Tuesday, August 31, 2010

So I Take It You Didn't Read the Story

Before class discussion last week, I asked my students to write for a few minutes about the stories they read. Mostly, I'm checking to see who read what while also letting them get warmed up for discussion.

My question: Which story did you like better, "A Good Man is Hard to Find" or "The Things They Carried"?


"I enjoyed 'A Good Man is Hard to Find.' It cut threw the fabric of what women want. It had true emotion and in my opinion, was very delightful. It's a great story describing the character of a person and what it takes to fall in love."

Uh, really? Which part was so very "delightful"? Was it when the grandmother gets shot in the head?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Update: School Edition

A good first day! Exciting for all. So far, the Boy likes his class and even feels some relief since he started thinking that maybe a class with first graders in it would be "a little bit easier!" Score!

Plus, his best friend (who is in second grade on the other side of the building) came looking for him at both recesses, and they sat together at lunch and had a table all to themselves! Happy goodness for the Boy.

The Girl, I think, will be a natural. Today, she learned THE RULES, especially the one about only marking ON THE PAPER, not on the tables, floors, or walls. She feels confident about being able to follow such rules. But she was a bit sad that we didn't have a proper hug before I left and has requested that she always get a good hug before I leave.

I'm happy to oblige.

More to come, I'm sure.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Um . . . Okay, But I'm Kind of Sad and Nervous About It

All summer, we have eagerly awaited the afternoon when we could walk over the school and find out who the Boy's teacher will be for his second grade year. We made that walk yesterday afternoon with another family. Would he get second-grade teacher A, whom we're hoping for? Would he get second-grade teacher B who would also be okay? Would he get second-grade teacher C, whom we'd rather not have?

Turns out, none of the above. He is getting teacher D, who taught first grade last year and who is, this year, teaching a 1st-2nd split. The class will have 16 first graders and seven second graders. When I looked at the list, it was hard for me not to feel that the Boy has been held back. And this is difficult to digest, since he's such a smart little guy. I know that's kind of a cliche thing for me to say. We all think our kids are smart, but, really, he is. He may not be a genius, he might not be gifted, but he's got some pretty stellar academic skills--for one, he's great at thinking algebraically, which pleases his father to no end. And he performed fine last year. Not at the top of his class, but fine.

I know the other second graders on the list for the split class. They all struggle a bit academically. My Boy has a few challenges, too. For example, while he can sound out words like nobody's business, he struggles with reading fluency. I think reading just hasn't clicked yet for him. So I understand the reasons he would be assigned to the class. His reading is a little behind. Plus, he's a tiny guy, and he's kind of goofy--in a totally awesome way, of course.

But I'm bothered by this class assignment for two main reasons: First, this classroom is in the pod of first grade classrooms. Whereas all his friends will be moving to the other side of the school, he will still be next to the first graders and kindergarteners. In a sea of first graders, he will be among six other second graders. Also, all the kids think of Teacher D as a first-grade teacher because that's what she has been in the past. Will the other kids tease him or even innocently ask him why he's in first grade again? Probably. The boy, himself, doesn't really understand it. I tried to explain it to him, and he said, "That class sounds weird." He was mollified, however, by the fact that he will go out to the same playground as his friends. But knowing what I know, I worry that those friends will start to move on without him, to leave him behind. Out of sight, out of mind.

This morning, I woke up early thinking about it, and I could tell hubby was awake, too. Finally, he opened his eyes and looked at me to see if mine were open:

"What are you thinking about?" he asked.
"The Boy's school."
"Me, too," he said.

I also think that if the Boy had done summer school, he would be in a regular second grade class. He was on the cusp for a summer school recommendation, but his first grade teacher didn't really think it was necessary, and we figured we could work on reading at home (which we did, and he's improved quite a bit!). So we decided to forego it. Now, I kind of wish we hadn't. I think they would have placed him differently.

So I'm sad for the Boy. All of his friends are moving to the second grade wing. Some of his friends are even going into a 2nd-3rd grade split. I looked at the list. They are the kids that are a little bigger. They are the kids that can read better.

I'm starting to cry as I write this. I just want, so much, for my Boy to be happy. I think he's sad, and it makes me very sad to see him sad. And now I'm kicking myself for all of the hullabaloo and lead up to checking the teacher lists, which turned out to be confusing and disappointing. And I'm wishing the school had called us to let us know that they had made this decision when, surely, they must realize that the decision--as justified as it may be--will have implications for the child and the family.

But as I sit here trying to pull it together, I'm reminded of a little fable about a Chinese farmer that goes something like this.

One day, a farmer's horse ran away. His neighbors said, "That is bad."

"We'll see," he said.

Then the horse came back, and brought many wild horses with it. Everyone said, "That is good!"

"We'll see," he said.

Then, when his son was breaking the horses, he was thrown and his leg was broken. "That's bad," everyone said.

"We'll see," said the farmer.

Then, the military leaders showed up to draft all of the young men into service. The son couldn't go to war because his leg was broken. "That's good," said the farmers' friends.

"We'll see," said the farmer.

I can't remember the rest of the tale, but I have oftened relied on this story. So, right now, I feel that this is how I must think about it. It seems bad and sad and difficult, but "we'll see." I am somewhat comforted by the fact that I like the teacher. I don't know a lot about her, but I know there are some good things about her.

So. We'll see.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Oh My Eyes

My eyes are killing me. I need to grade quizzes and prep, and I can barely look through them. It's not like I've been doing a lot of reading/grading yet. It's only week two. Why are they all-of-a-sudden killing me now that I'm back at school?

Is it the computer? But I'm not on it that much more than when I'm writing the dissertation in the summer.

Is it the fluorocarbons in my building?

Is it the nitrates in my ham sandwiches?

Why, all-of-a-sudden, are they red and watering and totally thrashed?

I don't get it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Overheard in My Living Room

"No one can get me off! It's impossible!"

Any guesses on the speaker or the context? If you dare?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Overheard and Out of Context

First, I must admit that I plagiarized this blog post title from our favorite Wayward Classicist, and I'm also stealing his M.O.

But I couldn't help myself after hearing this, yesterday, as I walked past three students on campus--two young men and one young woman.

As I passed, the woman started laughing and said to one of the young men,"No wonder you don't like vaginas!"

Monday, August 16, 2010

An Oversight?

I know it's the first day of class and I'm a bit rusty and all, but I'm starting to wonder if it's possible that in my 13-or-so years of teaching I've never learned how to manage a heated discussion among students who have strong personalities and strong opinions.

I'm supposed to teach argument. Is it possible that I don't know how to manage a discussion about a heated topic?

I mean, I can do it when people are heated about a poem or a story or something. But those discussions and debates have a locus of containment (to some degree) in the text. But is it possible that when students are disagreeing about topics related to technology or education (or some such thing) that I'm not sure how to direct/orchestrate the dialogue?

After this morning's discussion, I'm thinking that maybe I have spent years keeping a tight lid on the intensity of the class because I don't know how to deal with it.

This, sportsfans, is a problem.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, BUT . . .

Sometimes you don't have your camera with you. Or sometimes the battery is dead or your memory card is full. Or sometimes you're just having too much fun to stop and get the camera. For the first part of this week, the latter was true for me.

Monday and Tuesday night, we went camping at Jalama Beach. Although this campground is a bit of a parking lot as far as campgrounds go (a lot of RVs, not a lot of flora, and the stereos can get loud), the kids had a blast. They boogie boarded, they biked, they made friends, they made sand castles, they ran on the beach, they flew kites, and they snake hunted. We adults had a blast too. Between the four of us, we walked on the beach, ran on the beach, kayaked, surfed*, flew kites, read, talked, ate Jalama burgers, ate home-cooked baby-back ribs, and drank about a liter of gin.

What struck me the most about the trip was how "old school" it seemed. The kids made friends with some "neighbor" kids at a campsite across the way, and, suddenly, they were acting so independently. They biked on their own. They played on their own. They would take off to go play or ride bikes and then we'd track them down at meal times. I'm not sure I have ever seen them have so much collective fun over a two-day period. And I'm not sure they've ever played so hard and been so exhausted.

And even though I didn't take enough pictures, one image sticks in my mind: It's my five-year-old daughter, riding her bike and whistling. Usually, she gets frustrated because she has training wheels and can't keep up with the bigger kids. But it's like she was having so much fun and was so happy that she didn't even mind if she was a little slower than the others. A couple of times, I was sitting at the picnic table, drinking my G & T, and there she'd go, past our campsite, just pedaling and whistling, biking at her leisure, and it was darling and fantastic.

The short trip was a perfect last "hoorah" for the summer. Today, I'm back at work, presenting workshops and finishing syllabi*. But I'm glad to have the image of my biking girl to carry with me throughout the day.

*I surfed for the first time in about four years, and it felt great.

**Between camping and cramming for work, I'm behind on my blog reading, but I'll be stopping by soon!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Here Comes the Sun

Today, at about 11:00am, the sun came out, and it stayed out the rest of the day, which is pretty darn exceptional considering the summer we've had. A couple of days ago, there were two articles in the local paper about our weather. One article focused on statistics indicating that the central coast of California has pretty much has its coldest summer on record. In my little bayside town, we've had quite a few days that didn't even make it into the 60s. The other article was written by a guy from my neighborhood who said that he and his wife had been counting the number of sunny days we've had in the last two months. The number is four. (Not too hard to count, really.)

Well, today was beautiful. And I'm starting to think that the weather is going to turn around just in time for me to return to work, which is par for the course, really, since fall is typically our sunniest season. Still, it all seems a bit wrong.

But we made the most of it today with the following activities:

  1. Kid "craft faire" at which the kids sold their handmade/self-created wares for cash (and at which the kids, esp the girl, ran around buying unnecessary crafts that other kids had made). Fun was had by all.
  2. Afternoon at the beach with friends and burritos.
  3. Dinner at home: grilled salmon with rice and grilled veggies
  4. Storytime with the kids.
  5. Taught the dog to roll over.

The only rough patch was when we were reading Beezus and Her Father, which has a lot of talk about smoking in it, which prompted my daughter to ask me if I'd ever smoked. Uh, I was hoping that I wouldn't have to address that question for a few years.

Anyhoo, wonder if the sun will come out tomorrow, tomorrow? Bet your bottom dollar . . .

It's late. I'm punchy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Summer Break--Inception Style?

Yesterday evening I worked on a workshop presentation.

Today, I worked on a syllabus.

And so it begins. Sigh.

I wonder if, in the future, I could do summers at a deeper level of my subconscious so that they will last exponentially longer than they do at my current level of consciousness?*

*Seen that movie yet? I didn't like it as much as other people seemed to.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Critter Camp

Recently StudentMum posted about how to entertain the kids during summer, and she lamented that England doesn't make the same use of summer camps that we do here in the U.S. Although our kids haven't done any sleepaway camps, last week they attended their first day camp. Wait, I take that back, a couple of years ago, the Girl did a Mermaid Camp, and she loved it. But last week, both kids did a Critter Camp together at the same time, and they both loved it. They got to see and talk about various critters while hanging out with other kids. And Hubby and I got to have each morning to do whatever we wanted or needed to do, which, for him, usually involved surfing or working on outside parts of the house and which, for me, usually consisted of working on the dissertation or cleaning out inside parts of the house. But one morning, we just sat at the table and read and drank our warm morning beverages (he's coffee, I'm English Breakfast tea), and realized what a win-win this whole "camp" thing is.

I used to poo-poo all of those scheduled summer things. Why can't kids just be free? Typically, we take our month-long road trip to Colorado, and we just hang out as a family all loosey-goosey for a month. We didn't do the big trip year so that we could be more productive around the house, and I have missed the trip. But I am glad that the kids got to do the camp, and I think we'll look for other camps next summer that will work around our summer road trip. Who knows, maybe we can even do a camp while we're at one of our road trip destinations. I still believe in kids having a lot of open free-time to play or draw or whatever, but this whole camping thing is not half bad.

Anyhoo, camp week was great. But this week, I'm going to have to start working since classes start--ack!--in less than two weeks, and I'm also scheduled to lead some professional development workshops next Thursday and Friday. Time to work on syllabi and workshop material. Summer does fly by . . .

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Post-Dinner Exchange

Girl: "Mama, Can I sit on your vagina?"
Hubby: "Uh, that's what we usually call a lap."