Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Personal vs. professional

One of the big questions that has plagued me from well before day one of my internship has been the struggle of how much personal information to divulge to my students (a problem reflected in my continual concern about this forum), and how much information is beneficial for students. I do not know that I have yet arrived at an answer to this very difficult question, but I do think that I will have to answer it once I decide to pursue a permanent posting as a teacher. How will my classroom reflect me and encourage learning? How will my daily and weekly routines show who I am as a person and as a teacher? How much information is "too much information", and how little keeps students alienated? It is a fine line, even a tightrope, to walk, and I am still figuring it out. I guess the goal is to eventually become Mr. D. Turner, the combination of private and professional, and for students to see the Teaching of Turner along with the Life of Turner.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

English teacher arts

As I have been teaching and working on establishing curriculum in my English Language Arts classroom, I have been reminded of the gaps that exist in my own reading, and I realize that I need to begin to make amends to rectify this situtation. I began this last week by finally reading J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye (I loved it), but I realize that the problem goes much deeper than that. So, in the spirit of my ongoing list of "Movies I need to see" (which is unfortunately not much different from what it was in February 2005), I have decided to begin a list of "Books I need to read". These are the kind of books should be essential to have read in order to be an English teacher (that of course I have not yet read). (I think the biggest hole to plug is American Lit, interestingly enough.)

Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton
Moby Dick - Herman Melville
Anything by Charles Dickens
1984 - George Orwell
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Native Son - Richard Wright
As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
On The Road - Jack Kerouac
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
The Kraken Wakes - John Wyndham
Who Has Seen The Wind? - W.O. Mitchell
Medicine River - Thomas King
Two Solitudes - Hugh McLennan
The Iliad
The Odyssey
A Passage To India - E.M. Forster
The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Of course, this small list will take me up to years to clear out due simply to the non-exclusion of other reading, but I am always willing to keep the list going, and, at least I have somewhere to start. Suggestions, as always, are welcome!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The play's the thing

One of my biggest regrets of my university career has been that I did not have more opportunities to participate in drama. It was just always one of those things that was too time-consuming or too inconvenient for me to take a meaningful interest in, and I knew I would come back to it sometime. I always had tastes of it at camp, working with kids for a week crafting a skit or pantomime to music in a drama skill, but never that extended exposure for which I have been longing since high school. One of the best parts of my internship has been helping out with the drama as assistant director (and stage manager of sorts). I have so greatly enjoyed being on the other side of the production and seeing these kids come from nothing to a great cast. We had our first performance tonight, and I had forgotten the thrill of the show, the excitement of going on stage, and the mix of adrenaline and fear that courses through your veins when someone forgets a line. I got that taste again tonight, and I have re-energized my love for the theatre. Now it will be interesting if I can find a way to keep this dramatic fire ignited and keep kindled my love for AC-TING! (see Jon Lovitz, SNL). Yes, the play is the thing, and all the world's a stage. At least my world is.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

In need of distraction

I do not know exactly when or how it happened, but somehow I have now reached the point at which it is difficult for me to do anything, particularly more routine tasks, without a distraction. I almost cannot commit to doing things without having other conversations on the go or having music or television in the background. It is a very interesting problem to have, and I still wonder why I have it. It may be because I have grown up in an age that is increasingly media-oriented, and so it is a natural extension to always have something going. It could be because there is simply too much out there to digest, and multi-tasking is the only way to be able to do it with any kind of volume or efficiency. Or it could be because I need the distractions from what I am doing because it is stressful (ie schoolwork). But it is troubling that I do sometimes find it difficult to focus without this "white noise" (whether music or video games or television or whatever). The other problem, of course, is that although I may complete more tasks in a given time (or seem to), that tasks take me more time to complete - so instead of doing things sequentially, I am simply doing them concurrently, which may result in a loss not of productivity, but of quality. Sigh. To wit, I have checked several other conversations while writing this post, which has taken me far longer to compose than I had anticipated. I need a different distraction.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Unbeatable

This is my public affirmation of my continued fandom of M. Night Shyamalan, regardless of the lack of commercial success of this summer's Lady in the Water. I recently re-watched Unbreakable, and it was every bit as brilliant a reworking of a superhero movie as when I first watched it five years ago. Some people have discounted his work since the "twist endings" are not as good as they used to be, but those people are silly. Shyamalan's work is about reinventing genres, amazing performances, and subtle camerawork, not a twist ending. He is truly our generation's Hitchcock, and I think his work will certainly stand the test of time and critical analysis. I will be intrigued to see what he does next to "come back" from the disappointment of Lady in the Water (which was a great film, just one that a lot of people did not understand correctly) in a couple of years. In my DVD player, M. Night is alright.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Turner television

It has been a little while since I have shared my small screen indulgences with you, so I figured I would update things all at once. The current "must watch immediately" list consists of only three shows: Corner Gas, which just recently featured one of the series' better episodes in "Blog River"; Survivor: Cook Islands, which has now reached the jury phase and gotten much more interesting, and Heroes, which is easily the best show on television right now. Period. In the "when I have time" category is My Name Is Earl, as well as the "reali-T" series I Pity The Fool, starring Mr. T. In the "I would like to watch but just cannot find the time" category right now are The Office and Jericho, while The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and Hockey Night in Canada are all in the "I am looking forward to having time and cable television again" category. I suppose when I look at it now that that it looks like a lot of TV, but I think that it works out to about an hour or less each day, which is why I cannot keep up with everything I would like to. Well, I guess if all I can complain about is how I don't get to watch enough TV, I am doing alright.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Productively unproductive

I had a weekend that was productive in its unproductivity. I accomplished a lot over the course of the weekend, particularly in the area of long-overdue social interaction and significant decisions about my future, yet I still have a feeling of lack of accomplishment. There were things that I needed to accomplish for school that I did not think about, and so I am still stressed out now about the upcoming week, and I feel guilty about not getting enough done. This feeling of obligation and guilt from lack of fulfillment of that obligation is the worst part of internship; after all, no matter how much I get done, it is never enough. But I suppose when I can work a fifteen-hour day and still not get enough work done that that is life in full-time teaching. Urgh.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Midterm election thoughts

Today was voting day for our southern neighbours, and I do not imagine that too many Canadians even took notice (unless they are fans of The Daily Show or The Colbert Report). It was not the big presidential election, but the "midterm elections" in which seats in the Senate, the House of Representatives, and Governors are up for grabs. And lo and behold, the Democrats took control of the House, effectively taking power away from the previously omnipotent Republicans (who had controlled all three houses). Watching the American system in action has made me think about our own brand of politics. Say what you want about the negative elements of a two-party system with fixed elections and somewhat disproportionate district distribution; but in some ways it makes sense. Sure, in theory, the balance could shift every two years from one party to another, but what is to say that is a bad thing, especially when compared to the Canadian legacy of minority governments? It could keep parties in check and ensure strong mandates from governing parties. In Canada, we mock the two-party system, while we often fail to acknowledge our own two-party system (quick, name the two parties that have been elected to federal government in Canada...Liberals and Conservatives!) and the flaws of fracturing a vote with regionally-based parties (cough*Bloc*cough) that have no business in the federal arena. Sure, California re-elected Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor, but we've got Belinda Stronach in our Parliament. I guess what I am trying to say is that for all the criticism that Canadians make of the American electoral process that Canada has as many flaws in our system, and that once you understand the American system, it (gasp!) begins to make some sense. I do not necessarily believe that Canada needs to reform our electoral system to follow the model of the US, but at least that we can see some value in it and take the plank out of our own eye before investigating the speck in theirs.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

U218 Singles

How do you sum up a career like that of U2 in one disc? That is the question that the band is attempting to answer with its upcoming release "U218 Singles", which consists of sixteen of the band's most famous singles, as well as two new tracks recorded with Rick Rubin (of Johnny Cash's American Recordings and Audioslave fame of late). First of all, here is the recently announced tracklist:

1. Beautiful Day / 2. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / 3. Pride (In The Name Of Love) / 4. With Or Without You / 5. Vertigo / 6. New Year's Day / 7. Mysterious Ways / 8. Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of / 9. Where The Streets Have No Name / 10. Sweetest Thing / 11. Sunday Bloody Sunday / 12. One / 13. Desire / 14. Walk On / 15. Elevation / 16. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own / 17. The Saints Are Coming (NEW TRACK) / 18. Window In The Skies (NEW TRACK)

Despite the fact that I already own all but two of these tracks several times over, I will likely be buying the CD. Why? Because I'm a sucker, that's why. And because there's a special edition that comes with a bonus DVD. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised with the track selection on this disc. If the CD's purpose is to serve as the one U2 CD that people can own to have their main radio hits, it accomplishes it, and I would recommend it for that purpose. There are, in fact, few changes I would make to the track selection - or even order, for that matter - though I would argue for the inclusion of "Even Better Than The Real Thing" from Achtung Baby, as well as tracks from 1993's Zooropa and 1997's Pop, which are not represented here ("Numb" and "Discotheque, respectively). Then again, I suppose if people want a more complete Best Of that they can buy the Best of 1980-1990 and Best of 1990-2000 and the inevitable Best of 2000-2010 in five years. But if you are among those who did not buy either of those collections over the past eight years, it seems as if U218 Singles will suffice for that "I just want to own all of U2's hits on one CD" crowd, while causing people like me to fork out more money for what essentially amounts to a glorified cash grab between album releases. And I do not know what's worse: that they grab for cash, or that I know that they do and still participate. Sigh.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Under construction

Well, it took two months, but it finally happened. At least one student has found my blog. (I had an assignment handed into me that had my profile picture on the front.) Although I have anticipated this happening since I knew I would be interning, it is slightly different to have had it actually happen (although a relief that it took two months). The question, of course, is how this affects my blog. The answer, I think, is that it does not affect my posting. I feel comfortable in what I am posting in content, and will strive to continue the high quality of Turner thoughts to which you are accustomed. But I have decided as an interim measure to counteract any possible problems to remove my links list in the interim, since I cannot control content on external sites. I have wanted to revise that list and format for some time, and I now have the impetus to do so. So please do not be offended by the removal of the links...consider this a construction site that should be back at full capacity in January. Until then, you can drive at reasonable speed through my regular posts and my archives! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Photocopying 101

One of the most common jokes about the College of Education is that they offer classes like "chalkboard writing" and "photocopying"...which, of course, they do not. But it truly is amazing how much time and effort those little things will take out of your day. Photocopying, stapling, hole punching, and collating all can take a lot of time, and they often prove to be very frustrating activities. In addition, it can be difficult to put handouts in just the right order and to make sure everything is done just right. Plus, photocopiers are always jamming or breaking down - and when you understand just how many sheets get run through a photocopier each day, you will begin to appreciate how crucial of an educational tool the photocopier really is. And there is nothing worse than being stuck waiting for another teacher who is photocopying a ton of material. Many of you will scoff at the so-called difficulty of photocopying, but if you ask any teacher, they will most likely state that photocopying is one of the biggest headaches of the profession, and one of the biggest nuisances of their life. Trick of the teaching trade number 4: learn to photocopy.

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