Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dawn Reader: Oops! To err is human--but I don't like to be hum...

Read a great blog from Dr. Dan Dyer - former colleague, prolific reader and writer, and ongoing inspiration to countless students and peers:

Dawn Reader: Oops! To err is human--but I don't like to be hum...: I have spent much of my adult life finding and marking mistakes.  For thirty years I taught English to middle-schoolers (and fifteen more...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dorm Duty and Darth Vader

Ah Freshman! Nothing quite like dorm duty in Wood House, the freshman boys dorm.

I am tempted to email freshman teachers and let them know that they are not assigning enough homework.

This is what I say when freshmen start wandering the halls like animals prowling for food.

I ask if they are finished mastering their foreign language, memorizing their bio book, and annotating all the white space in their Rime of the Ancient Mariner... 
Not to mention - have you completed AP multi-variable calculus?
There is always something to study.  

A door bangs, and I hear pounding, "You can't close your door during study hours."
A door opens, and I hear a bag of cellophane snatched.  More pretzels have been stolen.

Math homework is discussed in another room.

A pretzel thief tiptoes across the hall, seeking more salty snacks.

Another freshman strolls slowly down the hall to get a drink, killing time, then detours into a room not his own.  

They move like Obi-Wan-Kenobi in the orginal Star Wars (Episode IV) - where he sneaks around the Death Star.  

They think I don't notice their wandering and stealth strolling about.
I too am a Jedi, feeling the force.
I guess that makes me Darth Vader, roaming the hall; the Man; the bad guy; the faculty master, playing cop.


Freshman don't realize, yet that little goes unnoticed in a dorm, or at a boarding school.  Eyes and ears are everywhere.  It's a wonderful community where everyone (soon) knows everyone.
But everyone knows everything (sooner than later).
People talk, tweet, and text.
So "live with integrity" is not just part of our mission statement, but sage advice to heed.  

At times, we choose our battles, but we hold them accountable.  Admittedly, the homework is easy at the start, but it will pickup and requests for late lights will soon be frequent (and regularly denied to those who wander).

At 9:45 at the end of study hours, we allow them to have their cellphones - we collect them at 745 when study hours begin.  Two hours without tweets and texts - no notifications vibrating and beeping.   A freshman literally dances and moonwalks down the hall - the joy - the reunion of boy and iPhone.

I notice another wanderer; so I talk with him - a catechism of sorts: questions about his homework in each subject.

A boy down the hall sings a rap song from memory, but can't remember his homework assignments.  A paradigm shift is in order.  I must go.  The music grows louder.

Good night. Duty calls. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Teaching (and writing about) the Poet's Life

A new school year is upon us, and it's time to write again.  The summer months passed far too quickly and my fingers never quite found these keys.  I pecked out emails on my iPhone, but I confess it was a summer of action and travel.  Now I write and reflect.

This fall I am teaching a senior English elective on "The Poet's Life". We will read delve deep into a handful of poets while sharing favorite poems and poets, finding new favorites in the process.  We will follow the advice of Elizabeth Bishop to an aspiring poet circa 1960:

Read a lot of poetry - all the time... Read Campion, Herbert, Pope, Tennyson, Coleridge - anything at all almost that's any good, from the past - until you find out what you really like, by yourself.  Even if you try to imitate it exactly - it will come out quite different.  Then the great poets of our century - Marianne Moore, Auden, Wallace Stevens - and not just 2 or 3 poems, each in anthologies - read ALL of somebody.  

So we began the course with summer reading, Jay Parini's biography of Robert Frost: A Life.  Parini spoke on Brian Lamb's Booknotes on C-SPAN in 1999.  Frost was onsidered the most celebrated American poet from his rise to fame in 1915 to his death in 1963; Parini spent twenty five years researching this biography.  In 2008, Parini taught two teen vandals from Ripton, VT more than a few things about Frost and poetry.

Now, we will read more Frost poems.  We will listen to Frost recordings.  We will watch video ("Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening") of him too.  We will take a closer look at "The Road Not Taken" and see if we can find a deeper understanding of the work by knowing the man.  We will also memorize a favorite Frost poem.  We will also create each create a Prezi presentation of one Frost poem.

We will also compare Frost to:
Wallace Stevens - Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
Marianne Moore - Poetry

We will also post to a class blog. Check out my first post: http://whypoetrymatters.blogspot.com/