180 Days: Day 94–It’s Sorta Like Groundhog Day aka Today Looks Like Yesterday

Today was a day to tighten up loose ends as we move into a new text next week. We finished taking notes on Elizabethan England so that when we start Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Julius Caesar on Tuesday (yes, we have a three day weekend–yippee!).

So the brevity of this post reflects the continuation of a two-day introduction to Shakespeare–and my students continued love affair with all things Tudor.

So for some fun, here’s some Fakespeare (no, he really didn’t say these things despite them being contributed to him in a viral online world) to take you into the weekend:

 “Love me or hate me, both are in my favor…If you love me, I’ll always be in your heart…If you hate me, I’ll always be in your mind.”

“What a Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book,
Don’t know much about the french I took
But I do know that I love you,
And I know that if you love me, too,
What a wonderful world this would be
Don’t know much about geography,
Don’t know much trigonometry
Don’t know much about algebra,
Don’t know what a slide rule is for
But I do know that one and one is two,
And if this one could be with you,
What a wonderful world this would be
Now, I don’t claim to be an “A” student,
But I’m tryin’ to be
For maybe by being an “A” student, baby,
I can win your love for me
Don’t know much about history,
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book,
Don’t know much about the french I took
But I do know that I love you,
And I know that if you love me, too,
What a wonderful world this would be
Science book
French I took
But I do know that I love you,
And I know that if you love me, too,
What a wonderful world this would be

180 Days: Day 89–Logical Fallacy Fun

My students had a great time today examining logical fallacies in advertising. I always start with the one logical fallacy they tend to all remember and understand: The Bandwagon Fallacy.

We started the day skimming the list of fallacies. Then I showed them this old XBox 360 advertisement featuring a flash mob and the tagline “Jump In.” It was pure Bandwagon (with a touch of Glittering Generality) and the students recognized it right off. And of course, each class had to mimic and laugh for a few minutes afterward. So having tapped their prior knowledge and motivation, I could now move on to other fallacies they were less familiar with.

Overall, my students took a second look at advertising and began to peel the ads apart looking for their fallacies. After examining some ads with my guidance and direction, each table group drew a fallacy from a basket. Once the groups had their fallacy, they were tasked with finding examples so they could teach their fallacies to each other. Since bandwagon was my sample fallacy, no group had the bandwagon fallacy. I also kept snobbery out of the mix as I followed up with the old 1980s Grey Poupon commercial as a second example. But they learned terms like non-sequitur and red herring quickly.

XBox 360 Ad (the ad was banned in some countries for supposedly promoting violence–which prompts a whole other sidebar conversation with students about censorship)

Grey Poupon Ad from 1981

“Fake Tales of San Francisco” by Arctic Monkeys


180 Days: Day 75–Army Strong!

Today was the longest day of my work year. And I loved every minute of it. Besides teaching a regular day, I hosted three groups of Army JROTC cadets throughout the evening to work with them on public affairs.

My own son was a JROTC cadet when he was in high school, and I thoroughly support JROTC programs in whatever way I possibly can. So I spent the evening going over what public relations is and how to use it to boost our battalion among our student body.

We looked at more efficient ways to use their social media–which sites for which audiences, how to post once and hit multiple sites, etc. Then we looked at developing a strong brand/message to share. We examined Coca-Cola advertisements. We looked at how to use “product placement” around campus and engage in guerrilla marketing campaigns around campus.

Overall, I had a fun, fun evening with students I normally don’t see on a daily basis. These students are always well-behaved and attentive and engaged in the activities. They remind me why I appreciated my son’s battalion so much–as this group is like a family. My son’s battalion gave him a place to feel at home and like he belonged at school. And so many of these kids find that same connection through our school’s program. I’m all for any program that gives kids a safe haven and leadership training, to boot!

I know that many folks question the military having access to our students. But I know from experience that most of these kids will never join the U.S. Military of any branch. Instead, each will have a reverence and understanding of when to lead, when to follow, and how to appreciate the commitment, hard work, and sacrifice of others.

So Saxon Regiment, stay Army Strong!

“Army Strong” Television Commercial from 2009

“American Soldier” by Toby Keith


180 Days: Day 74–It’s Tolerable, I Suppose

My seniors are asking some fantastic questions–can you marry your cousin? why would you want to marry your cousin? why would a 16-year-old girl marry a 40-year-old guy? And a host of other great questions. Hence we began our conversation about primogeniture and entailment–and consolidation of wealth among the few. We found the way that Austen’s world still connects to our world, just in a slightly different way. And we discussed the importance of not using 21st Century cultural mores to pass judgment on the cultural mores of a society from 200 years ago.

While the rules of society in the early 1800s focused on preserving wealth among the old money families, my students today are facing a very modern version of preserving wealth among the few. We might not marry our cousins to keep money and titles and prestige in the family, but we do have billionaires marrying from/into other billionaire families (example: Trump+Kushner, Prince+DeVos). Marrying for money and influence is nothing new, and certainly still exists.

Darcy’s unwillingness to even dance with a member outside his own party and his open condemnation of Elizabeth as “tolerable”, but not worth his time because other men were not dancing with her, highlights just how ingrained sticking within the small spheres of influence is with the uber rich. Forget how insulting it is to be called tolerable. Darcy’s seemingly arrogant behavior makes sense to a degree–he is unwilling to even have a fun evening with those he considers beneath his sphere of influence. He spares them and himself the problem of having to let those beneath him down (as they surely would see his dancing with them as encouragement) when he returns to his sphere.

Attempting to understand a character’s motives is essential in breaking down the character and finding a deeper understanding of a text. So my students and I continue to work at empathizing with Darcy’s horrible, yet tolerable behavior.

“She Is Tolerable” from 1995’s A&E Production of Pride and Prejudice

“Dawn” from the Original Motion Picture Score of 2005’s Pride and Prejudice by Dario Marianelli


180 Days: Day 63–No Beauty in the Beast

Lord of the Flies is getting good–at least according to my sophomores. We are up to chapter 6 today, the chapter titled “Beast from Air.” This is the turning point where the students quit thinking of “the beast” as a boogeyman and start to understand that man IS the beast–a dead man that becomes nothing more than a caricature of the marionette he was in life being pulled by the strings of his parachute to mimic live movement rather than the orders of his wartorn government.

And this is the point in the novel in which the kids ask me to read to them every day. They like my read alouds–which I call think alouds because I pause often to question, comment, predict, or otherwise engage with the text. I point out literary devices they do not recognize. I ask them to consider why an author would include certain plot points before getting the “a-ha” of “foreshadowing” flowing forth. I don’t mind modeling for them. But now I’ve gotta figure out how to get that guided practice in. I have a few ideas that I will be working on with the kids to practice close reading strategies that we’ve gone over time and time again when we return from winter break.

Meanwhile, my seniors continued their notetaking for satire. We looked at some examples from music, film, and TV, as well as online sources like The Onion and The Spoof. I also brought in a couple of old MAD Magazines for the kids to peruse. I was heartbroken that none of the students had ever heard of MAD Magazine as Alfred E. Neumann was a staple in my childhood. So much so, that I took advantage of the $9.99 holiday subscription rate this year. I miss that over-the-top view of the world. Plus, I need some new magazines to add to the stack that students can understand. The newest MAD in my arsenal is four years old. So I’m due for some DJT era MADness.

Alfred Trump MAD-Magazine

“The Mob Song” from Disney’s Beauty and Beast featuring Luke Evans and Josh Gad


180 Days: Day 55–A Shirt and a Pass

Tomorrow will be a crazy day where large groups of students are out of class for 10-15 minutes at a time as the local photographer who takes all studio photos for our yearbook is on campus to take group photos of all of our 50+ clubs on campus. So the chaos began in earnest today in the lead up to what has become an exciting annual tradition to see which clubs have the coolest shirts and who has the most shirts and made it into the most photos. Students wear these club shirts like a badge of honor.

So lunchtime today my room was abuzz with students streaming in and out collecting t-shirts and passes for the two clubs that I advise: National Honor Society and Photo Club. It’s amazing how much students, teachers, administrators, custodial staff, etc. have to coordinate for groups of students to take a few pictures to be immortalized in the pages of a yearbook that will collect dust on a crowded bookshelf or be lost to the ages in a box of mementos. But it is important to our students and their sense of community. So we do it. And I skip lunch to make sure it works smoothly for the nearly 100 students in my two clubs.

Let the club games begin…we are ready!

“Mickey Mouse Club” by The Mouseketeers (and yes, our school has a Disney Club for student who love all things Disney…)

But the club I always wanted to join, but was never offered:

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles


30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 2–My Parental Units

I’m thankful that I’ve been lucky enough to have both parents as an active part of my upbringing. And while my parents divorced when I was 17, both still have a deep impact in my life today–as does my step-mother.

My mom passed away four and half years ago. Despite her loss, I think of her daily and I employ the lessons of her life as I live each day. My mother was a kind, generous woman who struggled with having self-worth throughout her life. While I may have many regrets about how often I showed or verbalized my love to her, I know that she knows how instrumental she has been to my life. My son and I still cut the same jokes we did with her. She lived with us the last eleven years of her life while she grappled with under/unemployment. Through her efforts to remain employed, I learned a lot about dreaming big even when faced with ageism and sexism. When she became ill in mid-2013, her downward spiral happened all too fast. Emphysema is a nasty disease. And I would never wish it on even the worst of enemies. I feel her loss daily, but I know that she is with me in my heart and in my mind and in my memories.

Mom. In her 30s, her 40s, and her early 60s–not long before she passed.

Thankfully, my dad is still with us. And he and my step-mom are laid back, but energetic. But unfortunately, they live 1,500 miles away. We do talk often, but not often enough. The two-hour time difference often leaves only the weekends for us to catch up unless they want me to call late at night. I try to travel back at least once a year. My son and I used to take annual summer road trips to visit them. But now that my son is in college, I’ve been flying back for weekend visits. I’m looking for my next set of open days so I can fly back and spend some time with them. My dad and step-mom have been married for 29 years now, so step-mom has played a long-term sustaining role in my life, even though I was 19 going on 20 when she and dad married. She takes good care of Dad, and I’ve seen Dad grow and do things with her that he never did with my mom. He found the right woman with whom to spend his life. Dad and step-mom have long taught me about the strength and importance of family. I carry that lesson with me every day.

Dad and step-mom. Always together. Always smiling and laughing. 

My brother used to sing the distinctive opening word to Danzig’s “Mother” every time my mom entered the room.

“Mother” by Danzig

“Okie from Muskogee” by Merle Haggard

My dad listens to country music, and particularly to the old school singers like Hank Sr., Roger Miller, etc. So here’s one of the legends.


180 Days: Day 38–NaNoWriMo Starts Today! Woo Hoo!

Extra Credit! Extra Credit! Come and Get Your Extra Credit!…

If there’s one thing that students love almost as much as summer, it’s extra credit. Enter National Novel Writing Month, more affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo started with a small band of writers in 1999 and has spread internationally in the ensuing years. The goal is to write every day in the month of November on a single story and at the end of the month have over 100 pages/50,000 words towards a novel by month’s end.

I explained NaNo to all of my students and offered them extra credit for every day in November that they made a legitimate attempt at writing a single story, hopefully leading to at least the beginnings of a novel. My intention is to help students build discipline–writing daily is one proven way to become a better writer. Practice. Practice. Practice. Plus, students do not get many opportunities to write narratives in high school, much less narratives of their on topics/genres of their own choosing. So this project really is all about sparking some creativity amongst the students–even though it’s extra credit.

I got the typical questions. “Have you ever written a novel?” “Is it hard?” “How do you do it?” “Do you type or handwrite?” etc. etc. etc.

  1. No. I’ve never finished a novel with NaNo, but I have written every day for the month of November in years past. And I enjoy the challenge in developing a story, or building a format, or blogging daily, or whatever I choose to do.
  2. Yes. It can be hard. But, no. It’s not always. It’s a process. It’s all about learning who you are as a writer and how to develop your own voice/style/methods/strategies as a writer.
  3. Personally, I use both computer and handwritten techniques. I often blog straight onto my computer. I edit online and post with minimal revision. I often write fiction into a binder filled with looseleaf paper. I have a research section and a text section. I research names, topics, etc. online and record the info by hand, then write by hand before typing and revising. I like carrying a notebook everywhere I go, much like Quentin Tarantino does, even if I don’t use it. This part really is about building self-discipline to write with regularity.

Last year, my NaNo goal was to blog every day in November in order to kickstart my blog. I succeeded for not just 30 days, but over 45 days. And while I’ve written on the blog sporadically in the months afterward, I decided to start this school year borrowing an idea from a colleague, resulting in this 180 Days blog. Let my blog tell the story of my school year. It may not be a novel, but it will be a documentation of a year of my school life. And for NaNo this year, my plan is to continue my 180 Days blog while picking up my FB 30 Days of Thanksgiving, and adding a sprinkling of my Jules’s Jukebox into the mix. So I do plan to have a flurry of writing throughout November. I want to set a good example for my students. I write because I want to write. I write because I want to challenge myself. I write because I want to develop discipline.

So here we go…

“Miserlou” by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones


180 Days: Day 37–“Never Love A Wild Thing, Mr. Bell”

Holly Golightly gave this salient advise in Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And today, I played Holly Golightly for Halloween to a group of ghosts, ghouls, zombies, and steampunk red riding hoods who would rather have been anywhere else but English class. But in English class they sit reading and writing summaries about war. Today is a short class period because of our modified schedule for intervention period–mercifully. So while students write their summaries, I let them “trick or treat” my pumpkin full of smarties candies and tell me about their costumes. Many guess correctly that I’m “Audrey Hepburn” though I’m the character she famously portrayed in Blake Edwards’s 1961 classic. Their guesses allow me the “in” to tell them about Capote and that they should read the book.

Speaking of loving wild things, tonight the Dodgers play the Astros in Game 6 of the World Series too. The ‘Stros are up 3-2 in this wild World Series, so tonight’s win will mean “winner takes all” or “live to fight another day” depending on which team you are. I am glad that the Dodgers are in the finals because they are a home team. I don’t dislike the Dodgers. But I do have a hard time with some of their fans, who heckled my son mercilessly when he was a five year old attending his first major league game proudly wearing his T-Ball uniform, which happened to be not from a rival team, but THE rival team (SF Giants). And Dodger Stadium is a real pain to get in and out of being in the heart of downtown in a ravine with only one way in or out. So needless to say, I typically avoid Dodgers games. It also hurts their cause that they beat my team for the National League title to make it to the Series–I grew up watching the Chicago Cubs. So I have chosen to cheer for the Astros this year. First, because they are representing a city trying to recover from a massive trauma with a millennial flood. Second, because I’ve actually been to see the Astros before, way back in the Astrodome days to see Nolan Ryan pitch. And third, because this would be their franchise’s first World Series win.

So tonight I will hand out candy with my brother and sister-in-law while we intermittently watch the game and horror movies. We will see where the night takes us wild things. And if I have any students showing up tomorrow after their late night prowls tonight.

holly golightly

Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

“Moon River” by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.


30 Days of Thanksgiving: November 1st

A few years ago, I started participating in this Facebook 30 Days of Thanksgiving “challenge” to write something I’m thankful for each day of the month of November, the month of Thanksgiving. So this year, I chose to move my FB “challenge” to my blog page to accompany my 180 Days and Jules’s Jukebox posts.

I am thankful for…

…my son, Tristan. I’ve always called him “My Angel Boy” because I consider him my gift from above that has given my life purpose and direction. He has given me so much to be proud of –from his high school accomplishments to his current status as an honor student in college who works part-time on the weekends. We have shared so many defining experiences–from traveling abroad together and road trips across the US for our bonding time to successes and losses in our lives, like losing my mother at a too young age to his success in earning his Eagle Rank in Scouts and becoming the commanding officer of his high school JROTC battalion. I am grateful that we still talk to each other. It’s too easy for a 19-year-old to not talk to his parents at all, but we still sound ideas and thoughts off each other–albeit, most of the time it’s at weird early hours of the weekend mornings when we happen to be home at the same time. I am always thankful when he safely arrives at home or school after his weekly 100 mile each way trip to/from his university. I’m just happy and thankful that T is in my life.