talkstowolves: Writer by heart, English teacher by trade.  (bad grammar makes me sic)
Today's summer school session marked the last of the grammar-oriented classes. In the last two and a half weeks, we've gone over the topics contained within Chapters 1-11 of English Grammar for Dummies. I know it sounds a bit ridiculous, a schoolteacher using that book: however, the information is organized and presented in a manner that's pretty consistently understandable by my students. Also, it was a book they could easily buy at the bookstore; I didn't really have time to order proper grammar books through my school.

However, despite my repeated warnings to my students to do their readings outside of class and review their notes, their grades have been declining. I'm getting tired of sounding like a broken record each session, telling them again and again that they must read the chapters, that I tell them which sections to focus on just in case they don't read the entire chapters, that the quizzes they're taking each session are all part of their final grade, and that they're kind of screwed if they don't pass Summer School.

One thing that continues to annoy me, no matter how many times I encounter it, is that the students won't just think. Many times, the answer to a question on their quizzes is evident if they'd just take the time to think. Today, none of them could remember what an antecedent is. So I told them that the antecedent is the word that a pronoun replaces, basically. (They were asked to identify the antecedent for the underlined pronoun.) Not one of them could identify the antecedents correctly. Yet later, when I read the question and pointed at the underlined pronoun and said, "Alright, so who is she?" a lightbulb went off over their heads.

Anyway, under the cut you can see the quizzes I've given them so far. All the material that the quizzes cover was either in their notes, in specific sections I told them to pay close attention to, or in the grey boxes that run rampant through English Grammar for Dummies.

Quizzes! Test your grammatical knowledge here! )
talkstowolves: Writer by heart, English teacher by trade.  (bad grammar makes me sic)
I was rather affronted today when someone informed me that I really shouldn't put too much work into summer school and that I was basically just babysitting the kids who were coming. I know that I'm expecting too much from them, shooting for the moon, being an optimistic young teacher, etc. etc. However, I don't think this is a bad thing. I don't think it's bad to actually care about my job and to put actual time and attention into the construction of a summer school course. I sure as hell don't think it's a bad thing to bring preparation and optimism into that classroom of kids who desperately need my help. I really don't think she should have said what she did to me: at least she could have phrased it more as advice and less as jaded "you're wasting your time and they're not worth it" shtick.

My summer school syllabus:

Summer School 2007

Welcome to Ms. [Teacher]'s* Summer School course in English! Within this packet, you will find everything you need to know about the schedule we are going to follow over the next eight weeks. You will see what we are covering and when we are covering it. You will also see that it's very important for you to attend each session and to get your work done. There are no acceptable excuses here: this is your last stand.

Upon completion of this course, you should:

Have a better grounding in English grammar.
Be aware of resources available to improve your grasp of English grammar.
Know how to write several types of essays.
Know where a library is and how to use one.
Know what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.
Understand the basics of literary analysis.
Be able to read beyond the surface of a text (i.e., critically).

Required Materials
Each student should purchase the following texts:

English Grammar for Dummies by Geraldine Woods. ($19.99)
White Fang by Jack London. ($4.95)

Each student is also required to provide some type of folder, to be brought to every class meeting. You can use a three-ring binder or a paper three-prong folder: it's up to you. However, every class hand-out (including this one) and assignment that you complete during summer school must be kept in that folder and brought to every class. You should also keep at least 30 sheets of blank paper in your folder at all times. I will be checking that you do this for every class and it will factor into your grade.

If you would like for me to purchase the books for you, please provide me with $27.44. This covers the cost of both books and the Alabama sales tax. If you also wish me to get a folder for you, please add $1.00 on top of that.

If you instead wish to purchase the books yourself, you can ask at the counter at Barnes & Noble: they are holding the books at the front under my name or the name of our school. If Barnes & Noble runs out of the books, I will reserve them at another bookstore and advise you on where to go.

At each class, there will be a lecture. You are required to attend, pay attention, and take notes. There will be plenty of time for questions, discussions, and reviews.

Each week, you will have a quiz. Anything we have been over in class could show up on these quizzes. You must study. At the last meeting of our class, you will have a test covering everything we've learned during the course.

You are required to begin reading White Fang during the second week of classes, although we won't begin discussing it until Week 6. You will be given a certain number of pages to complete reading each week. Even though we're not discussing it at that time, there will be questions on your weekly quizzes to make sure that you're reading.

Please note that there is a place under each session's entry in which to write your homework. I will be checking to make sure that you write down your homework assignment at the end of each class. You should make sure you keep this hand-out in the front of your folder so you can easily see what we're doing and what your homework might be.

Week 1
Topical Focus: Grammar

Session 1 Grammar Review: Introduction

Session 2 Grammar Review: The Basics

Week 2
Topical Focus: Grammar

Session 3 Grammar Review: The Basics (continued)

Session 4 Grammar Review: The Basics (continued)

Week 3
Topical Focus: Grammar
Topical Focus: Essay Writing

Session 5 Grammar Review: Study and Conclusion

Session 6 Essay-Writing: Types of Essays, Research Methods

Week 4
Topical Focus: Essay Writing

Session 7 Essay-Writing: Plagiarism, Outlining

Session 8 Essay-Writing: Constructing Paragraphs, Transitions

Week 5
Topical Focus: Essay Writing

Session 9 Essay-Writing: From Rough Draft to Final Draft

Session 10 Essay-Writing: Review, In-Class Composition

Week 6
Topical Focus: Literary Analysis

Session 11 Literary Analysis: Introduction

Session 12 Literary Analysis: Terms and Examples

Week 7
Topical Focus: Literary Analysis

Session 13 Literary Analysis: Discussion

Session 14 Literary Analysis: Writing About Literature

Week 8
Topical Focus: Literary Analysis
Final Examination

Session 15 Literary Analysis: Writing About Literature; Review

Session 16 Final Examination

*I really did have a kid this year who referred to me as "Miss Teacher." Mostly, all the kids just called me "Ms. B."
talkstowolves: Writer by heart, English teacher by trade.  (bad grammar makes me sic)
I know we've been over this and over this, but I want to fully realize for you the ludicrousness of the paper Little Plagiarist Pants #2 turned in to me. And why I shake my head in disbelief that she's calling me and weeping now. Especially ironic phrases in the paper have been bolded. (All mistakes are hers unless I made a typo. But, really, all mistakes are probably hers.)

Little Miss Plagiarist Pants
English 12
May 22, 2007


Plagiarism is strictly speaking or stealing someone words, ideas & creative works. After I learn that it's a crime I was told to do this paper on plagiarism. So I look on the internet if reference under Plagiarism Stopper A Teacher Guide it states that plagiarism is a rapidly growing problem in many venues today. Because it is so easy to locate information using the Internet, student have given in to the temptation to take material and use them fir their own. This needs to be addressed by all who are in the education field by teaching the observance of proper citation and copyright compliance and by making sure our students know that stealing someone else's work is wrong. This site may help you in your efforts toward these goals. Please feel free to suggest additional site or information and recommendations for redesign. I also look under OWL online writing Lab its said: Whether international or, as is more often the case, inadvertent, the results is that is that some or all of your own. It's like lip-synching to someone else's voice and accepting the applause and rewards for yourself. Incidentally, plagiarism also includes informal published material such as the re-use of the same paper for more than one course or "buying" a paper from another student. If it feels like cheating or an easy way-out, and the moral and intellectual consequences don't sound alarm bells, stop and think of the serious punitive repercussions you could incur. Because it is intellectual theft, plagiarism is considered by all post-secondary institutions as an academic crime with punishment anywhere from an F on that particular paper to dismissal from the course to expulsion from the college or university. If that scares you, it shouldn't because there is no reason it has to happen to you. Avoid plagiarism by following and understanding standard documentation formats, learning how to note-take effectively, and properly incorporating sources direct quotations or paraphrases within your own insights so that it is clear where and supplement your own discussion. Your research paper won't be some cheap throw-together of unoriginal thoughts. You suppose to rewrite in your own words a least if you get a reference from the internet. I under MLA-Style its said: The penalty for plagiarism is usually the teachers teaching or the course involving. Some of high schools and colleges failure the paper and you fail the course and you get expulsion from school. The rules about plagiarism is really no excuse, and its really bad violation.
Plagiarism is not violation but it also violate the ethics. Students who plagiarize have cheated themselves out high school will be response for their academic achievement in life. Instructors and teachers aware students about plagiarism. Its important to recognize this definition is very important. Plagiarism has been around for many years, the invention of the internet has made for plagiarism even more of a challenge @ 90 percent of student made plagiarizing on all their written assignments and they use the internet has made plagiarism most on the course they have taken. I also discussed @, its said: Plagiarism known as a dishonesty in colleges. Students were getting expulsion, and once you get expel from college you will not be able attend to another college as was said at the school by the principal. Some schools expect the fact you copy and paste someone's information that they wrote. English teachers give us a website page to look up the summary or information about the work. A major concern was the key to avoid plagiarizing people's information. Plagiarism prevention issues of immense sensitivity and importance to people in all areas of education. They are also of great concernto middle and high school teachers and administrators, and faculty and administrators in colleges and universities. Librarians have also embraced the issue of plagiarism and realized the importance of linking it to the proper documentation of sources to teach users about the importance of knowing about fair use, plagiarism, and documentation. Plagiarism is also moral. The resource from internet is to educate students on different information on what they looking for. Plagiarizing by copying and paste information on paper could get you in a lot of trouble. College the professors detect plagiarism and if it was problem they had it under control. One way a student can plagiarize is to copy something directly from another persons work. A sutdent might also say something and assume that it is not plagiarizing. It is plagiarism if only small changes were made to the source copy and the students work. Another way that students plagiarize is to put together different pieces of work turn it in as their final piece of work. The pressure the students have to deal with by doing research papers and Essays they use the information from the internet. High school students when they were told do assignment in class dealing with internet using they plagiarized they information on poster board or book report way. There many problems in colleges & high school dealing with plagiarizing information, some teachers & professors plagiarized false documents. Personally I never a teacher talk about Plagiarism I in school until I came here, because English 12 we copy and paste information and present the information in front of the class. I think plagiarism should be blame on students who never no plagiarism. Some students don't know when they plagiarism, because you can change of up the information or you can use a paragraph and then you can use your own information. Students who do not understand the meaning up plagiarism they should get a clearing understanding of the copying someone's work or the use of your working.

There you have the two glorious typed pages of her punishment report explaining what plagiarism is, how to avoid it, why it's bad, and why she'll never do it again. Remember that the report was supposed to be four pages long: when I talked to her on the phone yesterday, she sobbed that she had turned in four pages and the evil Office Lady had lost them. Considering the second page ends more than a finger's length above the bottom of the page, however, I seriously doubt that allegation.

I suppose I could give her a few points for trying (kinda. sorta) to parenthetically cite her sources. Except, if she'd actually READ what she was copy-pasting and butcheringre-typing, she might have learned that what she did still counts as plagiarism. Also, what she did barely counts as being written in the English language at some points. (Notice there are no paragraphs in her paper. She says that she was never taught how to make paragraphs in public school.)

Below the cut, you will find my notes searching out her sources. I got a bit lazy toward the latter half of her paper, when the sentences became so incoherent that I had trouble pulling useful search phrases out of them.

My notes on her sources... )
talkstowolves: Writer by heart, English teacher by trade.  (bad grammar makes me sic)
Instead of immediately failing my two seniors who plagiarized their prose essays, I allowed my boss to talk me into giving them a punishment assignment instead. They were to write an eight-page paper that fulfilled the following requirements:

-defined plagiarism,
-explained how it happened,
-explained why it's bad,
-explained how to avoid it,
-delivered a personal declaration involving how the student would never plagiarize again,
-included a bibliography.

One student called today, 46 minutes before it was due, and asked for an extension. She said she couldn't get a ride up to the school. I told her that she'd had four days to get it up to the school and had no excuse. Especially since we have a mail slot.

The other student delivered her paper in person before the deadline. I started looking over it after she left and a stone began to fill in my belly. After staying up an hour past my imposed bedtime, I find that stone has been justified.

She plagiarized her punishment paper.

95% of it is just copied, word for word, from the various websites she listed on her bibliography. Yes, she provided a bibliography. However, she didn't put any of these things into her own words. She also didn't cite any of her uses in the text of her paper.

I am absolutely livid. Honestly, do I look stupid? Did she honestly think I wouldn't check her plagiarism punishment paper for plagiarism? Did she think I really wouldn't fail her this late in the game? Does she think I care whether she has to go to summer school when she's supposed to have graduated?

(And to think I almost just tiredly decided not to check it in the interest of going to bed. At least there was my conscience and Andy to prevent me from just going to sleep.)

I briefly had this very entertaining fantasy because of something Douglas said: I would let her get as far as walking up the aisle at graduation, all resplendent in her cap and gown. Then, I'd step forward, meeting her half-way up the aisle. In my hand, I would grasp the Monopoly card that proclaims "DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT COLLECT 200 DOLLARS." I would press this into her hand, with a shit-eating grin, then rip off her cap and send her bawling back to her seat.

I'm not that mean-spirited, honestly. I'm just tired and frustrated. EXCEEDINGLY FRUSTRATED WITH THIS PLAGIARISM BUSINESS.

At least she made her paper a study in irony. In and around the plagiarism, she has such golden phrases as:

"I personally think a way to avoid plagiarism is using your own information, sources, and ideas. Also by not using word for word from someone else's information."


"In the past, I have found myself hesitating when making a promise, but today without a shadow of a doubt, I can say that I will never consider plagiarizing again. I myself am a Christian and with me giving my life to Christ, I took on the responsibility of not only reading but living what the Bible says. Exodus 20 clearly states from one of the Ten Commandments 'Thou shalt not steal.'"

This chick's nickname has just become Takes Moron Pills. I wonder if I'll see her in summer school. It might be best for her if she went elsewhere considering how hard on her I'll be.
talkstowolves: Writer by heart, English teacher by trade.  (bad grammar makes me sic)
There are only two weeks left of school here at the Crossroads. As such, I'm struggling to find things to fill my students' time. It's not that I don't still have a lot to teach them: I do. Oh, I do. It's more a matter of what's worth getting into this late in the game.

My seniors, for some reason unfathomable by mere teachers, are being allowed out a week early. They don't deserve such a break, but whatever. With their remaining week, I think I'll be giving them some parting tips on essay-writing and a lecture on how to take notes. If any of them actually make it into college, they're desperately going to need such a tutorial.

My eleventh graders are taking their tests on The Things They Carried on Tuesday. I think, after that, I'm going to assign a couple of short stories for discussion. They can ride out the last couple of days with surprise extra credit activities. The same goes for my tenth graders, except their focus will be on world literature rather than American literature. (And, of course, their test is on The Alchemist.)

My ninth graders get to write one last essay, though I've yet to decide the type. They also have a vocabulary test (maybe two!) to finish up. I really should devise some method with which they can earn extra credit as well. Hm.

Speaking of essays, my seniors turned in their crop of prose essays on Thursday. I just finished grading them tonight. Here's the list of stories they had to read:

"The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allen Poe
"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allen Poe
"The Lesson" by Toni Cade Bambara
"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
"Videotape" by Don DeLillo
"Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"Indian Education" by Sherman Alexie
"The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" by Ursula K. LeGuin
"The Mark on the Wall" by Virginia Woolf
"A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift

I wanted to see how much they'd learned over the year, in regards to critical analysis and essay-writing. So I didn't give them any structured guidance on this essay. I simply gave each of them a story and requested they write an essay analyzing the story. Of course, I made myself available for any questions they might have. They didn't really have many questions. They had a week to work on their essays, including some in-class writing time.

The essays were, of course, disappointing: so much dull, uninspired, and flat misunderstandings of the texts. But none were as disappointing as that of one of the newer girls, a thoughtful and quiet student whom I thought had the best chance of understanding the assignment and succeeding with her prose piece: "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift.

Please find the text of her essay enclosed beneath the cut:

An essay concerning 'A Modest Proposal' by Jonathan Swift... )

For the students in my class, the above essay sounds bloody brilliant. Too bad I immediately knew it wasn't her work and found it via Google but a quick search later (it's down there, trust me). Discovering this particular girl had plagiarized was quite a bitter pill to swallow.

Another girl did it as well on her essay about "The Yellow Wallpaper." She copied from two different sites, though. She also tried to cover it up, albeit unsuccessfully. You see, her method of covering it up was to splinter the sentences, leaving out some words and joining together odd phrases. This rendered the latter half of her essay completely nonsensical. Really. For example:

"She feels her activity, freedom, and interesting of working and would help condition and reveals. Her description is mostly positive but disturbing elements such as rings and things but her bedroom walls are the bars on the windows.

The first few weeks of the summer pass, the author describe good & bad things about her & john She continues to long fore more stimulating of the company and her activities"

All lack of punctuation and the like are the student's. This brings the total counts of plagiarism for the year up to 6. And not one of them has gotten away with it. Honestly, when will they learn? How do they honestly think they're going to get away with this nonsense?

In addition to all of this, I have one student who's completely spazzing out on me. He hasn't bothered to do any of his work this quarter, so he's trying to catch up on all of it within the last two weeks. Unfortunately, his work suffers from a serious lack of quality or understanding.

Behold his essay analyzing Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"... actually, you know what, you might want to make yourself a drink first. I'll wait. You should possibly take a couple of painkillers. Just enough to dull the pain that will shortly begin throbbing behind your eyes. Got all that done? Good. Here you go:

The Lottery

A story about Shirley Jackson. This lottery was published in June 28, 1948 and issue in New York.

The lottery was mainly about Shirley Jackson and her family and Tessie her husband.

The lottery's democratic illusion is an ideological effect that prevent the villagers from crticizing the class structure of their society. The lottery also reinforces a village work ethio with distracts the villagers.

Shirley Jackson and her family went on to the lottery and didn't have to much fun there, so they were play and how the game go there is whoever get the black ball has to be stoned so therefore her husband had got the black stone and Shirley thought they tried to give him to black stone so she was made.

Shirley was very angry and she wanted them to do it over again so they did it over again and she had ended up with the Black then so she was stoned by the crowd and her family.

End "essay."

Yeah. He's not passing. Which is too bad, considering he apparently has some sport scholarship waiting on him that depends on him having good grades. My boss told me we really needed to make a push this quarter and try to get him the grades he needs to get his scholarship, but he's obviously not making an effort in my class. I've given him enough of a break by not penalizing him for turning in late work.

Also, yes, he blatantly plagiarized there in the middle from the essay I let them read in class. At least he had the sense to quit that rather quickly.

Wearisome! Wearisome.
talkstowolves: Writer by heart, English teacher by trade.  (bad grammar makes me sic)
I have this little punk-ass kid in my 9th grade class who is made up of about 95% attitude along with 5 % hot air. He persists in speaking ghetto-English, even when I've admonished them several times about speaking proper English (i.e. grammatically correct, as they would write, not colloquial) in my class.

To combat this, I simply ignore him when he asks me questions incorrectly. This means that every day we go through the same ritual:

Punk-Ass: "Ms. B: what time it is?"
Me: *pretends no one spoke*
Punk-Ass: "MS. B! What time it is?!"
Me: *looks at him pointedly, says nothing*
Punk-Ass: "What?! What time it is?"
Me: *continues on with the lesson*

The other students always get exasperated with him, asking him to say "What time is it?" but he never does. So they eventually find out the time from another classmate to shut him up.

Yesterday was a bad day for him. He'd been suspended and then gotten into arguments with teachers who were threatening to suspend him again. He was just exhausted and not in the mood to be his usual punk-ass self. In this atmosphere, the following exchange took place:

Punk-Ass: "Ms. B? What time is it?"
Me: *looked up, with dawning surprise and glee* "It's 11:16," I stated, slowly and clearly.
Punk-Ass: "Oh, okay."
Me: "Class. I want everyone to notice that [Punk-Ass] just asked me what time it is by saying, 'What time is it?'"

Everyone was shocked and Punk-Ass started trying to back-pedal. Another student raised his hands to clap.

Me: "That's right, everyone! Give [Punk-Ass] a big round of applause!"

And we all applauded him. He hated that, but he bore it with surprising good nature. It cheered me immensely.

* * *

Yesterday, a student that shall be known as Self-Important-Twerp-Gangsta-Wannabe-Thief-Rich-Boy (or SITGWTRB for short), tried to tell me that one of my better students was absent because she had an interview at Hooters.

I couldn't believe this was actually true. First off, the student in question wouldn't miss school for that. Secondly, does Hooters even hire under-aged girls? I mean, that just seems wrong to me. They advertise the attraction of their girls as part of the biz, and I just can't see the company encouraging the ogling of jailbait. And, thirdly, I had to consider the source: this was SITGWTRB talking.

Anyway, my thoughts were mixed. It's not that I go to Hooters that often or think the food is spectacular, but knowing one of my high school students worked there would definitely ensure that I never went. I shared this opinion with Andy.

This morning, the student in question broke out of her first period class to run and find me. She wanted me to know, immediately, that she absolutely had not interviewed at Hooters yesterday. I laughed and told her I really didn't think that was the case. Privately, I was relieved.

* * *

Silent Slim is tall, dark, and as you may have guessed: silent. I don't think he likes me very much. I know he doesn't like or respect my class. He hasn't put an iota of effort toward doing any decent amount of work this semester: in fact, he seems to be trying very hard to fail.

He's the student who, according to his mother, actually wrote his research paper... and then turned in someone else's with his name on top. When the student who did actually write the paper had me help him with his revisions the day before, and turned in his own paper.

He got a talking to last Thursday from our administrator. She told him that he really needed to put some work in this last quarter so that he wouldn't fail. He missed about three-four weeks at the beginning (not sure why), so I've been exceedingly nice and agreed to let him make up all his quizzes without penalty. He agreed with the principle and me that he would do his required readings over the weekend and be ready to make up his quizzes this week.

On Tuesday, I asked him what he'd read. He had read the last three stories in The Things They Carried. I reminded him that he needed to read the entire book. He acted surprised. I told him he could take the quizzes tomorrow, but he really needed to read tonight. He said he would.

Wednesday, he hadn't done any more reading. I was impatient and still trying to work with him, so I let it slide. I told him that Thursday was the absolute last day he could take the quizzes as their test is on Tuesday. I insisted that he do his readings.

Today, he walked into my classroom (late, as usual, because he always has to be chased into my class). I held out the quizzes to him in a sheaf. He turned around and walked out of my room. Without a word. A moment later, I heard him complaining to the office lady that I was asking him to do work for which he was unprepared. She ordered him back into my class, telling him that it was better to try than not to do anything at all.

He took my quizzes. He went to his seat at the back of the class, dropped the quizzes onto the floor, and proceeded to settle into a snooze.

I held my tongue. I waited as two other students took make-up quizzes. Ten minutes passed. I finally called out to him, "[Silent Slim]." No response. "[Silent Slim!]" He stirred. "You either need to work on those quizzes or turn them in."

He muttered something. "I can't hear you, [Silent Slim]. Either turn in your quizzes or actually try to take them."

He grabbed them off the floor and shoved them across the table at another student. They flew everywhere, so that the other student had to gather them up and bring them to me. He was too kind.

Silent Slim hadn't written anything on the quizzes. My red 0's were very angry looking as I scrawled them out.

Coming Soon:
Students enrage English teacher to the point that she casts down her textbook upon the table with a mighty crash!

Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" about Shirley and her husband, Tessie! Lottery decided by a game involving a black ball, wherein the ball morphs into a stone!

Student asks to leave because "nothing's going on" when there are two more classes to go! Student claims "everyone else is leaving"!
talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (Default)
These are next year's class proposals, in incredibly brief form. Yes, I'm now potentially branching into science. It's likely for the best. I would have turned these into college-like blurbs, but I had to keep the language relatively simple for the high school students and their parents. Trust me.

Incredibly short class descriptions behind the cut... )

Yes, I know that I've listed 16 classes. At the most, I'll be teaching 8. I listed double that in the hopes that I'll actually manage to get 8 of those made. Because, if I don't, I don't get full pay. Yeah.

I'm not qualified to teach some of those courses, either. Well... not on a college level. I can teach them on a high school level, as many of those are really just varations on the high school English theme, with different specific focuses.

I'm turning in this proposal tomorrow, along with a proposal for some Adult Continuing Education Classes and some thoughts on what I can do for summer school. Wish me luck.
talkstowolves: Writer by heart, English teacher by trade.  (bad grammar makes me sic)
I had two new reviews published in the latest edition of Green Man Review. If you're interested in reading fairy tales and folktales, check out my thoughts on these two collections:

Tales of the Golden Corpse: Tibetan Folk Tales, as retold by Sandra Benson. (This review won an Excellence in Writing Award. Nice.)
Hildur, Queen of the Elves and Other Icelandic Legends by J.M. Bedell.

* * *

When I was absent this past Wednesday, I left my seniors a story to read: "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings: A Tale for Children" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I wanted to give them something rich enough to chew on, and this bit of magical realism by Marquez definitely fits that bill. I also thought it should be simple enough for them to understand without me being there to explain it to them. After all, it is a story found in my 10th graders' literature book.

Let me belabor this "picking a simple story for them" point a bit more. Originally, I wanted to assign them "A Rose for Emily" by Faulkner. I changed my mind on that one, thinking about giving them "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin instead. Unfortunately, that story would have been too long for them to get through in a 45 minute class (since I wanted them to answer comp. questions on whatever they read as well). Then I considered "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allen Poe. For that one, I even went so far as to copy it into a document and start proofreading it. I also kept a running tally on the words I thought I'd need to define for them in order to understand the story. When my count reached something around twenty, I glumly concluded there was no way they'd understand this story (likely even with input from me) and I needed to find something simpler tout suite. Thus, Marquez's "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings."

Well. Andy watched my class for me, and reported back that some of them complained quite volubly about my assignment. And then, when they were doing it, he was bombarded with requests to explain the story. He was also asked what "miraculous" meant and what a "moral" was so they could answer my question "What do you think the moral of the story is?" Most of them couldn't understand the story, and one couldn't even finish reading the three and a half page document.

I really wish I was kidding.

But I'm not.

* * *

I had to confront a parent about her son's plagiarism today. Here's a little background on this particular student: he's an arrogant little shit. He was expelled from our daily program because he would have been killed otherwise. Yet our boss wanted to work with his mother and so we continue to provide him with work to do at home.

On the very first day of classes, I gave all of my students a hand-out on plagiarism. I also made a binder that contained a complete explanation of what plagiarism is, as well as a guide on how to avoid it. I gave a lecture on plagiarism, how it would absolutely not be tolerated in my class, and told them where to find the materials to read up on it (i.e. on their hand-out, in the classroom, on the Internet, etc.).

This particular student liked to smirk that he could get away with plagiarism if he wanted to because he's smart. I always told him he wouldn't be able to do so, that I was one of those teachers who actually bothered to check up on that sort of thing. He always expressed surprise at this. Apparently, he finally decided to test me.

Of course, I caught his ass. He changed a few words around, but he lifted complete ideas and phrases off of at least two essays from 123HelpMe, a "free" and paid essay site. I printed out those two essays, then highlighted the bits in his paper that were plagiarized.

When I showed this to his mother, she tried to talk back to me. She told me that she didn't think that her son was aware that he couldn't do that and swore that she'd watched him write his entire paper and he'd never gone to that 123HelpMe site. I was righteous in my anger. I calmly stated the facts at first, but became more strongly insistent as she kept protesting and telling me it wasn't fair to fail his paper or fail him for the quarter due to his plagiarism.

I told her that he'd received the same information about plagiarism that everyone had. I insisted that he knew it was wrong. I showed her, explicitly, where he'd lifted phrases and sentences and ideas straight from these online essays. I told her that he may not have gotten them from that site in particular, but he surely got them from the Internet. I told her that the point was that this was not his work and that those words and ideas did not originate from his brain.

It got even worse when she asserted that I told her that her son had passed with a C the last time I saw her. She even got a report card from the office stating as much. This is absolute bullshit. I never turned in a grade for that student as: (A) I knew he was failing and (B) I didn't know if we were actually supposed to turn grades in for him like that, given his situation. I felt myself growing infuriated as she insisted that I had stood right there and told her that her son had a C and agreed with some printed report card that I never saw. All I could do was reiterate, strongly, that I had never given him a grade.

My boss is insisting that the grade may have to stand, but that I'm still free to fail him for the semester for his plagiarism. Which I most certainly will be doing.

I have told my students (and some parents) that I don't mess around with plagiarism. I really don't. It's a serious offense. Why, oh why, won't they believe me?

Counts of Plagiarism for the Year: 4
talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (Default)
Well, best start hiding your books. The Firemen are on their way:

Publisher makes lite work of the classics. For those of you who don't click on the link, allow me to say that this publisher got the brilliant idea to publish "Compact Editions" of class works such as Moby Dick, Anna Karenina, David Copperfield, etc. This means, essentially, that they're eliminating 40% of the books in order to make them more accessible.

Frankly, this is bullshit. As a writer, I am emphatically against other people deciding what does and does not belong in the final editions of my works. Note, however! I do recognize the value of editing, but not such mass butchery. If you don't want to read all of a book, skim. Don't permit someone to fix these books arbitrarily, cutting out entire subplots, chapters, etc., in the name of making something more "accessible." Some of the books on the publisher's list aren't even that complicated or inaccessible in the first place!

Argh. And no, I don't agree with abridged versions either.

Link found via this post on [ profile] pegkerr's livejournal.

* * *

My best friend ([ profile] crowley) provided this humorous link:
How To Use Analogies and Metaphors In Your Essay and Get National Fame.

I can't even choose which one is my favorite: there are too many horrible and equally amusing ones! I would really appreciate the creativity spent in coming up with these if they were intentional. The thought that they're unintentional would almost be too much to bear if I hadn't spent the last 8 months teaching high school English.

The list, reproduced for you here... )
talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (Default)
In my Film Studies class, about Citizen Kane (the first movie we watched in there):

"I don't get that movie at all... Something about a newspaper, Rosebud is a sled, I don't know...!" -K/D

Ah, if only you could hear the tone as well. It was absolutely hilarious, the desperate confusion and yet clarity with which he spoke.

* * *

One of my 11th-graders (Sweetpea), upon hearing about the Don Imus comments: "I didn't think what he said was that bad. I mean, I'm friends with white people and I know that you guys ain't racist. You just can't help bein' crazy."

* * *

An actual conversation that took place in class (as near to verbatim as I can remember it):

Me: "Do you know what the ones who skipped out on the draft and ran to Canada were called? ... ... Draft dodgers." (For some reason, after this explanation, I mentioned that Clinton was a draft dodger.)
LazyJ: "Ms. B, if Clinton ran for president again, would you vote for him? No, wait, are you going to vote for Hillary?"
Sweetpea: "Of course she is! Because she's a woman. Just like I'm voting for Obama because he's black."

I leapt in at this point to assure my students that I do not vote in accordance to skin color or physical sex and that they most certainly shouldn't either. We talked that out for a few moments, and then I posed the question of whether they thought a woman or a black man would be appointed to the office of president first.

All of my African American students immediately asserted that a woman would be voted in first. My other students didn't really respond. Then, LazyJ specified that he felt a black woman needs to be president before a black man ever is.

They're not voters yet, but they're going to be. Finding out their opinions was quite interesting.

* * *

We've lost another math teacher. I swear, the math position at my school is like the Defense Against the Dark Arts position at Hogwarts: apparently dangerous and it never stays filled. It's a real shame too, because this latest teacher was really doing a lot of good.
talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (Default)
As we move into prose analysis in my senior class (not that they got poetry analysis or anything), I decided that they needed to read "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. My plan was to have them read the story first and answer some basic comprehension questions. After the initial reading, I would lecture on how to begin analyzing prose. Then they'd get to read the story again, answer some more detailed questions, and eventually write an essay.

Sadly, I haven't gotten through phase one of this plan yet. You see, they read the story yesterday. It took them all period to read the six pages (we didn't have books, so I printed them each a copy). Once they'd finished reading it, they didn't really understand what had happened. So I had to take today to discuss it, as well as to go ahead and explain terms like foreshadow and scapegoat. To highschool seniors.

(Note: As I have a terrible cold or sinus infection of INSERT-ILLNESS-HERE at the moment, I didn't mind so much not having to stand up and talk for 40 minutes today. Over them. With lots of yelling.)

Allow me to share with you the first reaction the story got from Queen of the Jungle (one of the first to finish reading):

QotJ: "Why'd we have to read this?! We Christian!"
Me: "... ... Christians used to stone people all the time back in the 'day.'"
QotJ: "I know! ... It's not appropriate for [Crossroads]."

A little later:

QotJ again: "Why'd that lady say it wasn't fair?"
Me: "That's one of the points of the story: illuminating hypocrisy. Violence is all fine and dandy as long as it doesn't happen to you. Then it does and you're all, 'Oh bleep no, this bleep's gotta stop!'"

I didn't actually say that last part so succinctly. However, I do actually say bleep in class because it amuses them and keeps their attention.

Today, SnoopWannabeTupac asked me if these lotteries had ever really happened. Then he and JumpyPuppy and a few others wanted to know the origin and perpetuation of stoning.

Did you know that "The Lottery" is banned in South Africa? Or that a lot of people cancelled their subscription to The New Yorker because they published the short story? Or that one recurrent thread in the countless confused, angry, or curious letters that Shirley Jackson received was the question on where people could go to see one of these lotteries?

From the Wiki article:

"In The Magic of Shirley Jackson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1966), her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, wrote about her reaction to the banning of the story in the Union of South Africa: 'She felt that they at least understood.' In 1984, The Lottery was included among the 30 most-often banned books in American schools and libraries, as listed by Playboy (January, 1984). The books were arranged by frequency of censorship with the most-banned first, the least-banned last. At that time, The Lottery ranked #17, between Black Like Me and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich."
talkstowolves: Writer by heart, English teacher by trade.  (bad grammar makes me sic)
I haven't been chronicling my first year as a teacher in a high school very well. This is due, in large part, to the fact that I'm too busy figuring things out to have time to chronicle them. I have been developing all my own curriculums (that's 5 regular classes + 2 Monday classes for those keeping track) and dealing with the social issues that arise at the school.

Still, I thought some of you might find it interesting to get a glimpse into where I am now, class plan and assignment-wise. So, without further ado, here's a summary of what my kids will be doing tomorrow (hopefully):

9th graders/Rhetoric:
We'll be continuing to work out of their grammar book, which means that I'll give them a lecture on run-on sentences and sentence fragments and how they're BAD. Then we'll practice ways to avoid them, how to sound them out, and how to correct butchered English.

10th graders/World Literature:
We discussed magical realism last week, but it's still too early to start their next reading assignment. Therefore, this week I'm letting them engage in a little creative work. They're going to have a small refresher on what "magical realism" means and then get to write their own short story in the magical realism genre.

11th graders/American Literature:
We've been discussing war-time literature as our next book is The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. However, it's also not time for them to start reading their book yet. Tomorrow, I plan to assign each child a number: 1 or 2. All the 1's are going to be drafted into the military and sent to Iraq (trying to make it contemporary). All the 2's will NOT be drafted and will get to stay at home. Their activity for the day is then to write an essay on how they feel about being drafted or not being drafted, about their friends being drafted or not being drafted, etc.

12th graders/Popular Media:
I'm desperately trying to teach these guys how to write proper essays and we've been working on the analysis of poetry for the past couple of weeks. They were instructed to write a poetry analaysis over the weekend and I want to go over that, but I need something to keep them busy until I can grade their papers first. Therefore, I've made up a packet of a couple of poems and a couple of analyses of those poems written by other people. My students will have to read these analyses, then answer a series of questions appraising the essays' strengths and weaknesses.

Film Studies:
We're watching Casablanca.

And now we are sleepy. Goodnight.
talkstowolves: (english teacher rage)
As I grade the first quizzes from my 11th grade class, the following sentiment creeps to mind:

"O, America, I weep for you!"

Please, dear readers, allow me to share with you exactly what this first quiz entailed: on the second day of classes, we continued to talk about American folklore. I proceeded in somewhat of a lecture/Q&A format, telling them stories about different American folk heroes and letting them talk back and forth about them. I also told them at the beginning of class that there'd be a quiz at the end. We talked for about 25 minutes on the various folktales, then I gave them a quiz composed thusly:

American Folklore Quiz #1

Name: _______________________________________________________________

Please correctly identify the following by putting the appropriate letter in the blank before the correct number.

A. Paul Bunyan
B. Davy Crockett
C. Jersey Devil
D. Pecos Bill
E. Johnny Appleseed
F. Slue-Foot Sue
G. John Henry
H. Mike Fink
I. Emperor Norton I
J. Casey Jones

___ 1. I’ve been described as “half horse and half alligator.”
___ 2. In the War of 1812, I walked the forest and warned settlers of impending attacks.
___ 3. I had to be shot after my wedding due to a “wardrobe malfunction.”
___ 4. I ruled America from 1859 to 1880, during which I abolished the Democratic and Republican parties.
___ 5. I once jump-started the frozen sun and, later, married Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind.
___ 6. I wielded a 14-pound hammer and no one could match how fast I could go.
___ 7. I was born a normal child, but my demonic nature soon emerged.
___ 8. I failed as a train-driver, going too fast and fatally crashing into fame.
___ 9. I dug Lake Michigan as a watering hole and had a friend as big as me.
___ 10. My favorite companion was Widow-maker, though he cost me my bride.

Summarize one of the stories we discussed in class either today or yesterday. Use the back of this page as necessary.

Everything on this quiz, we talked about in class just before I gave it to them. Each of the matching questions counted as 9 points each and the summary counted as 10 points.

Do you think anyone got a perfect score?

... ... ... I admit, I kinda expected someone would. Here are the scores I actually got, though:

82, 56, 64, 64, 73, 64, 82, 86, 41

Yes. Most of the summaries were alright, though most had several grammatical errors. And then a couple of them looked like this:

"Johnt apple sead he plants apple seads and told on the indians attark"


"Davy Crockett was afruteir man and he killed a bear and sow tthe son was frozin so he beted it with the bear and then he kick start it took some of it's shine with him."

To be fair, I think the first child may be one of my special needs students and I just haven't gotten the memo yet. And I was aware that the second child spelled on about a 4th grade level, but not about how atrocious his grammar is.

But, dude, 11th graders. As Jamelle says, this makes the baby Jesus cry.

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