Uncategorized,  Week in Review

TSS – 1.30.11

Is anyone else surprised by the date?  I can’t believe that we are already heading into February.

The snow that was forecasted last weekend totally passed us – I mean, we did not even see a flake and they were predicting close to 6 inches of the fluffy stuff.  On the one hand I was grateful that we did not have another snow day, but on the other hand I lost faith in meteorology.  I simply cannot understand how they could be so far off the mark.  We had a high of 48 degrees on Friday – springtime weather – and most of the snow melted.  HOWEVER….they are predicting another snow storm tomorrow that is supposed to produce an ice glaze on the roads before another 6 inches should fall.  Welcome to the Midwest!

Teaching:
This was our first full week of school since before Christmas break!  Between snow days and MLK Jr holiday, we have really had a difficult time getting into the swing of second semester.  So as you can imagine, I am struggling in most classes to stay on task.  There are some projects that may have to go by the wayside, but I am confident that all critical course material will be covered.

I am finding that I truly LOVE teaching English Comp.  In another life I would have majored in English in college (rather than French), gone on to pursue a Masters in English, and then (hopefully) obtained a job as an adjunct professor at a local college or university.  I truly enjoy teaching the upper level students; we learn from one another and the classroom environment is always energic.  Most of these students are high school seniors, and at a time when most seniors are mentally checking out, these students continue to be excited about the film project at the end of the year.

Photo Credit

Since our school calendar is about five weeks longer than the college from which the dual credit is offered, I was struggling with how to fill the time.  In December, through some random brainstorming, this class decided that they would like to write a film script, shoot the film, edit it, and present it to the student body.  I tried to let them know how much work is involved in a project such as this — especially when senioritis is bound to kick in sometime around March 1st — but they were determined to make this a reality.

Over Christmas break I revamped my second semester syllabus to focus on the project.  Their first major writing assignment is a narrative short story – with the idea that they would develop this short story into a film script later in the semester.  They were also told to think about limited characters (since we only have twelve students in the class) and a setting that be could recreated on school grounds (since we will not be doing many off-site field trips).  These stories are due in two weeks.

Students also need to complete a major research paper this semester.  I limited the scope of the paper to their choice of a novelist or film director.  Students are to select one or the other and research the life and the historical time period in which they wrote/directed.  Students are then to select one major work, read/watch it, and analyze it for narrative writing techniques (those who chose a director will also include analysis of film angles and lighting for effect).  Students will then meld these two portions into one 8-10 page paper.

Once the research paper is due, at the beginning of April, we will then begin filming the class narratives (for time and space considerations, students will choose three out of the twelve scripts to film).  That will give us about five weeks to film and edit and then hopefully have a school assembly and show our finished projects the second week of May.

It is rather ambitious — but I am encouraged by their constant enthusiasm and willingness to stay a few minutes after class each day to discuss the possibilities.

Reading:

I am continuing my re-read of Little Women.  I tend to only read this at night before I go to bed and since I only read for about twenty minutes before my eyes start to droop, this is going to be a rather slow read.  The story has definitely picked up as far as conflict goes, and I am definitely enjoying it more now than I did in the beginning.  I am reading this book on my Kindle and have discovered that obtaining new batteries for the Kindle generation 1 is rather difficult.  I think I might have to resort to ebay.

Anyway….I am finding that as I read this novel I am constantly reminded of Pride and Prejudice.  While I realize that the stories are different – there are some similarities in the characters.

  • Mrs. March is raising four girls alone while her husband is away at war; Mrs. Bennett is certainly more worried about her five daughters’ future than her husband (he is often absent, escaping to the library by himself to avoid family relations).  
  • Mrs. March is far more respectable, however (Mrs. Bennett’s busy-body personality adds humor to the book, but I have little respect for her as a parent).  BUT…I do find Marme’s lessons for the girls a bit too preachy for my personal taste.  
  • Jo of Little Women reminds me of the outspoken Elizabeth of P&P.;  Her tomboy ways are reminiscent of Elizabeth’s long walk to Netherfield, which yields unfavorable commentary from Caroline Bingley.
  • Amy, the youngest daughter of the March family, reminds me of Kitty — rather immature and self-centered, but willing to learn from her older sisters.  
  • Beth March, the sweet, unassuming middle child, is similar to Mary Bennett in that they both focus on music as a means of expressing themselves.  I much prefer Beth’s humble personality to that of Mary, however.  
  • I think Meg is rather her own character in Little Women — somehow a mix of Jane and Elizabeth.  She is not as sappy sweet as Jane (I’m sorry, but I just can’t handle Jane’s ability to only see the good in people), and she is more outspoken.

I would be curious to know if anyone has noticed these similarities between the two novels, or am I the only one who feels this way?

Personal:
Last week several of you commented that you would like for me to post my reviews of photography books (and other non-fiction reading material).  I will definitely make a point of doing that in the near future.  I am working on a post that will showcase all the photography books that I actually purchased – which is but a small percentage of the ones that I reviewed from the local library.

I am also quite interested in learning how to combine my photos and writing into some type of artistic expression.  I have done major research on photo manipulation, mixed media art, and art journaling.  Again, I have reviewed many books from the library, but have also added a few to my personal library.  I have also discovered some beautiful magazines published once a quarter by Somerset Studios:  Artful Blogging and Journaling, both of which I have savored reading every page (to see the numerous magazines published by this amazing company visit this site).  I will also work on a post to showcase this interest as well.

My most recent library acquisition – and one in which I read (and took notes) in about two hours was Keri Smith’s How to be an Explorer of the World.  A fellow teacher mentioned this author in passing on Monday and I immediately did a search.  My local library had this book available, and I have Living Out Loud on hold from the inter library loan.  In essence her books describe how to relate to the world around you in an artistic way.  This book focused a lot on collecting things of personal interest and then truly analyzing them, rearranging them, finding patterns that are first invisible.  A couple of the ideas that I plan to try include:

  • Go to the local hardware store and look at the paint chip cards.  Find colors that resonate with you.  Take the cards home and then write the memories that surround that particular color.
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood and discover ‘accidental art’ – that is, stains on sidewalks, or discarded trash. Learn to see the beauty in the life around you.
  • Walk aimlessly — take a walk, intentionally doing the opposite of what you think you should do.  Want to right?  Turn left instead.  Want to stay on the path?  Walk through the field instead (provided it is not a private yard).  This one is a bit outside my comfort zone at the moment – but I could see where it would provide a lot of artistic inspiration (getting out of thinking only with the right side of the brain)

Writing:
This continues to be a New Year’s resolution that remains dormant.  My “old” self would have said that if I did not make good on it by February then I had failed.  My “new” self says that it is not a failure, it is just a temporary delay.  I continue to read blogs about the writing process and I do hope to at least begin daily journaling soon.

I must tell you of a fantastic site that Jenners mentioned on her blog the other day:  Book Drum  I am absolutely enthralled with it and wish that I had more free time in my life at the moment. In essence it is like a Wikipedia for books.  Anyone over 18 years old can become a contributor and the point is to provide extensive background information about literature.  They currently have several book profiles already completed, with a list of several hundred (?) more that they are interested in adding in the future.

Currently there is a tournament going on (with a first prize reward of 1,000 pounds!) where contributors sign up to complete an extensive book profile between now and April 30.  This would be pure escapism for me.  To read a book page by page – researching unusual words to add to the glossary section – or finding photos to add to the setting section in order to bring the descriptions to life – or adding trailers to the content area for readers to gain another perspective of the narrative or characters – or adding background information to the bookmarks section to reveal valuable insight for a more complete understanding of the novel. (all links are to content found for the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which I am currently teaching in the 9th grade class.  I have already found some very useful information on this site that I plan to use in the classroom).

As I told Jenners – I am not quite sure whether I should bless her or curse her for bringing this fantastic site to my attention.  I plan to make use of this often throughout the year – with the hope of perhaps profiling a classic novel myself one day.

Well, once again this post is far longer than I anticipated.  Perhaps I should consider doing a section a day – like Teaching Tuesdays, Writing Wednesdays, Reading Weekend.  What do you think?

I hope you all have a fantastic week!

19 Comments

  • Liz

    So many great things here, Molly! It is always such a pleasure to read about your teaching experience – you clearly love it and the kids do, too!

    I'm a huge, long-time fan of Keri Smith – so fun to see her show up here. She just totally rocks:)

    I'm happy to read whatever you write, in any form. Just keep it coming!

  • Kim

    I have said it again, and I say it now,I wish my son had you for a teacher! You sound amazing and so in love with the classroom.

    I think your idea for weekly post themes sound wonderful. Do what works for you though…it is your own little creative space. I will come visit and read whatever you happen to write. 🙂

    Have a great day. OH, and I am jealous of your snow. We were supposed to have a stormy la nina winter here this year. But so far? January has been wet,and drizzly and gray, interspersed with stretches of mixed sunny/cloudy days with temps reaching into the unseasonably high range of 50! While I don't always mind that, I did kind of wish for a real winter this year. 🙁
    *smiles*

  • Literary Feline

    I admit I'm looking forward to February with both a sense of excitement and trepidation. I almost, just almost, don't want January to end.

    I know I've said it before, but I do wish I'd had a teacher like you when I was in high school. I am a little jealous of your students for their experiences in your classroom.

    I hope you have a great week, Molly!

  • Vasilly

    Molly, sometimes I wish you could be my professor! 🙂 I'm glad you're giving your students a choice for their research topic. I had a major paper to write last semester and my professor choose the topic. Ugh! The worst three months of my life! 😉

    I love Artful Journaling! It's one of my favorite magazines though it's so expensive.

    I really enjoy going through the books of Keri Smith. Did you know she has a website?

    Have a great week!

  • JoAnn

    I'm so impressed with all you do in the classroom… sure wish we could clone you for our district! I like the themed post idea (there is so much here I want to comment on), but do what works best for you, Molly. Have a great week!

  • (Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea

    Molly, you seem so passionate about teaching. I wish I had more teachers like you in high school and college. I did have one English teacher freshman and sophomore year in high school that really turned me on to literature, and for that I will always be grateful.

  • Becky

    You're so focused Molly! I have to say that I love the sound of the projects, and even the paper you have assigned. Of course, since I'm neck high in research papers and essays that I cringed for you. I hope those 8-10 pages won't come in at the 100+ student range? I'm kicking myself for all of this reading, but after last year's scores on editing and writing, I vowed to hit it more this year. It shouldn't take me so long, but I honestly have felt bullied by the paperwork! The pile is shrinking, and I've just had to deal with it, but it still gives me hives. LOL.

    Well, good luck with everything! I hope the snow leaves you all alone for a bit. 🙂

  • Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow

    You sound like such a creative teacher who inspires the same in your students. Your projects are fabulous!

    I love hearing all about your various projects…photography, writing, etc.

    And I agree with you that Little Women is a big preachy at times…I didn't realize until I reread it in adulthood how true that was. I had never thought about the similarities to Pride & Prejudice, but now that you mention it…I need to reread P & P.

    Here's my SUNDAY SALON

  • Staci

    A section a day would be great fun!!! I like how you noticed the similarities between the two books…I've just starting reading Little Women again so I will be more in tune now!!!

  • Trish

    I love how you mention that you also learn from your students! I was always too intimidated to go into teaching–feeling too underprepared (how can I know everything!!), but I never thought about the fact that we (me and students) could teach each other–love that idea!

    I'm not familiar enough with P&P; to compare the two, but I watched the Anne of Green Gables series last week and noticed many similarities between AoGG and LW.

    Hope you have a lovely week. I suspect we'll get some of your cold but on Tuesday–supposed to dip into the 20s. Seems unfair after being so gorgeous this weekend!

  • Carola Bartz

    There's a lot in this post, Molly, and I'm impressed with all the things you plan to do. I'm just starting to step into Art Journaling, but it has been in the back of my mind for quite a while. Today I decided just to dive in! I also tend to read a lot of books about subjects that interest me instead of just trying it. It's my way of procrastinating – at least a very nice and enjoyable one!

  • Jenners

    I'm just so tickled how much you are enjoying Book Drum. It does seem tailor-made for you … and I hope you do attempt to write a profile for them! I think you'd do marvelous at it!

    We must have the same crazy weatherpeople. They were telling us to expect one to two feet of snow tomorrow … now they are changing their minds (again). You really just have to wait and see I guess.

    I'm curious about the Artful Blogging magazine. It sounds kind of neat.

  • Kathleen

    I'm very interested to read How to be an Explorer of the World. I love the idea of going to the hardware store to get the paint chips. That is such a simple and free way to get my creative juices flowing!

  • Patti Lacy

    You are a HEROINE, Molly! THANK YOU for what you are doing for our future. And as an old English teacher (and student) I itch to be there!!!!

    I've recently read a couple of teacher books and wonder what you'd think.
    Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire
    and
    Thomas Bloch's book

    Blessings, dear one. Keep going.

  • Anonymous

    Molly, I enjoy knowing each Sunday I can turn my computer on and find an enjoyable, informative read come mid-afternoon. Whatever and whenever you find time to post, I will be a happy camper.

    I enjoyed your comparisons of Little Women and Pride and Prejudice. I hadn't made those connections before. I love Little Women, but, I always feel I want to know more about Meg.

    We are in the midst of the blizzard with a fierce wind howling. Hope all is well with you.

  • Bree

    Book Drum – I signed up last week to be a contributor. My pick – East of Eden. You would be an amazing contributor. Maybe you could try it in the summer time when you have a little extra time. Book Drum is going to be/is a wonderful resource for teachers.

    I like your idea of Teaching Tuesdays etc. although your long Sunday post is great too. You could write it all on Sunday to save time, then schedule your posts for the week.

  • Margot

    I love your comparion between Little Women and P & P. I've read both numerous times but never made the connection. Way to go Molly!!

    There is so much here in your Sunday posts that I love. You have such an enthusiasm for life in general even though your days are completely filled. I find these Sunday Salon posts inspirational. So, thanks for that. I'm looking forward to the photography book reviews but don't hurry. If we get them this summer, that's fine.

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