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Submitted my draft just now
Dec 22nd, 2007 by alexfaye

I recently created a lesson and Powerpoint presentation from They Say, I Say about appropriate ways to integrate the ideas of others into our essays. My kids are writing the Value of Life essay, and I looked at drafts last week. Am I tired? Stressed out with holiday hoopla? Why else did I want to put my head in my hands and weep? Several kids — despite all we have talked about — wrote dutiful little reports: Intro about difficulty of quantifying value of life, Par.2 what Hamlet said, Par.3 What Lance said, Par.4 What Human Life Calculator said, Par. 5 What the Sept. 11 report said, Conclusion about difficulty of quantifying value of life. Argggggh!

But I smiled at them. Thanked them for getting this far right before a holiday. Told them that this is a decent way to prewrite — to summarize everything they heard — but that essentially, what many of them they had so far amounted to an 8th grade report. I read some intros out loud from the better writers. Invited them to be philosophical, to add their voice to the conversation, and to use the pieces from the other writers as touchstones — something to riff off of. Have a happy break, I told them, and go think about life — talk to people over the New Years holidays about this topic.

My most recent birthday was my 50th, and although I hope to have many years ahead of me, I must acknowledge that a fair sized chunk is already behind me. (I have some junk in my cosmic trunk.) I always get a little reflective around my birthday, but this one was signficantly different. And New Year’s always gets me to thinking and writing. Also different: I’ve attended three funerals since October: a colleague was killed in a car accident, our school board president suffered a heart attack, my friend’s elderly father died. My own father is living out his last years in a hospital bed in our living room. I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about life recently. This value of life essay is an essay I could WRITE.

Another thing about this unit: my colleague came in my classroom to observe me on the day that I had the Human Life Calculator up on the wall via LCD projector, and we plugged in his numbers: 32 year old male, 35 year old spouse, both expect to retire 60-65, he earns $52k, she earns $35k, no kids: his life valued at $976,000. We plugged in my numbers: 50 year old female, no spouse, expect to retire 65, earn $62k, 1 child 19 years of age: $276,000. Then when my daughter turns 20 in March, my life’s value drops to $169,000. This just pissed me off. Not that it matters. Not that I don’t understand it. But it pissed me off anyway. And that anger gave me some insight into the 9/11 article.

The kids then said some very sweet things about my value to them, which almost made me misty-eyed, so to avoid a maudlin moment, I started thinking about doing push ups.

Then we plugged in hypothetical numbers, and just changed genders: here were the parameters without gender figured in: 27 years of age, spouse 25 years of age, earning $50k and $40k respectively, retirement at 65, 1 child. The male’s life was valued at less than the female’s! This surprised everyone for a moment, and then the males in the classroom theorized that their lives are worth less because they die sooner. That has to be the correct reason.

That money day was a strange day in class.

EAP Scores for Your Students
Dec 17th, 2007 by alexfaye

Hello English Teachers,

Alex mentioned the challenge of finding Early Assessment Program (EAP) scores for individual students. Once Educational Testing Service (ETS) scores the EAP, a master list is sent to each school district testing coordinator with student names and individual scores. We’ve heard that most districts forward a copy of the master list to each high school. Check with your high school’s testing coordinator, head counselor, or assistant principal to see if they have the master list with your students’ individual EAP scores.

Also, students can check their own EAP score online at www.calstate.edu/eap/results.

If you have trouble accessing individual EAP scores for students at your school, just let me know!

~ Leslie @ Long Beach State

The RIAP Report
Dec 11th, 2007 by alexfaye

So…I was thinking that over the break, I’d work through as many steps of that report as I could …I’ve already done quite a bit, but truthfully, I haven’t looked at it lately, so I’m not sure where I am. I know I will have to test the kids when we get back from break, and start connecting the dots. I have promised them one-on-one writing conferences in January — I’ll have three process essays and three timed writes, plus their notebooks, their multiple choice test results, plus their transcripts in front of me as I speak with them.

I have the schoolwide EAP results that Leslie gave us, and my administrators also gave me another view of that same data, but I am not able to find individual student results of the EAP testing. When the kids went out and registered for CSUMentor, some of them printed out a page that told them, Congratulations! You’re good to go!, but not everybody has that. It’s not in DataDirector, and I don’t think it’s in their CUM files…it’s on that standardized test report that is sent home, but I don’t have that either…any ideas? Have you seen this data for your kids?

A pretty high percentage of my class passed EAP one way or the other. My piloting year is sailing by so smoothly because I have a group of academically motivated kids. Many of them have already heard back from colleges, so I’m fighting off the early signs of senioritis…

Did you take time out to write Personal Statements with the kids? I did, and next year, I’ll do it earlier than November. What a mess. I’m still reading essays that kids are rewriting for colleges with later deadlines than ours.

That puts me at the end of the Value of Life at the winter break. Foolishly, I’ll collect those papers right as we go on vacation, so I’ll be reading those over the break — among other things. I’m coming to realize that I’m not going to get through the fourteen modules. Right now, I’m shooting for ten or eleven, and that’s doing timed write assessments for half, and process papers for the other half.

If you were going to skip a module, which one would it be? If you ran out of time and had to skip four, which ones would they be?

The Left Hand of Darkness is on the chopping block…I read The Word for the World is Forest back in my 20s, and I remember loving it, but that’s all I remember. Ursula K. LeGuin: I know she’s well respected, but to be honest, I was surprised to find her in the ERW teaching materials. I am revealing my ignorance, I know, but there you have it.

I don’t have copies of Into the Wild either, but I know a little more about Krakauer. We have Into Thin Air in the bookroom, and I read Under the Banner of Heaven fairly recently. Into the Wild is hot right now with that Sean Penn movie starring that compelling young guy, whats-his-name, so I’m going to get the kids to buy it for themselves over the winter break. Or maybe go to School Site Council for $500 to buy a class set.

I guess I should pop out to the ERW community to see what the veterans say about all of this. My sense of the research project on bullying is that I need to start it sooner — it can’t be the last thing the seniors do! They are already squirmy, but I know we want to do some research — their citation skills are sketchy.

I’m out for now. I have to get up and run around with my dog (who is snoring, so she might take some convincing) before my back becomes fused to this chair.

Saw this, thought of you
Dec 10th, 2007 by alexfaye

Hey Homies, are you feeling that winter break coming ’round the bend? I see it, but between me and that glittering vision are 125 teenagers…

Instead of dutifully grading papers, planning instruction, or working on my big RIAP report, I am reading blogs and writing this post. But because I really need to get something productive done tonight before the sun rises on another school day, I’m going to cut this post short and offer you this YouTube video to view and consider; it’s five minutes well spent.

Ciao for now from your colleague and friend, slogging it out at in Room 508…tomorrow my seniors and I work on the Lance Armstrong piece, “It’s Not About the Bike.” Is it true he is dating one of the Olson twins? That just seems tawdry.

The Cheese Stands Alone
Dec 9th, 2007 by alexfaye


I went in to work today — alone — geez, I actually forgot that I started a grading club this year. Well, OK, it’s December, so I guess we’ll just skip meeting this month — I got to my classroom at noon, tuned the radio to KPCC for Offramp and Weekend America as I started mowing through the stacks. My very own little archaeological dig. Graded some, filed some, planned some, read some. Meant to work on the bulletin boards but just never got that far. It amazes me how fast the hours go once I am into my groove…I fall into flow experience pretty quickly once I’ve eliminated the distractions. When I forget to feel sorry for myself, I find my work pretty fascinating. Looked up and it was dark. I feel like I accomplished quite a bit, and yet I still ended up bringing things home. I lead a WASC committee meeting on Monday, and I feel a little confused about where we are in the process, but I know the writing is right around the corner.

People who give me energy for this work: some of my students, for sure. Those seniors in my fifth period are a pretty exciting group of kids, and I am loving that curriculum and the energy in the room. Several of my AP kids are pretty energizing, but they tend to be cancelled out, unfortunately, but the energy-sappers who are in the desks right next to them. My friend, Erich, definitely…we met this past week at It’s a Grind, and just talked…he bought me my 20oz. Americano with steamed soy and three Splendas…come to think of it, he came in and took my lunch order on Thursday, too. He definitely is a keeper.

I collected multivoice arguments from the AP group, and many of those papers are quite good. Impressive work for kids who are working without any student samples to look at, trying an assignment that they’ve never heard of before. For me, this assignment seems to be the perfect preparation for the synthesis question, where they will have to read several texts composed by different voices/in different genres/for different purposes, but all making a point about a particular issue — and synthesize those texts to create their own response/their own argument, while citing the sources they are drawing from. Well, the paper they wrote simply goes about the process backward: they start with their research question, they decide on the point they want to make, and they write to make that point, utilizing genre and point of view as a way to illuminate the complexity of their topic. The kids were supposed to write about an issue facing the state of California — so there are papers on air quality, infrastructure, water, Megan’s Law, gangs, drugs, immigration, the border fence, affirmative action, the rising tuition costs at the UCs, health care, King-Drew hospital, police brutality, the LA River…all kinds of interesting research topics. It’s a little hard to grade them…but I’ll figure it out, I guess.

My seniors are in the middle of a writing unit called The Value of Life, and so this past week, we tackled Hamlet’s soliloquy — I’ve never taught Shakespeare (beyond the daily Caught Ya!), so this was a new experience for me. We are looking at the soliloquy as an argument, and it’s just one of four different texts the students will read about the value of a human life…I anticipate that the main problem I will see with the papers will be abstraction: love and friendship and service all over the darn place, so I am going to have to remember to hammer away at specificity, concrete language, “show-don’t-tell”, et cetera.

Finally, my tables are going to be here any minute, I just know it! The chairs are here, and 1.25 of my tables are here already. I need to move kids around, so I had better start thinking about that.

Student teacher coming to third period in the second semester. Starting a class: introduction to information retrieval. The WASC report. And I have to write up a report on my piloted class, Expository Reading and Writing…I have to test the kids again, make comparisons, draw conclusions. I’m team-teaching that Understanding by Design thing-a-ma-gig for BTSA in the spring. I think I’m going to Florida to read the AP exams because I got an email from College Board asking if I was still interested…Golf banquet closing the girls season this week, and golf tryouts opening the boys next month…I have to schedule the JV matches, and call the coaches back who have called me…Downey, Warren, Marina. Man oh man, this is going to be an exciting second semester…I better schedule a regular massage appointment, get a better task chair, better light, put a little timer next to my computer reminding me to stand up and stretch every 45 minutes or so. Because just sitting here in the middle of the night, writing this post, I feel cold and creaky, and I’m heading for bed now.

This always gets me
Dec 4th, 2007 by alexfaye

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