Posts Tagged ‘school


Everything But Imaginary #456: How to Fit Comics in Class

With the school year approaching ever so fast, I find myself thinking about my lessons, my curriculum, and the pieces of literature I’m going to use to teach my students. And as I often do, I find myself thinking of the ways I would work in graphic novels if I could.

Everything But Imaginary #456: How to Fit Comics in Class


Back to school-proposed policies for 2012

As much as we all hate to admit it, summer is rapidly coming to a close. In a little more than a week I’ll be heading back to my classroom, getting things in order, writing lesson plans, wondering what that funny stain in row three left by a summer school student really is, etc.

To help get back in the swing of things, here are a few new policies that will make the 2012-2013 a little more enjoyable for everyone. (Please note, some of these policies may not have been technically approved by the school board.)

  1. Required reading for all English classes: Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener’s Atomic Robo series. Also required in science, math, and home ec.
  2. Students must supply teachers with their parents’ names, thus allowing us to address them as Klingons. (Example: “This is the third time you haven’t turned in your homework Joey, Son of Cooter. What’s up with that?)
  3. New dress code policy includes “Casual Fridays,” “Black Tie Tuesdays” and “Dress Like Your Favorite Muppet Wednesdays.”
  4. Presenting the teacher with an Apple is expressly discouraged. Teacher prefers Toshiba products.
  5. Oprah will randomly appear in classes, give everyone a car.
  6. Use of catch phrases like “YOLO” will be punishable by immediate detention. Use of “YOLO” while wearing a popped collar will qualify student for the Hunger Games.
  7. Science fair projects will be judged based on whether Phineas and Ferb would consider the construction of said project to be a challenge. All project names must end in suffix -INATOR.
  8. Students will be given random tickets with the names of other students. If their partner gets an “A,” student wins a free Big Mac from McDonald’s.
  9. Any student who has not been seen in the same room as Batman will be under constant suspicion.
  10. Pop SATs.
  11. Faculty lounges will feature a New Orleans-style snowball machine and a wide assortment of syrups.
  12. All extra credit assignments will include running the Gauntlet from American Gladiators.
  13. New faculty members will include Bill Nye the Science Guy in Chemistry, Nick Fury as ROTC coordinator, and The Stig in Driver’s Ed.
  14. Students are forbidden from telling their teachers what they did this weekend because we really, REALLY would rather not know.

It’s spreading…

As a teacher, I pride myself on my ability to help students relate elements of classic fiction to things that are relevant to them. As such, I never hesitate to make appropriate comparisons to contemporary movies, television shows, or other things from pop culture if I think it will help the student understand the point I’m trying to make.

Some days, the students do the work for me.

Today, I was discussing the concept of a “flashback,” explaining that it is a scene that is shown during the story that actually takes place at an earlier point in the timeline, often used to explain the characters’ history or backstory. Before I can give an example, a student shouts out:

“Like that guy on Phineas and Ferb!”













He then proceeded to explain to the class how Dr. Doofenshmirtz, upon capturing Perry the Platypus, would then begin to explain how some horrible event from his past influenced the creation of today’s invention. But he didn’t need to go into all that. He already got his “A.”


Students ahoy!

The first two days of a new school year are a snap. This is largely because the students haven’t arrived yet. Mine come back tomorrow.

(Yes, on a Friday. No, I don’t know why.)

But I’m feeling good. This year, for the first time, the only course I’ll be teaching will be English III (alias American Literature), with half of my classes being set aside for honors students. I’m excited about this. I won’t lie to you — nobody (teacher or student) is ever happy to get back to work after a blissful summer off, but I feel more optimistic about this year than I have many years past.

Please don’t burst my bubble. I’m still blowing it up.


Approaching summer’s end…

It’s been a lovely summer, friends, but it’s sadly almost over. For me, at least — school in Louisiana starts terribly early in August, and my vacation is rapidly drawing to a close.

So let me just give a little pre-school year advice to all the students out there who will be returning to the hallowed halls of learning, be it next week or next month or whenever. Remember: the teacher is not your enemy. The teacher is there to help you, to guide you, to aid you in accumulating knowledge.

We, the teachers, are not out to get you. We honestly are never happier than when we realize a student truly understands what we’re trying to teach you. It doesn’t benefit us at all if you fail — in fact, it makes our lives more difficult in numerous ways — from accounting for our grade distribution to the simple mathematical fact that it’s easier to average a bunch of 100s than it is a bunch of 26s in our gradebook.

We would like to be your friend, if possible, but you have to remember that’s not our job. We’re here — first and foremost — to teach you and the other people in the classroom with you. And while we’ll bend over backward to help any student that honestly wants to learn, likewise, we quickly lose respect for those students whose only goal seems to be disrupting the learning of others.

And yes, teachers are human beings. Sometimes, human beings have personality clashes. Sometimes they just don’t get along. But a good teacher is going to be professional enough to not let that interfere in the classroom. Remember: we’re not your enemy. We’re not there to destroy you or crush your dreams.

Do us a favor. Treat us the same way.


My fellow teachers…

I know that the song in the following YouTube video was written for the kids, but I think it behooves us to make this our anthem for the next two months as well. Whenever somebody asks me what I’m doing this summer, I don’t even know where to start answering… ’cause I got plans. Lots of work, but potentially, lots of reward.

But most of all, as each day comes around, I’m going to try my best to make sure that in every single possible way, today is gonna be a great day.


Dear Graduating Class of 2011…

As so many of our high school students head out into the real world (or college) this month, I thought I might take a few minutes to offer just a tiny bit of advice. It’s actually a pretty simple concept, but one that seems to have escaped many (not all, but many) of our young people.

Get ready, because those of you who don’t know it already are about to learn that the world is not about you.

A lot of you have had it pretty easy, and that’s okay. You’ve been kids. Your parents were there to take care of you, your teachers had a personal investment in watching you succeed. And while I hope your parents will always be there for you, the rest of it is about to change.

Those of you going to college — you’re going to enter an environment where teachers have so many students to consider that the attention you got in high school is going to seem downright personal by comparison. You’ll also find that they don’t have as much sympathy as you’re used to either. They’re not going to remind you daily when the next test is, when your next paper is due, or how many chapters will be on the next quiz. If you get study guides at all, do not expect them to be verbatim copies of the questions you will see on the test, and don’t expect the questions on the test to even be phrased the same way. And heaven forbid if you think you’re going to get those questions in the same order. Your teachers will give you a syllabus on the first day with the test schedule already there. If they mention it in class after that, it’ll either be a cursory reminder or to tell you the schedule has changed. Studying and preparing is now 100 percent on you. And don’t expect the university to be so forgiving of someone who’s mysteriously sick on every test day.

Those of you going into the job market — some of you have had your hands held for 12 years. You’re used to teachers who will bend over backwards, beg and plead with you to get your work done, to push yourself, to do your best. That’s because the teacher’s job is to make you as good as you can be. But when you get your own job, the boss doesn’t care about that. The boss cares about whether or not you can benefit his company, and if you can’t, his job isn’t to reshape you (assuming you will even allow yourself to be reshaped). Those of you who habitually turn in half-finished tests because you didn’t feel like doing the rest of it, who miss school for days at a time and expect someone to catch you up on everything you missed while you were out, who don’t pay attention, don’t take notes, and don’t care what your performance scores are? There is a word for people with that attitude in the workplace: unemployed.

And finally, for all of you, a last word. You’re all about to experience things you have never gone through before, and some of them will be difficult. But don’t make the mistake of thinking no one has ever gone through them before. I promise you, unless there’s going to be a disease named after you there is no problem you can name that somebody out there — probably someone you know — hasn’t already gone through at some point or another. Money, grades, relationships, co-workers you don’t get along with, insurance woes, that mysterious spot on the carpet… all of it. Any time you or one of your friends has said the phrase “Nobody understands,” you have been flat-out wrong. You are NOT a special little snowflake. Somebody has been there before.

But don’t think of that as a bad thing. The fact that someone has been through it means that someone, somewhere, knows what you’re going through. And if you can find them (they’re probably closer than you think) and ask them the right way, they may even be able to help.

And if you think I’m full of crap, that I don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s okay too. Because I was your age once and I remember thinking people giving me advice were full of crap. And then I went out and made a bunch of stupid mistakes because I was 18 and knew everything in the world, just like you. I just hope that someday, when you’re older and have a little perspective, you’ll be able to look back on this and say, simply, “Yep. I get it now.”


The end of the semester is near…

…and as is traditionally the case at such times, I’m exhausted. Still got a ton of work to do, so no real blog post tonight. Be back tomorrow for a new Everything But Imaginary at CX and a classic one right here.

And. Y’know. Buy my book and stuff.


This looks familiar… vaguely familiar…

I’m at my school today. Not where I teach, but where I went to college. I’m a judge for the district drama rally in the same theatre where I performed in my first play and most of my first dozen. I’ve been here since. I’ve seen other shows, concerts. I was here last week.

Today feels different.

Today I had the time to walk around. To look at everything. To see the paintings that have been hanging I’m these halls for at least 16 years, and probably many more. The giant sign for the campus radio station I used to look at through the booth window when Jason and I hosted our show. Collages of photographs from so many plays that feature my stunningly youthful face smiling back at me. I remember being that kid. I remember how I thought everything I did then was so important.

I remember flecks of paint, the grains of the wood, rust spots on the green room refrigerator. The fold of the curtain, the “break in case of fire” station just offstage, the rickety metal ladder that I was always terrified to climb, but I did over and over again.

I feel a little overwhelmed.

I forgot what this place means to me. How much I love it. How responsible it is for the man I am today. I want to step into those pictures with 19 year old Blake so I can warn him about the mistakes, but also so I could thank him for all the things he did right.

They say you can’t go home again. And they’re usually right. But that doesn’t mean it’s not nice to visit.


Conversations: About Edgar Allan Poe

I love teaching Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “Fall of the House of Usher” to my 11th graders. I love Poe’s language, I love his magnificent skill at crafting the perfect mood for his story, I love the way Poe could create characters and stories that stick with you not just hours after your finish the story, but months and years later. But mostly, I love teaching this story because invariably (as happened today), my class winds up having some variation of the following conversation:

Me: What the narrator is implying here is that… well… the Usher Family Tree didn’t have a lot of branches on it.
Student 1: You mean they’re inbred?
Me: Yep.
Student 2: I bet that’s why he’s so sick all the time!
Me: Very good. If a person has a recessive gene, then has a child with somebody else who has the same gene, there’s a much greater chance that the gene will become dominant. That can cause all kinds of different, unwanted conditions and abnormalities. From a genetic viewpoint, that’s the problem with inbreeding.
Student 2: Are there other problems?
Me: Of course. There’s the cultural reason it’s a bad idea.
Student 1: What’s the cultural reason?
Me: It gives me the flaming heebie-jeebies.

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