Monday, September 28, 2009

Youth Is Wasted On The Young

Here's something that really got me fired up:

And while a lot of people will agree that cursive is going the way of the abacus, it truly is an absolute tragedy if it does. Not only will our children and our students not know the traditional cursive forms that even our forefathers were fluent in, but we will officially be giving in to the overwhelming pressure for text-speak or abbreviations, or even laziness to take precedence in the classroom. That's not OK with me.

While correcting tests last week, I ran into a handful of "aka," "idk," "b4," and "&." While the ampersand doesn't necessarily enrage me, the others do. I still consider & to be a shortcut, but it is perfectly acceptable in note-taking because it's part of the ever-changing contemporary shorthand, which colleges around the world urge their students to investigate and utilize. Each time I saw these on my tests, I wondered what these kids were thinking? Do they think that the world will quickly change into something informal, instantaneous, and insouciant, where spelling goes by the wayside of innovative ideas or video games? I know the majority of these kids have never read a book outside of school, but that they have probably texted (and in the past week mind you) a book-length amount of text messages. [Many also try to be sly and text during my class. This is the last week in which I won't be doling out immediate, non-negotiable detentions for such insubordination.]

Do my students really live in a world where this is considered kosher? It is the responsibility of my generation to alter their opinions of this, to re-instill the lost and forgotten values and rules? I hate to say it, but this generation is the most nihilistic so far. No topics are taboo, and no age is too young for any topic anymore, it seems--at least when it comes to the students. While parents try to protect their children more and more from the evils of the world, their children are exposed to them earlier and earlier, and while these things exist in their worlds, in their parents' worlds, they are still innocent and naive.

I admit, I was also naive to this. But when my freshmen decided that "foreshadowing" was "foreplay," and "hyperbole" was "gross diarrhea of the mouth, right?" I immediately realized that the filters and levels of respect that were once so important and essential in our culture, are slowly dissolving in today's youth. I hope that the younger teachers and tomorrow's parents realize that each subsequent generation is becoming more inoculated against both the evils and the beneficial and benevolent parameters of the world. Each subsequent generation is breaking or bending the rules more and more, and with each push, more and more of the rules are falling by the wayside. In addition, there is a level of entitlement and rewarding unlike anything that our ancestors could imagine. Now, there is no first place trophy. Everyone gets a trophy, even if they don't do anything. Now, every students has the right to challenge the way I grade, the way I teach, and the way that they are expected to learn. Their rights are stacking up while mine are disintegrating. Their feeling of deserving this and that is growing exponentially year by year. Rules are simply things to be challenged. Communication isn't important unless it's in a chat room or via text message.

As one of my students put it, "but when we graduate college, we won't have to know grammar; plus we have spell check." There's much to pull from this about how much they believe the world will soon cater to them, and how much the world will change by the time they reach my age.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Awesome Choreography

Here's a prime example of what the determination of college students can create. 170 or so Communication students at the University of Quebec-Montreal shot a one-take video to the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling." While the lip-syncing and dancing could use a bit of improvement, the choreography, video recording (not at all shaky even when going up and down stairs!), and ingenuity far outshines what a lot of our other college freshmen are up to these days...

I'll also be posting a link to the other story about MIT students in Cambridge who sent up the balloon into the upper atmosphere.

Monday, September 7, 2009

To Advise or Not To Advise

To my surprise, at Northbridge it is neither required nor requested that each teacher take on students for advising and/or write recommendations for these students. Instead, students can come to us for extra help or advising on what course they should take after ours; and they can ask us individually to write them letters of recommendation.

After hearing many of the stories from K. and from reading a lot of the descriptions and summaries on school districts' websites throughout the past year, I was under the impression that I would be required, much like a college professor, to make myself available to students for advising and/or would be required to assist certain students in deciding on their college choices or what path they should pursue post high school.

Yet somehow I have found myself in the position of an adviser already.

Several drama students--y'know, the kids whose passions are acting, improvisation, art, and escaping the athletic obsessions of a sports-minded town. I feel like I could have been counted among their league when I was in school, though I treated writing, sports, and music equally in my life. But their passion was unmistakable and their desire to get me moving and deciding on what play to produce has sort of inspired me to do just that.

Maybe it was the suggestion of Alice In Wonderland, having performed that myself while in high school, or the thought of reconnecting with my dramatic roots, or maybe it was just the feeling of appreciation and acceptance I would feel from and among the Northbridge community that is really driving my desire to become the drama adviser. Whatever it was, it looks like Alice In Wonderland is heading down an unstoppable track already--and I'm only beginning day four tomorrow!

It's a rampant question in interviews: what else are you willing to do besides teach? With school comprising only a certain percentage of students' lives, they are impressionable and full of free time outside of school, so why not try to attract them with after school clubs and activities? To advise or not to advise, I suppose that's the contract year question. I said I definitely would, and still believe I would even if it meant a large commitment of hours and time otherwise relegated to my Master's work.

I have an informal meeting scheduled with the aforementioned three students tomorrow after school to discuss what we are going to do moving forward. I need to speak to the administration, of course, regarding all the possible conflicts I could run into. But this could be an extremely exciting endeavor, especially for my first year. And since I just overloaded my sentence with alliteration, I'll call it a blog night.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Delusions of Grandeur

So I have assumed for a while that all my students would be thrilled to have me as their teacher--I'm energetic, fun, a relatively moderate grader (but then again isn't that a 'political' term?), easygoing, and I certainly make a fool out of myself nearly everyday. But that's no match for the emotional vicissitudes of freshmen nor those too preoccupied with being the stereotypical disinterested and stoic teenagers.

I made a joke about the water fountain at the opening of my first class the other day. In Massachusetts (and Rhode Island and elsewhere nearby), water fountains are referred to as 'bubblers.' Here I am making it seem like I'm on another planet or in the middle of nowhere, but no, we're smack dab in 5th most densely populated area in the US. Anyway, a student asked to visit the bubbler. Knowing full well what they meant, I took the creative approach and acted 1) excited that someone had brought a bubble-generator to school the first day, 2) faked a more-than-healthy amount of confusion about the transformation of a water fountain to a bubbler, 3) and compared the water fountain to a bubbly quidnunc or overly excited freshmen would-be cheerleader.

I also made a joke when showing them where the fire exits were or what our procedure is in my classroom during a fire drill or a lockdown. In the event of a fire, do this...In the event of a water landing, you could probably exit through the windows, but please do not use your desks as flotation devices as they will not float.

Overall, I'll say (and I'm an English teacher breaking this into percentages...) 75% of the kids 'get' me, and appreciate that I'm trying to enliven their experiences in freshmen English and that I'm trying to embarrass myself in an effort to alleviate their anxieties about high school, my class, and speaking up in class. But a fair amount either think I'm crazy or are too stuck in their desires to challenge me, test my boundaries, etc. I hope to win the majority over and have a perfect year, but of course these are grandiose dreams. In all truth, that would be naive to assume and I'd obviously be having delusions of grandeur. No classroom can be perfect and no school year can be perfect. There will always be those that choose not to 'accept' what I expect of them, etc. etc. etc...

Here's hoping the year is excellent. Again, it's only two days in...I expect on Tuesday I'll be able to give another terrific blog.