Thursday, July 20, 2017

New Teacher? Read This!

If you know a new teacher or a student teacher, you may want to think about sharing this with them.  This is the perfect metaphor for a teacher's first year.

It follows the opening to the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, perhaps the finest movie ever made. Shakespeare would have been proud to produce this movie.

If you haven't seen it, take the time to watch it now:

Best. Movie. Ever.

Now, getting that elusive first job is akin to Indiana Jones getting the idol.  What we didn't see in that clip was all the booby traps that he had to by pass to get to the idol to begin with.  He's confident and a bit smug.  "I got this!"  That's the first week of school.

Then all hell breaks loose.

You noticed that the cave started to fall apart, so Indiana Jones quickly just decides to cut out of there, but he forgot about all the darts in the sides of the wall shooting at him, so he runs like heck.

Your first discipline problem.  But you'll survive it, just like he did.  That's when the betrayal hits.

By betrayal, I'm not meaning anything major, just the realization that not all teachers in that department or school agree and there are some bitter ones there that will resent your youthful idealization (mainly because it reminds them of better days when they had that youthful idealization - lesson to learn - do become like those guys).

You'll survive it, maybe even see them get theirs.  It is the mid course break and you think you have it mastered.  Indiana Jones did too.  That's when the ball started rolling.  He runs to keep ahead of the ball until he leaps out of the tomb just in time.

You'll feel that ball.  You'll feel that you are so busy grading and going to workshops that you can barely stay up with the planning.  You will do everything you can to stay one step ahead of the ball and at exam time, you'll be leaping through the exit.

After catching your breath, you'll be ready to try it again.  This time it will be easier.  By your fifth time, you won't even noticed the ball.  By your tenth time, you're doing it with your eyes shut.

This is not meant to scare a new teacher, but instead to give them peace of mind.  Too often that new teacher thinks that it's just them.  It is helpful to know that it happens to us all.


By the way, I wrote up a post on the mythology behind the temple idol.  Click here to read it.

Friday, May 12, 2017

For the Daring

My former IT guru had her job changed from IT to Digital Coach.  You may have one of these individuals at your school.  You may be like me and have no real idea of what a digital coach does.  I had assumed it was for helping teachers who were not tech savvy to get through mandatory technology needed for the school year.  That's partly it.

I asked her how it was going in the new job and she said that she likes it, but it is boring because once the school year gets going, teachers are so swamped with day to day planning and grading, that they are not making use of her abilities to help design lessons using the different tech resources the school had available.

I thought about that for a while.  I felt bad that she was in a place that she felt wasn't going where she wanted it to go.  So I approached her a day or two later and said, "OK.  I'm teaching ninth grade again after quite a few years of not teaching it.  I hate Romeo and Juliet.  Wow me and show me something tech I can do with it.  She took the challenge.

A few days later, she had several ideas ready to go for me.  The thing that caught my eye was making use of the iPads and green screen in the school learning commons (that's newspeak for library).  I had, many years ago allowed a class of seniors to remake the end of Macbeth in the Lord of the Rings setting.  We were inspired by the then relatively new Star Wars Macbeth.  It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun.  They painted my back wall blue (yes, I was teaching before the invention of green screens).  The kids really got into it.  I had actually offered it to my honors class at the time, but they were not very interested.  When someone in my regular class heard, they asked if they could do it.  I was skeptical, but they really wanted to do it.  It was fantastic.

So I was excited to find out that we had a green screen.  My librarian showed me the program and where the green screen was.  I decided to make a video myself to introduce the students to the program, with the benefit of giving me the chance to figure the equipment out.  It came out OK, but there was still a lot of work to be done:

While it is far from perfect, it was a lot of fun to make.  How did the project work out?  Well, let's say it was a learning experience for me.  Will I use this again with low level ninth graders?  No.   Too much down time for most of the group to handle.  However, there was a handful that really dove into the project, including a young man that is not very interesting in any school assignments who went above and beyond editing his group's project.  I will be using this idea for my mythology class next year and maybe even let my seniors make a 2 minutes hate when we do 1984 again.

So what is the moral of this post?  Go to your librarian or digital coach.  Ask them to wow you with the technology they have available.  I'll bet you'll be surprised.  Be daring and try a project or two.  You'll make their day, your students' day, and probably even your own (even if you do find yourself in a Wonder Woman wig...).

Monday, May 8, 2017

Romeo and Juliet Study Materials

My lesson plans got turned upside down today due to library availability, so I started looking for some Romeo and Juliet study questions as a quick filler.  I was going to come up with some anyway later, but now that time was of the essence - why re-invent the wheel?

I stumbled across this site from Classic Stage Company.  They have this excellent PDF that goes over everything about Romeo and Juliet.  It has a quiz to determine which character you would be, an illustrated timeline of Shakespeare's life, a visual layout of who loves and is related to whom in the play, what it was like to live in London during Shakespeare's time, notes on the play, a quick synopsis, and more.  The illustrations are great and the content is spot on.  Best of all, they say in the opening pages that it is free to reproduce for your class.

Here are two screen shots of their illustrated pages:

You can find the whole thing here:

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Should It Be Seems or Seemeth?

One of my colleagues posed a question to all of us - why does Shakespeare sometimes use an -s ending and sometimes an -eth ending?  Is there a rule for that?

No one knew the answer.  However, we do have a Shakespeare buff in our department, so she was not about to let this question go unanswered.  The question was asked yesterday.  Here is the answer she gave us this morning after researching last night:

Here's the answer to Dan's question about why Shakespeare would sometimes say "seems" and sometimes "seemeth." In a nutshell, it's really about the shift from Middle English to Modern English forms. Shakespeare is considered Early Modern English. The -s ending gradually replaced the -eth ending. Shakespeare wrote during this shifting time, so he was free to choose based on his preference for emphasis and scansion.

Here's more info:

So now you know too!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

There Art Thou Happy

One of my least favorite Shakespeare plays is Romeo and Juliet.  The last year that I taught the play I swore that the next time I did, I was going to start in Act V with Romeo stepping over Paris's body and reaching for the poison.

Well, semesters of non-freshmen bliss went by and here I am, for at least one semester, back in English I.  So did I make good on my oath?  Nope.

However, the teacher across the hall from me (Hi Meredith!) has a killer lesson idea for Act III scene iii.  Romeo is whining about how awful his life is and the Friar, speaking for us, I guess, has had enough of it.  He lists off a few things that Romeo should be grateful for and ends with this line:

A pack of blessings lights upon thy back: Happiness courts thee in her best array; but, like a misbehav'd and sullen wench, thou pout'st upon they fortune and thy love.  Take heed, for such die miserable.
 Not wanting her students to "die miserable", she has them as a homework assignment, list out their "pack of blessings".  Puts a bit of a positive spin to her class.

I am quickly approaching this scene and I am ready to try this out in my class.  Anyone else do something similar for this work or a different one?

This is so much better than what I did as a fairly new teacher (I was in the game long enough to know better, though).  We were about to read Night (first time I had ever taught it at the time) and I was going to be absent that day, so I gave them the journal assignment, "What is the worst thing to ever happen to you?"  In my young foolish mind, I figured that when they read Night they'll realize how simple their lives are.

When I returned, my inclusion teacher jumped my case (we got along very well).  She said I had better not EVER give that journal entry again.  The class she was in was a group of kids that did not get along with each other, normally.  When the sub asked anyone to share, she said it was one depressing thing after another.  They were all crying.  Kids who hated each other were connecting over how miserable each other's lives were.  She said that if I ever did that to her again, she was retiring.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Odyssey: Stop 6 - Hades

Let Your Mom Drink Blood

Odysseus goes here to speak to Tieresias, the blind prophet. What Tieresias tells him (Don't touch the cows!), while is the most important thing that happens here, is not nearly the most interesting thing. Odysseus pours out some blood to attract the blind prophet. It also attracts many others. It is the other spirits that we will discuss.

The first spirit he sees is Elpenor, who evidentially died at Circe's island. He got drunk while sitting on her roof and fell over and broke his neck (sounds like a Darwin Award to me)! I guess nobody knew that and they just left him there. He begs for Odysseus to go back and bury him so he can rest.

Next he sees his mom. She died after he left for the Trojan war. She doesn't recognize him. This really bums him out.

Then comes Tieresias. Blah blah blah there. By the way, he also tells Odysseus that if he gets home, it will be in a strange boat and he will have more problems there than on his way home. Oh yeah, don't forget to give Poseidon a sacrifice when you get there. He also says, give your mom some blood so that she will recognize you.

It grosses him out a bit that she is drinking blood, but she does recognize him again. She tells him that his wife has been faithful to him. That must hurt after his little fling with Circe.

A couple of other women who are wives and daughters of the men who sailed with him show up.

Next comes Agamemnon King! He drinks the blood and tells Odysseus that when he gets home, he should smack his wife around a bit since all women are evil. It seems that he did not have a good experience when he got home, to say the least. His wife had found someone else and they stabbed the poor guy. Well, he is not so poor. He brought home a girl with him to have on the side. I'm sure he was, in his heart, faithful to his wife. This girl could see the future and told him that his wife was cheating on him and planned to kill him that night, but he didn't listen.

Achilles shows up and whines about how awful it is to be dead. He has a neat quote, "Better to be a slave in the sun than the king of Hades." I'm sure that John Milton had this in mind when he has Satan standing in hell, his demon buddies all depressed because they just their butts kicked out of heaven. Satan says, "Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven." I love that epic!

Ajax shows up, drinks the blood and tells Odysseus he is still angry with him (During the Trojan War, Odysseus tricked Ajax into giving him Achilles armor). Then he walks away. Odysseus, being a smart guy, didn't stop the huge guy who only needs a coat of green paint to effectively play the Hulk.

Hercules shows up and he is having a ball down here. Neat contrast between him running around and Achilles crying. I know some myths have Hercules living in Olympus and some with him in the stars, but I like the idea of Hercules running around having tons of fun!

Finally he looks around and sees on his way out Minos, Tityus, Tantalus, and Sisyphus.  These guys are interesting enough as it is.  Try making your students research who these fun guys are and why they are here. 

Coming late to the party? You can find all the Odyssey posts here.