Diary: Wednesday, February 20

February 20, 2008 at 8:41 pm 1 comment

Today felt “off.” If all life-forms have biorhythms, then I guess maybe a student teaching experience can have biorhythms as well, and I just hit a bit of a low point. Of course, if this is low, then I’m a lucky gal. Basically, I just felt a little disorganized, a little unfocused – a little bit like I didn’t exactly want to be there, despite enjoying myself. I hope I’m not exaggerating the sensation; it wasn’t so much an “I want to go home” as it was a “I wish I had something really good and sugary right about now.” That, or a nap.

We did pretty much the same thing in every class today. They started out with a bell activity (vocab/spelling for regular, grammar for accelerated) then moved to sharing poetry. I’m a little surprised – unhappy – that the students are still as reticent as they are to read their poetry aloud. The same ones are jumping up and down for the chance to share, and the same ones are avoiding eye contact and trying to be absorbed by their desks. They’re writing so well, and getting a lot of warm encouragement, and our classes are absolutely dripping with trust and friendliness. I mean, SERIOUSLY. These kids are comfortable with one another. So what’s the holdup?

Anyway, after coercing a few poems out of each class, I moved on to the “Invictus” explication activity. This is an activity that DR created (I assume – at the very least, she gave it to me) and it teaches them what to analyze in a poem. The accelerated kids need this for their explication essays, which are required components in their anthologies. I struggled a little bit with it second period – like I said, today was an off day – and asked DR to help me with it 3rd period. We team-taught, and I replicated her method in the following periods. I won’t recount my less-than-effective 2nd period strategy.

First, we had them write their name on the top of the explication activity. I talked about stressed vs. unstressed syllables, and how that can make a real difference in a word or name. I used the example of Daniel – DAN-yul. Switch the emphasis, and you get dan-YUL – which sounds quite a little bit more like Danielle than the originally gendered version. I also pulled out my freshman Latin standby: you don’t want to put the emPHASis on the wrong syLABle. After modeling how to mark the stresses on my own name, I instructed them to mark their names on their paper. A surprising (to me) number of them needed help and just couldn’t seem to hear the difference in modulation in their own voice. I was surprised to have to argue with a Hannah, Hailey, and Joshua that they had their emphasis reversed – they were convinced that they pronounced their names han-NUH, hay-LEY, and josh-u-AH, despite the fact that when they said them they pronounced them the traditional way. Kind of astonishes me; how can people not hear this stuff? (The funny thing is, when I asked my husband if he could mark the stresses in his name, he said that it was “really subtle.” It’s not. Is this just a “you’re a freak of nature if you CAN discern this stuff” sort of thing?)

They used their Writers Inc. books to define the kind of foot that described their names. We discovered that most names were trochaic (U /) and that very few were iambic (/ U). Most of the iambic names had a Latino origin; Luis, for example. We also had a few didactyls (/ U U) and amphibrachs (U / U). (I may have misspelled that – is it just “ampibrach”?) And, again, we had a surprising number of people who claimed to have no stressed syllables in their names at all. Hearing test, anyone? 😉

This led to a review of iambic pentameter, which they understood as being something with ten syllables that Shakespeare did a lot. I gave them the “I am a pirate with a wooden leg” example – a classic that I missed in high school, but which seems pretty prevalent in the CHS arena – and together we reverse-engineered and defined iambic pentameter.

Next we pulled out a copy of “Invictus” and I had everyone read it silently. Then I asked for 3 volunteers, each of whom read the poem aloud in his or her own way. At the end, I recited it as well. We talked about why it was important to read poetry aloud and, if we really cared to understand it, read it multiple times.

Now that we had a deeper understanding of/appreciation for the poem, I instructed them to “dissect” it and gather the information requested on the activity handout. They had to mark the poem up for rhyme scheme, meter, etc.. They also had to answer questions about the context in which the poem was written. They rewrote the stanzas in their own words and considered whether their understanding of the poem changed upon learning that the poet was having serious health issues and potentially dying when he composed it.

In other news…

Grades went out today for the third quarter progress reports. Most people are doing pretty well. There is a notable exception on the accelerated side; let’s call him Ted. Ted is a charming, brilliant (no, I mean SERIOUSLY brilliant) manic, talented, damaged, androgynous young man who failed accelerated English last year and is trying to replace his grade by retaking it this semester. Unfortunately, he currently holds a 5.6% in our class. That’s five point six, not fifty-six. He has rampant absenteeism due to “problems at home,” “sickness,” and debate tournaments. It’s hard to remember that he is actually a member of our class; he’s literally been absent more often than present. And it’s not as if we haven’t gone out of our way to make sure he can catch up. We post the assignments online in multiple formats, talk with him when  he does show up, make our IM and phone contact available. He is simultaneously eager to succeed and absolutely determined to fail, and it makes me heartsick.

Two more absences and he will be unable to pass by default – maybe even removed from the class. This is not what I want. As aggravating as it is to have to deal with his absences and catching-up, I don’t want him gone.  I want him HERE. And I hate seeing the hole he’s digging for himself. He is flailing on the edge of a cliff – and not just in English class – and I just want to scoop him up and set him on safe ground. If ever a boy needed to be grounded (in the emotional sense, not the punitive) Ted is it.


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Diary: Tuesday, February 19 Life Cycle of the Student Teacher

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. eyeingtenure  |  February 21, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    I think you mean, “Oi be a poi-rut wit uh wouldin’ leg.”


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The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

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