Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Letter to My Students

Read more great slices every Tuesday at TwoWritingTeachers
Dear Students,

If you haven't noticed from my whooping and hollering in the hall, the high fives with former students and the big smile on my face every day, I'm pretty excited about school starting.  I'm something of a school geek. I wake up in the morning thinking about what I'm going to do that day and fall asleep at night reflecting on the day.

And here's my little secret

I sometimes think I've failed you.

Really.

Sometimes I feel like a dog and pony show. I'm there for your entertainment, but am I really getting through to you?  I can make sure you pass the class. I can help you write wonderful speeches, create six-word memoirs, and understand theme in a story. By the time you leave my class you'll learn to deal with nerves, create a portfolio of your writing, and have your own idea of who was responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

What else is there you ask?

Passion. Curiosity. Imagination. Stamina.

I want you to have a burning desire to make your world a better place and a willingness to help those around you.

I want you to create works of wonder, even if no one sees it but you.

I want you to stand up and speak your mind when the bullies of the world try to quiet you.

I want you to know that anything worthwhile sometimes starts with failure and you have to try again and again to succeed. And sometimes, even when you think you know it all, you stop and start over again because something still isn't quite right.

I want you to know that learning doesn't end with a diploma.

I want you to leave my room with a passion for something that will carry you through the dark days and make the sunny ones shine a bit brighter. If this turns out to be your job in the future, even better.

In order to do this, I need your help.

I need you to say.  Mrs. Day, I don't understand. Can you show me one more time?

I need you to point things out.  That's just not right.  There's an easier way to do this.


I need to you to question me. Why are we doing this? When will I ever use this? What difference will this make in my world?

I need you to want to learn.


I need to know if something is stopping you from that learning.

And if we work together, we will work wonders.






Saturday, August 25, 2012

Working on the Resolutions

Thanks to Christy Rush-Levine for this graphic
It was a great first week of school. Even the three days of inservice/work time. You know what I mean. Sometimes those professional development days are pretty worthless.  I felt good about most of ours, so that was a nice feeling.  Our district attempted differentiating the PD on Monday and that is a step in the right direction.  I learned a new tool to use with my classes and I always love that!



But Thursday was the day I was waiting for.

First day with my kids.

It was fantastic!

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to make better connections with my freshmen and I really concentrated on that the first two days.  Step one was making sure I learned all their names as quickly as possible. By Friday, I had learned the first names of all 45 of them (I also learned the names of the random upperclassmen I didn't know, but there aren't as many of them). I told them that we might have to review a bit on Monday.  Sometimes old brains lose things over the weekend.

I also got books in their hands the first day.  Made my annual promise to find them at least one book that they could honestly say, "Hey. That wasn't too bad."  I also posted a list of the books that I read this summer---both professional and for fun---and I wrote the name of the book I am reading on the board.  I think it's important that they realize I really do read. I also posted my TBR list beside it.  I'm going to issue a 20 Book Challenge on Monday. 20 books for the school year.  I wanted to do higher, but I think 20 is more realistic.  My freshmen come to me bragging about how they get around the reading logs and book talks in middle school.  One told me she always got an A in reading, but she never finished books.  I think my mouth dropped open when she told me that. Now, I'm a firm believer in the "only believe half of what they tell you" school of thought. I know kids tend to exaggerate things, but I know there is some truth to this also.

"Will we have to do reading logs."

"No."

"Book talks?"

"No."


"How will you know if I'm reading?" 

"You'll ask me for another book."

Eventually, I will have them show me some evidence of their reading. But first I have to get them to read!



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My New Year's Resolutions


And here we are. Another summer gone. Another school year starting. And let me tell you a little secret...

I'm really, really excited to start school. Not necessarily the professional things we are doing before kids come, but the real school. You know...when the kids come.

As I did last year, I thought I would write down my resolutions for the new year.  Last year I referred back to these many times throughout the year. It kept me on track. Reminded me to keep reading my professional books. Kept me focusing on my quotes.  I felt better about my teaching and my life because of writing them down.


When I look at my resolutions, I don't feel like I did as well as I could have using technology in my classroom.  I wanted to integrate it into units more than I did, so I am keeping that resolution:


1. Teach Web 2.0 tools to my students and ask them to use them to display their learning.
I have learned several new tools this summer and have been writing down ideas for them.  I want to keep this list posted somewhere handy and get this technology into my students hands--starting day 1!





2. Implement new writing ideas learned from Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher.
I read books by both of them this summer--Write Beside Them by Kittle and Write This Way by Gallagher.  The ideas in these books fit well together and I need to be conscious in using the ideas. They both emphasize using personal stories and topics that students are familiar with to increase their confidence in their writing ability.




3. CONNECT  
I didn't do such a great job connecting with my freshmen at the beginning of last year. I feel terrible about that.  It took us a long time to become a community.This year, I am going to spend the first five days connecting with them--learning names, learning about their passions and what drives their lives. Freshmen, especially, need to make those adult connections. We'll complete activities together that will help us learn about each other and how we work. We'll do some writing and sharing. We'll talk about books we like and don't like. But mostly, we'll talk and get to know each other.

And I'm going to show them this video by John Green. If you haven't seen it, take a look. It's worth the watch:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer Memories

Yesterday Jo Knowles posted one last Teacher's Write prompt.  Find a picture and write a list poem.  It's been rolling around in my head since then...
I think this is also going to be one of my first prompts for my students



It's over.

Summer, I mean. 
Where did it go? 
One day it was here and 
the next it was
Soaked up by the sun
Blown away by the wind
Lapped up by the waves

Memories
Play around in my mind
Giggling grandkids
Sitting in the lake
Squirt guns
Golf days spent searching for the shade
Concerts with friends
Fireworks
Lovely weddings
Long lovely days of 
doing 
absolutely 
nothing

Summer promises to be back
in the 
Tinkling of ice cubes
Caressing of warm breezes and
Screeching of the gull
Warm afternoons 

But the chill in the mornings
Evenings of sweatshirts and fires
Announces 
Autumn's arrival

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sharing My Learning

I'm taking a tech class this week. Today I created this little animated video that I embedded on my web site for my freshmen.  Thought I would share with all of you also.


DebDay's Animation by DebDay on GoAnimate

Video Maker - Powered by GoAnimate.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mark Twain Live

I am not a fan of so-called "classic" books. I generally think they don't have much value for some of our students. Especially British Lit, as my roomie will tell you.

But I love Mark Twain. And while reading through my Twitter feeds this morning, I found a link to this little vide. The only footage of Mark Twain in existence. And the English teacher geek in me got a little excited.  But who to share it with?  

You are the only people I know who will find this cool.