Today we had Career Day, and as such, several classes were altered and/or disrupted. First period worked on documentation. We determined how to document a book and practiced with our text book.

Second period eagerly read their dystopian novels, and then we learned how to update Our English Class.  We learned a little about the best content management system in the world: WordPress.

Fourth period was canceled due to the Career Day schedule.

Sixth period continued working on their research projects. We learned how to create source cards and note cards.

Homework
  • First, fourth, and sixth periods: bring a pack of index cards Monday.
  • Second period: work on evaluation of essay.

First period began doing a bit of research. Since a significant amount of our research will be online, we had a presentation from our media specialist about evaluating websites.

Second period continued with the poetry project presentations. The second group looked at imagery as well as some specific types of poetry.

Fourth period and sixth period did what first period did yesterday: spend some time in the library working to revise and narrow their research topics.

Homework
  • First period: none.
  • Second period: compare/contrast evaluation.
  • Fourth and sixth periods: write an EQ for your research paper.

First period began working on their research paper. We took their three-topic homework assignment and began narrowing down those topics. We’re well on the way to writing a research paper.

Second period continued with the poetry project. The group working with meter and rhyme finished up today.

Fourth and sixth periods finished The Diary of Anne Frank. Students will have to turn in their diary assignment by next Friday. Sixth period fell behind fourth period a little, and as such, the homework is different.

Homework
  • First period: none.
  • Second period: compare/contrast essay evaluation.
  • Fourth period: three possible topics/interests for research project.
  • Sixth period: none.
Voting

apartmentI wasn’t in the States for the 2004 presidential election. I watched from afar, in my small apartment above an elementary school in southern Poland. It was, in fact two, rooms (each with a bath) joined by a opening not in the original plans. It took me almost six months to convince the powers that be to join two useless rooms into one small apartment. My Internet connection was supplied by the village planning office across the hall.

It was all done Polish style: “We’ve got a router with an open connection if you’re interested,” the gentleman who worked in the office informed me one day. “If you want, we can run a bit of network cable over to your apartment.” So we took a drill with a very long bit, drilled through the walls just above the doors, and stretched a cable through to my apartment.

Returning from school that Tuesday, I bounced around the Internet, looking for very early results: it was only nine in the morning on the East Coast, so there wasn’t much information yet. Throughout the night, I checked; throughout the night, it became clearer that Bush had won. When I finally went to bed, it was with the strange realization that it was the second time — in a row — that I’d gone to bed not knowing the outcome of the election.

And today? Will it be any different?

If Dixville Notch, New Hampshire is any indication, we’ll know relatively quickly:

In Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, 100 percent of registered voters — all 21 of them — cast their ballots just after midnight in the first moments of Tuesday morning. For the first time in 40 years, the town voted Democratic in the presidential election, 15-6. (CNN)

Whatever the outcome, one thing seems sure: people around world are paying closer attention to this US election than to almost any other in history.

First, fourth, and sixth periods began looking at the PASS rubric’s “Content and Development” criteria.

4 Presents a clear central idea about the topic
Fully develops the central idea with specific, relevant details
Sustains focus on central idea throughout the writing
3 Presents a central idea about the topic
Develops the central idea but details are general, or the elaboration may be uneven
Focus may shift slightly, but is generally sustained
2 Central idea may be unclear
Details need elaboration to clarify the central idea
Focus may shift or be lost causing confusion for the reader
1 There is no clear central idea
Details are sparse and/ or confusing
There is no sense of focus

We looked at some specific examples, judged their merit as a class, then worked as in pairs with additional passages. We were trying to get a feel for what will be required to maximize students’ scores for the “C/D” criteria.

Sixth period, due to poor choices regarding talking and attentiveness, did not work in groups, but basically covered the same material.

Fourth period, in addition to completing the rubric activity, went through a final scene from Anne Frank. They were a great-working group today, as they usually are.

Second period continued with the poetry project. The first group has now finished, more or less. It was a learning process for everyone: probably more painful for the group than for the class, but hopefully it will be helpful for all, especially the groups that follow.

Homework
  • First period: come up with three topics for research paper (which we’ll be starting Wednesday).
  • Second period:
    • continue working on project;
    • check notes about group one on Moodle (courses) website.
  • Fourth period: explosive diary entry.
  • Sixth period: evaluate one entry.
All Saints' Day

One of the loveliest times to be in Poland is on November 1, All Saints’ Day. It is a time of meeting with family, reuniting with old friends, and remember those who have passed away.

The day begins with a trip to the cemetery. Everyone cleans off their grandfather’s, their grandmother’s, their brother’s, their aunt’s grave and leaves behind flowers and candles.

Cleaning GravesFamilies clean graves and bring candles.

I walked about with my wife and her family and listened to stories of great-uncles and family friends I’d never met. Every year, it seemed, the family told the same stories, asked the same questions.

Some cemeteries are located in the most beautiful settings. My wife’s mother’s family comes from Zab (which translates to “Tooth”). It is the highest village in all of Poland, located in the Tatra Mountains in the south of the country. A few steps from my wife’s grandfather’s grave reveals this view:

Tatra MountainsTatra Mountains

The village where I lived stretched out below Babia Gora, “Lady’s Mountain.”

Other cemeteries are in forests.

Cemetery in Nowy Targ

Mass usually follows. Lucky Poles get to go to lovely churches like this one, in Zab. It’s an entirely wooden church, in the classical southern Polish style.

After Mass, extended families gather together for lunch, followed by a string of house calls, for All Saints’ Day is similar to Thanksgiving in one respect: it’s one time when almost everyone goes back to their roots, and as such, the one chance everyone has to meet with childhood friends.

When the sun sets, everyone returns to the cemeteries for prayers. By then, the cemeteries are otherworldly.

Church and MoonCemetery in Jablonka

Walking among the graves, one hears the sizzle of candle and the occasional pop! of fracturing glass. It’s so peaceful and calm that it is difficult to leave.

Cemetery in Lipnica Wielka

During my seven years in Poland, I experienced the death of four students. Halina, the first, died of leukemia. She was a freshman, though by age she should have been a junior. With her illness and treatment and weakness, Halina had trouble finishing a school year.

Natalia and Marcela two died right after I’d left Poland the first time, in 1999. They were on a summer trip, loosely organized by the school, and they drowned in the Baltic Sea. Having been a lifeguard, I had a difficult time getting over those deaths, constantly running one thought through my head: “If I’d been there…” I knew it was for naught: no one saw it happen. They were pulled under by an undertow, their bodies found only the next day.

Cemetery in Lipnica Wielka

The fourth, Andrzej, was a young man who’d just graduated. I’d returned to Poland and had had the pleasure of teaching him his senior year. He was a hardworking fellow, often helping his dad (a lumber jack) when he was not in school. They were out in the forest when the accident happened. Andrzej was backing up the family tractor when suddenly the ground shifted and the tractor rolled back into a ravine. The tractor crushed and killed him instantly.

I went to their graves, placed candles on their stones, and thought of the tragic irony that an American can have such an intimate connection to a small-village cemetery in southern Poland.

Church and PrayingCemetery in Jablonka

As I walked about with my cameras, I felt I was almost intruding. I tried to keep a respectful distance from everyone, but I’d already gained the reputation of “that crazy American who wanders around with a camera.”

I became a regular fixture at many of the religious ceremonies. Everyone knew me, and that “fame” both eased and complicated everything.

Cemetery in Lipnica Wielka

It was in Poland that I truly understood that cemeteries are for the living, not the dead. This is never truer than during All Saints’ Day in Poland.

All classes took something of a break today. I read some Poe to everyone (most classes heard “The Tell-Tale Heart”) to get students in the Halloween mood.

I also showed some slides from Poland during All Saints’ Day. I’ll be posting something here about it shortly.

Homework

None

Fourth and sixth periods looked at a scene from The Diary of Anne Frank that shows how Peter and Anne’s relationship is changing, and then began working on a similar entry for their diary project. As students worked, I conferenced with individual students regarding various elements of the new PASS rubric.

Second period examined ballads. We worked on a song/ballad to begin discovering the characteristics of a ballad. Students will continue working on the characteristics at home by exploring other ballads. We used a graphic to organize our work.

First period did, more or less, what fourth and sixth periods did, except without the Anne Frank selection.

Homework
  • First, fourth, and sixth: finish diary entries.
  • Second: complete graph using ballads listed on our Moodle site.

First period finished The Diary of Anne Frank. We took a moment to look at a scene from the Disney adaptation: the arrest of the Franks. The students were literally breathless as the SS officers stormed into the building.

Fourth and sixth periods took a quiz on the final scene of Act I, then worked on their diary project.

Homework
  • First period: questions at the end of The Diary of Anne Frank (I don’t know the page number off the top of my head, the board has been erased, and my book is on the other side of the room…)
  • Second period: “My Papa’s Waltz” and accompanying questions.
  • Fourth and sixth periods: questions 1, 2, 5, 6 on page 832

Second period finished up their in-class preparation time for their student-teaching projects. The first group, covering meter and rhyme, will be launching their project tomorrow.

First, fourth, and sixth periods focused on improving their “We Are Anne” diary projects by focusing on the use of good adjectives to add sensory detail.

Homework
  • Second period: work on discussion forum for The Giver and Fahrenheit 451.
  • First, fourth, and sixth periods: add/improve ten adjectives to existing diary entries.

First period looked at the question of internal and external motivation as Peter and Anne grow closer in The Diary of Anne Frank.

Fourth, and sixth periods, with the completion of their homework, will have finished the first act of The Diary of Anne Frank tomorrow. We’ll be having a quiz on the final scene of act one Wednesday. Today, they focused on a scene that reveals a lot about how much society has changed regarding women during the last 100 years.

Second period continued with the poetry project preparation. We should be ready to go by Wednesday.

Second period, having Exploratory with me this quarter, also began two new novels. We’ll be spending Exploratory looking at three dystopian novels: Lois Lowry’s The Giver, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and Animal Farm. Students will read either The Giver or Fahrenheit 451 during the first half of the quarter, and then we’ll all read Animal Farm during the second half.

Homework
  • First period:
    • read act I scene iii;
    • complete diary entry number eight.
  • Second period: continue working on poetry presentations.
  • Fourth and sixth periods:
    • read through page 831;
    • prepare for quiz Wednesday on the material.

First, fourth, and sixth periods worked on revising some of their diary entries for:

  1. clarity of content;
  2. descriptive details; and
  3. sentence variety.

Students looked at each other’s work to find elements that could be improved, then worked in pairs to improve them.

Second period continued working on their poetry projects. They’ve got quite a bit to get finished, so we’ll be working on it into next week.

Homework
  • First, fourth, and sixth periods: none.
  • Second period:
    • compare/contrast essay on To Kill a Mockingbird and the Scottsboro boys’ trial;
    • the newspaper/newsletter project for To Kill a Mockingbird; and,
    • the poetry project.

First, fourth, and sixth periods began the day with free writing on the following prompt:

Would you leave this country, never to return again, for $1 million? If not, why not? Is there some sum of money that would convince you? If so, where would you go?

In an effort to improve writing, I need to be more active in providing examples of my own writing. To that end, my own free writing response follows.

Possibly. Probably. Some might take this as materialistic or even unpatriotic, but the truth is, I love Poland just as much as America, and my years living abroad taught me that “home” is a very relative thing. I’ve made and remade my home in enough places and enough times to realize that home is a state of being, not a city, state, country, or even continent. Home is having friends and family nearby. Aye, there’s the rub: if I were to leave the country, the only family I’d likely see would be my parents. No one else would have the motivation or means to come see me. So maybe I wouldn’t.