Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Addendum to Best Films of 2102

Caught up with two movies this year that should have been on the 2012 List.  Cloud Atlas and The Place Beyond the Pines.  Both were fantastic.  Cloud Atlas would rank third and The Place Beyond the Pines would rank 11th.  The updates 2012 List looks like this:

14) Ted
13) Safety Not Guaranteed
12) John Carter
11)  The Place Beyond the Pines
10) Amour
9) The Waiting Room
8) Argo
7) 21 Jump Street
6) Avengers
5) The Cabin in the Woods
4) Magic Mike
3)  Cloud Atlas
2) Django Unchained
1) Haywire

Advice to a First-Year Teacher

A friend of mine who is a first year Teach For America teacher recently reached out for some advice.  Here is my response (with a few edits).  This will look mighty familiar to hundreds of Mississippi Teacher Corps teachers :-)

A lot of stuff of going on (all of it normal for a first-year alternate route teacher).  The good news is you are through the roughest patch.  The most difficult part of the school year (for any teacher, but especially for first-years) is October through November break.  There are couple reasons for this:

-The kids start acting up as the "newness" of the school year fades.
-You get overwhelmed with planning and grading.
-The weather changes.  You pick up a cold and can't shake it.
-There is no off day, just six or seven or eight straight weeks of school (for these same reasons the second hardest stretch is February through March break).

So the good news is you have officially weathered the toughest stretch of a first-year teacher.  December will fly by as will the weeks after spring break.

A couple of other thoughts:

-Have one day (Saturday or Sunday) where you do nothing school related.  No planning, no grading, etc.  Do something you like to do.  Go out to eat, go to the movies, exercise, whatever.  This is key.  And this is the most important piece of advice I can give you.

-Do you have a lot of outstanding grading that needs to be done?  If so put a check+ on everything and give it back.  Having grading hanging over your head can be a constant source of stress.  Once you do that from now on do all of the grading immediately after school or first thing the next morning.

-Speaking of the next morning it is much more efficient to wake up early and do work than to stay up late.  Better to go to bed at 8:00 PM and get up at 4:00 AM than go to bed at 10:00 PM and get up at 6:00 AM.  You'll get twice as much work done in the morning when you are (relatively) fresh.

-Your friends will understand.  Your immediate family, your best friend, and your significant other are the only folks you need to keep updated.

-Take all of Thanksgiving break to relax and recharge.  If you do decide to work only do it on the Saturday and Sunday before school.  However, for December break spend an hour or two each day of the second week planning.  This will help you immeasurably once school starts.

-Classroom management comes down to three questions: Do you have rules and consequences?  Are you enforcing them?  Are you enforcing them consistently?  Ask yourself each of these questions.  This solves 99% of of management problems.

-The gaps in knowledge between students will have to wait.  You don't have the skill-set and experience to adequately address this yet.  You will have to forgive yourself for this (easy to say, hard to do).

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Best Films of 2012

Before I get to the list here are the acclaimed 2012 films I have not yet seen: The Grey; End of Watch; Life of Pi; Les Mis; Promised Land; Holy Motors; How to Survive a Plague. On to the list:

12) Ted
11) Safety Not Guaranteed
10) John Carter
9) Amour
8) The Waiting Room
7) Argo
6) 21 Jump Street
5) Avengers
4) The Cabin in the Woods
3) Magic Mike
2) Django Unchained
1) Haywire

Two notes...

First, it was not a good year for documentaries. Only one, The Waiting Room, made the list. Second, it was the year of Soderbergh. My favorite director working today and his two films are one and three on my list. Soderbergh has two more films in the pipeline ("Side Effects" and "Behind the Candelabra") and then is retiring.

Amherst Eats-Miss Saigon

Had two meals today at Miss Saigon, a Vietnamese spot that opened in Amherst in 2009. Lunch was Mi Chay, a big bowl of vegetarian egg noodle soup. Before the bowl comes out they deposit a plate of fresh basil and jalapeƱos to garnish. The soup itself was outstanding, filled with vegetables, tofu, and noodles. The best way to describe the soup is that it is like ramen on steroids. As per the waitress' suggestion I added a dose of Sriracha.

Dinner was an order of veggie spring rolls and a hot and sour soup. Spring rolls were delicious, served cold and wrapped in soft noodle paper. Crispy lettuce, avocado, carrot, and fresh mint. Two dipping sauces: peanut and something light and clear.

Amherst has several outstanding spots on Pleasant Street. My two favorites are Antonio's and Moti. Miss Saigon is now my third.