Monthly Archives: January 2008

Movies vs. Books

Teaching films in my Lit class is something I’m so 100% committed to. And most of the contemporary educational world would back me up on this; they’re the kind of hip English folks who wouldn’t mind me starting this entry with a passive-voice sentence that ends with a preposition, then having the temerity to start the next sentence with a conjunction.

But (another conjunction!) I’ve been struggling to find the best way to show films to my students. Ultimately, I’d love to have these week-long lectures on a film, opening  their eyes to how a good film uses all of its elements to their full potential. I want to show them how themes are enhanced with visuals, how even the smallest details are there for a reason.

Alas, I’m not quite there yet. I showed To Kill a Mockingbird rather than reading the novel to my 9th graders. I stuck mostly to the themes of the text, letting much of the music, camerwork, and editing slip by unexplicated.  It all has to do with how frustrated the students get with actively engaging a text.  They hate it when I stop mid-paragraph to point something out, and they hate it even more when I pause a DVD to explain how the first shot can tell us so much about a film.

This week, I started showing Lord of the Flies to my 10 graders. They’re reading the book, too. After just two or three times of pausing the movie to explain some elements, the students started sighing and harumphing, hating that I was interrupting the story with inane babble that they could’ve inferred.  It’s something we’ll all have to get used to, I guess.

Conclusion: I’m still an idiot who just loves movies.

“Having Money’s Not Everything / Not Having It Is”

Oh, Kanye.  More than ever, I can  identify with your perspicacious wit.

Teachers get paid monthly.  I actually don’t have a problem with that; I’ve handled monthly pay for years at my previous job (and I even had to set aside my own money for taxes).  December’s a different story, though.  The county was kind enough to pay teachers on the 19th before we got off for the holidays–which was wonderfully denouement-Scrooge of them–but it also makes a full six weeks before the next paycheck at the end of January.  Add on the financial demands of Christmas (my heart is too sizes too big!), and you can figure out why my fiancé’s paying for the gas in my car this week.

I was atypically naive about the financial boon I’d undergo with the new job.  Maria (the fiancé–consider yourself introduced) and I had already disposed of the roommates who were helping replace the income I was losing by going to grad school.  I was thrilled  to get my first paycheck, but honestly more than a little surprised at how meager it seemed.  After taxes and pension funds and insurance were all deducted (“goverment do take a bit, don’t she”), I was left with pretty much the same amount of money had I simply worked part time for $10 and hour and kept on the roommates.  All that work and stress, and I’m right back where I started.  Dang.

It all has to do with the district’s pay schedule.  As a first year teacher who isn’t even fully certified yet, I’m at the bottom of the proverbial totem pole.  Seasoned lunch ladies make more than me.  Fortunately, I’ve only got a few more months like this.  By the end of summer, I’ll be fully certified with a Master’s, which bumps the pay up considerably.  I’ll be supersizing combos, buying name brand cereal–living the good life (and here we are, back at Kanye again.  That’s some circular writin’, friends).

I Need to Chillax: Reflections on Management

Friday was a particularly challenging day for 7th period.  The last period at the end of a four-day week was just too much for them.  The class broke down with the usual litany of classroom distractions, and eventually, the class was lost.  No learning would be happening today.

I had the kids get out some paper and let me know how they felt about the class, what I could do to improve it, etc.  Many students took it as an opportunity to vent their frustrations about their classmates, the reading, all sorts of stuff.

Lots of students told me to be stricter.  I’m letting them get away with way too much, and they want some regulation: throwing kids out, detentions, writing kids up.  Duly noted.

The other half of the class either didn’t write anything at all, or gave me blanket statements of boredom or frustration with the material.  The book’s boring; I don’t like reading along with someone; I don’t like reading at all; I don’t like school, period.

But here’s my favorite, most helpful response:

What is wrong with this class?  Mr. Harding you need to chillax (take a chill pill) it is the last class of the day of course everyone is gonna be active & not paying attention every one is ready to get out of school.


If you really want us to cooperate no offense but be confident.  I’m not saying your not but you don’t seem like it.

Another thing: your teaching techniques are good but some students learn better their own way.

Scrabulous, Please Don’t Go

According to this CNN article, Facebook may be about to lose the only reason I joined up in the first place: Scrabulous.

Scrabulous, like Wikipedia or YouTube, is one of the more perfect applications of the Internet’s limitless possibilities: to play Scrabble with anyone in the world.  I’ve been on the main Scrabulous site for a while now, which keeps track of stats like win/loss records, highest scoring plays, etc.  Facebook’s version of the application just makes it a little easier to set up an untimed game between friends that you can complete at your leisure.  It’s been invaluable on a teacher’s schedule, as it allows me to wallop my friends a move or two a night instead of having to set aside an entire twenty or thirty minutes.

Well, the good people at Hasbro and Mattel want the thing shut down.  Rightly so, too, as Facebook’s likely getting a lot of traffic (from me, at least) based on an electronic replica of their property.  I just hope Hasbro and Mattel wise up, politely buy out Scrabulous, and keep my e-Scrabble habits going strong.

I’ve seriously considered starting a Scrabble club at school.  Maybe I should poke around and see if there’s any interest in such a thing.

Things I Am Digging

In no particular order:

  • No Country for Old Men – It’s essentially Texas Fargo. Everyone in it rules, there’s no music, and it’s the perfect model for how to show information instead of telling your audience everything, Law and Order-style.
  • Ruby
  • Ruby. Our bedroom smells like dog now, and our carpet isn’t as pristine as it once was, but Ruby’s seldom been anything but a joy to have around. Best Christmas present I ever bought someone else. Consider me a dog lover, I guess.
    • Dry cereal for breakfast – Right now, it’s Special K, but just about any non-sugary cereal works great in a sandwich bag on the way to work.
    • The Rascals “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long” – I don’t have particularly great taste in music, but I am certain that this is one of the best songs, at least of its respective decade. Also, please note the intense yet relaxed “yes-I-know-I’m-amazing” drumming style of Mr. Dino Danelli:

    So this post wasn’t exactly educated related. Apologies. I’ll make up for it. Check out Mr. Taylor Mali on Def Poetry Jam. The kids could learn a thing or three from this guy:

    Snow Days and Flexibility

    So our school almost (almost!) had a snow day today. It had started coming down pretty heavily around 4 yesterday afternoon and help up for quite a few hours. It even managed to stick, which is surprising for Georgia these days.

    Speaking of which, I know climate change is a growing issue, but does NPR have to give me a special report on its devastating effects every day? California’s gonna run out of water; ski resorts are going to close down; some walrus is going to start eating a different fish. I get it, All Things Considered, we gotta look at global warming. But every day? Come on. It’s long term stuff, right?

    Back on track, school was unfortunately not canceled today, and it caught the kids off-guard. Many of them probably haven’t seen snow in quite some time, and were honest about spending their yesterday playing in it rather than finishing their drafts of a writing assignment. D’oh.

    It gets into the notion of flexibility–something I’ve had to learn a lot about lately. Some classes had very few students ready to present their writing. Rather than call it a wash and yell at everybody, I just pulled out Lord of the Flies and went through a chapter I was planning on just summarizing for them anyway.

    Every class is completely different, and that needs to be acknowledged, not just in the moment of the class, but during planning. Where one class can handle a structured note-based lecture on Emmett Till, another class needs a whole period to talk about interracial relationships. Right now, it’s all instinctual, really, because I fret over the idea of planning out five separate lessons. I’ll never have to stray that far off, but expecting every class, every student to accept an assignment the same way just doesn’t make sense.

    Rookie Mistake #618

    If I’ve got one weakness as a teacher (and I have several more), it’s classroom management.  Classroom management is friendly educator talk for getting students to shut up, pay attention, and do what you tell them.  Yeah, I’m not great at that. I get helpful advice from other teachers, administrators, professors, textbooks, everywhere, but what really matters is what I actually do in my classroom.  Constantly looking for the best in people, I assume my students will eventually just listen to me and sit down/listen up/stop throwing things across the room. I’m starting to realize that all those teachers, textbooks, etc. are right in that students need to know there are consequences for their actions.  So far, the only consequence has been some seating charts and my repeated pleas for cooperation. Someday soon, I may experiment with the other side: an iron-fisted, no nonsense approach to classroom management.  Like Stalin, only in 9th grade Lit. and I don’t viciously murder anyone.