July 2012 entries
This is what happens when the Connor-Myers-Campbell clan gets together with a camera with a self-timer on a tripod...
Last week, Father Manno, the pastor of our parish, told a story in his homily about a time when his former rectory was burning and he ran back into to save a blessed statue that had family significance. He asked us what we would do in a similar scenario: if all the people were out and safe, what would you go back in for?
I have encountered this question before in hypothetical ice-breaker games, but never has the person asking me actually done it himself.
I have returned to the question several times throughout the course of this week. Michael and I talked about it last night for the first time (he went to Mass in Lock Haven last week) and not surprisingly, we had the same answer. If Aidan, Gabrielle, and Liam are safe outside our burning home with us, not one material object could shape-shift into a wild horse and drag us back in.
We live quite simply. We earn decent salaries, but they go to feeding and clothing and nurturing our children. Oh, and to paying off enormous student debt. We just bought our first new couch. We've been married for 8 years, and our latest hand-me-down sofa finally bit the dust. So, off to Sam's Club we went (I hear they are on par with Ethan Allen). We have a few nice furniture items, notably our piano. But I hear you can buy an upright at this place called a music store, so I won't be risking smoke inhalation for that any time . . . Ever.
We just aren't stuff people. We don't value our material possessions with the same scale we use for human life and relationships. iPad = $500. Our family = don't insult me. There is no possible way to put a price tag on the most precious items in life.
As Mike and I talked, we realized we are so grateful that we aren't attached to our things. After all, stuff is just stuff. But our relationships? Our beliefs? Our aspirations? Our inspirations? Our talents and passions? Infinitely more than any "thing" you can imagine.
This past week, Gabrielle participated in a theatre camp at Community Theatre League. She absolutely loved it, and her teacher is an extremely gifted educator. The camp culminates in a show, and Gabrielle's was The Gingerbread Man. She played an adorable rabbit.
Yesterday, I had the bright idea to bring gingerbread man cookies in for snack today. I naively stopped at the local bakery and revealed my culinary ignorance when I asked for said cookies . . . in July. Who knew? They're a seasonal item! Really long story short, Mike and I finished making cookies at 1 a.m.
This morning, Gabrielle woke me up at 6 to remind me that her show was today. When she saw the cookies, she was elated, and our late night was completely worth it.
Her show was cute, and I am really proud of her for not being even slightly nervous. She loved being on stage, and I have a feeling this is the first in a long line of performance for our little girl!
Me: "Mike, the toilet keeps running."
(from other side of bed, approximately 12:30 am) "Turn the water off."
"What?!" (is this man talking to me?!)
"There's a knob on the bottom of the toilet."
"What? I don't do that kind of stuff. That's why I got married."
"No, you got married so you could harass me." Slides out of bed, heads to bathroom. Adds afterthought: "And so to have children that harass me."
Happily Ever After Folks --- and by that I mean the toilet stopped running. ;)
It's the moment we've all been waiting for! The AP test results posted yesterday. My students took a beast of a test in May: 1 hour of multiple choice (which every college student observer in my classroom has found difficult) followed by 2 hours and 15 minutes of essay writing. They must write 3 essays in that amount of time; one requires reading and assessing at least 6 sources in order to use a minimum of 3 on their finished essay. While it is billed as an "English class," AP Lang is unlike any English course high school students have encountered before. Designed to be a freshman composition course, AP Lang features readings which are mostly non-fiction and requires mostly analytical and persuasive writing. For example, this year's synthesis question (the one with the sources) was on the future of the post office in America. Sound like an English class to you?
At MHS, we have a philosophy that each college-bound student (a majority in our demographic) should take an AP class before graduation. AP classes give them a taste of college. In the English department, we offer two AP courses, Lang and Lit. The Literature course focuses on fiction: poetry, the novel, the short story. It is close to what an English major would encounter in an Intro to Lit class in college. As a result, the Lang course material has a wider appeal. For example, I had a top student this year, a future engineer, who decided immediately to take Honors English 12 his senior year when I described the AP Lit test, which has one essay on poetry alone.
This is my third year teaching AP Lang, and I have had high enrollment in the course (usually about 40 in two or three sections). Because I make it a point to prepare them for the test (for which they can earn college credit), I usually have a high number of test takers as well. This year (and last) I had 28 out of 38 students take the test. Last year, my average was 3.357. Out of those test takers, I had eleven 3's, six 4's, and five 5's.
This year, my average increased to 3.429. While some of the scores surprised me, I am particularly happy that my number of 4's has increased to 13. We had three 5's and five 3's. That means that 21/28 of my students earned a 3 or above: essentially, 21 students are eligible for college credit for our work this year, depending on the college they attend and their AP acceptance policies.
One of the perks of teaching any length of time is that the emails from former students start rolling in. Coincidentally, I received an email from a student I had last year who decided not to take the test. She is taking summer courses at Penn State, one of which is English 15, a composition course. She wrote to tell me:
"I'm using everything you taught me my junior year! I was thinking how easy this class is because of everything I learned when I was in yours. I thought it would be nice to tell you that I'm taking all my notes back up to school this weekend for class the rest of the summer. I'm laughing writing this, thinking how I am very grateful for taking your class! Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that what you are teaching sticks with your students and to keep up the good work!!"
I don't share this email to pat myself on the back, though I do take pride in doing my job well. In addition to being inspired by this student's sense of respect and appreciation, I like to see the evidence of what I know in my heart is true: the scores from the College Board do not show the whole picture. They are a snapshot of a moment in time, during a two-week span of intense pressure and stress for KIDS who are 16-17 years old. What we do over the course of the school year makes a lasting impression. The students who earn a 2, the students who don't take the test because they know they won't score a 3, the students who put in their best effort all year long -- they all benefit from taking the class.
And while the perfectionist in me wants to see every student earn a 5 on the exam, the realist in me knows that we are all works in progress (at any age!) and we've made significant strides as learners (myself included) this year. This almost makes me wish it were August so I can start all over with a new crop of bright young scholars!
After our night in the hotel, we set up camp at a KOA. The big kids helped Dad put up the tent and then we found the playground and the beach. I posted the picture with the "love" note twice (essentially because I'm blogging from my iPod and don't have access to all the editing features I usually do). Gabrielle wrote that. She told me it says, "I love this vacation. And I love my mommy and daddy. Thank you for bringing us here." And really, that sums up why Mike and I do what we do as parents: to create lasting memories for our kids and to instill an attitude of gratitude in them. Those love notes and moments of appreciation make the late nights and temper tantrums all worth while!
Summer in Maine means temperatures in the 70s and ocean water temps in the 50s. That didn't stop Aidan and Gabrielle from jumping in the surf when we went to Sand Beach! It was such an interesting spot--the mountains came down to meet the waves. And we had a blast!