And now for something completely different…

15 04 2008

On this, my second day of Spring Break, I found myself in a situation that made me remember the very best version of myself in college. I was driving down Dean Ave with the windows down––it’s in the 50’s today in Auburn–and Jack Johnson blaring on my stereo (tracks 8 and 13 on his new album). I called one of my dearies from college who used to copilot with me on such outings that generally led to country drives way out Moore’s Mill Rd. and at least a half a pack of cigarettes on my end. Jack Johnson will always be the musical score to my Springtime.

As a result of my finally springing into Spring, I have begun my Spring shopping. For you, my friends, I have developed the Spring Enjoyment List––it might be better than the O List, but sadly, as I am an educator with a two year old, I cannot afford to give any freebies away. Instead, I will direct you to the websites where you might purchase them for yourself if you so choose.

10. Gardening gear

9. Timeless tumblers for a toddy or a sweet tea on the front porch

8. Pajama pants that you can be seen wearing in public

7. New place mats to brighten up our kitchen/dining room

6. A Corona with lime

5. A Springy wallet that doubles as a purse in Wasabi.

4. Jack Johnson: Sleep Through the Static

3. Nanette Lepore sling backs (These are still on my wish list, but they are oh-so beautiful!)

2. Votivo candle in Honeysuckle

1. New nail polish (and a pedicure to boot!)

Add to this list a brilliant novel that you’ve been putting off until you have “more time” (mine: The Amber Spyglass and The Year of Magical Thinking), a new handbag (preferably the one by Marc Jacobs that I was eyeing last weekend), and some fresh fruit, and you’re set to go.

Concrete Imagery

6 12 2007

Apparently, love is the favorite topic for 8th graders to write about. They write these really “deep” pieces about their feelings and bring them up to my desk with their chests puffed up, holding their breath. “Mrs. Reed, will you read this?” and then they throw the essay about what love is on my desk. It’s really hard to pretend like I haven’t read it before. It’s also really hard not to laugh. So, my challenge has been moving these kids away from cliché writing about abstract ideas toward using concrete images to illustrate their ideas.

So, we began our lesson today with Fergie’s song, “Glamorous.” It was really, really fun (to put it abstractly)! I had the kids write down all of the images they could find that illustrated the Dutchess’ notion of what glamorous is. Here are the ones we found: flying first class, champagne, diamond rings, having a chaperone, rims, selling records, driving a mustang, limousines, caviar, shopping for expensive things, having (a lot of) money in the bank, shoe fetish, trips to Rome, being on MTV, being on the movie screen, being on magazine covers, half a million (butter scones?).

After that, I took Emma Bolden’s genius lesson that she presented at Sun Belt this summer–we came up with images for the following abstract ideas: love, anger, sadness, frustration, patience, joy, peace, and hate. (They also were not allowed to use the words “good” or “bad” in their imagery.) Here are some of the images my students came up with:

LOVE: My husband doing the dishes before going to bed at night (mine), my daddy getting up at three a.m. to get me a mouth guard for basketball, Having all of your family around you, When your parents take you to Hollister and buy you an $80 pair of pants for no reason

ANGER: When you order a cheeseburger but you don’t get any meat or cheese, Getting kicked out of a good skate spot, the look on your face when you just found out your dad went through your phone

JOY: When the old woman in front of you speeds up, Getting a new skateboard, When a player on the other team catches a punt and runs it backwards to get a safety

PEACE: The forest, Sleeping during the rain, When your house is quiet because you tied your two sisters up with jump ropes and put one in the bath tub and one in the kitchen cabinet (once you get one tied up, it’s easy to get the other one)

PATIENCE: Waiting in the cold on the day after Thanksgiving Day sales, Trying to learn a new trick three weeks before a contest, My grandmother’s face when she’s cooking, When you’re sitting at the doctor’s office, Getting my hair braided, Waiting for your turn to play in the game, Waiting for an old lady to get up some steps

PEACE: Being surrounded by my family, The sound of rain on my roof at night, When me and my brother aren’t making the neighbors call the cops, The silence in your house when nobody’s there, WHen your softball coach quits blowing the whistle to run

HATE: SAT’s, Bad headache at school, When someone eats your food, Doing homework, When people drop wide open passes

FRUSTRATION: Stubbing your toe on a table while going to your room half asleep at 3 a.m., When you forget what you’re about to say, Not being able to figure out a problem on a math test, Sitting in Mrs. Reed’s class trying to think of something to write about, Sitting in a boring class, When your P.E. coaches make you run a mile when they’re the ones that need to run it

SADNESS: My cousin who I was tripping out with one day dying the next, Listening to people cry in a movie, When your coon dog gets bit by a rabid coon, When your 8 year old cat dies

The other night, Adam, Audra and I were watching The Actor’s Studio with John Cusack. He was talking about how 12 is like the Buddha age–when your perception of the world is clear and unjaded, but still mature enough to see how things work… Since my kids are 13 and 14, they’re really not too far off from that. I am always surprised by the maturity my kids show in their perceptions of the world around them. Yesterday, I had a student share a story about hanging out at her grandmother’s house (in a neighborhood where “all the crack heads live”) when she heard 2 gun shots. She watched the police bring the man out without his gun. In the end, they discovered that he had hidden the weapon in a cereal box. Another student (who is failing 3 of his core classes right now and who never really acts like he gives a rat’s ass about my class) wrote an essay entitled, “Bringing Back Sunday Night Dinner.” I think what makes this age so special is that they act like they’re “grown,” that I am often convinced that they are (as when I have to remind them that I am the adult here!) so it’s easy to forget that these kids still have the souls of children… and perhaps so do we.

Fear Itself

19 10 2007


On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points. ~Virginia Woolf

Fear is the mother of morality. ~Nietzsche

This week, my students are conducting research on scary stories. We were writing personal narratives, but they were getting stale and boring, so I decided to spice things up a bit with an internet scavenger hunt about various “scary” people like the real Dracula (Vlad the Impaler), Bloody Mary, and some scary story writers that the students are a bit more familiar with. Today, they’re watching Rear Window. I decided to introduce them to the classics, since they believe that in order for a movie to be scary, it must be full of blood, exposed bone marrow, and chopped up women. So we’re studying the trajectory of scary stories… where do they come from? what are the conventions of a scary story? what kinds of scary stories are there? how do writers build suspense? what signals can we give to reader to let them know that something bad is about to happen?

This approach to getting the kids involved in the research that all real writers do has been a lot of fun. I won’t know how successful it has been until we actually begin writing. If anyone has any ideas or materials to suggest for this unit, I would appreciate it.

All Songs Considered

21 09 2007

For those of you who, like me, do not have time to discover new sounds, this website is TEH awesome. NPR’s All Songs Considered gives you eclectic lists of musicians new and old that may not be frequenting your air waves. It even lets you listen to a song or two from each group. Check it out this weekend if you have some time. Or, if you’re slacking at work this Friday morning, check it out now!