Tuesday, January 29

Frozen pipes as a metaphor for education blockages....

Our pipes are frozen. Again. For the ten hundreth time. And the sewer line from our trailer is also frozen. About five guys have been out there working on it for over a week now. Shockingly FEMA trailers designed for New Orleans don't hold up well in South Dakota winters. Who'da thunk?

So I'm not very happy. Because I couldn't shower this morning and still can't now. And there was a bomb threat at school today. I'm not sure what went on exactly, they had the drug dogs in the school which they've done a few times this year. But this time after the dogs went through the made us all leave and get on buses and go sit in a parking lot half a mile away for about 30 min. Fun Fun. Tomorrow there are two different assemblies going on and we have some kind of crazy schedule where we only have 3rd and 4th period- or something, it's kind of unclear at this point. Between that and low attendance, kids leaving for basketball games, and being kids pulled out for various things, I don't feel like I'm doing all that much teaching anymore. I'm quickly losing motivation to spend much time planning lessons for kids who aren't there. Today I had 0,6, 7, 11, 2, and 3 students respectively in my six periods....

We're reading The Most Dangerous Game in Literature. So that's fun. Practicing lots of predicting. And finding details that create mood or characterization. Next week we'll get into plot mapping- woo! Literature is more fun than composition I think. The students would probably say they are both equally boring though I'm sure. Sigh.

Colorado last weekend was great! Check out pictures of the finished snow sculpture. It was good to see my parents and meet/see all my dad's snow sculpting buddies, plus I got in some really excellent cross country and downhill skiing.

Next weekend I'm off again- to Chaimberlain! For a "Take One" professional development weekend of some sort. I haven't even looked at all the materials they've sent me yet... hmm.

All for now- Think warm thoughts for me and my pipes please!

Sunday, January 20

I've been meaning to post these for a while. So, here are some pictures from a walk around St. Francis before christmas. Our teacher trailer neighborhood
Hay bale
The sprawling metropolis of St. Francis

In other more recent news... we went skiing this weekend! I love that over half of our entire corps was up in the black hills this weekend splitting two cabins. SoDak is the best. I'm looking forward to many more ski weekends in the near future.

The next couple weeks are kinda nuts. This week I'm leaving for Colorado on Thursday after school to visit my parents and see my dad's snow sculpture this weekend. Weee!

Tomorrow we don't have school and I fully intend to spend the day in my classroom catching up with life and figuring out what I'm doing for the week and for the semester. When I actually have time to plan strategically I really love teaching and planning and creating a long term vision for my class.

Any new '08ers reading this-- you're in for an adventure! It'll be great :)

Wednesday, January 16

Whatcha gonna do?

Love this poem today:
The Wind Doesn't Know what to Do But Be Blue.

by Simon Ortiz from his book "After and Before the Lightning" written during a residency here at Sinte Gleska University on Rosebud.

The wind is blue
this morning
so blue, ooooing
at a lonely corner
of the house.
Look at the sun.
at the sun.
But pays no mind.
Just so blue, it says,
just sooooooo bloooooooooooo
Blooooooooo oooooo oo ue

Whatcha gonna do.
I don't know.
Whatcha gonna do.
I don't know.
The blues are blue.
The blues are blue.
The wind is blue.
It goes oooo.
It goes oooo.
Whatcha gonna do.
It goes oooo.
The blues go oooo.
I don't know.
That's what I'll do.
That what I'll dooooo.

I still have one section of Comp I that I'm re-teaching this semester for a few students who weren't enrolled in it last semester but should have been (don't even get me started on scheduling insanity around here). This semester I'm starting with descriptive writing and I'm cutting out all the get to know you/ goal setting/ what is writing? crap that I did at the beginning of last semester so we can get strait to writing and producing finished pieces asap. I'm thinking that the best way to get kids to think of themselves as writers is to treat them as such rather than spending lots of time talking about what writing is, why it's important, blah blah blah. So I just cut to the chase on day 1, gave them their notebooks and we started writing. Descriptive writing is definitely a good place to start. It has so far been far more successful than starting with memoir/ personal narrative. Memoir is too personal to start on with these students, they don't trust easily, especially not teachers and white people, so naturally they don't want to share much about their own lives just yet.

Anyway, the point of all this rambling is that today we read several poems from Simon Ortiz's book and then we all went outside and sat in the medicine wheel painted bowery (pow wow grounds) outside my classroom. The temperature today was about -5 with wind chill. They were not very happy with me. But it was super fun. I love being a crazy teacher sometimes. They did some pretty good writing too:

"My ass is cold sitting on the yellow of the medicine wheel.
I see the white on the ground.
I see the brown of the grass dying as I sit out here on the cold.
The noise of white cracking as I walk through the cold.
The sun shining down on me as I write in the cold.
My hands are going to fall off as I write through the cold."

"With a depressing look the the tree branches move back and forth from the force of the wind"

"It feels like I'm at a wake. Too cold to write so laters.

"I think I'm getting old with the weather that's so cold.
Wind blowin', just last night it was snowin'.
So it creeped up on us like a mole.
Up is dark, dark as coal.
Down is hard, crunchy, white, blowin', but it's only snow,
but it's still flows from up high and rolls down low.
I sit and shiver
the branch on the tree quivers as I shiver
my liver has never been so shivered."
(Elias is a rapper-- he can't write without rhyming)

Sunday, January 6

Happy 2008

Why does going back to school tomorrow after two and a half weeks feel like the first day all over again? Only worse than the first day because there's already a stack of uncorrected papers and unfinished work to be dealt with. I don't feel like a teacher right now. I expect that I won't until first period tomorrow when I'm alone with a room full of 15 year olds once again. This is such a strange profession...

Break was nice. Too short for me, but probably too long for the kids. Driving away from Minneapolis was a little tough, it's hard not to imagine the other lives I could be living right now- one of which would be in MN and filled with family and old friends- not to mention Caribou Coffee, preppy Uptown bars, and other perks of city life!

I'm very glad I decided to drive back to SoDak on Friday, however, so that I could look forward to getting here and socializing with lots of familiar faces for a couple days instead of just dreading work on Monday.

Work. Not just work, Teaching. I'm trying to find a renewed sense of possibility right now. I think mine is sick. Students are dropping out left and right, scheduling for second semester is going to be just as nightmarish as it was for first, and everyone seems to think this is normal. So I need to remember that I can still do good things in my room and that I can expand my circle of influence to help my students. I need to remember that I'm not just here to make it through two years so I can be a TFA alum with an impressive resume. I need to be here for the students. I need to work harder for them. I need to be as idealistic and determined every day as I was on the first day.

How's that for a New Year's resolution?

Anyway, going back to work will be fun. I'll be happy to see my kids safe and back in school. I'm excited (and overwhelmed) to plan and start new classes next semester including Literature and a new ACT prep course. Also I'm excited about the brand new pack of colorful white board markers I bought over break :) Sometimes its the little things....