Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sea-grass & bottle, Ireland, County Mayo

Does Jennifer enjoy life?

This question was posted on my Facebook page by my mother. I just taught her how to use Facebook last weekend and now she is out of control. She also posted at least 8 other questions. The questions were things like, "Would you date Jennifer?" or "Do you think Jennifer likes dogs?" I had to laugh. I mean, my Facebook is mostly used for professional purposes. I am friends with a plethora of people from writers to students to parents of students to friends to teachers to old high school friends.

I'm not sure "Would you date Jennifer?" is an appropriate question.

Anyway, I deleted all of the questions except "DOES JENNIFER ENJOY LIFE?" I thought that was a strange question. It turns out that my response ended up being more of a list of times and people that make my little heart swell with thankfulness. So I thought I would share the list with the world.

Does Jennifer enjoy life?

Let's see...once she fell in love with van Gogh's letters and then she retraced his life in France from death to St. Remy to Arles to Paris.

She fell in love with Ireland and decided to wed herself to the Cliffs of Moher. She's returned every other summer (once even three times in a year) to see those cliffs.

No matter how much it humiliates her boyfriend, Jennifer dresses up the loves of her life, Telemachus & Edith, in ridiculously adorable clothes that say things like "Pugs not Drugs" or "Pug Life."

The Jeep Wrangler days. Top rolled down. The peace birthed by a little Eazy-E or Chet Baker. No obstacle the Jeep couldn't overcome.

And the snowboarding days that hopefully aren't over. Vermont. Countless trips to Colorado, Whistler in Vancouver...and the most thrilling, (though she did get lost for three hours) the Austrian Alps.

There is a girl named Kelly who Jennifer has spent many many days with enjoying life. There have been makeshift fire batons, evenings at Border's, trips to Detroit to be with other Red Wings freaks, and evenings spent on the patio doing nothing at all, except looking at baby ducks.

And there are three women, one now passed on, who love Jennifer more than she could ever ask or sometimes even want to be loved: Mom, Aunt Linda, and Bubba.

Now Jennifer is driven to defy her body and become a runner. A half-marathon in May awaits.

So does Barcelona in June, with a little side trip to the mistress land of Ireland. Jennifer and her friend will backpack Spain like they are 22, not 32. They will jump ship to Africa for a few days and see what that has to offer.

Does Jennifer enjoy life? Not always. But she is present in life. Mostly, she feels alive. And though she is not happy every moment of the day, she is usually thankful.

Oh...and because of all of the traveling, she is also always broke.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One more backpacking summer

I have managed to do it again.

A plane ticket to Europe. June. Barcelona.

When I return a new stage begins.

I feel the nakedness of my finger. I feel the warmth that awaits. Princess-cut, perhaps.

I never thought I'd say this. Never. I want marriage. I want children.

I feel lucky just thinking about it. I feel loved.

And going to Spain will be pretty cool as well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Teaching Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy was a summer reading choice for my students. The students who chose McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning novel are happy, happy readers. I haven't heard one complaint about the novel.

Today we had a great day. We have a lot of these. A student, for his presentation, put us into groups of four (I love presentations because I get to be a student). We had to leave the classroom for a bit while the student hid bags of food. Then, we took turns scavenging the classroom for the food, which of course was a bunch of candy. When it wasn't our turn to scavenge for food, we sat in the hallway and wrote in our writer's notebook about whether or not we would be a good guy or a bad guy as defined by McCarthy's novel.

The students who didn't choose The Road as a summer reading book are all headed to the library to get a copy. A movie was recently made and should be out in theaters at the end of this month. I am hoping to take the students on a field trip to see it. Viggo Mortenson will be playing the father.

For those of you who haven't read The Road, I suggest that you do. It is about a post-apocalyptic world where a man and his son travel along a road in hopes of finding some place that is not dead. The few humans left in this charred world are mostly cannibals. There is a line near the beginning of the book. I don't have the book with me, but the line says something like "If the words of the boy were not of God then God never spoke." It's a breathtaking book about the love of a father and son and the microscopic hint of hope that lingers in a cold and dead world.

Monday, November 2, 2009

High school teacher mutterings

In education classes (or during boring professional development days) we learn about the importance of student led conferences. Any one-on-one time you spend with a student is highly beneficial, but for me, there is something even more beneficial, or at least more practical than student led conferences.

The truth is that when you have 20-30 kids in a class it is nearly impossible to meet with students more than once every few weeks and even that is unlikely. What I have observed as most beneficial to high school students is to teach them how to speak to each other about literature. It is through higher level discussions that my students learn to talk about books. It is through intense writing workshops that they learn how to talk to each other about writing.

I learned how to facilitate this type of learning environment through my graduate writing classes. I wish more high school teachers could see the value of the workshop. It’s definitely hard work and requires more time, but it is invigorating and more valuable to students and their learning.

So many high school teachers are stuck in the swamp of simple comprehension questions. Do you need to know who wrote a book? Yes! Do you need to be able to recall the name of the apartment complex a character lived in at the beginning of the book? That would be nice, but I think it is much more valuable that you can discuss the character’s growth and flaw…

I don't know what the future holds for me. I am not sure if I want to always teach high school. The thought of doing any one thing for my entire life makes me feel a sense of dread. However, I do think I have something to say about teaching. I usually don't blog much about it, but I think I will start sharing snippets of what I have learned and what I am still learning in the classroom.