Category Archives: Teaching


I’ve got to find a better way to make crossword puzzles, because using inDesign to piece them together by hand is not cutting it. I had my Hamlet crossword designed in about half an hour. It took me the better end of six hours to build the bloody thing with inDesign.

On the up side, at least it’s done. The other things I have to create for this unit are much more straightforward and shouldn’t take nearly as long.


Small success

I wish I’d had the camera with me in class yesterday.

I wasn’t in the mood to grade papers this weekend, so instead of a writing assignment, the kids’ bell work for yesterday was to take the giant magnetic poetry kit we’ve been developing and work together to write an original poem. I was prepared for the whole thing to degenerate into insane, pointless chaos, but the kids surprised me. Highlights from one class:

Five or six kids immediately grabbed the kit and gathered around the big tables in the center of the room to create a poem.

One boy — who usually doesn’t participate much — wasn’t keen on the idea of poetry-by-committee, so he and another kid took some of the cards and began making their own poem. His friend eventually lost interest and went to see what everybody else was doing, but this boy kept working diligently on his own.

Another boy got sidetracked by the new bulletin board I’d put up, which features an enlarged-and-laminated version of that Calvin and Hobbes comic strip where the food recites a soliloquy from Hamlet. This boy stood looking at the board for a long time. You know I wasn’t about to stop him. If I had more time on my hands, I’d turn the whole freakin’ play into a comic book. Maybe this summer….

A girl wasn’t interested in the poetry project, but she was completely engrossed in a novel she was reading. I didn’t have the heart to tell her she couldn’t read a novel in English class, so I just let her keep going.

Three kids were just straight-up goofing off, but that’s actually lower than the usual goof-off rate for that group.

I am learning again. I’ve always been leery of group work, because it seems like the kids spend a lot of time dinking around instead of working, but on those few occasions when I’ve let the kids work on their own, they’ve surprised me. The classroom feels chaotic, but when I call time, I’m always vaguely shocked by the amount of work the kids have managed to produce. I have to remember that this is not about what’s comfortable for me. It’s about what reaches the kids. If organized chaos works for them, how can I say no to it?

On an unrelated note, I went to see the kids play basketball last night. I am pleased to report that the JV girls, JV boys, varsity girls, and varsity boys all won their games handily. Go Warriors!

Next up: Rustle up some breakfast, spend the morning hanging Christmas lights at the Chamber of Commerce office with Ron and Zaphod and some of my National Honor Society kids, and then devote the afternoon to planning the details of my Hamlet unit, which starts after Thanksgiving.

Hope your weekend is good.




Mom sent me pictures of Hazel today. I like this one best.

Grace has more on her blog.

I’ll get to meet her (and shoot a ridiculous number of photos of her) over Thanksgiving break. I can’t wait to see Jamie’s reaction to his new cousin. The gap between him and Hazel is just a little bit longer than the gap between Grace and Oliver. Somewhere, Mom has a great photo of a very excited Grace, age 20 months, getting to hold her baby brother. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that those tiny kids are old enough to have kids of their own. It doesn’t seem like it’s been long enough.

In other news, during a faculty meeting this morning, we saw a couple of videos about how kids process information today and why they have absolutely no interest in most of what we do in class. I came out of the meeting with a couple of ideas to make things more relevant for them, one of which involved buying a Webcam so I can Podcast my lessons from time to time. We’ll see how that goes….



I wish I had something brilliant and thought-provoking to share today, but I really don’t. The past two days have been cold and gray. Yesterday, the kids were goofy. Today, they just wanted to sleep. Bless their hearts, I felt their pain.

Funny moment: A student critiqued my wardrobe (usually Dockers and polo shirts) today. She says I need to “dress more ladylike.” I hadn’t noticed this until she pointed it out, but the only teachers who wear Dockers and polos all the time are guys. The women mostly dress like bank tellers.

Bless her heart, this poor kid would probably be scandalized if she knew that the only reason I carry a purse is to have a convenient place to stash a can of WD-40 and a tape measure….