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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in mshea's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, March 12th, 2009
5:17 pm
Several times a year, my school offers intramural activities to students. Some of these are sport-like (dodgeball, frisbee golf), some are artistic (painting, poetry), and many just fall under the general "club" category (chess, , math). I, along with every other teacher, have just been asked if I want to run an intramural. The time commitment is minimal, as is the pay, but there is some compensation and it would allow me to interact with more of the school community.

So, I think I want to run an intramural. The question is... what? I have a pretty decent list of dorkish pursuits (comic books, gaming, cartoons, sci-fi, etc.) along with interests in only slightly less geeky things (movies, word puzzles, card games, scrabble, trivial pursuit, etc.)

I am looking for suggestions. What should I offer? How should I run whatever I offer? (If I did a comic book intramural, for example, would we just read comics? talk about them? learn about the history of comics? make comics?) Lastly, should I be worried about outing myself as a huge dork at work?
Saturday, June 14th, 2008
6:13 pm
English Test
So, I have passed my State English Licensure Test (irritatingly, they don't give out scores if you passed, they just tell me that I correctly answered "most or all items" in every section and that my open response answers were "thorough"). That means that as soon as the process my request, I will be officially "highly qualified" to teach English. An interesting side effect is that I could now teach high school English if I decided I needed a slight career change.

I feel accomplished.

(see, the mood says so.)

Current Mood: accomplished
Friday, May 9th, 2008
1:30 pm
"Classic Literature"
So, tomorrow I need to take a state English teacher exam so that the school can identify me as "highly qualified." I will try to avoid getting into too much detail about how little this test applies to my job and my qualifications to do it well and just mention that the majority of the test involves needed to know roughly 100 authors from various time periods, their major works, style, themes, and significance to literature. Again, I will avoid discussing just how little any of this information represents what I do.

As an overview of "important" literature, it did get me thinking quite a bit about which author's works I had read and which I had enjoyed.

All of which is a long-winded way of asking:

What "classic literature" (meaning stuff some people need to read in school) did you actually enjoy or would you recommend to others?
Thursday, November 15th, 2007
9:03 pm
For the poets...
Earlier this week, I gave my sixth grade English class a quiz on figurative language, including metaphor, simile, hyperbole, and personification. On the final page of the quiz, I asked my students to use figurative language to describe several characters from the book we are reading.

My favorite simile:

"He is like a snake machine."

[No, I don't know what that means.]
Thursday, September 20th, 2007
2:50 pm
Quote of Today
Not really a Quote of the Day, since I don't do daily quotes, but I loved this so much I had to share.

At the beginning of 6th grade English today, four of the boys were talking about which girls were interested in them (really, the egos on these boys...)
At one point, one of the boys said, regarding a particular girl, "But she's kind of immature."
Another boy replied, "We're all immature! We're only in sixth grade!"
Friday, August 31st, 2007
12:18 pm
It was just pointed out to me that I never actually posted about my new job.

I'm switching schools this year, though I have the same job title (learning specialist) and similar responsibilities. As I've said to some others, this job is just like my old one, only better in every way. For one, I'm now in a public school, which is what I wanted to begin with. Also, the middle school where I'm now teaching is ten minutes away from my house, where my last job was 45 minutes to an hour away in traffic.

I'm teaching small group special ed classes, which is why I have my own (small) classroom this year. I get to teach 6th grade math (which I did last year too) and 6th, 7th, and 8th grade English, which still hasn't stopped being exciting. I get to teach, in no particular order, A Christmas Carol, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, So Far from the Bamboo Grove, The Crucible, The Giver, Call of the Wild, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Tom Sawyer, plus units on mythology, poetry, and short stories. Perhaps you can tell I'm excited about this.

If anyone had any particular love for any of those books or thoughts from having read them, I would love to hear about it.

I start on Tuesday, after Labor Day.
Thursday, August 30th, 2007
10:31 pm
So, today I finished setting up my new classroom. It's small (my biggest class is 6 kids) so it was more of a space planning challenge than a decorating one. I finally did the English teacher thing and placed inspirational quotes by authors and philosophers around the room. I managed to work in a Neil Gaiman quote, which pleased me immensely.

Now a weekend of reading reports and then school starts on Tuesday.
Friday, May 11th, 2007
9:43 am
mshea recommends
I should preface this recommendation by explaining that I teach elementary and middle-schoolers and as a result read much literature intended for that age group. What I've found is that a huge amount of fantasy fiction, and a surprising amount of horror, is written for sixth graders. Much of this work is unexceptional, but there are occasional standouts.

With that brief explanation,

Mshea Recommends...

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

This book is a bit like American Gods for the young adult set. The book is based on the premise that the Olympian Gods (Zeus, Hermes, Ares, etc.) are real and always exist at the center of Western Civilization. Thus, they started in Athens, moved on the Rome, and now live in New York. The gods are behaving mostly the way they always have, irresponsibly siring demi-god children all over the place. Our protagonist is Percy Jackson, a sixth-grade delinquent with ADHD and dyslexia, who slowly discovers his origins and the grand destiny that may be in store for him.

While the book is fairly well written, with an interesting plot and likable characters, what really makes it a great read is the way elements of Greek myth are woven into the story. If you are familiar with the original myths, spotting the characters as they appear and before their true identities are revealed can be a treat. Riordan does an excellent job of imagining just what Charon might be wearing in modern times or how a satyr might find a way to walk among mortals.

As is inevitable with books of this genre, the series is onto book three by this point and the first movie (named Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, in Harry Potter marketing style) is due out next year. I can't vouch for the quality of the other books, but the first one is a great read, even if you are years out of middle school.
Monday, April 23rd, 2007
10:29 pm
This is an interesting little quiz. The responses are unfortunately a little too cut-and-paste and contradict themselves somewhat as a result.

Thursday, April 12th, 2007
4:29 pm
Teaching the Past
A friend of mine recently posted a link to this article.

The article, from UK newspaper The Daily Mail, is titled Teachers drop the Holocaust to avoid offending Muslims and discusses how some teachers are beginning to remove potentially controversial topics, such as the Holocaust and the Crusades, from their classes in order to avoid potentially offending any students.

As a teacher (and a Jew) I think it's crucially important to teach students about complex historical events and not to attempt to protect them from information that may be upsetting. One of the best ways to learn about these events is by examining them from different points of view and allowing for spirited debate. What shocks me is that the teachers mentioned in the article are removing these topics from their classes not because they are afraid discussion of the Holocaust will offend Muslims (as the title of the article suggests) but rather because they are afraid the comments of those Muslims will offend the Jews in the class. I think benevolent sheltering of children has gone too far when teachers feel the need to eliminate topics not because they are in themselves offensive, but rather because some people's reactions to that topic might offend others.

One history teacher at my school last year had the George Santayana quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," in large print above the board in her room. The major theme of her class was that historical events have an effect on individuals and that those individuals then interact with others based on those experiences. Thus, the best way to foster positive interaction between different groups of people is to fully examine the events that have come before, from all available perspectives. The sixth grade class in question studied the Crusades (as did some of their similarly-aged counterparts mentioned in the article). The history of the crusades was taught from multiple angles (Christian, Muslim, and Jewish) and students were required to write journal entries from the point of view of members of each of those three groups. As part of the unit, the students (who happen to be primarily Jewish) study Islam and Muslim culture, and make a visit to a local mosque. By the end of the unit, the students had a much greater understanding for the Muslim view of the Crusades than they did originally, when their knowledge of Islam was largely restricted to cultural stereotypes and prejudices.

As a result of learning history in a non-ethnocentric, balanced manner, these Jewish students will grow up understanding Muslims, rather than irrationally hating them. Without wanting to sound too much like the idealist liberal educator I am, I think understanding our history is the first step toward achieving a more peaceful future. To deny any students that opportunity would really be a shame.
Friday, March 23rd, 2007
3:27 pm
Mshea Recommends...
This is a new feature on my recently active journal.

I call it "Mshea Recommends..." and I'll be periodically giving recommendations on movie, music, books, and other random things that interest me. Most of you know my tastes and can probably guess if you would like what I like. I'm going to try to avoid talking about things everyone already knows about, because that just seems like a waste of time.


Mshea Recommends "I Trust You To Kill Me"

"I Trust You to Kill Me" is the title of an album by a band called Rocco DeLuca & The Burden and also the title of a documentary about the band's first international tour. DeLuca describes the band as being blues with a "punk element." DeLuca, the lead musician, singer, writer, etc. of the band plays a dobro steel guitar, which sounds pretty much like nothing else. If you've heard blues musicians playing steel guitar (or listened to any Robert Randolph) you have a sense of the metallic wavering sound produced by the dobro. What makes Rocco DeLuca unique is that he plays the dobro like he's playing a heavy metal solo. The live music in the documentary is more my style than the slightly more polished tracks on the album, but it's still an excellent debut.

What makes the documentary, and the whole story of the band, so fascinating, is the involvement of Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland. Sutherland is best known for playing Jack Bauer on the TV show "24", and for appearing in some great movies from the eighties (Lost Boys, Young Guns, etc.) Sutherland recently started his own record label, called Ironworks, and Rocco DeLuca and the Burden are the label's first independently produced act. When Rocco DeLuca went on tour, Sutherland acted as their tour manager, and the documentary is as much about his personal journey as it is about the band. Watching the remarkably disorganized, surprisingly tattooed Sutherland attempt to steer this band through Europe is a fully absorbing experience.

I highly recommend both the album and the film.
Wednesday, December 13th, 2006
2:46 pm
Rock on!
At this very moment, in the school auditorium, a rock band composed of 5th and 6th graders is playing Crazy Train.

For them, I throw up the horns.


(Oddly, at the last school where I worked, I also heard a 5th grader play lead guitar on this song.)
Monday, November 27th, 2006
8:47 pm
Local TV Star
I just saw arianhwyvar buying boots on Chronicle!
Tuesday, November 7th, 2006
10:02 am
Please remember to vote today.

Monday, May 22nd, 2006
3:13 pm
I am officially a MASTER OF EDUCATION!
Tuesday, May 16th, 2006
10:46 pm
Personal DNA
A number of people have been doing this personality test recently. I'm impressed by how comprehensive it is.

Benevolent Idealist

I can't quite get the code to do the roll-overs in my journal, so if you want to see what any of this actually means, you'll need to see the link below.

My Personal Dna Report
Tuesday, May 9th, 2006
2:35 pm
Another Grad-School Update
Today I have to go to a "Community of Learners Celebration," at which I (presumably one of the learners of said community) will give a short presentation on my research to a group of starry-eyed undergrads.

When I get home from that, I email my last (already completed) final exam, and then I am DONE.

All that will then remain is one meeting (where people will explain to all the graduates things we already know) next week and then graduation in two weeks.

I still can't grasp actually being done with all of this.
Monday, April 24th, 2006
10:37 pm
This has been a busy week.

As of today, my Practicum Evidence Binder has been signed off on by my supervisor from grad school.
As of tonight, my Inquiry Project Paper (clocking in at 26 pages plus appendices) is finished. Last peer edit happens tomorrow and then final draft is turned in to readers the following Tuesday.
As of Wednesday, I will have handed in my semester project for my last grad class.
As of Tuesday the 9th of May, my Inquiry Project will have officially been okayed by the powers that be.
As of Wednesday the 10th of May, I am done with grad classes forever.
As of Thursday the 11th of May, I am officially Endorsed.

As of Monday the 22nd, I will officially be a graduate with two shiny new degrees.

Life is good.
Tuesday, February 14th, 2006
11:23 pm
So, these Johari things seem to be pretty popular now. For those of you not familiar with the concept, it was developed by two researchers named Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingram, who were looking into self-awareness. A person selects a number of adjectives to describe himself, and then has his friends select the words they would use to describe him. Based on this data, a picture is drawn of the person's awareness of his own personality.

You can find mine here.

Please give it a try; I'm very curious.
Sunday, February 12th, 2006
12:02 pm
"Snow, tenderly caught by eddying breezes, swirled and spun in to and out of bright, lustrous shapes that gleamed against the emerald-blazoned black drape of sky and sparkled there for a moment, hanging, before settling gently to the soft, green-tufted plain with all the sickly sweetness of an over-written sentence."

--The first sentence of To Reign in Hell by Steven Brust
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