Sunday Salon: Back to School Edition

wpid-img_20140806_085216.jpgToday is the last day of my summer.  I go back to work tomorrow and I’m really dreading it.  This will be year 25 for me–maybe I should have a party.  I wish it could be a retirement party.

We did get a last hurrah trip in this month when we drove down to Santa Monica to visit the Getty Art Museum and see a couple of friends who have moved down there.  We’ve both basically lived all our adult lives in California but have spent maybe 20 days in the Los Angeles area.

We had a great time.  I thoroughly enjoyed Santa Monica and Venice Beach both.  I looked for the skateboarding bull dog but could not find him.  Venice Beach has become this fantastic outdoor head shop with people dressed in green handing out discount coupons for prescription marijuana alongside police officers who are simply there to keep the peace.  (It can happen in America.)  I’ve no interest in smoking stuff, I really was just looking for Small World Books and enjoying the sights.

Santa Monica is much more upscale than Venice Beach.  Visiting the pier there was lots of fun and the beach is beautiful.  I got to stop in at Hennessay and Ingalls a bookstore devoted to coffee table books. Lots of wonderful architecture books, but there was an upset toddler in one corner whose mother was simply not going to go home yet in spite of how badly the child wanted to leave.  So I had to go.  Just a block away was the pedestrian mall, yes they have these in Los Angeles now, which was hopping with the after work crowd

We spent an evening in Hollywood with the tourists, visited one of the wax museums there and enjoyed the Getty though more for the building and the view than their collection.  I even found a new hat that fits me at a shop near Main Street in Santa Monica. (See picture above.)

I had lunch in San Francisco with my old book club this week.  It was fun to get together with everyone and I got to browse both Borderlands and Dog-Eared Books afterwards.  I didn’t buy anything.  I’m book-shy lately because I just got my copy of The Kills by Richard House which is over 1000 pages long.  It’s getting lots of rave reviews lately.  I’m enjoying it but I’m not raving.

I think it’s tied to this whole back to school vibe slash funk I’m in.  I did go in to school one morning last week to set up my classroom.  I put green paper on my boards which is a change from the usual blue, fixed them all up with work from last year’s students so the room looks good and unpacked all of my book club books.  I don’t know what I’m going to do with book clubs this year, which may be the cause of my funk.

Last year’s book clubs were annoying overall.  Last year was really the first time I’ve had a class of page counters for many years.  Whenever time came  to select new books,  the majority of students went looking for whatever was shortest.  They ended up reading a lot of books they didn’t like as a result.  Since the district is phasing out the GATE program and I’ll be down to just one section, I’m likely to have even more page counters this year.  I’m leaning towards bringing back reading logs, using class time for reading, assigning page goals instead of book goals.  These strategies all worked back when I started two decades ago in a classroom full of below-grade-level readers.

The pendulum keeps on swinging.

Tomorrow there will be a faculty meeting.  We’re sure to talk about common-core and probably project based learning.  I think the whole country is sick of common-core by now so you won’t hear anything more about it from me for today.  Our current superintendent is very big of project based learning.  There’s been pressure on me about not going to the three-day training but I keep on insisting that I’ve been teaching for 25 years and I have been doing project based learning since back in the days when we called it ‘teaching’.

We’ll see what happens.

Dakota is still having A-level days in the meantime.  She is begging to go outside as I type this.  We’re off to Point Isabelle, dog paradise, later today once the fog leaves, even if it doesn’t.  Then I suppose I’ll be reading The Kills hoping it gets to the rave review sections fairly soon.  I have Haruki Murakami’s new book sitting on the table next to me, calling its siren song…..

4 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Back to School Edition

  1. James,
    I’m concerned. Did you have the requisite (to my mind!) 10-week vacation? I cannot understand schools beginning in mid-August. In the Northeast, the vast majority of public schools start after Labor Day, and some start the week before the holiday. I think it’s partly because no public school in the Northeast has air-conditioning. My first class at the college is September 4th.

    After teaching middle-school for ten years in my twenties and early thirties, I really felt I had had enough. It’s a difficult group of students to teach, and despite the plusses of teaching this age group (like lots of energy and enthusiasm), most everyone I know burns out after a span. I do hope you find the great books(!), the fun pastimes and hobbies, and the friends to support you through this coming year. The American public has no idea how difficult it is to teach–and that annoys and irritates me, as I imagine it must to you as well.

    Best wishes,

    1. School ends in mid June throughout most of California. It varies district to district. When I began teaching we started after Labor Day but the calendar has been elongated over the years. We have no air-conditioning either so the first few weeks will be very hot. I can’t complain about the breaks, we get plenty of breaks. I’m sure that I’ll be fine with the students, once I get started, but I’m really dreading all the district stuff and nonsense.

  2. That page counting thing is a bummer but they usually get out of it when they get hooked on something. Sometimes I see kids I know who generally like shorter books (for the reasons you mention) pick up something longer. They’re intrigued but put it down. I make them a deal. I tell them that if they just read a hundred pages of that book that I’ll talk their teacher into “counting” it as read for their reading journal. About half the time they’ll get sucked in and read the whole thing. The ones that don’t? Well at least they read a hundred pages of something different for once and maybe it will happen for them if they keep it up. I also try to turn those guys on to audio books. Sometimes they’ll listen to longer books than they would sit down and read.

    Best of luck with the new year.

    1. My plan is to switch from requiring so many books per month to so many pages per month. That and a few other tweeks just may save book clubs for another year before the Common Core sucks all the joy out of the job.

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