I wish I had had a teacher like me in High School, I’d have thought I was hilarious

It’s the end of the year for teachers and students.  Inevitably, irrevocably, ineluctably (whatever that means, I just wanted another “i” word [okay I just looked it up; basically it means the same as inevitable, GOD English is a silly and redundant language, I feel silly and cheated but also my vocabulary has increased by 1 so yay]), things are spinning down and wrapping up.

We’re all tired, kids and adults alike.  Summertime ennui is creeping in at the edges of our vision and it’s becoming plain that, soon, there will be nothing to fill our long days but the sound of our own thoughts and the hum of crickets in the night.  And the screaming of children.  Don’t forget the screaming of children.  (That’s mostly for the adults.)

It’s creeping in at work, too.  Things are so nearly finished that it’s hard to put the same zeal into creating assignments and leading lectures and discussions.  That’s the challenge, of course, and the job, no doubt, but some days it’s easier than others.

In creating the last project grade for the year, (I wanted to make it easy in the interest of giving my students an opportunity to improve their grades before the final, but I also want them to know that I KNOW it’s easy and that they should feel silly if they don’t do it) I found traces of my Pavorisms voice creeping in.  I felt it, and I went with it.  Then I went back and rejiggered the whole assignment so that it would have a bit more flair.  It just felt right.  And it feels like it belongs here.  In fact, I think I may start presenting all of my assignments this way.  (In this voice, I mean.  Not here at the blarg.  I’d like to keep my handful of readers.)

So here it is, copy-and-pasted for your pleasure.  The better bits are toward the end.  Enjoy, and if you have any questions, see me after class.  I’ll be in the parking lot, headed for a barbecue.

For the record, I teach Seniors.  And yes, I’m giving them this assignment, pretty much as you see it here.



End of the Year Macbeth Project

  • Yep, there’s a project.  Yep, it’s a bit involved.  But don’t worry, IT’S EASY.  As long as you’re not a slacker.  This project is presented as a dialogue between you (in italics) and me (in the bullet points).  This line is me speaking.  The next line is you.

Why would you give us a project NOW?  You stink, Mr. P.

  • I know.  But one day you’ll appreciate the fact that I made you think about this story, and that I didn’t let you take the easy way out, and that I reached into your brain and pulled from its squishy depths the kind of thinking that…

All right, all right.  FINE.  What do we have to do?

  • Select and Illuminate 4 key moments from the text.
  • Explain in a paragraph of 5 sentences or more how each of your illuminations exemplifies both the plot (what’s happened) and the mood/theme of the text (the feeling).  (That means 4 paragraphs, y’all.  One for each illumination.)
  • Why explain?  Just because YOU think it’s obvious DOESN’T MEAN it’s obvious to EVERYBODY.  And don’t say “I drew him like this because he’s crazy.”  You can do better.

What do you mean “Illuminate”?

  • It means you’re going to create something that sheds light on the text (the story, the characters, etc.).

Okay, so what should each illumination look like?

  • I’m glad you asked!  Each illumination should have its own page (or slide, or square, or whatever) in a clear Moment -> Illumination -> Explanation format.  Say you do some art!
  • —  Moment: Act 2, Scene 1: Macbeth sees the ghostly dagger.
  • —  Insert your own Illustration!
  • —  Explanation: We drew Macbeth mostly in shadow because his thoughts are turning dark in this moment.  The hallway is bare and foreboding, symbolizing his decent into evil… (extrapolate to your heart’s content, but make sure your heart’s content is five sentences at minimum.)

How can we present our ideas?? We are delicate snowflakes, each unique and wonderful!

  • —  Yes, and you are all delightful.  Be creative.  Here are some ideas:
  • —  Soundtrack (choose songs to suit your moments)
  • —  Storyboard / Illustrations (illustrate a scene or key moment)
  • —  Original raps / poems (write something that sums up the moment or one character’s take on it)
  • —  Maps of key locations (use details from the text)
  • —  Character Biographies (again, be specific and text-based)
  • —  Artifacts (for example, the dagger they use to kill the king – just make them school safe)
  • —  Family crests (what images would symbolize the characters?)
  • —  See me if you have another idea – I will probably say it’s okay!

But how will we be graded?

  • —  An EXCELLENT project (A-B) will show lots of detail, color, neatness, and evidence of thought, because you care about your work.  It might even be typed, or even (be still, my heart) run through a spell-checker.  Your explanation will be grounded in the text with CITATIONS (the knife is covered in blood because in II, i, 46 Macbeth says “on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood”).
  • —  A PASSABLE project (B-C) will show some detail and evidence of thought.  It will be reasonably neat because you worked reasonably studiously on it.  Explanations will be grounded in the text, but you will forget to cite your specific textual connection, because, really, who wants an “A” anyway?
  • —  A CRAPPY project (read: failing) will show little detail or evidence of thought.  It looks rushed and messy because you put off working on it and then rushed to finish it at the last minute.  It will not bear much connection to the text because there is not time to do your work properly when you rush it.  You will turn in a crappy project because you are either passing so strongly that one bad grade won’t hurt you, or you’ve been failing since September and you just don’t care.
  • —  By the way, don’t turn in a crappy project.

Why should we bother?  I mean, the year is basically over, right?

  • —  Well, who knows?  MAYBE this assignment will be worth so many points, Mr. P feels ashamed even talking about it.
  • —  MAYBE it will give you the chance to eke out a few more points before the final coming up soon (Oh, by the way, your final is worth 20% of your overall grade, can your grade survive that?  NO?  Then think of this assignment as a few extra pillows at the bottom of the Grand Canyon you’re jumping into.)
  • —  MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, if your project is extra-awesome, you can earn some extra credit points.  MAYBE.
  • —  I am obligated by my conscience to tell you that you can substitute the word “Definitely” for the word “Maybe” above.

Fine, we’ll do it.  But when is it due?

  • —  Even classes: May 6
  • —  Odd classes: May 7

Holy crap, that’s a lot of time!

  • —  Yes, it is, so you have no reason NOT to finish it and turn in something awesome!

Will you accept it late?

  • Yes.  BUT.  (There is always a but, just like there is always a butt.)  The closer to the end of the year you turn it in (the last day for grades being May 16th) the less likely I am to get around to grading it.  I can’t help it, I’m lazy.  Make my job easier if you don’t want to sweat it.  Get it done on time.

Do I have to do this alone?

  • —  Heck no; I don’t want to grade that many projects.
  • —  Grab three of your closest friends (well, don’t grab them, you know what I mean) and knock this thing out together.  Maybe you’ll learn something about each other as you work toward a common goal.  Maybe there will be a sappy soundtrack played in the background as you work.  Maybe you’ll have cake when you’re finished.  (Don’t bring cake to my classroom.)

But what if my friends are lazy?

  • —  BETTER YET, grab the smartest people who will work with you and make NEW FRIENDS.  Nobody smart will work with you?  WORK ALONE.  Better you do a decent project alone than a crappy project with the kids who will be here next year.

What should we do with the extra blank space on this paper?

  • I don’t know.  Smart money says use it to make some notes!  Or doodle a spaceship hauling a cow into deep space.  Or cover it entirely with penguin stickers.  The world is your oyster!

You’re weird, Mr. P.

  • Sorry, I didn’t hear you.  I was busy jumping in my spaceship so that I can haul this cow into deep space.  (I’m making Astro-Burgers.)






Yup, Summer’s here soon.

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