Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I never remember until I listen to morning radio, but I share the same birthday as Roe V. Wade.

I almost never thought I'd hit 35. It has always seemed so far away. Here I am. And happy to be here.

I've learned a lot in the past 35 years. I wouldn't change where I am now for anything.

I've accomplished a lot. I've been to a lot of places. I have not let the world pass me by.

Here's to another 35 years. May they be filled with the same wonder as the past 35.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Renaissance Dance among ninth-graders

There are some days where I really earn my money as a teacher.

Today's lesson leads into Romeo and Juliet act 1, scene 5, the masquerade party. My source, that Shakespeare Set Free book, helps me walk the kids through a rudimentary Renaissance dance. It is basically a simplified square dance. I put on an old tune of Renaissance music that I found on the web at and then walk them through it.

It's funny at times. Talkers will close down when you ask them to use that talking up in front of the class to help with the lesson. Fidgety kids will slump down in their seats rather than get up. But I tell ya, they can never say the class is boring.

Today then, was one of those days where, like a symphony conductor, I have to help move around eight+ kids acting out the scene, plus keep those still seated following along and listening. It's fun when it gets a bit out of control and they are laughing at the scene, the situation, or each other, but my part is to keep that enthusiasm channeled into learning Shakespeare.

It's hard but well worth it. A couple of the students already know their entire Shakespeare speech. Many know a good deal of it. It's great, and when I hear them saying Shakespearean lines, I know it's worth it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Parts for the play

When assigning reading parts for the MACBETH play today, I gave out roles for the three witches. One student said,

Can I be "all"?

Of course, not realizing that "all" was all three witches speaking at once.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dramatic Prairie Dog

We were sitting around last night, a Friday night, just hanging out at home. TV was on, and for some reason we were watching VH1's WEB JUNK. Most of the time it is junk. Last night, however, this video was on:

I don't think we'd all laughed so hard together. Amy loved it and was laughing it up, actually looking it up on YouTube, and all its variations.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Ahh, it is that time of year again. Time to dive in headlong into one of my favorite things:


I tell the students, when you know him as well as I do, you call him "Billy." This is one of those subject as a teacher that I simply love and immerse myself in. When I teach it, I hope I give off some of that passion for this subject.

William Shakespeare. I am looking forward to teaching Romeo and Juliet again to the Freshmen and Macbeth to the seniors. Today in Freshmen English, we hurled Shakespearean insults at each other, to great effect. I know that I am winning the Shakespeare battle when I heard a student saying it down the hall, then another student saying it as they were in another room before second hour started. Wonderful.

I use a lot of Shakespeare Set Free. I find this to be an invaluable resource of ideas and ways to show the kids Shakespeare, not just read it. I've used it for several years now and it gets better and better as I get even more familiar with it.

The kids even have to memorize a passage from Shakespeare--I have a packet of different speeches, monologues, and sonnets from them to choose from. They have a month, and we go about it together every day, rooting each other on. I'm expecting great things this year.

Time for more Billy.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Christmas Break update

Ok, as the saying goes, my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

At the beginning of break, I had all these things to do and accomplish. I read a grand total of 24 pages in Little Women and haven't picked it back up. I asked Amy, it's one of her favorite books, if anything actually happened in the book. What is the plot? She said, "Stuff happens to this family."

"So there's no plot? Nothing the main characters have to accomplish before the end?"

"No, it's just about a family."

That failed to intrigue me anymore. Not the book's fault. Amy told me that there was no evil dark side in the book, or any huge battlebots, no creatures, no space travel. She was ribbing me but she was also pointing out that my taste in books is sometimes crap.

Then I started reading The Prisoner by Disch as I found one in the paperback stacks at the library. I also started reading the first Harry Potter. I'm about 100 pages into both. I like reading two books at once. It gives me a chance to "change the channel," as it were. Like a comic book series. One 22-page monthly comes out, I read it, put it down, and read another one, waiting for the next installments. Two-part tv shows and series too. I like serials, which is one of the reasons I am liking Stephen King's The Green Mile. I found the six original, separated installments at Goodwill. I have read the first two, waiting to pick up the third when I finish something else. I don't think I would even have started The Green Mile if I got it in a complete addition.

So I probably won't finish Little Women before break. But I have done lots of little fun things that are good for me, for recharging my batteries. I have watched plenty of Doctor Who on the Netflix Watch Now. Played with the kids. Generally fooled around.

See, that's what Christmas Break for a teacher is really for. Recharging the batteries. I took an hour yesterday to look over the upcoming Romeo and Juliet lesson for the freshmen and Macbeth for the seniors. I still have to look over a basic plan for Speech class. To get out of seventh period study hall, I am taking on second semester Speech class, basically adding another prep to my day. And only for like seven kids too. That's all right, anything to get out of that seventh period study hall.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Updated my code today. Is it good? Like? Dislike? Am I missing anything?? It took me a good hour, plus I got most of the code from an online free template site.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A day full of possibilities

As we take stock on a new year, we have to also look back upon ourselves, in order to expand for the future.

Last year at this time, I was 3,314 miles away up in Alaska. I still can't believe it myself sometimes. That's one of those things that shows I have guts and determination and the ability to stand up wherever I am and take charge of my life.

That's why this last Calvin and Hobbes strip is so important to me. It was first published on December 31, 1995, a Sunday, and I still have the original I cut out of the Chicago Tribune hanging up in my bathroom where I see it every day. Calvin's childlike innocence of accepting the situation and seizing the best out of it makes me start each day with the same "Let's go exploring!" attitude. It matches the attitude of my tattoo on my right shoulder of the Superman symbol--it reminds me every day to be the best super man that I can be.

So while I do not have any resolutions per se for 2008, I only know that I want to be the best I can be. I know that I will stand up and take charge of things, from being the best father and husband to being the best teacher. Even my hobbies are going pretty well as I still am expanding Independent Propaganda.

That's my real resolution. 2008 will be filled with more of the same as we can't all start over. As U2 sang, "Nothing changes on New Year's Day." However, it is this approach to understanding where you have come from every year, knowing that this year will be the best ever, that makes New Year's Day so special. The real resolution is understanding that today, the start of a new year, is a day to approach the world as fresh as the new found snowfall, which we got in abundance last night down here in Normal, Illinois.

And that's why that comic strip still hangs in my bathroom, reminding me of this feeling every day of the year, whether it is January or June. Approach every day like a kid with a sled on newfallen snow. Explore. As Hobbes says in the strip, "It's like having a big white sheet of paper to draw on."

What will I draw this year?