I am so far behind, both here and in real life, so here are some highlights of the past, uh, week or so:

The highlight of the last week was Friday; after having had a student request that I model an informative speech (the ones we just finished), I made a last-minute decision to do a demonstration of a demonstration speech (now that’s meta) for them in preparation for this new material. To model this, I brought in my acoustic guitar to demonstrate how to tune a guitar. After that happened, I inevitably heard, “Play something!” After my experience on the last day of student teaching, I had already predicted this beforehand and didn’t plan anything else, knowing that I should go through with it.

Well, here’s how it worked out: After having to stall a little bit to get students back to the room who had been getting the H1N1 vaccine (a worthy distraction), I did my demo speech and then played my standard song, “Everything You Want” by Vertical Horizon. (Some of these kids were in kindergarten when that song hit the radio! Crazy.) I only got through the first chorus of the song before there were a bunch of people who were at the window by my door (I had shut it, and the door stays locked throughout the day, although it’s usually propped open) trying to listen in. So by the next hour, the word had gotten out, and when I started playing for the next class, the Spanish I class in the next room was able to hear me and implored their teacher, Ms. N, to let them come down near the end of the period. So I then had an audience, and the word went further. I was able to stretch it all the way through my junior classes, where I used it as motivation for getting work done (“If we get through everything that I want to do, then maybe I’ll play something”).

Now, two days later, I have to say that I don’t think it worked any miracles with behavior. But more realistically, it should be something that I can resurrect periodically to make things more interesting, and the students know about it and have built something more of a reputation about me. That, in this case, is a good thing.

I’m really behind on grading, too far behind to even state just how long I’ve had some of the things I need to grade. To add insult to injury, I gave tests in two courses today, which leaves my grand total of things-I-need-to-grade-very-soon at: two classes’ worth of essays (only 1-3 pgs. each, fortunately), and three classes’ worth of tests.

Tomorrow’s a day off, but I won’t get to use much of it: my nephew turns 2 on Thursday, and we’re driving the 2 or so hours for his birthday party. And it’s throwing off this whole week: today felt like a Friday, and Thursday will quite assuredly be like a Monday. Two Mondays and two Fridays in one week = not productive.

A possible light ahead: our school purchased licenses to an online writing tool for every junior high and high school student, which I was trained on at the end of the school day. I’m optimistic that it will allow me to do more writing with students, provide faster feedback (with less paper wasted), and monitor what students are having problems with much more effectively.

I say “optimistic,” but I am not without my reservations: this program works off Natural Language Processing (NLP), which means that it assigns a part of speech to every word submitted and then analyzes the relationships between words in close proximity to determine grammaticality. There are definitely problems with this, especially given the utter flexibility of words in English to take on different parts of speech (see the “Time flies like an arrow” example of syntactic ambiguity). The program also claims to be able to analyze style, organization, and structure, in addition to the more mundane things of grammar, usage, and mechanics. The trainer also claims that it can detect improper use of homophones from context, which I’m going to have to see to believe. (I can conceive how it was done, but I am still skeptical.)

But if nothing else, it can help me do what I have wanted to do with grammar all along: eliminate the systematic study of grammar and focus on working with students on the things that are inhibiting their writing. If run-on sentences are a problem, then I should be able to see this from their writing, and having a quick tool to analyze this should be helpful.

Anything to help get me caught up.