Monday, October 9, 2017

It'll be a cold day in hell, or in my room, but either way...

My office/classroom is freezing.

I usually have more important things to complain about, like students not being able to understand simple sentence structure or to be able to identify cause and effect in a piece of writing.  But those thoughts are fleeing in the face of the Arctic blast that greets me every time I enter my room.

Just so you know, I live near Houston, and in this part of Texas, there’s no autumn.  We don’t have that lovely time of gradually decreasing temperatures and the leaves slowly becoming golden before drifting to the ground.  No, in southeast Texas, it stays hot right up until the end of October (and by hot I mean in the mid-90s) and then suddenly the temperature drops 25-30 degrees when November begins.  There’s no fall unless you count the sudden leaf dump that seems to happen at the beginning of December when the winds start.

So it’s still hot outside, but you wouldn’t know it to step into my room.  I’d say the temperature here is about 68 degrees.  I’m wearing a long-sleeve turtleneck sweater and a jacket with close-toed shoes.  I will be sweating the minute I step outside, but them’s the breaks.

Why is my room so cold?  I have no idea.  Even my principal has commented on the fact that the cold air seems to sit in my room and nowhere else.  He actually showed me that he had the A/C set at 76, and the rest of the school feels fine.  Or maybe he just dislikes me and is screwing with me.

I wish I knew whether it was a punishment from the gods of air conditioning or just a mistake, but by the end of the day, my shoulders hurt from hunching over in response to the frigid air and my hands are about ten degrees cooler than the rest of my body.  One of the students offered to bring in a space heater, because he felt sorry for me. 

I’m trying to find the upside in this situation, which is that either cold air burns calories or that my can of Coke Zero Sugar (!) stays cold now all on its own.  But it’s hard to do when I have to step outside the building to get some relief. 

One student and I spent the other day working through the short story “To Build a Fire.”  The main character keeps commenting to himself how cold it is outside in the Yukon.  The student said, “Ms. Marlowe, that sounds like you in this room."

It does.  But there’s no story that will be written about slowly succumbing to frostbite in a school building. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

I came here to read, not to lead...

My required reading list is getting a little too lengthy.

Teachers always have reading they’re supposed to do.  I’m sure there are other occupations that have the same problem, though what those occupations are simply won’t come to mind right now.  President of the United States?  That sounds about right.

I have a huge stack of books next to my bed that I need to get to in order to be a better teacher.  Some of them are potential textbooks, some of them are instruction manuals for teachers who are working through a certain subject (Grammar of the Greats, anyone?) or just general sort of self-help texts for those of us struggling in an area or hoping to get new teaching techniques to use.  I know I need to read these, so the best thing I can do is start like I’m eating an elephant, and hope I remember/make notes/incorporate what I need to, while not choking as I read over my food.

The other list is the books I should be reading so that I can study them with my classes.  Curriculum lists change every year, so if you think that there are just certain books that will stay on the list and I should make sure I read them, you are dead, DEAD wrong.  That ain’t how it works.

For example, this year I had The Hunger Games on my curriculum list.  I breathed a sigh of relief that I’d already read the entire series before I became overwhelmed with the amount of reading I need to do.  But sometimes I don’t get so lucky.  The year that Bartleby the Scrivener and The Poisonwood Bible showed up had me reading fast and furiously, hoping to stay at least a week ahead of the students.  I don’t want to repeat that year again, or, I should say, I'd prefer not to. 

The fact is, the better read a teacher is, the more he or she can use to help in literature lessons overall with similar storylines, descriptions, and characters.  But the other fact is that there are only so many hours in the day, and reading constantly for knowledge or work gets exhausting.  And when I get exhausted, I just watch animal GIFs, even though I’m not particularly an animal lover.

Some people say, “Try audiobooks!  Then you can listen to them in the car!”  I’ve tried it, and I’ve found that I hate audiobooks, unless they're nonfiction and read in the same voice.  Fiction books where the reader tries to differentiate the voices annoy me.  I’d rather read than be read to.  Plus I can’t skip all the boring description in an audiobook.  That's how I got through Frankenstein so quickly.

I have found a lot of favorites as I plug away at my list.  Death of a Salesman became a fave after I had it done, and re-reading Fahrenheit 451 years after I was a teenager gave me a new appreciation for it.  But some don't improve upon re-reading, or I just never like them at all.  The Scarlet Letter now only makes me despise Reverend Dimmesdale, and 1984 did not make a fan out of me. 

So, I’ll continue to slog through my reading list, hoping to have Richard III and Catcher in the Rye finished before they pop up on the list for the semester.  I’m already skipping most of the descriptions.