Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “teaching”

Looking Forward to Looking Backward


A backwards glance takes a back seat for now

Today is the last day for the 2019-2020 school year and I officially begin my summer break. Usually I stay in “teacher mode” and work on lesson plans and revise units while it’s all fresh in my mind. I do this until June 30th and then allow myself to take July off and slowly ease back into school mode around the middle of August.

That’s the plan, anyway. This year the usual has changed. I am ready to embrace summer break without any hesitation, and will not give school much thought until August rolls around.

This year beginning mid-March business as usual changed. We scrambled to create distance learning curriculum and adjusted and adjusted some more as we rode out the school year. Who would have thought two months could feel like a lifetime.

School officially ended May 29th for our school district. Graduation took place in the school parking lot with families in cars and grads socially distanced. There was a reduction in pomp due to our circumstances. The ceremony ended minutes prior to a spring rain storm. How fitting.

I spent Sunday posting my grades from home and Monday will be spent wrapping up my classroom for the summer. I usually celebrate the end of the school year with reflective euphoria. I dwell on victories and successes of teaching and tuck away the ritual of student farewells.

I haven’t seen the majority of my students since March 18th and briefly said good-bye to a handful of seniors who ventured into my classroom. Sans hugs, I wished them a masked farewell.

This has been a weird end to a school year that started out with such promise. I look forward to looking backward on the 2019-2020 school year. Right now I am numb, weary, and a bit heartsick at not only how the school ended but how our nation is troubled by the pandemic and violent protests.

I usually spend part of my summer break traveling and visiting friends and family. That won’t be happening. This saddens me greatly.

I am blessed to live in a small town, a tourist town. And yet, that brings its own set of concerns as the outside will permeate our little bubble dome of safe haven and possibly bring infection to our fair city.

With all the closures, hard times, and scary events clouding my daily life, I do have something to look forward to: the good news is the library is opening up a day after my birthday. Best present ever!

Any other teachers, parents, or students have reflections on the end of the school year?

What good news do you have that brings some sunshine to your cloudy days?

NPM: The Hand


April is National Poetry Month and my plan of sharing poems of significance to me fell to the wayside as life happened (or didn’t happen).

Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is a Thing of Feathers” was the first post, and now I am ending the month with Mary Ruefle’s “The Hand” as a tribute to students, teachers, the general education community. I miss being in the classroom.

The Hand

The teacher asks a question.
You know the answer, you suspect
you are the only one in the classroom
who knows the answer, because the person
in question is yourself, and on that
you are the greatest living authority,
but you don’t raise your hand.
You raise the top of your desk
and take out an apple.
You look out the window.
You don’t raise your hand and there is
some essential beauty in your fingers,
which aren’t even drumming, but lie
flat and peaceful.
The teacher repeats the question.
Outside the window, on an overhanging branch,
a robin is ruffling its feathers
and spring is in the air.

This poem is a poster that I place prominently in my classroom, to remind me, and to remind my students, that we all have something to share, yet if we don’t make that effort to speak out no one will know what we had to offer.

This poem has even greater meaning for me since I am now separated from my students and I am unable to hear their voices and we are unable to share our ideas with one another. Distance teaching provides learning, yet it’s in a vacuum since I am unable to interact with my students. They might be gaining knowledge through the lessons I send out to them; however, how are they receiving that knowledge, what it means to them is somewhat lost. Electronic response is not the same as seeing that hand raise and hearing their voice.

Yes, I miss being in the classroom. I miss my students.

Milestones


One aspect of ushering out the year of previous is reflection. The year of 2019 has been one of changes—some sad, some significant, and some ongoing.

Among these changes are milestones. A couple worth mentioning:

WordPress has informed me that I began my journey with them eight years ago. In dog years, which is somewhat equivalent to blog years, that would be nearly sixty years of contributing and sharing my thoughts with others. Thumbs up!👍🏻

Goodreads notified me that I’ve read 139 books for the year, up four from last year. And I should have 140 read by this weekend. Woo hoo! 👏

I applied for a part time librarian position at our local high school in 1999 and twenty years later I am in the classroom having become a certified English teacher, expounding on the merits of literature, language, and composition. Whew!😅

In 1992 Highlights for Children published a story of mine, “Marvin Composes a Tea.” It was awarded their Author of the Month and is the title-lead story in a Boyd’s Mills Press anthology. Although I thought my author career had started with a flourish, and I anticipated dozens of published books by now, twenty-seven years later my picture book Someday We Will: a book for grandparents and grandchildren was accepted by Beaming Books. A little later than expected, but happy nonetheless! 📚

And a very significant milestone is that my mother turns 93 at the end of 2019. Having survived Hitler’s war as a teenager in Germany, she has also survived cancer, a heart attack, and has buried three husbands, a son, two brothers, her parents, and keeps forging on. Yup, she’s feisty and tenacious of life. So happy birthday, Mom!🎊🎁🎉

I’m looking forward to 2020–difficult to avoid that 20/20 comparison of seeing life with a clear focus.

How about you, what milestones happened for you in 2019?

A Shout Out for Leisurely Reading


After Tuesday June 12th my door to summer vacation fully opened. “I have no definite plans,” is my reply when asked, “What are you doing over the summer?”

I don’t know what the reaction would be if I gave an honest answer. You see as a Book Booster, I love reading ❤️ with big hearts of appreciation for the absolute joy books bring.

Reading through my subscribed blogs, I hang out with a plethora of other WordPress bloggers who love reading also, such as littlemisswoodsreads. Scrolling through her reasons for reading, I added my own for why I love to read. It has to do with reconnecting.

Even though the majority of my day is interacting with my students, I do spend a considerable amount of time with the computer. Grading, emails, lesson plans, PPT lecture enhancements are all part of the day. By the time I get home I am wanting a break from screens and keyboards.

After a brief walk around the block to get my physical reboot, I head for my library book bag, grab a selection, and find a comfy chair. Reading helps my mind unwind.

After an hour or so I begin to feel back in alignment: my body is tuned from its walk, and my mind has gone through its paces with a chapter or three.

Reading, paper in hand, both stimulates and relaxes my brain after a day of working with the computer screen. Kindle doesn’t cut it since glass doesn’t stimulate connectivity to the brain. Good old paper in hand. A prescription for defragmentation of tech stress.

To celebrate my kick off to summer reading, I am rebooting my Book Boosters feature. Click on the link and connect with other readers, find that simpatico, discover new blogs, collect my TBRs. Add your name in comments if you want to join the list of fellow love-books-readers.

Oh I do love my summertime of leisurely reading.

How about you–what books do you find yourself reading during the summer? Do you have special places, special times set aside for reading?

April Rue


April has been described as the cruelest month, as one full of showers, and it is a month full of celebrations from April Fool’s Day to pretzels.

Most notably, at least for me, is how April is a month celebrating poetry in that it’s National Poetry Month. Usually I post a poem every day. Didn’t happen this year.

I also do a Shakespeare shout out on my blog. Sorry, Bill–happy belated 454. He did get a video acknowledgement in the school’s morning announcements.

I managed to celebrate Poem in a Pocket Day on April 26 by handing out poems to my students. Always a big hit. I just didn’t write about it.

I didn’t even read much this month. *sigh*

So what did I do this month?

A small pause and a reflection…

I taught in fits and starts. Mainly having fits about the difficulty of starting a unit, considering after we returned from spring break we had a week to prepare students for a week of state testing.

No, I am not going there.

I became so frustrated with not being able to teach without interruptions to the class schedule that I would go home and binge watch Doctor Who. I could have run to my usual standby of Haagen-Daz or chocolate, but I am trying to find non-caloric comfort food these days. The Doctor works.

Somewhat sad and pathetic I know.

But–

May is nipping around the calendar and that means AP winding down and diving into Julius Caesar.

I’m ready to spring into a new month.

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.

“Dead for a Ducat!”


Valentine’s Day and a Shakespeare sonnet–right?  How about Shakespeare and the play I love to teach? 

You’re  probably wondering why I chose such an unlovely line for my Valentine’s Day post. Not the most romantic, I know, or even the most notable line of Hamlet–yet it does have a purpose. When Hamlet exults at his stabbing of the “rat” behind the curtain, the play changes. Hamlet changes. There is no turning back. 

By the time you read this post I will be well immersed in teaching Hamlet to my APsters and they will either be all in happily sailing with understanding and enthusiasm or they will have abandoned ship and rowed to shore. I have found either my students love, love, love the Danish doings of the undecided prince or are ready to move on and far away from Shakespeare. I have to remember my enthusiasm for Shakespeare isn’t always as contagious as I hope it to be.

I think I over prepare in hopes of dazzling my students with background facts, nuances, allusions, critical thinker questions, clips, trivia–oh my, I probably absolutely overwhelm them. I got lost on YouTube finding a clip for my class. It was a fun little side trip. Shakespeare hits the late night talk shows easily. It’s true what Ben J. said–Shakespeare is for all time. Especially late at night time. Take a look:

So happy Valentine’s Day and I hope that lovely sonnet pops up on someone else’s post.

Fore Warned in My Musings…


Or this could be named: “Cricket Takes a Holiday”

(this is actually my second attempt at posting since the resort wifi is a bit tricky)

I will admit May is tough on teachers. Sure we get our free lunches, cards, and goody sacks on Teacher Appreciation day, but the rest of the year could use some boost and cheer as well. We are all a bit weary and the finish line is closer, yet not quite close enough.

If you are traisping over from my last post you understand I May *grin* be suffering from burnout. This is why I am on holiday. I took two of my hoarded personal holidays (we get three during the school year) and signed myself out for a four day weekend. Never mind it takes about three days to set up two days worth of lesson plans and I hope a sub can be found. I needed to get awaaaay. Yes, that is the sound of a teacher jubilating a happy sound as she pulls out from the parking lot Friday afternoon. And yes, there is a knapsack of ungraded papers I must deal with before I return to work on Wednesday.

The first two days of my retreat–wait, I need to digress…

Why call it a retreat, indicating I am running away from something when I am actually running toward what I embrace willingly without shame? There is honor is working in the trenches classroom. And maybe I am suffering from PTFSD (positively tired from student disconduct). 

Back…

The first two days were spent soaking up time with the hubs, who forbade any talk about school (good man), and soaking up the view, reading, sunning, and watching the swallows.

Our condo faces the fairway (have I got a story about nearly getting hit by a golfball–and I did have a forewarning, but not the yelled out kind) and is the flight path of the resident swallows. In fact, we share the roofline and they often sit near the rail, twittering and preening like tuxeodoed Woolworth parakeets. I love ’em. I left the robins home in the backyard. This is swallow country.

 

The third day finds me all by my lonesome. The hubs has returned home and I am told to “WRITE.” I have not been writing at home, being too (am)bushed from grading essays and creating lesson plans. This long weekend is meant to rejuvenate me enough to finish out the year and to get Something accomplished.

I have pulled up my Hamlet Choose Your Own Adventure manuscript. Not too much dust resting on it. I diligently worked on it all morning. I now have hit the wall. When that clock reads “1 PM” I have hit my creative capacity. I am not much good after sitting down four or five hours. I’m hungering for a walk. Either that or some chocolate. I better put on my shoes.

*update: I did both by stopping at the front desk to buy M&Ms to eat while I walked. Multitasking at its best.

 

 

Tis the Month of Maying


April brought showers, daffodils, moose eating tulips (again), a trip to see the First Folio, unprecedented warm temperatures, and a month of poetry. Now we are on to May.

May–yes, may I just say that May makes me tired, and we are barely five days into the month. As I write this it’s 3:30 a.m., about two hours too early to be so wide awake. My head is spinning with how much I need to do this month. May I just stop a moment and reflect what the month of May involves…

  • Complete the Victorian Era unit with my seniors, yet leave enough time for Modern and Post-Modern by end of this month
  • Post progress grades by 3 pm Thursday–today!
  • Create my unit exam
  • Figure out my second semester final
  • Create a meaningful series of activities for my AP students for the rest of the month now that they have taken their exam and are basically done with the class, yet still need to attend. Did someone say film appreciation unit?
  • Speak at the annual Women’s Tea talking about getting a “piece of quiet” which is based on my essay in Chicken Soup for the Multi-tasking Mom’s Soul (I should be nervous but I’m too worn out to be nervous–wait it’s next week? I am nervous)

(Survivor of the nefarious Tulip Moose)
Just thinking about my “get’r done” list makes me tired enough to maybe go back to sleep. May I, might I, may I get it done because all this is going through my head:

Tis is the month of maying:

  1. May I get my gradebook straightened out
  2. May I get my lesson plans written up
  3. May I win against my everlasting match with yard maintenance (Weeds 3, Cricket 1)
  4. May I get caught up on my book reviews
  5. May I get a month of blog posts going
  6. May I send off yet another volley of queries to editors and agents
  7. May I actually find time to pack for my escape weekend–that’s right, I’m taking two personal days and making a four day getaway. By doing so I may survive the outbreak of senioritis at our school.

May I just go back to sleep so that I’m not a zombie impersonating an English teacher… 

Shakesyear


This is a biggie for Shakespeare fans. This is the year we Bardinators celebrate the 400 years of the Bard’s influence since he left us in 1616. Usually I spotlight an author around this part of the month, but I plan I spotlighting Billy Bard every month this year as my personal salute to the guy who brought us plays like Hamlet, words like crocodile, and phrases such as “in a pickle.” So if you are not into Shakespeare plan on skipping my posties at the end of the month OR maybe I can convince you that Shakespeare is a big deal. You might want to skip down to the Shakespism video to see if you suffer from this malady.

I was fortunate enough to participate in the first Folger Summer Academy  in which thirty teachers from all over the USA came together and studied Hamlet for a week at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC. It was a WOW time–Wonderful, Oh Wonderful.

Being surrounded by Shakespeare scholars and being immersed in Shakespeare culture for an entire week fortified my appreciated for the legacy of the playwright/poet of Stratford.

An embarrassing confession: it’s only been a mere fifteen years since I discovered Shakespeare. There was no Shakespeare in my home, in my schools, nor did I encounter him during my college years. Sad and shocking, I know. It wasn’t until I became an English teacher and had to teach Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and Hamlet that I realized I had much to learn and I determined I had best make up for lost time.

As a celebration of  the Bard’s 400 years of influence the Folger Library is providing a first ever tour of Shakespeare’s First Folio. This is the book Shakespeare’s friends and colleagues put together after the Bard’s death and contains the thirty plus plays we associate with Shakespeare. I saw AND touched the Folio. Big ooooh factor. I also handled his lease for his Stratford house. Somehow that had more meaning because I know he actually touched that document. The folio is a more or less a tribute of his greatness, but he knew nothing about it.

However, I realize not everyone is wowed by William. Here are some videos that might help you overcome your Shakesfear or ennui of Bard Hoopla.

 

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