October 28, 2009

We're All Just Misunderstood

In a moment of
"What the hell are we going to do tonight, with the first day of the 2nd quarter on a Tuesday?"
combined with
"It's a shortened week with no school this Friday."
and "It's almost Halloween!"
I pulled this concept out of my patooty--Misunderstood Monsters.

I had students brainstorm ways that they are misunderstood when they came to class. For some reason, they struggled with it. Aren't they teenagers? Whatever, though.

Afterward I read a poem from the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, I asked students to brainstorm a "bad guy" or monster that they could write a different perspective for--and from that monster's point of view. (I can't remember the poem, and now I can't find it, but it wasn't as sweet and cute as The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, which I have used before for point of view.)

Originally, I was pushing for them to come up with a monster, but there are times I can get a lot more by being flexible, so some students are taking on the misunderstood personas of comic villains and horror movie "bad guys." My returning freaky kid who only writes dark stuff wanted to write about how the Devil is misunderstood. My student with the thickest accent is taking on La Chupracabra, and a sweet girl is taking on Grim Reaper.

The coolest one, though, that I can't wait to hear more about is Seven. Marcus asked if we could just call him 7 for short, and I thought that was okay.

Of course, I think Mister Teacher will totally understand why Seven is a bad guy who has been misunderstood. For some reason I instantly thought of him when Marcus suggested his topic.


Six is afraid of Seven because Seven ate Nine.

Scandalous, I know!

Marcus is emphatic that Seven is completely misunderstood. "Miss! It's all a misunderstanding! Nine is fiiiiinnnnne! There's nothing wrong with Nine!" I can't wait to hear what's up with that whole situation. I want to say there's some homophobia going on, but we'll just have to wait to see what's the story is, won't we?

October 24, 2009

Stolen Dialogue

I was trying to think of a fun way to do a dialogue lesson with my alt ed creative writing class. I came across Janis Cramer's Collaborating to Write Dialogue.

I steal lesson ideas from various places online all the time, but usually I have to tweak them quite a bit. Not this time!

This lesson, as the author admits, is the result of years of tweaking. Been there, done that! (I sometimes feel sorry the students I had in my early years of teaching!) Her tweaking worked perfectly with my students, and the only thing I did differently was breaking the whole process up into numbered steps so students go work somewhat independently--not to mention smaller task means the students freak out less. (Of course, some students worked much faster than others...)

This activity took most students several days. For us, it went something like this:
Day 1--introduced assignment and students brainstorm to create characters
Day 2--created dialogue between their characters
Day 3--added details and tags
Day 4--finished composing and rewrite final dialogue on paper in correct format

I can't believe how engaged the students were as they created their characters and wrote the dialogue. The part where they had to incorporate details to make tags confused a few students, but in the end, not only did students have a dialogue, they had a short story--or a slice-of-life story.

And, they were quite impressed with their wonderful writing skills! I highly recommend this to any secondary teachers out there who are looking for a good way to get students to write dialogue.

October 12, 2009

Home-less or Home-ful?

My sweetie and I are currently going through a rite of passage called "Buying Our First Home."

Actually, it feels like some kind of hazing ritual with everything we've gone through in the last few months. When we first started this process, the realtor made it sound so easy. Well, kind of. We learned very quickly that if we were interested in a house, we had to put a bid in quickly--like within hours of seeing it. At one point, we were putting bids in on houses without physically seeing them first. In fact, that's exactly what happened with the house we are buying. Just in the month or so that we were looking, we definitely had the sense that the market was getting more and more aggressive.

Of course, after our we had a bid finally accepted and we started working with the mortgage broker, things became a little more complicated as we had to supply every important document imaginable. Understandable, though.

Once we sent our massive package of papers to the underwriters, we thought it was going to be easy-breezy. Oh no! The underwriters kept questioning this and that, requiring more and more documentation. Once we would produce the documentation they required, that would just open up another can of worms. Or five cans.

It's been an emotional roller coaster. We think things are going smoothly, and then there's just one more thing we have to produce. And about every other time, it has required money to fix it up.

Just a week ago, I was in tears. We'd already told that our paperwork made it through the underwriters with stipulations, which we thought we can cleared up. We had already put in our notice to the property manager that we were moving by the end of the month.

And then...the documents we provided were not good enough, and there were no such documents that they were demanding. Nope, did not exist!

It was an insane bit, too. The underwriters wanted documentations stating that my sweetie does not pay child support. Pay child support to whom? He has had full physical and legal custody of his children for three years. Their mother has no rights whatsoever. He had two documents stating so, and he also had a statement showing the last time he did pay child support, the balance due and the amount paid. (He overpaid and did not get a refund.) Not good enough. So, he had the California family services fax a document stating that his account was paid and closed. Not good enough.

And this is what I was in tears over. We'd paid a lot of money, and put in a lot of time to get some of our hurdles cleared, and now we were at a stand-off that made no sense.

We found out that it was Veteran's Administrator underwriter who was hassling us so much, so my sweetie started making phone calls. He reached a supervisor who understood how California courts worked and agreed that we had provided more than enough documentation. Furthermore, he was willing to review our files and talk to the other underwriters, too. Phew! Wonderful.

But while on the phone with the nice supervisor, a new question, "Did you have a termite inspection?"

What? Nobody has ever said anything about that! Much like the insurance hassle, where, two days after paper work was submitted to my insurance agent, the underwriters decided we needed flood insurance, too. I could have told them we were in a flood zone since the back of the house neighbors a wash. Yea, we don't get a lot of rain, but we do have have monsoon season for real some years.

And two days after I went to the insurance agent to sign the paperwork, I found out I had to pay for the flood insurance up front for the year. Nobody could have said anything so while I was waiting 45 minutes at my agent's desk while he tried to get the paperwork figured out that perhaps I could go ahead and pay? That would have been considerate of everyone's time, right?

And so it goes...termite inspection. Just another thing.

As far as I know, things are pretty well ready to go, but tomorrow I'm expecting that we'll need to have a seance to check the house for restless spirits. And then perhaps a shaman will need to cleanse our almost-home.

Or perhaps we'll need to pay for UFO insurance, as I'm betting we're in the flight path between Area 51 and Nellis Airforce Base.

So, anyway...

Rite of passage.

I've had a few friends tell me that the struggles and hoops we've gone through are pretty typical. Funny, nobody ever bothered to prepare me for the mental anguish I was about experience when I embarked on this journey.

Thanks a lot.

October 4, 2009

Barely Breathing

I'm really bummed that this blog is dying.

I imagine it barely breathing in a hospital bed, resting peacefully, experiencing no pain. It's a little lonely because friends (you) and family (me) don't come by anymore, but it's not ready to die. As it is unconscious, it cannot say anything to friends and family about how it doesn't want to die just yet. Life has been good, yes, but does it have to be over?

If I had more compassion, I'd pull the plug, and let it sink into the Internet abyss where abandoned blogs go to die, but I'm not ready.

Instead, I visit when I can, waiting for some new special treatment that can breath new life into my poor blog. Maybe it just needs continued care, but maybe it needs a life transformation--a rebirth.

For now, all I can do it watch helplessly, waiting for something--anything to help, but deep down, I carry the guilt knowing I am the reason it is dying.

There is so much keeping from here at this point in my life. To sum it up, I am overwhelmed and always days behind in life. The factors:
  • grad school (3 1/2 more classes--wahoo!)
  • working every night at alt ed high school (used to be just 2 days a week)
  • I'm not on autopilot in my classroom like I was last year. New lessons. More planning.
  • IB authorization is starting to hurt.
  • I'm an English teacher. Too much to read.
  • buying and moving into a new home (closing next week!)
I think of things I want to say on this blog all the time. Maybe I should just tweet. That's about the amount of time I have! I do have a Twitter, but I haven't posted to it in a month. I'm not even posting to Facebook much anymore!

I'm still around. I read my feeds when I can. I have 636 unread edublogger posts in my Bloglines account this morning, but I need to get to work on grad homework, grading papers, and doing some yearbook stuff so my staff isn't sitting around doing nothing because I'm unorganized.

How I long for my semi-busy life rather than this frantic, unrealistic one I'm living now.