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July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July, wherever you may be, but especially if you’re in the USA. (Last I checked, the calendar reads July 4th everywhere else in the world, too).

I’m still around. Still wanting to write, to blog, to rekindle my wordsmith spirit. Still unsure about where to do it. I’ll share something I posted on

As an English teacher– or, as we say these days, more all-encompassingly, language arts teacher– the first writing assignment we assigned to those eager but frightened 7th grade students was called, simply enough, “Who Am I?” We begin the year hammering the concepts of imagery and figurative language, and this assignment, a mere paragraph, asks them to describe themselves using a simile or metaphor, i.e. “I am ______” or “I am like a _____.” Some students keep it basic, others really delve into portraying themselves in-depth with this figurative comparison.

If there’s one thing I feel that I never did enough of in the classroom, it was writing with the students, both in terms of modeling and simply demonstrating the value of the assignment. In the four years out of the last five that I taught LA7, I never did write my own “Who Am I?” And now, though I will be teaching, it won’t be language arts anymore. So “Who Am I?” has become a deeper question than usual.

Similes and metaphors are comparisons of two unlike objects, so I asked students not to compare themselves to another person, and even to avoid animals, but to try to compare themselves to inanimate objects. The usual outcomes would be: “I am like an open book…  you think you know me, but don’t judge me by my cover, you have to turn the pages to learn more” or “I am like a kaleidoscope, a plain tube on the outside but a beautiful ever-changing pattern on the inside.” Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m not sure what inanimate object I best compare to– but students usually got up to a week to complete this one-paragraph assignment, so I’ll give myself the same.

On the more literal level, my identity is once again in something of a crisis. When I started this blog (almost exactly) five years ago, I had just been hired for my first teaching job. Though I had my B.A. in English and received my endorsement to teach the same, as I was also “highly qualified” in social studies, I got hired to teach both, in one of the best middle schools in Colorado. I didn’t plan on teaching middle school, nor social studies, but all things considered, I was extremely fortunate to land where I did.

But now are bad times in public education. My school had to cut a teacher, and it ended up being me. I was floored when I got that news this past February 9th. I figured that, teaching in two different core subjects– the only one in the school to do so– I had a “niche” that made me safe.  But the cut came from social studies, where I had lowest seniority, instead of language arts, where I was not lowest. The good news is, it being my fifth year, I am nonprobationary, or “tenured” as it’s commonly known, although that’s not exactly the same thing. In any case, this status obligated the district to find another permanent position for me.

After six agonizing weeks, I was finally offered placement at a high school, teaching exclusively– social studies. It’s a good school and the principal actually called asking about me. But it’s a head-scratcher. I’m not only jumping levels, but teaching entirely out of my endorsement area. And social studies teachers are, frankly, a dime a dozen, and there are so many out there currently unemployed, who would kill for a high school job… but here I am.

Meanwhile, I was forced to move every last thing out of my classroom. It’s amazing just how much… stuff… you accumulate in your classroom over half a decade of teaching. Doesn’t help that I’m something of a pack rat with a strange fetish for office supplies. Now all this… stuff… sits in my “office” area in our basement. It’s now July 1st, and I have really done nothing to start sorting through it all.

So, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about blogging: a successful blog has a purpose. Just as we teachers instruct students that all writing has an intended audience and purpose– the same is true of writing here. If your purpose is “my random thoughts, whatever I feel like writing about,” well, that’s a vague-at-best purpose, nonspecific, and likely to be unsustainable.  I’ve come to realize that if there’s any silver bullet to explain why I kept fizzling out in my previous blogging attempts (dating all the way back to Xmas 2000), it’s that I never had that definite purpose.

Therefore, I now determine that the purpose for this blog will be 1) to document my organizational efforts with all my… stuff… and 2) to discuss my adjustment to becoming a high school social studies teacher. It’s a start.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2011 3:54 am

    Dude, sorry about the job situation.  Had no idea.  But, at least you were… relocated… or  whatever.  I blog not for any specific purpose.  Just to write, cuz it’s what I do.  I spend far more time on Twitter than I do here anymore, though.  Most of my friends from the old Xanga days have moved off to Fake Book or just moved on.  But… I’ll be here writing something at Xanga until Xanga goes away… whenever that ends up being.  Hope to see you around more often.  


  2. July 7, 2011 6:50 pm

    @warweasel – I do follow you on Twitter, and I should keep it “on” more. I follow so many peeps related to the Rockies (baseball) that there tweets kind of overwhelm the timeline. I know there’s some kind of grouping you can do there on Twitter but haven’t taken the time to figure all that out yet.


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I teach, drink coffee, and occasionally write stuff.

Writer In Retrospect

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