The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Doctoral Student (and Full-Time Teacher)

August 10, 2011

Classroom Personalities.

Filed under: Uncategorized — rachaelski @ 2:27 pm

Classes have such different cultures. I think factors such as size, the people in the room, and the time of day play into it. I have classes as small as 12 students and as large as 23 students! I have 9th grade students and 10th grade students. Both groups in the morning and in the afternoon. Part of teaching well is to be able to work with the individual student personalities, as well as the personalities of the class as a whole.

I have a HUGE class of 10th graders, and they are full of personality. I’m trying to figure out how to best work with them and to get them to “get it.” A lot of their work will be independently driven, with ample time to work in class. However, it takes them a long time to settle down. They aren’t “bad” or disrespectful, but they have a ton of energy. My concern is that they’ll miss a lot of work time opportunities in class because they distract each other. Hopefully, once the class gets into full swing they’ll begin writing as soon as they walk in.

I began this blog with my larger class, using my personal blogging as an example for the students. I am not sure if what I had to say made an impression or if how I went about communicating in class did, but overall the class went better. The students, while it still took them a bit of time to get to work and quiet, were working diligently. Sure, I had a couple students who I had to take painful efforts to remind and remind and remind and remind that they needed to be working…but they eventually got to work. I think I’ve figured out how to work with this class’s personality!

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Filed under: Uncategorized — rachaelski @ 8:10 am

Today we are continuing our discussion on descriptive writing. In preparing for the class, I printed out a list of the 100 best first lines of novels. A ton of the classics were listed, as well as some more contemporary works. However, it was the first line from one of the Chronicles of Narnia books, The Voyage of Dawn Treader that had my favorite line:

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

Wow, there’s so much in that line that’s told directly, yet so much that is simply eluded. What a great line. I keep going back to it on a list next to Tolstoy, Dickens, and Orwell. A text intended for children is listed among some of the greatest examples of American and World literature. Way to go C.S. Lewis.

First sentences are so important for any kind of written work. Whether it’s fiction or an essay or a dissertation, that first sentence sets the mood for the rest of that written work. One sentence in, and we already know that Eustace is a pain! We have an idea of who he is and the role that he’ll play in the story.

When I think about the importance of the first sentence, I think about my dissertation. What will my first sentence be? My first communication with the barrage of readers (snicker)–it needs to be good. I want my readers to be drawn into my research instantly, with a simple introduction to my research.  How will I communicate the importance of my work to my readers?

I learn the most about being a good writer by being a writing instructor. I don’t think that I am a stellar writer by any means–I can hold my own, but I wouldn’t describe myself as an awe-inspiring writer. However, each time I focus on teaching a writing lesson, I too am learning from it. Writing that first sentence for my dissertation (and first my comprehensive exams and my dissertation proposal) will be a focus of mine, and hopefully effective!

Hopefully, this begins to demonstrate to my students why their first sentence of their first writing project is worth 20% of the entire grade for the piece. First impressions are important.

August 9, 2011

The Kite Runner

Filed under: Uncategorized — rachaelski @ 3:56 pm

I am reading The Kite Runner for the first time, with my 10th grade students. Well, I’m about 5 chapters ahead of the students, but for all intents and purposes, I am reading with them for the first time. I actually really enjoy reading the chapters once on my own and then reading them again, aloud, with my 10th graders. I have 2 sections of 10th grade English, so I end of reading the book 3 times. It allows me to think about and familiarize myself with the text. I feel like I know Amir and Hassan, as well as their fathers, and I am only 5 chapters into the book.

I am using the text to showcase literary devices, as well as to reinforce reading skills. I’ve been very impressed with the students so far. They are very observant, pulling details from the text that I didn’t expect them to right off the bat. One student commented that Ali was more of a father to Amir than his own father, citing examples as to why his father was an absentee father and why Ali was such a good father, both to his son and to Amir.

With my 9th grade students, we are reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s easily one of the best books that I’ve read in years. It was made into a movie, but it didn’t do justice to the movie–like most book-to-movie adaptations. Like the 10th graders, I was impressed with the minute details that the students picked up on and the sophistication of student discussion. I have a hard time keeping my mouth closed, because the students have such thoughtful responses that I want to dialogue with them! I feel like reading Never Let me Go with the students is kind of like being an adult watching the magic of Christmas to a child. I know the surprise that’s to come to the readers….errrr, listeners….and waiting for the surprise to be exposed to them excites me. I anticipate a lot of conversation about this text.