Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Hate Research Papers

I feel depressed. Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's the time change affecting my body, or maybe it's the fact that my classes just started work on their spring semester research papers and I know that in about three weeks, I'll be living underneath a big pile of notecards, MLA handbooks, and pages and pages of student BS, as they attempt to write research papers without actually having to do any research. (Sigh).

My classes were all in the Media Center today and I'm exhausted. Even though I gave explicit instructions, hand outs, and notes, none of them seem to be able to complete a correct MLA-formatted works cited entry. "Mrs. Pearl!" they yell, "I can't find anything on Martin Luther King, Jr." "Does Wikipedia count as a source?" "I need to change my topic!" "What if my brother wrote a paper on this last year. Can I cite his paper?" See what I mean?

I had to say things like "You're actually going to have to read the article." and "No, you can't just google this and expect the perfect site to pop up!"

Kids are so "right now," and I guess it's because we live in a world where pretty much anything you want is a button-click away. Want to watch a movie? Hit "on-demand." Want a map to Disney World?" Click on mapquest. Want to talk to your mom? Pull out your cell phone and hit 2 on speed dial. They rarely have to wait. Everything is instant gratification.

Research is not like that. It takes time, dedication, critical reading skills, note-taking skills, processing, and thought. No wonder it's so painful.

So, stacks of papers to grade or not, I guess I've just talked myself back into the REASON behind the assignment, the reason I give it so much time. Yes, I have a lot to grade...but it's because they will be learning a lot.

And that's a good thing.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Talk

Well, tomorrow I have to go in and talk to one of my students about an essay he wrote for me which may or may not be indicative of abuse. I don't like being in this situation, mainly because I don't think this kid will talk to me, but also because I don't like to think about my students being in abusive homes. People think when you teach high school that all the kids are tough and grown up and hard to deal with. The reality is that they are still kids. And they still need us.

A few years ago, a senior boy was failing my class so I called his father to let him know. The mother then called me all sorts of choice names for calling the father and not her....little did I know they were divorced and fighting over custody. I talked to the boy outside of class one day and apologized for calling the wrong parent. He burst into tears and said "I'm not worried about me because I'm almost out of the house. I just worried about my sister." Here was this huge, 18 year old "man" crying in the hallway. At that moment I realized that we never really know what is going on with our students--big or little--and that at the end of the day, they still need someone, anyone, to let them know it's all going to be OK.

I hope this child I'm talking to tomorrow is not being abused. I hope that he will be OK. I hope that if he isn't he'll find someone to talk to. I hope it's me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I gave my students a Thomas Friedman editorial to read last night. In it, he labels this generation of college students (and I have juniors this year, so I include them in this generation) as "Generation Q." He claims they are a group of quiet, virtual activists--and as Friedman says, they maybe too quiet for their own good because they don't take on the world face to face, but behind a virtual line.

We have been discussing The Crucible in class for the last few weeks and I thought this article might serve as a good ending discussion. In the play, Miller advocates social involvement, in the character of John Proctor, so I wanted them to think about THEIR involvement in the world--or lack thereof.

Some of my students had a lot to say on this topic, claiming they could be activists on-line and that Friedman didn't understand how powerful MySpace and Facebook can be as a tool for communication. But most of my students had nothing to say about any issue. When I asked them "What would you fight for?" They just sort of shrugged. One girl said meekly, "the environment"?

Well, this is something I would fight for--to shake them up, make them think, help them see that they can and should make a difference in the world. The most dangerous citizen is the apathetic one.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My First Blog

OK, I decided to see what this blog thing is all about. My students do it, my sister does it, so why not me? I'm a little intimidated, I must admit. What is the purpose blogging? I'm still not sure. An on-line journal? Why would anyone want to read about me and my musings? My sister writes an amazing blog about mommyhood. She's so insightful, so articulate, so wry. People do want to read her stuff. But, I'm not sure I can live up to her blogging standards. I'm not sure I can match her word for word, clever life observation for clever life observation.

Anyway, I decided to write a blog about teaching English in high school. Anyone who teaches knows this can be a very rewarding, but gut-wrenching, time-consuming experience. And other teachers know that sometimes you need an outlet in which to fully process these experiences--outside the teacher's workroom, that is.

My husband has been after me to write a book about teaching. He wants to call it "The Sex Teacher" because, admittedly, I do like to use and discuss racy literature in my classes. Well, if you can call The Scarlet Letter racy--which I can. So, I will write about that too...and just see if a book or anything worthwhile evolves.

If nothing else, maybe my readers (if I ever get any) can at least give me some good lesson plans.