1. Interesting post about class size on the Inside Ed Baltimore Sun education blog.
2. I got most of my Oscar predictions correct, at least from the blog. At the party, I tended to go more with my heart than my head (Holbrook over Bardem, Ryan over Swinton), so I lost. My "Michael Clayton" costume went over just fine. The party and comraderie were good, but the actual telecast was a bit of a letdown. I guess I don't care that much about the Oscars anymore. Probably a good thing.
3. I made it back to school today, finally feeling better. My colleague nicknamed me "Buttburst," which is fairly accurate to how my last five days went. It was more double-over-in-pain, though, especially Friday and Saturday. I think I caught that stomach flu that had been going around College Park.
4. This is my last week free before baseball season begins. Life will become very hectic then.
5. I've been working on my application essay for the Folger Summer Teachers Institute, and it's just not coming off right.
As stipulated by the instructions, the essay should contain any relevant personal and academic information.
It should address your reasons for applying, and your interest, both academic and personal, in the subject of Shakespeare, as well as the qualifications and experiences that equip you to do the work of the Institute and to make a contribution to our learning community.
It should contain a statement of what you hope to accomplish by participating, and how the work of the Institute relates to your professional responsibilities.
In addition, we are interested in reading about your specific experiences in the classroom, and we ask that you describe a teaching strategy that you attempted but discovered to be a terrible failure, and then describe one that you found to be a complete success.
We are also interested in your ability to respond to a fast-paced academic schedule, and to interact with many new colleagues.
The essay is probably the most important part of your application.
Essay should be no longer than four (4) double-spaced pages.
This is what I have so far. It's a bit cliched and clunky, but passable. I'm having a hard time with talking about my "terrible failure" activity. I mean, I feel like I have failures most days, right, but I try to adjust them quickly. Thinking about one "terrible failure" is daunting, because I try to stop failure before it becomes terrible. So I'm brainstorming an assignment that I gave that just produced terrible results, because I didn't teach it well enough. Or something like that. But I'd like to relate back to Shakespeare somehow, and it's tough. I've been playing with it for the last week and now am at the 3-day limit. It needs to get done. Here it is so far:
My first time uttering any words of Shakespeare occurred when Mr. Hughes called on me to read a section of MacBeth orally to the rest of our sophomore English class. I was a good student in English and loved reading, but the language was debilitating; I read every syllable as carefully as I could, without any attention at all to tone or meaning. Suddenly, a few classmates started laughing. Embarrassed but intent not to show it, I chuckled along with them, trying to show that I was in on the joke as well. But I was not. I had no idea what was going on, and when Mr. Hughes – also laughing - asked me to explain the joke, I was at a loss (and I was rarely at a loss in English class); I turned red and tried to bury myself in my chair.
Now, by the end of the play, I had come to enjoy the grippingly and inevitably flawed characters of MacBeth, and was damn proud of myself to have both finished it and understood it. This feeling of pride in comprehension is something I always try to remember when I teach Shakespeare, or any other challenging literature. When my students – reluctant readers or otherwise – grumble about not “getting it,” I try to remember that feeling of satisfaction I had after finishing MacBeth. I was enthralled by the story, but more excited that I had read something – something tough - that people for hundreds of years have read around the world.
However, that humiliating moment in Mr. Hughes’ class still colors my experience with the bard, just a bit, which is one reason I want to be a part of the Folger Teacher Shakespeare Institute in 2008. Every year, when I crack open Romeo and Juliet with 9th graders, or Othello or MacBeth with 11th graders, I think about my first experience with Shakespeare. While I want the students to feel the accomplishment of reading and comprehending a Shakespearean play, I also want them to have some fun with it, to see that Shakespeare is not something to be feared. I have made it my goal in my classroom to make Shakespeare accessible and relevant to the lives of my students.
I teach in a large urban public school in Baltimore City, and the majority of my students are bright but hesitant readers. Because of this, my experiences while teaching Shakespeare have often been grounded in activities adapted from Folger’s Shakespeare Set Free; my goal is for them to learn to be comfortable with the language, and to use that as a springboard for appreciation of the cultural setting of the play, and later into grappling with the characters and themes of the play. I assess the latter by having the students text-mark, or annotate, their scenes for directorial and actor choices, and then to perform and defend their choices based on the character traits and themes they wanted to convey. Generally, students then write a formal essay supporting their claims about the text and their scene.
And herein lies one of my biggest mistakes as a teacher in the last year. I teach some very bright students
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