Snowmobiling story, exposition continued. Still have to get the students’ opinions…

Case in point: Danny never stopped flirting with Penny, even when he knew it pissed Adam off. Or maybe he did it even more when Adam got mad. His gut twisted thinking about it, and his hands tightened on the handlebars of his Skidoo. Penny didn’t say that she minded it, but every now and then he’d seen a shady look on her face when she moved away from Danny’s hand on her shoulder, pushing him back when he was begging for a hug, or when she caught him staring at her as he sipped from his drink. Adam would shove him or give him a semi-playful smack on the shoulder and tell him to stay away from her, but the guy just laughed it off.

“I’m just kidding! Relax, man!”

Sometimes Adam wondered why they were friends. Or, rather, still friends. They’d known each other since they were two, been to each other’s birthdays every year since then, learned how to fish and shoot together, and Danny had helped Adam to build his snowmobile practically from scratch.

Adam could see his buddy up ahead, veering his 2016-model Summit X T3 880 up the drifted slopes and taking jumps that left wings of powder hanging in the air. What Danny wanted, he got, and therefore a lot of kids wanted to be in his circle.

It just sucked that being in this particular group meant you had to show you had balls. Turning around halfway through a run did not show anything but being a wuss. Adam sighed, anticipating the bad-mouthing he was about to get. But there was no help for it; the needle had already moved on the gas gauge, giving him about ten more minutes before he’d have to turn around.

The good news was Danny had already started slowing down, signalling a stop. If he was really lucky, he wouldn’t be getting back on fumes.

————-

Okay, readers, I’m stepping out of the story here. I honestly don’t know where it’s going right now. Not used to writing in this genre or style and I’m worried about sounding contrived. There are a few directions it seems to want to explore: the harassment of Penny by Danny, the peer pressure, Adam having to go back to town early. I can see the other boys wanting to make it all the way to Rouyn to buy beer before going to a party, and of course, giving Adam a hard time about leaving. I’m not sure how the dialogue should go, though. I’m thinking of maybe printing off what I’ve got so far and then asking the students I’m targeting to come up with the dialogue for me. Or deciding what should happen next. 

I’m fairly certain, though, that the inciting incident will be Adam taking a shortcut to save gas and going through the ice on a shallow lake, ending up alone in the dark and soaking wet. He’s got to get to a warm place before he freezes to death, plus based on Danny’s behaviour (and maybe some off-colour remarks) toward Penny, he’s going to feel a need to get to her to protect her. 

I also see Danny as being a smoker. But if I write the character like that, am I encouraging smoking? Or seeing the antagonist realistically? 

Last year, I made a list of slang that I heard being used regularly in school, but I know some of it’s changed by now. Smoking is often referred to as “bangin’ darts”, unattractive girls are “ratchet”, and something bad or frustrating is “burnt”. I’m caught up in a cycle of self-doubt on whether I should use these in the dialogue or not. Oh, what the hell . . . The worst that can happen is they tell me it sounds dumb and then I make them rewrite it! Or give me suggestions and I’ll do it.

————————-

Adam parked his machine in beside the other three and raised his helmet so he could speak clearly. ” ‘Sup, boys?”

“Smoke break,” Danny told him, grinning. “Want a dart?”

“Naw, you know I’m quitting.” Adam waved him off and looked away.

“Yeah, you keep saying that,” Steve said. “But I keep seeing you in the smokers’ pit at school.”

“That’s ’cause that’s where all you losers hang out, dumbass.” Adam propped one knee on his seat. “Listen, what’s the plan here?”

“We’re heading to Rouyn, gonna pick up some two-fours and head back to AJ’s for a party,” Danny said. He exhaled a long puff of grey-white smoke mixed with the condensation of his breath.

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Blogging for Grades — I’m that kind of teacher!

Last week I introduced all three of my classes to the concept of blogging. Some of my students were already familiar with the concept, though that familiarity ranged between having vaguely heard of it to already having tried it on their own. By Friday, most of my students had set up their own blogs, as assigned — eventually their blogs will be evaluated as their Course Culminating Activities. Some are using WordPress, others doing Blogger. A few have already gotten followers, to their great surprise, and a few have taken right to it, adding photos and reblogging and generally enjoying the experience, which is extremely gratifying to me. Last semester, I had students grudgingly blogging, with much complaint and remarks that no-one would ever look at their work anyway.

My rationale for using blogs in the classroom is this:

  • It’s a positive internet presence for students who might only otherwise be online with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media.
  • It’s a demonstration of their best writing, like a portfolio — but one that they cannot lose.
  • It challenges their abilities to use communication software, graphics, written expression, and knowing their work could be visible to others puts a bit of pressure on to make sure it is good work.

Some of them don’t believe me when I tell them that future employers may search them up online, and that having a blog that demonstrates their capabilities in the English language could be of benefit. But these classes are taking to it rather well. So that brings up a whole new set of challenges for me:

  • A number of students have asked me how often I’ll expect them to blog. My answer is that ideally, they’d blog a little every day that we have class, reflecting on what they’ve learned and what they think about it, but that may not be practical. So maybe once a week. Even then, I have to remember that I’ll be the one to read through all of these in the end!
  • They’ve already started posting about their Independent Novel Studies. Do I have them continue to add to their original posts, or do a separate post for each chapter or section completed? I could teach them how to add a separate page to their blogs, as well.
  • Do I book a computer lab once a week? I tried that last semester, and the year before, but the students I had at the time generally didn’t complete their blogging in one period. It might work better this time around; most of my pupils have their own phones or tablets, making the task that much easier.

I’m excited to see what my students will produce. Whether we add separate pages or just keep them to the simple layout for now, one of the most powerful aspects of having each teenager blog about what we’re doing in class is that they’re seeing the Internet for more than just entertainment and messaging. Blogging is akin to journaling in many ways. I’ve also given them the option of making their blogs private, and providing me with the password, but since their material isn’t going to reveal personal details, I think we’ll be safe. That’s another powerful lesson as well — how blogs can be as anonymous or open as the user prefers. That’s a topic worthy of discussion this week, I think.

I still have to plan my lessons for the next few days, but we’ll see how they fared over the weekend. I want to see how many made progress in their novels, whether anyone spontaneously blogged, what they thought about the experience if they did, and if they didn’t, then why not? I’d like them to think about what it means to communicate online, as digital citizens. That’s on top of doing our class novel reading and starting our look at literary elements and devices. So much to do, so much to balance . . .

Plus, I have to start organizing a 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge taking place in two weeks. That means making up registration forms (would have liked to have done that today, but we had visitors for the teenager’s birthday), setting up the advertising, and ensuring the participants have rehearsal space. And my greatest fear is that if I don’t get enough registrants we may have to cancel the event. I worry about that a lot. I feel like it would be a bit embarrassing. But it is what it is — all I can do is try.

I also signed up last week to do a guest post on Mysti Parker’s blog, on the (fictional) scientific aspects of love, and that’s due tomorrow. Gotta get that done!

And then, I’m looking at that field trip to Ottawa ComicCon in May, so I have to get details together for the proposal (mainly bus estimates and accommodations, plus the tickets to the Con). I would still like to see that as a class project, but at this point it might be easier to do the legwork myself.

One task at a time. Remembering to breathe. My happy place at the moment is thinking about skiing. I was able to listen to my tunes while skiing this weekend, turning and swishing in time to the beat. I love those moments when I can lean into the curve and my uphill leg is bending, skimming over the snow like a bird dipping over water. It’s intensely satisfying to make those switch-backs without losing balance, gaining speed and then reining it back with one ski braking. An hour or so is all I can do before I’m wiped, and if I fall, I can’t get up without taking my skis off first. Still, it’s good.

Long day. Long weekend. Not much R&R to it, but the kids are happy, and I think I’ll sleep well tonight. Hoping, anyway. 🙂

I survived another school play!

Over the last three or four weeks, I’ve been stressing and worrying and enjoying and laughing my way through what I believe to be my 20th high school production for the public, as an educator. While I’m glad that it’s over, I’m also a little sad. It was so much fun to work with students who enjoyed what they were doing, to bring the play to various locations in our little town (three schools, a long-term care facility, and the LaSalle Theatre) — in spite of the headaches, angst, and schedule juggling, I was reminded of how much I truly love doing theatre. It’s easy to see how some can devote their lives to slogging through the process in off-off-Broadway venues, living hand-to-mouth for the sake of the art. It’s as enthralling as it is exhausting. And now that this performance is over — I posted the video of the final performance on YouTube, if you’d like to see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKvHegX2beA&feature=youtu.be — and I start to put away props and costumes, I half-wonder what to do with myself now.

I’ve got the usual list of chores and required tasks; I’ve got books to read and edit (looking forward to those!), marking to complete (always interesting to see what the students have to say), laundry to catch up on again (never really did get on that after finishing NaNoWriMo), and holiday preparations to make. I haven’t even started my Christmas cards, or wrapping presents. Thank heaven for online shopping, or else I wouldn’t have that done, either, although only half of the gifts I’ve ordered have arrived . . .

The final week of school before the break approaches as I write this. Hours away. I should be sleeping. The trouble is that the last week is very low on focus: we’re all tired, drained, ready for some relief from the daily routines, exhausted by the dark and the cold, and seeking distraction through present shopping, parties, choirs, holiday assemblies, etc. When I was a first-year teacher, I was bound and determined to teach every single class left this week, up to the minute. Thirteen years on, I still would like to use the time. Experience has taught me that the ideal and the reality are often very different things, though . . . At the very least, everyone needs to get in their independent novel studies by the end of the week. No homework over the break, except for the rounds of marking and editing…

Imagine, though, if high schools in Ontario started their school years in mid-August, when there is already a coolness to the air, and had exams in December like the colleges do, ending the semester with a two-week break. I can already anticipate the rush and stress of wrapping up the courses I have in those three weeks after the holidays, marking exams and culminating activities in a hurry while prepping for second semester in a matter of days. What would happen if January started as a fresh semester instead? And if we ended our year at the beginning of June, just when the weather is turning hot? Or if we adopted the system of 6 weeks on, two weeks off, year-round? This is such a long stretch, from Hallowe’en to Christmas (or Samhain to Yule, if you prefer), mentally and physically draining — it’s no wonder that the last week of school is sometimes just a write-off, a festival of in-class “film studies” and assemblies. We do try to get things done, but there is only so much a human being can take. I know I passed my limit some time ago, and that was even without the play.

My husband had suggested to me that I not do a play at all, seeing how tired I was from the pressures at work, but I chose to keep going because it was a positive, affirming activity that got me working with students who wanted to do good things. Kids who were willing to make the effort to bring something awesome to this community, reaching out to the young and the old. Being able to do that makes the rest of it much more bearable. I can’t not do extracurriculars — they are my salvation on rough days in the classroom, even if they wipe me out at the same time.

1 am. I will go to bed, try to sleep although I know how hyper the teenagers will be tomorrow and that it’s going to be both a slow and fast week. I didn’t make it to my staff Christmas party (was doing the play), and I haven’t heard of a Secret Santa gift exchange, and that’s too bad. But there are other things to look forward to, including the staff-student basketball game. I’ve decided to play this year, using my usual dirty technique of simply falling upon passing players like a tree in the forest. Maybe I’ll even bring some props this time . . .

The trouble is that when I’m up late, I can ignore the darkness of the day because I’m ensconced in the womb of the night. So much quieter, more peaceful, easier to think and sort and read. One week to go, and then the break, which will fly by as it always does. I’ll try to fill it with creative activities, too.

Good night.