On the eve of spring break

This has been a devastatingly busy, enervating winter term. The challenges brought on by weather disruptions caused constant juggling and too many late nights. I’m still processing everything I’ve learned and find myself limping towards the finish line that is spring break.

The news about changes being made to the SAT is most welcome. Democratizing test prep and refocusing the content (such as it is) will make the college preparatory school world a slightly more sane place. Bravo. Of course we’d all be better off if the most selective colleges and universities showed real leadership and completely abandoned the SAT.

The ongoing crisis in Syria paired with new developments in Ukraine reminds those of us who teach at boarding schools of the importance of our work. This morning’s #sunchat was a conversation about how schools can connect their students with their surrounding communities. As usual, my boarding school perspective left me feeling like an outsider. My school’s immediate community is Newtown, PA, but we spend more time thinking about the ever widening concentric circles of town, state, country, and globe when we consider where we fit in. Unexpectedly, one of my contrarian tweets almost went viral (“School should be center of local community. Not just sending students out, but bringing people in for sports, arts, lectures, etc.”). I suppose I was thinking about work we are doing in the English department to create a lecture series that will bring poets and other writers to campus for events open to the public. It seems that many teachers and administrators out there, both in the public and private school worlds, are putting as much thought into how they can make their school campuses centers of community as they into their plans to send their students out to do service learning.

While I’m trying to relax over break, I also need to keep working on my plans for the English department’s summer blogging assignment. I’ve got documents to produce, processes to troubleshoot, and colleagues to email. (I hope they are all on a beach somewhere and don’t respond for a while.) I’ll be teaching Sonia Sotomayor’s My Beloved World for the first time when we return from break, so it would be worth my time to begin writing lesson plans, quizzes, prompts, and so forth so that I’m not scrambling every night in April. I’m thinking about doing the old reverse-flipped-class concept for a week in there. That would involve my students reading the book in class and blogging about the reading at night. I haven’t tried this before, and I have a variety of concerns. Freshmen aren’t great about bringing their books to class, so I’ll need to have spare copies available (and maybe use a little carrot/stick action, which I detest). I need to correctly judge how much reading they can get done in class, and I’ll need to get the prompts just right to inspire good results. I need to plan a communique to go home to parents as well. These are easily surmountable obstacles, but they loom large in my exhausted end-of-term state.

What should I read over break for my own enjoyment? On the top of my list are Roddy Doyle’s The Guts and Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure. What could be better than new books from two of my favorite authors? Do you have any spring break reading suggestions for me?

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