Sunday, February 26, 2006

Thought of the Day

After reading the premiere post on apostrophe use, I recalled a recent lesson on grammar that I gave to my 9th graders. It went something like this:

"In college, I worked at a hotel. I had to travel on the 405 highway to get to work. The speed limit is 60. I had difficulty following that speed limit at all times. But, I did know that there were three areas that I absolutely needed to obey the rules. If I didn't, a speed trap would get me.
More than once, I forgot to adjust to the traps and wound up with a ticket. The use of grammar is much the same."
I then asked, "When do you get away with not following grammatical rules?"
Many students knew that text messaging, instant messaging, and e-mail between friends provides them with the opportunity to not follow the rules.
"No one is checking up on you when you text message, so, yes, you can get away with it. But does that reality change the existing rule? No. Just like when I was speeding, I was breaking the rules. There are grammatical speed traps on a regular basis. You have to know where those traps are. The WASL is a main one. Homework assignments--essays, tests, and other formal assignments require you to follow the rules. That is why it is important that you know the rules. "
I hope that they understood, and will follow my advice. It will pay off in a couple of weeks when they reach that big speed trap of the WASL.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

More from the Future College Students

"Children misunderstand adulthood to such an extent that they strive for it."

"A small child has just as much a tendency to be rational and patient as an eighteen year old girl or a seventy year old man. And, they have just as much a chance to be as irrational as a small child."

"The difference between a child and an adult is simply responsibility....No matter how old, the inner child speaks within our hearts, hoping, dreaming, and needing the happily ever after that we heard about when we were young."

"...everyone becomes an adult at at time unique to them....I truly believe there comes a day in everyone's life when they realize they've left childhood behind and entered adulthood. A sudden epiphany occurs when the person understands their true status in the world." (For me, it very well could have been the day my wife and I discovered we'd be having a child...but, it could really be the day that child arrives--9 weeks)

"I envied the kids with dads. They did not know how good they had it to have a dad they could hang out with, consult with, or to talk with about guy things."

"Growing up as the only girl in a neighborhood of older boys has had a great impact on my life....To this day, I cannot stand stupid, unathletic girls who have nothing better to say than 'omigod' and 'like, totally!'"
"...our childhood provides us with direction for the rest of our lives."

"If given the choice, I would not trade my experiences for anything. I am who I am because of the journey I have traveled."

"I'm 18 years old and caught in a world of confusion. Adulthood calls my name and childhood is saying goodbye. The decisions I'm faced with seem extreme. Life appears difficult and I'm nervouse the choices I make will cause me to fail....Parents have certain responsibilities to pursue. The most important one is, guiding their children to adulthood."

Friday, February 17, 2006

Words of Wisdom from Soon to be College Students

My favorite unit for the Pre-College English class I teach is my expository writing unit. I have my students read essays on various themes and then have them write their own essay. The guidelines are purposely vague, allowing the individual to take the assignment to wherever they desire.
Here are some thoughts on childhood from 17 and 18 year olds (unedited):
"For most pure moments of simplicities, folly and silliness define childhood."

In writing about a neighborhood playground, one student wrote:
"This childhood memory is special to me because it taught me life lessons that stick with me to this very day. I've learned the importance of introducing myself, whether it's a kid, or an adult. I've learned the importance of being an individual and never lying to myself of who I am. The most important lesson I learned is respect."

Another student realizes, "I had all the powers in the world, and nothing could stop me. I also had anothe power that every young child has, Potential."

One student recognizes that, "Instead of treating the difference between childhood and adulthood as a thin line, one needs to see it as a large field that gradually shifts from childhood to adulthood." And then he has some education reform ideas: "One shall chane the educational system so that children can advance as they need in each subject separately. If someone does Math extremely well, but does English horribly, then his English grade will have no impact on how he advances in Math classes."

I am only half done. When I finish, I will add more thoughts.

Mid winter break!

So, last time I was on break, I wrote an incredible post about things I think about while on break. Here's part two:
I went to Staples to pick up some pencils for grading essays. The Ticonderoga's were on sale. Yippee. I purchased them, opened one of the boxes, sharpened all twelve, only to discover after grading three essays that the pencil had already gone dull. Dang-it. I bought 72 pencils that have soft lead.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Funding Dilemna

Here at my school, we follow a six period schedule. Classes last 55 minutes. Plenty of teachers feel that 55 minutes isn't enough. But at my alma mater in Connecticut, they are dealing with a problematic eight period day.
More than 60 percent of the school's seniors, and nearly a fifth of all students, have three study halls
a day. The vast majority of students have at least two. As a result, students spend a large chunk of many
school days chatting or doing homework in the cafeteria, library or classrooms.
The surplus of study halls is a symptom of a common problem in many districts: Budget constraints mean
schools can offer fewer electives.
I enjoy keeping up with my childhood town's news. I greatly respect the education that I received. It allowed me to fulfill my academic goals in college. I felt far more prepared than many of my counterparts. One of the reasons I respect Ellington High School is their dedication to developing the whole student. It seems to me that, with all of the pressure from NCLB, the sole focus of schools has become academics--math, science, english. But certainly, the electives have value. My two years in Theater Arts has come in handy as a teacher. As teachers, we perform on a daily basis.
But as the face of Ellington changes, they must wrestle with the questions that every school district must face: are we willing to spend the money? If the town wants to maintain the image it has had, the people must be willing to pay for it. If the town is unwilling to pay, the people must realize their role in the demise of Ellington High's reputation.
Then, it will be time for Ellington High to turn to a six period day, limiting the opportunities for the well rounded student. That possibility saddens this blogger, and former EHS student.
The current situation saddens me already. What an absurd waste of time. I do not have all of the EHS requirements to review, but certainly these students should have more challenging course work available to occupy their time. I can tell you from experience that when I attended EHS, I was thoroughly challenged, thanks to many great educators and rigorous coursework.