Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Year 12 Formal!

I don't normally do Friday nights. It's Shabbat. It's family time. Usually the Year 12 Formal is on a Thursday, sometimes a Wednesday, the last day of exams.

But the school was late in booking and that was what they could get. And I had to say goodbye to my students. There were a lot of my favourite students who graduated this year. Okay, I say that every year - and to be honest, my all-time favourite class graduated last year. But this was a very good class, with only one student who was a bit difficult and even he was only a bit naughty - I use the mild word for a good reason. Naughty, not impossible. And he handed in his work and did some good stuff during Literature Circles.

And there he was, a young man with a beard, a gentle smile and a twinkle in his eyes! That twinkle reminded you of his past, but it had become something positive.

We have our formal (the Senior Prom to my US readers)at what used to be the Hilton on the Park. It sounds swish, especially for a poor school like ours - and certainly the students have to pay quite a lot to dine there, but they're given a chance to pay it off, and on the night, the boys hire suits, the girls dress up stunningly and get their hair done and they arrive in shared stretch limos. We go there because it gives us the best deal - believe me, we have been to other hotels, one of which, a big chain I won't name, but which you'd know if I did, made things difficult for the SRC students who were making the arrangements at the time.

I go to say goodbye to kids I've known since they were in Year 7, and taught in Year 8. It's always just a bit sad for me, though for them it will be exciting - the whole world is about to open to them!

One of the students I hadn't taught, but whom I knew fairly well, through his siblings, was dancing joyously on his own on the dance floor. He didn't think he'd done well in the exam and so I told him that even if he didn't get what he wanted, there was always the next best thing and sometimes you can use that as a back door to what you do want. His family has had a very hard time, so I'm not surprised he was distracted this year, but I have no doubt he did his best.

Another student, who had always had his nose in a book when he was in my class, told me he was still researching and considering his options for next year. I suggested librarianship or at least an Arts degree, which he would handle well. This boy discovered the joys of ebooks when he was in Year 10, so he's still reading, he's just doing it on his Kindle. I remember when his group was doing Dragonkeeper in Literature Circles and the other students asked me if I'd mind asking him to read something else till they caught up with him, as he was way ahead in the novel. He didn't mind a bit! We were in the library and he cheerfully headed for the shelves. Needless to say, this boy is now towering over me.

I saw a young couple who were already an item  when I taught them in Year 8, still together and very sweet they were.

I saw some of my most faithful Book Clubbers. I barely recognised them, so grown up!

I will be looking out for what tertiary courses they have been offered, in January. Can't wait!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Year 10

This week is our last with Year 10. I was hoping to have a farewell party for my Year 10 Book Club members, but they will be doing a robotics activity in the library until well into lunchtime. Still, I've decided to bring some goodies anyway. And I've spoken to some of them already.

I remember most of them as Year 8 students - not all, because we've had new students come to us, but most. That was the last time we were able to do our Year 8 Community Project. They still have something by that name, but it doesn't involve fundraising for charity. It doesn't involve any community outside the school.

I will be sad to see them go. They're great kids!

And today was my last class with my Year 10 Creative Writing students. I still have the Year 9 kids for another couple of sessions. But I'm sad to say goodbye.

Because it was their last session, I skipped the usual group story reading and tried something else. I printed out a bunch of folk songs that had stories to them, read and discussed and pointed out that some of them had already been used in fiction, eg "Sweet Polly Oliver"(Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment) and "Tam Lin"(Pamela Dean's novel of the same name). They're a great place to go for story ideas. Not a bad thing when you're suffering a bit of writer's block!

After we'd read and discussed some, I asked them to go online and listen to the songs on YouTube. Then I asked if they could do a story outline using one of those folk songs as an inspiration.

It was an interesting business. I fully expected Marwa to be interested in "She Moved Through The Fair", as it's a ghost story and she's a ghost story writer, but she chose the murder ballad "Lily Of The West", as did Tez, who so enjoyed the tune that she was bopping away to Joan Baez as she wrote her outline. Mind you, Tez being Tez, the murder didn't quite happen. Not as it did in the ballad, anyway.

Tamar went for "Sweet Polly Oliver".  She in fact listened to several versions before deciding she liked Kate Marshall's best.  She and Marwa were discussing the various versions and which they preferred.

Anthony chose "The Twa Corbies", which apparently he and Marwa had studied in English and I pointed out the difference between that and "Three Ravens".

He did fizzle out and asked if he could do something else, as I had suspected he would, but it was late in the session and I said, "Next week."

All in all an interesting session and the kids enjoyed it, I think.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Thinking back on the round robins

So, today I typed up all five round robin stories from last week, ready to post on the blog. I can invite the students to check them out.

Typing them told me some things about the writers. There was one story I started as a romantic comedy, which ended with the characters from the date gone wrong knocked over and killed by a car. Another story which began, "Be nice," said my father. "He's your brother," told me that the authors - all of them - had pesky little brothers and had strong feelings about them. One that I finished started with a ghost eating a peanut butter sandwich, led into a memory of a childhood friend(the ghost) and went on to a scary other spirit. I finished it off with the "ghost of peanut butter sandwiches past" and suggested that the child ghost had died from anaphylactic shock.But I think it was going there anyway.

The kids had fun and they learned something - so did I.

I think they were able to relax and write because they knew they wouldn't have to write the whole thing. In some cases they would never have finished the story they started, it would have fizled out, but this way - yes, they could use their imaginations and just have fun.

It's not something you can really do more than once, but it's worth thinking about for small groups.