Year in Reflection

reverseThis was a fairly big year for me.  I went back to school and now have one semester of graduate school under my belt, and I also took on chairmanship of my department, which has brought challenges both expected and unexpected.  I also had the opportunity to go to the NCTE convention for the first time in ten years, and I presented at the GISA convention.

Every year, I make the same resolution, and I keep it for about the same length of time most people keep theirs: to cook more meals.  It’s hard to find the time.  I am not very good at the planning part.  I do well for a while, but then I leave off planning for a while, and resort to picking up junk on the way home.  Plus, I have been getting home later this year with more work to do, and it has caused problems for me as far as cooking meals.  Any tips?  I downloaded a meal spinner app from iTunes for my iPhone.  Maybe it will help; maybe not.  What I need to do is come up with some kind of way to plan meals.  Anyone know of a good program or tip for doing that?

Another thing I want to do is try to grade things faster.  I tend to get backlogged, and then I have to spend a day just plowing through grading.  I would like to get things back to students faster, but I admit that’s really hard for me to do with writing.  I spend a lot of time on it.  I am at least glad that I finished grading before the holidays because it is very hard for me to grade at home — my children see to that.  So, for that matter, does my husband.  Instead, I was able to relax and enjoy the holidays as time off.  Too many of my colleagues are grading papers if Twitter and Facebook are any indication.

I want to spend more time reading.  I am hoping that now that I have an iPhone, I can work through some books using Stanza.  I read 23 books this year, not counting re-reads (I re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Twilight).  That’s not too bad, but if I set aside a little bit more time, I could probably double it.  It’s not a race or anything, but I would like to read more than I do.

I think I did fairly well with my British Literature classes in light of a very short October (filled with days off for Jewish holidays).  I cannot assign homework over Jewish holidays, nor can I assign major assignments to be due the day after a Jewish holiday, and while I understand and respect the reasons for these requests, it does make it hard to move through any material that month.  Next year, they will mostly be on the weekends, so it should be better.  In spite of that, my students still read excerpts from Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales and all of Macbeth.  Next semester I start with A Midsummer Night’s DreamThe Taming of the Shrew in one class and in another.  I do not feel as good about the number of books I was able to teach in my Hero with a Thousand Faces elective, which was seriously curtailed by the holidays.  Still, the students did learn a lot about Joseph Campbell, and I think I accomplished my mail goal of helping them see the movies they watch and the books they read in a different light.  My ninth grade class is going fine — I taught phrases, punctuation (commas, quotation marks, italics/underlining, semicolons, colons, and apostrophes), and two novels — The Bean Trees and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  All in all, I think I was able to move through a good amount of material in a quality way that helped my students learn it.  I seem to be getting better at that rhythm the longer I teach at my school.  I am hoping some changes we are discussing will help me even more next year.

So that’s it.  My reflection for this year.

Creative Commons License photo credit: maria flying

15 thoughts on “Year in Reflection”

  1. As for food, I've found some of the recipes in YOU on a Diet that are quick and designed to be healthy. Some of them might even be found edible by the kiddos.

    I love the novel choices; it sounds like you have a gloriously open 9th grade curriculum (posted at the UbD wiki?).

    I love teaching Midsummer–I use the Folger method with it and have more fun than with any other unit I teach. This quarter I'm trying the Folger with Macbeth, but with mixed results for my 10th graders. Any thoughts on clarifying language understanding for kids who learned to hate Will in 9th grade?

    Have a fabulous new year!

    1. We do have a lot of academic freedom, Liesl, but I have not posted either unit at the wiki yet. My MND unit is there, and so is my Macbeth. I usually have kids who had trouble with the language and rushed through the Shakespeare they had to read before, and what I do is simply take time, and I am sure to explain it as we go along, especially the dirty parts. The more of those Folger activities you can do to get kids immersed in the text, the better. Joe Scotese has some cool activities with looking at Shakespeare versus Shakespeare Made Easy. I can invite you to his site if you're interested. He has some great resources and really knows how to get kids into the text.

  2. Desperation Dinners is a great cookbook. They say that you can make any meal in them in 20 minutes and they start with the meat frozen solid. Besides being fast many of the recipes are very good.

  3. I contribute to a very casual, family dinner blog, here and it has links to a few other good ones. I cook about 4-5 dinners a week for 6 to 9 people, and it works out something like this: Cook Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday night, Wednesday can be leftovers/cereal/sandwich night, Thursday is Takeout, Friday we do a weekly cocktail hour with friends that generall involves a hodge-podge of food, and Saturday I usually take the kids to my parents' and we eat with them, or if at home I may cook or get take-out. A pressure cooker is great because it's so fast and doesn't require a lot of advance planning. It's basically a crock pot on fast forward. Breakfast for dinner is always quick, easy, and popular with the kids. If you make meatloaf or spaghetti sauce, make double and freeze half (you can make two full-sized meatloafs on a broiler pan and all the grease runs underneath.

    Prepeared foods from the grocery can be cheap if you watch for deals–my Kroger runs the freshly-cooked rotisserie chickens for $3.99 between 3 and 6;00 p.m., which is about the same as a raw whole chicken. They're great whole or easy to shred/chop for recipes without having to cook a whole chicken first.

  4. I occasionally check your website for English teaching inspiration/ideas, but now am able to offer you information about what methods have worked for me when it comes to planning meals for a family of 4.

    1) Plan and shop for your week's meals on Saturday morning. (Buy things for breakfast and lunches, too.) You may think this will take a long time. It does not, especially after a few weeks. You will become a wiz at getting in and getting out of the store.

    2) Cook double on Saturday and Sunday nights so you have enough for leftovers on Monday and Tuesday. Think chili, casseroles, and roast chicken or another large piece of meat. Aim for 4 or 5 recipes for the week. You'll have leftovers. My trick w/leftovers is not to eat them the very next night but one or two nights later. Get enough green vegetables on Saturday to last the week . Buy brussels sprouts, chard, collard greens, frozen peas, broccoli, green beans or whatever's in season that you and your family will eat. In the spring and summer, obviously, corn and tomatoes and lots more vegetables are available. All you need is a protein, starch (bread, rice, couscous, potato, polenta) and vegetable.

    3) Think along these lines: Meat Mondays, Pasta Tuesdays, Leftover Wednesdays, Chicken Thursdays, Fish Fridays (or whatever you want). This way you get a wide variety every week.

    4) Do not begin to think about what's for dinner on your way home from work. This is a surefire way to a) become depressed and stressed; b) spend too much money; and c) eat nutritionally deficient food. If you have the ingredients at home to make a quick, decent meal, you will do it.

    5) I have found the small cooking magazine Everyday Food (by Martha Stewart Living) available in grocery stores to be a great resource. Lots of simple but good meals with a strong focus on seasonal and widely available ingredients.

    That's it. Good luck!

  5. Hi Dana,

    Thanks for your post & your honesty! You sure have a full plate.

    Just a few thoughts to share.

    FWIW, my local library now has downloadable audio books formatted for iPods. Yay for free audiobooks!

    Cooking Light is a great source of quick & easy meals. I have one of their books (creatively titled Quick & Easy, or something like that) and they give great tips on what to stock in your pantry so you can always rustle up a meal. It has saved my life on a regular basis.


  6. Dana,

    Wow, you sure have a full plate!

    I understand the pick-up-junky-stuff-on-the-way-home-from-work. What has saved me on a regular basis is my recipes from Cooking Light magazine. I don't really have time to read the magazine any more, but the recipes I have are great.

    They've also got a Quick & Easy cookbook, which has a list of stuff to keep in your pantry so you can throw together a meal FAST.

    Another good resource for quick meal ideas:

    Now, about books. I haven't been able to get Stanza to work, which is not so bas– I get to drive and keep up with the podcasts I like. But, my public library has just started having downloadable audio books available for use on iPods! Yours might too– an you could download in the privacy of your own home.

    Keep the faith,


  7. Blessings to you—-I went online this morning and you were starting to teach The Taming of the Shrew—-Our class starts it on Monday as well. I was happy to garner some ideas from the lesson plan you are using. I teach high school lit in St. Petersburg, Russia, as such our class has some upper level ESL and I would like to be connected to Joe Scotese's ideas on making Shakespeare easy if you please. We did Romeo and Juliet last year and they loved it but you are right—-in part they loved it because I took a lot of time to let them soak it in.

    thanks, Cathy

  8. Thanks for the meal planning suggestions, folks. I cooked all week last week except for Thursday when the National Honor Society induction ceremony brought me home too late. I used a combination of an iPhone app call Grocery IQ and an online meal planner at springpad, and it worked pretty well for me.

  9. Hello,

    I am a high school and junior high ELL teacher and I am planning on using The Bean Trees next semester. I am also interested in using The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time. I have never used either with ELL students and I am looking for some good ideas and/or lesson plans to support the reading of the books. Are you willing to share anything you have that worked well?

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