Shadow Spinner

Saturday, October 29, 2016

In case you were wondering, we don't only read Very Old Books in my literature classes. We mostly do but I like to mix things up a bit, especially for the eighth graders. They have to read different things than the rest of the upper school anyway, or they'll end up possibly repeating books their senior year. Only possibly, because I am a wild thing, given to CHANGING THE BOOK LIST without any notice! I know, I know. But some creatures just cannot be tamed, mkay?

All of that (it wasn't that much, actually, but I got interrupted by Tristan about 87 times in the course of typing that paragraph SO) to say that my eighth graders finished their first novel with me and we had their first book party on Thursday. I don't usually start the eighth graders on Lost Tools until maybe the very end of the school year, but I had a suspicion that this group was up for it now. That suspicion turned out to be completely founded, so they also knocked out some wonderful rudimentary persuasive essays on the book as well.

We read Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher. It's an easy read (to lull them into complacency about literature class before I throw them into something with more tricksy words and sentences...was that a clever little clue about the next book? NO BUT THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN AWESOME) about Shahrazad and the thousand and one nights. We all loved it! It caught their interest right away, sparked some wonderful discussions about all kinds of things, and was a lovely introduction to the idea of stories having this deep and timeless power that is essentially what we will be going back and back to until they graduate. And best of all, the students didn't execute me or anything because they wanted to find out what happened next in the book! 

No, but really, I kept timing it so class would end on a cliffhanger and I could shoo them away, so I got a lot of "Mrs. Hallford! YOU'RE BEING SHAHRAZAD!" and they totally got why the Sultan had to find out what happened next. And you know, it occurred to me that I do tell stories every day to save lives, just on a much less dramatic, tangible scale.

To celebrate the book we watched Aladdin, ate Middle Eastern food, and drank sharbat. My awesome room mom got the food for us from a restaurant around the corner, because I just wasn't up for an all-nighter of making baba ganoush and falafle. I did make the sharbat, though. They drink it a lot in the book and the kids had asked to try it especially.

Fun times yet again!

Village Life

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I have approximately five hundred random mini-posts rattling around my brain these days...things I haven't got around to writing, or haven't figured out how to write, or maybe just aren't quite enough on their own to write about but don't seem to really go with anything else. So like a nice, disciplined, rule-abiding English teacher (ahem!) I am naturally going to just throw them together and see if they coalesce or something on their own. Let's find out, it'll be fun!

My eight grade homeroom is one of the most delightful groups I've ever taught. They're such a funny combination of silly and serious, reflective and ridiculous. They sing entire conversations, ride piggyback on each other down the hallways, and bounce around the classroom like rubber balls, but they also study intensely for every single assignment they have, delve into incredibly deep discussions of our lessons, and are the only class I've ever had that cried openly at the part of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe where Aslan dies. 

All bets (and lessons!) are off when there's a baby in the classroom, though.

They were also really great at the Compassion Experience field trip we went on, and now they want to sponsor a child as a class. 

My other classes are all wonderful, too, actually. Flint kids are just the best. Even when they make me crazy! My junior/senior literature class has finally warmed all the way up to Pride and was rough at first, no lie, but they started to come around when Mr. Bennet told Elizabeth that he would never speak to her again if she married Mr. Collins. Then yesterday Mr. Darcy PROPOSED to Elizabeth and she said NO and they were completely hooked. Today we read Mr. Darcy's letter to Elizabeth in rapt attention and with much discussion. All of the other classes are reading The Once and Future King and they aren't quite hooked yet. But we'll get there! Just a few more nose-biting, owl-talking, fish-transforming chapters and we'll be totally immersed. 

We had our medieval-themed Fall festival, which turned out absolutely wonderful. I wish I had a picture of all of the staff together - the PTF encouraged everyone who wanted to to dress up in medieval clothes to add to the ambiance. I was amazed at how many of our teachers were all for it! We raided the costume room and had a blast. Even some of the husbands dressed up. This team isn't just insanely talented and dedicated, y'all, they're crazy fun people to boot!

I skipped out on my classes last Thursday so I could go to a grammar school field trip with my babies. I do that sometimes, in spite of the outrage it causes amongst my high school babies. I don't like to anger them (they bring me Starbucks! And mysterious small pumpkins and gourds!) but it makes my tinies sad when I miss their field trips.

Anyway, the photo opportunities alone are worth it!

Sack races, chickens, and water pump games...and a llama! Avalon and Lainey burst out - in unison- as soon as they saw the llama with, "A llama? He's supposed to be dead!" Which made me basically explode with pride. My girls are the coolest little nerds on the planet!

Not pictured: that pony trying it's very best to make friends with Tristan and Tristan absolutely freaking out about the WEIRD SCARY LARGE DOGGY HALP! We'll work on it, I guess.

Baby plus pumpkins equals so many adorable pictures

Okay. It DID coalesce for me, at least a little. There's a lot more besides all of this awesomeness that could go here...laughing and crying, pranking and panicking, scary conversations and conversations about what to read next, hard decisions and stupid puns, eye-rolls and hugs, Instagram-worthy snapshots and moments no filter can pretty up...but what I really want to get across is how much I love these people, this tribe. It's the same feeling I have when I look at my babies. I know for a fact that they aren't actually perfect (trust me, I KNOW) but when I look at them that's all I can think. Oh, you are perfect

This community, these people? Not perfect at all. But also somehow completely perfect at the same time and they fill my heart to bursting.

Panic At the Mead Hall!

Monday, October 10, 2016

I'm going to make a confession here. I never really liked Beowulf. Um, at all. The only thing I remember liking about it in college was the phrase "whale road" which is right at the beginning so it was all downhill from there as far as I was concerned. The only thing I liked about it when I read it to one of my classes a few years ago was how much they liked it. It was so gory, and they were all sixth grade boys, so it just worked. I personally thought it was icky. But y'all, THIS TIME? I totally got into it. I had a translation that I really loved, which helped a ton. Also, maybe I'm a bit smarter now? We didn't study Beowulf in the Circe apprenticeship, but we did a lot of work that helped me understand how to better approach and understand and appreciate literature. Even if you don't particularly feel excited about it because it's full of gross battles in the mead hall! 

We finished Beowulf and spent last week writing about it (in most of my classes, anyway. My eighth graders are reading different books, and I have an alternate class that's reading Pride and Prejudice because they've already done most of our medieval lit) and then finished off with a rousing party because that seemed fitting.

I decorated my classroom like Heorot, complete with a charming severed Grendel arm and an amazing pig-on-a-spit-over-a-fake-fire that my mom had just finished making for the Fall Festival.

"Why is it a HUMAN hand, Mrs. H? Grendel wasn't human!"
"Because I couldn't find any disembodied monster hands lying around."
" could find disembodied human hands easy??"
"Let's not dwell on that too long."


"Is that fire really hot?"
"It's as hot as your mix tape, dear."

And we feasted on grapes, baked apples, fresh bread, (root) beer, and roast chickens that we tore into with our bare hands LIKE VIKINGS.

Everyone came during lunch to watch The Hobbit (because we had talked endlessly about the similarities and the inspiration, etc., and because there aren't any Beowulf movies that I'm willing to show my students except for some fairly hilarious Lego Beowulf youtube movies, but those are really short) and eat, even the kids who weren't in the Beowulf classes. Good times!

I love, love, love getting to do stuff like this. Even baking bread at five o'clock in the morning, then running around to find a fake hand in the theatre room, all with my baby in tow because GiGi was home sick. Even if my Pride and Prejudice class is now demanding a tea party WITH FRESH SCONES YASSSSSSS PLEASE! 

We have fun, y'all.

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