Relief is Nigh (dot dot dot)

March 28, 2012
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Every year for the past three I have voted against the two-week spring break, but right now that stretch can’t be here too soon or last too long. I’m crabby and ready for a long break. And we haven’t even had any actual bad weather this year at all, like you all in South Dakota and Virginny and places like that…

Speaking of… Mrs. M, have you read Downtown Owl? It’s set in a fictional NORTH Dakota town in 1984, and features a noob hs history teacher. There really isn’t much of a plot, but it’s one of those books where you don’t care because the characters are so good. Well, not necessarily “good.” You know what I mean.

Is there some sort of rivalry between North and South Dakota? Just wondering…

Heather, over in the comments, says I’m brave to bust out Tom Sawyer this year. More like moronical, as my brother used to say. I swear, Mark Twain’s comedy stylings fly right over about half of them, but when I act it out and explain, they’re rolling on the floor. And I know I ain’t that funny. There just isn’t the vocabulary and background knowledge any more. Everything has been spoon-fed and videoed. They were laughing harder at the cheesy 1938 version. I showed excerpts of today.

Nobody has done this book justice yet… Why might that be? It seems like it’s comedic gold.  Maybe I’m just an old English teacher.

Back when I started, most of them would laugh in the right places, and when I asked for projects at the end, I got things like skits with dialogue MEMORIZED from the book and actually REHEARSED.  I got a Lego version of the scene in the graveyard in EXCRUCIATING detail; it was like 3′x3′x4′ high, including the elm trees. Mom had to tote it in her SUV. I got papers talking about MT’s irony… I got… to get over it…

Now get offa my lawn.

I think mostly I brought Tom back because I wanted my boy to experience it… Is that bad?

This year, I have about half digging it (and really working the wiki), and like before, some of them are kids you’d never expect. One girl, who failed the first semester, but has been working hard in the second half, has really latched on to this book. I saw her reading it as she got off the bus AFTER school, and she’s been acing the quizzes, UNLIKE some of my supposedly better students. Some of MT’s commentary goes over her head, but she’s really getting the feel of the book, the fun of it.

This here blog isn’t usually one of those that just links to links and suchlike, but I do have a couple of links for you this time.

My fave education critic, Marion Brady, is back in the Washington Post with another thought-provoking poke at standardized testing: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/what-standardized-tests-should-assess/2012/03/11/gIQAJzDfSS_blog.html

And here’s one that the wife sent me: “‘A Test You Need to Fail’: A Teacher’s Open Letter to Her Eighth Grade Students.”

 

4 Responses to Relief is Nigh (dot dot dot)

  1. Mrs. M~ on March 31, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I have not read Downtown Owl–I will add it to my list! I do not think there is too much of a rivalry between North and South Dakota–everyone seems to forget we exist most of the time. Kind of like Idaho.

    Although . . . a few years ago we were vacationing in San Diego. I was at one of those big-chain grocery stores, and when I got to the checkout, the cashier asked me for my rewards card. I told him I did not have one, so he tried to get me to sign up for one. When I told him there were no grocery stores like that anywhere near where I lived, he was incredulous. I told him I lived in a small town in South Dakota, and he finally believed me. He asked the man in line behind me if he could scan his reward card for my purchases, and the man said, “Since you are from South Dakota, yes. Now if you had been from NORTH Dakota, that would have been a different story!” I always wondered what his beef was with my neighbor to the north.

  2. Mrs. M~ on April 24, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Update–I just got done reading Downtown Owl. Loved it! The portrayal of small-town life in North Dakota was dead on (assuming life in ND and SD are the same, which they mostly are.) I smiled many times at references to things like Terry Redlin paintings and Red Owl grocery stores. You were right; the characters were totally engaging. The ending was fantastic. If you have never been stuck in a blizzard, it is hard to believe how incredible and intense it really is. Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. mrC on April 25, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    @ Mrs. M- Yay! I still crack up thinking about the guy that only listens to the Stones. I was curious to see how realistic the portrayal of the Dakotas was. I too loved he blizzard scene, and it makes me soooo glad to live where there really isn’t any weather.

  4. Mrs. M~ on April 26, 2012 at 7:31 am

    The weather does keep things interesting here! I remember when my daughter was in kindergarten, I took an hour of personal leave to go to her music program during the school day. The weather was peachy-keen on the way there, but when I left 30 minutes later, we were in the midst of a blizzard that was so bad I could barely make it back to my school, which is a straight shot about 15 blocks away. By the time I made it back to my building, school was being called off early.

    Right now we are in the time of year where you have to run the AC during the day, then turn on the heat in the morning because the temps got so cold overnight. Never a dull moment! :-)

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Mr. Coward has been teaching on the beautiful central coast of California since 1989. He sometimes tweets when he's in the right mood: @mrCinSLO.

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