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Half a Stack

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I thought teaching only two English classes a day would give me more time, but somehow I feel twice as busy as when I taught a full load. Here are a few things that keep stealing my attention away from the partially graded stack of mock application essays on my desk.

International Day Rehearsal
103 flags in a row, and a kid to go with each one (in most cases, one tall enough to hold the flag unfurled so it doesn’t brush the floor). Then a cadenced march across the gym floor to stand in orderly rows spilling off the stage. Next, run throughs for fashion and talent shows, complete with a slightly frantic teacher, a semi-functioning sound system, and a gaggle of cross-legged kids fidgeting on the hardwood until it’s their turn to morph into whirling Indian dancers or musical savants at piano.

Website redesign
Enter a darkened office where the rep from the company that’s going to give our online presence a facelift sits along with a changing cast of school characters, all of us staring at the projected screen of his laptop as he tours sample sites and clicks through an endless array of forms to define the specs. The high end talk is cool: what sort of experience does a student, a parent, or an alum want at our website? What do we wish we could do online that we can’t do right now? The nitty gritty boils down to details like, “3.34.3. Number of Search Columns… okay, you can have 1-5 columns here. I recommend 3. Is everyone okay with 3?”

Fire Alarm
Montage (thoughts and walkie-talk): Why didn’t anyone tell me there was a fire drill scheduled? I’ll sweep the first floor, you sweep the second. Wait, this isn’t a drill? All clear on the lower level. Why did this have to happen today? Is the fire department here yet? Is that worker running into the building? Hold on, I’m checking the boiler room. Man, it smells steamy in here. Confirmed, we had an issue in the boiler room. Glad this guy is okay! On my way to the alarm box now. Should I have reset this thing or will this fire captain do it? All clear, everybody back in.

New Uniforms
Skorts, Peter-Pan collars, front-button cardigans… a world of gradeschool chic has opened up to me as I select and codify a new school uniform for next year. Sharpening our brand on the school’s 70th anniversary has turned into a far more challenging task than I originally anticipated. Fashion forward planning is only half the battle: there’s the pitch to parents, coordinating the roll-out, rewriting the handbook. And all that’s before the first kid shows up with his new shirt untucked. One unexpected benefit is that our Director of Development and I have both mastered the document review function in Word 2007.

New Languages
Strategic planning committees are looking at what we do well and where we can improve, and one of the answers to both is foreign languages. My colleague, Suzanne, and I speakerphone with a board member to brainstorm. Can we offer foreign language instruction in grades before 1st ? What other languages, besides the French and Spanish and smattering of Latin we have already, should we consider offering? Is the IB Middle Years Program for us? How about Mandarin immersion for summer school? By the end of the conversation, I’ve got a page of scribbled notes that look vaguely like English, and the task of writing up a proposal for an upcoming board retreat.

Kid Stuff
In the midst of my busy week, kids keep doing silly and not so silly things like getting their feelings hurt, planning a school-wide mock election, skipping homework assignments to play in the big soccer game, making tombstones for a character from a book in English class, spraying Axe in the locker bank, and… well, you get the idea. The stuff kids do at school, day in and day out. Never a dull moment, that’s for sure. If there were, I’d get the rest of those essays graded.

17 Comments

If they're letting you choose the school uniform, clearly you're not wearing orange slacks as often as you did last year.

If kids keep getting their feelings hurt, then why aren’t the teachers fixing that? Maybe if you stress it more, they will not do that. The way that you write, tells a lot about your emotions on the subject. The silly things, well that’s elementary/middle school here. I wish that everyone would just calm down sometimes and act normal in classes and at lunch. I hope that things get better with all of it.

In class you always tell us about how you want our purpose of writing to not be a regimented form of writing, but a way to express our ideas towards others. I find that you do that very well in your writing and it has made me see what you mean. You describe your emotions as well as explain what is going on in your subjects that you give the reader a clear view of how you feel. In fact, your writing itself makes people become empathetic for you in a way.

I enjoyed reading your international day segment. You described this day very well. I think you were trying to say that this was kind of a hectic day, but our school still was able to handel it. When you started talking about the 103 flags all lined up in the gym, it made me feel how important this day is to show off all of our cultures.

I enjoyed reading about how you wanted new languages. It would be good if kids could learn a foreign language before 1st grade. I would also enjoy if there were more languages taught at his school. Overall, this was a good segment.

I really liked reading the international day segment becuase it wasn't a full on description, but it gets the main idea across. I think this form of writing is really cool when you do a blog like this. I am sure later on in high school and the rest of this year this will be a good way for me and my classmates to write. :)

As an 8th grader, the recent International Day was one to remember, as it was my last. I was astonished to see the 103 countries represented by students, showing off their origins and domicile. I could not help but feel a stalwart sense of patriotism for my ancestors from India. I am convinced that everyone else felt the same way. I counted down the days on my calendar until International Day, anticipating it more and more every passing day. I ascertain that although our cultures and homes are diverse, we can all come together as members of one home, Earth, coinciding and living simultaneously in peace.

I really liked how you explained the fire drill segment. The way you wrote it shows the reader the picture instead of just telling him/her what was occurring. This segment seemed as if you were writing it while the fire drill was happening. I enjoy this kind writing, so I say that it is an extremely good piece of writing.

Sorry i forgot to add this to my response. Interesting response, Mr. Rosenfield. It was short, yet succinct and got the point across. i wish i could write that well. Great job, Mr. R.

Wow! This piece is like everything is happening all over again! The descriptions put the reader into your shoes. I never knew how much you have to handle, and I thought my day was bad! Also, through this, I learned some other things, too. I learned how many flags there are in International Day and I learned what happened during the fire drill(?). Reading this style of writting makes me feel your emotions. I really enjoyed this piece. Good job!

Everything that you described was exactly how life really is at school. So many things are happening all at once and it is hard to keep everything straight. I feel that under the fire drill segment, you described what a real fire drill is like at our school, crazy and hectic. Kids are covering their ears to block out the noise and screaming down the hallway to their friends. I am glad that you described a day in the life of a Congressional student!

I thought that possibly adding another foreign language was an excellent idea for an improvement of the school, because I believe that it would be very distinctive and I think that having more choices in learning a language is better than just having to choose from three languages that most schools have- Spanish, French, and Latin. In addition, I would like to say that one of your suggestions, mandarin immersion for summer school would be very interesting.

This is a wonderful montage of memories, all organized in great detail. International day truly was a chaotic day for both students and staff, as was that unexepected fire "drill." I support your idea of adding a new foreign language class, since only two in such a diverse school as ours is not enough. Your schedule seems so demanding and sadly, us kids do appear to get in your way.

I really enjoyed this blog on Half a stack. I think the blog had a lot of events that occurred recently. Such as the fire alarm and international day. One thing I liked about blog was someone else's view on international day and a teachers view in a fire alarm. This was interesting and made fell more aware of those situation. Blogs seem very light and east talk, which I like, instead of pressure. I really enjoyed reading your blogs and it reminds when we wrote blogs in sixth grade. I would like to do this again.

"Show not tell," is a common theme asserted during class. During the fire drill segment, you used that philosophy because I could step into your shoes and know the emotions going through the entire ordeal. For you it was mass confusion. For us, it was a gift. Who would not want to get out of class for around twenty minutes? The only bad thing about the fire was that it was ridiculously cold that day, and most people did not have the luxury to get their sweatshirt. All in all, I think that it is good that you applied one of your theories of writing in your actual writing as opposed to teachers who tell students one thing, but do the other.

Hehe, The pun at the end was funny.I really enjoyed the blod on "Kid stuff." It was very interesting seeing how these little antics that are performed by children in a teacher's point of view. All of those things you mentioned were really relevant to a school day's events. All in all this was an excellent piece of writing and we are very lucky to have you teaching us how to write in English class. Hopefully, will be able to write as well as you. ~Benjamin Thomas

I want to comment to your question,"Is IB middle years" program for you? My answer is, "NO, No, and again, NO!" This program was originally designed for ambassador's kids! It removes all patriotism (for America) from our kids to strictly a global worldview. I think if parents knew this they would not be so passive about it. Most teachers hate it, and parents are befuddled over the grading system (what exactly does a 3 mean?)! It is holistic scoring, but the administration wants "real" grades, which means teachers are having to do double work. Teachers are expected to spend "after hours" and holiday time converting a point system to IB grading criteria. There, I said it...

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