Thursday, September 17, 2015

Conference Time Again

I've got about 45  minutes between parent-teacher conferences this evening, and I'm caught up enough in planning and grading to allow myself a few minutes to tell you about this school year.

My planning period is first hour this semester, which I don't mind.  It's nice to have time in the morning to make sure I have what I need for the day ready to go.  Plus, I actually eat breakfast.  I've taken to keeping some cereal/granola in my office, a carton of milk in the mini-fridge, and a bowl and spoon.  I don't have to force-feed myself at 5:30 AM, nor do I just skip eating until lunch at 12:30.  It feels like a more civilized way to begin each day.

Second period is Advanced Drama.  I have a great, if eclectic group of 14 kids this term.  There are some really talented die-hards in there and some green newbies to the world beyond Drama 1.  What's tricky is that there are only 3 boys and 11 girls.  That is not a great ratio when it comes to finding plays.

Happily, though, the stars aligned for me.  I've been sitting on Mary Zimmerman's "The Secret in the Wings" for a while now waiting for the right group to do it.  Not only does it suit this class well, but we're going to see Lookingglass Theater's production of Lookingglass Alice at the DCTC next Wednesday.  With Mary Zimmerman working so closely and so frequently with Lookingglass Theater, it's the perfect chance for them to both see and to play with that type of theater.

My third hour is probably my trickiest this term.  It's Speech, and I have the usual array of smart kids, veteran speechers who repeat the elective, and shy kids who are trying to break out of their shells.  The problem is I also have four sophomore football players and one football wanna-be who are upset that they're in the class.  They're disruptive, defiant, and rude; but the only other elective offered that hour is Jesse's guitar class and he's got the other half of this bad set of sophomores (the slacker/stoners of the group).

It's a battle, but I'm optimistic for the long term.  I'd hoped that a month into the class they'd quit complaining when I ask them to stand up for warm-ups ("But I'm tired!") or to time their pieces ("But I don't want to perform!") or to find a piece in the first place ("But I don't want to be in this class!").  My response is a constant, "Tough.  You're here, and I expect you to participate."  I'm upping the disciplinary consequences now that we've established that they're here to stay and I'm not cutting them slack.  I don't think their attitudes will change, but I think they will quit sucking away the pleasure and the progress the class offers all the other kids.

4A is a brand-new class.  The counselor last year was desperately seeking options for new electives.  I tossed out a few ideas while chatting with her one day, then to my surprise discovered them all on my schedule for this year.

This one is fun, though.  After many requests from the Humanities students, we're doing a World Mythology course.  Like my first time teaching Humanities, I'm constantly racing to stay at least one day ahead of them in the curriculum.  Of course, there is no actual curriculum for me to pull from; I'm creating this class from scratch.  I enjoy the subject matter quite a bit, though, and I'm finding some good resources.  The reviews from the students are positive so far, despite the class consisting of everyone from low-level freshmen to gifted seniors.  Whoo boy, talk about differentiating expectations.

We started off with a unit on archetypes and tropes to compare creation myths across several cultures, then focused in on Egypt.  They took that test today, and now we're diving into my comfortably familiar Greek territory.

4B is Drama 1.  It was broken into two sections each semester last year, which I surprisingly didn't like.  By putting them back together I have a relatively big group (32 kids vs. two groups of 15 or so), but I find the energy much healthier.  When the kids are starting out, there's safety in numbers.  They're far more willing to play and be silly and take the risks drama requires when there's a big group doing it.  It's nice to have the type of beginner drama class I'm used to rather than the constant fighting for participation and focus last year's groups demanded.

Speech team practices are going on with our first meet coming up in two weeks.  The kids are still largely in the hunting-for-pieces phase, but there's a lot of enthusiastic and pretty talented newbies to the team, which is nice to see.  There was a bit of a lull the last few years (for instance, I'll only have one varsity senior next year.  Weird!), so this gives me hope for the talent pool to deepen again.

And, naturally, I'm already planting the "you should try out for the musical!" seeds, especially with the boys.  The kids are eager to hear what it is, but we're keeping it under wraps until the end of October.  The secrecy creates so much good buzz that Jesse and I don't want to lose the good publicity.

And that's this term!  Overall, a bit of a challenge but not really a new one.  Just enough to keep me on my toes and to keep up the demand for my creativity on stage and in the classroom.

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