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Spring break happens

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Not to mention Passover and Easter. Which is why I will delay, for a week, my plunge into Entry 4 as laid out last post. Instead, here is a list of things I did and did not do on my week off.

1. Go fishing. I didn’t actually catch a fish at Lake Accotink, but I saw several anglers pull out recently stocked trout so I know the fish were there. I shared stream-side conversation with a man who’s son had graduated from TJ (where I now teach) before it was high tech (about twenty years ago). His piscatorial history of the lake, a man-made reservoir soon to be dredged, was remarkable. My own ninth graders, earlier in the year, had been to this lake to learn water sampling techniques. The fellow said he’d be glad to share his biological and engineering stories with my students on future field trips.
2. Build a fence. Who knew that a few ill spent summers years ago would lay the nearly sound foundation for lifelong adventures in backyard carpentry? The 16 foot stretch replaced an ungainly privacy fence at the end of the driveway, opening up the yard and allowing passersby to see the shed in the back that is my true pride and joy. Building sheds and fences is a welcome diversion from grading papers and preparing lessons, with the added bonus that at the end of each project, I thank my stars I didn’t chuck it all to become a carpenter when I had the chance.
3. Design a syllabus. Similar to number 2, but setting the boundaries of study rather than a yard. The course I will be teaching is English 111-09 at Northern Virginia Community College, two nights a week starting in May. This is a composition class for ESL students or others who need a boost before doing college writing. I’m eager for the boost in income, myself, not to mention the chance to work with a different sort of student than the TJ whiz-kid. Don’t get me wrong-- teaching literature at “M.I.T. Jr.” is stimulating and wonderful. Teaching working moms and dads who may have sacrificed their own dreams for their childrens’ will be wonderful in a different way.
4. Plan a canoe. A colleague and I recently won a grant for next year to build a Native American dugout using traditional tools. We met with some of the others involved in the project over shrimp and iced tea at a little bar a stone’s throw from the Potomac River (named after the warring tribe that once lived on its banks). There we discussed logistics like when to fell the tree and how best to work our hundred students into the building process, as well as themes for the curriculum and available resources. About a year from now, I hope to be able to write that a group of my students are chipping away with axes as part of an exhibit at the National Folklife Festival on the mall. Stay tuned for ongoing reports, as this project will no doubt become a centerpiece of my NBPTS bid as well as my teaching year.

1. Grade papers.
2. Read standards.
3. Go to Cancun.
4. Get up at 6 a.m.

1 Comment

Tom, you will forever be known as a convicted felon. The shoe certainly fits.

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