Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Schlitterbahn or bust!

So I survived the AP U.S. History workshop. It was helpful, especially in providing resources and ideas. I wish we had spent a little more time on the exam itself. I don't plan to spend all year "teaching to the test" but let's face it -- the kids are taking this class instead of honors or standard because they want to place out. So, I think some time needs to be spent on testing strategy and that the curriculum should take the test content into consideration. It was a lot of work, and I was not paid for it, although my principal did cover the $1000 cost of taking the course and I receive graduate credit for it.

This week so far I've been plugging through American Colonies and making notes for future classes. All of this will cease tomorrow morning at 9 though, when we hop onboard our flight to Houston. My parents will meet us at the airport with two cars and we'll head straight to New Braunfels, Texas (well, we might stop at the Freebirds on 59 on our way out of town). I have spent almost every 4th of July since I was 4 in New Braunfels with my family. There are 30+ of us going this year. It is so much fun! We stay at the Schlitterbahn (German for water highway, I think) waterpark resort.

I know! I know! -- you are thinking "waterpark??" This is not your average waterpark. This puts all those crappy Six Flags and Disney World rides to shame. It is humongous -- you really couldn't ride every single ride in a day if you wanted. The old part of the park is fed with river water, straight from the Comal (which feeds into the Guadalupe). It is cold my friends! The resort is great for kids because there is no need for a locker or a picnic table. About noon when everyone gets cranky and hungry, we head back to our rooms to grab a bite and take a nap.

Can you tell I love this place?? I love this place so much that when my students annoy me and I tell them, "Be quiet. I'm going to my happy place," I honestly envision myself in an innertube floating through the rapids.

At night we sit on the balcony, play cards, and roast marshmallows.

I wait for this all year long! Before tomorrow, though, I still need to finish a few chapters...

Things that make me feel old:

Last night I surfed around on to check on the draft. Antoine Wright, an Aggie, was selected fifteenth, which is the highest ever for an Aggie. Anyway, I read the bios of a few of the highest picks. They were all born in the mid to late-80's! This is crazy. Not only does it make me feel old, but also unaccomplished.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Day 4 of the workshop...

Doesn't really matter. What matters is that two minutes ago the Spurs won the NBA championship. YAY! You might wonder why I am in the study typing instead of watching the celebration. As soon as the clock ran down I came in here. I told my husband to come get me AFTER the loser interviews. The thing is, I am very competitive but also very emotional. I get all excited when my team wins and then they interview the people from the losing team and I feel so bad for them. It's especially bad this year because Larry Brown is such a cool man. Did you know that Popovich had him over for dinner last night? And to top that off, Brown is sick and might not coach anymore! So, anyway, that's why I'm here, and not in front of the television.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Day 3

Can't talk. Mind numb. Legs cramped from sitting hours upon hours crunched at table. Teeth rotting from candy and donuts (the only motivation).

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Day 2 of the workshop...

We've almost gotten through the activities listed for day 1. And of course, the time designated for groups to work together on their projects is always at the end of the day, so guess what gets cut short?

Sorry to be so cynical. Teachers are the hardest group to teach because we would all do it a different way -- our way.

Reporting from the training workshop...

You know what really makes me want to change professions? Forced group work with other teachers. I know the business world has to work together, too. And I work really well with my co-workers at my school -- honest. I have a great working relationshop with the other teachers in my content area and we share everything. But planning a lesson from scratch with other teachers stinks. Everyone has a different thought process and a different student population they are envisioning. I hate it.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A summer game of tag

Hi everyone. Should I reintroduce myself? Things got a little busy and I haven't been blogging. It was certainly not due to a shortage of material. I've got lots of posts written in my mind. The school year is officially over, though it was not the smoothest closing ever. I plan to share the details in a further post. I also took a theology quiz and will have a few things to say about that later too. This upcoming week should probably be pretty busy because I'm taking a class on teaching AP U.S. History.

For now, I'm going to respond to the book meme Hazlenut Reflections tagged me for:

How many books do you own? Probably about 120. I have a habit of selling books on Amazon marketplace if I don't think I will need them later. I also try to check books out at the library if I don't think I'll need them forever. I might add, though, that the dh has a LOT more books. I. mean. a. lot. We have a never ending struggle on what to do with said books which usually ends with me saying "honey, books are NOT a decoration." I digress.

What was the last book you bought? I bought Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation. Sarah Vowell is one of the voices you might hear on NPR's This American Life. She's also the voice of Violet in The Incredibles. But mostly she is a history nerd and that's what's so fun about her. Her book visits shrines and museums honoring three presidents that were assassinated -- Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. It's a great book, although sometimes I feel a little like I'm watching a Michael Moore film because I find myself saying "you're funny and you're right in a lot of ways, but do you have to make your agenda SO obvious sometimes?"

What was the last book you read? Well, that's the same as the above. I am reading a couple of things right now though. One is called American Colonies and is written by Alan Taylor. It would count as the last book I bought except I didn't buy it, I got it at the local library. I've just barely started it, but it seems pretty good so far. Obviously, the main reason for reading it is preparation for next year's class.

What are 5 books that mean a lot to you?:

1. Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner. Winner was raised in the Jewish faith but converted to Christianity. In this book she lays out a few of the things she "misses" about her old Jewish faith. The churches I have been in like to draw such distinctive lines between the Old Law and the New Law, but I think we can learn a lot from the Old Law and that's what she suggests. If you are a Protestant Christian and have ever been to a Jewish wedding and wondered "why don't we have this much fun at our weddings?" you should check out her book. The best idea she puts forth, however, is a Sabbath, which I've been regularly practicing for about 2 years now.

2. Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol. This book chronicles the challenges of inner cities, specifically schools in inner cities. It changed a lot of my political views because you really see a cyclical view of some of America's toughest problems. I still teach in a suburban school, but I closely follow the fates of city schools.

3. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. Obviously this book is about the fast food industry. But it goes beyond the health effects and also discusses the political, economic, and environmental effects of our lazy eating habits. It WILL change how you decide where to get your next meal.

4. Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones. Okay, I didn't read the entire thing. I only read the parts I was most concerned about. This book was given to all new teachers in my district for free at our orientation. Fred Jones isn't really an educational expert, in my opinion. What he did was visit highly successful classrooms and try to enumerate what exactly was successful about them. This is harder than you might think. Most education professors, when asked about behavior and classroom management say "Oh. Classroom managment. It's tough. It's an art AND a science. It just can't be taught. You either have it or you don't." Anyway, Jones tries to define what "it" is and he includes funny cartoons along the way. I recommended to a friend's mother who teaches in another state. She liked it so much her school bought a copy for every teacher and it is the focus of their professional development next year.

5. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. This is just a fun one. It's so hard to explain, I'm going to steal off of the cover of the book:

"Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal phrase containing all the letters of the alphabet 'The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.'

Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island's Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl's fight for freedom of expression and a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lover's everywhere."

The book is a quick read but deals with some heavy issues like the freedom of speech and (for me at least) the struggle to understand Providence. It's also quite an exercise in vocabulary. High school students that are moderate to strong readers might really enjoy it too.

Happy Father's Day to all you fathers out there!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Why I really, really need summer

Reason #1: It's hot. The heat index has been in the 90's and I can't get out of my non-air-conditioned, no windows, walls so sweaty the posters fall off, classroom soon enough.

#2. There's a teacher at my school that tends to be a little self-centered. Mr. self-centered is a good teacher, but has a way of provoking students into nasty confrontations. A few weeks ago some students broke into his room (which is detached from the rest of the school), doused it with gasoline, and set it on fire. This was personal. They specifically targeted his file cabinets, books, etc. I don't like him but he didn't deserve it. It's only a matter of time before the senior who did it gets drunk and tells his friends, but honestly, it's taking investigators a little longer than we thought to catch the culprits.

#3. Another teacher at our school had to cover a class for a colleague. His room was left open by a teacher that floats into that room. His keys to his BMW were on the desk. A student took them, stole his car, and was in the ghetto driving "erratically" when the police caught him.

#4 Teacher that floats and leaves rooms unattended also floats into my room. A few weeks ago, cash was stolen from my wallet. I fully suspected someone from teacher who floats's class because he has no control and a student told me "yes I have seen students by your desk and Mr. Teacher who floats tells them to get away but they don't because no one listens to him. the The class is out of control." Well, guess what..the BMW thief is in Mr. Teacher who floats's class when he floats into my classroom. Shocking.

#5 As mentioned before, I'm moving classrooms. This is a good thing. The only problem is that the crazy teacher that is moving out is not happy about being involuntarily transferred and is determined to make everyone aware of that. The rest of us have been packing up for a week in preparation of summer. She hasn't packed a thing. This means I will NOT be moving on Wednesday when teachers are required to be at school. I'll be doing it this summer, on my own time, when it's even hotter. (What??!! Teachers working on their OWN time?? Who'da thunk?)

#6 puts reasons 1-5 in perspective. Our department head, whom everyone adores, has had major tragedy. His mother-in-law and two kids were hit by a truck that ran a red light. His mother-in-law died within a few hours. His two kids were sent to the trauma hospital in critical condition. His daughter was released about 24 hours later but still no word on the son. He was very close with the mother-in-law. Not that it matters, but it certainly complicates the end of the school year procedures when your department head is not there. But our department is so awesome and everyone is picking up the slack.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Go Spurs Go! (not you Ginoboli, you don't go anywhere)

The Spurs won last night. I only know this because I asked dh when he came to bed. I made it through the first half, but that's all I can muster because I'm on East Coast time and still getting up to teach in the morning.

Anyway, the first quarter was ugly ugly ugly. But, apparently, this is not what the Spurs should be worried about. According to a half-time feature by ABC, the Spurs should be worried about Ginoboli. Ginoboli is from Argentina and is going to be kidnapped. Or at least one of his family members is. If you saw the feature, you know what I am talking about. In a fashion only the American media can master, the story basically suggested it is just a matter of time before he or a loved one is kidnapped because it happens all the time in Argentina. It was absolutely hysteria-inducing. I'm sure 10 year-old boys are writing Ginoboli right now offerring to let him sleep in their house.

By the way, if something does happen to Ginoboli, I will permanently remove this post. You will never be able to prove it was here.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Movin on up!

Good news everyone! You only have a few days more of reading my complaints about my no window, no air conditioning room. (The temperature in the room, Monday, by the way, was 86.) I am moving to the newer wing of the building. It has air conditioning and dry erase boards. YAY!

It was a tough decision, though. The dh and I spent hours last spring covering the windowless wall with a giant write-on world map. It has been so handy this year. We drew stuff all over it. Additionally, the room I'm moving into is in the corner of the school away from my favorite co-workers. But, maybe that is good because I will have plenty of grading with the AP classes.

The final straw in making the decision dealt with a move by another teacher. The reason my room doesn't have windows is because it used to be one large room. Years ago, they put up a temporary wall dividing the room in half. As far as "fake" walls go, it's pretty good. When things get rowdy next door, though, it is very distracting to my classes. Anyway, a poor, poor teacher who has no control over her classes is moving into that room. I did NOT want to be next to her. She's nice, but she hasn't learned not to talk over the kids. She just gets louder and louder, and finally very shrill. UGH. I don't know how she does it.

I digress. The point is -- I'm moving to a much cooler (in more than one way) room.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

What were Bernstein and Woodward THINKING?

For the second year in a row, the last unit in my U.S. History course got an impressive student-interest bump because of current events colliding with historical events in coincidental fashion. (Whoa. Did that sentence make any sense? I better lay off the chocolate covered soy beans.)

Anyway, last year about this time, I decided to take the following Monday off. I ran off a packet of worksheets for the textbook chapter "Carter to Reagan." Since I hadn't warned my students I would be out, I attached a note to the front of the packet: "Sorry I couldn't be'll be learning about two former presidents still living today: Carter and Reagan." Well, Reagan died over the weekend. When I got back that Tuesday my students accused me of being personally responsible for Reagan's death by jinxing him. It didn't matter that he had been ill for some time.

So this year, the big end of the year event has been Watergate. We just talked about Watergate a little over a week ago. We talked about Deep Throat and I told them about recent revelations that Deep Throat was near death and that we would hear something soon. Now, my students are convinced that I predicted all of this myself. Well, I guess it's fine with me if they see me as omniscient.

I think Woodward, Bernstein, and Felt are all American heroes. I feel sorry for the Post because they got scooped on a story that had always been theirs. I think Felt's family has been a little disingenuous in their dealings. I do have one complaint against Woodward, though:


Deep Throat? Really? Was it that funny? Did you not realize that you were involved in something historical and that even 30 years later high school teachers would have to struggle through the story while constantly saying "Deep Throat" to 16 and 17 year old boys? Or, was this some kind of cruel, cruel joke? The smirks. The laughs. The nasty jokes. The "innocent" questions. A few weeks from now my students will take their final exam. Some of them won't even remember which president it was that was forced to resign because of Watergate. But they'll all remember Deep Throat.

UPDATE: I read in the Post that it was actually a different editor at the paper that came up with the nickname. When Felt realized it, he was mortified.