Slice of Life: Multi-Lingual English Class

Slice of Life

My students know that I love Spanish. And many of them are taking Spanish, so there’s some solidarity there. But many others are taking French or Italian. So there’s a lot of good-natured teasing back and forth.

Something pretty cool has been happening lately, though. The French students have been doing what they can to pepper French into our class. They’ll greet me with a bonjour! or ask me ça va? when we pass in the hallways. Yesterday, we were writing haiku in class. One student called me over, a huge grin on his face. I knew something good or something funny was about to happen — either way, I was excited.

When I got to his desk, I looked at his haiku: completely in French. He looked up and asked me, with a smile, “What do you think?” I turned the tables on him, though, asking why he used the word for “funny” when he meant to use the word for “smart.” Our gentle teasing continued, while he was practicing his French.

A little background for this next snippet: teaching at a Catholic school, I start every class with prayer. Every day, I ask each of my classes if anyone would like to lead us. In every class but one, I’ve had volunteers throughout the year. One class, though: not a single person stepping up to lead. That’s fine; I would never force anyone to pray, I just ask that they join in if they’d like and be respectful if they’d rather not. But I ask every day anyway. I don’t want to deny someone the chance to do something just because I’m making an assumption that saves me 10 seconds of time. So today, I asked. And a hand went right up. I took my seat, and the student led us in prayer.

She chose the Our Father.

In Spanish.

The language battle continues 🙂

Slice of Life: Getting Excited

Slice of Life

In two days, literacy professionals will descend on Grand Rapids, Michigan for the annual Michigan Reading Association Conference.

There are a lot of things I’m excited for:

  • Meeting up with my English teacher family
  • Finding new friends, those I’ve interacted with online and those I don’t even know exist at this moment
  • My first-ever solo presentation at a major conference
  • Friday night (so big, it gets a subsection)
    • I’m giving an Ignite talk as are several other Michigan educators. I’m a little nervous, but mostly excited.
    • There is a lip sync battle scheduled, and I just might be a part of it. I’ve picked some ridiculous songs. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
    • There will be plenty of Nerdy Book Club people around, and that makes this one of my favorite nights of the year
  • Grand Rapids: the city is just a wonderful place to be for a weekend

I can’t wait. Will you be there? Come to the Pure Michigan event Friday night! See you then!

Slice of Life: Skype, the Aftermath

Slice of Life

Today was the Skype day. Everything was set. We had questions prepared. We had a schedule set. We HAD SCHOOL, which was what foiled us the first two times.

Then I got to school. Our schedule had changed. The Skype times needed to be adjusted, too.

Of course.

Fortunately, we were able to be flexible, and our students finally got the chance to connect with some students in another classroom in another part of the country. Some questions worked, and some didn’t. Some students got stage fright, and some didn’t. It’s how it goes. But I was glad we connected. Just not without some hiccups, because that’s just how it goes. Thanks, Mrs. Minnich, for Skyping with us today!

Slice of Life: Skype!

Slice of Life

 As the school year has gone on, my friend Cindy and I have realized that since we both teach a bunch of freshmen and wouldn’t it be great if we had them Skype with each other? So we arranged a time. Our kids were excited.

And we had a snow day.

So we rescheduled. And our kids were excited.

And we had a cold day.

So we decided not to schedule. Bad things happen when we schedule it. So yesterday, Cindy approached me with an idea that we should Skype, as my students are beginning their poetry stuff, and her kids have good things to say about poetry. So we’re doing it! Tomorrow! It will happen.

::checks the weather forecast::

Yes! It will happen!

Slice of Life: A Chance to Breathe

Slice of Life

Today is a Sunday with not much planned. It’s been nice. I woke up, went to church, where the priest gave a nice homily on our duty to serve others, and then my wife and I went shopping. We’re just sort of lazing around now, getting a little cat nap in and some reading.

Which is good.

Because tomorrow, the 4th quarter begins.
This coming weekend is MRA.
The weekend after that begins spring break, and we’re taking our honeymoon trip (finally!).
Then the school year goes on full blast.
Then nErDcampMI is right around the corner.
And around the same time, our first born will be born.
Then there’s the rest of my life, being a parent.

So I’m grateful for today. And I’m sure every relaxing moment will be treasured four times as much as it ever was in just a few months from now.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Slice of Life: A New Pair of Old Shoes

Slice of Life

As some of you readers may know, my wife is Canadian. I am not. She lives in Canada. I do not. But I’m working on that. It’s a lot of paperwork and official forms from both Canada and the United States. The biggest thing is actually the waiting period as things get processed. Today, I was working on the finishing touches on my application.

Also today, I was working on what my 9th graders will be doing when we start the fourth quarter on Monday: poetry. So it only makes sense that I write a poem today.

“A New Pair of Old Shoes”

Something new, feels like
Something old.
Traveling south
To move north.
Heading east to the girl
From the west.

Everything is backward,
Yet like facing forward for the first time.
Comfortable and easy.
At home after years on the road.
Peace. Harmony.
Paperwork.

Sigh.

Some things never change.

Slice of Life: A Memorable Day

Slice of Life

I’ve only thrice in my teaching career showed up for work and then left, sick. The first time, back in spring 2010, I had the swine flu. The third time was a week ago today. The second time was a year ago today.

I got to school and my body just wasn’t feeling it. Cramps, difficulty catching my breath, headache. I wasn’t going to be able to make it through the day. I went home before first hour even began.

But then, as I got home, I actually started feeling better. So I told myself, “Self, take a nap. If you feel better by noon, then I think today’s the day.”

So I took a nap.

And I felt better.

So noon came. I came up with a plan that was nothing like I had thought of to that point, even though I had thought for more than I’d ever thought of anything else about how and when to do what I was about to do. And then I started the 3-hour drive to Canada.

When i got there, I had to make a stop and pick up an order I had put in a few weeks ago. “When do you plan to give this?” they asked. “If all goes well, in just a couple hours!” They wished me luck, and I was on my way.

As I got to my girlfriend’s apartment, her roommate was [fortunately] not home. That allowed me to make some preparations.

But I was ready too early. I texted my brother, and he was excited (and distracted me from my nerves a bit).

Then my girlfriend got home.

I hit play, and she walked up the rose-petal covered staircase while our song was playing in the background, until she opened her bedroom door and saw me, ring in hand.

One year ago today, I made the best decision of my life as I proposed to my then-girlfriend. And she said yes! Life has never been the same, but it has been sweeter every day.

Happy engage-aversary, my beautiful wife!

Slice of Life: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Slice of Life

For the past two days, while I’ve been hanging out at home or grading papers or. . .well, any time I’ve had a touch of down time, I’ve been watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I don’t know if you’ve checked it out or not, but imagine this: 4 women are kept in a bunker by a crazy reverend for 15 years, believing that the world had been destroyed. Then one of them decides to grab a hold of her life and move to NYC.

Girl from Indiana, 29 years old, a 7th grade education, heading out alone to NYC.

And it’s written by Tina Fey. You in?

Slice of Life: Getting Tough

Slice of Life

This blogging every day thing is getting tough. It was easy at first, as there always seemed to be time and topics. Now, though, it’s the end of the marking period (students’ last day is tomorrow), MRA is coming up and I have presentations to finish, and there’s always some sort of work to be done around the house. It’s a lot. But I suppose the point is that sometimes, we write crap. But writing crap is better than not writing at all.

Right?

See you tomorrow. I hope I’ll get around to reading more blogs of my fellow Slicers, too.

Slice of Life: Choice in Assessment

Slice of Life

As we finish up our Romeo & Juliet unit, I had some ideas of what we could do. Some smaller-scale type of Epic Romeo & Juliet Project? A test? An essay? Re-write and modernize some of the scenes? A debate? What do we do?

The thing is, we had a week left before the marking period ended. The snow and cold days we had earlier in the year were taking their toll on our schedule. While I hate using that as any sort of curriculum guideline, our quarters don’t lump together at the end of the year; they’re weighted equally. So if we learn something in one quarter, but get assessed on it (and graded on it) in another, it can have significant impact on their semester grade. In an unfair way. So we needed something, and we needed it quickly. Long-term projects were out. I needed a fair way to assess everyone in a relatively short amount of time.

So I asked the students.

First, I gave them a task: in pairs, come up with 3 assessments, and create a pros and cons list for each of them. From this, I made a sign-up sheet.

And they chose.

About half elected to go with a test. This is the safe option. They take tests of some sort in many of their courses, so they’re comfortable with the format. It’s a one-day thing, after a few days preparing in class.

My favorite part of all of this are the students who took this opportunity to stretch themselves. They could all take a test, certainly. They’d probably do just fine.

But where’s the fun in that? Where’s the exploration? So some students who don’t usually speak up: they’re going to debate if Romeo & Juliet is a tragedy or a love story. Using rules of formal debate. Others who don’t often challenge the norm are re-writing some of the major scenes as if it takes place in modern day. One of our foreign exchange students went home for the week, so she took advantage of the chance to write a paper.

And nobody — NOBODY — is complaining about any of the work they’re doing, no matter how much it is.

In a world heading more and more towards standardization of everything, I love choice.