Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fledgling Bloggers

My students started blogging today, and this year they have to post every other week, on any topic that interests them. Observations in the computer lab as they set up their new blog sites:

The little swimming fish (which look far too much like sperm for my liking) are a very popular gadget.

The boys, surprisingly, are very concerned with color choices and sidebar images. One posted a picture of a cat dressed up as Darth Vader, and another a picture of a naked baby smoking a cigarette. The latter picture was vetoed by the blogger police (me).

One class got into a huge discussion of what words I would and wouldn't allow for class blogging. I OK'ed "ass" but said no to "slutty," particularly when I learned that the topic was our rival school.

I saw one student begin writing about the day of his birth, one about stage fright, several listing all their favorite things, and at least one up-and-coming sports commentator.

And finally - aside from the playing of video games - I've never seen students having so much fun in the computer lab! Of course, most of the fun was choosing font styles, but you have to start somewhere.

Friday, May 6, 2011

True story

I was sitting here at my deak preparing for class and happened to notice, more than the page it was resting on, my hand. It reminded me of an alligator purse. I seriously can't believe how scaly and old it looks. I never thought I'd look old.

Then I noticed the page it was resting on. Seriously, it happened to be a poem about the challenges of faith. How we run to God only because he is our last resort for comfort, not because He is good or reliable.

So I decided to focus on my left hand, holding a glass of sweet iced tea. And my chair is comfortable, and the daylight is soft and abundant coming in the window. And Ben Folds, my fave, is singing on my Pandora station.

So I reach in the drawer for some verbena lotion and apply it to my scaly hand. It doesn't look any better really, only slightly shinier. Oh well. I still like how it smells.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Two R's and TV

Not blogging much these days. Spent months... off and on... finishing second draft of novel, and it's done. Feeling like a writer with nothing to write. But it's worse than that. I went to Office Depot and printed a copy of the SECOND DRAFT. Had it bound up all fancy like with a black spiral. Handed it over to a reader friend. More than a week ago. The silence is killing me. Is my precious newborn a stinker? Is she too busy to read? Were my delusions of literary fame worse than delusions? Enough about that. It's depressing.

When I get home at night, I want to read, write, or watch TV. More problems there. We cut back on our DirecTV contract and along with fewer dollars comes fewer channels. Having a hard time finding things I want to watch. Only so many channels showing back to back "How I Met Your Mother"s. No more "Project Runway" either. Getting real sick of David Tutera too. His looks of consternation over the bride's horrendous color choices are getting old. And now Michael Scott is gone. Sigh.

Reading... nothing suiting my fancy lately. Recently finished True Grit, which was great, but not a page-turner fave like Harry Potter... which also comes to a screeching halt this summer with the last installment of the film version. It's been nice, all these years, knowing that more Potter was still to come. Wishing for something magical and compelling to come across my Kindle in the upcoming days. Nothing I like better than settling into the bed (or bathtub, truth be told) with a great book in one hand and a popsicle in the other (strange little spring/summer pleasure of mine).

So, if I don't post again for another year after this, you might assume I've either found something great to read, a new TV fad, or I've gathered the courage to start in on another novel (or do REVISION THREE on the current one, if it's got enough potential). See ya.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Notes from the Nine-Year-Old

The other day while shopping: "I really love getting stuff. Granna and Papa are my secret weapon."

Tonight while tucking into bed: "I wonder if the demons are like the Stormtroopers. Maybe they don't want to work for the devil, but he made them, like Darth Vader did."

On her floor for the past several days: a couple of boxes draped with bathroom towels, and atop the towel-scape is an odd assortment if items including a blond wig on a styrofoam mannequin head, a basketball and baseball, a picture of Zac Efron, a CD, and her tap shoes. Anyone want to guess what this display is? I shall reveal the answer after a couple of decent guesses...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Truth and Consequences

"Bapu Ghandi said, 'All religions are true.' I just want to love God," I blurted out, and looked down, red in the face.

I'm currently teaching the novel Life of Pi to my Hammond freshmen - what a wonderful book! This line is from a rather humorous scene wherein the main character, Pi, explains why he wants to practice Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Meanwhile, a pandit, priest and imam stand around him arguing over which one religion he ought to choose. It's been interesting to hear how a variety of students respond to this statement.

The book itself offers beautiful descriptions of the three religions in question, and with the character Pi as a centerpoint, it is easy to see what the three worldviews have in common. Hindus, Christians and Muslims are all seeking the divine, they all pray, they all have beautiful and inspiring rituals, they all tell grand stories that help us understand our own stories, and they all uphold a set of lofty moral ideals. So what's the problem? Isn't each worldview true in its own way?

It seems to me that our culture has lost sight of a very important word: truth. In an effort to be nice to each other, to understand one another's points of view without prejudice, we've watered down what truth means. I was watching Pushing Daisies on TV a couple of years back, and two investigators were knocking on the door of a suspect; one of them expressed some doubts and sympathies towards the woman they were about to interrogate. The character Emerson then says, "Truth ain't a bunch of puppies running around and you get to pick the one you want. There's only one truth and it has come a'knockin'." I think you get a much fairer picture of truth when you cross Pi with Agent Emerson.

Here's one example to ponder: Hinduism says that "God" is an essence, an energy, a universal soul of which we are a part. Christianity and Islam say that "God" is a Person who created non-divine objects and beings that are distinctly separate from himself. These two God-concepts are not equal and cannot be equally true. Do a Christian at church and a Hindu at temple look essentially the same? Yes. Are they praying to the same Entity? No.

I've heard the illustration of an elephant, surrounded by blind men. One touches his trunk and says it is a snake; one touches his foot and says it is a tree; one touches his tail and says it is a rope; one walks right under his belly and says nothing is there at all. Maybe we are all striving to understand the elephant, to love the elephant as Pi insists. OK, but the guy who says it's a rope is still wrong. Actually, they are all wrong, but maybe the first one is closer - at least he recognizes a living animal. What they all need to do is walk a bit further and feel a bit more. If they were to explore four or five parts of the creature's body, certainly they could come closer to figuring out it's an elephant. Blind seekers ought not to be lazy.

Which brings me to one more line from Pi that I really like. He's talking about religious people and atheists when he says that "they go as far as the legs of reason will carry them - and then they leap." I wish more people would spend more time walking on the legs of reason. It is not reasonable to assume that contradictory ideas of God can all be true at the same time. We can all live together and be nice to each other, but somebody's going to turn up wrong at the end.

Note to students: If by chance you have decided to blog about this same quote, and your opinion is contrary to mine, that is OK. But back yourself up. Don't just vent - explain and support your point of view.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kayak Shenanigans

I knew it was over before I even went under. The kayak had turned backwards, a rock leapt up behind me from beneath the white water, and I gave in. I think I heard the river gods laugh as I got a noseful of water. To tell you the truth, I was laughing too. What business did I have in a kayak anyway?

The scene was the Nantahala River in North Carolina. The cast of characters? About 70 ninth graders from Hammond School, where I teach 9th grade. I was roped into this unlikely adventure by a sense of professional duty. Actually, I have always liked chaperoning field trips - it's the "adventure" part that got me into trouble this time. I prefer paved cities, show tickets, fine restaurants, and other low impact activities that do not require me to strap myself into a narrow tube designed for speed, flips, and rock collisions. But I do like the water, and I figured a minor case of terror shouldn't prevent me from joining in on the "fun."

The first day was spent on the lake learning how to hang upside-down in said kayak, how to exit said kayak for dear life, and how to regain one's breath in very very very cold cold water. Surrounded by 14-year-olds who were having no trouble conquering this task, I tried to act like an adult and follow instructions. I did it, and it was worth it. Plus, I figured that if I did not push through a little personal fear on the water, I'd have no right to ask my students to push through their fear of published writing, public speaking, or test taking. Life gives us all challenges, some of them requiring helmets.

The next day was on the river, and my goal was clear: enjoy the scenery, enjoy the kids, and stay upright. Two out of three ain't bad, as they say. It really was inevitable. Friends and family are not shocked. By the time the kayak had hit 90 degrees, I'd pulled the loop and pushed my body into the river. Honestly, it wasn't that scary, and I'm a decent swimmer. The falling out was relatively fun; it was the shockingly cold water that gave me the trouble, constricting my lungs and making me gasp for breath and look altogether pathetic as I grabbed ahold of our guide's kayak and got escorted to the shore like the out-of-shape school marm I am. I decided to take it as a wet badge of courage, and good storytelling for my 8-year-old. I find that if you can tell a story just right, you can reel in a little bit of lost dignity with a cleverly wrought phrase or two. How did I do?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

South Carolina on My Mind

We are South Carolinians again. An odd day to announce this, considering everyone is currently reluctant to admit any connection with the state that gave us Joe Wilson's rude Congressional outburst and that guy who apparently had sex with his horse.

So to break the bad spell, I offer a little ode to Carolina. I love it here. True, we produce teen beauty queens who can barely speak, but I don't blame the state. Not even the state schools. I could argue the point with fancy rhetoric, but I'm not in the mood. The human race is responsible for the Wilsons, the illiterates, the Sanfords, the perverts. We're all a mess.

But here, at home again in the South, I'm back in the midst of some beautiful things. I drink sweet tea everyday. The fish and the chicken are fried. Strangers and professionals greet me with a drawl and a joke. The in-laws are nearby, and they have a pool. The sun shines almost all the time. Temperatures have dropped to the high 70's, and sitting outside is a joy. Everywhere I go, there are green lawns, palmetto trees, and crepe myrtles that never lose their pink. Architecture is red brick, archways, white columns, and black wrought iron. I love archways and iron! Homes are more affordable here and, hence, we live in a lovely neighborhood with winding roads, lots of trees, and adorable houses. I teach at a private school in Columbia, where polite and neatly dressed teenagers say "yes ma'am." My two best friends in the world live five minutes away. Crickets chirp when the sun goes down.

I'm OK with sharing Carolina with a handful of famous idiots, so long as the beauty doesn't fade and the tea stays sweet.