Sunday, October 26, 2008

Week of 10-27-08 Through 11-7-08

Last week, the extra day off because of the fires in Porter Ranch set us back in most classes. So I spent most of the week trying to get caught up and keep on schedule. The quarter draws to a close this week, and grades will be due at some point in the first days of November, so I am scrambling to grade the last assignments and wrap everything up in order to put this grading period to bed. Meanwhile, the teaching goes on.

Tomorrow, when I am not teaching, I have to attend a workshop on our computer system for grading and report cards. There is nothing worse than having to teach or attend meetings every period of the day. I really have only one prep period tomorrow, the last period of the day. Then I will have students coming in after school for office hours. So things will be hopping.

In my tenth grade home room, we will continue our study of Shakespeare’s sonnets. So far, about half the class has presented, and the remaining students will follow suit this week. Some of the presentations have been complete; others left much to be desired, and I wound up jumping in to fill in the gaps. I am hoping the students realize that standing in front of them every day to conduct class is not as easy as it looks. I believe the realization will come when they see their grade sheets for their individual presentations. This work will be counted as part of their first quarter grades.

On Monday, November 3, we will begin our study of the Hermann Hesse novel, Siddhartha. I will introduce the work that week with a little background about Buddhism. Students usually respond very well to this book, and I anticipate, once again, some intense discussions about our American materialism and philosophical values.

The ninth grade will be starting their speeches this week. We have been reading some speeches in their anthology, and beginning with this arc of lessons, each student will be standing in front of the class to argue his or her point of view on an issue. I could tell last week that many of them were already nervous, so this should be good for their self-esteem. I think the audience will be sympathetic since they all must take a turn at some point. This will be their first grade of the new quarter.

I have finally released the seniors from hell. They are finishing up their writing about Dante’s Inferno, redemption, and self-discovery this week. In class, we have moved on to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I introduced the work at the end of last week. Now we will begin our study of Act I on Monday. I am thinking of sources to use with this study and will make some decisions this week. I know I want to use the Kenneth Branagh film version at the end. In any case, studying this play always affords many opportunities for parallel and tangential discussions. We are a little behind on my course outline, but I am not concerned at this point. We just need to keep pushing ahead.

In the eleventh grade AP Language and Composition course, we will be reading profiles. I am amazed that Norton left out the greatest profiler working today, the New Yorker’s David Remnick, but they did include many other fine writers. We will be looking at Thomas Jefferson’s portrait of George Washington, M. Scott Momaday’s American Indian stories, and David Guterson’s piece about the Mall of America.

In their second class period of the day, we continue to study for the SAT, focusing on writing style and vocabulary. I am rushing to finish both workbooks hopefully before Christmas so we can move on to AP writing and review. This is probably the least creative period of the day, mainly because we are tied down to these workbooks that are really student-directed. I have tried to schedule some activities and review games to break up the monotony. The students recently took their PSAT exams, so I will be anxious to see the results to gauge what we should review and focus on in this particular class.

Students and teachers are fatigued at this point. Halloween will add to the mischief and tension—any time you mix sugar and costumes the school goes crazy. In the coming weeks we have parent conferences after report cards. We will be ready for the Thanksgiving holiday when it arrives.

And can’t we do something about this heat. Ninety plus degrees in October? And of course, the smell of brush fires never entirely clears. All part of living in southern California.

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