A Teacher's Writes

One teacher's thoughts on life, literature, and learning

Category: Tidbits

The Coolest Cycling Poster


I want this in my classroom. And on a t-shirt. I guess I’ll have to settle for the background on my computer desktop.


I wish I’d bought that album on CD instead of on iTunes

I think my fascination with owning digital music has just about exhausted itself.

It happened officially when we got a new computer. The old one was eleven years old and I had long ago disconnected it from the Internet, using it mostly to organize some files and type Word documents. I packed it up and put it in the garage, thinking its life was through.

Then I activated iTunes on our new machine and attempted to download the songs I had purchased years ago, but it wouldn’t let me. I had reached the number of devices I was allowed to put my music on and would have to de-authorize a device in order to activate a new one. The devices I could de-authorize include the eleven year old almost non-functional computer I’d put in the garage, a laptop I once used at work but that has been removed from inventory, and my current work-issued laptop that gets wiped clean every summer (requiring me to re-authorize iTunes each time).

Surely my situation results from my own negligence and not considering Apple’s policies. Possibly if I spend an hour working on it I can clear it up. I don’t care. To my mind the only important thing is to realize if I had bought the CD of Yo-Yo Ma and Chris Thile playing the Goat Rodeo Sessions, I would be able to listen to it on my new computer.


Phones and Manners: A video satire

One interesting element of satire, when it utilizes hyperbole, is to see how often the exaggerations are actually straight descriptions of reality. This video’s scene of the women drinking wine together isn’t far removed from the girls my family saw at the fair this year, recording themselves on their phones while sliding down a slide, apparently oblivious to what they’d just done . . .

10 Top Interview Tips for Your Favorite Coworker Who Is Trying to Leave

Have a trusted co-worker who is interviewing somewhere else? Are you afraid they’ll nail the interview get the job? Here are 10 tips that will surely bring about the best thing (for you).

  1. Be fashionably late. If necessary, hang out outside the door for a couple minutes to make sure all your interviewers have a chance to get settled before you make your big arrival.
  2. Wing it. Researching the company and the position’s qualifications are really not as important as showing them who you are despite what they want.
  3. Relaxing is for sissies. If you’re too relaxed during the interview, they’re likely to think you’ll be relaxed on the job—like naps-when-they’re-not-looking and shopping-for-St.-Patrick’s-Day-relaxed. Be tense. It’ll show them you mean business.
  4. Put your game face on. Everyone smiles during interviews, but look around a typical workplace. Are they all smiling? Are they friendly? It’s not really what the place wants. Want they want is victory. Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan didn’t win championships smiling nice. Put your game face on, and they’ll know you’re a winner.
  5. Don’t look them in the eye. Don’t look an angry dog directly in the eye, or he might attack. You look your interviewer directly in the eye, and the next thing you know, you could find yourself in the bathroom with scotch tape trying to repair your pretty dress.
  6. Leave your philosophy at home. They know you have an approach to the job and some sort of experience. You wrote it on the application. Why should you repeat it now? Nobody wants to hire that guy who retells all the same stories all the time.
  7. Look different. Dressing nice is fine, but what about making yourself stand out? What about looking so memorable they’re talking about you before they even get to your name in the pile of interviewees?
  8. Don’t ask questions. People say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but are you willing to risk your future job on such a maxim?
  9. Come Empty Handed. Paper, pen, and the ability to take notes? This interview is not a time for jotting love notes and admitting you can’t remember anything. They see you jotting a note, they’ll automatically think: “This is the kind of person who will go to the bathroom and forget why they got up from their desk.”
  10. Don’t say thank you. Saying thank you implies that you owe them something. Your thinking they owe you something means your confidence is too low. You deserve this. You own this. This job is yours, and this interview is simply a formality you have to go through before you take over that interviewer’s corner office with the window. Saying thank you is simply admitting weakness.
  • Mother on Flickr by: Mick and Wout

Three Videos Worth Watching

My mother told me last night that she and her husband have decided to drop their cable TV subscription and instead stream programing through website services. I haven’t had TV for years–we never bothered to buy one of those converter boxes for the antennae and we don’t have any reception, and, yes, we are one of about six families left in America without a wide screen television–so I can appreciate the beauty of getting your kicks from online programming. Here are three little bits of online pleasure I’ve come across lately.

Ben Saunders Walks to the North Pole

Obviously I like adventurers, especially cold weather ones (see my obsession with Shackleton and Everest for further proof). I used Ben Saunders’s talk to fit into my character lessons for this year: greatness is reserved for those willing to endure the pain it takes to achieve it. I pointed out that a valid question is what greatness has to do with us–after all, greatness is by definition something only a few can achieve. Saunders uses the word potential, and I submitted to my students that for each of us, greatness is something we achieve when we’ve reached the top percent of our potential.


Janelle Monae Makes a Body Want to Move

I can’t dance, but I wish I could. Someday I hope to take my wife out to dancing lessons as a series of dates, but for now I’ll have to stick to spectating. Janelle Monae’s video is worth spectating . . .


Christmas Worship through Carols

I love Christmas carols and especially love concert choirs. In addition to wishing I’d learned how to dance, learning to sing is something I wish I’d learned to do. I admitted to my students today that it would have been good in high school to take choir–I truly would love knowing how to read music and simply sing the bass line. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized that my vocal range is sufficient for such singing, that music is written for “normal” voices like me to sing in parts . . . Who knew? Anyway, “Once in Royal David’s City” gets a lot of play on my computer during Advent.

Thanks for reading–and watching . . .

Notes from the Ground

A student said his mom’s favorite book was The Great Gatsby and his Dad’s is The Catcher in the Rye. I teased him about the contest–which parent did he love more?–but also mentioned I hoped he’d read both books someday. This quarter he chose to read The Catcher in the Rye. After reading page one, he turned to his classmate. “Hey, there are like three swear words on this first page.” He’ll probably like it, but I doubt he’ll get it.


Slightly more than half my ninth graders actually read today when given a chance in class. The assignment will be due anyway (read a book during the academic quarter). It does make me doubt them when they claim they read it that last week before the assignment was due. “So you couldn’t stay awake and read one time through the quarter, but you suddenly found the tenacity to read the entire book outside of class?” It’s a modern miracle I witness every quarter.


For my health screening this morning, given for free if we are on the company health insurance, the nurse missed my veins, twice. This I do not understand, as my arms look freakishly veiny at the slightest exertion. Yet here is the lesson for my students as I teach them effective speech communications: little comments and non-verbal clues carry great power. When someone is not too comfortable with needles (like me), it is amazing how disconcerting it is to hear a nurse mutter while drawing blood, “Now, how is that possible?”


My sophomores are writing feature articles for the school newspaper. They are required to use four sources, and one must be an interview. Their topics are quite interesting, ranging from the destruction of the rain forest to tattoos to a preview of the basketball team, and their interest in the project is quite high considering their usual interest level in my assignments (which is, um . . . not high). I’m planning on making them insert citations into their non-published draft, which means it may end up being their research paper. They do not know this yet, but my guess is they’ll be thrilled when I tell them afterward. It’s like hiding medicine in juice.


Shakespeare students recently completed a project on archetypes and As You Like It. The task was to show how archetypes used in As You Like It are present in other stories (be they movies, books, or whatever). The material I used to introduce archetypes came from my favorite professor in college, Dr. Leland Ryken, and out of respect for him I won’t republish it here. He constructed a fabulous table of images and experiences in literature and organized them under “Archetypes of Ideal Experience” and “Archetypes of Unideal Experience.” It makes archetypal analysis wonderfully accessible for students, and not surprisingly, my students’ work was some of their best this semester. The task of connecting three dots, three elements of commonality, seemed to be the key to raising the bar on their comparisons. They didn’t have to think of just one random comparison from As You Like It to something else. They had to think of the archetype, the use of it in As You Like It, and then the comparison to something else. The end result was a straighter line and a firmer claim than a two-dotted connection would hold. This is one project I’ll be keeping around for next year.


As always, thanks for reading.


Underwood Typewriter II on Flickr by: Geof Wilson

One way to explain topic sentences

I can’t number how many times I’ve attempted to tell students the function of a topic sentence. I also like to challenge students to put clincher statements at the end of supporting paragraphs (or sections), and today I said it in a way that I hope will actually work:

Pretend the reader is asking you as you begin, “So where are you going with this?” and at the end of the paragraph, “So what is your point in telling me all that?” Your topic sentence answers the first question, your clincher answers the second.

Perhaps it will work. Or perhaps this student will stare at my comment on his essay like I’m speaking Bulgarian.

Aug 29 2010 010

I’ll find out when he writes his next paper, I suppose.