In Her Shell
Sunday, March 30, 2008
  Some More Things I Like
1. When I'm sitting at a red light, and the green left turn arrow comes on, and someone in front of me releases their brakes momentarily, because they thought it was their green light. Ha ha.

2. Snacks.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
  You Know What I Really Like?
Inappropriate nicknames.

Like "Pookie" for our serious, awkward friend Chris in high school.

Or "Sunshine" for my sullen students.

It never gets old. For me, at least. I don't know how they feel about it.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
  Reasons Easter Is Uncool*
1. Easter egg hunts. What hunt? Big matted field with tufts of hay "hiding" some crappy pieces of plastic. If you are small and passive, you will be pushed down and trampled by the other children.

2. Scariest ghost story ever.

3. Chocolate Easter bunnies = depressing.

4. Pastel colors. Unflattering and everywhere.

5. Church-related discomforts: Ash Wednesday (black smudges on the foreheads of my friends); Palm Sunday (cloying smell); Lent (unexplained).

*To a child at least; that's the last time I remember celebrating it.
Friday, March 21, 2008
  The Man Or The Monster

When I started teaching Frankenstein five years ago I thought I could tell the sensitive kids by who sympathized more with the creature. I couldn't stand Victor Frankenstein--he was spoiled, coddled, self-involved and self-aggrandizing--he made poor choices and then justified them by pointing to the maliciousness of his creation. But the creature wasn't malicious, not at first--he wanted love and acceptance, was gentle and sought to help others, and was rewarded by beatings, anger, fear, stones, and gunshots. The vengeance he sought on his creator was only a function of his total rejection by society. He was alone, never had a chance, and therefore less to blame for the horrible things he eventually did.

When students sided more with Victor I thought they were shallow. He had everything, then had it taken away from him, they said. He lost his friends, family, and wife, as a result of something he created. He had to live with the guilt for the rest of his life. Yes, he made bad decisions, but he didn't kill anyone! They were smug in their dismissal of the creature. A bad childhood doesn't excuse someone from moral responsibility, they insisted.

The interesting thing about Frankenstein is this dilemma: who do you root for? The book is certainly not terribly well-written; it's riddled with digressions and overblown language, plot threads picked up to be conveniently dropped and forgotten about, long wordy descriptions of the mountains in winter that can only be explained by the Romantic period and the fact that the author was only 18 at the time.

This year, suddenly, I can see Victor's side. He does make some stupid mistakes, boy, starting with running away from his creation as soon as it is given life, and blindly hoping that it will just die somewhere and he can forget all about it. He blunders along, wracked by guilt, but never asking anyone for help until the very end, when he's already lost everyone he wanted to save. He's blinded by his emotions, easily manipulated, single-minded, and has a tendency to fall into fevers. He has everything the creature longs for, but destroys it to serve his own ambition.

He's so incredibly flawed, but he's the title character--the one we're supposed to look at and think, holy crap, this could be me. He makes mistake after mistake. He lashes out at the wrong people. He mopes, he's weak, he tries and fails. Even his deathbed advice is riddled with contradictions. He's human.
Monday, March 17, 2008
  Please Advise
When someone is telling a story that you've heard already, but the person forgot that they told you, but you know that other people in the group haven't heard the story so you can't say, "Yeah, you told me about that," but the person is looking at you for a reaction, do you pretend you are hearing it for the first time, which could backfire later if the person remembers that they told you and wonders why you forgot about it so fast, or do you just nod sagely, which might make the person think you don't give a crap about their story?
Monday, March 10, 2008
  Some More Things That Frustrate Me About Public Education
1. Even though our school has a passing rate on The State Test in the mid-90s, we are still a "failing school" because one sub-group of students (special education) does not meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

2. Many of our special ed students are not required to pass The State Test to graduate high school because of their disabilities, but they are still required to take it and their scores still count for our AYP.

3. AYP means every Y. Everyone is supposed to be passing The State Test by 2014. Everyone. 100%.

4. Because we have failed to meet AYP for several years, we are in danger of state takeover (read: privatization.)

5. If you were looking to turn public education into a profit system, good job.

6. Our school is in such a panic about this that regular curriculum has been effectively abandoned in many of our classrooms, in favor of "test taking tips and practice."

7. The school has also decided to bribe students to try harder on The State Test by telling them that people with high scores will have points added to their grade in English and Math. Despite my strong objections (and the fact that my students think this is a stupid incentive) I have been told that I will have to do this. (Jury's still out on whether I will.)

8. Education in our state is funded primarily through property taxes, the quickest way to ensure inequity between rich and poor neighborhood schools.

9. In what other system do you find the whole thing being run by lay people? I understand that it is public ed, so the public is entitled to a say. But the last word? On everything from the business end to the curriculum? Given to people whose only required expertise about education is that they attended school. That's the Board of Education for you.

10. There are so many amazing things that go on in classrooms every day--so many vibrant teachers and students making connections and really learning and challenging each other and having fun--but the frustrating stuff takes center stage, people like me who are on the inside gripe loudly about it, and the reputation of public education just gets worse and worse.

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In a move that seems to amuse only me, I pull lines from the blogs I hit on the Next Blog button, and arrange them into found poem form.

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