Archive for September, 2012

Teaching 2012

The habits and intellectual competency that will be a focus of my classroom are related to the writing process, but directly come from the ability to comprehend and analyze a writing selection. There are definite techniques and abilities that are assessed on the AP tests, and the best way that this can be achieved is to motivate a confidence and autonomy in the way the students put their thinking into the written word. Writing about literature, while certainly tied to a set of guidelines, need not be mechanical and scholastic. All too often, I think that AP students fall into the trap of trying to write in a way that is inauthentic. Motivated by the perceived requisites of academic writing, students often submit formulaic essays, which show little perception, understanding, or authenticity.

The mind-set that the course presented was the concept that writing should be a “conversation” with the text, whether it be prose, poetry, or non-fiction. Regurgitation of supporting quotes, with little insight into meaning or perception, are all regularly a characteristic of the writing I have encountered in my short time as an AP teacher. Summarization habitually is offered as a substitute for insight. Culpability for this rests in the lack of certainty young adults have toward their writing.

The other concept, which should facilitate better written analysis, is the idea of “The Bounce”. In order realign students away from the superficiality of paraphrasing and supporting with a quote, their writing should be seen as a way of showing the machinations of their mind in a way that is profoundly public. There are techniques, which I learned in the course, and that I have utilized before, that can enable students to gain their own voice. By evaluating proficient and superlative writing of others, in conjunction with practice in the minutiae what makes for engaged writing, I want to be able to both stimulate students to write more capably, to analyze competently, and provide them with the skills to make them assured of their own talent and capability


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John 5: 31-47

31 If I bear witness to myself, my testimony is not true; 32 there is another who bears witness to me, and I know that the testimony which he bears to me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony which I receive is from man; but I say this that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has granted me to accomplish, these very works which I am doing, bear me witness that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness to me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen; 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe him whom he has sent. 39 You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from men. 42 But I know that you have not the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44 How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; it is Moses who accuses you, on whom you set your hope. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

I have observed thDSCN1012at there are a lot of people who are willing to offer advice on how to improve. From self-help gurus with best-selling books to that annoying guy in the next cubicle at work, someone always has a plan on how we can be a better person. Everyone seems to be an expert and this extends into our spiritual life as well. There are those who seem to want people to follow a set of rigid, narrow strategies that will lead us to some guaranteed reward. Jesus addresses the same kind of mentality in this passage from John. Jesus is confronted by Jews who were adept at quoting Scriptures and looking to receive the glory of like-minded believers. He instructs that obedience to restrictive principles is not what God is looking for. God can’t be reduced to an ideology. It is only through Christ’s call to love one another and to put that into action that we are truly bearing witness.

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I distinctly remember being in eighth grade when Hendrix died.  My English teacher, a pretty cool guy for 1971, made the comment that Hendrix’s death, while tragic, would not be of lasting importance(not like one of the Beatles).  Hendrix was doomed, I can infer by his comments, to be a historic footnote, and would not transcend the era.

Several years later, say 1973, I started listening to Hendrix and, while acknowledging his importance as a guitarist, really found myself studying his lyrics.  (Foreshadowing of a future career as an English teacher).

Like, Little Wing:

Well she’s walking through the clouds
With a circus mind that’s running round
Butterflies and zebras
And moonbeams and fairy tales
That’s all she ever thinks about
Riding with the wind.

When I’m sad, she comes to me
With a thousand smiles, she gives to me free
It’s alright she says it’s alright
Take anything you want from me,
Fly on little wing,

I actually wrote the lyrics down and put them into the locker of a girl I had a crush on back in 1974.

g-ent-111122-hendrix.photoblog600And another favorite, from the song “Up From The Skies”

I have lived here before, the days of ice,
And of course this is why I’m so concerned,
And I come back to find the stars misplaced
and the smell of a world that has burned.

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I heard Oscar Hijuelos on a radio show when this book first came out, and it sounded appealing.  Hijuelos is so talented and there are many pleasures to be found in reading Mr. Ives’ Christmas.  This narrative of sadness, forgiveness, and redemption is skillfully crafted and never maudlin. The way he evokes a sense of time and place, especially winter in New York, totally allowed me to become immersed in the setting.  Finally, his tenderly written observations of work, family, and church capture the beauty in ordinary things

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As a ninth grade English teacher, I am constantly prowling for books that are well written, with a compelling plot to keep the reader hooked. JUMPING OFF SWINGS by Jo Knowles has proven to be one of those types of books that I recommend to students all the time. The author alternates chapters between four interlocking characters who are thrown together by one’s untimely pregnancy. There is no morality, no judgment, just an absorbing story with rich characters


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