Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Looking forward to the next semester

I am excited about this new semester. My intermediate reading students will be reading two books by Thomas Merton about the Psalms. We are going to have a class blog where we will post summaries of the reading we have done, daily class logs, and whatever else I come up with. I am going to require posts to the blog instead of having them type the same information up and print it out. I am also going to require comments. I haven't worked out all the details yet, but I am on my way!

My advanced writers, if I have any, will also blog. I haven't quite figured out how. I think I will move some of their journaling to the blog. We will also be reading a novel, and I may track their progress on it through the blog. I obviously have a lot of thinking to do on this class still!

Last semester's blogging was good in that it acquainted the students with the concept and with blogger. But that is about all it did for them. They never really got blogging. My goal this semester is to help them/us build a sense of community on a class blog. If they achieve that, they will be much, much closer to understanding what blogging really is and what it can do for them. I will be extremely happy if we get to that point!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

What do you want your kid to do?

As the mother of an 18 yr old who is occasionally trying to find some direction in his life, I really appreciated Kathy Sierra's post about career advice. I am so sad to see the number of kids who feel at 14 or even 18 that they have to know exactly what they want to do when they are 40!

Only one of my three children knew what they wanted to do by 18 or so. And even she has altered the picture somewhat. (She is a nurse.) Her sister at that age wanted to be a doctor one day and a diesel mechanic the next. She designed her own Bachelor's degree in "Sustainable Communities" and then decided she didn't want to work with non-profits. At 24 she decided she wanted to go to law school. Since starting law school she has become less sure about the kind of law she wants to practice. And my son? He may want to be a game designer or a chef or a librarian. Or something else.

Kathy says:
The advice I would give ... is that the most important preparation skills/orientations today are:

* Creativity

* Flexibility

* Resourcefulness

* Synthesis

* Metacognition (thinking about thinking)

I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher. I guess I was lucky. Or maybe just not brave enough to think outside the box. But in my life I have had to be creative and flexible and resourceful. In addition to teaching a variety of subjects Pre-K through college , I have also worked as a bookkeeper, a nursing assistant, a mental health technician, an egg handler, a health club receptionist, a drug store cashier, and probably a few other things I can't remember right now. Right now I am teaching at a college. But what will I be doing in 10 years? Who knows?

As Kathy says, this isn't the the world of the parents of the 1950s, the world of my parents. We need to encourage our kids -- and ourselves -- to take Kathy's advice.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

As the semester comes to a close...

I find myself trying to see what actually transpired in my classroom. It hasn't been a particularly stellar semester, but I am trying to not get bogged down in the negative. I am looking for some of the good and trying to figure out how to improve the rest.

I didn't give my students a fair shot a blogging this semester. It was complicated by switching blog providers mid-semester. But I just never managed to convey my enthusiasm for blogging to my students. But you know, I never really shared my blog with them, either. Maybe I will set up a class blog for the next semester. Maybe participating in it together will help them see the communal nature of blogging more easily.

I haven't worked this out in my mind yet, of course. As a matter of fact, the idea just came to me now as I was writing. But I can see advantages.

Mostly, though, I have to work on setting it up so they will want to blog. I have to help them see the value in it. I didn't achieve that goal this semester. Hope I do better next time!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

What is wrong with us?

If you read the Washington Post report on the student who was expelled for answering a question in Spanish, I hope you are asking yourself that question.

I can see encouraging students who are learning English to speak the language, but this kid was bilingual. What harm does it do? We should be praising him for being able to speak two languages. But instead, we expel him.

This is old thinking. Native Americans used to be punished for speaking their languages in school. Mexican Americans were often punished for the same thing. But that was 30 or more years ago. Have we really learned nothing?

Check out the article if you haven't yet.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

But I am grateful for so many things.

The last post was very depressing, and it is important that you know that most of the time everything is pretty good and I am doing pretty well. The problems we have here are minor compared to what people in many parts of the world experience on a daily basis. I have no real right to complain!

I am grateful for the fact that, even though it is maddening slow, there is progress. Things are improving. Everyone that I know personally is OK. Some have lost their jobs; others have lost their homes; a few have lost both. But they are alive. That is a blessing. My family and I have a place to live and jobs to go to. Everything else is really pretty trivial!

I am also grateful to the many friends from around the world who have taken time to write to me or to leave comments here since Katrina. It is nice to know that people I have never met face to face care enough to send a good word or ask a caring question. Part of the difficulty for us in this recovery process is that everyone around us is in the same boat or worse. There is no one here who can really lend a hand or even an ear because everyone has their own situation to deal with. So you are all especially important to me right now.

I hope to get back to blogging on a regular basis. It is important to me. Thank you for reading and sharing.

To give you an idea of what we live with still...

People are always asking me if life here is back to normal yet. Surely, here on the north side of the lake where there was not as much devastation as in New Orleans, things are back to normal! Well, it is 8:35 am. Let me tell you about my day so far.

I got up and got ready for work. I live about 3 miles from the college where I teach, and the trip takes me 5-7 minutes. Well, I was about 2 minutes from work, on River Road, the little road the college is on, when I saw up ahead a lot of trucks and a big machine moving debris from the side of the road and loading it into the truck. There was no warning. They were just there. There were a number of other vehicles lined up along the road in front of me, but they were all trucks of workers involved in the project. I waited a couple minutes, but as there was no workman on my side of the work, no one knew I was there. Now, I have waited as much as 15 minutes for these guys to finish loading a truck before they let cars pass. I have also waited 15 minutes and still not seen any sign that they were going to let cars pass, so I have turned around and gone another way. I chose to leave after just a couple minutes today because it was pretty obvious they had a long ways to go before the truck would be filled. So I backed up, turned around and went back towards home. I had to wait a couple minutes to get back onto the highway because of all the traffic. Finally I was able to get on the highway and get to an alternate way to get to school. Everything was going well. I got back to River Road the college was on, or almost to it, when I saw a big truck -- a semi tractor pulling probably a 30 foot trailer that was built up to carry storm debris. I was on River Road and wanted to turn onto the road I was on. Now, you have to understand that these are not real roads. Two cars can pass on them, but there is no shoulder, so passing a truck that big requires caution. I waited and let the truck begin his turn -- because he gave no sign of waiting for me to do anything else. The turn is not a normal 90 degree turn but, from the side he was on, probably about 75 degrees. And there is, of course, a power pole right on the corner. He could not make it in one try or even two or even three. Finally, he recognized the fact that the truck would have to be perfectly positioned on River Road before it could hope to turn onto the smaller road I was on. So he played around and got the truck back on River Road. After a bit longer, he backed up enough to clear the intersection, and I was finally able to turn onto River Road and get to work. All this took about 30 minutes.

So, while I now have Internet at home, life is hardly normal. Or at least I hope this isn't normal. I am really tired of it. In all honesty, I think they should declare a moratorium on debris pick-up over here. That would help me get back to normal more than having all the debris picked up will. This formerly heavily wooded area will never be back to normal in my lifetime. All we can do is try to make life as easy on us as it can be.

Sometimes I think people who have evacuated feel that they are suffering more than those of us who are here now are. They feel a loss of community and experience a lot of nostalgia for how things used to be. They do not, however, have to deal with the fact that nothing works yet. Nothing. We may have the basic services, but we don't get the bills on time or we don't get them at all or they are totally wrong. Everything is a battle.

I didn't sleep well last night, and that may account for some of this, but my tiredness is deeper than lack of a good night's sleep. I am tired of the struggle that life here is now.

My friend Melanie wrote
I wish I could remember being light-hearted and happy, feeling attractive, being fun and flirtatious. I've gotten so old-hearted lately. I've lost my mirth. And I don't know how to retrieve it. Is innocence and joy ruined?
I understand completely. There is a heaviness in all of us that doesn't seem to want to go away.

So this is my life for now. I don't expect you to really be able to understand because I don't even, really. But I wanted to try to explain anyway. Thanks for listening.