Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “education”

Word Nerd Confessions: September


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September equals schoolish thoughts. Here are some words that get us on track for edumacating (which is found in the Urban Dictionary) our minds:

nisus (noun): an effort or striving toward a particular goal or attainment; impulse. “Receiving stellar marks is a worthy nisus,” noted the counselor upon hearing the student’s dream of attending Vassar.

intellection (noun): the action or process of understanding; the exercise of the intellect;  reasoning;a particular act of the intellect;a conception or idea as the result of such an act; notion; thought. The purpose of a sound education is to increase one’s intellection.

brio (noun):
vigor; vivacity. “One must continue with tenacity and brio,” the teacher encouraged her students already showing signs of Senioritis.

vinculum (noun):
a bond signifying union or unity; tie. After spending nearly twelve years together in school, the seniors form quite a vinculum by the time they graduate.

august (adj): inspiring reverence or admiration; of supreme dignity or grandeur; 
majestic. An august performance of academics is not usually expected of students in September.

athenaeum (noun):
an institution for the promotion of literary or scientific learning; a library or reading room. The teacher momentarily stymied her students when she announced, “We are going to check out your books in the athenaeum.”

solecism (noun): a nonstandard or ungrammatical usage, as unflammable and they was. solecism (noun):

diapason (noun):
a full, rich outpouring of melodious sound. The band teacher smiled in rapture at the unexpected diapason when the first piece was played by his fall students.

hypocorism (noun):
a pet name. Students referred to the principal, Mr. Alderson, as Sonny–never to his open acknowledgement, of course.

sequacious (adj):
following with smooth or logical regularity. The kindergarten teacher held her breath as she led her students down the hallway, hoping they would do so in a sequacious fashion and not fan out like distracted duckling like the last time.

excogitate (verb):
to think out; devise; invent.to study intently and carefully in order to grasp or comprehend fully. “One must practice excogitation to fully appreciate James Joyce, ” the English teacher encouraged her students. Silence was her reply.

sennight (noun): a week. The first seven days of school makes for a long sennight.

bezonian (noun):
an indigent rascal; scoundrel. Mr. Jameson felt a headache forming as he checked his roster of new students and noticed Bobby Mack’s name, who had earned a reputation as a bezonian among last year’s students.

lateritious (adj):
of the color of brick; brick-red. Loren always associated education with a lateritious feeling, perhaps due to all her schools being old-fashioned brick buildings.

mea culpa (noun): “my fault!” an acknowledgment of one’s responsibility for a fault or error. Julius Caesar as a student might have admitted “mea culpa!” as opposed to the modern counterpart of “my bad!”

omnifarious (adj):
of all forms, varieties, or kinds. As the students walked in through the front doors it became clear to the admin staff greeting them that they were in for quite a year as the omnifarious batch of teenagers sauntered on towards their classes. Strangely enough, the students were thinking the same of the staff.

manque‘(adj):
having failed, missed, or fallen short, especially because of circumstances or a defect of character; unsuccessful; unfulfilled or frustrated: The teachers gathered and conferred about the manque of several students not having produced a single completed homework assignment all semester.

contextomy (noun):
the practice of misquoting someone by shortening the quotation or by leaving out surrounding  words or  sentences  that  would  place  the  quotation in context. Winston Churchill’s famous WWII speech has fallen under contextomy as most people quote him as saying “Blood, sweat, and tears,” when he actual said “Blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

univocal (noun):
having only one meaning; unambiguous. “Late is late,” the teacher reminded the student who traipsed in four minutes after the bell rang. “Late is univocal.”

hypnopedia (noun): sleep learning. Placing her French textbook under her pillow at night proved to be an ineffectual attempt at hypnopedia.

And there is your September batch of Word Nerds. True to course here is a short quiz.

  1. Sleep learning is associated with what word?
  2. Nefarious sounds quite a bit like which word?
  3. Sennight means?
  4. What word might a choir teacher appreciate?
  5. Why might having brio be considered a compliment?

Well, what did you learn today? BtW, if you scored at least 4/5 you may pull out your SSR book and read the last five minutes of class.

Shakespeare Celeb: Shakesperience


What can you say about a work of literature that carries over into several centuries and still has meaning? For one thing, you can say “Shakespeare.” His writing certainly fascinates, attracts, and illuminates the times. Fashion may change, but human emotions definitely haven’t evolved much in 400 years. Even my sophomores are totally getting the value of studying Julius Caesar this year.

Recently our school hosted Shakesperience, which is a NEA sponsored acting troupe that travels throughout schools in our fair state, presenting, yes, you guessed it, Shakespeare. They shake down a three-four hour play into one hour based on a theme. This year they showed As You Like It set in the eighties. Gotta love eighties fashion (or lack of it). The actors have lots of energy and speak Bard. I always wonder if students “get it”–they must, because they laugh in the right places.

My favorite part of arranging Shakesperience is the afterwards. Students trundle out of the auditorium with smiles, sharing happy moments from the play. One of the best shares so far was on the fly.

Grabbing a quick snack at the cafeteria wagon after the performance I felt a tap on the shoulder. I turned and one of the students who had pleaded with me to allow him to attend the performance (even though arrangements should have been made previously and not a half hour before the show starts) stared at me for a couple of seconds. I prompted him, “So, you liked the play?” He widened his eyes and placed his fingertips to his forehead and “exploded” them off his face, complete with appropriate sounds. I understood that he meant the performance blew his mind.

Old play, new way, same words, and they get it. Yup, can’t wait for next year.

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Techno Faux Pax


A variation of an old chestnut:

Two girls walk into a classroom wearing the same yellow sweatshirt. They stop and stare at each other. They size each other up. The teacher tries to cut the tension with the quip: “Looks like you got the email.”

You know–that joke.

The problem is that teens don’t email each other. At least not anymore. The class bursts out in derisive laughter. “Yeah, right. Because that’s what we do. We email each other.” Loud smirking ensues.

Trying to save a bit of my self-esteem I respond brightly: “Maybe that’s why I don’t hear that often from my own kids –I email them.” The moment is somewhat saved and we go back to English.

I do text. I don’t Tweet. I do FaceTime. I prefer visits. I write letters. Hmm–nothing comes close to a letter. A humorous card maybe.

Yet, if I were to say the right techno term I still would be on the outside looking in. Why? My expiration date is beginning to show. I’m at retirement age and students know it. I don’t feel like retiring yet, but because I could, that makes me old. Out with the old, in with the new.

If I happen to drop in a casual word or phrase students seem surprised. Do I know what that means? If I mention a movie, song, a whatever that is in their world I think it concerns them. It’s as if I have bumped their youth bubble. Granted, I don’t know most of their music, trends, or media choices. On the other hand, they don’t know that Edgar Allan Poe influenced Stephen King, who I remember reading when he first came out and none of his books were movies yet. Or how about everyone from Monty Python to Jimmy Fallon quotes some line from Hamlet and now my students know why. Or the reason there are strong female protagonists like Katniss is because we had Jane Eyre first. And they don’t know about Byronic Heroes–yet, even though they do know about Loki, Ironman, and Bat Man.

I may get my techno terminology tangled, but they don’t know all about the who, how, and why of Shakespeare’s influence of just about everything. I have job security for a bit longer.

So is blogging for old people? Oh who cares–I need more than 280 characters for my say.

PADding About with Poetry


Teaching poetry to a class of teens is almost intimidating as being the student learning the language of metaphors and similes and alliteration and such.

For one thing there is the DWA

factor–Dead White Authors.

Occasionally I detect a certain resentment of having to study the antiquated language and suspect ideas of people who lived in times current adolescents have a difficult time relating to, especially when many of these authors were among the 1% of their day. Understanding that religion revolved around one belief and not a myriad seems wrong to some of many students.

Getting students to remove their 21st century hats in order to not be hindered by Frost using “queer” when describing how the speaker’s horse thinks it’s strange to stop in the middle of the woods is a little challenging but not insurmountable.

Another challenge is getting students to embrace poetry as a necessity. Actually, for that concern I have a ready reply:

If you can figure the meaning of a poem and explain it in such a way it is comprehensible to others, you will no doubt succeed in other endeavors in life, such as presenting a new scientific concept to your co-workers or even putting together that bike in a box for your kid some day.

I do sympathize with my students about the saturation of 18th and 19th century poems we tend to study, especially in AP Literature. This is why I subscribe to services that provide a poem everyday. It’s like those word a day subscriptions except more words and they sometimes rhyme.

Over the past few years I have amassed quite a collection. Now what? Aha! I pulled together a monthly menu and created a PPT what I call the PAD–Poem A Day. While I take attendance, students read the poem on the projector screen and then discuss some aspect. Most of these poems are contemporary and the topics, as well as formats, tend to be more relatable for my students.

The other day we covered Robert Bly’s moon poem. I then had students find three objects in the room and describe them in a new way. The best one involved calling our box fan a meditation counselor since it had the ability to provide a cooling off whenever we were heated up. Nice.

I remember Robert Frost and his puzzled horse in fifth grade and I have taught it to my tenth graders and seniors. I’m hoping once we have chatted about meaning and metaphor they will think poetry is lovely as they move through life. My hope is they’ll carry a verse in their pocket or be able to pop out a ready line to fit any occasion.

Shakespeare Goals


Although I’m known as a Bardinator, I confess I’m a bit of a poser in actuality.

I  truly know a handful of his plays, primarily the ones I teach, the usual: Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Julius Caesar, Othello, Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet. I do have a working knowledge of other plays: King Lear, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing , The Tempest, Merchant of Venice,Twelfth Night. And I have a nodding acquaintance with the Henrys and Richards. I tend to shudder and ignore the more violent plays where body parts and pies and such are a featured plot focus.

As for William’s sonnets–let’s just say while I’m not adverse to his verse, I prefer to revel in his plays.

So, my goal is to become more than a dabbler and get cracking at becoming better in my Bard. This will involve some serious study since Shakespeare is not for sissies. He provides stout meat and drink once at the table of literature feasting. I will *sigh* set aside some (not all) of my leisurely summer reading forays and bite off, rather than nibble, sizable portions of Shakespeare works.

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Here is a beginning goal list:

  • Select at least five-ten sonnets, mainly the ones we refer to in our current curriculum, and really study them beyond the quick note referring I usually do. Study what other critics have come up with in their analysis.
  • Move beyond my comfort zone and learn at least one play of William’s that I’m not familiar with. I’m still squeamish about reading about revenge pie, so perhaps I will look into a comedy not well known to me–maybe The Merry Wives of Windsor or As You Like It.

My basic Bard facts are decent: birth, death, family life, supposition of lost years. I even have Renaissance and Elizabethan knowledge down pretty well as it relates to Shakespeare. I could start committing more to memory and really dazzle the crowds.

Why take on Shakespeare this summer? I could just lounge and read for fun and drift and not work so hard. Didn’t I just get out of school?

One reason to push myself in this endeavor is that Shakespeare is so fascinating. I knew relatively nothing about him until I began teaching his works. For the past fifteen years I’ve learned so much more about the Bard and it makes me realize I have so much more to go. But, I’m in no real hurry.

Another reason is that if want to really become a Bardintor, not just pretend I know my Bard stuff. Please don’t expect me to spout off reams of memorized quotes and speeches. Memorizing, is unfortunately, a real problem. Short term gaps and all that.

One other reason is that I want to be THAT teacher, the one whose enthusiasm for Shakespeare overflowed into the curriculum and into the hearts and minds of my students. I still treasure that moment when one of my struggling students came up to me after class and said, “I will will studying Hamlet.” He got involved in our study of the melancholy Prince of Denmark, and that’s why I will learn more about Shakespeare.

Anyone out there desire a bit more Bard in your life?

Shakespeare Knew Unrest


Peggy O’Brian, director of education, of the Folger, queries how former Folgerians are doing from time to time. Seeing the Folger is neighbors with many prominent Washington DC power sources, such as the Supreme Court, her question holds some resonance of consideration.

I paused and thought. How are we doing? The “we” for me being the school environment because school is a large part of my life and serves as a reflection of how the world out there is affecting the lives of present and future citizens: students. I will say this: there is unrest and concern.

Here is my partial response to Peggy’s question:

We are feeling the bite of unrest. Students are forming clubs that reflect their need to express their views. We have a club that celebrates the 50.5%, formed by young women (and young men). Another club is the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, young men who want to explore what it means to be a male in today’s society. We also have Interact and Key Club, which reaches out with fundraisers to meet the needs of the community. The administration has a mentor class of student peers who lead discussion groups.

Class discussion topics for my AP Language class bring forth interests such as “fake news,” and how women are portrayed in the media. Students exchange ideas and debate views. We share. I remind them their voices can be heard. They march. They write letters and articles for the school paper. They are involved. I am fortunate to be part of their conscious desire to be the change they want to see in the world.

And in all this, I keep teaching Shakespeare. He saw injustice, corruption, love, hate, death, prejudice and he put pen to paper, and words became actions upon the stage. Students see that 400 years later we still have the same issues, even if they are expressed in a different manner at times. My students see that one man continues to have a large influence upon the world. Shakespeare truly is a man for all time.

Shakespeare is one way I illustrate how times of unrest are reflected through the arts. And it’s frightening to learn that funding for the arts is being threatened.

I’m hoping our voices will be heard up on the Capitol’s hill that the arts are important and the people want them to remain a vibrant voice.

We especially need our voices to be heard in times of unrest.

A Few Words to the Wise


It’s not news that the American education system is not working well. I came across an article that made me stop and think about whether my own teaching techniques are contributing to the problem. My paradigm got a bit nudged. One thing I do agree with Hirsch is that vocabulary is an important aspect of student success. If you are interested in reading one man’s opinion about how to overhaul the education system I suggest you sit down with a cup of java or tea and take time to peruse and consider. It’s long, but chock full of thoughtful considerations:

E. D. HIRSCH, JR.
The key to increasing upward mobility is expanding vocabulary.

E. D. Hirsch, Jr. is a professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia and the founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation and he is smart. The kind of smart that makes me feel a bit more brainer after reading most anything he writes. You might have heard  of these titles, and even if you haven’t you will want to reflect of this pithy quote:

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A Post About Something I Remembered About Memory Loss…I Think


Memory loss. It’s really become apparent I’m losing it. Yes, I’m losing my memory. And I don’t consider myself that old–at least I don’t think I’m old enough to be losing it, at least not completely. It’s not like I had a huge memory reserve on hand. I am and have remained absolutely terrible at memorizing words. I gave up thoughts of trying the stage, because memorizing my lines prived akin to storing apple cider in a sieve. I have given up on dazzling people with my ability to quote Shakespearean sonnets and lines from Hamlet, because it’s not and has yet to happen. I’ve accepted that part of life. Yet, lately I’ve had times when I’m staring out the copy machine and for all the tea in China–make that all the chocolate in Willy Wonka’s factory–I can’t remember my code. Yeah, the one I’ve used practically everyday for the past five years at school. *sigh*

Fortunately, a Ted Talk on memory loss popped into my email box before I began the search for a comfortable home for worn out teachers. I will go with the one with the birdfeeders outside the window. Nice Care will have to wait, because Ted and his Talk has confirmed that I’m losing it because I’m stressed out and trying to survive. Who thought teaching would rob my brain of trying to remember stuff?

If you are beginning to lose it, check out this Ted Talk. I feel much better about losing my memory. Wait, did I already post this blog earlier?

image: morguefile/dodgerton skillhouse My memory card is crashing…

NPM: #13–how history does not sit still


I think I missed an opportunity. Had I known I would be teaching English, especially British literature, I would have minored in history. One cannot properly elucidate on the fineries of poems, prose, and short storis without dipping into the times of the work. There is a definite “why” as to “why” something is written. A mathematical equation of History times People to the greater value of Events–something like that. Which is why I didn’t get on so while in Mathematics.

Howard Altmann explains history’s restless nature. I almost imagine it as a cat that tiptoes around the room, exploring its way about. Or as that sunbeam or shaft of light that panders its way from the chair to the floor to the wall. Here’s the poem and here’s what he said about it:

About This Poem

“This short poem was conceived in Lisbon, where the light never rests on its laurels. It was put to bed a few years later in New York City, where the light crowds out the stars.”
—Howard Altmann (www.poets.org)

 

image: paulabflat/morguefile

Adieu, Adieu Sweet Month of Muse


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I agree with Juliet, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” April is a busy, busy month with its heralding of spring, removal of snow tires, paying of taxes, celebrating Billy Bard’s birthday, prepping for AP exams, and musing upon poems. I started loading my April blog calendar back in December as I discovered poems and poets I would pre-schedule them and now the days are spent and I am a bit bereft as I head into May. Whatever shall I fill my May days with?  It is ever so nice to have a theme for a month, like poetry for April. May will probably become my mish-mash month. I have several posties that I’ve been saving that don’t relate to anything except that I like them–sorta serendipity finds.

As I bid adieu to April I shall reflect:

  • Gathering poets for most of the year is akin to Saturday yard sale mornings as I scout for treasures to stuff in my bag
  • I appreciate poetry more and more as I become more and more involved with the reading of it
  • Having Billy Bard’s 450th birthday in the middle of National Poetry Month was absolute icing on the loveliest of cakes
  • Passing out poems to my students on April 24 for National Poem in Your Pocket Day is a blast–reactions range from excited anticipation of reading their poem to leaving them on the floor–which is about par for poetry (love it or leave it)
  • My school superintendent emailed me that I encouraged him to read a sonnet in my postscript to enjoy Shakespeare’s birthday
  • I decorated my hallway in recognition of Shakespeare’s birthday and convinced the journalism department to put it in the school’s daily video. Well, it’s not everyday a person is 450 years old…

 

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I look forward to May. School is winding down, weather is heating up, and the countdown to summer break begins.  Here is to May and all its blooming good days

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Waiting out the days of May to slip into June

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