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Only those of a certain age will understand this.

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My mother-in-law was on the committee for a Poetry and Art festival in her county.  She encouraged me to participate, attend, and even teach a poetry workshop.  Because I was feeling overwhelmed with work and life at the time, I declined the teaching and the attendance, but I did write a poem.  The theme for this year’s festival was “Family Ties,” which immediately made me think of the television show from the ’80′s.  Here is my submission.  (I apologize for the huge text size and funky formatting.  I can’t figure out how to make it look better than this right now!)

 

What would we do, baby

without us?

 

Each week, we sat on our couch

looking through the window at their lives.

It was fiction, just a TV show

But maybe it was more.

 

Michael and Elise

the solid foundation for a family

(despite their hippie roots)

Singing folk songs in the kitchen

Embarrassing their children

with their evident love for each other

Showing us real marriage lasts

In spite of occasional squabbles and spats.

 

Alex thought he was so much smarter

and better

than others

Until they put him in his place

And all the teenage girls swooned over

the handsome young

time traveling

Teen Wolf

Future Business Leader of America

 

Not-so-bright Mallory

trapped in the basement

with not-so-smart Skippy

who had a snot-so-small crush on her

And we learned

that even a ditz can fix an electrical problem

If she imagines the fuse box

is her hair dryer.

 

And Jennifer…

Well, who remembers anything about Jennifer?

 

A mere TV show, yes.

But perhaps our real lives

were influenced by their

episodic tales

 

Maybe we learned

to love each other

to be hard working but humble

to focus on our strengths

to do something memorable

 

And who knows?

Maybe I wouldn’t be a Republican

If Alex P. Keaton

Hadn’t been so dreamy…

 

Sha la la la

And I was doing so well…

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Remember my vow to try to be a 40-hour-per-week teacher?

I fell off the wagon.

I was doing quite well.   I usually kept my at-school hours to nine per day (7am to 4pm) and once in a while I’d go home a little earlier than that.  I got all my work done while I was there.  For the last three weeks or so, I’ve been super diligent and as a result I haven’t had any work to bring home with me.

And then, this week happened.  A field trip with 8th graders on Tuesday, which meant making plans for the substitute.  An assignment I didn’t plan to make for my high schoolers today, but it needed to be done and now I need to grade it.  My 7th graders had essays due today, and I’m going on a field trip with them tomorrow, and that means another set of sub plans.  Plus, I was the one planning the 7th grade trip, so I’ve had a lot of work to do for that.  I supervised another teacher’s class during my prep today because she had a doctor’s appointment she couldn’t change.  Tomorrow morning I need to get first aid kits and meds from the nurse for the field trip, and I need to make copies for the substitute for one of my classes.  When I return from the field trip, I’ll also have a stack of tests to grade.

So tonight, I brought stuff home.  I’m not sure I’ll do a lot of grading tonight (it’s Game Night at my house!) but I’m certain I will bring things home over the weekend and try to plow through the grading.

Up until now, though, life has been lovely.  I’ve read books!  I’ve walked my dogs!  I’ve gone for runs!  I’ve hung out with friends!  And I plan to do all these things again.  But I do need to play a little bit of catch-up first.

About John Green

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For this entire school year, my students — mostly the 8th graders, but now the 7th graders, too — have been raving about John Green.  They loved The Fault in Our Stars.  “It’s sooooo good,” they would tell me, “and sooooo sad!”  They gave me a little bit of a teaser: the novel is about a teenage girl with cancer, and she has a friend (a boy)  who also has cancer.  Since they told me the book is sooooo good, I assumed the boy and girl have a romance.  Since they said it is sooooo sad, I figured that probably someone in the book dies.  And those two potential plot points didn’t pull me in.  It sounded like a sappy novel that stereotypical teens like because they are obsessed with love and death.

For quite a while, I didn’t exactly avoid reading the book, but I definitely didn’t make it a priority.  But when more and more students kept talking about the amazing John Green, I thought I’d give him a try.

I started to read Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  I hated it.  Couldn’t even get half way through it.  Honestly, I’ve even blocked out the reason why I hated it, but I think it was because it was crude.  (Yes, many of my students have read and loved that one, too.)  I’m told (by an adult whose judgment I trust) that it has a valuable lesson at the end, but that you have to go through way too much sludge to get there for it to be worth it.

Still, since my students were so enthralled, I thought I’d give Green another chance.  Since The Fault in Our Stars is perpetually checked out of every library I visit, I chose An Abundance of Katherines instead.

And you know what?  John Green is a really good writer.

If you were to ask me what it is that makes him good and why my teenaged students love him so much, I would answer you this way:

He, like, totally gets how teenagers think and talk, you know?  I mean, he doesn’t do it in a way that’s completely distracting like you might think he would; instead, it feels natural.  I can totally hear my students talking this way.

Also, even in the midst of “like” and “totally” and “awesome” and the sarcasm that seems to inevitably accompany puberty, he’s not afraid to use advanced vocabulary.  Really advanced, too.  He uses words that even I don’t always know.  And he loves to make incredibly obscure references to history or literature or music or art or mathematics.  Not only that, but he truly does address some important life lessons and issues.

So, having read and enjoyed An Abundance of Katherines, I figured I needed to read the much beloved tale of The Fault in Our Stars.

I was partly right.  It is rather sappy, and teens obsessed with love and death will probably enjoy it immensely.  But it is still intelligently written.  And as a bonus, it takes place in Indianapolis.  (It’s always a little fun to read a book set in a place you know.  I enjoyed being able to picture the references to Castleton Mall and Broad Ripple and Meridian Hills.  John Green lives in Indianapolis, by the way.)

I preferred An Abundance of Katherines, though.  It felt both more and less realistic.  The premise on which the book centered was less probable, but the characters themselves seemed more real.  These characters deal with struggles that most kids will encounter — understanding relationships (both romantic and otherwise), leaving your comfort zone, being forced into situations you would not have chosen, trying to figure out the meaning in your life.

So, I like John Green.  I would even go so far as to recommend him to those who enjoy young adult literature.  Go to the library to check out one of his books.

That is, if they aren’t all checked out.

Persuasion

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This week, I’m teaching my 7th and 8th graders about persuasion.  The 8th graders are working on persuasive speeches on an injustice in the world that needs to be eliminated.  The 7th graders are writing persuasive essays suggesting a book that the entire middle school should read next year.  We’ve talked about emotional appeals and logical appeals and calls to action.

And then, it got turned around on me.

The high school speech team coach brought in a few of his team members to my class to try to drum up some interest.  He wanted not only the 8th graders to think about joining the high school team next year — there are also plans for a middle school team, and he wanted to get the 7th graders involved as well.

After the performances were over and our guests left the room, my students had questions.  I couldn’t answer all of them, but I gave them what I knew from when I had been on my own middle school’s speech team.

Then one of them said, “Speaking of academically related extracurricular activities…”

Uh oh…

“Why don’t we have a newspaper?”

I replied that the newspaper was generally the domain of the journalism teacher, who also does the yearbook.  If there isn’t enough interest for both, yearbook usually gets preference.

This is when the students began testing their new-found powers of persuasion.  “We should have a middle school newspaper next year!”

“Dude,” one of them responded.  “We can’t even afford paper.”  (True.  Teachers are responsible for buying our own copy paper.  And chalk.  And dry erase markers.  And Kleenex.  As a result, extra credit is often offered for students to supply these items.)

I started thinking.  “Well, it could be a digital, online newspaper.”

Once they saw I was thinking about it, some of them got really excited and began talking about possibilities.  “And you could be the sponsor!” they exclaimed.

Yep.  Shoulda seen that coming.

So, I’m thinking about it.  It could be fun.  A lot of work, for certain.  But maybe also enjoyable, and something unique to the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.  A way to make a positive name for these stuck-in-the-middle kids who, in a K-12 school, sometimes get overlooked or left out.  And if I can encourage young writers on top of that, even better.

They’ll need to keep working on convincing me, though.

In the meantime, do any of you have suggestions (aside from just a blog) for a site where we could make a free digital newspaper?

Flip It

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No, I’m not talking about real estate.  I would be terrible at trying to flip a house.  First of all, I don’t have that much capital.  Second, I don’t have construction or design skill.  Third, I have a hard enough time keeping up with my own house.

I’m talking about the mattress.  You may know that you’re supposed to flip your mattress every couple of months to keep it from wearing down and developing ruts.  But I always had the hardest time remembering which way I flipped it last time.  Is it time to flip it the short way or the long way?  I wanted to get the maximum life out of my mattress, but wasn’t sure how.

The first decision I made was to flip it when the seasons officially change.  So, the first day of spring, the first day of summer, and so on.  I don’t usually hit the actual day, but whatever weekend is closest, I take off the sheets and mattress pad and flip the mattress.  (I also flip the box springs in spring and fall.)

To keep track of whether it’s time to turn the mattress the short way or the long way, I wrote numbers in a permanent marker on each end of the mattress.

SONY DSC

When I take off the sheets and see the 4 at the top, I know I need to flip it so that the 1 is at the top.  The next quarter, the 2 will be at the top.  Easy peasy.  And this way, I know I’m doing what I can to get the longest life from my mattress.

Renewed Appreciation

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SONY DSC SONY DSC   They may look all sleepy and lazy in these photos, but I have a renewed appreciation for Gryffon and Gracie after this week.

Yes, I admit that not too many months ago, I’d had it up to here and I was looking to find a new home for the canines.  Dogs are a lot of work, and they bring in a lot of dirt.  They can be noisy and messy and on top of that you need to walk them and bathe them and brush them and clip their nails and treat them for fleas.

But in the wee hours of Thursday morning, something woke me.

The hubs has been out of town this week, as he is much of the time in the winter, traveling hither and yon to participate in ice carving competitions.  So when I thought I heard someone pounding on my front door at 1:30 in the morning, I froze.  I lay very still, wondering if I heard what I thought I heard, and if so, questioning why on earth was someone pounding on my door at such an hour.

Normally when I hear such things, I wake up The Man of the House and make him check it out.  But with him gone, I just lay there, tense, wondering what to do.

And then I realized something.  The dogs weren’t barking.  And I’m pretty sure that if someone was pounding on the door, the dogs would have woken up and would have barked.  And if they were barking they probably would have frightened away anyone with ill intent.

Once I realized that, I could breathe again.  And as I relaxed a bit, I thanked God that I have dogs who help me feel safer when I am alone in the house.

At that point, I recognized that as long as my husband travels a lot, I will always have a dog.  A big one.  Little yappy dogs don’t scare anyone.  I want a dog with a big, deep bark.  I’m willing to put up with the mess and the responsibility as long as I feel safe.

Thanks, dogs.

Two Good Things

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I had a pretty tough week.  I just felt like I was doing everything wrong (whether I was or not) and like I was unable to figure out what the right things were and how to do them.

However, two good things did happen this week.

Thing One

I had to give a bunch of kids detention for missing assignments.  That’s not the good thing.  The good thing is that one parent emailed me and said, “I am aware of my son’s detention and the reason for it.  I support you in giving him detention.  I will try to be more on top of his schoolwork so this does not happen again.  If you have suggestions about how to help my son, please let me know.”  It was really wonderful to have a parent actively support me when his kid got detention!  This almost never happens.

Thing Two

I recently read a blog post about how to work just 40 hours per week as a teacher.  The author seemed to have a lot of good ideas, thought they pertained mostly to elementary school and not to middle or high school.  (I don’t have “morning work,” for instance.)  Some day soon I hope to post my own version of how to work just 40 hours per week as a teacher, but first I had to figure out how to do it!  When I taught many years ago, I almost never took work home, but that was before having to attend a billion meetings and collect data to prove that I’m doing my job.  But this week, I was determined to bring less work home — or even better, to bring no work home.  And you know what?  I did it.  I didn’t bring any work home with me during the week days, and the only thing I brought with me this weekend is my planning book because I have one little thing I need to figure out before my students go to hear a speaker on Thursday.  I graded or planned or made copies every spare minute I had while I was at school — which means, I didn’t waste any time.  Even when on hall duty this morning, I was filling out paperwork on a student who I think is being evaluated for ADD or something.  One of my co-workers said, “Are you always working?”  And I told him my plan to not take work home.  If I have to bust my tail while I’m at school, I’m okay with that as long as I don’t have to take work home.  I’m going to work harder at that for the rest of this school year so that maybe next year, I will learn how better to keep work at work so that I can have more rest and relaxation at home.

Those are my two good things.  What good things happened to you this week?

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