Saturday, December 29, 2012

Build It and They Will Come






Reflections on Book Love by Penny Kittle
I'm participating in not one, but two online discussions about this book. I read it as soon as it came out, but these groups are giving me time to reflect and shape my thinking. 




I don't know what I was thinking when I left most of my first classroom library in the junior high where I taught.  Did I think high school students didn't need books? Did I think high school students only read classics? Did I think high school students didn't need easy reads?

I don't know. But I left most of that library on the shelves for the next reading teacher (bangs head on desk).

I moved into my new room at the high school, a room I shared with another teacher. She taught freshmen English in the mornings while I was in another room. I taught speech there in the afternoons. Roomie and I are very compatible, so the arrangement worked great.  At some point, we began bringing our books into the room.

And that is how the second classroom library began. A few books from home (high five).

Slowly, it grew.  We both taught a scripted reading program that we hated (poking eyes out with dull spoon). The only good thing about the program was 15-20 minutes a day of choice reading (Well, choice if you taught it with fidelity. Some who are teaching it now are bastardizing the choice component by assigning genres.) Because of that choice component, we began buying more books (I love Scholastic)  and the school bought many (woohoo!).

The library grew (cheers from the crowd).

It's hard to find good books for teenagers. Not what most adults think are good books. I wanted those books that high school students and their teachers thought were good books. Young Adult fiction.

This was about the time that I took Twitter seriously (@mrsday75). And do you know what I found?  People like Roomie and I. People that taught teenagers, respected teenagers, and, best of all, LIKED teenagers (It's amazing to me the number of educators who don't actually like kids.) And these Twitter people LIKED to read young adult fiction. And they wrote about it. They shared titles. They shared book trailers!

I began keeping a list. A long list. If all I did was read every day (I want that job) I might be able to keep up with the young adult fiction out there, but for now, I'll trust the opinions of others.

I started haunting garage sales and second hand stores. My husband knows that if we are in a town with a Goodwill, we have to stop. And I will be there awhile. My favorite finds have been a brand new hardcover copy of The Book Thief  (and it only cost me a buck). A copy of Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver (This resulted in my author crush on Maggie). An autographed copy of Dick Vitale's autobiography (My basketball players are SERIOUSLY impressed). 

The point is, you never know what you will find. You do your research. You keep your eyes and ears open.

And then you ask. When I taught seventh grade, I would ask parents to donate any books that they were going to get rid of (I can't imagine getting rid of books, but people do it!). I couldn't use all the books I received, so I took what I wanted and put the rest in the lounge of our K-8 building. They were scooped up. (It's about time I do this again!). Roomie and I have also had students donate books to the library when they are done with them.  We always write in the books "Generously donated by___" on the inside front cover so others can see where the books come from.

So, that's how it happens. One or two books at a time.

And now the books are nestled in their baskets on the shelves.

But, do they read them?

Roomie is now in her own room, teaching Spanish around the corner. She left her books with me because it was easier than moving them. She just comes down and grabs books for kids when they need them. Every once in awhile, a student will appear at my door during class.

"Schwade sent me to get a book."
"Do you need help?"
"No, she gave me a list."

Or
Someone will show up between classes...
"Help, Mrs. Day. I need a book."

Or a staff member will say, "What have you read lately that's good?"

And that's how it happens. One or two books at a time.

Book Love.










Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Pathway to Difficult Reading Begins With Books They Enjoy





Reflections on Book Love by Penny Kittle
I'm participating in not one, but two online discussions about this book. I read it as soon as it came out, but these groups are giving me time to reflect and shape my thinking. 

Introduction and Chapter 1

I started my career as a seventh grade teacher. I was somewhat shocked that all students didn't love to read like I did. So we would talk. They told me they didn't like to read. They liked to hunt and skateboard and play video games. Some were musicians, others liked to sing or draw or act. I taught football players, volleyball players, basketball players, runners and wrestlers.

But I didn't teach readers.

Reading has been a part of my life forever. I don't remember not knowing how to read. And, as a child, I was surrounded by it. Both of my parents and most of my grandparents were readers. I read everything I could get my hands on. As I like to tell my students on the first day, I'll read the cereal box if I don't have anything else.  I can't imagine a life of not reading.

Because of my love of reading, I made a promise to those 7th graders. I will find you a book that at the end of it you will be able to say, "Well, that didn't suck." (Never tell a teenager that you will find them something they will love. It turns them off immediately).

And then I work to do just that.

Now I teach high school students.  High school, where the love of reading goes to die.

"I don't have time."
"Reading sucks."
"I haven't read a book since __________."
I've never finished a book."

And I again am making my promise. Just one book...

Because I know if I can find the one right book, that may make all the difference.

It takes time to do that. It takes talking to kids. It takes a lot of books. It takes patience.
It takes a teacher who reads and shares that love of reading.

This year I am keeping my list of books read front and center in my classroom---literally. I have a poster of the books I have read, complete with stars. Another poster lists my To-Be-Read list (I need another poster, this one is full). And outside my room and many other rooms in our school hangs a poster:


Poster created by Tanya Riehle, art teacher extraordinaire.

What I like is that even some of my nonreaders ask me what I'm reading if I have left this blank.  It's a baby step toward reading, but a step nevertheless.

Quotes to Embrace:
"Allowing students to make choices about what they read has been presented in our procession, especially at the secondary level, as enrichment--something to do once the hard work is over. I believe, instead, that it is at the center of our work."

"A book isn't rigorous if students aren't reading it."

"Teenagers want to read--if we let them."

"The pathway to difficult reading begins with books they enjoy."

"...no pleasure in constant confusion..."

"I believe we own a reader's improvement in the year we have them."

"Nothing without joy."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Two Sides to Every Story....



It all started because I forgot to take my
blood pressure pills and vitamins Monday
morning.
What started?  I don't know what she's talking
about.  I was just entertaining myself.

I went home during my prep because I
left my pills and vitamins on the counter.
The last time I did that, Chloe got the bottle 
off the counter and got the lid off.  
Thankfully, she didn't eat any of the pills,
but I found the bottle and the pills on her 
blanket, just outside of her kennel. I was 
worried she'd do it again, so I went home.

Really, shouldn't she have to warn me when 
she's coming home early?  I mean, when do 
I get a little privacy in this place?

I walked into the house. The first thing
I saw were chewed up kleenex on the rug.
Great. She's gotten into the bathroom 
garbage. At least there wasn't a huge mess.

Maybe I'll pretend to be asleep. If I don't come
out of my kennel, she won't yell at me.

And then, I saw the kitchen. 

Geez, oh geez, oh geez.  I think she noticed the 
kitchen. I promise Santa. I was going to clean
up my  mess. Really I was. She just came  home 
too early! 

What a mess!  Garbage all over. You 
couldn't even see the floor. Yogurt cups,
butter wrappers, plastic containers, and 
coffee grounds. Everywhere. It was 
everywhere...

I was a little bored after they both left. and  I
haven't gotten much exercise lately.
I just smelled something soooo good in the can.
It was driving me crazy, so I had to find out
what it was. And I didn't finish supper last night, 
so I was kinda hungry.  And, well, I love yogurt. And 
then there was a hamburger wrapper and some
bread and....well, you get it. One thing led to another.

And Chloe?  The barker? The snoopy one
who greets everyone at the door. She didn't 
get out of her kennel. She lay there with her head
hanging over the door frame of her kennel, looking out 
from under her eyebrows...

They yell at me all the time for barking 
in the house , and now she's mad  because
I DIDN'T bark in the house. Jeesh. You
just can't please some people.

I start picking up the big pieces of garbage
(Remember, I was just running home for a
few minutes. It's my PREP time.) Guess 
who slinks out of her kennel? 

She wasn't yelling. In fact, she was 
kind of smiling. I thought it was safe.

Butt wagging, smiling and so glad to see
me. It was hard to be mad.

Puppy dog eyes. Gets her every time.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Words That Are Speaking to Me

Words that are speaking to me:

"Writing, painting, singing--it cannot stop everything. Cannot halt death in its tracks. But perhaps it can make the pause between death's footsteps sound and look and feel beautiful, can make the space of waiting a place where you can linger without as much fear. For we are all walking each other to our deaths, and the journey there between the footsteps makes up our lives."

     From Reached  by Ally Condie

Friday, December 14, 2012

They Were My Kids Too

It's not that I wasn't touched by the movie theatre shooting or the mall shooting or the temple shooting. I was  (How sad is it that I don't have to be specific in naming those events?). But today's shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut had me in front of my computer all day close to tears and tonight in front of my TV letting those tears fall.

It's not that those other shootings weren't horrific. They were.
It's not that those other shootings didn't affect me. They did.
It's not that those other shootings didn't leave families in mourning. They did.
But this was a school shooting.

And I am a teacher.

Those were MY kids.

That was MY classroom.

It doesn't matter that I teach high school kids and the victims were babies.

THEY WERE STILL MY KIDS.

And I'm not sure that anyone who is not a teacher understands the depth of feelings in a teacher's heart tonight.

We have lock-down drills in my high school. Practice for something I hope I never have to face.

Cell phones off.
Lights off.
In a corner.
Quiet.
Blinds pulled.
Door locked.

"What happens if we are in the bathroom?"
"What if I'm in the hall?"
"What if I'm in the computer lab?"
"What if...?"
"What if....?"
"What if I get here after you shut the door? Will you let me in?"

I watched those teachers leading their kids out of the building. Thinking of what was going through their head. And I know what it was. And it wasn't about themselves.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12: My 12 Favorite Christmas Ornaments




I love decorating my house for Christmas, and, just like my grandma, I have LOTS of ornaments. It's only natural then that my 12/12/12 post is about my 12 favorite Christmas ornaments.








The Noel Angels

I love these little angels because they remind me of home.  I got them out of "Grandma's Garage" after she passed away. My mom also has a set that my sisters and I played with. For years, my mom was the N, I was the O, my sisters were the E and L.  My brother was born when I was 8 and we all moved up an angel. Poor mom was kicked out of the angel club.  

Santa Baby Toy

My oldest son was born a week before Christmas and this was his very first toy of any kind. It was given to him by someone who was a dear friend during this time of my life.  Although I gave both sons all the Christmas ornaments that were theirs when they married and moved out on their own, this one I kept. It holds lots of memories.

Old Fashioned Santa

This is another treasure out of Grandma's garage.  There used to be two. I always let kids play with them until one was destroyed. Then I put this one up.  I collect Santas and this was really my first. 

Family Pictures

I always have family pictures sitting around. I think it has to do with the fact that no family lives in town. At Christmas I have favorite holiday pictures in winter frames. This particular one is of my mom, my sisters and I one family Christmas. We're singing along to the Jackson 5 Christmas album (that dates us a little, doesn't it). It was silly. It was fun. And it started a new family tradition.


Snow Days Screen Painting

What teacher doesn't love a snow day once in awhile? My husband bought this for me one year and it remains a favorite of mine. An added a bonus--I can leave it up until I'm sick of winter!


A Gift From Santa

I am a firm believer in the rule "If you don't believe in Santa you get underwear for Christmas". And because I am a believer, I often get Santa presents in December. This one came in early December one year so that I could enjoy it the whole season.

Snowman Scene Nightlight

One year my best friend and I were doing a little Christmas shopping in town.  I saw this and loved it. She bought it right out from under me. I was so disappointed. But several weeks later gave it to me when we celebrated Christmas together.

Wooden Santa Hanging

More proof that Santa exists!

The Elves

They're just plain cute. I used to put this in front of our Christmas tree because I liked how it looked as if the elves were decorating the tree. But then we got Chloe. She tends to eat things like this. So I moved them to the top of the stairs. Yep. I decorate the upstairs bedrooms too.

Santa Treetopper

What I really want for the top of the tree is Mom's one-eyed angel (long story there). But I have to settle for my Santa.  

Ornaments from students

As a middle school teacher, I still received gifts from students (high school students just don't seem to do that). Many of them hang on my tree. They give me a smile every year.

Santa Portrait


I found this portrait one year and had to add it to my Santa collection. This is just what I imagine the jolly old soul to look like.


Musical Snowmen

I love these guys. Often when I'm cleaning or cooking I wind them up and let them play. These used to sit at the foot of the bar in our dining room. But once again, Chloe. She has this thing about stuffed toys of any kind, so now I put them up.  The grandkids love them, so when they come for Christmas, I'll have to put them somewhere lower.


Snowman Family

One of our sons gave me this for Christmas one year.  It's just cute and I like it. Always reminds me of him.

The Grandparent Snowmen

My husband gave this to me the year our first grandchild was born. I left the tag on because it says "To Grandma Deb from Grandpa Googie". The first thing I received as a Grandma.....


So, that's it. 12 of my favorite Christmas ornaments. All with special memories. All given with love. All shared with you.  Now, what are your 12 favorite things?












Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Snow Dog

It snowed here on Sunday. Big fluffy flakes. Picture postcard perfect flakes. Beautiful for a first snow, although I'm sure the same snow in February or March won't be near so beautiful or perfect.

I don't think Chloe remembered what that white stuff was. At first she just went out, did her business and came back in. It wasn't until we went in the back yard to play that she really got the white stuff figured out.

And then she went nuts.

I tried to play fetch, but the cold air made her frisky. She growled and jumped and did her happy, crazy race around the yard. She stuck her nose in it, tasted it and rolled in it.

And then, I tried to make a snowman.

I start the perfect ball. Get it rolled just right. Put it in the perfect spot.

Chloe thought the ball was for her. It must have looked like a fun toy. Surely if she picked it up and ran, I would chase her. Every time I made a ball, she dove in. Sometimes she tried to eat it. Sometimes she tried to roll it with her nose. I never did get a festive holiday snowman made for my yard.

But, I do have a snow dog...


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Unwritten Vow

It wasn't part of our wedding vows, but it should have been.

I dealt with poopy diapers and poop in the yard.  I dealt with puking kids and puking animals. I kept turtles and frogs and fish in the house when everyone knows those creatures live in the wild (I drew the line at snakes). I killed my share of spiders and other creepy crawlies.

BUT

I will not deal with mice and dead critters.  That's his job. (I'm sure it's written in a husband handbook somewhere.) And it is a hard and fast rule in our house (It tops my No gifts with cords rule).

So when I saw the tell-tale signs of a mouse in the house, I followed the rule and told my husband about it.

"Oh, no. Are you sure?" 

Am I sure? Really? As I am taking all the dish towels out of the drawer and washing them (I'd really like to throw them all and get new ones, but that may be a little extreme), he asks me if I'm sure.

I give him "the look".

"OK. I'll get something tomorrow."

The next night he came home with glue traps. GLUE TRAPS.  The mouse runs across them and gets stuck to the trap. He, of course, talked to people all day about what to use.

"These work great," he proclaims.

"Fine," I answer. "But I will NOT be touching those things after I put them out.  That's your job."

He chuckles. "I know."

A couple of days go by. No signs of anything. Of course, it has warmed up outside. The critters don't need to come in and get warm. Each day I take a peek inside the cupboard under the sink and the towel(less) drawer.

And then it happens.

I peek in the drawer and there it is. A mouse stuck to the trap. I'm sure I looked and sounded like a cartoon character.

"Oooo, oo, oo.  Greeeeggggg.  There's a mouse in the drawer.

"Are you sure?"

Really? Again with the are you sure?  Just because I'm running from a mouse stuck in a glue trap, you question what I saw?

He laughs as he walks to the kitchen (shouldn't he be running to save me?). Opens the drawer. Yep, there's a mouse in there.  He grabs a plastic bag.

"Well, come out here and hold the sack and help me."

Really? I have a serious case of the heebie-jeebies and he wants me to hold the sack.

I don't think so.

"No. I told you when you bought the damn glue traps that I would have nothing to do with this. I will not hold the sack."

He laughs at me again.

"Come on. Just hold the sack.You don't have to touch it or anything. I'll pull out the drawer and dump it in."

See, he's not too fond of this either.

"Oh, I think it's still alive. Maybe I'll get it tomorrow."

Yeah. And I won't be helping you then, either.

Enjoy more Slice of Life stories at Two Writing Teachers!