The weather this week has been absolutely gorgeous! While we often experience two or three consecutive days of nice weather every once in a while, Kansas is known for its excessive heat, bitter cold, and torrential rains. This week has been sunny, high in the 70s, with light breezes that provide that perfect fall nip in the air. Yesterday we took advantage of the fallish temperatures and went to the pumpkin patch - a former annual activity that we have not done in the past five years. "Ron and Hermione" joined us and had a good time selecting a pair pumpkins for painting. Today Geoff and I may try to visit an apple orchard about an hour away and take advantage of a few more photo ops while the natural elements are cooperating. The changing of the leaves has only just begun here - so this may require more than one excursion.
On the teaching front, classes continue to progress on or close to schedule. The 9th graders have just started Fahrenheit 451 and I am looking forward (hopefully) to some great class discussions. I had them research various topics as a pre-read activity so they are aware of the available technology in the early 1950s. Some are fascinated at Ray Bradbury's ability to imagine the futuristic world with such amazing accuracy. This class is also finishing a Fictional Memory assignment (they brainstormed memories from ages 1-4; 5-10; 11-15 - and then selected one in which to write a fictional narrative). The final drafts are due on Wednesday and we will begin a read-around session where all stories are read aloud and constructive criticism is shared. I very much look forward to reading these imaginative essays - I dread grading them. It is so difficult to try to quantify a rather subjective assignment.
The 7th grade class is reading Tuck Everlasting and starting to work on their fractured fairy tales. They selected a topic on Friday and will be outlining the story next week. The most clever idea I heard this year is a retelling of Rapunzel where Rapunzel is a prince with a long beard being rescued by a princess. Should be fun!
The 8th grade grammar class has just taken their first major exam (fairly decent results) and started reading and interpreting Act I scene i of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Out of the 18 students in the class, I would say half are really excited about this unit. They come to class with their books asking if we will have a chance to do Shakespeare. I am hoping that their enthusiasm begins to rub off on those are less excited about the Bard. Tomorrow each group (there are a total of three) will perform their interpretation of this scene and then we will give constructive criticism. I am looking forward to that.
The creative writing class continues to develop story ideas. These students are a lot of fun, but I do worry if some will be able to focus long enough to actually complete the 12-chapter novel. I decided to implement a system of rewards. If we complete the necessary worksheets between now and October 21, then I will take them on a field trip to the mall where we can do some character studies: people watch and take notes; listen to conversations to help form character dialog; create story ideas from various "characters" we notice. So far this has worked well.
English Composition continues to be the most challenging class for me - and the most fun. The students have just finished their persuasive essay and we are in the midst of group edits. The topics chosen have been rather controversial (which I tried to ensure) and has yielded some lively conversation. Students are learning that all facts and no emotion can make for a rather dull paper --- but all passion and no statistics raises questions in the mind of the reader. I think (hope) this has been a good unit of study for all.
As you can see, these classes, with two sessions of English 1 and two sessions of Grammar, definitely keep me busy Sunday - Friday.
I continue to add more interests to my life and struggle to find the time to focus on any of them. This weekend I took the time to focus on photography - if just for a few minutes. I am hoping that I can find some time here and there throughout the week to capture the changing leaves and reflect on the similarities of my own changing season of life.
J. Kaye, Vivienne, and Amanda as they prepare for NaNoWriMo in November. I think the first time I "read" of this event was last year when Belle participated, and I was incredulous that anyone could possible write a novel in 30 days! Since that time I have read numerous books on writing, including No Plot, No Problem, and I have daydreamed of joining the thousands of online participants. While I truly do not think that this is the right time in life for me to do this (all that grading you know.....) I have taken the step to at least register my name on the site and join the regional group. Did you know that there are currently over 800 people in the greater Kansas City area registered?! That is insane - and wonderfully comforting to know that so many other aspiring writers are in such close proximity.
What pushed me over the edge to actually sign up was the writing inspiration I received on Friday. For months now I have had these two story ideas: one idea is a book, similar to the Christmas Cookie Club, where a group of female friends have gathered together for a Stitch Group. The book would be a reunion meeting - since the group itself dissolved several years prior. Each chapter of the book would focus on one of the members' lives - and how much has changed, as well as stayed the same, in that intervening time period. While this is loosely based on true events in my life - the story itself would be primarily fiction.
The other story idea is one that focuses on the sandwich generation --- those women who are still raising their own children and yet are now responsible for taking care of their aging parents. I don't think this has been discussed much in literature, but it is a real-life situation that will become more and more prevalent as the baby-boomers enter the geriatric stage of life. Again, this is a subject that rings close to home, but I have some ideas that fictionalize the characters and events, but keep the truth of the subject in tact.
On Friday I realized that these two ideas can (possibly) be married into one story. The over-arching story is the one of the sandwich generation - and in her search to find herself in the midst of all the care giving she decides to organize a reunion of the Stitch Group - that same group of friends who were so supportive and necessary to her life when she was a young mother. In this process she discovers women need that female fellowship - but that we can never return to the past, we must always move on towards the future.
Anyway, that is the idea in a nutshell and I have grand hopes of trying to write it one day. Perhaps that day will begin on November 1, 2010 --- or perhaps it will begin much later in life.
I continue to wallow in a reading slump. I flit and float from book to book, never finishing more than a chapter. I don't know what is wrong with me! I love the RIP challenge and have looked forward to it since last November - and yet I have not finished a single book. I have started reading The Happiness Project, but only manage a few pages a night before I turn out the light. I have skimmed through several books on writing and journaling, but I am now finding that much of the information I have already read, it is just time to put into practice.
So that leaves me in a dilemma: Do I sign up for the Read-athon or not? I absolutely LOVE the read-athon and have participated in three previous ones. I even scheduled my classes so that I would not have mandatory papers to grade that weekend and I could devote quite a bit of time to reading (and cheering and blogging). On the one hand I think perhaps the read-athon would help me get out of this funk. There is something contagious about being a part of a "competitive" group activity, and perhaps that social element would help me to overcome my general malaise. On the other hand, I do not need another unfinished project in my life -- that would be too depressing. I suppose I will wait a few more days to make that decision. If I decide to participate, then I will definitely use the time to read some wonderfully horrific and thrilling novels for Carl's challenge. That should put me in a great Halloween mood!
How about you? Do you plan to participate in the read-athon this weekend? If so, please feel free to share what books you plan to read - what snacks you plan to serve - and what strategies you plan to follow.
Well, I did not intend this post to be a novella. I hope that the bold-faced sections allowed you to skip the uninteresting parts and that the length did not scare you away.