Friday, October 17, 2008


A Bulgarian flowering bush

I'm tired. But happy. And I made fudge for Friday night cards that looks SO GOOD. Now that I've broken two conventional writing rules - beginning sentences with "but" and "and" - I will try to create some strong images with specific details. Hmmm... can you tell I've been grading a lot of essays and projects lately?

I collected major assignments from all my students this week, including new endings and graphic novels for The Great Gatsby, 1920s newspapers, and senior projects chock full of family and personal history that stemmed from our reading of My Antonia. Today in section 10-2 we were in the middle of a Hurray we finished the book party, crunching tiny round chocolate cookies and listening to Nick Hornsby on itunes while we looked at everyone's projects, when Katy, an exuberant if slightly distractible student, begged me to allow the students to vote for the best project. You can imagine I was hard to persuade, and soon everyone was filling out ballots nominating  their classmate, Karina. The whole class seemed excited to see her recognized, and I promised the winner (they all clearly knew who it would be) would receive major honor and glory - an exciting certificate - Monday. Their excitement for their friend, who at the age of 15 already lives alone in an apartment in Sofia so she can go to this school, gave me that feeling of silly happiness usually reserved for playing with puppies. 

After the 10th graders left, I sat down to read the 12th graders projects: combinations of interviews, personal stories, reflections on childhood books, illustrated timelines of their lives, and family recipes. I made a note on Yanev's paper asking if he would e-mail me his aunt's fascinating recipe for "Black Butt" and cracked up at Marija's explanation of the cake her parents have been making for each other since before she was born, called "Mom and Dad Cake." One student's interview with his father, about his grandfather's imprisonment by the communist party, told of how his grandfather was glad to be with some of the most educated people in his country while in prison. He was, obviously, not happy to be in jail for ten years, but felt proud that he had stood up against an undemocratic regime and glad that he had the chance for so many conversations. Other students shared folk tales and stories they had loved growing up like "Sly Peter" - featuring a Bulgarian folk hero who stood up to the Ottoman regime by being really smart even though he was poor, and "Spoiled Mimi" - who taught little girls to be nice and help their mothers by being so spoiled and selfish in the pages of their book that they scorned to be like her. Many of the students reflected on days spent in idyllic villages and seaside towns when they were young, and lamented the loss of their happiest time in life, which I found sad. I hope their future will prove them wrong. One student produced a hilarious tale of such a village summer - in which his grandmother read "Tom Sawyer" aloud to them and then he and his sister took on the roles of Tom and Huck, leaving a mysterious note for their grandmother that they had gone to seek adventure in their woods before heading out to play by the river all day. Another wrote of a trip to the seaside in which she and her cousins decided to jump out their hotel window during nap time rather than stay away from the beach any more.

I hope your daily work, like mine, has brought you some joy this week. 

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