Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Short Story Inspired by the Archetype of Fitzgerald's Golden Girl

Today in class, we broke from the norm of analysis and discussion of The Great Gatsby. Students wrote a journal entry for posterity about a first love or first crush story in their life. I joked to keep it PG - think about  innocent days of preschool or elementary school. What happened? And what details do your remember? What details are significant? When did it end? 

Students were then asked to fictionalize that anecdote into a story - based on true events. Remove the first person narrator - flip it into the third person. Empathize and tell the story from your significant others point of view. Embellish. Paint a cinematic scene for your reader.

My students challenged me to share my own story. And I reluctantly accepted the challenge to write my own fictionalized story.  What if...Scottie Fitzgerald met his Golden Girl... in fourth grade...in Ohio... in 1984? Here's what I wrote...

The New Girl

He watched her from afar, not in a creeper-stalker-way, but in that nine year old, fourth-grade, innocent, shy boy way. She was the new girl in their small class of fifteen students. She had gone to a private girls school, but transferred over the summer. Suddenly, that September, he discovered girls were not as annoying as they used to be.
At recess, he played soccer with the boys like he usually did, but his eyes would float from the field to her fair skin and smiling face. He’d make a play or a pass and glance her way to see if she was watching. 
Like usual, she was in a huddle of girls and boys, some older, all laughing. He’d run faster and kick the ball harder. Then look again.
She didn’t seem to notice.
He scored a goal and ran down the sideline. The bell rang and recess was over. Friends high-fived and hugged him. He felt like Pele - arms raised in victory.
Then he looked her direction again. She was gone. Walking arm in arm with friends, she strolled towards the double doors of the elementary school. Trailing her, the boys tripped over themselves.
She didn’t see his goal.

In class, she sat in the front.
He sat in the back, even though his eyes were changing. He could no longer see the blackboard. He would squint and nod like a bobble head. His eyeglasses were broken; somehow they were accidently, and conveniently, crushed by his little brother’s Big Wheel. He had refused to wear them. Now his parents were angry, but they could not afford new ones. He rather be blind and cool. She would never like him if he wore glasses. His grades were slipping because he couldn’t see and his heart ached.
He soon learned she lived at the end of his street. He thought of countless ways to talk with her, rehearsing what to say.

One day, as they lined up for recess, she cut the line to talk to the girl in front of him. 
He stood there speechless, talking to himself.
Talk to her.
She glanced over her shoulder with a flip of her hair - a wave of her perfume washed over him and he was caught in its undertow.
She smiled and no one ever looked so good in braces. Her dad was an orthodontist and it seemed like everyone suddenly wanted braces. This girl made headgear seem more popular than Air Jordans.
“Uhhh, you live on my street,” he blurted. Did he really say that out loud? 
Was that the best he could do?
“No, you live on my street.”
He stood there. She waited. Silence.
She shrugged and ran down the hall with the rest of the cool kids.

On the pitch, he felt nothing like Pele. His legs were heavy. He could barely bend his knees as the ball seemed to bounce around him like a pinball.
In her huddle, she glanced over her shoulder again - and in his direction. She had that move down. He wondered if girls practiced the hair flip at home in front of a mirror.
His feet grew light. He felt like... dancing. He raced after the ball like the Tasmanian Devil. With the ball at his feet, he ran towards the opposing goal as the swarm of bees trailed in his wake. He pulled back his leg with visions of ripping the net and being mobbed again.
And she would notice this time.
But more like Charlie Brown, he swung his leg forward and an unfortunate bounce...
He missed.
He missed not just the goal but the entire ball. His momentum landed him on his butt in the dust. The goalie picked up the ball and punted it.
He could feel a thousand eyes on him. He could hear laughing. With his head down, he refused to look to the sidelines.
The bell rang. Recess was over.
Looking at his shoes, he waited with the throng of other kids to push through the double doors.  
“Can’t win them all, Pele.”
He looked up. 
Standing in front of him, she was inches from his face. She smiled. 
Her braces had pink rubber bands.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why Write for the School Newspaper?

Why? People will read your writing!

WRA students reading The Reserve Record

When I attended boarding school, I wrote for the weekly school newspaper, The PhillipianI wrote soccer articles in the fall; indoor-track in the winter; and lacrosse in the spring. While these articles were content driven, I expanded my vocabulary; I wrote with vigor by using action verbs. Frankly, I spent more time on these articles that would be read by over a thousand students, alumni, parents, and faculty - than my English papers that would be graded by one set of eyes.  

I wrote because I enjoyed the feedback from friends. I felt pride seeing my name in print below the headlines. The student editors were my teachers; they were seniors and juniors that served as great mentors. I started my sophomore year with aspirations to be one of the sports editors; while I fell short of my goal (I became an associate sports editor), I appreciated the work and effort that goes into a school newspaper. 

The weekly practice of writing for publication made me a better writer. I learned that writing may not be easy, but with practice, like anything, I gained confidence in my ability to write. And yes, I had fun writing - in a community that valued writing. 

Check out the links below and these tips:

7 Tips for Writing on a High School Newspaper

You may find a passion that will lead to you choosing to write for your college newspaper:

5 reasons to work for your school newspaper

Consider writing for The Reserve Record: "The longest running newspaper in Historic Hudson, Ohio"

Bonus: Read this article from The Washington Post

Follow The Reserve Record on Twitter. www.twitter.com/wrarecord

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Teaching Social Media: ECHOOOOOOOOOOOO

Today is our second to last meeting of TSM. I am eager and anxious to see what the three teams have been doing.

A few examples for today:

TED-Ed on Pinterest

Perhaps the greatest commencement speech in history:

Transcript of Steve Jobs' Address. "Stay hungry - stay foolish."

Best College Admissions Videos:
#1. University of Rochester

The Intern Candidate

Temple Made, Philly Made, Self Made

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Re-Imagine Education and Learning Communities

"The map is not the territoryAlfred Korzybski

Or is it?

Yesterday a student let it slip that the epigraph in The Great Gatsby was made up.
I had remembered learning that once and asked him where he heard it.

He mumbled,  "The internet... might have been Crash Course." I had never heard of Crash Course or John Green but after watching a couple Crash Courses in class, I woke up this morning and started googling Crash Course which led to John Green's TED Talk.

Now our internet policy prohibits the use of Sparknotes and other virtual Cliff Notes - and the wicked Wikipedia.

We want students to read and focus on the primary text without the help of study aids.

Here's the rub: intellectual curiosity...

We Google everything. Have a question - Google it!

Can I blame a student for being curious and then sharing what he's learned on the internets?

(Yes, the internets is intentional - it's a joke - an allusion...)

The point is that there are no walls to the classroom - no end to education.

And no longer is the teacher the master... of all knowledge - the gatekeeper, the authority.

In learning, the more we learn, the more we learn the less we know (or something like that - who said that?)

Borrowing from John Green, we are curious cartographers - and like explorers, we traverse the world wide web.

John Green, thank you. I am free from delivering the same lecturing three times to my three sections - I can grade their writing and have more time to meet to discuss their writing. Your lectures trump mine: they are visual, they are funny, they are passionate, they are engaging - and they are accessible 24/7 if a student misses a class... like many did today with sports physicals.

If you missed class, watch the following:

Learn more about John Green in this enlightening and provocative TED talk.

Emily Dickinson's "There's a Certain Slant of Light"

Ze Frank The Show was funded on Kickstart

John Green's Crash Course Playlist on Youtube
I Recommend:

For More Knowledge and Learning Communities:

Vi Hart - fun with math, seriously.
Smarter Everyday
Minute Physics

So Is YouTube Making Us Smarter? Check out: Idea Channel | PBS

And before you think you don't need school or college, remember it's about a community - where learners discuss ideas over lunch and dinner and yes, even breakfast at boarding school, plus in the libraries, in the dorms, and yes, on the buses to away games. And if you don't think college is worth the investment, watch this:

Think about your role in our community at WRA. What do you share with our community?
Who do you follow? How do you spend your free-time?
Are you intellectually curious - and not afraid to share that passion for learning?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Carrots, Eggs, Or Coffee?

The following is one of those stories that makes the rounds via email - my aunt received it, sent it to my mom, who passed it along to me. 

To be honest, I don't read many of the spam emails my mom sends me, but every now and then, she passes along a jem. 

As we head into midwinter break, and there's stress looming for my students with the Junior Writing Exam around the corner, it felt more than appropriate to share this story:

Carrots, Eggs, Or Coffee

A young woman went to her Grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling.

Her Grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans.

She let them sit and boil without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her Granddaughter, she asked, "Tell me, what do you see?" "Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft and mushy. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hardened egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee.

The daughter smiled as she tasted its deep flavor and inhaled its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, "What's the point, Grandma?"

Her Grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity - boiling water - but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin, outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" she asked her Granddaughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong? But with pain and adversity, do I wilt and lose my strength? Am I the egg that starts with a fluid spirit but, after death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart? Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water - the very circumstance that brings the adversity, the pain, the hardship – into something quite wonderful. When the water gets hot, it releases it's fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better, and change the situation around you for the better.

When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level? How do you handle adversity?


~ Author Unknown