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Friday, August 12, 2011

Coming Soon

Why I've changed my mind about cell phones in the classroom...

Why Block Rocks

I think all educators can agree: Parents will find most anything to complain about. My daughter is entering Pre-K this year, so in about two weeks I'm sure I'll understand their perspective too. But, for right now, I can't help thinking a large percentage of parent whining is silly and useless. We are all trying to do what seems like the best idea at the time for keeping our children publicly educated. Sometimes it works out; other times it doesn't. If you don't like what's happening, chances are we don't either. I'm not saying don't try to change what you don't like, but don't blame the teachers or even the administrators. We really are doing our best.

The particular beef for parents of students at our school right now is block schedule. We recently moved to a full block schedule from a ridiculous - no, scratch that and make it completely idiotic - modified block schedule. Last year, students went to seven 50-minute classes a day for three days out of the week, and four 90-minute blocks of those classes for two days out of the week. Of course, they only had seven classes total, so that left them with one period a week of "nothing" time, which went about like you'd expect. It also left teachers without a planning period one day out of the week. I thought I was just too green to handle what was going on, but at the end of the year I heard a veteran teacher I greatly respect admit that it was the worst year she'd ever had because of the schedule.

This year's schedule is like an oasis of rainbows and fluffy puppies in comparison. Students attend four classes a day. Each one is 90 minutes long and lasts one semester. They have the opportunity to earn eight credits in an academic year instead of seven. All teachers have 90 minutes of planning time per day. Instead of having 160-180 total students on our rosters at once, we have no more than about 90.

As a military kid, I myself attended three high schools. Two of them had six period days, the final one had a block schedule like the one we have now. I can say with absolute certainty that I learned more on a block schedule. On the other schedules, just when I felt like my brain was finally warming up to the content that was being thrown at me, it was time to switch modes again. How can we force kids to jump between SEVEN subjects in a span of eight hours, with all their social concerns thrown in between, and then expect them to actually retain any information they encounter?

Yes, there are some problems with a block schedule, but they pertain mostly to poor teaching technique. Some teachers complain about having to teach for 90 minutes at a time. Some claim you "can't" teach their subject on block (namely, math). Some are lecture-oriented, so they bore their kids for an hour and a half at a time. Some point to discipline issues.

But I took math on block, and it was the first time the coursework didn't fill me with an all-consuming hatred for arithmetic. I had time to become steeped in it like never before, and found that I actually kinda liked it. I wasn't half bad at it, either, like I'd been led to believe I was all my life. I find that if I keep working to be a better teacher and don't rely on the same lesson plans year after year, I can avoid lecturing more and more. Every time I throw my old lesson plans away and start over, I see a more student-driven classroom emerge. It's a lot of work, but with the increased planning time we can all adjust the way we teach as long as we're open to improvement. As for discipline issues, longer class periods and a lighter load of total students means more opportunity to get to know them. Students I get to know - really get to know - don't give me trouble with behavior. They're the ones who keep in touch with me long after they graduate and tell me about their lives.

If someone can come up with a legitimate reason for disliking block that I can't quickly debunk with a quick application of some light logic, I'll consider alternatives. So far, non-block's only champion seems to be laziness.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 18 - April PAD

From Poetic Asides: http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
For today's prompt, take the phrase "Like (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title to your poem, and write your poem. Some example titles might be: "Like Superman," "Like Criminals," "Like a Poem," "Like Whatever," etc.

Like Pulling Teeth

That's why they call it research:
You search, then search again.
If you'll be patient I will show you 
how to create a hanging indent.
Yes, you need to cite your sources.
No, you cannot use the Googles.
Your wording is excessive;
please attempt to be more frugal.
I don't see in-text citations.
Why is this still single-spaced?
Does this follow with your thesis?
WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU FORGOT TO HIT 'SAVE?'




Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day 17 - April PAD

From Poetic Asides: http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
For today's prompt, write a big picture poem. I know these can be difficult to write, because they cover big ideas or emotions or concepts. However, we're just getting our first drafts out this month, so it's the perfect time to attempt something big--even if your big picture poem fits within a shadorma or fib, which actually might be a great fit for tackling a big picture since the poem expands with each new line.

What Isn't?

Aren't all poems
"big picture poems,"
even ones focusing on
the minutia of some plant
or a single fleeting moment?
Isn't the big picture just a quilt
made up of those?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 16 - April PAD

From Poetic Asides: http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
For today's prompt, write a snapshot poem. When I think of snapshot, I think of a photograph or painting still life. The poem would bring this particular moment to life. However, if you have another interpretation, I encourage you to follow your muse.

At This Moment

They are all on their cell phones,
or listening to music,
or gossiping,
except one.
She is writing.
Her mind is in her monitor,
in the even double spaces
of twelve-point text.
Her writing voice is best in the class.
It isn't hard to see why.
She writes.
They don't.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 15 - April PAD

From Poetic Asides: http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
For today's prompt, write a profile poem. When I think of a profile poem, I'm thinking of social media profiles. Personally, I have one for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other sites like the Writer's Digest Community website. So you could write a poem that is your own profile, or that of another person (like what would Edgar Allan Poe or Emily Dickinson put in their Facebook profiles). Of course, I'll accept other takes on the prompt, such as describing a physical profile, or a piece on criminal profiling, etc. As always, the main thing is to write a poem.

[In progress...]

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day 14 - April PAD

From Poetic Asides: http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
For today's prompt, write an "ain't none of my business" poem. This poem could be about something that is none of your business. Or a poem about something with which no one else should be concerned. It could be a poem about someone ignoring something that maybe they shouldn't. It could be a poem that's silly. Or a poem that's serious. It ain't none of my business what you decide to write about, though I admit I'll still be interested to see what develops.

[In progress...]

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 13 - April PAD

From Poetic Asides: http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
For today's prompt, write a poem that remembers an old relationship. This relationship does not have to be romantic. It could be a departed (or estranged) family member, old friend, former teacher, or even just someone you briefly encountered. And the relationship may have even been one-sided or seemingly insignificant to the other person. So let's all dig deep into our memory banks and see what we can draw out today.

[In progress...]

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 12 - April PAD

From http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
Two for Tuesday - Choose one (or both!)
1. Write a form poem. This could be a sonnet, pantoum, lune, or even something as sinister as a--dare I say it--sestina.
2. Write an anti-form poem. Just as there are poets who love playing with forms, there are poets who think they are the worst thing ever. That's fine. Express (in either free verse or a prose poem) your feelings on writing in traditional forms.


[In progress...]

Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 11 - April PAD

From http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
For today's prompt, take the phrase "Maybe (blank);" replace the blank with a word or phrase; make the new phrase the title of your poem; and then, write the poem. Some example titles might be: "Maybe I should've read the instructions first," "Maybe I was wrong," "Maybe the world is flat," or whatever else y'all can muster.

[In progress...]

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Day 10 - April PAD

From http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
For today's prompt, write a never again poem. Maybe you'll never again fall in love or never again tell a lie. Or maybe, just maybe, you'll never again not write a sestina.(Like that? It's a double negative.)

Breakfast Combo

Never again will I
stop for $1.59 coffee
and a donut on the way
to work so the coffee
will be the
Perfect Drinking Temperature
by the time I get there
and I can spend the drive
licking the chocolate glaze
off the wax paper
with which I picked up the
confection when I broke this
same promise from yesterday.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 9 - April PAD

From http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
For today's prompt, write a time of day poem. In fact, make the title of your poem the time of day. For instance, "5:54 a.m.," 2:23 p.m.," "Midnight," etc. Then, write your poem. Of course, different things happen at different times of day. So have fun with it.

5:51 a.m.

Whereas X equals sleep time,
and Y equals time the baby was awake,
X minus Y equals reality.

Whereas A equals time spent getting ready,
and B equals time until I must leave,
B minus A equals reality.

Whereas M equals miles to work,
and N equals the speed limit
(N plus ten) divided by M equals reality.

I do these equations every day,
but one I still can't solve:
Y is reality always such a B?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 8 - April PAD

From http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
For today's prompt, write a ready to celebrate poem. You could chronicle the actual celebration or even write about the anticipation of one.

Teacher's Countdown

Is it time to celebrate?
Soon the weekend will be here.
I can spend the "S" days in my PJs
cuddled up with my girls...
Oh, wait.
That's right.
Friends are visiting from out of town.

Can I celebrate yet?
Three more days 'til Spring Break
after today, that is,
I will finally get some rest...
Oh, wait.
That's right.
I will have 161 research papers to grade.

Can I finally celebrate?
Twenty-three school days until summer.
The students will go home early that Friday.
And then I will be free...
Oh, wait.
That's right.
I have to stay another week and prepare for next year.

Surely I can celebrate!
It is June, for crying out loud.
Time for a beach day, iced coffee,
road trips to visit family...
Oh, wait.
That's right.
I'm leading a week-long writing workshop for kids.

When can I celebrate?
Now can I celebrate?
Please?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day 7 - PAD

From http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/

For today's prompt, write a "what if" poem. It could be a "what if" from the past, present or future. For instance, what if no one discovered electricity? (How would we do this challenge?)


What If

On a jaunt through my journal
from seven years ago,
when my heart was infernal
with a youthful need to grow,
I happened on an entry
where I'd written all about
many things I missed about you,
didn't want to live without.
Now I don't remember writing
all the things I wrote of then.
Guess you really weren't that special;
now we're barely even friends.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Poem for my husband

Aficionado

Inside my mind, there was a man
who read outside and smoked cigars
and sometimes drank neat whiskey.
The warm silence between us was seldom
interrupted by a forceful cough or chuckle
sailing swiftly toward his book.
He would come in of an evening
smelling faintly of tobacco
and glaze my lips with a nicotine tingle.
He would come to bed still shower damp,
humidify my senses,
a bubble of protection
in his quiet air of danger.

Day 6 - April PAD

From Poetic Asides:
http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
For today's prompt, take the phrase "Don't (blank), (blank);" replace the blanks with a word or phrase; use the new phrase as the title of your poem; and then, write your poem. Some possible titles might include: "Don't walk, run," "Don't fight, dance," "Don't turn around, they're right behind you," or whatever else you can think to create.

Don’t be a fool, stay in school

Lockers and letterman jackets,
cell phone chargers,
Air Jordans,
Drama (the class?)

Bloom’s taxonomy and critical thinking,
learning-focused strategies,
Adequate Yearly Progress,
Testing (standardized?)

Secrets and notebook doodles,
bathroom passes,
Ford trucks,
English (WTF?)

Data and acronyms,
cumulative assessment,
reading comprehension,
Rubrics (or checklists?)

Football and basketball,
skipping sixth period,
Polo shirts,
History (what boyfriend?)

Merit pay and evaluations,
learning accommodations,
attendance protocol,
Professional development (pedagogy?)

Graduation.

Yes, there exists a
disconnect.


Don’t Sip, Gulp


A slutty arrow seduces my money to its empty slit
as pleas of withdrawal float on the alcoholic breath of my small sedan.

Thirty thirsty eyes watch me balance a silver tray on my head.
On it is a glass pitcher; they want its contents poured right in.

The baby’s bottles yawn, showing ounce-length gaps between their teeth,
expecting milk hard-won from tired breasts.

Her sister’s red plastic cup chokes on a clump of warped nylon bristles
and the dried mud of six watercolor paints.

Their daddy’s belly growls in protest at half a spoonful of broth,
cold and pouting at the bottom of a bowl.

Call me a harbinger of what waits to be filled:
All these vessels, and no lids.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 5 - April PAD

From Poetic Asides:
http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
Today is our first "Two for Tuesday" prompt of the month. For those who are new to the challenge, I provide two prompts instead of one--usually polar opposites of each other--and poets can choose which one to use. Of course, quite a few poets write a poem for both prompts.

For today's prompt, do one of the following:

1. Write a goofy poem.
2. Write a serious poem.


But It Was Fun


Bully-bull,
The hamper’s full.
Lilly-lept,
The floor ain’t swept.
Cootie-cussed,
Still need to dust.
Doomy-doom,
I ain’t vacuumed.
Sloppy-slop,
I haven’t mopped.
Splashy-splash,
Here lies the trash.
Hinky-wink,
Just smell that sink.
Doady-dode,
A stained commode.
Lunky-lunk,
The dog’s been skunked.
Mishy-mish,
Ain’t fed the fish.
Gubby-gub,
A mildewed tub.
Flappy-flap,
Let’s take a nap!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Day 4 - April PAD

From Poetic Asides:
http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
For today's prompt, pick a type of person and write a poem about him or her. To help set the scene, you may want to title your poem as who the type of person is. For instance, you could write a poem titled "Firefighter," "Cynic," "Optimist," "Teacher," "2-year-old," etc. The list is endless.

Frogmen

I can spot one by his gait and build.

As if cast in a mold,
years of identical exercises have sculpted
them all into men who sort of look like frogs.

A Frogman walks
with his chest further forward than his feet,
and talks with a wry humor born of necessity.

His skin is leathered by the elements
of Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan.
Which one doesn’t matter.
It is all the same sun.

His eyes show the scars
his skin has managed to avoid.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Day 3 - April PAD

From Poetic Asides:
http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
Today's prompt is to write a poem in which you imagine the world without you. Since my favorite movie (It's a Wonderful Life) plays with this idea, I'm surprised I've never used this prompt before. The world could be a much worse place without you, could be pretty much the same, or I guess, it could even be better. Anyway, it's interesting to contemplate our individual contributions to this planet in ways small and large.

Less Me


One less file at city hall
one less mother’s worried call
one less turtle kept as pet
one less little toy Corvette
one less hymnal open wide
one less kiddie pool outside
one less talk of birds and bees
one less clubhouse in the trees
one less angry sentence penned
one less tempted into sin
one less dent in some old Ford
one less sheath for four men’s swords
one less old professor’s ire
one less writer on the wire
one less photo dubbed as art
one less patient on the chart
one less voice against the grain

a thousand minds that go unchanged

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Day 2 - April PAD

From Poetic Asides:
http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
For today's prompt, write a postcard poem. Make it brief and communicate what it is like where you are. Also, make it personal.

Sexting

Cherry trees line the chilly streets.
Their pink blossoms frame marble monuments.
It looks just like the postcard
I didn’t buy you.
Here is a picture of my boobs.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 1 - April PAD

From Poetic Asides:
http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/
For today's prompt, write a "what got you here" poem. For instance, write a poem about a mode of transportation like your car, bike, horse, etc. Or write a poem about what "got you here" as a human being or writer (like what got you started writing, perhaps). Or write a poem about what brought you to this blog. Or whatever other interpretation you might have.


M

I came here on a prefix
the first syllable of Superman’s city
another way to be sexual
a sans-serif statement
of brutalist architecture
shooting through the sub-terrain

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Being Selfish

I have been struggling with the sometimes congruent but often conflicting roles of mother, wife, educator, writer, and artist for years now. My trail is littered with failed blogs, abandoned forums, and incomplete writing challenges. This is just my latest attempt to reconcile all the things life has called me to. Stay tuned for what I hope will be continuing installments of my adventures in all the aforementioned roles.