Category Archives: Teaching

New Teaching Adventures

The last couple of weeks have been full of preparations for the school year to begin. There’s much to do on the administrative side (which I now handle), but there’s also a great deal to do as a teacher.

This year, I’m in new territory. For years, whenever anyone asked what I taught, the answer was simple: 7th and 8th grade English. When French I was added last year, I only mentioned it sometimes. Now, though, I hesitate every time someone asks me. I’ve handed my middle school English class off to a new teacher — one who’s more like a younger version of me. One who will continue to relate well to the students, I’m sure. After all, she plays Pokémon Go.

Amid the other administrative duties that come with summer, I’ve been working hard to learn more about French culture around the world to improve the French I that I’ve already taught and create a solid foundation for French II. This means my books on the French has only grown in the last few months.

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Just some of my books on French or in French.

 

One that I’ve been thoroughly engrossed in is Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong: Why We Love France but Not the French by Jean-Benoit Nadeau. While I have French lineage, my family came to the New World in the early 1700’s, when the Huguenots were kicked out of France, so there’s not much French culture left in family traditions. (Not that any of it would look like the modern French since modern France really started with the French Revolution in the late 1700’s.) It’s fascinating to read how differently they view things. In some ways, it feels familiar. In other ways, their culture is as different as Japanese culture is from ours.

So here’s to a new year filled with many familiar faces and new adventures.


14 Day Writing Challenge: Day 14 (or, The Moment of Truth)

The final* writing prompt: Write about a defining moment in your life.

*Yes, I remember that Day 6 didn’t actually happen because I’ve tried so many general genres over the years, but I plan to have it ready by the end of next week. Steampunk it is!

My last year of college had begun, and I realized that I had a serious problem. I had a fiancé, a nearly-complete degree in English, and a love for the French language. One thing I didn’t have, though, was a career plan.

When I first went to college, I anticipated that I’d be a published writer by the time I was finished and live off of those earnings. As senior year started, though, I realized that those childhood dreams weren’t going to come true the way that I had always expected. In the meantime, I needed to figure out something to actually do to earn money. I was already working as an office assistant at my church, but I knew that’s not what I wanted to do with my life. Working in an office just wasn’t for me.

After some thinking and research, I narrowed it down to two different options: I could become an editor or (much to my own surprise) a teacher.

Editing seemed like a natural choice. I enjoyed reading and didn’t mind sitting in front of a computer for hours at a time. Besides, my aunt had worked at one of the big publishing firms before she had kids, so I had a glimpse into what that industry looked like.

On the other hand, teaching had never even been on my list. I’d planned to teach my own children one day, like my mom taught my brother and me, but that was the extent of it. Now, though, it seemed to make more sense. I could get some practice in before having kids of my own, and I genuinely love working with kids. So why not?

The trouble, though, was getting started with either career. So I waited for one of the college’s job fairs and decided to check both options out. As I walked in, I prayed that I would know for sure what direction to go before I left that day. I had no idea what would happen next.

I first walked up to the publisher’s table. The two ladies there greeted me, we talked for a few minutes, and then they told me that they didn’t currently have any editing jobs open. That’s okay, I thought to myself. I wasn’t ready for that anyways. Before I turned to leave, one of the ladies cocked her head a little and smiled at me.

“You know,” she said, “you look like a teacher.”

I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. I hadn’t mentioned anything about choosing between editing or teaching. There was no way she could have known. Yet here she was, saying exactly what I needed to hear.

Everything after that was a blur. I remember stopping at the public school system’s table on the way out, but I already had decided I’d rather be in the private school system if I went that route. The next clear memory was walking back to my car in disbelief. I honestly didn’t know what to choose, so I’d asked for clear direction. And I’d gotten it. It still amazes me.

What is a defining moment in your life? Have you ever had a similar experience?


Farewell to English

As this school year comes to a close, I find myself in a place I haven’t been for five years. Instead of stowing all of the middle school English books away in a filing cabinet in my closet, they’re neatly organized in bags. It’s the end of an era.

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April Fool’s Day Hijinks

April Fool’s Day was Friday. I spent quite a bit of time trying to decide what to do this year, I decided to go mild. The fun thing about middle schoolers is that they haven’t been around long enough to see everything, which means I can pull that old pop quiz prank. You know, the one in which the first direction is to read over the entire quiz before completing it, and the final line says that they only need to write their names at the top of the page and turn it in. The looks on their faces were priceless as they turned from horror to bemusement.

The Internet held better ones. My favorite this year, though, was National Geographic’s plan to stop publishing pictures of naked animals. The results were priceless… though I have to wonder how they managed to dress cats. Mine would never stand for it. Check out the slideshow here.

Boo as Frodo

Dressing a cat might be impossible, but dressing a dog? I did it to both of my childhood dogs. Here’s Shelby as Frodo.

What was your favorite prank this year? Did you pull one on someone?


Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Today is the 112th birthday of one of my favorite poets, Dr. Seuss! (And that seems like reason enough to take a break from The Silmarillion Recaps. Tolkien would understand, right?)

Over the five years that I’ve taught middle school English, Dr. Seuss’ works has been an integral part of introducing basic poetic elements like rhythm, rhyme, and the importance of a line’s length. The first time 7th graders watch me whip out an old copy of Green Eggs and Ham, there are usually sighs and confused looks. But after I read it as fast as I possibly can, they get it. Sometimes they even want to hear it again, just for fun. By 8th grade, they know what to expect and look forward to it.

Since French is now part of my teaching repertoire, I also have two Dr. Seuss staples in French as well. The most amazing part is that, while it’s not completely word for word (obviously), it still conveys the same message and has similar line length and rhyming patterns. That takes some serious talent!

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The cat napping after reading some Dr. Seuss en français.

The most fun part, though? Some of those French students are my old 7th and 8th graders, so the day they saw Les œufs verts au jambon, they couldn’t wait for another round of Dr. Seuss’ poetry.

Which Dr. Seuss book is your favorite?


The Doctor Is In (School!)

My goodness, where did last week go? I guess Valentine’s weekend was busier than I anticipated (my dirty secret is the weekends is when I write), and with the school schedule being as demanding as it is this year, I just ran out of time. But I’m back, and with something fun.

As my 7th graders finish reading Hans Christian Andersen fairytales (which went over well), they’ve been tasked with completing one of several short projects related to what we’ve done. Since the classes are large, they’re only halfway done, but one already stands out as a must-share.

When I came into school on Friday, I was met with a blue box sitting outside of my classroom. A large, blue box. As I rounded the corner, I was delighted and surprised to find that it was a box transformed into Dr. Who’s TARDIS.

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Since no one was in the hallway, I squealed with excitement a little before taking several pictures and opening the door. Fortunately, self-control helped me stay outside of it until it was brought into my room for the presentation. Or, better put, a rewritten version of “The Magic Galoshes” that involved Dr. Who? I love what these kids write!

Needless to say, this group is getting extra credit. For the effort, of course. And it doesn’t hurt that they understand their audience very well.


A Hundred (and Some) Years Can Make All the Difference

For the past five years, I’ve taught 7th and 8th grade English. While quite a bit has changed over that time, some things have mostly stayed the same, including most of the novels my students read. Many were suggestions from administration when I first took the classes. Some have been my own suggestions (like The Hobbit :) ).

Needless to say, though, when a fellow teacher sent this article about what 7th and 8th graders were reading in English in 1908 vs. public schools in 2014, I was intrigued.

If you want to read the article before continuing, check it out here: Read the article on the 7th and 8th grade reading lists here.

I will confess, I don’t have anything from either reading list in my classes’ repertoire. However, after reading some of the analysis of the two lists, I think mine has more in common with 1908 than 2014.

Time Period

The stories my students read are between 50 and 100 years old. (Obviously, Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales are even older.) The newest is from 1997, but the next most recent is from the 60’s, which is — believe it or not — 50 years ago now. Some are books I grew up reading, like Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare. Another was one of my mom’s childhood favorites, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’dell. It’s not that I have a problem with modern fiction by any means, but there’s something special about sharing tried and true books I enjoyed with students who might never otherwise read them.

Thematic Elements

Variety is the spice of life, and between the two grades, students experience everything from King Arthur (both the potentially real one from the 500’s to the traditional legends about him) to O. Henry to Middle-earth to Anne Frank’s world.

Reading Level

I’ll be the first to admit that some of the books are hard. And I’m okay with that. Students should be challenged, exposed to artistic prose, and introduced to a variety of literary techniques. If you teach it well, students might find they love more complex stories than they thought they would. :)