Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wednesday Was One of Those Days....


Discover. Play. Build.

Wednesdays are weird days. Not the beginning of the week, so energy is waning. Not the weekend, so nothing to get excited about. Just kind of stuck in the middle.

Ordinary.

Nothing to celebrate.

I stopped at the convenience store on my way home to pick up something for my lunch on Thursday. I see two of my favorite students. He was in one of my Creative Writing classes last year. Often brought his breakfast into my room to sit and chat. She moved into the district last year as a freshmen. She was lost and lonely until they started dating. Now, she is rarely without a smile.

They are grabbing every package of hamburger buns off the shelf.
"You can't take all those," I yell across the store.
"Yes we can!" the girl giggles.
Her boyfriend smiles.  "Hey, Mrs. Day, when I graduate this year, I have a present for you."
Puzzled, I repeated his words, "YOU, have a present for ME when you graduate..."
"Yep."
"He told me about it, I think it's pretty cool."
I don't know what he's giving me, but I've already had my present.

I drove home smiling.

Got home and played with Chloe for awhile, then came in to start supper. The phone rang.

An unfamiliar voice greeted me with, "Is this Mrs. Day?" Now I'd already had an angry parent email this week, so my little voice thinks, "Oh no. What now?"

"This is Kerigan's mom. Did you have her make that video?"

Again with the little voice. Kerigans's Digital Storytelling Project is getting a lot of airplay. Maybe she didn't like it...maybe she wants me to take it down....Geez, I'm probably in trouble again....

"I just wanted you to know what a wonderful thing you  had her do. I just got to watch it today and I can't believe it.  She doesn't always show us things you know, especially now with her dad having surgery and this diagnosis of her nephew. But this, this is beautiful."

We talked for quite awhile, about the project, about the little boy. I could tell she'd been crying, but this video, it made her happy. She told me to share it with everyone I could.

So I will. Today I will share it with you, in case you didn't see it when I tweeted it out.



This has been a week full of celebrations. Little moments of JOY that would go unnoticed if I wasn't waiting and watching for them. Students loving books. A workshop with a colleague I don't spend enough time with. Bossman coming in and relaxing in one of my "comfy" chairs (relaxing isn't in his vocabulary these days). But Wednesday? It was one of those days.....

And here are a couple more of the videos my kids shared with me. Who says story doesn't matter?





Monday, October 21, 2013

#Write2Connect


Here I sit, wrapped in my cuddly blanket, coffee in hand, Chloe beside me, thinking about writing, thinking about all the ways it appears in my life. It's the National Day on Writing (school edition) and it seems only natural that I write.

I write about my writing periodically.

I've written about what I write and why I write  and again, what I write.

I've written when I don't have anything to write about.

I've written about tough stuff.

At times I've written about the ugly times in a writing class, but usually I write about the fun stuff.

I reflect on what writer's need and more specifically, what boy writer's need.

And sometimes, I let Chloe write.

But as I said in a previous post, "And, now, I'm back. Writing for me. Writing because I can't imagine not writing. Writing about life so the world (well, mostly the grandkids) knows I was here. Writing so others know I cared."  

What has kept me writing this blog is the connections I have made. Wonderful readers who take the time to comment, who take the time to share with me. It's amazing the friends I have throughout the world just because of this little blog. And some, even drive hours to come and visit me (and my classroom). What could have been weird and awkward, wasn't. It felt like meeting with a long lost friend because we knew each other through our blogs.

I don't only connect through the blog. My Facebook feed is slowly turning into more than a game space. Connections I have made through my blog have become friends. Many groups and teachers have pages now where ideas are shared freely. Twitter and several Twitter chats also connect me to other teachers and their amazing ideas. 

In fact, it was through Twitter connections that a new writing project for my students came to be. We are now sharing our blogs with some high school students from two other high schools in other parts of the state. So far, we've read and commented on each others, but I think all the teachers involved have more in mind as we head through the school year. My freshmen also commented on the blogs of some third graders in our district one Monday, just for fun. 

Today, I will plead with my Creative Writing students to tweet out links to their digital storytelling projects. As I watched their videos last night, I laughed and cried and gasped aloud at the amazing things they shared. Some were so personal, I hurt for them. But I also cheered at their amazing spirits and their courage to continue on another day. Some shared stories of family members who impact their daily lives. Love came through those stories. They need to know their stories matter and those stories need to be shared. 

So we will talk about connecting with the world.

Because that's what writing can do. 


Saturday, October 19, 2013

I Just Kept Smiling

Discover. Play. Build.
Like this idea? Head over to Ruth's blog and read some more. Better yet, share your own celebrations there, or on Facebook or tweet it out using the hashtag #celebrationlu  No matter what, celebrate what you do!

Monday, 7:45am I am met at the door by a student. 
She just finished reading Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Now she wants to know if Alex dies at the end of the book. I just smiled.

"You'll have to read the next book to find out."
"Mrs. Day...." in that whiny voice only teenage girls can have.

Every time I saw her, she begged for the answer. I just kept smiling. She googled a summary of Pandemonium to see if she could find her answer. No luck. I just kept smiling.

She came to class 7th hour.

"Where's that book?"

I point to where it's at and she goes over to get it.

"I'm going to read the last pages and see!"

She flips through the book, looking for her answer. She doesn't find it.

"I'm just going to read the whole thing tonight to find out."

"What if the second book doesn't tell you either?"

"Mrs. Day!"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Wednesday, after our 10 minute reading time:

"Mrs. Day! Are you kidding me about the end of this book?"
I just smiled.

Freshmen boys aren't my biggest group of enthusiastic readers. Some will play lots of games to make me think they are reading, but they fake read a lot.

But this boy, this one, he found a book he loved. Gym Candy by Carl Deuker  This is a no fail book for my high school boys. I've never had one not like it. They like all his other books too, but this is the gateway book.

And now that this one read the book, it will find it's way into more hands. And more boys will say, "Are you kidding me about the end of this book?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All week.
The bi-quarterly meeting of PA (Procrastinators Anonymous) meets bi-quarterly in our high school The large group meetings take place in Roomie's classroom. The Retake Queen, as I like to think of her, allows students to reassess their learning constantly. If they don't score well enough on an assessment, they can retake it. There are procedures to follow, but they can bring up their grade. And that is a wonderful thing.

And we don't believe in zeroes. What do those show? Nothing. Zeroes are easy. But for us, zeroes are a placeholder until you get the work done. So, we are always on kids to get the work made up. Don't let those zeroes stand in the way of showing what you've learned.

It does, however, make for an interesting week right before midterms or the end of the quarter. The smell of panic is in the air. Early mornings, prep periods, class periods, after school.
The Procrastinators arrive. Anxious. Knowing they waited too long. Hoping for the best.

And we just smile.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Silly Freshmen


Monday has been designated as "Blogging Day" in my two freshmen English classes. Some Mondays we work on writing the post of the week. Other weeks we comment on blog posts written by students in some classrooms we are connecting with. It's always fun to read what's going on in other places.

But yesterday, we commented on the blogs of a class of third graders in our district.

"Mrs. Day, this one can't spell at all."
         Do the best you can. Let me see. Ignore the spelling, their                teacher will take care of that. Just write  back to them.

"Mrs. Day, this one only wrote one sentence. Why do we have to write 200 words or more"?
         I'm sure they are supposed to write more. Maybe they had trouble thinking of more to write. Why         don't you ask them some questions.

Mrs. Day, I don't know what this one is trying to say."
         Do the best you can. Let me see. Comment back, ask them questions.

"Mrs. Day...." at this point, I am ready to change my name.

To the class I say, "Remember, they are nine. At nine you weren't perfect. You misspelled things--you still misspell things. At nine, your grammar wasn't perfect--it still isn't perfect. Just write back to them. Because remember how cool it would have been to have a HIGH SCHOOLER comment on your blog when you were in third grade."

They think about that. Little smiles appear on faces and they settle in to write. Many of them read more of the posts than the one I assigned. They began to take their comments seriously.

I only hope they spelled things right!


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Time to CELEBRATE

Discover. Play. Build.


"Nothing without JOY". 

I have focused this year on finding the little bits of joy that often times go unnoticed and unappreciated. I found that the more I focused on the things that bring me JOY, the less I focused on the negativity. Not that I don't have negative moments, or have negative people in my life, I just choose not to focus on them. So, happily, I join in Ruth's CELEBRATE this week (and thanks for the shout out, Ruth). 





This is the front of our high school. Isn't it amazing? These are window shades. From the outside you see this great CELEBRATION of our high school and our amazing students. From the inside, you see nothing. These shades block the sun and glare that come in the windows. 

Drama class. Exercise ball has been a hit with kids

Creative Writing: All students like to use the rocking chair when writing

Creative Writing

The way we read...

Comfy places for kids to work.  Do they sometimes get off track. Yup. Do they sometimes mess around? Yup. But all in all, giving students places to work that are comfortable and easy going has been the best thing I have done in my classroom. There's also a bench, lots of pillows and a rug. Students know that they can sit where they want as long as they work. If there are too many off-task behaviors, they get grounded. No one wants to be grounded!

Helping a student plan out a personal narrative

The best part of these comfy places--support from both my principal and my superintendent. There are many new types of desks and chairs coming to our building because they know that desks in straight rows are not always the best way to learn and collaborate in the 21st century.

Well, that's it for this week. See you all next Saturday for a CELEBRATION of our week!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why Genius Time?

Many years ago, when I taught seventh graders, I did an activity to help me learn more about them. One boy I will never forget. He shared with me that over the summer he won a ribbon at the fair for his apple pie. He made everything himself. The filling. The crust. It stuck with me for a few reasons: He was a boy (sexist, I know). Who taught him to make pie? Why did he want to learn this?

Later in the year, another boy brought me a piece of peanut butter cup pie that he made. Again, who, what, why?

Another year, I had a girl who taught herself to play guitar.

I've had students who aren't afraid to tear into their cars and fix something.

Others who have taught themselves new languages.

Last year, I had students who put together their own gaming computers.

And not one of these students learned any of this in school.

They read for information. They connect with others from whom they want to learn. They watch videos. They try and fail. They try again.

They learn amazing things and show that learning in incredible ways. And none of that learning is done in school.

And this is why, once again, I am introducing Genius Time to my freshmen. I want them to find their passions. I want them to learn about things they truly care about. I want them to try and fail and try again.

We're going to begin this week by watching a couple of videos explaining what genius time is. I also want to show them this.




Exploring our passions. Trying something new. Learning for learning's sake. That's why we'll do Genius Time again this year.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Hardest Part



Choice.

It's all the rage.

It's a great thing to offer kids. I let them choose their books, their speech and writing topics. Choice keeps them motivated. Choice lets them explore and share their passions. Choice. It's a good thing.

Right?

Then why is it so hard for kids?

Right now I have students beginning research for their demonstration speeches-- but first they have to choose a topic.
And students putting together a digital storytelling project---but first they have to choose a topic.

There are some who seem incapable of doing that.

"Mrs. Day, I don't know what to demonstrate."

"Mrs. Day, I'm not good at anything."

"Mrs. Day, can't I just use my last piece for the digital storytelling project?"

So, we talk. We talk a lot.

"What do you like to do outside of school"

"What are you good at that no one knows about?"

"What is an experience that really affected you?"

"Who is a person who has influenced you?"

"Have you ever lost someone close to you?"

And on and on and on.

Finally, they find a topic, an idea (or maybe it finds them). And they settle down to the task at hand.

But, wow, it's a lot of work :)