My fish Amel (or how Lady Gaga is teaching my students to write an SAT Essay)

My students hard at work

Thinking intently about Lady Gaga

Have you ever felt like the week was never going to end? My fish Amel.

Ever been stuck in traffic that doesn’t move for a good hour? My fish Amel.

Ever have someone tell you “No, you may not drink coffee at work?” My fish Amel.

My fish Amel was the theme of this past week. As you may have guessed, I am not actually referring to a fish named Amel. In Arabic, it means “There is no hope” (and it’s pronounce ma feesh awmell).

The first day of school was last Saturday. Yes, I said Saturday. Because we had an extra week off the government decided that kids would start school on a Saturday, which made for a 6 day week. Of course, as I am a staunch advocate of a four hour work week, I was most definitely not pleased with this arrangement. My fish Amel.

Despite the absurdly long week, the teaching part is actually fun sometimes. I have no grandiose illusions of being as good a teacher as   James Escalante from Stand and Deliver. However, I fully intend to have my students tell me that I am the best teacher ever (extra credit if they do). After all, being flattered is the surest way to confidence and confidence is the surest way to success, right?

In all seriousness though, I am actively trying to figure out fun ways to teach my students about literature and writing. I’ve sat through many boring classes about theses and supporting evidence and metaphors. I hope to teach theses and supporting evidence and metaphors in an exciting way. And who else is more exciting than Lady Gaga?

For my writing classes, I made my students write an outline for an essay answering the question, “Is Lady Gaga the best singer ever?” Some of you more traditional types may scoff at the lack of intellectual rigor in this assignment. Don’t worry though, 99% of my students were intelligent enough to say no, she is not the best singer ever.  Here is what most of their outlines looked like:

Thesis: Lady Gags is not the best singer ever.


1.       She dresses weird.

2.       Her songs are catchy, but her voice is not great.

3.        C’mon, seriously?

If this were an SAT Essay outline, they’d actually be off to a good start. The only difference between this question and an SAT question is that the SAT question is usually something more profound and thought provoking. The assignment did give me a little insight into their writing process and the good news is My fish Amel is nowhere to be found. So, to Lady Gaga, if you’re reading this, thank you.

Week 2 will start tomorrow and I hope it is less exhausting. [By the way, everyone should call their old high school teachers and tell them “thank you” because this is seriously one of the hardest jobs out there.] I will report back in a few days to update you all more on my shenanigans.




One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Grandma Davidson on September 28, 2010 at 2:51 am

    Hi Dale,

    Sounds like you are doing well in your first week of teaching. You are a lot more creative then most of our teachers. Unfortunately the US teachers have to stick pretty much to the book but they could have varied their tone of their voice once in a while.

    We talked with your Dad as he was sitting at the airport last night waiting for his plane, as the first flight was cancelled. It would be neat if the two of you could get together while he is over there.


    Grandma & Grandpa


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