Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Hot & Sour Soup

And then there are the days you order in...

This week has been rough... and it's only Wednesday. I barely slept at all Sunday night, and so I was tired and rusty on Monday and the kids were mildly bad, just chatty because they hadn't seen each other in a week, I suppose, but added to the fact that I'd apparently forgotten how to teach... well, it wasn't an auspicious start. Sometime Tuesday my teacher-brain switched back on (this happened AFTER first period, which was a jumbled mess) but by then I wasn't feeling so hot. It got worse and I woke up this morning exhausted, sore, and barely capable of swallowing. I was planning to show a video on sharks today in class, so I tried to convince myself to go in since it would be such an easy day. I lay in bed going back and forth for half an hour, got up and put clothes on (already ten minutes late), and then saw the day stretching before my weary bones: I had no desire to eat anything but yoghurt, and you can't teach all day on nothing but yoghurt, so I would probably faint from hunger, and I also had no desire for coffee, which meant that I'd never fully wake up, and anyway, as soon as I turned the lights off in the classroom to start the video, I'd fall fast asleep. Realizing I did NOT want to spend the day fighting off sleep, coughing, and subsisting on peach yoghurt, I called my principal to tell her I'd be going back to bed. Since the video was in my backpack on my living room floor, I had to whip up another activity that I could email to school for the kids to do. In the end, I assigned the section on amphibians, which puts us a bit out of sequence. Nothing like missing a day of school.

Woke up at one and previewed the sharks video a second time (I actually fell asleep previewing it last night). Then a friend dropped by and we rented two movies - the old version of the Manchurian Candidate, which is a fantastic movie and very relevant right now, and Wimbledon, which is really, really sweet.

Now my throat feels a bit better and I've had a lot more rest, and I get a fairly easy day tomorrow thanks to the Discovery Channel. I am still waiting for a nature video that talks about animals without being melodramatic and overwrought - who writes these things? Instead of babbling on about "nature's perfect predators," why not just show really good footage of sharks doing what they do, give us some science background so we understand what we're seeing, and let nature speak for itself?

Thanks to Dan - A History Teacher - I found an artist's renderings of the skeletal systems of cartoon characters. It's awesome. My favorite is Shmoo - take a look at that pelvis! It's also oddly appropriate, given that I spent last night reading and editing a friend's application to grad school in Physical Anthropology. It was all bones, all the time around here for the last few days.

The other thing I did yesterday was to look for a play appropriate for my drama class to perform. There are many plays available on-line, but I wasn't thrilled by any of them. Most of the plays written for kids actually require too many actors, since they are intended to be really inclusive of as many kids as possible. I only have a handful of kids in each of my sessions. Other plays are too long, too short, too cheesy, or too mature in their themes or language. I came up with a couple of possibilities on-line, but nothing fabulous, so I went to Barnes & Noble, only to encounter similar frustrations. And nearly all plays require some kind of royalty fee if you put on a performance (even if you do not charge admission), and you are supposed to purchase one copy of the book for each actor. I could probably get away with just making photocopies and pretending innocence of the royalty laws, but I don't want to be in that position - those laws are there to protect people's ability to make money as artists, which I respect. In the end, I found an adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which doesn't say anything about royalties. I've decided to offer my students a choice - either they can do Charlie, or we can brainstorm stories that we could adapt into plays ourselves, such as myths or legends or popular stories like Robin Hood. One idea I had is to take a bunch of poems by Shel Silverstein and have each child memorize and present one while the other kids bring it to life. Another of my ideas is to get a book of Norse mythology and act out some of those myths - every kid gets a healthy dose of Greek mythology growing up, but the Norse myths are less well-known and very interesting. We'll see what the kids come up with.

I feel like between being sick and sleeping all the time during vacation, I've begun to atrophy. This is my third week without yoga! My tummy feels a little floppy. Luckily I didn't make any New Year's resolutions (I make resolutions to do better at this or that practically every day... I don't feel the need for a special holiday to raise expectations of myself to unrealistic levels) 'cause I'd have definitely broken them already. On Monday, several of us arrived at school at the same time. As we were marching up the stairs, it got to the point where we were all puffing, we'd only made it to the third floor, and we were thinking, "um, where's our school?" Only three floors to go!

I'm rambling like crazy. The apartment's a mess, but if I start to clean it the fever will come back. It's only been three days, but I am so ready for a weekend.

(They don't tell you in ed school how ridiculously hard the first week back after a vacation can be).


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