Monday, October 18, 2010

Homecoming in Texas

I'm heading out on Friday for Texas. I graduated from Baylor University in 1990 and haven't been back since, though I've wanted to. A yell-leader reunion that is including people about whom I really care and stay in touch with was the straw that sent me packing. Man, that squad has expanded-there were only 14 of us when I was there.

At Baylor I turned to a Latin major in the end of my sophomore year, after finding that biology/medicine wasn't where my heart was-it was with words. So with the help of several very good professors, Dr. S. Randy Todd, and Dr. Alan Robb, and the input of Anglo-Saxon specialists and linguistic anthropologists I found my way-thanks Dr. Strite, for forcing me to take those Old English classes, you were right. The honors college embraced the liberal arts and allowed me to complete a concentration in philosophy that cemented a permanent relationship with Hume and the Enlightenment. Thank goodness for Baylor. It's a place that allows a student to explore and find a niche.

And now I prepare to return! It will be a fun weekend catching up with fellow yell-leaders in Dallas, continuing to Waco, then back to Dallas. Many of my comrades remain in Texas (lucky ducks)-and I can see why.

But my place now is in Ohio dispersing ancient knowledge to the open minds of today-and I wouldn't change a thing. It's great to look back and look forward because it's all connected.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Light Bulb!

On Thursday the bulb went out. . . on my projector. It's ceiling mounted and the lamp light was flashing but it still was coming on at times before it finally died. Our wonderful Vartek technologist came and took it away (I'll fix it up there and bring it back here), but the bulbs are about $200, and we do not have the budget to keep them on hand in our building so we have to wait I don't know how many weeks for it. In the meantime I can use a cart with a projector, but it's not the same.

On Friday, with no projector, I called in the old-school methods that are tried and true-white boards!

Background: Level II teachers that I meet with (Hey, Ms. B) tell me that sight vocabulary continues to be a challenge for 9th grade students and I've used a variety of techniques to improve vocab recognition for the 8th graders. The students will recognize "ponit" he/she puts, but when they see "deponebat" he/she was putting down, they are not putting together the pieces that they know. Add a prefix, change the tense, use what you know to make the new word. Take it further, make it a noun, take it further, make it an adverb: things we do in English when we say "What is it? It's a message." "What are you doing? Messaging." "if you send it again, what are you doing? Remessaging."

I sent the children to the boards in teams, and they had 5 minutes to produce as many forms of a word as possible based off of a single root. We used words like "mitto" send, "verto" turn, "facio" make. Hundreds of forms flew out. Words they didn't know they knew flew out. Here is some video of an aha moment:

Winning teams received: puffy stickers. Yes, they work for puffy stickers because they know that it's worth their time.

During one class, a high school student delivered a jar of pickled peppers (not joking) from a high school teacher, and he was blown away by the hundreds of forms that these 8th graders were putting on the board. He sat down at first, then he rose and said "are you going to tell them that they are using comparatives?" I laughed, "yes, but I won't tell them it's a big deal." He high-fived me, and said, "I know how I got where I am." Before he left he added two words to a team's board-it produced 12 more that vaulted them into first place and I declared a tie.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Surge! Getting up-Vocabulary and more

Vocabulary. I teach a lot of vocabulary. Sometimes I get punchy about it, and that's never good, because then I don't give it the amount of repetition in class that is necessary. About a year ago in a punchy moment, I used Big Huge Lab's motivator to create class vocabulary reminders for my students-they were created with sarcasm but they came across as just silly, which struck a chord with them.

They were such a hit that the students started making them and sending them to me. It's always scary when kids are creating something with Latin and you didn't even ask them to. I've never made this an assignment, but they still love sending me pictures that are associated with the words that they are learning-and yes, I give them corrections and feedback. They always correct the work and resend it. Then I print it and hang it in my classroom, or post it in blackboard, or use it in a class lesson, and they point and say "that's mine!"

This particular motivator has the word "surgere" which means "to get up". My students love meerkats, so this is a winner, and the tagline is "it is time to get up and to play"-giving extra vocabulary bang with two complementary infinitives. Now hold on while I transition----

Whew, thanks for transitioning with me. I was in a meeting today in which the request was made of my building administrator to make a commandment from on high so that we, as department leaders, did not have to work an issue out with difficult colleagues-or challenge any of the status quo beliefs. It was the old," if the parent says we have to do it that way, blame them." I'm a fan of this technique at home. It gets my kids off the hook at such times as when a video chat goes too long and I hold up a note that says"tell them your MOM says you have to get off" and they are secretly relieved to have the out and someone to blame and not look like a nerd. At some point, we have to share the responsibility, right?

Anyway, the admin had the with-it-ness to say, (paraphrasing), Okay, I'll do that but you have to back me, too. You have to be willing to say that we talked about it and this is what we agreed to. Shoot. I thought "surge!" "get up", tempus est surgere et ludere, why do we have to ask someone to be the bad guy for something that is right in the first place?

If a colleague asks, "who ordered this", shouldn't I say, "Does it matter? It's just right."

No, it wasn't an assignment, and no one is making us do it. It's just good. So that's what I'm going to try out. Go, Meerkats!