Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Highwayman...

Last weeks' Sam Mcgee is old news.

We're on to "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes. This has become one of my favorite poems. I think for the kids too. We've listened to an itunes reading, another youtube variant, and of course my version that I scanned in from a picture book from amazon.com and Loreena Mckennit's song.

Once I get a poem in my head, the kids know we're going to be studying it all week. I want to look at the tone, the rhythm, the onomatopoeia, the story, and the meaning.

I get a little manic, and I think the kids like that. They won't admit to it. Not on your life! Monday, the students asked me when we were going to move on from this poem and start studying something other than poetry. I ignore them. Well slightly, I don't want to be bored either. I've been listening and reading "The Highwayman" five times a day for the past three days. I was beginning to tire of the poem at the end of seventh hour Monday. I thought for sure no one was paying attention. I felt like Ben Stein in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." I had to get through the poem. It's not like I could just tell the kids "Awww let's just forget and move on." That doesn't happen. I'm on a plan darn it... These kids are going to learn the poem.

As we listened to my masterpiece, I noticed some kids not paying attention at all while others were following the poem line by line. Afterwards, I had the students read the poem stanza by stanza.

Some students volunteered and I casually listened to their reading. Finally, I had one student waving his arms back and forth.

"You know, just because I'm not raising my hand high doesn't mean that I'm not interested in reading it aloud. It's like have to have a seizure to get your attention."

"Oh... I didn't notice." I said. I was a little surprised. Although this kid is bright, funny, and talented, he makes no bones about my class being a bore for him. I relented and he and his buddy went to the front of the room.

"Is it OK if we do this together?"

"uh sure?"

So, those two fourteen year old boys, stood in front of their eighth grade class and sang two stanzas of "The Highwayman" in a beautiful harmony.

The other students' mouths fell open. My mouth fell open.

And everyone was back at square one loving "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sam Mcgee--- He's one cool guy

This past week, we've been learning the poem "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service. I've been having a great time with this poem. We read this poem after a unit on "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London. Both literary works have a shared historical context of the Klondike Gold Rush in Canada's Yukon. Next week, we are going to study the Iditarod. After all, there's a story in the book all about the Iditarod, and as the teacher, I get to choose what's interesting.

Believe it or not, I just remembered an old high school friend reciting this poem for Speech. I saw him on Facebook one Sunday morning and asked him why he chose this poem for Speech. He told me that his grandpa used to take him ice fishing and would recite the poem to him.

Our school principal came into the room and recited the poem to all five of my sections. The kids ooed and awed over his ingenious memory. It was fabulous. It was fun. It's all apart of my evil plan to help them connect to poetry.

I'll tell the kids, "I'm the judge on interesting. If you know what's good for you, you'll find this interesting."

Sometimes they believe me. After hearing, watching, reading, questioning, I almost have this poem memorized. I bet this poem has been in and out of my brain at least thirty times in the last two weeks.

I try to really emphasize the imagery of the poem. Robert Service really appeals to his reader's sensory imagination as he tells us about Cap "stuffing" the corpse of Sam Mcgee into the furnace for his cremation. The sizzle always grosses me out... Ew... this poem is really gruesome.

This is probably why I chose this poem. The kids will remember it.

I found an awesome video on youtube. Urgelt gave me instructions on how to download it and use it for my class. I can't figure out how to save it so I can show it in Quicktime. I will though... Really I will!!!

I hope they will always remember the poem. Maybe they'll take their kids ice fishing one day tell their kids about this poem they memorized and start;

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
by the men who moil for gold.
The arctic trails have their secret tales
that would make your blood run cold.

The northern lights have seen queer sights
but the queerest they ever did see
was by the marge of Lake Legarge
where I cremated Sam Mcgee.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Eighth grade is studying sex education in Health. Now, they're obnoxious in study hall. Grrrr... really obnoxious. You know the drill. There's a lot of giggles. A lot of "Oh Gross." My favorite was this;

"Mrs. Aakhus, they really need to make Health Rated R!!!"

On Growing Up....

As a young girl, I used to fantasize on how I would get even with all the bullies and mean people in school. My imagination soared in science class. My day dreams expand in math.

I would become a famous movie star and have a big party and not invite them.

Or better yet, I would become a famous movie star, have a big party, and invite them... and rub my beauty and wealth.... in their face!

I would become so beautiful that they would all beg and beg to become my friend. I would laugh haughtily... and walk away.

I would become a famous writer and write about their cruelty. When their exploits were made public... they would be fired from their jobs, their spouses would divorce them, and they would have acne.

Obviously, it didn't quite work out like that. I'm a teacher. And Lord help me... I'm back in the seventh and eighth grade, and I'm all grown up. I watch students cut each other down in a chain of events. I know that they all feel like they're the one whose picked on at some time or another. Not all bullies know they are a bully.

In the past few years, I've come across past bullies. They've come up to me with their eyes lowered.

Every time, they've said "I was such an ass in high school."

This is what I decided to say;

"Really? I don't remember."

Sometimes they believe me and breathe a sigh of relief and give me a big hug.

Sometimes, they don't believe, and they smile at me, wink, and give a big me a big hug.

Revenge is bitter.

Grudges steal life.

Forgiveness is golden.