Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Beautiful Mornings

Sipping a cappuccino on a piazza in a little fishing village in Sicily makes for a wonderful morning.

But you know what? Grabbing a cappuccino to sip on my walk to my new teaching job is pretty fantastic, too.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

This is how I feel when I see a cat video

or when me and the Budman are having a kitty make-out session.  Amazing.

Via Teenangster.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

From MUSE: Twitter and Professional Development

I am starting to experiment more with Twitter.  Perhaps I am just 800 years old, but for some reason it just always confused me.  How am I supposed to keep up with it? Do I just go to the site all the time? Can't it just be a part of my Google Reader along with everything else? There are so many things to read!!

I just discovered Tweetdeck.com,which is helpful--you can organize tweets into columns that you define. And, I'm starting to look into using both Twitter and Tweetdeck as professional development tools.  I can follow specific peeps that I like (Jim Burke, what!).  And, miracle of miracles, I'm starting to get hashtag chats.  I know, I know, welcome to the future, Vanessa.  But, it was HARD.

Anyway, #Edchat is something that everyone seems to love and recommend, so it's one of the things I'm starting with.  Now, if I can just remember to actually log in sometimes, I'll be golden.

There are about 70 education chats working for specific focuses. There are several hundred hashtags used to identify education-specific tweets. #Edchat continues at noon and 7 p.m. Eastern each Tuesday with different topics. The topics are determined by a poll including five topics that is posted each Sunday and remains open until Tuesday. The No. 1 choice becomes the 7 p.m. topic, and the noon #Edchat covers the second-place topic. A team moderates each #Edchat to keep things moving and focused.

"How #Edchat connects educators" from Smartblogs.com

Also posted on MUSE '13.

From MUSE: Ode to Teachers

From NCTE Connected Community (login required).

Pat Mora   (born 1942)

            Ode to Teachers

I remember
the first day,
how I looked down,
hoping you wouldn’t see
and when I glanced up,
I saw your smile
shining like a soft light
from deep inside you.

“I’m listening,” you encouraged us.
“Come on!
Join our conversation,
let us hear your neon certainties,
thorny doubts, tangled angers,”
but for weeks I hid inside.

I read and reread your notes
my writing,
and you whispered,
“We need you
and your stories
and questions
that like a fresh path
will take us to new vistas.”

Slowly, your faith grew
into my courage
and for you—
instead of handing you
a note or apple or flowers—
I raised my hand.

I carry your smile
and faith inside like I carry
my dog’s face,
my sister’s laugh,
creamy melodies,
the softness of sunrise,
steady blessings of stars,
autumn smell of gingerbread,
the security of a sweater on a chilly day.                    (151-153)

from Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems about Love. New York: Knopf, 2010.

Visit the author online at:  http://www.patmora.com
Pat Mora   (1942—)

            Oda a las maestras

Me acuerdo
del primer día
como bajé los ojos
con la esperanza
de que no me viera,
y cuando los alcé,
vi su sonrisa
brillando como una luz suave
desde su interior.

“Los estoy escuchando”, nos animaba.
Participen en nuestra conversación.
Déjenos oír sus certezas como luces de neón,
sus dudas espinosas, sus enojos embrollados”,
pero durante semanas me escondí en mí misma.

Leí y releí sus notitas
lo que escribía,
y usted susurraba:
“Te necesitamos.
Necesitamos tus cuentos
y tus preguntas
que, como un fresco sendero,
nos llevarán a vistas nuevas”.

Poco a poquito su fe
me dio valor
y para usted—
en lugar de ofrecerle
una nota o una manzana o unas flores—
alcé la mano.

Llevo su sonrisa
y su fe conmigo como llevo
la carita de mi perro,
la risa de mi hermana,
las melodías románticas,
la ternura del amanecer,
las bendiciones constante de las estrellas,
el aroma otoñal del pan de jengibre,
la seguridad de un suéter en un día frío.                     (155-157)

Fuente: Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems about Love.  New York: Knopf, 2010.

Visita la autora a través de la Red:  http://www.patmora.com

Also posted on MUSE '13.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

From MUSE: Teaching is still hard.

This may be true, but I'm still hopeful.  In 1912, Edward M. Hopkins of the University of Kansas wrote the following:
[I]If good teaching can be done under present conditions, it is passing strange that so few teachers have found out how to do it; that English composition teachers as a class, if judged by criticism that is becoming more and more frequent, are so abnormally inefficient. For every year the complaints become louder that the investment in English teaching yields but a small fraction of the desired returns. Every year teachers resign, break down, perhaps become permanently invalided, having sacrificed ambition, health, and in not a few instances even life, in the struggle to do all the work expected of them. Every year thousands of pupils drift through the schools, half-cared for in English classes where they should have constant and encouraging personal attention, and neglected in other classes where their English should be watched over at least incidentally, to emerge in a more or less damaged linguistic condition, incapable of meeting satisfactorily the simplest practical demand upon their powers of expression. Much money is spent, valuable teachers are worn out at an inhumanly rapid rate, and results are inadequate or wholly lacking. From any point of view—that of taxpayer, teacher, or pupil—such a situation is intolerable.
Peter Smagorinsky notes that not much has changed:
Professor Hopkins found the conditions of 1912—with homogeneous students, little concern for drop-outs, few students who spoke limited English, no standardized tests, and other factors that make demands on teachers’ time—to be oppressive and tragic.
In today’s more complicated world and schools, a century later, much remains the same. Professor Hopkins wrote that “[P]ublic opinion and public criticism enter to this statement an effective denial. The public doesn’t know anything about the circumstances, but it does seem to know that it pays for something that for some reason it is not receiving; and the teacher is not usually in a position to escape either the blame or the penalty.” Sound familiar?
How about putting 40 students in those classes (the recommendation of Bill Gates, one of the two most influential people in the nation in current educational policy)? How about if half of them would rather be working, like my grandfather, and resist the whole institution of school, much less the English class and its incessant demand for essays?
What if a goodly number speak a language other than English at home and come from cultures that are oriented to behaviors very different from those expected in school? How about if, instead of the occasional essay in a journal or newspaper serving as public discourse, commentary by anonymous critics fills the air around the clock with a negativity that dwarfs any that has ever surrounded public education?
What if elected officials, over and over, appointed people with no experience as educators to oversee educational policy such that teachers’ work conditions are determined and governed by people who don’t “know anything about the circumstances”?
Hopkins’s observations from a century ago are worth attending to. They effectively annihilate the “good old days” rhetoric that surrounds education, demonstrate that the public’s dim view of teachers is nothing new, and show that even under vastly more favorable conditions than teachers face today, teaching well is backbreaking work. Sad to say, that message continues to get lost in the overwhelmingly negative environment in which teachers must do what they set out to do when deciding to become teachers: care for kids enough to invest their working lives in their well-being and futures.
Also published on MUSE '13

Monday, August 6, 2012

A new college ranking system

In an attempt to step away from reputation and take a more practical approach to college rankings, Forbes has released its own list of the top colleges.
The rankings are based on five general categories:post graduate success (32.5%), which evaluates alumni pay and prominence, student satisfaction (27.5%), which includes professor evaluations and freshman to sophomore year retention rates, debt (17.5%), which penalizes schools for high student debt loads and default rates, four-year graduation rate (11.25%) and competitive awards (11.25%), which rewards schools whose students win prestigious scholarships and fellowships like the Rhodes, the Marshall and the Fulbright or go on to earn a Ph.D.
Their full methodology is here

Friday, August 3, 2012

"[W]e can make a sort of sense out of whatever is served up . . ."

To meet our insatiable appetite for coherent meaning, we unpack a whole scene out of a sensation, say, or make sense of a sudden movement of a limb by inventing a cliff down which we are falling. The fact that we can make a sort of sense out of whatever is served up to us is an interesting sidelight on the question of the relationship between the real and the rational: whatever we can rationalise may seem real to us, and whatever seems real to us we try to rationalise – with impressive rates of success. The division within our (mind-constructed) dreams between the ‘I’ that is making sense of what is there, and the ‘there’ that is made sense of – so that we can even wait tensely for what happens next – is particularly striking.
From "Notes Toward a Philosophy of Sleep," by Raymond Tallis in Philosophy Now 

"[R]evolutions need fire . . ."

The Atlantic reports that an Italian museum director is burning art to protest the museum's lack of funding.  Phil thinks it's melodramatic.  I am withholding judgment.
In despair, Manfredi decided to try to call attention to the peril facing Italian culture by turning his own collection into a flock of “sacrificial lambs.” He took pictures of the museum’s collection and sent photocopies—a brick 1,000 pages high—to Italy’s culture minister and to the president of the Campania region, around Naples. The package was a ransom note. If he didn’t receive assistance, he warned, he would set the pieces on fire, one by one. “It’s simple,” he told me. “If nobody cares about the art that’s inside the museum, then I’ll burn it.” In February, he started the burning with one of his own creations: a series of five life-size, full-body posters of Mafia fugitives, which had been displayed in the Italian pavilion of the 2011 Venice Biennale. 
Stöfhas’s painting is the fifth work Manfredi has put to the torch, and the fourth in less than a week. Inside the museum hang the remains of a painting of a flower by the French artist Séverine Bourguignon: blackened crossbars, with fringes of canvas peeling back from the edge of the frame like flesh around a wound. Another work, a wood sculpture by an Italian artist named Rosaria Matarese, now consists of two chunks of carbonized wood, one impaled by a large blackened nail. Of the others, only ashes are left. 
Before destroying a piece, Manfredi gets permission from the artist. Stöfhas is watching her painting burn via Skype from Germany; her face is visible on the screen of a laptop held aloft by one of the museum’s volunteers. 
. . . 
In the age of YouTube and Twitter, Manfredi’s protest has resonated across Europe. Artists in the U.K., Germany, Hungary, and northern Italy are burning their works and sending him videos in solidarity. “Maybe this was the spark,” Manfredi says. “Remember, revolutions need fire, like what happened in Tunisia. That fruit vendor set himself on fire, and then everything exploded.”

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Un Terrible Boxeur: Language and Poetry and Violence and Brutality

Un Terrible Boxeur, Guillaume Apollinaire, 1914.

"Terrible boxeur boxant avec ses souvenirs et ses mille desirs."
“Terrible boxer boxing with his memories and his thousand desires.”

"On Fencing," by Sarah Blake.
Some parts of the body are protected. Women wear a chest plate, made of plastic, and shaped like breasts, as if women wear perky Victoria's Secret bras while they fence, instead of sports bras that flatten them. Even in the Olympics you can see these rounded cups through the lame and jacket. 
As a poet, sometimes I feel this way, that I've geared up like a poet, but that my lines about motherhood, about sex, my method of engagement, my very words, have flagged me as a woman poet, and then I'm standing there with plastic breasts that are the same size and shape as every other woman poet. 
But if our breasts matter at all, our breasts are different.

Poetry is dangerous. It can be. We don't typically use the word danger. We use words like risks and stakes. The risks of the poet and the stakes of the poem. But danger is implicit, sometimes explicit. 
I've always valued the danger in poetry. I might value it above all else. Be it a weakness or a strength, it is a symptom of my fighting heart which led me to fencing in the first place.

"On (Poetry and) Boxing," by Jennifer L. Grotz.

But boxing’s taxing and strengthening of the imagination as a faculty to see more fully and accurately is what I’m more intrigued with. Although the truth is, we can use the imaginative mind — and our poetry — in either way or valence. That is, we can use it to try to understand and “see better” or we can use the mind to block it out and to run a kind of interference, something writers call “fancy” and therapists call “denial” and Wallace Stevens called “a violence from within that protects us from a violence without,” that is, “something that presses back against the pressure of reality.” Keats thought about this question in terms of what he coined one’s “negative capability,” that is, “when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” That’s what I aim for when I’m watching and scoring a boxing match, to be capable of being present and cognizant of the uncertainty of two boxers at work, emancipated from what Liebling called the “oily-voiced announcers’” or any predetermined narratives generated by “my memories and my thousand desires.”
Which brings me to the second thing that boxing has taught me as a poet, which is to acknowledge and honor what I often refer to as duality, but is more accurately understood in this context as drama. “Every talent must unfold itself in fighting, Oates writes, quoting Nietzsche. ‘That which is creative must create itself,” I say, quoting Keats.
“Because a boxing match is a story without words, this doesn’t mean that it has no text or no language, that it is somehow “brute,” “primitive,” “inarticulate,” only that the text is improvised in action,” clarifies Oates. “The language [is] a dialogue between the boxers of the most refined sort…” 

I heart David Lynch

From Lit Hum.
Lacan and Lynch 
For Lacan, a link exists between impossibility and what he calls the real. Within every symbolic order, the real occupies the place of what cannot be thought or imagined - the position of the impossible. The real is not reality but the failure of the symbolic order to explain everything. When seen in this light, the impossible is not materially impossible but rather logically impossible as long as we remain within the current social structure. In Seminar XVII, Lacan claims that "the real is the impossible. Not on account of a simple stumbling block against which we bang our heads, but because of the logical stumbling block of what announces itself as impossible in the symbolic. It is from there that the real arises." What is impossible in the symbolic order is, in the real, perfectly achievable. It is in this sense of the term impossible that Lynch's films allow us to experience it actually taking place. They thus provide a fundamental challenge to the ruling symbolic structure, forcing us to see possibilities where we are used to seeing impossibilitities. - Todd McGowan

Um, I'm writing a post about fashion

Weird, huh?  But this stuff is so pretty.  If I were to get married again, or if I had the money to buy gorgeous gowns to just wear to parties I threw out in a forest with strange, eerie, beautiful music and twinkling candles, then I would buy these things.

This dress.

And this swoopy ring.

And this sapphire ring.

(I love sapphire rings.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Meanwhile, deep in their underground laboratory . . .

South Dakota builds laboratory in old mine to search for dark matter.  I'm pretty sure I saw this on a cartoon.  I can even hear the voice and the music and see the spinny graphics.  Doolleddle-ool!

From MUSE: Teaching Comics

I'm thinking of including a unit on graphic novels and comics in my curriculum this year, and I wanted a place to collect and think about some resources.

Seduction of the Innocent is a book from the 40's decrying comics as the end of civilization (essentially).  LostSOTI.org explores some of the comics cited in that work.

"Exploring Literary Devices in Graphic Novels," Language Arts, Volume 89 Number 6, July 2012.  This article talks about using graphic novels in the classroom, visual literacy, etc.

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. I bought this book a while ago, after I really got into the Sandman series by my future second husband Neil Gaiman.  It is apparently THE book on comic criticism. I have not read it yet.

SEK, of L,G&M fame, teaches comics in his composition classes and sometimes blogs about it.

"Writers Draw Visual Hooks: Children's Inquiry into Writing," Language Arts, Volume 89 Number 6, July 2012.  This article talks about visual literacy, the relationship and similarities between visual devices and written devices, and children's exploration of writing and reading through drawing.

"Understanding History through Visual Images in Historical Fiction," Language Arts, Volume 89 Number 6, July 2012.  Not yet read. 

Also posted at MUSE '13.

From MUSE: Deprivatizing Teaching Practice

Following on my recent post about communities of practicethis post by KaiLonnie Dunsmore on Literacy Learning Exchange talks about "deprivatizing" teaching practice.  That is, 

the ways that educators, especially teachers, can begin to make the instructional practices and routines in their classrooms more open to collegial conversation and collective inquiry, or more "public."

The LLE post notes that

[g]ood teaching, skilled instructional leadership, effective administration all require a willingness to invite conversation, inquiry, and collaborative analysis of the everyday patterns of one’s practice. 

I think it's important that, as new teachers, we are doing all we can to participate in and to foster these sorts of learning environments. Even though

to effectively create change for students, this can’t be an individual action, but rather needs to be deliberatively fostered by organizational systems which put in place conditions designed to support educators in this process of deprivatizing—or making public—their work. 
We certainly need to encourage structural implementation of these conditions in our schools, districts, and states.  

For instance, such conditions might include: 
  • creating time for professionals to talk with one another as part of their work day.
  • ensuring that professional development is built around opportunities to observe practice, have conversations about it, and then safely try it out.
  • making it safe for professionals to admit areas in which they are engaged in their own learning and development.
Some of these things we can work toward right now on a grade-level or department-level basis.  Others will take more time.  And in the meantime, we can begin participating in outside communities, online and otherwise, that are working toward a more open model of developing the profession of teaching.

Also posted on MUSE '13.

From MUSE: Igniting the Hope of Knowing

I'm not usually a big Ted Talk fan, but once in a while I come across something good.  This is an excellent little 17 minute presentation about sparking students to become learners, reigniting their curiosity.  It has given me some great ideas as I'm building my curriculum for next year, and it just makes me feel all warm and snuggly.

Also posted on MUSE '13.