I type when I can’t focus.

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed lately. It’s that frustrating phase when work and grading piles up while my life hops on a roller coaster. Students turned in research papers last Thursday. Please don’t ask how many I’ve reviewed yet. The answer is not enough. I need to tackle them soon, though, because I’ll receive another wave of assignments this Thursday, and we’re also trying to finish up Hamlet.

That’s enough to swamp any English teacher, but compounding everything is the fact that my own future is still up in the air. Decisions will be made soon. They haven’t been made yet, and until they are, I’m living in a constant state of distraction. I don’t know yet if I have my job next year. My students know that much already, so I can safely say that on the internet without discussing the details. I doubt they know how hard it is for me to stand up in front of them every day not knowing if I’ll be able to stay. I doubt they know how hard I’ve tried to keep myself from becoming attached to them, and how miserably I’ve failed at that. I doubt they see the number of times I swallow back my emotions while I teach.

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Don’t Forget About the Books! (a commentary on classroom technology)

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I could do my job in this classroom, no problem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I may step on some toes with this one, but if what I’m about to say bothers you, just know that I’m speaking from a very specific point of view (that of an English teacher).  I’m not opposed to the overall presence of technology in education; I just don’t want too much of it in my field.  Though I’ve mentioned it in casual conversations at work, I haven’t “officially” shared my opinion in faculty meetings simply because I’m still a long-term sub, not a permanent addition.  I’m not in a good position to rock the boat too much yet.  When that time comes, I’ll be diplomatic, but until then, I’ll stick to just blogging my thoughts.

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Teachers on TV

OK, I have to get this out of my system.  I get really stinking annoyed at how the teaching profession is portrayed on television.  I could go a lot of different directions with this, but for now, the part that bugs me the most is the lack of ramifications of either entering or leaving a specific job.  TV teachers hop in and out of their jobs with no consideration for the concept of schedules and a school year.  They leave and come back, and no one questions what happens to the students or the course curriculum in the meantime.  It drives me nuts!

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Alyson Hannigan, who plays Lily Aldrin on HIMYM. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Take Lily Aldrin, for instance.  I love How I Met Your Mother.  I’m highly entertained by that show.  Lily and Marshall are easily my favorite couple on television.  But when Lily was a kindergarten teacher in the early seasons?  It wasn’t realistic.  She majored in art in college, but somehow she has a teaching license.  Yes, teaching licenses are required to teach Kindergarten, except maybe in some private schools.  So maybe Lily taught in a private school, and I’ll let that one slide.  If that were my only concern, I’d let it go, but it’s not.

After Lily returns from a summer pursuing art in San Francisco, she goes through a phase of career self-discovery (season 2, episode 6, “Aldrin Justice”).  She doesn’t think she’s passionate about teaching, so she takes a job as a waitress while cycling through several other “life callings” trying to find a passion.  Then her friend offers her a job as an assistant at his architectural firm, and through that job she realizes that she does actually love teaching, and returns to her old job teaching Kindergarten.  Here are my questions…

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A Teacher’s View on Names

I chuckled as I read this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge about the significance of names.  Any teacher will understand why.  Being a teacher ruins names.

I don’t have children yet, but they are in my life plan.  Like any girl dreaming of her future family, I’ve tossed around ideas for potential baby names with my girl-friends and my husband. However, for a teacher, names immediately lend themselves to memories of students.  Sometimes the association is good, and sometimes I can only picture saying the syllables in an irritated voice commanding a kid to stop talking.

Tyler, for instance.  I associate the name “Tyler” with an obnoxious inability to sit still and be quiet.  I’ve had three students named Tyler who fit this description.  Unfortunately, two of them were in the same class period, so simply yelling “Tyler!” didn’t do much, because they never knew where my yells were directed.  Fortunately, Tyler was never on my list of potential baby names, so it isn’t too much of a problem.

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Everyone’s a Nerd

When we reached a certain scene in Hamlet, I decided to switch things up and have students delve a bit deeper into the psychological aspects of the characters.  I gave them a modern translation to use side-by-side with Shakespeare’s words and asked them to explain and respond to two different speeches in the scene.  One of them was my favorite speech in all of Hamlet (and possibly all of Shakespeare), spoken by Claudius on the topic of prayer.  I’ve always been fascinated by this speech, so much so that I memorized it for a competition in high school.  I admitted this to my students.  They looked at me like I was crazy, and said as much to my face.  “You memorized this?  By choice?!” they said, shaking their heads in disbelief.

“Hey,” I replied with a shrug, “Everyone is nerdy about something.  This just happened to be mine.”

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An Apology, of Sorts

I wondered when I took this new job two months ago if I’d be able to maintain my blog.  After all, instead of just subbing, I now have to dedicate my time and attention to grading, lesson planning, and you know, teaching.  I wondered if the added responsibilities would prevent me from taking the time to write.

It hasn’t.  I’m still cranking out at least one post a week.  Teaching full-time has given me new avenues of inspiration and a wealth of stories to share, and I still enjoy the mental process of putting my thoughts down in writing.  It gives me a chance to reflect and focus, instead of getting caught up in the daily grind.

Something else has fallen by the wayside, though.  I have noticed a definite shift in how I experience the blogging world.  I have far less time for reading blogs, and I feel a little bad about that.

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School Culture: It’s in your hands, kids.

“Quiet game, everybody!”  The speaker is one of the more vocal guys in the class, the one who usually riles up the others, but they have work to do today.  The quiet game was his favorite strategy to get himself to focus.  “Five minutes. One, two, three, go.”

And the room silenced.

The absolute silence only lasted for a few seconds, but the spirit of the game continued, with comments kept to quiet murmuring mostly on topic with their work.  They’re all seniors, this class full of students taking college writing.  They meet in my room, but I’m not teaching the class. My predecessor still teaches it, giving them their assignments online and occasionally coming in to meet with them in person.  On a regular day, third period is a glorified study hall for them (and me).  It’s a chance for them to meet together and focus on the work for this class, but they’re free to work on whatever they want.  If they have a more pressing assignment in another class, they work on that instead and save the college writing work for another time.  And there are days when they don’t have much to do at all, so they tend to converse and browse the internet instead.  I’m pretty “hands off” with this group.  I don’t even have a syllabus for the class, much less access to their individual assignments.  If they choose to focus on the course work, good for them.  If they choose to do something else, that’s up to their discretion.

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Dealing with Naiveté

I had already started writing this post when three students came into my study hall asking if they could survey some of the kids in the room.  As they circulated among the class and asked their questions, it became harder and harder for me to simply sit quietly and listen.  The survey was on racism in America today, and in my eavesdropping I caught wave upon wave of the naiveté that inspired me to write this post in the first place.  These kids have good lives.  Their families are well off.  Aside from the handful of Korean exchange students, our school doesn’t have much in the way of diversity.  They’ve never seen the impact of racism in action – which led them to conclude that racism is now a non-issue.  I cringed inwardly, already mulling over ideas for bringing up the topic in class some time.

I love my job.  I love this demographic, though not always for the reasons people expect.  For the most part, my students are awesome – respectful, trustworthy, and motivated.  But man, they’re naive.

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It’s ROBerson!

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“Hey, Robes!”

Two senior boys popped through my classroom door along with the sophomores making their way into class after lunch.  Their laughing exclamation was not referring to articles of clothing, but a mispronounced abbreviation of my last name.  These two boys stopped in my room with the sole purpose of calling me “Robes.”  And in that moment, a dreaded vision of my future at this school flashed before my eyes.

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Processing My Blog Explosion

I don’t know if you noticed… I didn’t immediately “deal” with the fact that my blog has suddenly gained a bigger audience.  I knew it was coming.  I received the e-mail telling me I would be featured on Freshly Pressed a few days before it actually happened, and since this is Round Two for me (um… what?!), I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.  Lots of Likes.  Lots of comments.  I’d begin with all the good intentions of replying to all of them, and then I’d give up and just start hitting “approve.”  Lots of new followers.  Lots of people clicking around my blog, liking and commenting on other posts, too.  And that’s exactly what happened.

Knowing it was coming didn’t mean that I was ready for it.  I watched it all unfold in front of me, but like last time, I kept myself a little detached.  Last time I had a very good reason for my detachment.  This time?  This time I think I was just intimidated by the idea of engaging in all the attention, discussion, and general blogging explosion.  I’m still coming to grips with the idea that my blog now has an audience.  Not just a few random people here and there, but a steady stream of visitors, complete strangers who are invested in hearing what I have to say.  In the past two weeks my blog has gained almost 400 more followers (hello to all of you!).  I knew it was coming.  My mind is still blown.

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