Tag Archives: teaching

7 Quick Takes on Books, el Oso, and Assumptions

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

Yesterday, I went to the first evening of the Jane Austen Festival here in Louisville. (I have to fight the urge to spell it “Austin” because I lived in that city for so long!) I am not a huge Jane Austen fan, and she has no particular ties to Louisville, but some friends highly encouraged me to check it out, so I did. It was smaller than other festivals I’ve attended; I was spoiled by the massive Maryland Renaissance Festival, which is the second-largest in the country. The hat game was strong.

The main reason I attended was to see a staged reading of the latest adaptation of Persuasion. The playwright performed as Anne Elliot; she and several of the other actors sang original songs; and all the actors were delightful despite completely lacking costumes, props, and sets. They were losing the light very quickly as the play headed towards the end, but they persisted. I enjoyed it immensely.

I only knew a little about the story, but I found it pretty easy to follow. I did wonder why the main “villain” was supposed to be such a scoundrel. According to my companions, that storyline was cut for the adaptation. I guess that’s the risk of adapting a story to a different form: you have to decide what to leave out without affecting the story too much. That part probably should have stayed in.

— 2 —

Duolingo has been making some big changes in its language teaching pedagogy. The biggest one, for me, was adding a ton of new lower-level content to the Spanish course. I went from having covered everything except the last dozen skills to getting almost 60 new skills below the point I’d reached. So I went from reviewing future-tense conjugations (everything is review for me because I have a minor in Spanish) to things like “ballpoint pen” and “I have a blue shirt.”

The bright spot is that all of the new, low-level skills come with a way to test out quickly. I’ve been easily finishing a skill a day for the last several days. I’m not a fan of the new developments (especially Crowns), but I do like testing out of so many things.

— 3 —

I also still like Duolingo because of the crazy sentences, such as the ones in the video I shared a few weeks ago. One random sentence in Spanish is “el oso no cabe por la puerta,” which means, “the bear doesn’t fit through the door.” Whenever I get a weird sentence, I head to the discussion forums to see everyone else’s reactions.

When would I possibly need to say that the bear doesn’t fit through the door? My favorite was the scenario in which that sentence is followed by, “No, wait, the bear does fit through the door! Run!”

My second favorite was this gem of an illustration:

Winnie-the-Pooh can't get out of Rabbit's hole. Aww.

Silly old bear.

— 4 —

I worked as a teacher before I moved to Austin, and I’ve been working as a teacher since I left Austin. In the middle, I barely even thought about the mechanics of teaching. When I got back into it last summer, I wanted to go back to the style of lesson and unit planning I’d learned in grad school, but there was a catch. All my templates were Excel files, and after those interim years, I didn’t have access to Excel anymore. My solution was to semi-successfully convert the file to LibreOffice‘s spreadsheet file format and go from there.

That worked well since I used my personal laptop at school. I never wanted to have to bring my own computer to work, though, and I don’t have to anymore. My new school issued me a sweet Chromebook about five minutes after I showed up for my first faculty meeting. (The place is on point.)

This past week, I spent several distraught hours trying to figure out how to get my course plans from Excel or even LibreOffice into Google Sheets. There are a lot of really useful sheet-to-sheet links I didn’t want to give up. I patched together a plan that I thought might work… and it finally dawned on me: I can’t be the first person with this problem; I should just Google it. Lo and behold, sometime since I graduated, the files were made available in Google Sheets format. Crisis averted.

— 5 —

I checked out The Power and the Glory from the library since I almost never buy books anymore. (Then again, I did go on a mini-spree in the spring, but that was a fluke.) It was compelling, and I was excited to finish it when this happened (possible spoilers):

From page 164 to page 149? Oops.

I was very worried until I flipped through the duplicate pages and found that the story continued on just fine after the second instance of page 164:

This is how it’s supposed to go. This is how *numbers* go.

The last time I remember something that crazy happening in a book was when a bunch of copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix were missing the last fifty pages. I think I also remember some copies of Deathly Hallows repeating pages just like that copy of The Power and the Glory, but I can’t find anything online about that right now.

For me personally, there was a big bug smashed into my copy of Half-Blood Prince. I was so into the book that I just scraped it out with a tissue really quickly so I could keep reading!

Since this misprint didn’t involve any missing pages or non-missing bugs, I guess I lucked out.

— 6 —

This week, I found a bunch of iBooks on my phone that I’d forgotten I own. This is not as exciting as getting new books, though, since they only live on my phone. #21stcenturyproblems

— 7 —

I read a lot about managing relationships of all kinds. I was particularly struck by an article about how to ask questions to figure out someone’s perspective. It’s so easy to assume that someone is being intentionally rude or is totally satisfied with a situation. It’s much more awkward to ask, but in my book, that beats assuming the wrong thing.


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

7 Quick Takes I Meant to Share a Long Time Ago

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

Way, way back in the early days of this past school year, I really thought I would still be able to blog regularly even while teaching. That was not a great plan. It turned out to be an exceptionally difficult year. This week’s takes lean heavily on things that happened actual months ago that I never got around to sharing.

The moral of the story is that, even when I disappear from this space for months at a time, it’s likelier than not that I’ll be back.

— 2 —

Although I didn’t blog, I did manage to keep up with my reading. Conquering several texts for school helped me finish the Goodreads Challenge much earlier than usual: in October!

I completed my 22 book challenge.

I ended the year by reading 29 books, which made me feel like a boss. For this year, I crammed in so many books (including some short ones) that I’m 90% finished with my challenge already! Despite many defeats over the last ten months, I won when it came to reading.

— 3 —

As in previous years, reading a handful of articles in Pocket and watching YouTube videos I send there put me in the top 1% of Pocket users for the year. I still think that most of the user base must just toss things in and completely forget about them.

pockettop1percent2017

Can I count those 30 books towards my Goodreads challenge?

— 4 —

Finally, just a few weeks ago, I completed a year-long streak on Duolingo. I learned Spanish in high school and minored in it at Maryland, so I can’t attest to how well one can learn a language with Duo, but I’ve found it useful for working on vocabulary. I don’t get much of that from Evangelio del dia and El País.

oneyearofduolingo

— 5 —

That’s the end of the old news. In a new development, I have been taking private lessons in West Coast Swing, and it’s been such an enriching experience. Even before my year-long hiatus (which I saw coming), I knew I would eventually need private lessons to correct my bad habits and dig into my particular needs as a dancer. I started saving for them at one point, but other, more urgent expenses derailed that.

Now, though, I’ve only had three private lessons, and I can already appreciate the difference.

As a classroom English teacher, I know full well that many of my students can achieve more with one-on-one attention. I’ve seen it happen. That’s not how school works, though. I’m one teacher, and I have between 9 and 27 students who all deserve my attention. But they can’t get it individually and simultaneously. School is primarily a place for group instruction.

(The concept of “small groups” frustrates me to no end. Three people is barely a group, and eight is kind of a lot to be considered “small.”)

I do my best to work with students one-on-one as much as I can, but we’re all in the classroom together. I have to figure out how to teach that way, and they have to learn that way.

Now that I’m experiencing the dance version of tutoring, I understand both sides of that tension much better. (And for the record, I still also take group dance classes. They make my budget happy.)

— 6 —

Let’s close with two very different throwback videos. I was up early yesterday, so I saw Drake’s new video within hours of its premiere. That is very unlike me. The linchpin was that it features a Degrassi reunion! I’m on the fence about Drake, and I don’t always like his language choices, but Degrassi will leave me smitten any day. It’s nice to see Drake acknowledge that he didn’t really start from the bottom; he started from a Canadian teen soap opera.

— 7 —

Finally, I love the 80s, and I was so enchanted by this hit list mash-up featuring Sesame Street characters doing delightful parodies. Watch all the way to the end, check out the amazing costumes, and pay attention to the backstage banter!


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

The Art of Preaching and Teaching (Review: “Rebuilding Your Message”)

I used to think I was indecisive. Now I’m not so sure. I can usually come down squarely on one side or the other about my opinions on books. Bumped? Loved it. Wild at Heart? Did not love it. Then I read Rebuilt, and I mostly liked it. I liked its foundational ideas, although I thought it had some flaws. And now I have read one of the follow-up volumes: Rebuilding Your Message: Practical Tools to Strengthen Your Preaching and Teaching, again by Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran. It is definitely practical, but I don’t know if I’m totally on board with these practices.

"Street closed" sign.

This, for example, is not a good message to send. (Public domain image from bossfight.co)

In general, I’m ambivalent about this book. Some of the advice is definitely needed. I agree with these authors (and others) that forming disciples is the true mission of the Church. That is where we need to direct our energy. I’m totally behind that. I agree less that focusing on attracting new disciples is the best action plan to fulfill that mission. Forming and strengthening existing disciples should inspire them to make new disciples. I’m all about reclaiming the lost sheep in the new evangelization, and that seems to be the fundamental difference that keeps me from loving books by Fr. White and Corcoran.

Read the rest at Austin CNM.

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