Monday, April 23, 2007

Frogs Have So Much Spring Within Them

Ah, Shakespeare Day. Or what should be, at least. His day of death, his probable day of birth - it ought to be a holiday, don't you think?

Since last I posted, I enjoyed a wonderful spring break in Denver, hanging out with my sister and the rest of my family. Hanging out with my sister included hanging out with her husband's new puppy, Jem. Here's a picture of Jem and her owner, courtesy of my sister's blog:
Shopping, eating, playing games - it was the usual delightful family get-together. And here's the miracle - I wasn't sick! Nor have I been since then. I don't know why, but for the first time in my memory, I finished a production in health. Go figure.

Since then, I've kept busy by rolling straight into the next production - the annual 9th grade Shakespeare festival is this Friday, so we're rehearsing a 20-minute version of Romeo and Juliet, as is our tradition. I did myself a favor this year, and instead of trying to incorporate all of my Advanced Drama class into this production, I only cast three students in it. Yes, we have to rehearse after school, but three actors are easy to cope with, and these guys are pretty good.

It never stops, though. I'm also taking applications for and selecting next year's stage crew (although I don't know what I'll do without my crew from this year. Especially Chris, my sound guy. He's fantastic - far more so that your typical ninth grader).

Midterms are this Friday, but miraculously, I am totally caught up with my grading at this point. I KNOW! Four days early and I even have the daily participation points in the computer. You would think I know what I'm doing or something.

The state Criterion-Referenced Tests start on Monday - a stressful time for the students. Then again, it's a nice way to temper the spring crazies, too.

Speaking of, we had a riot at our school a few weeks ago. After school, so we weren't too involved (alas!), but three kids were tasered and several arrested. Fun!

I've also been taking my AVID class on a couple of field trips. We toured a big, private, religious university earlier this month, and a small private liberal arts school last week. They seem to see the possibilities that are out there, finally, and they're excited.

Two favorite moments from the field trips:

1) During a Q&A, one student asked "What's the school dress code?" The admissions rep replied, "Um... I don't think there is one. No one really cares what you wear." And with that answer, I think I saw their minds explode.
2) I witnessed, perhaps, the iconic junior-high school moment: Claudia, a bright young woman, sitting front and center in a college admissions Q&A, asking an intelligent, mature, and well-phrased question about going into medicine, while clutching a Hello, Kitty! doll in her lap.

I love this age group!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Michael Jordan's Ball

My friend and mentor, Heidi, taught me a lot about risk taking. Teaching - good teaching - frequently demands that you put yourself on the line. For me, simply accepting my current teaching position was one of the most courageous acts of my life. I hated my own experiences in middle school, so much so that the thought of stepping back into that environment, even if it was to teach, was scary enough that I almost didn't take the job.

I'm glad I did. Not only has it purged most of the bad tastes of my own early teens, but at Dead President Junior High I have had the chance to conquer even more middle-school demonic memories and hang-ups.

Mocked in choir in 8th grade for not singing in tune?
I sang a duet with Janelle at a school assembly last year.

A wall-flower at the few dances I attended?
I am one of the chaperones of choice for school dances, largely because I dance too, and the kids love it.

Shy, overweight, and excluded?
I dance every year in front of the entire student body for the Winter Assembly.

Over and over again I have faced my hang-ups and embarrassments and successfully and humorously relived them, usually in front of the entire school. I love it, honestly. I don't get embarrassed anymore. Yesterday, though, I faced my biggest inhibitions.

Our principal thought it would be swell if there was a faculty women's basketball team that would play against the school's girl's varsity team. Being male, this was a way of building school spirit that alleviated any participation on his part. So, the girl's coach, Amber, begged and caroused her way around the faculty and found nine other women who would play. Including me.

I don't think some of you understand how scary agreeing to this was for me. Most of my humiliations in middle school came from gym class and jock-types. This was the bravest risk I've taken in at least a year.

But I did it! I donned a sweat band, purchased some capri pants to play in, laced up my tennis shoes and put myself out there. And I didn't just sit on the bench the whole time, either. Of the 30-minute game, I played for at least 10 minutes, and I even touched the ball a few times during the game.

I went into it with no pretenses. I told my classes that I had no delusions of being good at this. (My exact words were "I suck." They laugh, I continue, "No, I'm not kidding. You don't understand the magnitude of my suckiness. I am truly terrible at this.") They asked why I was doing this, and I answered them honestly. They get risk taking, and they understood why this was a big deal for me. I think that's one of the important aspects of my teaching philosophy, that honesty.

And get this - we won! 37 to 26. It was a close game up to the end, actually. The girls were vicious, Janelle was aggressive, Kelley was amazingly fast, and Amber was tall. That helped. As did cheers like "Respect your elders!" "Run slower!" and "Only Four More Minutes!" from our team at the end of time-outs.

So, yeah. I'm proud of what I did. The entire school was there, and I played a sport in front of them all. Go me!

Here's some proof:

Look! I'm actually holding the ball, about to do something with it!

The girl's team. They're a lot scarier when they're playing.

Our team. We're not that scary.

By the way, do you note the purple hair? The cast of Honk acutally did it - 860 people came to our Thursday night show, and almost 800 came Friday night, so I dyed my hair last weekend. It prompted the student announcer to nickname me "Dennis Rodman", and I think helped distract the other team. Especially when paired with the yellow t-shirt, orange pants, and green shoes. I might not have played well, but I looked stunning!

I'll post more about the show soon, I promise. I think I need more time to decompress it before I can sort my thoughts into blog form. But it'll come, I promise.