Busy Summer

I will be honest; I don’t usually work very hard on school-related tasks over the summer. I usually read whatever I want and work on genealogy. This summer is a busy summer for me. I am teaching a senior seminar for students who are studying for part of the year in Israel. It is a week-long intensive class (8:30-3:30 each day). Students will be taking quizzes and writing each day. I am also tutoring two students. I unexpectedly found myself conducting (for lack of a better word) professional development when I began blogging about an education book I was reading, and many of my readers decided they wanted to read it, too. I set up a wiki for us all to use to collaborate. My school changed the summer reading selections, so I have some more reading to do, as well. Of course, a Harry Potter film and book are also coming out, and frankly, whether one thinks it’s silly or not, Harry Potter is a priority for me. So, it’s kind of turning in the year without a summer, I suppose. I’ll be a better teacher for it, but like my department head told me, I also need time to decompress. I need to figure out how to get things done and still feel as if I have “me-time.”

The Never Forget Project

I know some of my family and friends who might be interested in a current project I’m brewing with a colleague don’t read my education blog regularly, so I thought I would let those of you who check in here more often know about it.

The Reflective Teacher is a second-year teacher. He has amazing ideas and shares them on his blog, which, by the way, has an appropriate title, for he is one of the most reflective teachers I’ve ever known. He mentioned in a recent post that he was doing a unit on the Holocaust, and I offered my resources as a teacher at a Jewish high school to help. Over the course of a couple of days, my offer turned into a full collaboration between his students in mine. My students will share their family histories, allowing his students the opportunity to learn how to conduct an interview and research. We are talking about a possible book. This project could potentially be pretty amazing. You can learn more about it in the following places:

Junior Journey 2006

I posted this video to my education blog, but I realize not everyone who reads this blog reads that one, and I really wanted to share it. Our current seniors made this video following their junior trip — this is the same trip I just chaperoned for our current juniors. The video will give you a good idea of the things I saw and did on my own recent trip.

[tags]Memphis, Tennessee, Birmingham, Montgomery, Alabama, field trip, Civil Rights, rock and roll, blues, Elvis[/tags]

Civil Rights and Rock and Roll Journey

I returned this afternoon from chaperoning a field trip through Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama and Memphis, Tennessee. I am tired and have a lot to do to prepare for school tomorrow, but if you are interested in my trip, you can learn more at my education blog.

We had two medical problems — one student’s diabetic injection needles were misplaced and another broke his nose (a colleague and I took him to the ER), some stress, and a lot of fun.

We spent the bulk of our trip in Memphis. Our guide said that Memphis gets under your skin, and that once you visit, you can’t wait to go back. I think he was right. This was the theme of our trip:

Download link

[tags]Walking in Memphis, Marc Cohn[/tags]

Delta Blues

Robert JohnsonSomething most of you probably don’t know about me is that I love Delta Blues. I cannot claim to be an expert, and some of you probably know a lot more about the various musicians than I do, but I do know what I like. I bought my first blues album on cassette tape when I was a teenager. It was a Robert Johnson album — King of the Delta Blues Singers. My introduction to Delta Blues was probably not dissimilar to that of most skinny white kids. I liked Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones. In all the various books, interviews, and articles I read, these artists all named the blues as their favorite music — the music that made them want to play. I took a guitar class in high school when I lived in California. My teacher, Mr. Ingram, used to play blues recordings, admonishing us to “listen to the guitar, not the lyrics!” Of course, that ensured that we would try to make out what that old bluesman on the scratchy recording was saying.

I never heard anything that sounded quite as desperate as Robert Johnson’s quaking voice proclaiming the hell hound was on his trail. While I can’t claim to own a lot of blues music, when I am flipping stations in the radio or on TV and run into the blues, I always stop and listen for a while. I guess my relationship with the blues is a funny one — I forget about how much I love the blues until I hear it; therefore, it doesn’t occur to me to buy blues CD’s when I’m shopping or to seek out blues music in other forms.

I have been looking for some time for a good way to play music from this blog. I used to have a Radio Blog here, and I still like those, but I wanted something smaller — and frankly, something that wouldn’t be such a pain to update. Whenever I wanted to change out music, I had to convert my mp3’s to files that could be played by the Radio Blog, then upload the music via FTP. It might not seem like a big deal, but it took quite a while due to the large size of most sound files. And to be perfectly honest, I never got much feedback that indicated any readers really listened to the music, so it was probably a lot of hard work for just about nothing. I think Radio Blogs are great if you don’t mind doing a lot of work to keep them updated, or if you don’t want to update often. In fact, I use them on several websites on which I have static music, such as the Great Gatsby activity, Zora Neale Hurston activity, and Romanticism activity I have created for my students.

I knew I didn’t want to put Radio Blog back on the site, and I wasn’t happy with the fact that Last.fm didn’t have streaming audio for blogs — I could link to songs, and listeners could hear snippets of them, but as good as Last.fm is if you want to somewhat personalize your radio, it isn’t very good for blogging purposes (or else I haven’t figured out how to use it correctly). I don’t like just linking to other sites. I wanted to provide content, maybe even introduce readers to things they hadn’t heard before. I wanted to share some music that I liked, that moved me. And I wanted to do it on my own blog, not by sending you elsewhere and hoping you’d go listen.

Every once in a while, when I thought about it, I would poke around looking for something that worked like YouTube or Google Video, only for music. In other words, I didn’t want to mess around with big files — I just wanted to share music. I found such a site today. Of course, I don’t pretend I’m sharing anything new. In fact, I’d be willing to bet a lot of you have already heard of Odeo. Odeo allows bloggers to embed players in their blogs. What’s more, they have several style choices, so you can pick the size and color that best matches your blog scheme. Since I had never visited the site before, I decided to browse the music before trying to search for music I liked by artist or song. Odeo’s sidebar allows visitors to browse by topic. I selected music (Odeo also has podcasts on lots of other topics). One of the featured channels on the main music page was Delta Blues Museum: Clarksdale, Mississippi. I browsed through their previous podcasts and chose an older one from last February featuring music about Dealing with the Devil. If you want to give it a listen, it’s in the player in the lefthand sidebar. I really enjoyed it, and I hope you do, too. I’ll try to update with links to other music and podcasts I enjoy fairly often, as updating is really painless with Odeo.

Next month I am chaperoning a trip with the 11th graders to Alabama and Memphis, Tennessee. It is a Civil Rights journey. On the way, we will visit the battleground of the Civil Rights Movements in Alabama along with an exploration of African-American roots music in Memphis. I am most looking forward to this part of the trip. We will visit Graceland and Beale Street. We are going to a real blues club to hear live music. I can’t wait.

Down to the Wire

One more day until NaNoWriMo begins. I feel pretty good about my idea, and I have some scenes sketched out in my head. You know, there might be something to waiting until November 1, even if there are ideas brewing. I don’t think it would be good if, say, the ideas started brewing around about December 1, but I started thinking about this book mid-October.

Am I wrong to be annoyed by NaNoWriMo forum posters who drop their publication credits or mention in some fake blasé way that an editor is already interested? It reminds me of namedroppers somehow. Yes, we’re excited for you. Go pretend you’re not gloating somewhere else.

I am *almost* caught up with grading. Everything that was handed in by Friday has now been graded, but I collected one-paragraph essays from 9th graders today and will collect more tomorrow. On Wednesday, I collect two sets of vocabulary cards. My 10th grade Writing class will have to turn in another essay this week. I never stay caught up for long.

Well, I retire to what feels like a well-earned session with a book.


Our Field Day was Friday, and I did things I should not have done considering the shape I’m in, but the good news is our team won. Go Light Blue! Woooo!

My sister is on MySpace after mocking me about it, but that’s OK. I will link her if she gives me permission and maybe she’ll let you be her friend.

The 9/11 tribute 2,996 is already rolling, and many bloggers have their tributes up already. Mine will appear tomorrow morning at 8:46. I have the honor of remembering Eric Andrew Lehrfeld, who was in the North Tower on the 106th floor at 8:46 when American Airlines Flight 11 hit the tower. Be sure to check back tomorrow, and please read the posts of the other 2,996 bloggers.

Summer Stuff

I have actually made a unit lesson plan and done a few single day lesson plans, so I’m not being completely lazy. Aside from that, I’m just writing. Not much here, I guess, but I’ve been busier than usual on my other blogs.

At the Pensieve, I’ve recently posted about J.K. Rowling’s interview on the Richard & Judy show in the UK, the potion Dumbledore drank in the cave in Half-Blood Prince, and Draco Malfoy. I just completed a re-read of the Harry Potter series, so I’ve been a bit busier over there than usual. Oh, and the Pensieve turned two years old on June 23.

At my genealogy blog, I posted what I think is a kind of funny deconstruction of how I’m related to Mark Twain. A lot of people criticize genealogists for looking for famous folks in their family tree. I still laugh at the way I figured this one out.

At my education blog, which turned a year old on June 25, I have recently posted on the following topics:

There’s a lot there, as I have been doing the majority of my writing there for the last month.

I can’t remember if I said it here or not, but I also spent a week at a Schools Attuned workshop in Charlotte, NC. I learned a lot and may even earn a bunch of CEU’s out of the deal when I complete a few other requirements.

I have also finally started the summer reading I need to do to prepare for school.

I suppose I’ve been staying fairly busy.