Monday, August 15, 2016

The Cinderblocks Remember

How are y'all? 

I'll pick up where we left off last week. I know you've slept several times since last Monday, but you likely recall the riveting story of my discovery of Washi tape. I have since purchased some Washi tape, & I've made what I feel is significant progress inside my classroom. 

You're not going to believe this, but I've become a little obsessed with my classroom. I suppose it's okay to call it mine since they put my name on the door & all. 

I was at the school nearly every day last week & thus I cannot recall which day I arrived to find this, but it was a nice surprise, though I did also enjoy being "Mr. Perkins" for a few weeks. 

Last week is a blur of technology training, Washi tape selection, & laminating things.

Without further ado, here's the progress on the room . . . & please understand I am not done:

After Tuesday morning's technology session, during which I was told Big Brother Google is now my master, I hung my curtains:

The curtains are a very attractive stripe pattern. I should've taken a close-up, but you know, I was & remain pretty busy & distracted. I found them online from JCPenny, which, if you're interested, usually has the best selection & prices if you have curtain needs. Click here to see the pattern in detail, unless of course you're my student or the parent of a student, in which case you can see them in person very soon. 

The first thing I did was hang the curtains. Are curtains necessary to the teaching of English? Of course not, but they do a whole lot for my mental state, which you can be certain would rapidly deteriorate inside an undecorated, white cinderblock room in which I spend thirty or forty hours a week. 

I've blogged in the past about the importance of creating spaces in your home that make you happy, spaces that relax you (these blogs of course coincided with me making major rug & furniture purchases), & the principle applies to schoolrooms as well. 

After the curtains came shelves. I found this whole line of Better Homes & Gardens "cube" storage online at Wal-Mart (which is the only way I Wal-Mart). I ultimately went with these because they come in a "weathered" finish, & there's no doubt but that cube storage in a "weathered" finish will cheer me daily when I enter my room. 

This is the largest unit (I also purchased two of the storage containers that are sold as separate options  . . . you can be certain those will be filled with food that will, like the weathered cube storage, make me a better teacher):

I bought four smaller units to line the back wall of the room. One of the smaller units is not pictured because Wal-Mart shipped me a set of golf clubs by mistake. Seriously. After a quick trip to the post office, the golf clubs should now be on their way to Bentonville & my three-cubby organizer arrived yesterday, so it'll join the others soon. 

You may be wondering why in the world I need all these cubbies. Let me tell you. What I've yet to take a picture of are the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in my room that are packed with copies of the novels students will read throughout the year, & the other storage units in the room, which are packed with sets of textbooks. I've inherited boxes of folders, many of them assembled by the women who taught me English, & I've nowhere to put them. Eventually some of the material may be trashed or scanned & digitized, but it could be next summer before I have a chance to fully investigate it all, so for now, it'll hibernate in a weathered cubby alongside photos of my family & other personal effects. 

Moving along, here is the bulletin board as I left it Friday. 

Don't judge (yet). I am not done. I know I promised drab colors, however, Hobby Lobby sells bulletin board paper that is already sized for this enormous bulletin board in my room, & it only comes in bright colors & patterns, & thus a piece of the sky found its way in my classroom. The bulletin board is reserved for all things Brit lit. You might recognize Shakespeare on the left, & you move along through history & see Austen, Charlotte Bronte, a Tennyson poem, & Virginia Woolf. 

A made another laminating run Friday afternoon, & soon Lord Byron's "She Walks in Beauty" along with a C.S. Lewis quote, the opening line of Pride and Prejudice,  & some British flag bunting will join the board.

Do you know what bunting is? Here is British flag bunting: 

I had to nix the clothespins. Several of the posters I wanted on the board are too heavy & slippery, once laminated, for the clothespins to hold, & so I just hot glued everything to the paper. Here's hoping the staples holding the paper to the cork board are super hardy staples. I bought some tacks as an afterthought & will push some of those in for good measure next I am in my room. 

On the wall opposite the bulletin board will be my shrine to Ernest Hemingway the seniors' summer reads. 

This is all I've got so far:

I'm not happy with the Washi tape situation at present & will likely make adjustments as time permits this week. "As time permits" probably means I'll be in my room around midnight Friday night, but hey, I bet I'll be working in peace & quiet. 

In between these two posters I'm going to hang a quote from each of the novels. I printed quotes (using a variety of fun fonts!) on fancy paper & then laminated them & bought mats to hang around them. It sounds complicated but it's not . . . hopefully I'll get all this on the wall in the coming week & can share the finished product with you in a week's time.

These are the closing lines of The Sun Also Rises:

To the left of the The Sun Also Rises poster will hang a poster of the A Farewell to Arms book cover . . . & THIS:

I laminated him Friday afternoon & I have to tell you, I'm hesitant to take him up to the school because clearly this needs to hang somewhere in my home. 

If you don't know who is pictured above, well, you have homework for next week.

This concludes the pictorial tour of my classroom in its present state. 

I left school on Friday & hurried home to rush Henry to my mom's house for the night, having promised Reagan a girls' night. 

Fun fact: Trey traveled very little this summer, which was nice, however he has been & will be traveling an awful lot this month, which is unfortunate because August is kind of a busy month for me. 

With her father home most of the summer, Reagan insisted on a girls' night as soon as he left town last Wednesday morning (headed, I think, to Phoenix). She got her wish Friday night. 

I was incredibly tired Friday evening, but I sent Henry on his way with my mom & fulfilled my promise to Reagan regarding popcorn at Target & a new outfit for school. I didn't count on Target now selling caramel popcorn (literally did not count on it as I gave her insulin for regular popcorn, which has fewer carbs than popcorn that's covered in sugary caramel), nor did I count on her wanting to try on a whole slew of clothes, but I gave her extra insulin & sat & ate my fair share of the popcorn while she twirled in front of the three-way mirror.

This plaid below was my selection. 

I am, as I type & share this with you, in the middle of a busy week of meetings & trainings & orientations. In my spare time I'm continuing my journey through the life of Katherine Parr, & also trying to fill gaps in my knowledge of British literature (& you can't study British lit without a cursory understanding of British history, which is why I feel totally justified taking time to read my book club book about Katherine Parr). It was while filling one such gap that I came across the above Shakespeare quote from The Tempest, "The past is prologue."

A prologue, of course, is an introduction to a novel (or musical piece) that is separate from the actual work itself. I've read a few articles & blogs over the years about the usefulness of prologues (& epilogues) in novels. The consensus seems to be that if there is a significant piece of backstory to which the reader needs to be exposed, but that the author doesn't want to include in the manuscript itself, a prologue should be considered. Many writers (& editors) are of the opinion that it is almost always best to just begin the story. Thrust the reader immediately into the heart of the story, the heart of the action, or emotional moment, or whatever, because some readers skip prologues, & those who do read them may find themselves bored quickly. 

I tend to dislike trite expressions such as, "Your story begins today," & other similar sentiments. My analytical, writerly brain thinks, No, no that's not true. There might be significant memories from years ago that are very much a part of the story that unfolds today. The trick is to weave those memories into the story, into the now, without bogging the reader down with too many unnecessary details, & without removing them too drastically from the immediacy of what's happening now. Don't write a ten-page prologue about Katniss's father being killed in a coal mine; introduce Katniss & the immediacy of her present situation, & then show the reader how she reacts to a picture of her father on the mantle, how she reacts when she wraps herself in his hunting jacket. 

I was moments away from opening this blog with the final line of The Great Gatsby. It's simply the best line in literature about the past, So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. Last week was a constant exercise in ceaselessly revisiting the past. I spent hours inside my classroom . . . but not for the first time. It is the actual same classroom in which I took both freshman & senior English. I am now hot gluing things to the very same cinderblock walls inside which I grew to simply adore literature. 

I now work for & with people who were once my teachers & my principals, people who had to discipline me, & I sat in meetings last week wondering, Does he remember when I . . . The closing line of Gatsby was on repeat in my head, & not just because of the Gatsby book cover I laminated & will soon hot glue to the cinderblocks. 

I have various things to attend to this week, but Friday is the big day. Friday there will be actual students in my class, but it feels much bigger than the usual opening day of classes. I've opened many semesters, & had reached the point that I didn't give it one thought until the night before when I'd check over the syllabus, change the "Fall" at the top to "Spring" (or vice versa), & sleep soundly knowing I was prepared for the next day's demands. 

I don't know how soundly I'll sleep Thursday night. I'm not nervous, per se, but I feel like when I finally step away from what begins Friday, my children will be grown & in college, & I will be, well, old. If I were writing a novel, it'd begin on Friday. Once the reader fell in love with the high school English teacher protagonist, I'd throw in tidbits of prologue-ish stuff . . . cafeteria memories (some happy, some sad), elementary field trips, horrible, horrible junior high stuff, happy senior year times. You get the picture. 

While it's true I am not nervous about Friday, I recognize that the nerves will likely kick in next Monday when we're past the "Hi, I am your teacher, now let's discuss all the rules & my expectations of you" tidbit & the actual teaching commences. I will tell anyone who'll listen how unprepared I feel to teach some of what's coming down the pike, specifically some of the early Brit lit stuff, which, unfortunately for a fan of chronology like me, comes first. 

My past is my present, which I think will work out nicely because my past is, thankfully, a mostly wonderful place through which I occasionally roam, quite literally now. 

Wish me luck, y'all. I'll either have a lot to say in a week, or I'll be too exhausted to do more than wave meekly from the corner. 


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