Monday, June 2, 2014

school days, students and a squirrel

My full-time gig ended on Friday.  Baseball continues and Mr. D's varsity team won their conference for the first time since 1987.  Team Testosterone and the baseball team adopted an incredibly tame baby squirrel from the ballpark.  It now lives in our back porch and eats birdseed.  I cannot describe the mess or how I feel about the porch that I spent hours cleaning to enjoy this summer turning into a zoo cage. 

Mr. D and the crew have christened him "Little Willy."  I'm calling him Earl.  Jax is calling him a snack for later (hahaha).

I attended Happyland High's graduation since I did teach all seniors for the past three months.  It was sweet, brief and the kids left their own mark on the event.  No grown ups spoke, just students, which I liked very much, and the crowd was enthusiastic and respectful.  As each kid crossed the gym to receive their diploma I realized how much I really liked each of them.  Not an asshole in the bunch, which is really saying something.  I feel blessed to have spent this spring working with them.

How did Crime & Punishment go?  After realizing how much work the students needed to prep for their AP exam (Language and Composition), I decided to mostly shelve it until after the test.  I assigned each kid a section and they presented their chunk of the book in graphic novel format.  Combined with some class discussion, they all got the gist of it, even though only 1% of the students read the entire book.  I read it.  Hated it.  Didn't see the point of a) wasting so much time on a novel in a course that should focus on nonfiction writing and b) reading a translation.  There are plenty of great books written in our native tongue that cover the same themes and concepts (Native Son springs immediately to mind, for example).  I strongly suspect much gets lost in translation and one should read a few books translated from a common language to fully appreciate the cultural and linguistic elements.  (I have done this, not with Russian writers, but with Swedish, German and Indian authors and reading several works does benefit understanding.)  Were this my course to teach, I'd never go near Dostoyevsky again.

English 12 read The Taming of the Shrew and we had a blast reading the play and looking at various productions of it.  Our conversation could have taken such a great turn this past week, but alas!  They were finished before we could dig deeper into modern day problems over at #yesallwomen.  There was so much fodder to explore regarding men and women and rights and relationships.  The kids did, however, "tweet" the play from a character's perspective.   We wrapped up our year discussing different views of Katherine's final speech and understanding the play's message in Elizabethan England and today. 

As a treat for the AP kids we spent the last two weeks of school on Harry Potter.  This included a study of archetypes, technology and an actual game of Quidditch:

I hadn't laughed so hard since my last Girls' Weekend--watching those kids run around with brooms and balls.  The targets were my special design involving a hula hoop, an 8-foot garden stake, scrap lumber, a drill, duct tape and screws.  The golden snitch was a Nerf football handled by a tag-team of runners first hour and my very own Mr. G fifth hour.  Because fifth hour was a small class, they paired up with AP Physics.  By the time each hour ended, people were breathless and sweaty and grinning.

And now I am creatively tapped out.  I feel fusty trying to type this post, even.  My brain has been working overtime trying to devise lesson plans and assess student needs, incorporate as many objectives as possible while keeping away from worksheets and busy work, and stay on top of all the daily business of high school life (who is in in-school suspension, which kids have what field trip, announcements, attendance, grades, etc.).  There have been small dramas along the way, as well as moments of triumph.

And then I'd come home at 4:00 every day to work the second shift.  But that's a story for another post.  

 © 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved


  1. It's funny. I love Dostoyevsky but I could never read Taming of the Shrew. Go figure.
    Regardless, it sounds like you did a wonderful job and I imagine the kids will always remember you.
    As for the squirrel, Earl you say?, well, your boys are definitely more evolved than the boys I played with as a kid, and their BB guns. Thank goodness.

  2. I love the squirrel. It's amazing he is so tame. It's a good thing he is many miles away from my kitty.....

  3. Oh, the second shift. I know it all too well. I'm one of the lucky ones; my dear darling significant other shares that shift. It's our second shift, not mine.

  4. During my oldest daughter's senior year of high school, she participated in a Quidditch team after school. I went once and watched them and it was the silliest thing I had seen in a long time. I don't know why the kids didn't expire of embarrassment.

    A squirrel. They adopted a squirrel. And it has been inside your house. I cannot comprehend this.

    Congrats to Mr D and the varsity team!

    A squirrel.... a squirrel....

  5. I love the pet squirrel!
    Well done on getting your seniors through to the end, I enjoyed reading The Taming of the Shrew for my final exams in High School (O Levels in those days) - wish we could have had Harry Potter!

  6. An actual wild squirrel! LOL!!

    I'm reading Crime & Punishment now, and I agree with you about translations. I can see that if I could actually read Russian, it would be like reading an entirely different novel. Maybe my translation is particularly bad, but it is so obvious when the translator came across Russian expressions, particularly colloquialisms, that have no equivalent in English, so he used the closest English colloquialism, and it fails.

  7. A friend once remarked a few years ago that you can be a mother the last week of school or you can work the last week of school - you cannot be a working mother the last week of school. There simply are not enough hours in the day. I'm there right now. My goodness. Piano recital, jazz band performance, ceremonies, picnics, field trips....


  8. What a brilliant way to handle C&P! I'm guessing the students got a LOT more out of it that way.

  9. I would have loved to have had a teacher like you when I was a kid. Nicely done. (and I agree on Dostoyevsky. I have tried...I have tried.)


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