6

Tales From School: 4, 3, 2, 1, Pharaohs Want Their Buildings Done

After an exhausting weekend of two 3-hour drives, 2 workshops, 1 roundtable, and a ton of fun new memories at Eau Claire, it was time to get back to Madison and back to school. With my college students, I managed to stay awake enough to discuss Mother Courage with them, but stayed up half the night brainstorming ideas for how to introduce my next unit to my elementary school students tomorrow. Since Passover is coming up next week, and we have two weeks off, I got them started on thinking about this month’s country, Egypt.

I started off today with a riddle:

“My first letter is in a TREE but is not a FRUIT, my second letter is in the GARDEN but is not a FLOWER, my third letter is in the SKY but is not in the CLOUDS, my fourth letter is on the PLAINS but not in the LAND, and my fifth letter is in the DESERT but not in the SAND.”

In order to solve it, my students needed to figure out that they had to cross off letters that appeared in both words. The first one was pretty easy, since E was the only option, but the second letter could be either G, A, D, or N; the third could be K or Y; the fourth could be P, I, or S; and the fifth could be D, E, R, or T. After a few missed attempts (Eakie, anyone?) and running back and forth from the map, they figured out that it was Egypt. Which led me to introducing the riddle of the Sphinx, which segued into learning basic facts about modern-day Egypt (the lecture portion of the class).

After our mid-class break, we went to the multi-purpose room where I showed them pictures of some of Egypt’s great wonders: the temple at Karnak with its great pillars; the temple at Abu Simbel with the giant pharaoh statues; the Pyramids of Giza; and of course, the Sphinx. This led to a game similar to Simon Says, but I called it Pharaoh’s Builders.

The premise: One student is “pharaoh,” and all the others are builders. Pharaoh does not like it when the builders are lazy, so they must walk around in the hot hot sun until he decides which structure he wants them to build. If he says “pyramid” the builders must get in a group of four and join hands at the top; any student who does not get in that group is eliminated. If he says “sphinx”, the builders must get in a group of three; one as the pharaoh, one as the body of a cat, and one as the magic wings. Again, whoever doesn’t get into a group in time is out. If the pharaoh wants a “temple” two builders stand together side by side (with even numbers, no one gets eliminated; however, we later amended the rule to say that the couple who pairs up the slowest is eliminated). And finally, if he wants a “pillar” that means that the builders must stop where they are and put their hands to the sides; the slowest one, or the one who does the wrong position, is out. The winner becomes the next pharaoh.

We did this for several rounds and it was extremely fun. For the most part. The hiccups that occurred:

  • Tracey kept forgetting what a pillar was, despite making the final two almost every round, crossing her arms instead of putting them to the side.
  • One time, with four players left, the pharaoh called “sphinx.” Bella kneeled, Nora went down on all fours behind her, and Perry made the wings, but as he knelt down, Nelly slipped between him and Nora, making her own wings. Of course, arguing ensued, with the pharaoh (and me) saying that Perry was out because he hesitated when making the wings, Bella and Nora saying that Nelly cheated by cutting in front of Perry. In the end, though, it was resolved when the pharaoh said “what the pharaoh says, goes,” which actually solved the problem, and Perry (who is a pretty easygoing kid) went to the sidelines with no argument.
  • The game was pretty much determined by whoever made the pillar pose the fastest when the pharaoh called out “pillar,” so basically it was a game of walking and waiting. In one round, however, when Nora and Stephanie were in the final two with Nelly as pharaoh, Perry yelled “pillar!” from the sidelines, which confused the heck out of everyone else. It was a great discipline opportunity however; once that round had finished and Nora had won, I told the class that Perry, being a disobedient builder and not respecting the rules of the game, would be required to sit the next round out, and that we would play two more rounds.
  • Of course, there was a ton of arguing “I got here first!” “You moved!” but for the most part, the “what the pharaoh says goes” rule worked to resolve it, and if not that, then “what the teacher says goes.”

Despite the aforementioned issues, I think that this game is incredibly useful and does not get annoying like other games (like The Game We Shall Never, Ever Mention Again). I could play Pharaoh’s builders all day. The best part is that the kids will definitely remember all those things now.

That was quite the long blog post. In other news, today is 4/4 and I paid my VISA bill today using check #444. So that’s something?

2

Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin: Looking for Laura (part 1, probably)

That’s So Jacob Presents:

Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin

Episode 12: Looking for Laura (Pepin County, WI)

At the moment, I’m relaxing in my Airbnb in lovely Eau Claire, WI, gearing up for tomorrow’s conference at which I’ll be presenting not one but two workshops and moderating a round table. Here goes nothing. 

But on the other hand…I’m out of Madison for the first time in ages! Every mile of flat highway, from Sauk County to Juneau to Jackson was such a treat after slaving away in my office or apartment all day long. I still brought work with me but I’m going to do only a minimal amount while I’m here.

Initially, I was a little sad to be going up alone, until I realized that it was 55 degrees and sunny, and that nothing was stopping me from going wherever the hell I wanted.

After 2 hours, I made it to Black River Falls. I went to the post office to drop a package off, and the lovely postal worker, Terri, recommended I try Mocha Mouse for coffee. A great choice; not only did I get coffee but also a cupcake, a sandwich, and a conversation with a lovely cashier called Luz.

Looking online at some maps of things I could do around me with the rest of the afternoon, I got two ideas. One of where to go, and one of how to recap it here not in so many words. Check out this experimental post.


An hour and a half or so and several counties later:

Leave a comment below!

Who thought that a trip to northwestern Wisconsin could be so much fun?

2

Undergrads These Days

So, this weekend I’m heading up to Eau Claire for the APO Sectionals conference, where I’m teaching 2 workshops on varying topics to (hopefully) a bunch of undergrads.

What’s really getting to me, though, is just how busy these undergrads are. Or seem to be.

I know that college students are at that age where they don’t yet know the meaning of commitment, or how to balance a cost/benefit ratio in life, but I think that it’s somehow gotten worse. Initially, 33 people from the chapter signed up to go to the conference this weekend, and now I think we’ll be lucky if even 15 make it. And there are some other groups that are not going at all, somewhat due to drivers/cost but mostly because of the all-too-vague “I’m busy.”

I mean, seriously. Too busy to take a weekend to have fun, learn, get a change of scenery, and study if you have a spare moment.

I know that school comes first, but usually, the phrase is followed by “I have an exam this week.” Only, it seems like I hear this from someone every week, for one reason or another. In the course I teach, we have just 2 exams – a midterm and a final – and I don’t think that either of them would require a student to spend 48 hours studying. But it seems like all these undergrads, whether they be in APO or students I teach, are constantly having exams in all their other classes, usually math and hard sciences. I constantly get emails from students who were absent that week saying that they had an exam right before and were tired after, or had an exam right after and studied all day right up until the exam started. One student emailed us saying that he had 3 exams in one day.

What is with all these exams? Why do they need to exist?

At this point, I try to put myself in the shoes of an undergrad, thinking back to my undergrad days, which were almost a decade ago. Granted, I did not have much of a social life, but I don’t ever remember having a constant barrage of exams, or a weekend where all I did was study. In fact, to this day, in my ten years of being a student in higher education, I have never even pulled an all-nighter. I remember doing some homework on weekends, but I usually spent at least 1 weekend a semester out of town, like the time I flew down to Baltimore for a play premiere, or when I drove to New York City and back in 48 hours to go to my aunt’s wedding. I worked a lot, and I worked hard, but I managed to have down time in there, which is why I did get down on myself a lot.

But that’s beside the point.

To this end, I look back even further, to my freshman year. I was leaning towards majoring in theater, but I still took the requisite English and Math courses. At the same time, my sister was a junior, majoring in early childhood education. I still remember talking on the phone with my parents my second semester, and my dad told me that I seemed to be working harder as a freshman than my sister had in her three years thus far. Granted, she didn’t graduate with a 3.5 GPA like I did, and she had this thing where she wanted to see how long she could go without going to the library (turns out that she never even set foot in the campus library, in all four years). Still, she got a job offer in her field, right out of college, and has had it ever since. Even though I only graduated with a 3.5, and granted, I didn’t get my dream job, I still somehow managed to muddle through, get my master’s and into my Ph.D. program. Both of the above outcomes, working world and higher ed, were feasible without constant studying or an all-nighter.

So, I don’t know what today’s college students’ excuses are. Unless my sister and I had the world’s easiest majors (which we probably did not) or were complete slackers, it seems to me that undergrads are working harder, and with the way this economy is going, probably for even less satisfying results.

I’m almost at that age where I say “kids these days…” with a dubious look, but something is definitely going on with today’s college students, whether it’s a lack of study skills or just a generation of vindictive professors.

1

Foiled by a French Word

Hey y’all, I’ve emerged from the crazy place I’ve been over the last week or so, alternating between stressing, running up and down the library stairs, sleeping in/staying up too late, sneezing/sniffling/dehydrated, and seeking out random places to get work done (including 1 hour of grading last night at Hurts Donut in Middleton, and 2 hours of reading/writing in a booth at Perkins) while trying (and failing) not to have too many sugary snacks. Even though I want them.

Today was actually relatively productive. Even though I didn’t get my day really started until about 12:30, at least I was up around 9 or 10. I headed over to Colectivo to get a cappuccino (yum), a sandwich (meh), and a cup of onion soup (…nasty), and proceed to discipline myself to work. First, I decided to read a book I’ve been meaning to send out for awhile. I gave myself one hour, and by the time the hour was up, I was 5 pages from the end of the 230-ish page book, so I finished it, ordered a mocha, and steeled myself for an hour of working on some of the most difficult writing I’ve ever done.

So, there I am, typing away, click click click la di da di da, when all of a sudden my brain just comes to a screeching halt. I need a word that refers to an incredibly talented and versatile individual, but I cannot think of one. There is a specific word I’m looking for, but it’s in the wrong section of my brain and I can’t find it. I know it either is or sounds French, so I run through every possible French word I know. Panache? No. Savoir-faire? No. Je ne s’ai quoi? No. AUGGGHHH.

It’s. Right. There. But I can’t find it.

I call for backup. My parents are in Ocean City, and my dad and I have a several-minute long conversation about this word, which neither of us can think of. He asks my mom, who asks one of her friends who is fluent in French which is convenient because today is that friend’s birthday and she lives all by herself and my mom almost forgot to call her.

I get off the phone and start frantically writing words. Virtuoso. Au courant. Tour-de-force. One of these may or may not be the answer, I feel like I’ll know it when I see it.

I open up Google Translate and try out some French words, go to dictionary.com and thesaurus.com, make yet another call to my dad, and now twenty minutes have been spent on this one word and I’m so desperate that I open up the Wikipedia page on English words of French origin and go down the list, starting at A and getting up to C before realizing how ridiculous I’m being. After trying out a bazillion different possible words, I settle on “tour-de-force” and continue onward.

Up to now, I still have no idea what that word might have been, although tour-de-force is probably the closest I got. However, I came across some other French words that, in my opinion, should have different meanings.

Blancmange. It refers to a type of sauce, but I think it should refer to someone who is sophisticated enough to order the correct wine for the meal.

Legerdemain. It’s a lovely way to refer to trickery, but what it should means is, someone who is incredibly skilled at bookkeeping or journaling/blogging.

Demimondaine. It refers to something sordid. What it should mean: an aging leading lady (think Ms. Moore)

Peignoir. It has to do with a hairdo. It should refer to someone whose hair is so perfect that others doubt it’s natural.

Joie de vivre. Means “joy of living.” Should mean “let’s all jump around like we’re young lovers frolicking around Paris in the spring.”

And on a final, quite random note:

While I was grocery shopping today, I walked past the school supplies and for a moment, my eyes saw the word illegal pad” on a small notebook; upon closer examination, it was just an ordinary legal pad with an oddly placed logo. Who decided the legality of pads, anyway? What if I wanted an illegal pad? What would it look like? Would I have to declare it at customs? Would it be considered contraband? Would I have to throw it across the border into Mexico? So many questions.

0

Spring Broken

Blleeeehhhhhhh.

I’m not sick or anything, but honestly, this Spring Break just sucks. This time last year, I was in Florida with Echo, and anticipating going to my cousin’s wedding in Baltimore, and two years before, I was also in Florida, at spring training.

And now, here I am on my couch, mind-numbingly thumbing through articles, not making a ton of progress. I need to start and finish a book, grade about 65 papers, do a lesson plan for tomorrow, and write write write.