Back to School

Almost a month of school has passed.  My mind has ben full of a constant stream of obligations and tasks that need be addressed: emails to be read, written, replied to; new art curriculum to be invented with an organic combination of techniques, history, critique, and creation; structuring English classes to have a harmonized blend of vocabulary, grammar, listening, reading, speaking, and writing; literature classes that teach students literacy skills, literary devices, writing principles, and vocabulary; student problems to be observed and intervened in; a class of 11-year-olds learning to navigate a middle/high school; excusing absences and creating seating charts; a new office to be organized; 12 different courses to plan for and to track; homework, quizzes, and test to create and correct; 10 different classes of names, personalities, and learning styles to get to know; parents to communicate with in multiple languages.

These are among the many things flitting through my mind at any given moment of any given day.  Though prayer is usually a good coping mechanism, I've also been turning to espresso (I think I need to add another column to my budget for this school year exclusively for the in-school espresso machine).  Today, one dear student commented on seeing me again accompanied by the familiar paper coffee cup--another reminder of one of the privileges/dangers of being a teacher: being an example for students.

I have returned to a new year with new responsibilities and new students.  There have been new names to learn in Czech, Korean, Japanese, Hindi, Spanish, Persian, Vietnamese . . . names attached to new students to fall in love with.  When I'm not running up and down flights of stairs or flitting through hallways to track down where I'm teaching or retrieving copies, keys, or students, I even teach.  And that, my friends, is a lovely thing.

I haven't got a parent here to excuse my absence from the blogging world, but I hope that some tales of  the classroom will move your hearts to excuse me.  Among the joys of my current teaching content has been Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which is now being acted out by a group of (mostly) Czech 13-year-olds.  For the prologue, I had the students first read it silently.  As they read, I asked some girls quietly if I could borrow their coats and left the classroom.  Under the perplexed eyes of the cleaning lady, I clothed myself in first the taupe leather jacket, then the down coat, then the brown puffy vest, and looped the gray knit scarf around my head.  Zipping the top layer, I re-entered the classroom as Captain Walton.  I delivered the haunting lines of my arctic adventure and the vision of a desperate Frankenstein chasing a monster on a sledge. I then exited again, ready for Frankenstein to resume the story.

In the hall, I shed the layers before casually re-entering the classroom at a clip.  "Girls, you left these in your classroom; I think you'll need them," I quipped, distributing their coats.  "So, have you finished reading the prologue?  What happens?"  Giggles emerge.  "What?" I question, still at a deadpan.  My students try to suppress their grins.  "What, did Captain Walton come and read it to you himself?"  The class continued with good humour as we resumed the analysis of the scene and I drew it out in horrible stick figures.  The students then became artists, reading stage directions and drawing out Frankenstein's laboratory before I jumped up to the window ledge to pretend to enter through our large windows--unnerving some of the students.  Then the two boys were enlisted to be Clerval and Frankenstein, the former even venturing to produce a terrible French accident.

We finished with a foreshadowing discussion, and I returned to my staff room cheerful.  I don't think it was the espresso that did it either.  My current load requires me to assign and grade more writing than I'm able to produce, but I hope my absences won't be so extended in the future.  Trust that the silence is resultant of the love for my students and my hopes for their future success.  I hope to return with further tales of energy, excitement, and even jarring moments of realization from my classes.


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