Thursday, October 8, 2015

No One Ever Told Me

I spent some time thinking this past Banned Book Week  how lucky I've been when it comes to books and reading...

No one ever told me I couldn't read Gone With The Wind at twelve because it was inappropriate or too old for me, or that it wasn't good literature. When I began to read it, both my mom and grandmother were excited that I was trying a book they both loved. I talked about it with both of them. Shared my thoughts, talked about Scarlett's good points, cried when Mellie died. It didn't scarred me, because I have read it 25 times and get something new out of it with each read.

I grew up in a family of readers, each with their own preferences that they shared with me. Grandma read True Story magazine, Grandpa read the newspaper.

My mom and dad always had books going and a pile that was waiting to be read.

My dad loved the grand historical novels of Herman Wouck and James Michner. Those led me to Steinbeck, whom I loved. I was never assigned his books in school (well, college maybe), but when I discovered him in the library, I read everything he wrote. Still today, I love the possibilities and new worlds that big thick books offer.

Mom loved what we called "trashy novels", those romantic, often historical novels by authors whose names I no longer remember. I often looked up the historical facts I found in those novels, just to make sure they were true. I think I learned more history as a result of reading those books than I ever did in school.  I loved them. Today, I have my students do a mini research of a time period before we read books like Fahrenheit 451  or Night. It's important to put things in context.

Mom also loved the gothic novels of Victoria Holt. And without that introduction I would not have found Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.... a canon book for me. And the spookiness of that is I'm sure what led me to Stephen King, an author I can't get enough of (and he writes BIG books, which satisfies that passion).

And all that freedom in my own reading as a kid carried through when I began teaching. It never occurred to me to give anything but choice to my students.

When I began my classroom library, no one told me I had to have the books approved. There was no lengthy process to go through to get approval for a book. If I found value in it, in the library it went. I've been trusted as an educator, as a reader, to choose the books my students have access to.

I'm so lucky that no one ever told me what books to read and buy.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Discover. Play. Build.

I think sometimes the lake pulls out all the stops at the end of the season, creating beautiful sunrises and sunsets just to remind us what we will miss when we close for the season. I'm just going to sit here awhile longer this morning sipping my coffee and enjoying the view.

I'm celebrating writing again. Inspiration seems to be finding me :)  I wrote yesterday about books I wouldn't have read if I didn't have a classroom library.  I kept trying to fit in all the books that I loved that I wouldn't have read, but there were just too many of them. I do know that they all started with Harry Potter.  I love that this year, one of my eighth graders started the series. She loves them and it's fun to watch someone experience them for the first time (and there's another celebration).

I've been sharing celebrations with students, staff and community through a new Facebook page, A Day in Room 25.  I love taking kids pictures and sharing out their work.  I'm getting a lot of "Mrs. Day, you should share that!" Or "Mrs. Day, are you going to put that on Facebook?"  I want it to be a little more interactive, but we have a good start.

I'm getting ready for NCTE.  I keep looking through the sessions and changing my mind about what I want to do. Except for one. The High School Matters session with Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher and Carol Jago is a must.  Seeing all three of these master teachers together will be worth the price of admission!

Other celebrations this morning---

  • flavored coffee and snuggly blankets
  • electric blankets (it is chilly at the lake!)
  • good books (I'm reading The Death of Bees. Strong voice in this one)
  • Chloe snuggles
  • soup
  • the crispness of a fall day
  • crunchy leaves
  • sunrise
  • students who really write
  • and read
Do you have celebrations to share?  Check out Ruth Ayre's site and share along with us!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Thank goodness my classroom library isn't just for me...

This morning I read Pernille Ripp's newest blog post. You should probably read it first. And it got me thinking about all the books I wouldn't have read if my library was just for me.

If my classroom library was just for me I never would know what a muggle was and imagined a game of quidditch. I wouldn't have cried over the death of a wizard or cheered the death of another.

I wouldn't have jumped into the land of a book and and loved the  silver tongues that brought words to life.

I definitely wouldn't have raced the capall uisce up the beach on the first of November, nor tracked ley lines with the Raven Boys.

If my classroom library were just for me, there would have been no fantasy, no magical reality.

I wouldn't have played games of life and death.
I wouldn't have lived in a world with no color and loved a giver of memories.
I wouldn't have lived in the future and wondered how we could keep those things from happening.

If my classroom library were just for me dystopian novels would not be there.

I wouldn't have cried over a football coach from just down the road or someone else's crazy lab. I wouldn't have experienced a soldier's life or rode a bus with her sister.

Because my classroom library lives for others I met Hazel and Gus, fell in love with Ryan Dean, shared a praying mantis with others, wished I could give the sun and traveled back to a very different Oz. And Auggie wouldn't have reminded me to #choosekind

Thank goodness my classroom library isn't just for me...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Celebrating Resilency

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Not gonna lie.

At some points this week I felt I was drowning in despair.

Students are writing expressive/reflective pieces for me and the stories I am reading are not the happy-go-lucky, beach party, silly teenage antics that so many people believe high school student life is like.

I'm reading stories of abuse and neglect, family suicide, and homelessness.
I'm reading stories of loneliness
I'm reading stories of self-abuse, family issues, and fear of deportation.

They believed me when I told them

Your Story Matters.

They took those words to heart and shared with me the parts of themselves they seldom share with others. They trusted me.  And slowly, most of them are trusting at least one other student in class with that story.

That's reason to celebrate.

They laugh, they smile, they relax in my room.

That's reason to celebrate.

They are committed to finishing school and they come most days and work hard to make the ending to their story happy.

And that's reason to celebrate.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I Failed Today

I failed today.

I removed a student from my room. Not that the removal wasn't warranted in most cases.

But I know this kid. Know him well. I know that when the insubordinate, defiant voice comes out he is hurting. I know something happened in his world that added a few more bricks to his wall.

I intended to find him a quiet spot where he could be alone, but one sentence changed all that.

"Good. I need to meet the new principal anyway."

Fine I thought Let me introduce you.

That was my failure. I let him goad me into something I had no intention of doing. He pushed a button and I reacted.

And it wasn't what he needed.

He needed a spot away from others to nurse whatever wounds had been opened. He needed me to understand, to be a sounding board, to be a safe place.

I had one job today and I failed.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Good Kind of Tired

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We've just finished our first full week of school--with kids. If you teach, you understand how I fell back to sleep for another hour this morning when I really intended to just close my eyes and cuddle Chloe for a few minutes.

If you teach, you'll understand why I slept most of the way to the lake last night. And that when we got to the cabin, I put my pjs on and wrapped up in a blanket for the rest of the night.

It's a good kind of tired.

It's the tired of learning new names and making sure to talk and connect with every single kid that walks in my room.

It's the tired of creating family with a group of strangers


Of making my room a safe place to land.

It's the tired of finding the right book for the right kid and learning why 42 kids took creative writing.

It's the tired of welcoming a student into speech class for the 3rd time and then two class periods later welcoming him to drama.  After five days, it's seeing insecurity in that student you'e never seen before.

It's convincing boys that they can write and then wondering if you'll ever get to peek at the magic being written in a girl's notebook during every break in the action.

It's the tired of planning for the next week and making sure it's rigorous and worthy of their time, but not so difficult that students give up before they start.

It's the tired of wishing you were a month into school and already enjoying those relationships you are busy cultivating now.

It's the tired of a teacher after the first five days of school.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Celebrating Summer: Part 2

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It's like the fastest month ever. One minute it's the 4th of July, and the next minute you're turning the page to August. Yikes.

20 days until teachers report back.

But who's counting?

The 4th was a quiet one for us this year (and I'm not complaining). We didn't even leave the resort and I loved every minute of it.

We went to several concerts--but a special one was with our son and daughter-in-law. For Father's Day and my husband's birthday they bought him tickets to see The Marshall Tucker Band in a town not far from the lake.  It was also their fifth wedding anniversary, so they went along with us.  It was a great night!

I geared myself up for an event that I had been looking forward to (and been a little anxious about) for over a year.

My 40th high school class reunion--

I don't know why I was anxious--wait! Yes, I do. I hadn't seen these people in 40 years!  But, with some, it was as if we had never left the comfort of school.  I had a smile on my face all night. At times, I would stand off by myself and watch my classmates and think about what amazing people they have all become.

A week or so later found us traveling again, although this time a little closer to home. We again met with our favorite traveling companions and spent a few days in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Although we only live an hour or so away, it's not a place my husband and I have really explored.  Our favorite things a great little retro jazz bar.  It felt like we had stepped back in time.

Our other favorite thing was the riverboat dinner cruise we took.  Good food, great view.

Those were the major events...there was also lake time with kids and grandkids. Great moments with friends. A little quiet alone time. And lots of planning for our next trip


Maybe Chloe will have to share some adventures.