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?