Tag Archives: work

Hey, March!

So, February blinked past, which seems especially awkward this year considering the extra day and all. I’m not sure what kept everyone else busy, but February 2012, was a packed month.

I got assigned to assist on developing my work’s new website. And then I got promoted to full-time in the Higher Education Services Department. I took a break with the Gallifrey Twenty-three, this year’s incarnation of the annual Los Angeles Doctor Who con. And in the midst of everything finished applying to Ph.D. programs.

But my life has calmed down now. The website went live, and I have some time to think again.

It will pick up again, I’m sure, especially when I start traveling for work, but, for now, I’m enjoying the time to myself and the space to write more.

Discussing Special Topics in Calamity Physics with teenagers 3

It’s been a couple of weeks because the students had mid-terms, scholarship applications, and then there was Spring Break. So this is a recap for around 3 weeks worth of discussion, which works out to be about an hour’s worth of actual conversation.

The students, for the most part, really enjoy the novel. The action has picked up (I mean there was a dead body in a swimming pool at the party they crashed), and the students are in.

What I’ve noticed most through the discussions are the numerous elements that need explaining. Not because the story is necessarily complicated, but because the story takes place predominantly on the East Coast and most of the students haven’t even made it to Northern California. The element that stood out this time around was the father/daughter relationship. Most of the students find Blue’s relationship with her dad a little creepy, but they understand why Blue would be so connected. It’s interesting seeing the father/daughter relationship through the eyes of students who either don’t know their father or don’t have a good relationship with him. It’s yet another aspect of the novel that they tend to react to as though the concept comes from Mars.

This week, hopefully, we’ll get to have more of a conversation. I’m trying to come up with more interesting questions that can be answered regardless of the number of chapters the students have read. We’ll see what the week holds.

Discussing Special Topics in Calamity Physics with teenagers 2

Well week two could have had a better discussion, but it wasn’t terrible considering the sophomores had just completed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) and the seniors were all caught up in scholarship deadlines. So the number of students who had not completed the reading outnumbered those who had.

But we started with some predictions. For those that had completed the reading, they had a chance to predict some of what Blue will face. Most of them suspect that life for Blue will take another turn for the worse, but they still don’t have specific predictions.

For those who hadn’t completed the reading, I had them write their predictions for the chapters based on the paragraph synopses of the books the chapters pull their names from. Some of them were able to predict fairly well, but others did not draw a solid connection between the title and what could happen.

What I learned this time was that foreshadowing is more difficult if you haven’t read much. Most of the students in the reading group aren’t readers (yet), and I am learning that what seems obvious to me and jumps off the page as contrived or trite appears new to them. I have some suspicions as to why they are in high school and yet lack the skills to point to examples of foreshadowing.

Next week we will meet more of the characters who will play a larger role in the remainder of the story. We will also hit some of the longest and slowest parts of the novel, but I’m hopeful that the students trust my judgment enough to stick it out. I’d forgotten, until I reread it, that Pessl does a great job laying a solid foundation for the rest of the story to stand on. Why this fantastic world building may trip up several of the students is that so few authors do it anymore. And since many of the students prefer stories that keep up the action (and yet don’t like fantastical elements in their stories), the initially slow pacing may get the better of some of them. But I have faith in the students.

Car fire in the parking structure

Seriously, is there a better way to end a Thursday at work than with an extra hour wait for the fire department to put out a car fire in the structure that contains your car? I submit that there isn’t. Especially if that Thursday lands in the same week as the University of California application deadline, and you are tasked to read what eventually blurs into feeling like eleventy billion personal statements.

Continue reading Car fire in the parking structure

My Day with the Mariachis

Last week my job asked if I would be a chaperon for a community service event. The students were supposed to come to pass out flowers to couples walking through Downtown Santa Ana, Ca (where the new job is located).

I agreed to wander around because I knew it would be a good time to get to know some of the students and become more familiar with a town I barely know. And it helped that it meant another day’s pay.

Have you ever agreed to something and realized later where the commitment will place you?

Me too. It happens most frequently when I’m trying to be helpful.

The afternoon started with me and another tutor waiting around 45 min. for any of the students to show. One of the girls did finally show around the same time our supervisor made it (but at least he’d told both of us he’d be there late). So the 4 of us joined the Mariachis late and began handing out roses for Valentine’s Day.

About 2 hours after we started walking through downtown, with me attempting to speak Spanish even 1/10 as well as everyone else in the group (who were all fluent), I looked around and couldn’t help but laugh. The last time I stood out so much in a crowd, I was in a tiny town 2 hours from Nairobi, Kenya.

I loved every meandering moment, understanding around 60% of what the other people in the group were talking about. I can’t tell you what songs the Mariachis played, but I can tell you they were very good musicians. I also learned a way to say “Happy Valentine’s Day” in Spanish and that my accent is as bad as I remembered.

If you don’t often get to take the opportunity to intentionally be the person who doesn’t belong, I recommend jumping at the risk. The fleeting discomfort of the intentional outsider moments is a fantastic way to strengthen your self-confidence. When you can’t completely understand what is happening around you, you become what you can rely on.

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Reading with High Schoolers

I have a new job tutoring high school students in English at an after-school, non-profit academic center.

Today is my third day and I’m enjoying it already.

The center is trying to create some sort of fun program to encourage the students to read more on their own.

My current suggestions extend as far as have books that are fun to read and not school work. I’m also thinking of how to make some of the amazing podcast novels easier for the students to access.

What I am really needing are brilliant ideas on how to get the students reading in a way that actually makes them want to read.

So how would you get high school students to read? What sort of program would you create? Please leave your suggestions in the comments, and feel free to throw in suggestions for what to have on the shelves!

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