Friday, August 28, 2009

Thursday Thoughts of a Twitterless Thinker 8-27-09

The 9th Grade Literature lesson on Tuesday was about astronomer Galileo Galilei. As I was introducing the subject, I said, “Doesn’t this topic make you want to start singing a song?” I looked expectantly at the students, only to have blank stares returned.

“You know, ‘Galileo, Galileo’…” I offered.

Continued blank stares.

“Galileo, Galileo, Figaro, Magnifico-o-o-o…” I sang.

One student smiled and said “Oh” in recognition. The other seven gave me looks that said, “Clearly, our new literature teacher is a blockhead.”

“Bohemian Rhapsody?” I prompted.


“So you think you can stop me and spit in my eye-i-i…So you think you can love me and leave me to die-i-i…” I sang while doing my best head-banger imitation in unison with the one student who had heard of the song. (It was a bonding moment--49-year-old teacher and 16-year-old Frodo-haired teen both nodding their heads violently to the tune the teacher was singing.)

It was almost as bad as watching the inauguration last year and having eight fifth graders have no idea who Aretha Franklin was.

One of the thoughts that went through my Twitterless head today was the importance of family.

Now I’ve always known family is important, but a couple of recent events have impressed upon me how vital these relationships are.

No matter how bizarre, demented or drug-addicted you think Michael Jackson was, the overwhelming truth is that his little children loved him. All footage of his children I have seen clearly shows the mutual adoration. To them, he was their world. They didn’t love him because he could dance well or because he was a musical iconoclast. They loved him because he was dad.

No matter how much of a drunken womanizer you or I think Teddy Kennedy was, his family, especially his children, nieces and nephews, are not shy about singing his praises. Even in video footage from years ago, his siblings’ children describe him as a warm, loving, parental surrogate who was always there for them, whether for weddings, graduations, baptisms or special accomplishments. His family doesn’t revere him because of his political stances or his place in Massachusetts society. They honored him because he cared for them.

Why spend so much time trying to please the world, our bosses or strangers, when it is these intimate family relationships that matter the most?

My fifth grade son had 3 ½ hours of homework today. The only reason it wasn’t 4 hours was because I told him that after 3 ½ hours of homework and 2 hours away at kyuki-do, that he was not about to do the additional 30 minutes of required reading. Added to 6 ½ hours of school, he spent more time on schoolwork than Computer Geek spent at work. I’m hoping this is not indicative of the rest of the school year.

Happy Birthday on the 28th to You-Know-Who from You-Know-Where who wishes to remain anonymous! Make sure you all wish her a happy day! (It’s not me.)

The principal of our high school has a unique way of punishing irresponsibility. She buys a box full of small neon super balls, with smiley faces on them. If a student comes unprepared (no paper, no book, no pencil, no homework) she writes their name on the “goofball,” and puts it into a large clear flower vase. At the end of the year, whoever has the most goofballs in the vase, has to take her out to lunch at the restaurant of her choice. “And I always pick the most expensive thing on the menu!” she says. On the first day of school Monday, she pointed out last year’s “winner” and said, “How much did it cost you to be a goofball last year?” He slunk down in his seat and said, “$36.” He’s determined not to be the winner again this year.

Here’s a fun way to help your kids with division. When I make a treat, like peanut butter balls for example, I have my son count how many I made. Then I have him divide the number by how many people will be partaking of the treat. If he correctly divides the number, he gets to keep the remainder. If he calculates incorrectly, the remainder goes to the cook—me! He was excited once when I made 29 peanut butter balls and there were five of us eating them. He correctly divided out that each of us got 5, with a remainder of 4, meaning he got 9. Oh happy day!

I was heart-broken last year when I discovered I wouldn’t be teaching the same group of kids this year that I had for 4th and 5th grade. Instead I would be teaching high school literature. (So I luckily get my 6th graders for at least one hour a day.) I was nervous at first. Teenagers scared me. I used to have two of them so I know.

After four days of school, I am happy to announce---I love teenagers! They are funny, insightful, caring, funny, smart, observant, studious, attentive, and funny! And they’re funny! They get most of my jokes. What’s not to love? Also, I've gotten two presents and a hug already this week. I'm lovin' it.

Teaching literature is a hoot. I get to read for about six hours a day. What a job. Is there anything better than doing what you love all day long? I guess the only thing better would be a job where I got to read all day, while scrapbooking with a bowl of Farr’s E.L. Fudge chocolate ice cream, during Dancing With the Stars. And then blogging about it the next day! Heck, yes.

I’ve mentioned Farr’s E.L. Fudge ice cream three times now. Helloooooo….where are my free coupons?

Today [Thursday] marked the two-year anniversary of the day my big (4’11”) sister had a stroke. She was depressed, feeling like two years of her life were spent living in a reduced manner. I, on the other hand was happy, thinking how grateful I was that her life was spared and we’ve had two more years with her and many more to come. Two perspectives of the same event. Both valid.


  1. Randi, I wish I was reading literature with you all day too! I bet you're so much fun in the classroom. Bohemian Rhapsody?! I wish you got that performance on video. I told my son about the goofball punishment idea. I can tell by how he raised his eyebrows that he's afraid of that kind of reprimand. God bless your sister and your family for continued health and happiness. Randi, keep teaching the next generation how to rock!!

  2. septembermom: I would love it if you were there in my literature classes! YOU would have known Bohemian Rhapsody and we could have head-banged together! I gave them an assignment this weekend to go find BR on youtube. I am hoping no parents complain. :)

    Thanks for the well-wishes for health and for my sister. Much appreciated.

  3. Hi Randi

    I taught 11th grade lit for nine years and loved it. Loved your Thursday Thoughts too. Your writing is so lively. I hope you have a good school year.

    I'm a little bit worried about Janice because her site has been down for so long. I sent her an email and she didn't respond. It may just be coincidence that her server went down at about the same time she was supposed to get her test results back. Any thoughts on the disappearance of Janice?

  4. Never mind! I just got a message from Nadia saying Janice is doing fine.

  5. Brenda: Nice to see you here at Foreign Quang! Now I know who to bother about creative literature teaching ideas! Any good thoughts on how to create a little excitement?

    I'm glad you heard that Janice is fine! She's awesome! Did she tell you she has an entry in the book called "Dolls Remembered" on the top of my sidebar?

    Thanks for visiting us, Brenda! Hope you come back again.

  6. How interesting about the doll book. There are so many talented people in this world, not the least of which is 9th graders. My best advice is to have them write the first five minutes of every class, pushing to fill a page on whatever topic you've assigned. I've been scoring SAT essays for five years, and the biggest problem I see is that students aren't able to write two full pages in 25 minutes. If they can learn to write one page in five minutes, they should be able to write two pages in 25 minutes with no problem. Play with vocab. too.

  7. Brenda: I love the idea of having them write for the first few minutes of class.I know that last year, with my fifth graders, I had them keep journals, and many of them just sat there saying, "I don't know what to write." I will start that tomorrow with my ninth graders! Excellent suggestion, Brenda. Thank you. In fact, I will probably start it with all my classes. I teach grades 6,7,8,and 9.

  8. I was really touched - but not surprised - to find you and Brenda talking about me behind my back again!

    This was yet another wonderful post, Randi - it's like watching a favourite soap on TV called 'Randi.' The kids in your classes will be blogging some day about how lucky they were to have you as a teacher! I enjoyed teaching teenagers, too, especially the 'wild' guys they kept putting in my classes. They often turned out to be the ones with the best music collections who wrote profoundly moving poetry.

  9. Janice: I know what you mean about the wild guys! They usually end up being the ones who are nicest to the teacher.

    I think that after today, my ninth graders will only blog about how mean I am! I had about three different conversations going on, in loud voices, while I was trying to teach. I came unglued and told one kid that if he didn't stop distracting the whole class he'd be singing Aretha to me. I said "R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me." Then during a test, he blurted out an answer, excusing himself by saying, "Oh, I thought everyone was done." AARGH.

  10. I like it Rand, I have always loved your writing. Now I can sneek a peak from time to time...

  11. Big Bad Wolf: Thank you for coming for a visit. Just don't eat my grandma.


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