Category Archives: High School

Day Twenty-Six: Verily, Merrily Vocabulary

I doubt I’ll be using my cell phone alarm anytime soon.  Waking up before the alarm, at 6:12 am, a good fifteen or so minutes before the alarm was to go off, I tapped my organizer and shut off the one-time alarm setting. Or so I thought.

I’m in the bathroom and I hear the obnoxious fakey rooster alarm goin beserk.  Caught in an awkward moment, having just stepped out of the shower,  I am not up for dripping and streaking across the hall to my room to shut it off.  I’m frantically trying to towel off enough to get some clothes on to dash across to my room wishing for a robe. That’s one request for my Christmas request list.  It’s difficult pulling up damp underwear onto a damp. Let alone the uncomfortable sticky part of wearing them.  I don’t recommend it.

I manage to jam on enough clothes for decency to make the dash, jump onto my bed, and grab my cell phone off my nightstand.  “What is your problem?” I growl at my phone.   I go through the turning off procedure again, the log says “alarm empty.”  I bounce my phone on top of my bed firmly enough to teach it a lesson.  I then attempt a return to my morning routine, yet I have little energy from too many late nights of noveling attempting. I give up on style this morning and go for necessity.  The hair will have to air dry and not wanting to catch a cold I throw on my woolen hat.  I grab a Pop-Tart and an apple, a kind of a guilt and compromise breakfast on the run, and head out the door.  I have the presence of mind to make sure I have my keys and phone before shutting the door.  Hello to another day.

One reason for my state of flurry is while in the shower I suddenly realized I have a vocabulary test in English, causing panic to set in.  The alarm frenzy didn’t all help. I try to recall the vocabulary list, try to envision the handout, yet all the vocab words whirl together in my brain like a blender in puree mode.  I close my eyes, convincing myself to take a breath and to calm down.  I pep talk my brain into test mode.  I hope my brain is listening.

At our school the freshmen are taught the Greek side of word parts, and in sophomore year we learn the Latin aspect.  We aren’t learning the languages of Greek and Latin, only the word parts.  I guess something like 85% of our language is composed of Greek and Latin.  The rest is made up of German, French and some other languages.  It makes sense to study how words are made up of parts.  Mrs. X had one of her rare cool moments, which are very few, and explained the vocab system one day.  She did it with Oreo cookies.

English: Two regular Oreo cookies. Please chec...

English: Two regular Oreo cookies. Please check my Wikimedia User Gallery for all of my public domain works. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Class,“ she beckoned to us, holding up an Oreo cookie. “This cookie is made up of three parts.   “There is the top,“ she demonstrates. “the middle,” she flashes the creamy middle after expertly twisting apart the two halves, “and the bottom.” We blink and stare.  She never does anything like this.  Seeing our glazed, unblinking expressions, she continues.  “Think of the top as the prefix, how it goes before the creamy white center.  Now the center is the root, it’s the middle of the word.  This brings us to the end part, or the suffix.  This cookie is similar to most words in that there is a front part, a middle, and a back part.”  And she put the cookie together and ate it.

Her cookie demonstration helped a little in understanding how words are put together, except I immediately want to eat cookies whenever I study vocabulary.  I wonder if she studied Pavlov.  Heck, she’s so old she probably went to school with him.  I think she started teaching the year the school opened back in 1946. The X is legendary, that is for sure.  I hear the principal is even frightened of her.  I think she’s been here so long she must have been his English teacher when he went to high school. If Mrs. X does retire some day they could hire three new teachers and still not equal her seniority in years. She is old.  Way old. She is way old school.  No one talks in her class. Death by over-the-reading-glasses glare is gruesome.  It happened last quarter.  I was witness to it.  Two girls whispered, actually whispered together, while Mrs. X went over the reading assignment.  The girls were oblivious to the quick darting glance warnings students tried to give them.  Then it happened…Mrs. X zeroed in on the offenders and before they could adjust their composure they got zapped with the famous X factor withering eye.  They stiffened in their desks and did not move the rest of the period.  I don’t talk to anyone in her class.  She is fearsome.

I absolutely do not want to fail this vocab test.  Not that I have failed any so far, but I have this “driving desire to pass it with excellence”, which is what Mrs. X tends to say as she passes out the test sheets. If we do well we’ll be spared her Vocabulary Speech.  This speech is among several she pulls out, dusts off, and drones to us.  Speech #42: “How Vocabulary Should Be Taught.”

“Because of the block schedule  I cannot teach like I used to. The old system allowed for continuity.  I would give students their word list on Monday, methodically go over each word, give a sentence example, and ask students to supply a word using the prefix, root, or a suffix from the word list.  The next class I would give the synonym and call upon a student to give the equivalent off the list.  The third day  would be “pop-offs,”  meaning I would randomly select words and students and expect the word to be known She chuckles at saying “pop-off” as if she thought it was cute for her to use such an expression.  Maybe she thought she was being “hip” for using it.

After her momentary inserted chuckle she continues: “If five words were answered incorrectly during the review I would have the students write them out fifty times on a piece of paper.  The Friday of that week the test would be given.  It would be rare to have a student get less than 95%,” she would crow at us.  I am so glad we are block schedule.

Block schedule has been in effect for at least five years; however, Mrs. X is still holding on the hope they will return to the Old Way.  She reminds us on a frequent basis how much better it was when teachers could meet every day with their students instead of this “willy-nilly haphazard excuse” of a schedule.  We get the vocabulary of yesteryear speech every time she hands back a set of unsatisfactory vocabulary results.  “Top grade today was a 87%.  Study, people,” she cajoles.  She threatens to reintroduce us to the proven method of repetitious writing for vocabulary if we don’t bring up our scores. Ack, please spare us the drone repetitive writing and rewriting.

I usually manage to learn my weekly vocabulary by sheer intimidation.  She personally hands back the papers and I tend to hold my breath as I glance at the score. Last test she handed back my paper pointing to the circled red 90% with an equally red fingernail.  I don’t know if that is an indication of condemnation or congratulations.  Her expression is this one-sided grimace, or maybe that is her smile.

I know I sound like I am whining.  Okay, I am whining.  Vocabulary shouldn’t be this hard.  Then again I have collected some absolutely bodacious words from my weekly vocabulary words.  Here are some of my favorites:

1.  petulant: insolent in speech or behavior
2. loquacious: full of excessive speech
3.  dubious: fraught with uncertainty
4. magniloquence: characterized by a high-flying style
5. veracity: adherence to the truth
6. consanguinity-relationship by blood
7. expedite: to speed up the process
8. aureate: of golden color
9. sagacious: sound judgement
10. mordant: bitingly sarcastic

I tend to hoard certain words like they are bits of found treasure, only to find that they sometimes accidentally drop into in conversation or in writing. If that happens at school students will remark, “Oh, we just finished week 4 or I spelled that one wrong,” since we all suffer through the same vocab program.  However, outside of school people tend to look at me oddly for interjecting an ocassional treasure vocab word, as if I am not privy to it. My parents are word freaks like me, or I should say  “connoisseurs,” which is a nicer term.

I may not especially appreciate Mrs. X and her vocabulary tests, but I relish the introduction to all the new words.  Not surprisingly, I also have grown quite fond of Oreo cookies.

Vocabulary - Words Are Important

Vocabulary – Words Are Important (Photo credit: Dr Noah Lott)

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Day Seventeen: Teach Sweeps and Football Fever

Classroom with students and teachers - NARA - ...

Classroom with students and teachers – NARA – 285702 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The school is on this low high because this is the only full week of school this month.  After a four-day weekend students are moving around like slugs strapped down with salted backpacks, yet have outbreaks of silliness. No one is focusing on learning anything. Teachers are not much livelier having finished the posting of quarter grades and then have immediately go into to splitting their week with two nights of parent/teacher conferences.  It’s no wonder my teachers are showing movies. By showing movies, at least if students sleep it’s done with the lights off–less evidence of zoning out and maybe that lessens the guilt of not keeping students engaged. Some teachers require we write down facts learned while watching the movie and then turn these in.  A compromise I guess in case an admin member walks in and conducts a “teach sweep.“

Our school has periodic walk-throughs, or “teach sweeps” which I overheard two teachers call them.  This is where two or three of the administrators come in, sit down for ten minutes, watch the students, watch the teacher, and scribble away on their notepads.  Students call them “the posse.”  Some of my teachers get a little flustered when the posse arrives.  Others, you can tell, don’t give a flip and carry on doing their usual.

Some of the students get nervous  when an admin pops into the room.  When two or more admins arrive, a sense of drama unfolds, like they are on a search and destroy mission.  No matter how unobtrusive they attempt to be there is no way twenty-seven students are going to ignore being scrutinized.

This week there are few admin sightings in classrooms.  They are no doubt rooted in their beehive of offices.  Why?  Football.  Our football team won their second playoff game and are on their way to state championship.  Any remaining admin are hiding away in their offices posing with paperwork while listening to updates of how the football team is doing. I don’t blame them. After all, we haven’t made it to state for three years.  We haven’t won a state game for ten.  Going to state calls for suspended protocol, right? Especially if it’s football. *slight sarcasm insert*  Here’s my point: Our boys and girls soccer teams both won state.  Did the school shut down?  Nope.  Our cross country team went to state and so did our girls volleyball team.  Did we claim a minimum day so people could flock to see them?  Not even.  But football reigns. In our school, through the state, across the country.

Maybe if my dad had been more interested in football I would be more interested.  Our family life is so fragmented with him coming and going on writing assignments that he doesn’t have much time to watch sports. Therefore, sports I care not much or a whit for.  All around me though, people are passionate.

All week I hear murmurings of excitement. “Are you going?”  “I’m cutting last period to get there earlier.”  “I bet we watch movies in all our classes on Friday.”  Am I the only one who will stay behind in our fair town while all others travel three hours away to watch our Eagles fly to victory? I am wise enough to keep my opinions to myself.

Friday is essentially a half day.  There are so many students going down to the state game, it’s ridiculous for teachers to take attendance, let alone attempt any type of teaching.  The amount of make-up work to be done would justify an after-school activities bus.  Let’s see, there are about 30-40 guys on the varsity football team, and about four of the teachers on the staff are coaches.  Then there is the pep band, another 25-30.  Don’t forget about the 12 member squad of cheerleaders who go to encourage our fans and players and the 25 member dance team who will entertain at half-time. Maybe they should gather the remaining students in the gym for one good attempt at education consolidation.  I don’t dare mention my lack of football interest.  To anyone. I could pretend to care.  Maybe.

There is a pep bus that leaves right after school, and if traffic cooperates the bus will arrive at the Riley Memorial Dome with forty-five minutes to spare until kickoff.  I, for reasons I don’t understand, start this inner dilemma within myself.

Me: This will probably be the only state game I will have while in school.
Me Two: Since when do you care about football.
Me: It wouldn’t hurt to care just a smidge about the school, would it?
Me Two: YOU want to sit on a bus for three hours with noise and teenage nonsense?  Why?
Me: Good point.  I’d be like a fish on a bicycle.

I continue to dwell on going despite the good points I’ve made. I should go because going to a state game would be a memory I might treasure some day. Another reason I’m considering going is that I don’t know how long I will be in this school.  Every since Dad wrote that bridge article about the picturesque town of  Calder, I’ve noticed  Mom Googling information on it.  She better be checking out vacation rates instead of housing prices.

Three hours on a bus is a lonely time when you don’t really have anyone to hang out with.  Maybe I could convince Simone  in experiencing the event with me.

“What you call football is not,“ she explained to me at lunch, after turning me down. “What you call soccer is football. The bump crash game of Americans,“ she demonstrated with the smacking together of her hands, “does not make sense. You come to watch a soccer game with me.  The boys in their shorts all running,“ she sighs. “Yes, that is nice to watch.“ She does have a point there.   Football uniforms don’t do much for me either. Okay, so I’m good with staying


home doing my usual.

It’s weird that this is the only full week of school for this month.  Between school being off because of quarter ending, school being off because of parent/teacher conferences and next week being Thanksgiving week, and with a half day on Wednesday with school being closed Thursday and Friday, it’s amazing they bothered with even unlocking the front doors.  I guess somewhere in there they all figured we will get some edukashun.