Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What happened in 1776?

I thought for a moment that I was trapped in an episode of Jay Leno's Jaywalking. I couldn't believe what was happening and honestly thought they were kidding me.

In my Senior English class, we are reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, an African novel about the downfall of a tribesman during the oncoming British colonials. I had a point to make about the winners being the ones who write history. So I ask this class of Seniors, "What happened in 1776?"

I was just trying to engage them. I just asked a common knowledge question to get an answer, to make sure they were breathing.

The first response: "World War II."

Then, in successive order: "World War I. Vietnam. Korea. Civil War." And they thought highly of themselves for saying Civil War because it was so very old.

Well, I worked them around to the War of Independence. Then I had to ask, "Who did we gain our independence from?"



I did get back to my point, explaining that in England it is not called the War of Independence. How does England see this war?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Lotus-Eaters

Today, as we were reading The Odyssey, we read the section on "The Lotus-Eaters."

The line went: "We came to the coastline of the Lotus Eaters, who live upon that flower."

I actually had several students who, after reading the entire passage, thought that they were living ON the flower rather than just eating it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


While reading The Odyssey in class today, we had to discuss what "ambrosia" was.

I said, "Ambrosia--the nectar of the gods!" with a swooping arm.

And one kid pipes in, "Like their pee?"

What the heck is that??

Saturday, February 16, 2008

RIT Scores and teaching adults

I was out of my comfort zone. I was teaching adults instead of kids.

Yesterday, my school district had one of those teacher inservice days. Kids love 'em. Teachers still love 'em--cuz there's no kids! I had to present RIT Scores and MAP Data to two sections of teachers, as my district adopted this test this year.

I have sat through plenty of inservice hours on MAP testing up in Nome. We had been doing it there for two years already. This is Midland's first year. Now I have to go through all of those growing pains over again. Getting adults used to something new, especially another new testing system, can be an uphill battle.

However, it went over very well. I think I got the main points across on how valuable these numbers can actually be, especially in differentiating instruction, the buzzword of the year.

Not only do I get something I can tack on to my resume and list of accomplishments, I got to teach to the rest of the district. That's quite good, in my humble opinion, as a first year teacher to the district.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Anthem and The Prisoner and The Magic Goes Away and two Harry Potters

I actually can't believe I've been reading so much. Some of this is catch-up, like I've always wanted to read the Harry Potter series but never seemed to get around to it. Since Xmas vacation, I have read several books. Some new books that I have finished recently:

Anthem by Ayn Rand is one of those books that always frightened me because of the horrible things I had heard of Ayn Rand. I still remember that one South Park episode where the cop who couldn't read says, "I read ever page of this god-awful thing." Anthem is much shorter though, less than 100 pages and is in my favorite genre: post-apocalyptic fiction. I actually think it was rather blandly written by the idea was sound behind it. Controlling people and science fascinate me and this book opens up a lot of questions. It's one of those books that stay with you.
And then I am always reading bad pulp fiction or fan fiction. This is no exception. My favorite TV show of all time is The Prisoner and with only 17 episodes, anything new is a boon, like found treasure. This really isn't that good, but it does have its moments, and it would only be good to a fan that can catch some of the specific episode references. There is no way anyone outside of a Prisoner fan could fathom or like this.
Larry Niven is fantastic. This fantasy is filled with rich description and magic and our good guys must see if they can rescue the disappearance of magic from the world, if they can get along. It was a good quick read for a sword-and-sorcery tale, like a quick Conan. The paperback I borrowed from the library was lavishly illustrated in black and white sketches by Maroto. Good stuff.
I have to admit that I liked the first book in the Harry Potter series much better than the second one. Also, Rowling, if anything, really knows how to build a climax in a book. I came out of both books awed at how Rowling kept me reading, building up and through that climax for a hundred pages or more. This is the first time I ever tried the Harry Potter series. So many of the kids at school reference it, saying it is the one book series that got them to read. I had to finally try that. And I was astounded. I can compare her to Cormier or Crichton as the only other two authors that keep me reading through brilliant climaxes. Although, now the real tricky part comes in--were the visuals in my head from the movies or from the books? I don't know if Rowling put enough images into my head that weren't planted there by the movies. That's one of the dangers of reading the books after you've seen the movies. I am going to continue the series, as Morgan has all the rest of them, and am now about 100 pages into the third one. This will be interesting because I hated the third movie, even though everybody else said it is the best one.
Speaking of bad pulp fiction/fan fiction, I love Star Trek novels. I don't know what it is, but I love them. Maybe it is the feeling of being at home in a universe you know so well, and characters that seem to be best friends. I can pick these up and really get lost in a new plot or situation without learning about a new science fiction world. (That's another one of my little pet projects I would love to write another thesis on: Is there such a thing as pre-exposition in fiction and how does it affect the work?) These two books were great. The first one shown is The Lost Years about what happened to the crew after the five-year mission and before the events in The Motion Picture. And I love that kind of continuity. I will admit that the first two hundred pages kind of dragged on, but it was set up wonderfully for a brilliant final confrontation. Astounding, actually. The second one is called Spock Must Die! by James Blish, the guy that chronicled the original series in short story form. As far as I can tell, this is one of the very first original novels based on the series, if not the first. It revolves around a transporter accident that produces two Spocks, all in the middle of a Klingon invasion of Federation space while they blind the Organians to what is going on. (If you know what I am talking about with the Organians, you are as big a geek as I am.)
Now and then a simple graphic novel can do wonders. Orbiter by Warren Ellis is one of those fantastic blendings of a magnificent story with the graphic novel format. Pictures, I have learned, require no lengthy descriptions like you find in novels. You can do in one panel what it would take pages, or entire chapters, to adequately describe situations. This is one that pulls you forward with the idea and doesn't bog you down with details. A shuttle comes back after thought missing for ten years. It is time for mankind to make the next step. This book made me renew my love of the prospect at getting out there, into space. While I love Star Trek and Star Wars, I know that they play with the travel aspect so that it seems you are driving to the market rather than travelling hundreds of light years. This book tells us that we need to keep dreaming and at least trying. I still think we, the Earth, should just be shooting probe after probe up into space, announcing our presence. I find it fascinating how far the Voyager space probes have gone. Let's keep going, back up into space, at every possibility. Orbiter can help us remember that. Warren Ellis is awesome.

And then I am also still reading plenty of other books. While I still am in the middle of the third Harry Potter I have also picked up the first in the L. Ron Hubbard series of "Mission Earth." I know, Hubbard has a bad rap at times, but ever since I tried to read this series in high school, I always wanted to read the entire ten book series. It's quite ambitious, about looking at an invasion of Earth from the other side. Hey, anything is better than Moby Dick.

Isaac Asimov on The Prisoner

Isaac Asimov, the famous science fiction author, loved The Prisoner too. This is his article from a 1968 TV GUIDE about my favorite show.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What was Super Tuesday

More than ever before, I have been really following the Presidential primary season.

I have always paid attention, but this year, I even know what a delegate is--or even a superdelegate for that matter.

So Super Tuesday came and went yesterday and the field is still muddy. Whatever the case, Huckabee proved he is not a spolier and has a viable campaign by winning a number of states.

I still don't like how some states are "winner take all" and some aren't. That, at least, should be consistent. I don't like how some of what are called superdelegates get proportioned willy-nilly--and according to what I've been reading on CNNpolitics.com, that is the one difference in the democratic race.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Best Bowl Ever

And we've seen some good Superbowls over the past ten years or so. Superbowl XLII will definitely go down as the best.

With an unprecedented flourish, one team or the other was really going to make a bit of history. Either go undefeated, the first time since before I was born with the 1972 Dolphins, or beat the undefeated team that the analysts were calling the greatest of the great dynasties of football.

I always root for the underdog in a game like this--it makes it more fun. Unless it's my Bears, I always root against the favorite. Since the Pats weren't my team, it would have been no fun to root for them yesterday. That's kind of like rooting for the bully. You pull for the Davids to beat the Goliath.

The real fun of the Superbowl is that this is my championship game. This is the one sport I watch with any vigor. I don't watch basketball at all, hardly ever see any hockey, and am only remotely interested in the 162-game season that is baseball. Football is the sport I follow. Every Sunday, I watch at least three games, and now with NFL Network, I watch all the ten minute replays of the games I coulnd't see. The perfect 19 game season, with the best playoff structure, is football. I don't even watch college football because of the wacky rankings and polls and bowl games that don't matter. NFL has a rigid structure and system.

I was astonished at three lead changes in the fourth quarter yesterday. I thought for a while that the Patriots weren't giving it their all, but then scratched that idea--the Giants just played tougher. When the underdog wins, everyone is happy--except for Goliath.

And what do you think of them going for it now, on fourth-and-thirteen, with seven minutes to go in the second quarter, when they could have hit a 49-yard field goal? If your kicker can't hit a 49-yarder in a dome, you're in trouble. Vinatieri must have been smiling after that.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Snow Day

Snow Day

for Midland School District #7 and most of the Central Illinois area!

Woo-hoo! Three day weekend too!