Sunday, December 26, 2004

Christmas Mania--I mean, Break!

Whew! Wednesday: exit the school building, pack up the fam, drive to Harwood, ND for a Christmas celebration w/ good family friends.

Thursday: exit Harwood, drive to Mandan, ND for a Christmas celebration w/ my wife's family (brother, sister, dad, etc.).

Friday: exit Mandan, drive to Dickinson, ND for a Christmas celebration w/ my wife's mom's extended family.

Saturday: exit Dickinson, traverse the Badlands of ND through the treacherously icy Killdeer Mountains across Lake Sakakawea (past the 4 Bears Casino in New Town) to Dad's farm outside McGregor, ND for a Christmas celebration w/ my dad and stepmom.

Sunday: Christmas dinner w/ my stepmom's family, entertainment courtesy my children and a karaoke machine.

Monday: return via ND Highway 2 through the Magic City of Minot and Devils Lake w/ its ever-rising lake to East Grand Forks, MN.

Tuesday: Christmas w/ my own immediate family (wife and daughters) in our own home. Plus, unpack and find places for the Christmas haul.

It's always good to see family and close friends, and thoughtful gifts are great, but this traveling is exhausting. And the only religious-themed conversations that we had occurred before we left EGF for destinations far and wee. What's Christmas about again?

'Twill be good to be back home for some relaxation before 2005 rolls around and the school year resumes. I've got teaching to do and student-ing, too (at UND).

Upcoming highlights: Advanced Writers' incoming poetry set #2 (more enjoyable for me to read than for some of them to produce, I think) and their "coffee shop" readings the last week of the semester. Also, American Lit. scholars are keeping double-entry reading journals for several chapters of Huck Finn during the break, and I get to read those, too, when we return. The semester has flown.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Great Expectations

It's a fine line: expecting great things from my students vs. expecting too much from them. Am I pushing some kids too hard? I had a moment today when I interpreted a student's body language to be telling me that the work I was asking him to do was too challenging--that frustration was about to overcome him, and he was ready to shut down and stop trying. Eeks! Afterward, he didn't seem convinced by my reassuring words and encouraging suggestions . . . which is too bad, because he is so talented. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Senioritis

Okay, I get that it's a transitional year and everything . . . ready to be done with childhood, ready to move into adulthood . . . wanting to shed the authority figures of high school, wanting to sample the independence of college/work/life away from parents. I went through that, too. But I don't recall undergoing a complete personality change my senior year! Apathy didn't set in; I didn't stop doing my best work for the best possible grades. I didn't adopt an attitude of superiority and condescension toward my courses or teachers or classmates. I might have been impatient with high school, but I didn't consider myself above it.

So by now, you're assuming that I've got senior students who are behaving this way. Actually, no. If the seniors I teach are feeling any of this, they're hiding it pretty well in my classroom. It helps that I've got so many smarty-pantses in my classes; they tend to care about their grades and sign up for challenging courses because they're willing to work (well, tend to). It's just outside the classroom that I'm noticing their senioritis. And it's only December!

Any insight out there?

Monday, December 06, 2004

December's Thought-Provoking Question(s)

IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS

When the weather was still pretty nice in October, my daughters and I hung the outdoor Christmas lights on our house and drove plastic stakes into the yard to hold strings of little Santa lights. We didn't turn any of the lights on until after Thanksgiving, mind you, but we wanted to get that work out of the way and be ready before it got too cold. And we waited and waited and waited for Thanksgiving to come and go so that we could light up the house for Christmas!

Now, when I come home from school each day, the radio is tuned to an all-Christmas-songs-all-day-long radio station, the Christmas lights are on inside the house and out, and more presents have appeared beneath the tree. We've planned our annual December tour of North Dakota, arranged so that we make stops at all the relatives' homes in the far reaches of the state before returning to EGF for our own family celebration. We're in the spirit of the season.

This month's questions are in regard to Christmas. Even if you're not Christian, you probably cannot avoid some participation in Christmas as a secular holiday, if you live in the United States. What are the celebrations and traditions that you associate with this holiday? What are your best Christmas memories? What unusual or exciting plans do you have for Christmas this year?

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Goodbye, Miss Flatland

My student-teacher, Miss Flatland, has ended her tenure in my classroom and will walk the halls of EGF Senior High School no more. I'm quickly getting back into the swing of things, getting reacquainted with students whom I haven't taught in weeks, getting used to being in the front of the room all day, etc. All in all, I think Miss Flatland did a fine job, and I'm looking forward to using next year some of the lesson ideas she used with our classes this year.

I wonder what students at our school think about student-teachers in general (not just Miss Flatland in particular). Student-teaching is tough; it's practical training that's necessary for someone to get experience before holding a teaching job of his/her own. On the other hand, it's tough taking over for a teacher whose students are used to the way he/she does things. And it seems that students at our school work with quite a few student-teachers during the course of their four years in the building.

Students, what have been your experiences with student-teachers (don't use their names, please)? What has been good about having them? What could your regular teachers do to make the experience of working with a student-teacher go even better for you?

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Talented Students

I'm pretty proud of (most of) the students at our school when I see all the things they're capable of.

This weekend I attended the musical Anything Goes and was impressed at how well they were able to work together--with the help of the directors, designers, and choreographer--to create a fresh production of an oft-told musical tale. I played Billy in a production of Anything Goes in college, so seeing it brought back many fond memories.

The following day, I chaperoned a pep bus to Minneapolis to see the Green Wave win the football semifinal game against Glencoe-Silver Lake! I won't make their next game; it's the day after Thanksgiving.

However, it's fun to see the spectrum of skills and talents our students have, from academics to arts to athletics. No matter what students are good at/interested in, it seems there's some way for them to get involved at school and show off/develop their abilities.

(Or ARE there some kids with no way to "get connected" at school or get involved in their particular interests? You tell me.)

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Post-Conferences Post

I love parent/teacher conferences. It's generally a joy to visit with my students' parents and guardians. For some, it's a chance to compliment their child on work well done. For others, it's a chance to talk honestly about what their child should be doing differently. Parents usually have some interesting background information to share on their child, too, that comes out only at conferences! My student-teacher did a great job, too, at visiting with the parents and sharing useful details about the students and keeping the conferences going at a good pace. I only wish more parents would take advantage of the opportunity to visit with us teachers. I hope more parents will make use of iMoberg now, too (which, BTW, now shows up when I Google my name!).

Monday, November 01, 2004

November's Thought-Provoking Question(s)

SEEN ANYTHING GOOD ON TV LATELY?

Gary's response to my "Alias Addiction" post (below) got me thinking: What do YOU consider to be "quality television"? I know there are some who consider television in general to be a waste of time and a waste of the mind. Granted, there's a LOT of garbage on TV that's not worth anyone's time to watch. A good book, some exercise, or conversation with family or friends is a better option in most any case. However, I believe that there are SOME TV shows that are well written, entertaining, and worthy of being considered artistic, just as we might consider a well written play or book to be "art" or a well written movie as Oscar-worthy.

What do you think? Consider the TV shows that you watch. Some of them you might watch just because they're fun, although you might agree that they're not "quality writing." But are there any that you believe are good because of the quality of their writing, acting, production values, etc.? (Reality shows don't count because there are no writers controlling their content or actors practicing their art in them.)

Tell about the "quality" TV shows that you watch, and explain what makes them stand out as "good" amidst an ocean of pretty dismal, sometimes awful television programming.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

October's Thought-Provoking Question(s)

With so many students in each class, and with so many classes each day, can a teacher ever really get to know a particular student well enough to meet his or her learning needs? Have you had, or do you have, teachers who seemed to know you well? Or who were able to give you the attention you needed and not make you feel lost in the crowd?

Saturday, October 02, 2004

What I Do at Night!

Okay, so I got a question about the play I auditioned for a few weeks ago: what play, and how did it go? I auditioned for I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, a musical revue featuring two men and two women, acting out scenes and singing songs about dating (Act I) and marriage (Act II). (More info here.) And I got the part. So, each night, another cast member (from Grand Forks, ND) and I drive to Crookston, MN for a couple hours of rehearsal. I'm sacrificing time with my family, and time to sleep (easier to skip sleep than to fall behind on school work), to do something that I enjoy (and something that I TEACH, for heaven's sake!) for the next several weeks. Performances are October 28-31 at the Northland Inn in Crookston (it's a dinner theatre production). Do my students know what I'm doing at night? Doubt it. (Do I know what they're doing at night?! Impossible . . .)

The Curtain Falls

As of last night, our children's theatre production is over. With my being gone so much for jury duty the past two weeks, and with our limited four-week rehearsal process, this year's production was a bit of a stress. On the other hand, this year more than any other, the students themselves took charge and are largely responsible for what audiences saw on stage. Kudos to student directors Mike E. and Katie D. for all their work, to the upperclassmen for guiding the freshmen working on their first high school production, to Mr. Voigt and Mrs. Hotvedt for their work behind the scenes on the set and costumes, and to the cast and crew themselves for creating a production with appeal to all our young audiences. Four shows in two days, with 200 to 300 audience members each performance--whew!

And the elementary school drama camp, which ran each day from 3:30 to 4:30 this past week, ended last night with performances of skits before the children's theatre production. Because the little kids were so energetic and unfocused throughout the week, we really held our breath when they took to the stage last night. However, they came through and did a fine job that pleased their family in the audience. It was a challenge for the high school Drama Club members who helped Katie D. each day. Congratulations to all the helpers, and to Katie herself for organizing the event as her project for a Girl Scouts award.

And now, on to our next production: the musical. Rehearsals start already on Monday!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Jury Duty

I'm finally done with jury duty! I've been "on call" since the beginning of May, and has it ever been frustrating waiting, wondering when they're going to call on me to show up at the court house. Last week, I had to report three days in a row; two of those days, we prospective jurors were all sent home due to trial cancelations, and the other day, I was not selected from the jury pool to sit on the panel. Today, I had to report, and this time, I was one of about twenty called to the panel. The judge and both lawyers took turns asking us various questions, trying to determine whom to keep and whom to excuse from service. It took all morning to proceed, but I was not one of the twelve finally selected. My students, strangely enough, just may be glad to have me back after so many days of substitute teachers and me not there to clarify instructions, lead discussions, etc. The trial preparation and jury selection process are interesting to learn more about first-hand, but I'm glad finally to be "off the hook" and back to my own schedule.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

THE AMAZING RACE

It's over . . . and Chip and Kim won! I've been addicted to The Amazing Race on CBS the entire summer, and last night was the two-hour finale. After the first hour, the final couple to be eliminated was announced: Linda and Karen, the bowling moms. I'd been rooting for them, too. But Chip and Kim had my vote after that. And curse that Amazing Race--how are they always able to wring an emotional reaction out of me?! They do it every week with the reflections of the couple that is eliminated . . . whether I like the couple or not, I'm sucked in by the emotional music, the wavering voices and teary eyes, and the well chosen words of wisdom from the losing teams. Last night, I was sucked in by the appearance of every previously eliminated couple at the finish line, waiting for the arrival of Chip and Kim and cheering them on. How very satisfying!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

ALIAS Addiction

I'm now addicted to Alias. It's true. My friend has the first season on DVD, and we've been watching the first several episodes as though our lives depended on it. Jennifer Garner is great, and I like the mix of outlandish spy action and more realistic personal drama--she does both so well. My friend and I are only half-joking when we say that we've got two-and-a-half seasons to catch up on before season four begins on ABC in January.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Former Students

Last night I attended the wedding of a former student/current friend and, afterwards, the reception. There were so many former students there, all now adults with interesting lives and stories to share. One of my favorite parts of teaching is keeping in touch with, or reuniting with, past students and seeing how they've changed, what they've done with their lives, etc. I especially like communicating with them as equals, not as an authority figure. "Oh," they see, "he IS human." Plus, they were all so nice to my kids, conversing with them and dancing with them all night. It was a lot of fun. Congratulations again, Kevin and Katie!

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Labor Day Weekend

I'm both resting and laboring this weekend. I just finished my first three days of the new school year, and I am pooped. I am teaching new courses using new district-adopted textbooks and new state-adopted academic standards. I am also getting to know new students, new coworkers, a new principal, and my new student-teacher. Today I am avoiding the school, but tomorrow I shall return to work on course planning and to attend to beginning-of-the-year paperwork and record keeping. I want to do what I can to prepare for these next several weeks because rehearsals for the play I'm directing (supervising a student director) begin on Tuesday, and I'm auditioning on Sunday to perform in another play.