Friday, November 30, 2007

Jeeves & Wooster

We do love watching this show. We used to watch in on PBS; now we just get it on Netflix. The most recent DVD was Bertie in New York City. I missed seeing their usual antics in the country houses of jolly old England, but Bertie's apartment in NYC is just as swanky as his flat in London. While he's in NYC, I do miss the play at the Drones Club -- nothing like cricket played with dinner rolls!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

School thoughts

I'm reading portions of Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis) to my seniors for our morning devotions. It is difficult because they are rather unresponsive. To be more precise, my seniors are academically asleep. This state demonstrates itself in 2 ways. A few girls are asleep but diligent; they complete all assignments and worry about their grades. They have no interest in the material itself. The boys are more honest. They just don't perform, or they perform only the minimal amount to get the grade that will satisfy graduation requirements, parental requirements, or their own pride, whichever is lowest. I know this sounds rather bitter, but honestly they are sweet kids. It's just that NO teacher they ever had ever woken them up to the joys of learning, of having mental muscles that are quick, adept, imaginative, flexible, and strong. I don't know, but I think perhaps it's too late for these kids to wake their minds, at least in high school. At this point, they only want to graduate.

My juniors are much more awake. I taught them last year, and the awakening process was painful for them and their parents. They longed to sleep. But this year quite a number of them are enjoying the exercises of developing literary muscles in particular. And my 9th and 10th graders (well, again, some of them) are already showing signs of shedding somnolence. I am looking forward to teaching these kids for a couple more years.

What kind of teacher wakes a child's mind? I don't know. I know that I don't always do it. But I think my enthusiasm for my subject matter, and the joy of being freed to teach by my administration, contribute greatly. We rarely have meetings. I rarely fill out forms. When I hear tales of what public school teachers must do these days to satisfy government red tape, I know that I couldn't do it.

My discussions lately about worldview with my students, and the essays they've written on the subject, have been enlightening. As I suspected, many did not know what worldview is. They think that, for teachers to teach Christian worldview means that they will study the Bible in the classroom. I had the painful and tricky task of explaining to them my opinion, that the Bible is like the pair of glasses (God's glasses) that you put on, in order to view the world. The glasses must be properly made (the lenses ground accurately), but that usually occurs in church, family or personal devotions, or Bible class. In other academic classes, we place the glasses on our noses (so to speak); we don't examine the glasses themselves, but we use them instead, to look at the world. I told them their teachers' job was to show them the world. They looked somber at this announcement. I told them that when they study science, all nature is God's nature. The world of science is God's world; the world of math is God's own design and reveals his mind. When they study history, they study God's history, because it is all his - his plan. But... in literature, we study the world of ideas. Are all ideas, God's ideas? Of course not. So, in literature we study things that are don't belong to God. They can be redeemed by him, for his use, but just because they are genius, just because they are well-crafted, does not make them God's. In this view, I know I differ from some other believers around me. We spend our time picking out the gold flecks from our panning of the streams of literature.

I would rather spend my time on these things with my students, that filling out the government's reports on how the populace is learning. However, I know that education of the general populace is important; I'm just glad I don't have to do it. I can't imagine teaching in any other setting than a Christian school. I just wish I were teaching in a small school, say 15 students, who were all fully awake. That would be wonderful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Not much

That's right - not much going on. I haven't blogged in several days because we've simply slung the old ropes around the tired shoulders, and applied ourselves to the plowing. For the next 3 weeks it will be tests, essays, grading, papers, grading, exams, grading. Then we will rest again.

Adam is much recovered from the stress he had before Thanksgiving. He just needed to be home and away from students for a while! I think he can make it until Christmas now :)

I found out yesterday that I WILL be allowed to have my winterim class here at our house! That is great news. That means that, after our 2 week Christmas break, I will have another 2 1/2 weeks in which I teach only 4 students, only from 8-11 each morning, and at my own home. And it's Creative Writing, in case you didn't catch that before. It will be hard to go back to regular teaching after that. Sigh.

Community chorus rehearsal tonight. I think our director bit off more than his choir could chew. I don't feel we will be ready for the performance. A sign of a fine director is that he is able to work his choir to the peak of their perfection, at exactly performance time. The program will be exhausting, especially for us high sopranos. I don't imagine I'll get anything above a G on the last 5 songs.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Feast

Clockwise: brioche roll, whole cranberry sauce, stuffing w/ onion & celery, turkey & skin, my mom's to-die-for sweet potato casserole, green beans, asparagus w/ lemon & butter, mashed potatoes w/ gravy in the center.

I tried, I really did, to finish.

I didn't have any ham or corn. There wasn't room.

The south side of the table.
Note Peter's quick hand movement.

North side of the table. Mother's quizzical look says, "a camera, at the table?"

Thanksgiving Day

We've been to church for the annual Thanksgiving morning breakfast, served by the men of the church. A little bleary-eyed, but we were there. The turkey (named Sebastian, at Philip's suggestion) is in the oven. The brioche roll dough is made. The giblets are simmering on the back of the stove. The grandparents are driving over. The parade is on the TV. All is well this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Turkey Bowl

Today was our school's 2nd annual Turkey Bowl. Here are 3 of my Junior girls, all dressed up to play football.

Julia and her best friend, Ruth, enjoyed watching the football games today at school.

Here, the Senior and Freshman girls prepare themselves to meet the Sophomore/Junior females, who will be in pink (see picture above).

Adam got to ref the middle school game (his team won!) and the powderpuff game.

Here, he and a colleague get a cute pic with the silly girls.

There was a highschool boys' game, and a Jr./Sr. guys vs. faculty men. Yes, Adam played on the line, and enjoyed pretending that he was young again! However, the old geezers lost :(

The Season Approaches

I bought the first, new issue of this lovely magazine, which, I'm glad to say, looks to be just about as delightful as its predecessor.

Adam took me shopping for new sleepwear, and I found this. I did check out the slinky stuff, but this warm, comfy nightgown was just the ticket.

Here's a close-up of the neckline.

And I can't resist a little photo of my parents' cat, Sylvester.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I apologize

for the woeful dearth of photos on the blog lately. Philip got the camera back (well, it is his, after all), and has informed me that he thinks it's dying. Something about the battery, I believe. So, words must suffice.

Adam and I are both very happy teachers because we've been informed that we will each have a Smartboard in the classroom, soon! Yippee! I can't wait to have one HANDY. Right now, I have to reserve one in another building; needless to say, I don't do that very often. The students love them because they're so cool. I want to figure out how to do editing on them with my students, and find software that will enhance my literature teaching also.

Well, we decided that we will stay home for Thanksgiving. I'm kind of disappointed, because I enjoy traveling, and it's just more festive to be with family. We were going to go to Mississippi to be with Adam's mom. It was lovely when we lived in Alabama - a few hours away. Now it is about 25 hours round trip, driving. That's also not too horrible, except when you only have a short Thanksgiving break to do it on. And the price of gas these days discouraged us also - over 3$ a gallon! This is like living in Massachusetts! And Adam is looking forward to a break from work. He's frankly very pooped. We REALLY need Christmas break, but Thanksgiving will have to do for now.

Philip has a new trumpet teacher, and we're thrilled to have someone consistent - a weekly lesson. He is a teacher at Lenoir-Rhyne College. He wants for Philip to start playing in the college's concert group, instead of the youth symphony he's currently playing in. He says it will be more challenging music. So, tomorrow evening Philip and I will go hear this group play and see what he thinks.

I have been convicted lately about doing a less-than-my-best job at teaching Christian worldview in the classroom - striving each day to integrate Christian faith with the material we're learning. This is very hard work, and unless you've tried it, daily, in the classroom, you may not realize how much harder it is to teach this way, than to just teach the material in the traditional way. Nobody teaches you how to do it; you must dig in and discover it yourself. There's no manual out there to help me know how to correctly evaluate Julius Caesar, or Ezra Pound's or Alexander Pope's writings, with a Biblical perspective. Even attending a college that served up Christian worldview as its meat and potatoes, doesn't necessarily help you in the daily pragmatics of the classroom. The biggest assistance I get is from the Holy Spirit, as I frantically ask Him to turn my fumbling attempts into something that breaks through the wall of apathy and cuts into the student's heart. That happened this week, and it was wonderful.

I asked my students a week ago: 1)define Christian worldview, 2)what frustrations do you have in how Christian worldview is being taught at our school?, 3) how can we improve, as literature students, in applying Christian worldview to our class?

Their answers were all over the place, but prompted me to work harder to do what I've been hired to do everyday. Many Christian school teachers don't. There's little accountability in this department. Many Christian school lack the distinctiveness they claim, because this field is neglected. For my part, I want to ensure that it is alive and well in my classroom, that it is addressed deeply and honestly.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Candles & Christmas Music

Here I sit, on a Monday evening, listening to Nat King Cole sing about Christmas. The scented candles are flickering around the house. And you ask, why aren't you grading papers or frantically reading for tomorrow?

Because, my friend, I am caught up! I scheduled to grade 2 research papers today, which I've already done. I've prepared for tomorrow. I have nothing left to do. What a strange feeling!

Soon it will be Thanksgiving, and I'll have even more spare time.

I also found out today that I have only 4 students enrolled in my Winterim Creative Writing class. That's 2 1/2 weeks of teaching only 4 students, and only in the morning. And on a topic that will be wonderfully easy. All that, immediately after Christmas Break. I'm REALLY liking this revised schedule this school year!

Anna will take a class on the Holocaust, and one on scrapbooking.
Philip is taking a class on Pop culture, and one on computers.
Unfortunately for Adam, the middle school doesn't do Winterim. I think he's wishing!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Friday at last

The Very Long Week is at last over. For me. For Adam, who is now with about 250 middle schoolers for the weekend at a retreat, it's NOT over yet!

In the middle of it all, Philip got sick, the very morning of the evening concert he was to perform in. He missed 2 days of school, but he was johnny-on-the-spot for he concert. The fund-raising event itself was rather poorly attended, but the music was excellent.

My teaching prep and grading is finally under control, but that's because I have cut back on work to a crawl, finally. It will pick back up soon, but it feels good to have a breather. This weekend I have almost no reading to do, and only about 3 research papers to grade. Marvelous!

No other news. Julia got her cavity tended to. Her dentist is a hoot. For $282, he'd better be.

This weekend I'm planning to clean the house, cook a pie, do ALL the laundry, especially Peter's sheets while he's gone on that retreat, grocery shop, and clean the house some more. So, if you don't hear from me, you'll know that I'm vacuuming!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

busy, busy

Back to the old life. Julia has a cavity ( a big one - I can see it, and it's hurting her). Must get to the dentist. No dental insurance. Mamma says ouch too!
Our church has community services this week with 4 other local churches. Tonight Philip and I were the "special" music. Short rehearsal tomorrow night. Community choir rehearsal Tuesday night. Our choir sings at the service on Wednesday. School fund event Thursday night. When is a teacher supposed to get work done?

Philip starts with a new trumpet teacher tomorrow. Hopefully, this one will give us regular, weekly lessons. We've had fabulous teachers, whom we could rarely get to see.

Rearranged the living room furniture in preparation for the placement of the Christmas tree in front of the big window. But I like it this way and will keep it.

If you don't hear from me this week, it's because I'm busy, busy!!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Reading & Tea in the Mountains

That's what I enjoyed for about 28 hours. I packed the 4 children in the car (a difficult feat with children as large as mine!) and drove west, young man, into the dry, muted hues of this year's fall. Since we all had Friday off from school, it seemed like an ideal time to visit the grandparents. I told Philip that he could probably count on one hand (maybe two, if he's lucky) the number of visits he'll have with them before he goes off to college.

I took my mother's video of Dylan Thomas's "A Child's Christmas in Wales" (a new favorite) which she loaned to me and hadn't seen yet, so we watched than Friday evening. I'm going to continue babysitting it, so my British Lit students can see it.

I spent quite a bit of my time on their couch, reading her biography of CS Lewis. It was a skipping perusal of the book. I've decided I need to pay more diligent attention to Mr. Lewis. I finished "The Abolition of Man" tonight and started "Mere Christianity," which I've never read. We have a lot of Lewis floating around the house. Julia started "The Magician's Nephew" tonight also.

Philip cut down some branches with a pole saw, and Peter ripped out lots of unwanted ivy. Julia played for hours with 2 glass kitties we found at a resale store. Anna read and stroked the cat, Sylvester. Philip took dozens of photos with the digital camera, mostly of trees. I didn't take one picture. Sorry!

We also piled into the car and went to cut bittersweet on the roadside. Mother made a nice arrangement, and I brought some home. It lasts so long.

And Mother had a tea, of course. Those ladies on that mountain top are tea-giving experts. What usually starts as, "How about if I ask a couple of ladies over for a cup of tea?" eventually evolves into 10 of us, scones, cake, cucumber sandwiches, cookies, an assortment of marmalades and jams, and devonshire cream, plus tea and coffee, naturally. Their conversation is delightful, and the deep sense of friendship and support they exude for each other is warming to the soul. It refreshes me more than tea, more than Lewis, more than fall colors. I sit by women who have lost husbands, lost children, live in chronic pain, has passed through cancer or surgery -- and joyfully embrace each day, thanking God for His goodness. Being with them is a treasured lesson in Christian womanhood.

And my husband is glad I'm home. He didn't go. He did, however, do plumbing and roofing, and concrete work while I was gone. And, most important, he got the radio running again in Audrey.

Hopefully, pictures on another day.