Saturday, March 31, 2012

National Board Portfolio Done-- Whew!

I don't think it's quite sunk in, yet, the completion of (probably) around 300 hours of work on my National Board of Professional Teaching Standards portfolio, but the thing is in the mail, and it is finished.
Me and "The Box"
Besides exhaustion, I'm experiencing waves of gratitude, toward my husband, my students, my family, my colleagues, my friends, our coaches, and my fellow candidates. I have always been incredibly lucky to have people in my life who supported me in my goals, as obsessive and single-minded as I can sometimes get with them, and as random as they can sometimes be. But this goal wasn't random. I have been waiting for the right year to pursue National Board certification, and I can't be sure if I will achieve it, but I know I picked the right year to be supported in my efforts. Although we haven't edited each others' work, it has been uplifting to know that four colleagues at my same school took on the challenge alongside me, and that 39 of us in our district were on the same journey together.

And we had the most professional support from the Arizona K12 Center. The coaches, precandidacy course, the summer institute, the retreats, the coaching Saturdays... I have never been treated so much like a professional or given so much of what I needed, down to good coffee and endless supplies of mechanical pencils and excellent highlighters.

Thanks to TUSD as well for financial and personnel support.

I don't know how people did it on their own. I suppose I look at these early-achievers kind of like the pioneer women. You know, when I'm having a bad day with my kids, I think "If I was a frontier woman, I'd be hauling water to scrub my change of undies in a wooden bucket." And, hey, these little strategies help. When I thought about all the training and feedback and material comforts we've been given, it bolstered my resolve not to procrastinate.

In fact, I have done the most non-procrastination ever, and I am so glad that I did. Because this is not something that can be thrown together in a few days. Even digesting the structure of the portfolio has to be eased into... and then to get anything out of the reflection, the entries need to be deeply planned and thought through before any real writing begins. I give myself a huge pat on the back for remaining organized throughout, in my notebooks, on my computer and googledocs... anyone who knows me knows this is a huge accomplishment on its own. And it saved my behind... maybe. We'll see if I certify. But I can say wholeheartedly that the portfolio represents my most sincere efforts with my students, and the best of my writing and thinking. 

A written exam still awaits me in April (6 essays).  Hopefully a good night's sleep awaits me tonight.  A thousand thanks to all of you who have helped me.  I hope I am able to repay the favor!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Of F-Bombs and Freedoms

So, all year my creative writing class and I have been going around and around about the ubiquitous (well, not ubiquitous, but almost daily by a small handful of students) f-bombs and other expletives hurled during sharing time.  The "bad" language is not being used to bully other students or put anyone down.  It's usually just pure expressionism, anger and frustration expressed about human hypocrisy and the breakdown of policy, reasoning, common sense, respect or kindness.  It doesn't personally bother me, but as a professional in a public school, and as a teacher of (ideally) good writing, I must pause and consider the cost/benefit of allowing such liberties.

Classmates have privately and openly asked these students to tone down the use of "fuck."  I don't think they necessarily are offended by a single use of the word; they just seem tired of the daily barrage.  So I outlawed it for a few weeks, just as a little break, since we're all "forced" to be in that room together.  But it spontaneously came back. If Jurassic Park has taught us nothing else, it is that chaos will always find a way.

Well, now it turns out that in this era of accountability, and creating "college and career readiness" in my students, I can support my practice of permissiveness.  Check out this article which cites a study that shows that dropping a few f-bombs in the workplace lowers stress and increases group solidarity.  In terms of reducing jihadist threats, vandalism and off-task behavior, group solidarity has to be at the top of the list of school priorities.  Why else have pep rallies?   

In celebration of my newfound classroom liberalism, I offer my favorite literary manifestation of f-word frivolity and other crassness, David Sedaris's essay "You Can't Kill the Rooster" published in (I'm pretty sure...) Me Talk Pretty One Day.

Wordle: Untitled Click image to link to my highly intellectual wordle.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Atomic Cafe: A Must-See Documentary

When I used to co-teach American Studies with a history teacher, we used The Atomic Cafe each year.  I think it should be required viewing for every American, especially those of us who did not live through the fifties.  It exposes the popular culture and governmental propaganda that created, exploited and simultaneously purported to be trying to allay communist and atomic fears.  The combination of vintage images, audio and video work together to create biting satire on the era.  Its lessons are lasting.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Growing in our wash

Poppies?  And not the golden Arizona poppy that carpets the desert this time of year, my favorite alongside the lupine, its usual companion...  Where am I?  Arroyo Chico or the French countryside?  If I'm going to have an invasive species in my neighborhood wash, I'll take this one any day.

Dad just emailed saying they are ranunculus, but I don't know... this image and this one and this and also this one make me think poppies.  Look at the green closed heads drooping on the stems.  And I think the greenery is poppy-like.  But I can't find any info on the internet about people confusing the two.  And I could be wrong.

I remember riding on the train from the Paris airport to the Eiffel tower, where I was supposed to meet my friend Diana.  Out the window, I saw my first red poppies, and even in what I'm sure was a Paris suburbia, I felt I had been swept into a Monet.  I grew up in California and Arizona, where poppies are orange-gold, and fragile, spidery, momentary, even more ephemeral than those red flags of remembrance and passionate Rorschachs of impressionism that I saw outside that train window. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

"The Relationship School" NYT Opinion: School Reform

Check out this article. 

No time to write more, now.  But it sounds like a very humane environment for kids, with high standards and less bureaucracy.

Passive Voice

Passive Voice

These intentions of yours are
confounded when they are
inverted into the passive.

Power once wielded
by poet becomes
toy: The sins that are
the crimes that are
wrought, any repentance,
the concept thought.

The subject is
sought. What subjection
of the reader is
imposed in the name
of what?

A labyrinth of
folded statements is
wound to
the cliff’s sheer edge,
crumbs consumed by
reader who by
her guesses must be

When the codec is
omitted the reader is
left hovering midair
a caricature
grasping back
for the last blind purchase

the subject a blankness
flung from
the sentence’s ledge

I am finding this year that writing is like stirring a pot that has settled.  You can't just stir the top half of the pot with that big wooden spoon, but all the contents that have settled at the bottom come whirling around with it.  So I sit this morning to begin working on my National Board portfolio for the day, and what comes up but a poem.  I'm sure it can still use some revision, but it's got potential.  Feedback welcomed. 
This happens a lot for me while I am grading papers, and it also happened during NaNoWriMo.  Have a good weekend, everyone, and send good writing/ revising vibes my way.  Good thoughts, prayers, lit candles, encouraging e-mails.  None of it can hurt!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Things My Kids Want to Know

Kindergartner:  "Mom, why do all the basketball players have, like, hair in their armpits?"

Third Grader:  "Hey, Mom, do you think that when you grow up and have hair in your armpits you can still make armpit farts? Because it's kind of like doing it over your shirt.  It's really hard that way because your shirt kind of, like, gets in the way of the sound."

It's time for me to be grading papers.  So, you know, that means time for a quick blog entry.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Daffodils in the Pickle Jar

I'm grading, reading student course reflections on writing, and the scent of flowers wanders by.  I can't remember where it came from, that half-scent of sweet and half-vegetable succulent green air. 

I look up and remember the handful of closed daffodil stems I picked up at the grocery store when I needed to pull cash and had to buy something and didn't want any chewing gum, candy or magazines.  Stacks of boxes of daffodil stems stood by the doorway. 

And now, every single stem of them is open, full and yellow, bursting pert yellow stars with slender green tongues inside; the water in the pickle jar with the half-torn label refracts and magnifies the firm stalks, the papery shells that held the folded flowers pushed back at their necks like futuristic-shaped starched Elizabethan collars. 

In a few days that faint plumpness in the petals will fade, and the whole flower become frozen withered tissue.  The water will turn fetid.  But for now, what a surprising respite from the work of the day.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Blargh! NBC Writing Process

Warning.  Pure ventage ahead.  Potentially little to no intellectual value. 

I cannot believe how long each little part of my National Board portfolio takes. 

I finished Entry 4 today (Professional Accomplishments) except for one verification form, but I swear it took me at least four to five hours total just to screen-shot, scan, format, label, print, put in order, etc., all the documentation for the five accomplishments, plus chasing down people to sign verification forms.  Thank goodness I ran into my old student teacher at Ike's one day.  That time does not even include the three dozen or so hours (at least) I spent evaluating, planning and writing up my description and analysis and reflection on each accomplishment (at least two accomplishments I had written about got completely chopped out.)  This is one of those tasks where, by the time you're done with it, you actually know what you're doing, but then it's done.  

Now I'm working on Entry 2.  I've already spent two hours today alone editing my written commentary for conciseness, trying to get 14 pages down to about 10 so I can add more reflection and end up with 11. I probably spent two hours last week writing and then paring down my descriptions of my instructional materials for this entry to get them onto one page.  Then I go to double check the formatting and find a post-it I wrote MONTHS ago, and a small footnote on the cover sheet that says I get a page PER ITEM to describe the materials and relate them to the video.  BLARGHY!   

By the time I get to the reflective writing, I feel incapable.  I mean, I have plenty to say (always) but is it the most intelligent distillation of all I have learned about teaching by analyzing my practice?  Hmm.  I can't guarantee that.  I have a feeling that if there is extra time at the end, I'll be pulling out all my reflections on each entry and rewriting them.  But at this rate, I've just got to capture whatever intelligence might be lurking in my 1" margin-Times-New-Roman-size-12-font-page-numbered-candidate-numbered consciousness and get it into the right page length.  And hope there is a tiny bit of time to regroup at the very end.

Monday, March 5, 2012

More... Haiku! Gesundheit.

“Flower” she says
a yelllow weed
with dandelion leaves

cactus or succulent?
how sharply
do they bite the hand?

Mesquite so generous
of shade fickly hides
throngs of thorns

the path wanders
the same way
every afternoon