom

I recently read the book Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from High School Students which was edited by Kathleen Cushman and written with the help of the students in What Kids Can Do, Inc. I have to admit I put this book down after almost 100 pages and took a break from it. I was having a rough time with the students I was teaching and my attitude sucked. As such, every comment I read from the students was greeted in my mind by anger and resentment. Unnecessarily so.

The students who participated in writing this book were paid for their time and, for the most part, took the work seriously. Some had legitimate complaints, such as teachers who were teaching out of field and did not know the subject, or strings of inadequate substitutes. Several said that after attempting to learn in that environment they considered it waste of time and stopped going to that particular class.

Other discussions in the book centered on the need for consistency in attitude and discipline procedures from the teachers. The need for respect to be a two way street. The problems I had here was that the students seem to expect the teachers to treat them with the utmost of respect at all times no matter what the students do. While that goal is lofty, sometimes, it just isn’t in the picture. At least for me. There are times when students have just plain lost my respect. And, of course, vice versa.

When I went back to the book with fresh eyes, and a more pleasant rapport with a new semester’s group of students, I found I was not annoyed by their comments, but rather saw those comments as rawly honest. These students want to have good teachers. And that does mean teachers who never give homework or test easily. It means teachers who can and will teach them the subject matter they need to know in an environment where they can learn it. Even if it means the occasion, respectful, kick in the butt.

Overall, I would recommend this book, especially for beginning teachers. It is a good insight into the adolescents you will be teaching. For those who have been in the classroom a while, read it when you aren’t stressed out by the students you’re teaching. It gave me a few new ways to think about my students and what they are going through at this stage of their lives.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Web English Teacher Rules!

I have been having some fun in my English classes lately teaching some short stories. But I wanted some more resources, so I started looking and found a lot of helpful information at I highly recommend this site; it is an excellent resource for language arts teachers of all levels. While I am at the recommending, let me also recommend the blog that the Web English Teacher keeps. I got to poking around in it yesterday and in the blink of an eye two hours of my life disappeared. It is well written and has many fascinating links. But do be warned that it is a time sink. A pleasurable one, but a time sink none the same. I blame W.E.T. for being such an extremely entertaining blogger.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sick & Tired of Being Sick & Tired

The last month and a half or so has been very rough for me. In that space of time I have had, in order: strep throat, the flu, bronchitis with an ear infection, and a mild case of food poisoning. And now my seasonal allergies have hit with a vengeance. If anyone in a northern climate reads this, there are already trees in bloom here in Alabama. And where there is pollen, there is my allergy to green things.

All of this has been hard on my teraching in a couple of ways. First, I have been out a quite a bit in a short period of time. God’s way of telling me my plan to miss no days this semester wasn’t gonna happen. So, I was not here for somme days of direct instruction. And I found out the hard way that at least one day (when I went out of my way to leave work), the sub showed my English class a movie instead. I also have the busy work I left for the students to do to plow through and evaluate somehow. And it has affected my rapport with my classes. The continuity that I wanted to establish has not been established. It is more than a little upsetting.

Then there is the fact that, even when I am here, I am not ALL here. I am not at anywhere near 100%. I feel lucky to be at 50% on some days. And it affcts how I teach, how I interact with my students, my patience, my temper, and all manner of other aspects of classroom life. I have been short tempered at times and slipped into sarcasm before I could control it. I have been better at controlling it this semeseter, and want to get back on track with that.

My brain has been so foggy that I have gotten behind in my grading. Even with the wasted week of testing I have not completely caught up on everything. And that also affects my performance in the classroom. I need to rev it up and get up to speed on this. All the medicines in my system aren’t really helping much either. I feel like I am going through the days like a semi-zombie.

On the bright side, I am healthy enough to work and I can do my job. I just need to get up off my butt a little and get it done better. That is always a worthwhile goal: doing the job better.