Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just Random Stuff

I'm sorry that there isn't an overriding theme for this post.

Avery is standing next to me right now holding a light saber. She is a very well-balanced young lady.

Evan is helping his mother clean up the kitchen. Aidan and Toby are torturing each other.

My father believes that the elections are rigged and that our country is controlled by money interests and international banks who are seeking the advent of one-world government. He would not mind me telling you this.

School is fine except for about two of the 155 children I teach weekly. I took a very firm stand against some attempt-to-control-the-teacher behavior today and probably did some major damage to my reputation as a cheerful and emotionally stable person.

My leadership team for the play continues to do well. I am really appreciating how everyone has been stepping up and leading without being asked.

I am tired of rudeness in people. I have been the victim of a series of rude behaviors in recent days. Please join me now for a little lecture on manners.

#1: If you are in a conversation and someone (like, say, ME) approaches you, do not stand there and continue your conversation as if I do not exist. Clearly I do exist and I need to ask you something. I will be brief, and you can return to your previous conversation momentarily.

#2: If you have a request to make of me that is highly irregular and most people wouldn't even attempt to make, make it apologetically. I will refrain from calling you out if you are already apologetic.

#3: If your child is not doing well (and has a history of not doing well), do not wait until one week before the end of the quarter to contact me. And do not call at 6:00. We are eating dinner and I am trying to pay some attention to my own family. I have been paying attention to your family all day.

If you suspect that you are one of the people that I'm referencing, fear not. I have already forgiven you and just wanted to vent a little and make the world a better place. I still like you. I still will treat your child fairly. Most of the time. ;-)

Our house deal I think is almost done. We have almost all of the details worked out, including how Jay and Emily and we are going to get their stuff out here and our stuff to our new home in "rural" Southeast. I'm hoping for a pleasant winter in a snug new home. Of course, I may not know how to act there.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why Fifth Graders Are Hazardous to Your Health

I've taught for a long time now. By my count I have led almost 12,000 class periods on one topic or another. You would think that it would be easy by now.

In some ways, it is. I am not challenged at all by the basic premises of teaching. There exists some truth which I wish to impart to the students. There also exist a variety of methods by which I can get said truth into the students. For the most part, I am successful.

So the fifth graders (all of them together) came in for their class today. I divided them up into teams for an opening game, and it went quite well. Then there were a few kids who had to retake a vocab quiz because of a mistake that I (not they) made last week. So I sent them out to the hallway to accomplish this feat. While they were quizzing, we inside were going to correct lesson 6 in their worktexts. Six of the students volunteered to correct two books at the same time. This went all right until the rest of the 5th graders began finishing their quizzes and trickled back into the classroom. Not wanting them to feel left out, I tried to redistribute books to correct as they continued to return. Soon this became difficult to manage. We didn't finish correcting until four minutes before the class hour ended. This did not give us enough time to put scores into the computer before they went back to class or practice any real skills.

So I sent back the 5th graders to their homerooms, having told them to leave their texts out on the tops of the desks. Of course I had another class coming in immediately who helped me get the stuff managed, but not until I had wasted ten minutes of their class time in doing so.

But the simple truth is, you just cannot rush a group of 25 fifth graders any faster than they happen to go. Though they are well behaved and basically cooperative, they are fifth graders. And that's that.

We are in rehearsal with the play. I had fun picking on one of my leads today who backed her parents' van into her friend's parents' Jetta on Friday night. Her little brother ratted her out during Latin 7 this morning. I spect that she will kill him before tomorrow.

Yes, we do academics at Schaeffer also. I knew you were going to ask.

All right, I saw the cutest thing this morning. We have a new teacher this year who is in his 40s (I assume) and absolutely immense - not fat - just extremely large. Besides lit and biology, he teaches kindergarten PE. As he and the kindergarteners were heading outside, I heard one little girl say to him in the coyest voice, "Do you notice anything different about me this morning?"

He replied, asking her if her headband was new.

I didn't hear the end of the story, since they went outside, but I knew that she was delighted with the attention.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

More Latin, Please!

A few weeks ago I got an email from a fifth-grade parent. This is not unusual in itself, but the direction was. Paraphasing, it basically went like this: "Latin is my daughter's favorite subject. She wants to learn all she can about the language and how to use it. What else can she do or be involved in?"

Now, I sponsor a bi-weekly Latin lunch for scholars, nerds, and other interested in taking their Latin to the next level. Several sophomores and one freshman come to that. High school students.

But here we're talking about a 10-year-old.

So I consented to meet with the child. She has Latin with me two times a week, and I'd noticed that she was exceptionally bright and interested, and if I said anything remotely interesting or novel, her eyes would light up and she'd write it in her notebook. Here's an abridged transcript of our conversation. "Magister" is teacher in Latin and "discipula" is student.

Magister: So your mom talked to me a few days ago. She said that you really like Latin, and that you want to do more Latin than you're doing now.

Discipula: [embarrassed smile, nods]

Magister: Tell me what you'd like to learn how to do.

Discipula: I'd like to learn all about Latin and how it works, how you change the endings on the words and what they do. I want to be a scholar when I grow up. [big,radiant,dazzling smile]

Magister: Did you want to know more about the history and culture of ancient Rome, too?

Discipula: No, not so much. Just the language, mostly.

Magister: Well, I think you found the right person.

So I get to figure out how to turn a very willing and talented 10-year-old into a Latin scholar. Amazing. What a journey this year is turning out to be!!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dystopian Children's Literature

I've decided I would like to write some dystopian children's literature. This thought occurred to me while I was reading a lovely children's book to Aidan and Toby before bedtime. For as many years as I spent teaching English, I really don't read to my kids that often. So they were eagerly snuggled around me, listening to the story of a library that was about to close. Apparently it needed a new roof and new paint. So the children checked out books called _How to Roof in Perfect Lines_ and another one called _How to Paint a Library_ or some such rot. And then they read by day and they read by night. The next morning (YES, THE NEXT MORNING!) they got to work roofing the library and painting it a lovely buttercup yellow. BUTTERCUP YELLOW? HELLO! Buttercup Yellow is an interior only color because gentle exterior yellows fade unevenly. They didn't have to pull any work permits, no one on the library board was consulted, and apparently paint and shingles are free.
The story continued like this, with challenges put in front of the youthful library users Skunk, Mouse, Mole, and Raccoon. Of course Miss Goose, the librarian, had nothing to do with the solutions; she only helplessly recounted the problems.

Finally the library ended up in Old Beaver's meadow, where all the children came to enjoy its endless supply of interesting and educational books, and where Old Beaver and his grandson arrived every afternoon after they had finished their nap.

If you would like some truly dystopian works for your children that present the world as it is and no more, leave me a comment. Maybe I'll write one over Christmas Break.

Speaking of dystopias, we bought a house sort of back in town. It's off Marion Road and theoretically has everything that we as a family are looking for. My wife thinks it is the best thing since indoor plumbing. Myself, I'm just hoping that it will continue to have indoor plumbing. (The house is in a transition from well and septic to city water and sewer; the lines have been brought to the house but not actually hooked up yet.)

I took a full trailer of junk to the dump today. Toby was my labor companion, and we did great work together getting rid things that our previous owner in her generosity had left us.

Grandpa came out today to work on the tractor with me. While we were not able to fix it, we did discover more about the problem. If we had a little more understanding of the factors involved, we might have solved it. Old tractors are not particularly complex.