Sunday, August 10, 2008

holy frijoles

Tonight: the first night of the school year.
I'm so pumped and I'm freakin' out.
I'm reading a book on how to get students to keep a writer's notebook. It isn't written for my age-group, but the principles are the same. The first page accurately described my first year of trying this -- frustrated and performing most of the work, wanting the entries to be student-driven, but coming up with topics for the kiddos who don't have brains.
So, what I have to do is figure out how to teach 10th graders how to think about their own topics. Should I just teach them how to write as professionals do? Or should I start them off with prompts (these are usually stupid). I remember mine from 11th grade -- it was a coach teaching the class and I read and wrote more than he did, but he was a good hearted man -- they were things like, would you tear a butterfly's wings off for a thousand dollars, or would you eat a bowl of live crickets for a thousand dollars and why? He was obsessed about doing things for a thousand dollars. I answered as I knew he wanted me to just to play with him. As you can see it wasn't genuine or (if you are a writer you would probably not say deep but...) significant. And all but perhaps two out of 110 students I had last year wrote significant notebook entries. So what to do? What to do?
I'm not at all worried about the two classes I'm teaching that I have never taught before (Art and Yearbook), instead I'm worried about English again. That great subject at which I've excelled more than my intimate peers and yet, has always made me feel inferior and ignorant. And that's got me saying, "holy frijoles."
It's hard being a jack-of-all-trades and queen of none. I want so badly to be a, as Doug said, rock-star teacher. A Earl Schrock, Donna White, or Trey Philpotts. A Mr. Dewar, my ninth grade geometry teacher, he is an Earl Schrock. I wonder how long it took him to get there. He used to call me "enigma" when he was frustrated with me and "Coop" when he wasn't. My whole life has been shaped by that first nickname, which, again, is the reason I'm thinking "holy frijoles" when I realize I'll have students in my room again in three days. Why is that? Mr. Dewar called me enigma, he said, because I was the smartest student he had and I wasted it. Here I am with the incredible opportunity of Wellston. Classes I've wanted to teach. A new huge room with computers and new supplies. A welcoming faculty. A fresh start, a new year at a new school. And I'm afraid I'll waste it by being me.

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