Monday, December 10, 2012

You had to know this was coming

I've finished my degree, and I walk on Saturday.  It was a stressful ride, but I am so proud of myself for completing it.

This past month has been one of contemplation.  In the heart of rushing to meet a deadline, I was also looking to the future, at what happens after I finish.  It's looking less & less likely that I will have a position at any level, high school or college.  It's just the market is right now.  I get it.

As a result, I intend to "close" this blog.  I won't delete it completely, as I think it's still a source for other teachers out there.  I get a lot of hits on my poetry songs, symbolism, and mock trial entries, so I want to leave those for people who might find them useful.  I had hopes for this blog: connecting with other teachers, cataloging favorite lessons for myself or colleagues, brainstorming learning activities...and I think I could have kept it up if I had remained in a classroom.  Outside of it, I just lost the motivation to keep posting, even though I had a (short) backlog of possible lessons to include.  I still consider myself "a teacher" and may be able to get back into the classroom one day.  But life is going in a different direction right now.

I guess it's like a casual friendship -- it was good for the time, but it couldn't last forever.  Blogger and I have gone separate ways.  For other personal reasons, I will also limit my online presence in general, reading fewer (if any) blogs.  It's been a treat to get to know other teachers with great stories and experiences to learn from.  But the time has come.

Keep it real.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Final update

I presented my thesis on Thursday, and it went quite well.  Of the few professors who showed up, they all seemed quite engaged with the idea.  At any rate, there was certainly a fair bit of scholarly discussion after my presentation.  My advisor complimented me on my presentation and encouraged me to bring it to a conference.  Will do!  That is currently next on my agenda; I have submitted to a few conferences for consideration.  Though the idea mildly terrifies me, I do hope to add a conference to my CV soon.

I hope to continue more YA research and get a few publications to my name -- we'll see.  The final list of YA texts I either cited or referenced:

  1. Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007. Print.
  2. Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. New York: Speak-Penguin, 1999. Print.
  3. Anderson, M.T. Feed.  Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2002. Print.
  4. Asher, Jay. Thirteen Reasons Why. New York: Razorbill, 2007. Print.
  5. Chambers, Aidan. Postcards from No Man’s Land. New York: Speak-Penguin, 1999. Print.
  6. Chbosky, Stephen.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: MTVBooks/PocketBooks-Simon&Schuster, 1999. Print.
  7. Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York, Scholastic P, 2008. Print.
  8. Dowd, Siobhan. Bog Child. New York: David Fickling Books, 2008. Print.
  9. Green, John. Looking for Alaska. New York: Dutton Books, 2005. Print.
  10. Green, John and David Levithan. Will Grayson, Will Grayson. New York: Dutton-Penguin, 2010. Print.
  11. Hopkins, Ellen. Crank. New York: Simon Pulse-Simon&Schuster, 2004. Print.
  12. ---. Impulse. New York: Margaret K. McElderry-Simon&Schuster, 2007. Print.
  13. Johnson, Angela. The First Part Last. New York: Simon&Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2003. Print.
  14. Lockhart, E. The Boyfriend List. New York: Delacorte Press, 2005. Print.
  15. Marchetta, Melina. Jellicoe Road. New York: HarperTeen-HarperCollins, 2006. Print.
  16. Myers, Walter Dean. Monster. New York: HarperTempest-HarperCollins, 1999. Print.
  17. Roth, Veronica. Divergent. New York: Katherine Tegen Books-HarperCollins, 2011. Print.
  18. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books-Scholastic P, 1997. Print.
  19. Spinelli, Jerry. Stargirl. New York: Alfred  A. Knopf, 2000. Print.
  20. Westerfeld, Scott. Uglies. New York: Simon Pulse, 2005. Print.
  21. Wiess, Laura. Such a Pretty Girl. New York: MTVBooks/Pocket Books, 2007. Print.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Update on my update

Last time I brought you a brief update of my thesis & YAL applied thus far.  The list has grown considerably!  Monster and John Green are my primary go-tos, but I've tried to include a nice broad sampling.  So far, my Works Consulted looks like this:

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak.
Anderson, M.T. Feed
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. 
Dowd, Siobhan. Bog Child
Green, John and David Levithan. Will Grayson, Will Grayson.
Hopkins, Ellen. Crank. 
Hopkins, Ellen. Impulse.
Johnson, Angela. The First Part Last. 
Marchetta, Melina. Jellicoe Road.
Myers, Walter Dean. Monster.
Roth, Veronica. Divergent.
Spinelli, Jerry. Stargirl.
Westerfeld, Scott. Uglies.
Wiess, Laura. Such a Pretty Girl.

Some of them are actually on my Works Cited; some others are just referred to as representing a certain characteristic/theme/ideology.  I finished Jellicoe Road (which was fantastic. I wish I hadn't waited so long to read it!) and then managed to squeeze a reading of Divergent in there last week (LOVE, by the way!).  I still want to try and read Ship Breaker by the end of Thanksgiving break and see if I can squeeze it in the paper.  It has been so fun to talk about these great texts.  I'm encouraged by the fact that when I tell people what my topic is, they are all genuinely interested and curious.  They get this look where I can see the idea strikes them as unusual...but that there's something there.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thesis update

I'm working on my thesis, due at the end of this semester (crazy!), and I get to incorporate young adult literature as I try to legitimize it using Romantic principles.  It's been so fun digging into some great YA lit again.  Sometimes, when I get enough distance, I would start to doubt whether or not I am just a little blinded.  Is there really YA good enough for this or am I just wishing there were?  As I crack open these books and dive into them again, I breathe a sigh of relief to realize there definitely is.  So far I've used:

Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Looking for Alaska by John Green
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
Postcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers

and there will be more to come!  I'm reading Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (a long time coming) in hopes of applying that as well.  I'd also like to finish Ship Breaker, Tamar, and/or House of the Scorpion to work them in, too.

Friday, September 21, 2012

You Don't Learn That in School

Fellow teacher friends, have you listened to the most recent episode of "This American Life"?  It is 474 "Back to School."  And it is fascinating.  I almost avoided it because I get tired of all the various reports that point fingers and just get plain tiresome.  But this was a little different; they asked what schools should teach, starting the trail by comparing success/consistency of people who dropped out in HS compared to those who got their GED compared to those who graduated with a traditional diploma.

In short, it presents a study that suggests that a greater predictor of success are not cognitive skills but non-cognitive; skills like self-regulation/discipline, resourcefulness, responsibility, ambition, resilience, etc., traits more old school educators might call "character."

We've heard that poverty is a greater predictor of success than teachers or classroom resources.  Teachers have struggled to make politicians understand that there are so many issues outside of the classroom that influence a student's achievement.  But what some of the scientists/psychologists in this realm now suggest that it is really the stresses associated with poverty that cause the greatest developmental harm to a child.  The show explains the issue cogently, and it is truly fascinating.  Now, I admit, I have always found the study of stress interesting, I think because it is such a mental thing that manifests itself in such very physical ways.  So, tying that into school & learning...well, it just makes complete sense to me.  And (Ira Glass even states this at one point) some of the studies actually confirm a very common sense principle: parenting makes a significant difference.

This program is fascinating and gives me hope that scientists & psychologists are finally providing educators with research that supports ideas we've suspected or even promoted for years.  People like to throw around research studies, so it's my hope that policy-makers will latch onto this and stop taking pressure off teachers and start finding ways to support those parents and students who need it.  However, the research in this program is also heartbreaking because it proves that (as the system is now) most traditional teachers just won't be able to do as much as they wish they could for those in-need students.  It's not impossible, but with the current system, teachers don't generally get the right amount of time/tools/curriculum to nurture these non-cognitive skills in students.  But I'm hopeful that we could see that change.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

pinterest follow-up

A reader asked which program I would use for the end-class-automatic-music-cue.  Turns out, if you have a PC, you already have a program that can do this!  It's called the Task Scheduler.  I've never used it myself, and it's not as pretty as a user-friendly gadget someone might make for an alarm, but it does the trick.

I cannot find the directions I followed the first time I discovered this handy program, but this one might be even better for our purposes: Set Computer to Play Music Automatically at a Certain Time

Where you select what "program" you want to begin at a certain time, just select whichever music file you want as your cue.  At the appointed time, it will automatically begin playing the file with whichever is your computer's default music player.  Perfect!  If you want it to last for a minute or so, you can schedule it to stop at a certain time, too.  I would recommend saving your cue of choice as a separate mp3 that you have trimmed to the appropriate time, but if you don't have a program that can do that, it's not necessary.

So, there you go!  Now, we just have to figure out what kind of music to use.  Any ideas?

p.s. Any Mac users know of a similar program?  Or is there just an app for that?

Friday, August 3, 2012

This is my Pinterest

Playing music to induce certain behaviors in the classroom isn't a new concept, so it's a little sad that it has taken me this long to think about setting up a classroom computer to set off the cues automatically.  A friend posted an edu-advice-question on her FB feed recently, and she shared that she already used a musical cue for packing up at the end of class; she sets up a timer each day to go off at the appropriate times.  This is one of those ForeheadSlap moments -- why didn't I think of that?  I often had problems with getting to the end of class, usually because I over-estimated what we could accomplish in a given class period.  I was always watching the clock, trying to gauge when it was time to wrap up.  By setting a little musical timer, it's a great cue for both the students AND me.  It would also ensure that I had enough time to wrap-up/set-up for the next class period, rather than rushing to get ready for next period since I didn't manage my time effectively in the previous one.  You know how that goes.  Or maybe you don't, because you are an absolutely awesome time manager.

So, I'm making a note of this for myself to keep in mind for when I do return to the classroom. 

Question:  I do wonder "What kind of music?"  Because if it's too familiar/catchy, kids are likely to sing along, which usually negates the whole "transition quickly/quietly" goal of using musical cues.  But if it's too cheesy, kids may not buy in.  If you use musical cues in your classroom, tell me how you do it!