Sunday, April 18, 2010

TSS: 4.18.10

I realize my blog posts have been rather scanty this week, but I have tried to keep up with my blog roll and have thoroughly enjoyed all your bookish thoughts.  I am in the final month of school (actually, our last day is May 14, so we have 3 weeks of classes + 1 week of finals, but who's counting?!), and that means lots of final projects to grade and last minute review sessions.  Here is a sampling of what I accomplished this week:

British Literature:  finished review of Tale of Two Cities, gave the exam on Wednesday, and graded all 33 exams by Wednesday night.  While I normally try to keep up with my grading, I felt that I owed the students to have these papers marked in a timely fashion.  See, on their own, they set up a Study Group on Facebook entitled "The Jacques"  I was not allowed to join until after the test - but I was SO impressed with these 12-15 students.  There was NO negativity posted on this site.  All students contributed in a meaningful way either by posting chapter summaries - significant quotes - ideas for essay questions, etc.  This was truly a highlight of my teaching career and it was a pleasure to grade their papers (which they signed as Jacques #____ and I had to use the website to discover the real identity).

This class is now giving oral reports on the author/work of their 4 month research paper that they turned in on Monday.  Class time is a pleasure for me, as all I have to do is sit back and learn - but grading these 33 papers (on average, 10 pages each) is not a favorite past time.  My goal is to grade 12 a week and in 3 weeks, when the semester is ended as well as oral reports, I will be done.

9th Grade English:  we are working on a journalism unit and each week students are turning in a new article for grading (last week's articles were rather haphazard with little detail, so hopefully the next two weeks will show an increase in quality).  The final week of school students will spend in the computer lab trying to design their own "newspaper" that includes these articles, as well as photos, graphics, filler games, etc.  They will turn in the final paper on the day they take the literature final -- and they will earn extra credit points if they bring in a copy of their paper for each student in the class.  I am hoping this will be a fun way to end the school year, as this class has been my most challenging of all!

8th Grade English:  we are beginning to study for the required grammar test which is worth 330 points and must be passed at an 80% proficiency rate.  I think I have instilled enough fear in these kids (NONE of them want to retake the class) that this should be a productive week.  They are also finalizing the production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which will be performed on Thursday night, May 6.  Students had to bring in their costumes on Friday and I must say they are VERY well done.  I am very much looking forward to this show-stopping event!

7th Grade English:  these students took the Hobbit exam on Monday - and that has been graded and returned.  We finish the year with a mystery unit --- reading Encyclopedia Brown (to learn how to construct a mystery) and Sherlock Holmes, and then students will be writing their own mystery.  This is always a highlight of the year and it manages to keep these young, active students somewhat engaged.

Extra responsibilities:  this week I "gave" two days of my time (3 hours each day) to offer additional review for the grammar test that all new students, as well as current 8th grade students, must pass.  This week I will have to give two more days to actually administer the test to new students and then grade it.  I will also be doing this same review/test session in June and then once again in August when I return from Europe.  This required course is an effort to ensure that all our students have the necessary training to write a well-constructed, understandable paper when they graduate from our school.

In addition, I have learned that I will also be the teacher for the new dual-credit English Composition course being offered in the fall.  While this extra work-load will be draining (I will be teaching 9 different classes each week next year!) - I must admit that I am very excited to be teaching a college level course.  This is the reason why I enrolled in the Master's program, and it is my hope to add more college level courses to my resume as time goes on.

Finally, I have been spending all my free time (not that there is a lot of it lately) doing "research" for my novel idea.  I know that I have mentioned the creative writing course that I will be teaching next year, and I very much want to try to follow the curriculum along with the students.  This states that we must write a 12 chapter novel, from the protagonist's point of view.  The novel is supposed to be an adventure novel - something that I struggle with.  I do not like "adventure" books and find that I much prefer a character drive/theme driven narrative.  To that end, I may have to modify my writing project just a bit (but isn't that the prerogative of the instructor?!)

Without giving too much away, my story idea involves the time travel of a high school girl from the Musee d'Orsay in 2010 back to Paris, France circa 1880.  She meets Mary Cassatt (I needed an Impressionist who spoke English) and becomes a part of the lives of these "revolutionary" artists of the time.  Since the artistic subjects for their paintings included every day life, I think that my protagonist could learn a bit about the role of working class women, which would give her perspective and appreciation of her own life.  While her primary adventure would be to find her way back to the present time, I know that these artists painted cafe-concerts, circus stars, horse races, and the ballet --- all places of interest that could easily lend itself to an episodic adventure story-within-the-story.  Ultimately I envision her modeling for one of the paintings that is found at the Musee and that is how she returns to the present time.  The unanswered question at the end will be whether this truly happened - or whether she just daydreamed the adventure (similar to the Wizard of Oz or A Midsummer Night's Dream).

Anyway, I have been researching Degas and Cassatt all week and feel as though I probably know enough at this point to begin developing this fictional idea.  I have to keep reminding myself that this is not an expository piece, but rather an imaginary story which will allow for inaccuracies as long as they are believable (or at least I hope that is the case).

I am still behind on writing book reviews, and at this point I am just not sure that I have it in me to do a thorough job.  Sometimes I feel as though I talk enough about the books while reading them, that I have nothing new to add once I finish. Do you ever feel that way?

I hope the spring weather has arrived for all of you and you are able to take advantage of some outdoor activities this weekend.


  1. Who isn't behind in reviews? My problem is that if I wait too long I don't remember the book well enough to write a thoughtful review.

    How exciting to be almost done with the school year.

  2. Molly, I must say that I wish you were my English teacher in school! What fun (and yet demanding) assignments you give. I hope your students realize just how lucky they are to have someone who cares so much about their progress!

    Good luck in your last remaining month of school!

  3. ooh a time travel novel, I can't wait to hear you have finished it and sold it for millions.

    You sound like such an inspirational teacher, I wish I had been taught by someone like you.

    Why does school break up so early and when do you go back? We don't finish the school year until mid July.

  4. Oh my God. No wonder you're behind in your reviews. I'm a total slacker by comparison.

    Can I be in your class?

  5. I wish someone as creative as you had been teaching when I was in junior high/high school!

    Love your story idea. Time traveling is intriguing on its own, but having the protagonist visit a time that will hopefully inform her own life...very exciting.

    Here's my salon:

  6. Wow, you've got a lot going on! Glad to hear the school year is almost done for you.

    I love your story idea. Can't wait to read it! :-)

  7. I'm surprised you have any free time to read or research! That Facebook study group sounds wonderful.

  8. I'm so impressed with you!!!! All those classes, and you are writing a book? You are wonder woman!

  9. Wow, I'm quite jealous of your 7th grade class. The Hobbit, Encyclopedia Brown, and Sherlock Holmes? Why didn't I get to read this stuff when I was in school? :)

  10. Your students used Facebook in a wonderful way ... I guess it isn't all evil!

    And your novel idea sounds really interesting .. and ambitious! Wow!

  11. Wow Molly, You have a lot on your plate. Your novel idea sounds so interesting.

    I agree about book reviews as I have been struggling with them again.

    Have a great week (with some free time I Hope).

  12. I love hearing about your classes. That Facebook group is so impressive. I like your story idea. Keep going even though you have a lot going on in the months ahead, I have a feeling you'll find a way to write.


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