Previous month:
April 2011
Next month:
June 2011

May 2011 entries

Honors English 11 Finals

Much like the AP finals I just finished graded, the Honors 11 classes had to reflect on their growth as students this past year.  And, just like the AP finals, the Honors finals have provided me with some awesome moments already!

"Over the course of the school year, I found myself more interested in reading.  I used to not like to read, but your course this year basically motivated me to start reading.  I owe most of my interest in reading to the independent reading assignment you gave us.  I chose to read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and it sparked my interest in reading."


"At the beginning of the year, someone could have asked me what 'asyndeton' was and they would have seen a blank stare, but times have changed and I have learned how to keep the reader waiting, anticipating, literally hanging on a cliff for the list to end."

LOVE it!  Makes grading 90+ papers in this absurd heat worthwhile!

Made My Day

Still grading my final essays...

"Before this year I was never much of a reader, but your class ignited a flame in my mind -- and my fondness for reading and writing has increased tenfold. Even outside of English, I find my ability to critically think/read bleeding into my other classes. I never would have thought that English could be so useful!"

Final Essay Quote

This is why I'm a teacher:

"It's become comforting to know that as a reader and consumer, I can now and in the future, analyze anything presented to me and know whether or not it is credible and legitimate. AP English has changed the way I look at everything I consume, not just what I read."

Watch out, world. We have the critical thinking capabilities to create an informed populace here!


My Drama Class just "FLASH MOBBED"  the library.  It was filled with students during their 8th period study halls.  The plan was this:  in small groups, we entered the library and blended in, browsing in the stacks or chatting with friends.  Then, three girls started a loud conversation (which actually attracted the attention of our assistant principal, who had no idea what we were doing -- the librarian was in on the secret, though) which was filled with cue words.  Each of us had a word assigned to us, and when we heard our word, we "died".  I have 23 students in Drama, so this had quite the effect on the other students!

I was first.  I made my way to the middle of the room and when I heard my word ("running"), I made a loud, obnoxious groaning noise and fell over -- hard.  I heard a few students say, "Is she OK?  Should someone check on her?  I think she's still breathing."

Then, the bodies hit the floor, and the students became more and more bewildered:  "What the heck is going here?" 

Once everyone was dead, I hopped up and said, "OK, let's go back to class!"

It was great!  Congrats, Drama Class!

Junior English Final Essays

At the end of the year, I ask my AP and Honors 11 students to respond to 5 different prompts in lieu of taking a written exam.  All of the students opt for this, especially since our final exam period is in open format, in which kids come and go as they please to report to tests.  If they write the final essay, then they do not have to report to the scheduled test for English.

I love reading these essays.  The prompts ask students to consider their writing -- which they keep in a portfolio all year long -- and analyze their best and weakest essays.  They are able to, in May and June, look back at their August and September writing and notice flaws: "I made assumptions about my readers" or "I was repetitive, which made my essay boring to read."   They are able to read their more recent work and understand what makes it better, what makes it more effective: "I became masterful at using snippets of source material here and there to amplify certain aspects of my own argument, truly synthesizing them in to an essay with quoted material and not of quoted material." 

They also tell me what worked for them in the classroom this year:  "Don't say 'I told you so,' but those notes charts you made us do for each reading assignment really helped me understand how to read critically."  And, they recognize that they truly are reading critically now:  "I can't watch TV and see an advertisement without thinking about how the company is trying to manipulate the potential consumers" and "After years of reading in 2D, I'm finally seeing everything in 3D (and heck, even HD) and it's an amazing feeling."

Even though grading these essays is time-consuming (they are supposed to be between 5-10 pages long . . . ) I will continue to give this option for a final exam because I believe, as Socrates once said, "An unexamined life is not worth living" and that my students need to take time to reflect on the past year, on their accomplishments, on their growth as students and people. 

As I wade through the sea of essays, I will post my favorite, thought-provoking lines.  I'll close with this beautiful sentence:  "I love writing.  You can write until your heart cannot write anymore and you can express yourself in the smallest and the largest essays you write."


Oh, What a Night!

On Sunday night, the Community Theatre League hosted the Ray of Light Awards ceremony at the Community Arts Center in Williamsport.  Students from various school districts came together to find out who won the awards (for the nominations I wrote about a few weeks ago).  And Montoursville had a fabulous night!  Actors Ryan Looke

ROL2011 091 
and Jake Russo won awards for their performances in Our Town

ROL2011 106 
and Caleb Albert won for his performance in our spring musical, Over Here!

ROL2011 166 
In addition, the musical won for best choreography and best small-scale musical. 

We, unfortunately, didn't win the award for best play, but the three that were nominated for that category were very close in scores, so we were honored just to be recognized.  The biggest honor for our school, though, came at the end of the ceremony when we were awarded the Ray Phillips Memorial Award for best overall drama program!

ROL2011 229 

Let me tell you, that trophy is heavy! 

ROL2011 246 
And so I'm not like our local paper and publish only obnoxious pictures of me, here's a nice shot of me and my friend and co-director, Jaclyn Gilbert prior to the ceremony.  :)

ROL2011 006 


We couldn't be more proud of our students, not just winning an award, but for being who they are, for being willing to trust their directors, for taking risks on stage to create believable characters.  I love you guys!!! 

OUR TOWN 2010 054 

Talking with Gabrielle

Talking with Gabrielle is a treat. Today she told me, "I love your hair, Mom. It's just the same as mine except it's all different."

She also just announced that when she grows up, she is going to be a drawing jester. What is that? "I don't really know," she admitted.

Blogging from my iPod

Somewhat ironically, I enter a new level of technological capability thanks to my parents. I say somewhat ironically because just this weekend I taught my dad how to save photos to his phone contacts. Recently both my parents upgraded their cellphones to iPhones and that left my mom with an extra iPod touch on her hands. (weird, I know.)

Anyway, I had a Nano and jokingly suggested that I upgrade to the iPod touch. Mom said she had offered it to my aunt who did want something so big as the iPod touch. Hence we began the great iPod switch of 2011. I gave my Nano to Aunt Betsey and Mom gave the iPod touch to me.

I have had said iPod for nearly a week and just started looking into apps for it. This alone boggled the mind of my technologically advanced husband. It was his idea to look for an app for my blog. And viola! Here we are. (Or is it voila! yes. . . That looks better. I mean unless we are in the symphony.)

So. Will I be blogging much from my new iPod? I don't know. It feels weird to type this much with my index finger. But it might be handy for those quick moments of reporting what the kids say.

Speaking of kids. Gabrielle just came to my bedside to tell me, "I am telling the truth. I just can't sleep by myself."

Goodbye for now, cyberworld.

Playground Music

Last week, Aidan burst into song in the kitchen.  This isn't an unusual occurrence at our house by any means, but this time, I was surprised to hear a Ke$ha song, or well, an approximation of a Ke$ha song:  "I wake up in the morning, feelin' like pa-liddy. . . Mom, what's pa-liddy?"

I asked Aidan where he heard the song, and he told me, "From my friends on the playground."

OK.  Pardon me while I ascend the stepladder to my soapbox.  Just because it's on the radio, doesn't mean your six-year-old should hear it.  The rest of this song essentially echoes our nation's obsession with alcohol ("I brush my teeth with a bottle of jack")and superficial sexuality ("Boys try to touch my junk").  Needless to say, not exactly the type of song I want Aidan to learn the rest of the lyrics to.  I tried to explain this in kindergarten terms, and I found that I partially got through to him.  Fast forward to a few days later. . .

"Mom, those boys were singing that "Wake up in the morning" song again, and I got mad.  I told them not to sing it anymore because it's a bad song about drinking too much Gatorade.  They didn't listen."

I even had to explain what drugs are to Aidan recently, because he read the "Drug Free Zone" sign at his school.  For him, it was impossible to understand why people would ever:

1.  intentionally do something that could harm them

2. do anything that is against the law

In fact, when I explained drugs to Aidan, he simply said, "Then they should be illegal."  It's really that simple for him.  If it's bad for you, don't do it.  We once passed a man smoking outside of Wal-Mart.  He grabbed Gabrielle's hand, pulling her away from him, saying, "Don't breathe around that man!"  Of course, I explained to him that publicly pointing out other people's bad decisions is in poor taste, but for him, it was a no-brainer.  Smoking is bad.  We shouldn't do it.  End of story.

I've shared the playground music story with some of my juniors, and they ask me, "Why on earth would a 6-year-old be allowed to listen to Ke$ha?"  So, I am not just a prude here.  I am not alone in thinking that as parents we should be the gatekeepers of our children's minds in the early years.  I realize that I can never completely control what my children hear; I would never want to do that.  But, I want to make sure they are ready to comprehend and filter out trash when they encounter it.  With the maturation of our children being forced at breakneck speed, I don't see the need to force our kids to grow up any earlier than they already do.  


Happy Mother's Day!

This past weekend was a whirlwind in typical Connor style.  On Saturday, we each had to be in approximately 16 different places at once.  And, to top it all off, I was stricken with what might be euphemistically called "intestinal strife" around 5:30 a.m.  Being me, I told Michael around 7 that I'd "be fine by 9:30" when Gabrielle needed to leave for her dance class.  Michael lovingly informed me that I was a complete moron and told me to go back to bed.  The next thing I knew, it was noon.  He arranged for our friends to take the big kids to dance and baseball; he took Liam to the First Holy Communion Mass in which he had to direct the choir.  By two in the afternoon, I told myself that it was time to get better -- after all, we had the Williamsport Chamber Choir Concert at 7:30 p.m.  Michael directed the choir in their spring concert, and I was in the soprano section.   We not only made it through the concert; it was a very nice production.  After the concert, I went to the high school prom as a sophomore class advisor -- we are in charge of the clean up crew.  Around midnight, I finally fell into bed.

The next day, Mother's Day, I awoke to the sound of the smoke detector.  I was somewhat trapped:  Liam was sleeping on my left arm and side; Gabrielle was sleeping on my right arm and side.  I woke Michael up (the man could sleep through a tornado...) and he ran out to the kitchen to see what was wrong.   He found sweet little Aidan, "making breakfast in bed for Mommy."

He pulled a chair over to the kitchen cabinet, got the toaster down and plugged it in, got the bread from the microwave where we keep it away from our dog, and evidently, as the smoke detector indicated, put the toaster setting too high.  He was completely surprised to be scolded by Mike -- after all, it was Mother's Day and he was just making me breakfast! 

After Mass, we spent the rest of day (my choice) working on our flower and vegetables gardens and being outside.




Child labor 
And of course, the man with the camera isn't seen in any of the photos.  :)