Teaching and Learning Abroad

The Traveling Teacher Adventures

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Braving the Supermarket

There’s a certain amount of daring and boldness that comes with grocery shopping abroad. It’s an everyday event, but like everything else in a strange land – it’s full of its own odd quirks, customs and unwritten rules completely foreign to the casual shopper. My first trip to the Chinese supermarket “Centurymart” – a bustling two story with shopping booths on the first floor – was almost enough to dissuade me from grocery shopping in China altogether.

Convinced I was headed to an actual slaughterhouse, I approached the soot and grime stained building, once an “eggshell” stucco that had surely lost its color within two weeks of initial exposure to Chinese air quality. The once marble color steps, littered with KFC and McDonalds wrappers did little to assure me I was in the right place. However, as I watched the steady stream of people enter the building, I rationalized that because there was an equally steady stream of people exiting with plastic bags one block down, my chances of survival were pretty good.

Perhaps what bothered me most about the whole scene were the translucent plastic slats hanging from the doorway – in lieu of a door – a sunflower orange hue emanating from behind them. Strip Doors…these were legitimately the same Strip Doors placed in butcher freezers. Strip Doors instead of real doors.

Slaughterhouse…phased, but not quite deterred, I continued on, the symbolism evading me at the moment.

More than anything else, the smell of a Chinese supermarket hits you first. It’s a sweet, rancid rot mixed with carpenter’s dust, fresh produce and human odor – body odor. “They don’t wear deodorant,” I was warned ahead of time, “so bring your own.” This may explain why the TSA official looked at me knowingly when he examined my bag and one-way ticket bound for China. Why else would I have eight sticks of deodorant in my bag?

Momentarily stunned – and lets face it, a little wierded out after walking through the slaughter doors – I stood transfixed, unable to connect my senses. My nose, accosted by the humid sweet rot of people and food, couldn’t contend with the clean jewelry strip mall sitting in front of me. Two young women stood behind a red-lit counter (explaining the ominous hue puncturing the slaughter doors). Jewelry counters…they were selling gold, silver, jade, engagement rings, trinkets, etc. at the entrance to the stinkiest market I’d set foot in yet. Further on – for something this bizarre meant I was indeed in the right place – I discovered a shoe stall, a purse stall and even a bookstore. Communism is code for veiled or repressed consumerism after all.

Throughout the entire ordeal, I felt several sets of eyes watch me from a manageable distance. Their furrowed brows indicating I was a curious but welcome intrusion to their everyday shopping experience. Unfortunately, this look never really went away in my entire time there – and more often than not I was the ‘unwelcome intruder,’ a foreign body to be avoided at all costs. But, it was perfectly ok to stare…or to stalk me throughout the store in hopes of improving English conversation skills.

For foreigners in Asia, there’s no such thing as being anonymous or blending into a crowd; it’s impossible. Those afflicted by the insurmountable desire to be famous should live in Asia where everyone watches you, your every move scrutinized, photographed without consent. It’s comical, but it gets old.

To this day I still cannot understand how the markets are organized. Alcohol and foreign goods in the front, processed foots followed by produce – the meat and seafood counters hidden behind it all. I suppose they’re a lot like our own wherein we hide the ‘butchered goods,’ placing a freezer between the door and the counter. It almost begs the question, “do you really want butchered meat? Do you really want to know where your food comes from?” Do you really want to know what your food looked like before it was tossed into the meat blender, processed and reshaped into breaded frozen stars?

If Chinese supermarkets smell like sweet rot – which I do particularly enjoy – the French have an unpasteurized dairy smell to them. My first time to the Champion – a word I continually mispronounce as champignon or ‘mushroom’ in French – I was flanked by my best friend. Together, we’d decided to stock our small room and kitchen with some necessities…snacks.

Overtaken by the cleanliness of it all, I immediately found the cheese, she the Nutella. I know, a friendship made in heaven. She, having been to Europe several times before, was not as taken by some of our discoveries that first trip:

-       Milk – pasteurized and free of all bacteria in the states, was sold in plastic containers reminiscent of bleach containers. In fact…I thought it was bleach upon first glance. Warm and room temperature, milk was not sold in the refrigerated section, but near the raw goods – toilet paper, toothpaste and tampons. Go figure…I didn’t drink milk for months. The thought of little bacteria – clad in black and white stripped shirts and berets, dining in my gut on cheese, canapés and crudités left me with a queasy feeling.

-       Fruit – picked, weighed and priced all before you get to the checkout line. I learned this one the hard way as three pairs of eyes bored into the back of my head while our checker waved someone over to show me how to purchase fruit correctly.

-       Two Buck Chuck actually exists and it wasn’t uncommon to find bottles of decent red wine for € 2.80.

-       BYOBag – what was this concept?! Thrift? Recycling? You mean I have to pay 10 centimes (ten cents) for a plastic bag? Nonsense, I’ll carry € 25 worth of groceries in my arms all the way back to my apartment.

o   Incidentally, it’s the same in many parts of the world – paying for grocery bags – which makes me wonder how and why the US is so slow on the uptake.

In the end, what seemed like a daunting task became ritual, easy and rather like looking at a group of people under a microscope. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t read Chinese or French – had I been able to in China I probably wouldn’t have bought and eaten half the stuff I did. I suppose you can tell just as much about people by looking at their trash as you can by browsing the supermarket aisles. It makes me wonder what ours say about us!

Filed under food travel supermarkets France China

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Je cherche le plumeau…

It always amazes me how the bold, the exciting or the unadventured territory loses its sense of mundane everydayness, how places so far away can make words like “sanitation services” seem highbrow, intriguing or even exotic in a foreign language.

In a way it makes perfect sense, for when visiting Rome, who thinks of shopping for plungers, nail clippers or painter’s tape? A traveler to Amsterdam won’t think twice about the price of teaspoons or gutter repair. Day trippers to London wouldn’t deign to think of the cheapest and most economical petrol change or where to get their breaks fixed, or even to whom one should take their car to exchange the circa 1997 tape deck for an I-pod or I-phone adapter. These are all nasty, boorish and mundane things we think of when in our own country; why would anyone waste a moment’s thought on fixing the gas needle in a Citroën while vacationing in Paris?

First of all, who rents a car in Paris? Are you mad?!

 

Aside from the obvious, “my car broke down en rout to my Spanish villa while transporting my new gutters – by new I mean recycled – ” no one thinks of these habitual musings as sexy, exotic or even vacation worthy.

But…I do.

Perhaps it’s some sick and twisted perversion – researching the price of feather dusters in a French hyper-marché – what a way to spend our first day in Paris! But, I find these acts wildly more titillating and entertaining than walks across the Pont Neuf, gazing into a soot-ridden sunset on the chilliest of days. There’s always time to do that, hell…that’s not even a memory you have to have. Steal one and claim it as your own. But, feather dusters…really! Imagine the conversations you could have with the petite young clerk – a college student who in perfect English tells you he enjoys air travel, cats and water without bubbles (tap water). Not impressed? Think of the vocabulary you may glean and conversational practice you might obtain by a single conversation about le plumeau.

We’re all human after all, and we ‘need’ this stuff to survive. Well, perhaps ‘survive’ is a strong word – function really. At the moment, I’m admonishing myself for my lack of a certain plumeau. More simplistically, I find these experiences wildly entertaining and fascinating because of their foreign everydayness.

 

Traveling like a tourist is marvelous – a great way to explore a city or region if you want (or are only interested in) the basic understandings of what a place and its monuments are about. However, traveling at this pace, the pressure of experiencing everything as fast as possible with all senses on hyper drive can only take you so far. Either the locale down the street or sleeping like the dead…not to be confused with ‘sleeping like a baby’ because babies don’t actually sleep.

Venture out of the guidebook a step or two and you may experience what the people and places really are about. Perhaps the conversation about your adored plumeau will lead you to that little known café just down the street where you glimpse Gerard Depardieu – or someone equally as famous – spreading confiture across their morning croissant. Then again, you may find yourself entertaining an existential debate over the merits of les stores vénitiens (Venetian blinds) among the 17th century Danish aristocracy with two Ukrainian expats. Either outcome is invariably more satisfying than a prescribed and predictable stroll down the Pont Neuf. 

Filed under France Traveling

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I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, lights, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it mad
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

Pablo Neruda (via healthyshadeofgreen)

Pablo Neruda is perhaps one of my favorite authors/poets/writers/artists, etc. It’s a gift to be able to say something so clearly and so beautifully. We may not always appreciate poetry, but when I read his words, it’s like he’s speaking directly to me, directly to my soul. 

In short…this is pretty awesome and I’m happy to be sharing this next week as we continue our creative writing and poetry endeavors!

(Source: healthyshadeofspoopy, via jojointransit)

Filed under Poetry Pablo Neruda English

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It’s arts integration time in room 8! 
My colleague and I have been trying to think of ways to A) make STAR testing week a little bit more fun, and B) color up our room with integrated artsy projects. While teaching humanities up in Oregon, I was all about small projects, but it’s only been since January that I’ve really made an effort to do more projects in our 8th grade classes. 
It was up in Oregon, while reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, that I discovered and tweaked (because all good teachers are really thieves who steal fabulous ideas from one-another) this mask activity. We all wear masks, and depending on the person you are this morning, or whom you’re with, or what activity you are doing, we all put on different masks, different identities and personas. This idea totally resonates with my young students as they begin thinking about high school and beyond. 
"We all wear these masks guys…" I try the casual approach. 
Stares, boredom and several students reading ahead on the assignment sheet. 
"How many of you guys think you wear a mask depending on what you are doing or who you are with?" 
This personalized question has bought me some buy in as they gradually come to pay attention and see my point. Being 85 degrees outside and absolutely gorgeous has somewhat hindered my ability to think and their ability to learn. 
"What do I mean by mask?" Asking questions is always a way to get students to talk…they LOVE talking, and it allows them to put the learning into their language. 
"You mean that we are different people when we are with different people…" some blank stares. Clearly, this is an existential crisis for some and for others it’s a concept to philosophical to ponder at 2:30 in the afternoon the Monday before STAR testing. 
"Well, I wear several masks throughout the day…" more faces turn to me…they love story time because it gets me off task and usually I say something silly and irreverent. "When I wake up in the morning, I wear the dutiful daughter mask…"
"Miss Hamilton, you have a daughter?!" This question was in earnest as I scowled over at the outburst.
"Then, I walk into Starbucks wearing my quirky and professional mask that says ‘I’m a professional, I’m mature. Black coffee…with a smidge of room you darling Starbucks man!’" My class erupted in laughter.
"Which Starbucks do YOU go to?"
"After that, I come to Willowside and put on my teacher mask - a little zany, cool and totally middle-school-ified." They seem to be getting it, smiling at me like they know some secret, like ‘Shh, don’t tell Hamilton that she’s actually the craziest teacher we’ve ever had!’
"Finally, I put on my Volleyball mask - in this one I say all sorts of things I can’t say in the classroom. I’m competitive, aggressive and it’s the ONLY time I’m willing to sweat…willingly!"
The mask above is my sample for this activity. My fancy handout explains it all, but in essence, students choose a character from the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream and will design a mask for them to wear while in the dream-like and mysterious forest. After that, they are supposed to explain the mask in three paragraphs. As I said before, I’ve done this with another novel with great success! In that case, students were asked to either create a mask for themselves or for one of the characters in Golding’s novel. In this case, I’m offering extra credit for a second mask…with the understanding that students are to do another write up as well. 
Because of their excitement yesterday, I’m hopeful that this activity will pull them out of their spring fever shells and get them back into the excitement and joy of combining learning with artistic endeavors. After all, last week I assigned sonnets and was pleasantly surprised at the artistic approach some took their lovely poems! 
If you’d like a copy of the worksheet, shoot me an e-mail/message. 

It’s arts integration time in room 8! 

My colleague and I have been trying to think of ways to A) make STAR testing week a little bit more fun, and B) color up our room with integrated artsy projects. While teaching humanities up in Oregon, I was all about small projects, but it’s only been since January that I’ve really made an effort to do more projects in our 8th grade classes. 

It was up in Oregon, while reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, that I discovered and tweaked (because all good teachers are really thieves who steal fabulous ideas from one-another) this mask activity. We all wear masks, and depending on the person you are this morning, or whom you’re with, or what activity you are doing, we all put on different masks, different identities and personas. This idea totally resonates with my young students as they begin thinking about high school and beyond. 

"We all wear these masks guys…" I try the casual approach. 

Stares, boredom and several students reading ahead on the assignment sheet. 

"How many of you guys think you wear a mask depending on what you are doing or who you are with?" 

This personalized question has bought me some buy in as they gradually come to pay attention and see my point. Being 85 degrees outside and absolutely gorgeous has somewhat hindered my ability to think and their ability to learn. 

"What do I mean by mask?" Asking questions is always a way to get students to talk…they LOVE talking, and it allows them to put the learning into their language. 

"You mean that we are different people when we are with different people…" some blank stares. Clearly, this is an existential crisis for some and for others it’s a concept to philosophical to ponder at 2:30 in the afternoon the Monday before STAR testing. 

"Well, I wear several masks throughout the day…" more faces turn to me…they love story time because it gets me off task and usually I say something silly and irreverent. "When I wake up in the morning, I wear the dutiful daughter mask…"

"Miss Hamilton, you have a daughter?!" This question was in earnest as I scowled over at the outburst.

"Then, I walk into Starbucks wearing my quirky and professional mask that says ‘I’m a professional, I’m mature. Black coffee…with a smidge of room you darling Starbucks man!’" My class erupted in laughter.

"Which Starbucks do YOU go to?"

"After that, I come to Willowside and put on my teacher mask - a little zany, cool and totally middle-school-ified." They seem to be getting it, smiling at me like they know some secret, like ‘Shh, don’t tell Hamilton that she’s actually the craziest teacher we’ve ever had!’

"Finally, I put on my Volleyball mask - in this one I say all sorts of things I can’t say in the classroom. I’m competitive, aggressive and it’s the ONLY time I’m willing to sweat…willingly!"

The mask above is my sample for this activity. My fancy handout explains it all, but in essence, students choose a character from the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream and will design a mask for them to wear while in the dream-like and mysterious forest. After that, they are supposed to explain the mask in three paragraphs. As I said before, I’ve done this with another novel with great success! In that case, students were asked to either create a mask for themselves or for one of the characters in Golding’s novel. In this case, I’m offering extra credit for a second mask…with the understanding that students are to do another write up as well. 

Because of their excitement yesterday, I’m hopeful that this activity will pull them out of their spring fever shells and get them back into the excitement and joy of combining learning with artistic endeavors. After all, last week I assigned sonnets and was pleasantly surprised at the artistic approach some took their lovely poems! 

If you’d like a copy of the worksheet, shoot me an e-mail/message. 

Filed under Art Masks English Lord of the Flies Shakespeare A Midsummer Night's Dream

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"I Am Not Yours"
Sarah Teasdale

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love — put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.

Today, April 18th, is “Poem in Your Pocket Day,” and while the evening is almost over, I thought it worth while to share at least some form of poetry. This particular poem by Sarah Teasdale speaks volumes to me as I continue on this strange and frustrating path. Was I wrong? Was I not? Was it circumstance? Was it me? Was it…well, was it simply just a big mistake? 

Sometimes - scratch that - most of the time it’s easier to ask questions than to answer them. It’s easier to ask ‘why?’ than to take the risk in answering. Because really…who’s your audience? Again with the questions…but, in most cases we are speaking to ourselves. Why did he say that? Why did I say that? How can two people, living within each other be so in sync with each other, but at the same time so out of it? 

Circling back to the poem, I’ve begun writing creatively again; it’s amazing what a little bit of distress will do for the creative soul. One of the avenues I’ve begun exploring is poetry and I’m enjoying this new voice, these new words and patterns of writing and expressing myself. My students have just finished up a series of poetry workshops spread out over six weeks. It was amazing to see and hear what they had to say - I think we forget that teenagers are little people, caught half way between child and adult. They have so much to say! In writing these poems in class, I see some of these students taking risks, expressing themselves truly without fear of rejection and judgement. It’s amazing how a few lines, in a non-sensical order will make us feel so much better, so much more understood or heard.

The teenaged years are such a turbulent time…I remember being so incredibly angry and confused…and even more confused and frustrated because I couldn’t figure out how or why I was angry and confused. I keep thinking that if I’d had some sort of outlet - poetry, song, writing, painting, whatever - perhaps I’d have been a little happier, and potentially a little nicer. 

So, in the spirit of self-expression, enjoy this little poem for what it’s worth. It may not speak to you, you may not get it, but that’s the beauty of poetry. We can take whatever message we like from it, molding and morphing it into our own little personal mantra, fanning it out in front of us when we need it most. 

(via travellingteacher)

Filed under Poetry Sarah Teasdale

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More from the Shakespeare adventures in room 8! To encourage students to play with these Shakespearean insults even further, I’ve allowed Insults for Submission…for extra credit points of course. Here are a few examples of the super-high quality insults I’m receiving. It’s pretty cool what these 8th graders are coming up with…and to think…they are insulting wisely and without using vulgar (i.e. swear words) language! 

Amazing!

Examples:

Thou art a fie, a stenching, filthy zound on a paraquito, a periwig-pated pignut from Scotland! 

- Translation: You are a curse, a smelly, dirty wound on a small parrot, a bewigged peanut from Scotland! 

I say…that one’s pretty scandalous! 

It is thine choice to be a hard-hearted as thee.

Translation: It’s a choice to be as harsh as you are. 

Thine odor gives off the pungent smell of farts. 

Translation: You smell like stinky farts. 

Filed under Insults Shakespeare Middle School English

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Habits, Happenings - and Teaching: Finally, or at last, I got the chance to hike up one of the mountains...

habitsandteachings:

image
Finally, or at last, I got the chance to hike up one of the mountains hereabouts in Chashan ‘Tea Mountain’ town. I’ve been living in the Wenzhou envi for close on three years now, and I’ve never got round to doing a mountain round coupled with a resevoir combined with a golf ball (radar to you…

Some wonderful photos of Chashan - Tea Mountain - where I spent last year teaching. Never made it up to the top - it’s been one of those Chinese regrets….

Filed under China Wenzhou Chashan

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H7N9, North Korea, & Censorship

mkinchina:

H7N9, North Korea, & Censorship

The total count is now at 38, with 10 deaths. It’s still situated in Eastern China in Shanghai City, Jiangsu, Anhui, and Zhejiang provinces. If you don’t know where these are in relation to Xi’an, take a look at Google maps.

The government seems to be…

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Interesting!

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Welcome back - this week our insults are in full swing! My fifth period class is really taking a shine to these things, actually thinking critically about the words and how they work/fit together. If you are unfamiliar with my Shakespearean Insults, I post one each day in full-blown Shakespeare text, have the students generate their own meaning on whiteboards, share and then we discuss them together. 

Yesterday fifth period did so well that I decided to give them a second one…against my better judgement. The first one: Thou spongy, ill-nurtured moldwarp  morphed into a discussion on what constituted an actual insult. 

"How is that insulting? How is being a mole insulting? They’re just animals!"

"But they burrow underground…and look like giant tics!" I replied, aghast. 

"Ms. Hamilton, don’t hate on the mole…"

"Ok…well, perhaps this one will change your mind about Shakespearean insults: thou art a gleeking, brazen-faced, flax-wench."

Now…a more experienced teacher might have omitted the term ‘wench’ because we all know where that one went…needless to say I’ve learned this lesson in a painfully obvious way.

"Ms. Hamilton, can I write ‘hoe’ on my whiteboard?" 

WHAT?! How is that even an ‘okay’ question?! While I loved the fact that she asked, I was inclined to say no at first, “why don’t we think of a better word, a more descriptive and more class appropriate word to describe this one.”

"SLUT!" hollered my star pupil, a quirky and bright student who’s always blurting out stuff that is border-line. EPIC FAIL Hamilton!

"X (insert student’s name) - there is this imaginary line of appropriateness…and you definitely just crossed it." I wasn’t chastising him, simply informing him and the rest of the class that ‘slut’ really isn’t classroom appropriate. 

However, using his powers of argumentation and persuasion, “well Ms. Hamilton, you asked for a better, more descriptive word and I have given you one.” He leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms and sat there smiling at me with a look that said “I’ve caught you now!” I have to admire his logic. 

"Ok…I guess we can use ‘hoe’ but I’d rather you use something you’re comfortable with your grandmother hearing - "

Before I could complete my rationale another student pipped in, “it IS a tool after all Ms. H!”

So, that’s how I got responses like “You are a spitting, brazen seed ‘hoe” and “you are a spitting, unashamed flax-hoe.” Despite the inappropriateness of the whole situation, we had a wonderful conversation about the insult itself once I’d gone over the meaning. 

"Gleeking means?" I asked. 

"Spitting!!"

"Close…when you spit on someone you are…."

"Spitting?!" 

"No, you are teasing and taunting them." I receive a few nods and ‘ah’s.’ "Now, brazen-faced means what?"

"Brazen!"

Backstory…last week a friend of mine came in a visited our classroom. One of my students took this time to ask the question…is he your boyfriend?! Deciding this was a perfect time to address ‘brazen’ I used her as an example. 

"When Y (Insert student name) asked me ‘is that guy your boyfriend?!’ she was asking in a totally brazen way. She was unashamed, unembarrassed and shameless, right?"

"Huh, so she didn’t really care if it would embarrass you, so she just asked?" someone clarified. Apparently, this example totally made sense…I’m so glad my personal embarrassment has led to some sort of learning. 

"Flax is…"

"A seed!" Star pupil X. "And a wench is a babe or a hoe…so she’s a seed hoe! No wait, a seed prostitute!" 

I roll my eyes…”well in a manner yes, but no. Why can’t you just say ‘seed babe’?” We discussed the thing to death, and discovered that by taking out the word ‘flax’ the insult totally made sense: A taunting/joking, shameless babe.

There must be something so wrong with me, but yesterday’s lesson was probably one of the most fun I’ve had in forever!!

Filed under Insults Shakespeare Middle School Teaching English

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travellingteacher:

It’s a short afternoon of paper grading for me and as usual, I find myself sitting at a table, sipping my coffee and laughing out loud uncontrollably.
Sometimes I’m amazed at the humor these kids can covet in a single sentence.

travellingteacher:

It’s a short afternoon of paper grading for me and as usual, I find myself sitting at a table, sipping my coffee and laughing out loud uncontrollably.

Sometimes I’m amazed at the humor these kids can covet in a single sentence.

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Thou Wayward Milk-Livered Boar-Pig! (uncontrolled cowardly male pig)
Yesterday we began our official start to Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It was CRAZY as we began with Shakespearean Insults and moved into sonnet work. As usual, my students (whom I teach after lunch) began the class in a loud and energetic manner, running in with enthusiasm, peppering me with questions and generally turning what was a peace-filled room five minutes before into a forest of wild tigers chasing turkeys.  
Each day during our Shakespeare unit, I’ll be giving them an insult. Today’s (above) really captures how some view middle school teaching and learning. 
An observer in my classroom yesterday commented on how he’d never be able to teach middle school because it’s simply CRAZY. This thought resonated with me all night as I tried to tweak my lesson for today. Yes, my students are crazy, yelling out stuff, not raising their hands, generally enjoying sharing their ideas at inopportune times. However, rather than berate myself for not having better classroom management, I’d like to think they were unruly because of the post-spring break coma, the post-lunch madness, the 8th grade-itus and attitude that’s begun crawling up the walls of my classroom. 
I don’t have the strictest of classrooms, but what I lack in structured discipline I make up in the relational aspect of my teaching. The phrase “different strokes for different folks” really gets to the heart of this. If I wanted to be a dictator, I’d instill a system of rules, regulations and discipline each student harshly who broke those. However, I personally think that rules were made to be questioned, bent and broken…after all, who got to make the rules in the first place? If it affects them (my students), shouldn’t they have some say in regards to which rules they have to follow (tangent for another post)? 
No, my approach has everything to do with developing relationships with my students. They know I love them, they know I love teaching them, and they know that they can say things and explore taking risks in their thinking and writing in my class. That exploration aspect is unique to my classroom because they know I care about them as human beings rather than cogs in the Industrial Revolutionary model of education. 
Setting boundaries is important - I’ll be the first to admit it that in my personal life I have a set of unwritten boundaries that once crossed muddy the waters and confuse things. But, there is something so wayward, uncontrolled, wild and untamed about middle school that deserves to be explored. 
This whole idea begs the question: do I have poor classroom management skills or are my kids plain old crazy? Today I’ll go with crazy. After all, “wayward” seems to be my word of the day. It’s just so perfectly middle school that I can’t help but laugh at out loud. 
Perhaps a better question is, am I the crazy one?

Thou Wayward Milk-Livered Boar-Pig! (uncontrolled cowardly male pig)


Yesterday we began our official start to Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It was CRAZY as we began with Shakespearean Insults and moved into sonnet work. As usual, my students (whom I teach after lunch) began the class in a loud and energetic manner, running in with enthusiasm, peppering me with questions and generally turning what was a peace-filled room five minutes before into a forest of wild tigers chasing turkeys.  

Each day during our Shakespeare unit, I’ll be giving them an insult. Today’s (above) really captures how some view middle school teaching and learning. 

An observer in my classroom yesterday commented on how he’d never be able to teach middle school because it’s simply CRAZY. This thought resonated with me all night as I tried to tweak my lesson for today. Yes, my students are crazy, yelling out stuff, not raising their hands, generally enjoying sharing their ideas at inopportune times. However, rather than berate myself for not having better classroom management, I’d like to think they were unruly because of the post-spring break coma, the post-lunch madness, the 8th grade-itus and attitude that’s begun crawling up the walls of my classroom. 

I don’t have the strictest of classrooms, but what I lack in structured discipline I make up in the relational aspect of my teaching. The phrase “different strokes for different folks” really gets to the heart of this. If I wanted to be a dictator, I’d instill a system of rules, regulations and discipline each student harshly who broke those. However, I personally think that rules were made to be questioned, bent and broken…after all, who got to make the rules in the first place? If it affects them (my students), shouldn’t they have some say in regards to which rules they have to follow (tangent for another post)? 

No, my approach has everything to do with developing relationships with my students. They know I love them, they know I love teaching them, and they know that they can say things and explore taking risks in their thinking and writing in my class. That exploration aspect is unique to my classroom because they know I care about them as human beings rather than cogs in the Industrial Revolutionary model of education. 

Setting boundaries is important - I’ll be the first to admit it that in my personal life I have a set of unwritten boundaries that once crossed muddy the waters and confuse things. But, there is something so wayward, uncontrolled, wild and untamed about middle school that deserves to be explored. 

This whole idea begs the question: do I have poor classroom management skills or are my kids plain old crazy? Today I’ll go with crazy. After all, “wayward” seems to be my word of the day. It’s just so perfectly middle school that I can’t help but laugh at out loud. 

Perhaps a better question is, am I the crazy one?

Filed under Shakespeare Teaching Middle School English

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The Best of the Book Lists 2012

randomhouse:

image

One of our favorite things about the holiday season is the recap of the year in books! Publications, websites, and readers everywhere begin pulling together what they think is the cream of the crop — the best books of the year. Take a look below through some of the lists we’ve pulled together, and keep an eye here for additions to the list as we approach the end of this stellar literary year.

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In need of a good book?! Here are dozens of lists of great books from 2012…

Filed under books

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npr:

One Monday two years ago, Bay Area poet Sonya Renee Taylor did something many people wouldn’t: She picked a photo of herself that she hated, and made it her Facebook profile picture. Taylor already had her hundreds of  well-curated images on the Internet. And, before this move, she had been regularly combing her Facebook profile for unflattering images and untagging them.
But Taylor had also just launched a “positive body image community” called The Body Is Not an Apology, and had grown wary of the ways in which she upheld the same beauty standards that her new website was railing against. “I had this secret cyber world full of images of myself that I hated,” she recalls. “I realized the reason that I was so intent on making them disappear was because I had this idea that I should only be seen if I looked a certain way.”
via Ugly Is the New Pretty: How Unattractive Selfies Took Over the Internet - The Cut
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Do you untag unflattering images of yourself? — tanya b.

What a positive message…this is SO appropriate for 8th grade!!

npr:

One Monday two years ago, Bay Area poet Sonya Renee Taylor did something many people wouldn’t: She picked a photo of herself that she hated, and made it her Facebook profile picture. Taylor already had her hundreds of  well-curated images on the Internet. And, before this move, she had been regularly combing her Facebook profile for unflattering images and untagging them.

But Taylor had also just launched a “positive body image community” called The Body Is Not an Apology, and had grown wary of the ways in which she upheld the same beauty standards that her new website was railing against. “I had this secret cyber world full of images of myself that I hated,” she recalls. “I realized the reason that I was so intent on making them disappear was because I had this idea that I should only be seen if I looked a certain way.”

via Ugly Is the New Pretty: How Unattractive Selfies Took Over the Internet - The Cut

====

Do you untag unflattering images of yourself? — tanya b.

What a positive message…this is SO appropriate for 8th grade!!

(via overpackedunderpaid)

Filed under NPR

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My students’ Career Presentations are today and tomorrow - I’m looking at 60 3 - 5 page research papers and 60 presentations. Initially I wanted them to work on panels to deliver their information or to give formal presentations - I had in mind my Graduate School Symposium…only 8th grade-ified. Needless to say we had to scale back. 
In addition to the in-class time factor, I’ve essentially only had one day with my students before these projects. Because I was working mainly on the rough drafts and second rough drafts the week before break, we didn’t really have time to work on the presentation aspect. So…that left me in a lurch as Monday was dedicated to Poetry Day with our guest poet and Tuesday relegated to a Shakespeare Workshop day. 
Problem = Time
Solution? = Elevator Pitch!
See below:
Have a ton of student presentations to get through?! The Elevator Pitch is the perfect solution to your presentation problem. 
Students are required to pitch their ideas in 30 seconds OR 225 words or less in a friendly environment. 
This particular worksheet is designed for 8th grade Career Research, however, you can format or change the questions to suit your needs. 
Directions: 
1. Go over instructions
2. Do an example together
3. Students to another example on their own. 
4. Students do their own
Remember to have them practice the examples so they don’t freak out on presentation day!

E-mail or message me if you’d like the lesson plan or worksheet!

My students’ Career Presentations are today and tomorrow - I’m looking at 60 3 - 5 page research papers and 60 presentations. Initially I wanted them to work on panels to deliver their information or to give formal presentations - I had in mind my Graduate School Symposium…only 8th grade-ified. Needless to say we had to scale back. 

In addition to the in-class time factor, I’ve essentially only had one day with my students before these projects. Because I was working mainly on the rough drafts and second rough drafts the week before break, we didn’t really have time to work on the presentation aspect. So…that left me in a lurch as Monday was dedicated to Poetry Day with our guest poet and Tuesday relegated to a Shakespeare Workshop day. 

Problem = Time

Solution? = Elevator Pitch!

See below:

Have a ton of student presentations to get through?! The Elevator Pitch is the perfect solution to your presentation problem. 

Students are required to pitch their ideas in 30 seconds OR 225 words or less in a friendly environment. 

This particular worksheet is designed for 8th grade Career Research, however, you can format or change the questions to suit your needs. 

Directions: 

1. Go over instructions

2. Do an example together

3. Students to another example on their own. 

4. Students do their own

Remember to have them practice the examples so they don’t freak out on presentation day!

E-mail or message me if you’d like the lesson plan or worksheet!

Filed under Presentations Elevator Pitch English middle school