Header

Header

a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Sunday, October 30, 2011

One Weekend = Four Books from a Growing Stack and A Long Post




Wonderstruck: experiencing a sudden feeling of awed delight or wonder (according to google)

What a delicious word to describe a delicious feeling. 

What a perfect title for this book.  I am not even sure it should be called a book at all, but rather an experience

Unlike The Invention of Hugo Cabret (also by Brian Selznick), where the images pick up and carry the story right where the text leaves off, the images in Wonderstruck tell a story that is parallel to the text. 

The way the images and text work together reminded of me of a ‘match cut’ edit in film.  The action being described in the text matches the image that follows or precedes the text.  However, the character, the time, the place, and the situation of the action are not the same.  In film this is a way to visually bridge two separate scenes.  In the book, this serves to link the two stories together, so that as a reader we expect them to eventually merge.  And they do.

In addition to the craft with which the story is told, I was captivated by the idea of the story itself.  Ben is on a mission to uncover the truth about his biological father, while the reader is on a mission to uncover how his truth connects to the story told through images.  The first connection readers uncover is that both characters  are hearing impaired.  Off the top of my head, I can only name 2 other books for middle school students that include characters who are deaf without that being the central storyline: Granny Torelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech and Feathers by Jaqueline Woodson.  The inclusion of deaf culture, and especially in its historical context, is only one of the hidden gems that add to the richness of the story.

Another gem is the book within the book. I especially loved the ideas about museums Ben reads in the book he finds:


But let us pause here and ask ourselves, What exactly is a museum?  Is it a collection of acorns and leaves on a back porch, or is it a giant building costing tens of thousands of dollars, built to house the rarest and finest things on Earth?

‘It’s both!’ Ben heard himself say out loud.

Of course the answer is both.  A museum is a collection of objects, all carefully displayed to tell some kind of magnificent story.”


I was even more interested in the idea that Ben himself could be considered a curator.  The idea that we could all be considered curators.  Of our own collections. 

Clearly, I was not only “wonderstruck” by the story, but by the manner in which it was told.  Selznick is a genius.  After hearing him describe the way he wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabret, I read Wonderstruck with deepened appreciation for his craft.  I knew how much research, thought, and planning went into each of those images.  I imagined that each image began as a sketch the size of a thumbnail, the way Selznick had described the starting images for Hugo Cabret.  I imagined the people he photographed as models for his characters.  I imagined which images of the settings were truly representative of an actual place.

While reading, my mind was ablaze with ideas for using this text in classrooms.  There are endless possibilities for strategy mini-lessons, springboards for writing or research, and discussions about the way images and text work together to tell the story. 

But most of all, I just love this book because it is such a cool story.



This year, I have found myself repeating the phrase, “The real story is in the character,” in my 8th grade language arts classroom.  I have always taught about dynamic characters, but it seems that all of a sudden, I have a deeper understanding of the way stories work and how to translate that to my students.  If they really get to know the character in a story, they can’t go wrong.  It is less about that plot diagram we try to drill into them and more about the protagonist’s thoughts and feelings, and especially about any shift in the protagonist’s thoughts and feelings.

Blood Wounds is the perfect example of this.  Although Willa’s life is not perfect, she has always believed she is part of a “happy family.”  Until something happens to change that. 

Willa lives with her mother, stepfather, and stepsisters.  She has never really known the dad her mother ran away from when she was young.  He has never been part of her life.  Until now.

Willa gets news one day that her biological father is suspected of having killed his new wife and two daughters.  His third daughter is missing, and so is he.  The police believe he is on his way to find Willa and her mom. 

This sounds like the makings of an action packed thriller of a story.  But it’s not.  Instead it is a touching coming of age story set against one of the most gruesome and dramatic plots I’ve ever experienced.  Willa experiences the kind of circumstance that will undoubtedly draw teenage readers in.  The book is edgy and pulls no punches in describing the impact of these events on Willa. 

However, this is the type of story that needs to be seen through to the resolution.  If readers are not prepared to travel with Willa as she grows and changes in the face of horrific events, they will miss the story and could end up just experiencing disturbing scenes. 

This is one I will be happy to pass along to student readers, but I think it will rest on the shelf by my desk, where I can more closely monitor and confer with whoever is reading it.  

 



I am a sucker for a book written in verse.  I picked Kaleidoscope Eyes up at our latest book fair because I fell in love with Jen Bryant’s Pieces of Georgia after picking up a free galley copy at a conference years ago.  I did not fall in love with Lyza, the protagonist of Kaleidoscope Eyes the way I fell in love with Georgia, but I am still a big Jen Bryant fan.

It is not easy to find books set in the ‘60s that paint a picture of the time period that is accessible to students without being explicit.   This book reminds me of Countdown by Deborah Wiles in the innocence of the story.  Both books have an innocent story of friendship set against the tumultuous backdrop of America in the ‘60s, and both books use a unique format to tell the story.

Although this book didn’t have me in tears like Ann E.Burg’s All the Broken Pieces (another novel in verse set during the Vietnam War), there are many poignant lines that stopped me dead in my tracks as a reader. 

When Lyza’s grandfather dies, she uncovers an envelope he left behind for her, and only her.  The envelope leads Lyza and her friends on a journey to uncover the secrets of pirates who once headed through her town.  The journey for treasure, of course, leads her to discoveries about her friends, her family, and herself.

The ending may be a bit too easy to be realistic, but in these ‘troublous times’ (as Carlo Jago would say) it is not a bad thing to escape into a world where hidden treasures are uncovered.






He had me at the introduction.  I read this book in one sitting.  I couldn’t put it down.

The introduction begins:



“I was one of the kids who slipped through the cracks.  I had what is euphemistically referred to as a troubled childhood.

We were broke, my parents were drunk, they had—another euphemism here—an unhappy marriage.  I was an outsider at school and I pretty much raised myself at home.  I had nothing and I was going nowhere.

But then art and dogs saved me.

First reading, then writing.  First friend-pets, then sled dogs.  They gave me hope that I wouldn’t always be stuck in the horror of my childhood, made me believe that there could be more to my life.”


From there, Paulsen proceeds to tell the stories of three young people.  Each of them living “what is euphemistically referred to as a troubled childhood.”  Each of them saved by art or dogs (or both). 

Somehow Paulsen paints the realistic image of hopeless situations, yet finds a way to leave the reader with a feeling of hope. 

Paintings from the Cave does not disappoint as a book truly representative of Paulsen’s breadth of work.  In its pages, I find echoes of the survival instinct he shared in Hatchet, the strength of friendship he shared in Notes from the Dog, and the power of a bond with animals that he shared in My Life in Dog Years.  In addition, in true Paulsen-style, as enjoyable as the stories themselves, is the language Paulsen uses to tell those stories:



“It didn’t matter what she read.

What did matter was that when she read, she could forget how ugly her life was.

She read aloud to the dogs when they were in the woods or in her room with the dresser pushed across the door.  They usually fell asleep, but even if they didn’t pay attention, reading to them made the words go inside her the way the moonlight had gone into her, so that she felt-heard-smelled the words.”


Perhaps most striking of all the beauty in this book is the way it answers the question Paulsen references in his introduction.  The question a student asked him.  The one he didn’t have an answer for.  Until now. Through this book.

There is no telling how many lives Paulsen’s art has touched, but I know it touched mine, and I will do all I can to get it into the hands of more students whose lives it may touch.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Five Little Things


Ruth’s slice yesterday about “little things” was in the back of my mind all day.  So many little things, good little things, happen within a day that it is easy to overlook them.  Today, because I was on the lookout for these good little things, something happened—the goodness in these little things grew larger! 

Little thing #1:  The guest teacher in my room who was filling in for my co-teacher stopped me in the hall to say, “I love the way you conduct your classroom.  I have never seen anything like it and it made an impression on me. “

Little thing #2:  It was pajama day for red ribbon week.  Enough said.

The last few little things come from my special, inventedclass.  So, maybe these little things are more like medium things…

Little thing #3:  Thestudent who stopped writing because his older brother/idol told him, “Writingis gay,” produced two drafts of poetry in the past two days.  Today’s poem contained a line about listening to the Temptations sing “My Girl” while the rhythms of Tupac beat through the wall from the next room. 

Little thing #4:  A student, who is normally completely disengaged, participated in discussion during shared reading today.  He was building towers with glue sticks that happened to be near his seat, but when I noticed he seemed to join in more while he had the kinesthetic distraction, I decided not to bother him about following along.

Little thing #5:  After little thing #4, a student said, “You have to take a picture!  Please take a picture before he destroys the glue stick tower!”  Another student at first said, “We’re not in kindergarten, we’re in 8th grade!”  When I got my camera, he quickly changed his tune to, “Ooh, take another picture from a different angle!”  I couldn’t ignore the children inside these tough 8th grade boys—I had to indulge them:



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Everything Happens for a Reason


Having watched her latest DVD series this past weekend, my mind and my heart have been focused on Nancie Atwell and the Center for Teaching and Learning. 

My mind becomes alive, neurotransmitters fire across synapses from axon to dendrite, at the slightest hint of anything Atwell.  However, my heart aches every time I think of Atwell and CTL.  I think I am ready to tell why. 

I have wanted to be a teacher since before I can remember.  Although I also wanted to be an artist, a bus driver, a photographer, a horseback riding lessons instructor, and a host of other pleasure driven professions, I always came back to education.  I remember making lists as a student of what I would and wouldn’t do when I became a teacher.  I was lucky to have had many teachers I wanted to emulate over the years, and only a few who made the list of “don’ts”—mostly substitute teachers who were undoubtedly the enemy.

However, it wasn’t until my final year in college, during my methods of language arts class, that I met my true hero-teacher.  In a course where there is more to cover than humanly possible, my professor tried to give us every opportunity to find what we needed by providing resources for study beyond what her course could provide.  She introduced me to In the Middle by Nancie Atwell as a “must-have” if I were to become a middle school language arts teacher.   I was hooked.

Over the years, I paid out of my own pocket to attend workshops with Nancie Atwell every time she came to the Chicago area.  I saw her workshop on Lessons that Change Writers at least four times in its entirety and several times in smaller chunks through our state conference and the annual NCTE conventions (back when our district was still sending a select group of us).   I applied for an internship at Atwell’s school year after year after year.  After at least 5 years of applications, I was accepted in 2009. 



I had grand visions of being discovered, being noticed as worthy of existing as a colleague in the field of middle school language arts by Nancie Atwell herself.  However, nothing more came of that internship than four days of intense professional growth. And, in truth, it turned out to be enough.  In fact, it was perfect.

Then, last spring, I had reached a point of stagnancy in my current position.  I was hitting my thirties, quickly becoming the veteran in my department as an increasing number of teachers retired, and getting caught up in the unsavory politics of a public school system. 

That’s when I noticed an employment posting at Atwell’s school.  At first, I dismissed the posting because it was for a kindergarten position. 

However, that posting did not want to be dismissed.  It kept calling to me. 

Finally after some long and hard discussions with my husband, I applied.  I knew that I wasn’t capable of applying half-heartedly.  I knew I would have to genuinely want the position and genuinely want all that would mean for our lives.  I knew that to go through with the process of applying I also had to believe I was worthy of a position at Atwell’s school.  It was not easy to get to this place of wanting and believing.  But I did.

I dug deep and uncovered the desire to be a kindergarten teacher that I had tucked away in a corner of my heart so long ago.  I had done an apprenticeship in a kindergarten classroom daily for half of the day throughout my entire senior year of high school.  I continued to work part-time as an aide in that same classroom throughout my undergrad days.  I had started out thinking that was what I wanted.  Through some personal experience with a babysitting position and some clinical observations, I fell in love with middle school, and that is where my journey as an educator has taken me ever since. 

But I wanted to go back.  My heart was tugging at me, urging me to reconsider kindergarten.

So I did. 

And I was called to interview at Nancie Atwell’s school.  Because I was so far away (the school is in Edgecomb, Maine, and I am in a southwest suburb of Chicago), I was the first person they called.  We communicated back and forth to determine a date that would work.  I booked a flight and made travel plans.  My husband and I put in our paperwork for personal days.

I walked with a spring in my step and a flutter in my heart for days.  I calmly told the voice of reason in my head to shut up and let me enjoy the possibility of this new and exciting future as long as the possibility lasted.  Which did not turn out to be long.

I received a phone call.  A phone call I never saw coming. 

The head of the school called to inform me that the kindergarten teacher had decided not to retire this year after all.  The position was no longer available, and my interview was cancelled.  I was devastated. 

He was beyond apologetic and confirmed what I already knew to be true about the dedicated professionals at CTL: the kindergarten teacher had done some soul searching to decide she was just not ready to leave.  She realized that she was at the top of her game and still had more to give to the students of CTL.  I understood. 

I expressed that I hoped that I would still be considered in the future.  He made it clear “the future” would not be any time soon.  The teacher is not planning on retiring for some time now.

I am a big believer in the sentiment “things happen for a reason.”  I was left wondering what this experience was meant to teach me. 

At first, I pursued a move to the elementary level within my current district.  That proved to be a humiliating and fruitless pursuit.  It seems that it is not easy for an administrator to swallow a middle school teacher being able to transition to the elementary level with success (even a middle school teacher who comes sincerely, highly recommended by her current administrator).  Harumph. 

For a while, I fortified myself with thoughts of pursuing one of the many full-time kindergarten positions that will be available when our district (finally) begins to offer full-time kindergarten next year.  However, I know the reality is that I will be no less rejected for a transfer to elementary this year than I was last year.  The number of available positions is not going to make a difference.

And so, I began this school year with a chip on my shoulder, an ache in my heart, and the sense that I belong nowhere. 

However, watching the Atwell DVDs this weekend I was reminded where I am meant to be.  I belong in the middle.  And I want to be here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

On Reading a DVD


Realizing I kind of cheated yesterday has left me with some guilt.  I feel the need to clarify.  The DVDs in my book stack were just that: DVDs.  So was it really a book stack?  By definition, that would mean: stack of books.  Oops.  However, I really think that Nancie Atwell’s Reading in the Middle and Writing in the Middle still count as books.  They may be non-print text, but they are certainly set up the way a book is set up, they contain the same kind of information a book would, and I used a lot of the same strategies I would’ve used as a reader to make sense of them. 

Just like an English teacher to get caught up in semantics.

Book, DVD, Giant Nugget of Brilliance, Visual Reminder of All That is Right in the World of Education, whatever you want to call it, I engaged with Nancie Atwell’s Writing in the Middle today and the following are the unpolished reflections with which I am left:

·      I need to take my students back to their Writing Territories and beef them up again.  This would be a great way to get them to generate more specific “in the meantime” writing possibilities.  That being said, my “in the meantime” process would be unnecessary if I began the year with multiple free verse poems, the way Atwell does, instead of just the one.

·      My students always participate in the Letters About Literature contest.  I need to add other opportunities, like River of Words to their writing possibilities.  I can also look for additional opportunities for students to submit their writing, such as Voices from the Middle and English Journal

·      My conferences look and sound a lot like Atwell’s.  This has taken years of reading and studying her way of working with writers. 

·      Listening to her, it strikes me that a lot of the language I use in with student readers and writers is rooted in Atwell’s work.  So much so, that it has become mine and I wouldn’t even think to cite it- yikes!

·      I would like to gather clear examples of revision from my students’ writing, not just final drafts as exemplar texts.  I am not deliberate enough about this.  I need this evidence for future lessons, evidence of my success as a teacher, and proof of the power of a workshop approach for others.

·      I can use her approach of using two-column notes as a means of tracking our thinking about a particular genre set of shared readings.  Left side: title and author, right side: what we noticed.  Right now, I am only using the actual copies of the shared readings themselves with our text markings on them.  Students might see the point more clearly (that we are reading to understand what we can do as writers ourselves) if we recorded this chart, like notes, in our notebooks.

·      I need to get stricter about some of my rules and procedures.  Things would go more smoothly for me if I were more consistent about enforcing things like: draft by writing on every other line, date and label EVERYTHING you write.    

·      It is very easy to reflect at this point and say to myself, “Okay, next year I will do things differently.”  In fact, that is much easier than thinking, “How can I incorporate changes this year that will strengthen some of the weaknesses I now see in my own practices?” 

·      I think I can launch into this style of workshop with my 9th hour class instead of following the writing suggestions of the ID program.   In fact, I think the ID program is set up to work with a true writing workshop more than it is to work with those writing assignments.  Launching into this style of workshop at this point in the year with those students is one way I can try out “doing things differently” and experience a level of success without waiting until next year.

·      I scaled back the number of lessons I was teaching about writing because I realized you can’t teach it all with ONE poem.  Atwell starts the year by having students write several poems in succession.  That is an obvious way to be able to incorporate all of the lessons I know my students need about good writing right away at the start of the year. 


Lessons from a Book Stack


Reading Ruth’s post today about the books in stacks around her house made me think of my own book stacks.  Just like Ruth, I have multiple book stacks around my house.  However, unlike Ruth, the stacks in my house all belong to one person: yours truly.

The first stack contains the books I have gathered as resources for my latest lesson planning.  I plan to pull some excerpts from these books for my 9th hour class.



The second stack is a tower of the books I recently purchased from Scholastic and Amazon.  These are books I want to read/review as quickly as possible and get them to my classroom shelves.   



The third stack is the stack I really savor.  These are the latest professional resource books I’ve gotten my hands on or started utilizing.  Most are books I purchased, but the Nancie Atwell DVDs are only in my possession for the weekend.  These DVDs were filmed the school year following my internship at CTL.  So, not only are they an incredible resource for middle school language arts, but they are also a personal reminder of the amazing 4 days I spent learning firsthand from Nancie Atwell herself.  I recognize many of the students in her class, who were in 6th and 7th grade the year I was there, which adds an element of familiarity beyond the connection to the physical space.



I started my weekend with Reading in the Middle.  Before moving on to Writing in the Middle, I stopped to reflect to avoid becoming saturated with ideas and inspiration.  By writing my reflections, I found I had a lot more in head than I had initially realized.  Here they are in raw form:

·      The list of what Nancie accomplishes when she conferences with students during reading on a daily basis is impressive.  I have these same kinds of conversations.  I need a method of documenting this—a way of showing others (students, parents, administrators, colleagues) how intentional these conversations are.

·      There is a lot of power in the booktalks that Nancie’s 8th graders do for the 7th graders.  Although I cannot use this technique in my own classroom, we could do this as a school.  My 8th graders would love to booktalk to the 6th and 7th graders.  I could also have students do video booktalks to be shared with next year’s students.

·      I have not paid much attention to her rating system of 1-10.  I love the idea of using this for shared reading, so that students have a frame of reference for themselves.  I think it would help remind them to hold on to these pieces.

·      I still want to work towards the self-assessment Atwell-style portfolio.  I still believe this is the best form of assessment.   I want to find a way to utilize it.

·      I did not want to spend instructional minutes on organizational tasks at the beginning of the year because so many visitors were popping in.  However, these tools are necessary and I need to stop now, go back, and put in place: Individual Reading Records, Individual Writing Records, maybe even a system to keep track of in the meantime writing, and Booktalk sign ups.

·      I liked the idea of doing two poems that illustrate the same point as the shared reading and allowing students to choose one to read closely.  This lends repetition of the same point without feeling overwhelming to the students.

·      I have a lot of the books Atwell has in her classroom library.  Her students read lots of young adult literature, some of what she calls “transitional” literature (more like grown-up literature with young adult characters or themes), and a small amount of grown-up and/or classic literature.  I would like to make a goal for my honors students that they fall in love with at least one classic this year (on their own).  My goal is to booktalk and share the classics I love this year, starting with my honors class and working towards a comfort level where I would be comfortable extending these expectations to all students.

·      It is difficult to see a “perfect” example of the way things should work in a classroom.  I want to achieve that.  We all want to achieve that.  It is tough to stay focused on what we are capable of changing and improving in the face of so much that is out of our control.  It is easy to think, “I am a failure.  I am not smart enough to do what Atwell does.  I don’t have the time to do what Atwell does.  My students aren’t like those kids.  The conditions of the system in which I work does not allow me to be successful by implementing Atwell’s ideas.”  However, it is necessary to move forward in this direction—to work towards a successful workshop approach to teaching reading.  Our students’ futures depend on it.  We can get a lot closer to an Atwell-style classroom than we think we can.

·      I belong in middle school language arts.  It is not easy.  It is not always rewarding.  But it is where my heart is, and it is what I want to be doing.  To stay here, I need to get better at documenting what I believe works so that I can make it visible to administrators who need to see that it works.  I need to make more time to collaborate with people who could help me do that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thank You


I have been following the Two Writing Teachers blog for quite some time.  However, it wasn’t until long after I started silently stalking the site (in the shyest and least creepy way possible) that I realized I actually already owned a book by Stacey Shubitz, one of the “Two Writing Teachers.” 

Very recently, I pulled this book out again: Deal With It! Powerful Words from Smart,Young Women by The Extended Day Girls with Stacey Shubitz and Christina L. Rodriguez.  This book was just the reminder I needed that you don’t need to be a teacher who is portrayed on the big screen by Hilary Swank to make an impact on students (my apologies if my bitterness is actually palpable here). 

My self-invented intervention class, which we currently call 25 Voices Strong, did not get off to a flying start this year (to put it mildly), and I needed support. 

The basic premise is that by using the ID Program, developed for 9th grade students by Dr. Alfred Tatum, as the foundational structure of this 8th grade language arts class, I would be able to take students who are able to think at an advanced level (even though their performance on standardized tests does not reflect that ability) and use edgy, relevant, rigorous materials to re-engage them with text, with their own voices, and eventually with school.  The advanced nature of the program is partially to boost the academic self- esteem of each of these students and partially to help increase literacy skills at an accelerated rate to make up for lost time.  Because the program is designed to be delivered in a much shorter time period than an entire school year, I am doing a lot of inventing as I go, and my confidence is easily shook.

Within the first few weeks of class, this note was anonymously left behind on a desktop:


I am a fan of the line from the movie Toys about fighting fire with marshmallows.  So, my response was to start class the next day by sharing my genuine, sincere excitement over my discovery of evidence that someone in the class really gets what the program is about.  Everyday we recite a mantra (as part of Tatum’s program) that includes a line about writing unapologetically.  I shared the piece of writing and celebrated how brave and “unapologetic” it was. 

Much to my surprise (and secret delight), a student spoke up and claimed the piece. 

That day, another note was left behind:

 *note: the text to which the student is referring today is the poem "Chop, Chop" by Dr. Alfred Tatum, who grew up in the projects in Chicago

The following day, a third note:


As long as the notes were coming, as brutal as they were, I knew I was getting somewhere because the lines of communication were open.  Somehow, this student felt safe sharing his voice with me.  That is, until the brother the author of these notes idolized told him writing was “gay,” and his notes ceased.

This past weekend, I reread Stacey’s book.  I wondered why Hilary Swank never played her on the big screen (though with Stacey as inspiration, Swank’s performance would blow the other one away).  And I reminded myself of the power of words and what an impact a good teacher is truly capable of making (even in the absence of an invitation from Steven Spielberg, mind you). 

I walked into class on Monday armed with the strength of this knowledge. 

The student who previously let his voice be heard in (not so anonymous) notes, decided to speak up in a new way: “Hey guys, shut up!”  “I have an example to share!”  “Q, sit down!”

Was it my attitude?  Was it something his brother had said?  I am not sure what inspired this student to use his leadership powers for good, not evil, all of a sudden, but I do know what inspired me to stay hopeful and centered on a Monday afternoon.  Thank you, Stacey.





Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Small Victory*


He walks into the room carrying the weight of a brother involved in gangs who is his primary caretaker since his mother left him to move to another state with her new husband.

He swaggers to his seat, calling to friends across the room. 

As class begins, he joins on the fringes.  The go-ahead-and-try-to-reach-me look on does little to hide his insecurity.

I only nudge when he refuses to get started on his Raw Write

He used to leave me an anonymous piece of writing every day.  I know his words hold power and anger and pain.  I miss them—the words.  They stopped coming one day.  His brother said, “Writing is gay,” and silenced him. 

His buddy urges him, “Stop being disrespectful, man.”

“Whatever, you are disrespectful all the time,” he grumbles in response. 

But he picks up his pencil.  A small victory.  I don’t expect much, but I am hopeful.

During reading, he is distracted.  He usually dives into his borrowed copy of Selected Poems from The Rose That Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur.  Small victories don’t last, but I don’t give up easily.  Again, I nudge, knowing last week he begged for a copy of his own.  To keep.  

“Do you have a few seconds to stay after class?” I ask.

“Why?”

“It has nothing to do with these,” I assure him, holding up the blank detention slips in my hand.

“Sure.  Why?”

“Because I am asking you to.”  I smile and walk away.

The bell rings.  I turn to answer a question.  I look back.  He is gone.

In the hallway, I call him back.  His return walk is heavy with insecurity.  He expects a lecture.

I hand him a copy of The Rose That Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur.  “I didn’t want to hand you this in front of anyone else.  It is not the edited version you are reading for class as part of the ID program—this is the real deal.  Are you allowed to have it?" 

His affirmation and thank you still resonate as he walks away, but I know neither will remain tucked in my memory the way that smile will.   

*with thanks to Deb Day at Coffee with Chloe for nudging  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Versatile Blogger? Me?


Initially I discovered the Two Writing Teachers site and stalked it from afar.  However, after jumping in and starting my own blog to participate as a member of the TuesdaySlice-of-Life community, I discovered a world of like-minded cyber-friends.  One such kindred spirit is Linda at Teacher Dance.

Linda’s blog posts are some of my favorites to read.  I always look forward to seeing what she has to say and often long to work with her at the private school for gifted children where teachers are graced with her literacy coaching.  That kind of expertise, inspiration, guidance, and support is not easy to come by in my world.  So, I find myself thankful time and again for the connection I have with Linda online. 

I recently got a message from her to check out her latestpost.  Much to my delight, I found that she had named me as a Versatile Blogger.  So, now I have yet another reason to be thankful—thank you, Linda, for the recognition (and the kick in the pants it is giving me to blog for a reason other than Slice of Life Tuesday)!

As a recipient of this honor, I have been invited to pass on the good vibes to others by:
·      Thanking the person who recognized me and providing a link back to her blog.
·      Sharing seven bits of information about myself.
·      Passing this award along to 15 other blogs that I have discovered.

So, a BIG THANKS to Linda at Teacher Dance, who is one of my favorite poets!  Another BIG THANKS to Deb at Coffee With Chloe for also nominating me!

Now, for seven things you never thought you needed to know about yours truly:

1.     I am a stacker.  My life can be summed up in layers of papers that tell my history like sedimentary rock.  Don’t judge—I can find things quickly. . . most of the time.    

2.     My husband is the best teacher I know.  We met while working at another school in our district.  The only year we have worked in separate schools is the year we got married.  He is one of the most beloved teachers in our building.  I am not going to lie; I use my affiliation with “the coolest teacher” shamelessly to get students on my side.

3.     I talk to my mom nearly every day.  She is the sole reason I am sane.  She is probably also the sole reason I am a touch insane as well: I hear her voice in my head all the time!

4.     When I win the lottery, I plan to open my own school and ban grades.  I am a big fan of assessment and feedback.  But grades???  Who ever said grades were a good way to give feedback? 

5.     I have a propensity for consuming all things orange: Diet Sunkist is my drink of choice, carrots are my favorite veggie, and anything that involves cheese is my friend.

6.     I took a risk this year by proposing an intervention class.  I am terrified it won’t turn out to be successful.  We have had some rough days.  I have big visions of Hilary Swank playing me in a movie one day if it does turn out to be effective.

7.     When they make a game show where contestants need to name book titles and authors of young adult literature, I will be reigning champion.  That is what sticks in my head.  Just don’t ask me to remember a number or anything related to geography. 


Drumroll please . . . and now, here are the 15 bloggers I would like to acknowledge for being Versatile Bloggers who have impacted my blog life (there was nothing in the rules about there being no tag-backs):

1.     Linda at Teacher Dance, whose words are always inspiring.
2.     Deb at Coffee With Chloe, whose perspective often makes me laugh and always makes me glad I visited her blog.
3.     Dena at Uno Son, who is the best mom I know (aside from hers or mine)
4.     Ruth at Slices from the Sofa, whose dry wit cracks me up and leaves me craving more.
5.     Diana at One Literacy Coach, who needs to move to Illinois and convince my superintendent we need her in our building.
6.     Susan at Live, Love, Laugh, and Create! who reminds me to escape work head for a moment.
7.     Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers who are the reason I blog.
8.     James Kennedy who is a mad fun author visit. 
9.     John Green Need I say more?
10. DonalynMiller who writes what I wish I would’ve thought to write first.
11. Thestudents of CTL at You Gotta Read This! who are taught by none other than Nancie Atwell.
12. MotherReader who is one of the first bloggers I started following- I think you’ll quickly see why.
13. SusanBeth Pfeffer whose author visit to our school was a memorable experience  for all of us (us in a good way, but unfortunately I think we made the NEVER-VISIT-AGAIN list).
14. TeriLesesne at Professor Nana’s Journal who has a doctorate in young adult literature.  Who knew that even existed?
15. NealShusterman who was our best author visit.  Ever.  “Words can change the world.”