Saturday, December 6, 2014

Nesting....

Discover. Play. Build.


"Are you nesting?" @Artteach13 asked when she came into my room.

"Yep. I guess I am," I replied as I looked over desks full of piles of papers and a full recycling bin.

I have been out of sorts for days, it seemed. I couldn't concentrate. Wasn't getting things done. Lessons weren't going right.

Home was feeling the same way. I wasn't comfortable in my own home.

So what do I do when I feel out of sorts and not myself?

I PURGE and ORGANIZE.

I don't know what it is, but sometimes life and piles of papers and clutter and boxes and...well, you get the idea...

Things Life. Relationships. Jobs, get out of control. I don't feel like I can share with people

So today I am celebrating putting life back in order. Getting rid of the clutter, the unimportant, the "been there, don't want to go back".

And as I purge and organize, I create a balance. Just what/who is important to me?  Focus on that. Just focus on that....

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Celebrating the Best Monday Ever...


And the rest of the week wasn't so bad, either....

Discover. Play. Build.
Celebrate with us!
I was out of the classroom both Thursday and Friday last week. And you know how it goes when you are gone for a couple of days. Kids can think the rules  expectations are gone too. So I was a little apprehensive heading to school Monday morning.

Imagine my glee when I read the note from my sub telling me how he liked my room and how kids handle the freedom. 

What a great way to start a Monday.  It proved that kids can be independent learners. That they can handle the freedom my room allows, even when I'm not there. Did all of them get lots of work done? Nope. But most of them did. Some of them watched videos on their computers and spent a lot of time on Facebook. They talked and messed around JUST LIKE THEY DO WHEN I AM THERE. But they know when the work is due and will have to get it done on their own time. 

Then, second hour Monday, at the beginning of Creative Writing, a senior girl asked me to find her a book to read. Her words, "Do you have a book I could read? I feel stupider because I haven't been reading." 

Do I have a book????? 


Really? Do I have a book you can read?  

So, I started grabbing books off the shelves. I'm sure she was thinking to herself I only want one, but I handed her a pile to choose from. 

And then a funny, amazing, wonderful, thing happened. The other girls at her table started looking at the books. And the boys in the back of the room said, "Yea. Will you find me one too?" And other kids in the room shared, "Ooo. That's a good one. I read it last year." And before I knew it, books were flying off the shelves. 

And it didn't end. 

At the beginning of the next class, a senior who I don't even have in class this semester came to see me. Her request? To find her a book. 

I am getting daily updates from her on her reading. 

She doesn't have to do a book project or a reading log or even tell me about it. 
She's just reading.
And isn't that the point?

And the rest of the week also was worth celebrating
  • Monday and Thursday nights were Parent-Teacher conferences
  • Genius Time with my #Crazy8s
  • MacBeth performances in College Prep Lit
  • Funny speeches from kids who don't think they are funny
  • A parent finding me Thursday night to ask if I would contact their child about being in speech
  • Chloe cuddles
  • A husband who cooks and plans dinners
  • A restful weekend at home

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sometimes...

Sometimes, in the middle of life
there isn't time to 
WRITE
about the celebration
because you are 
too busy 
LIVING
it.

You are sharing a 
FIRST BIG GAME
 with grandkids


Sometimes
You put your money
where your mouth is 
and take students
on a trip you hope will
GIVE THEM VOICE


And 
Sometimes
in the midst of grading chaos
and messy houses
and the rest of the
"I should be doings"
You take a weekend 
to RELAX
to REFUEL
to REINVIGORATE
yourself

Because, even though 
there are lots and lots of 
"I should be doings"
Life is meant to be 
ENJOYED
and CELEBRATED







Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Nov 5: My Strength. My Kids.


I am a yeller. I get after kids daily. I tell them, "I treat each and every one of you like you are my own kids. It's when I stop yelling you have to worry."  

What do I "yell" about? Homework. Being mean to classmates. Not caring. Homework. Watching movies in class. Texting. No effort. Homework.  

And I yell at kids I really like. Like they were my own kids. 

Because they are. My. Kids.

And they know it. Because I also tell them that. "You. Are. My. Kid.

They call me mom. They tell me they are sorry when they screw up. They don't like it when I'm mad at them.

What they don't know is the nights I go home and cry because I think I've failed them. Or the days I say to my principal, "I've never had a kid I couldn't reach. I don't know what to do with this one." They don't know how I worry on Prom Night. They don't know that even after they leave me and go to college or go to work, they are still MY KID.

They don't think I mean You. Are. MY. KID.

They don't know that I never give up. I will always try to find a way to connect, to help, to love. 

My strength? MY KIDS.

“When you're screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they've given up on you.” 
― Randy Pausch

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Nov 4: The Best Gift

At first, I knew exactly what I was going to write about.

Adam's podium

or maybe, the random Christmas ornaments

or maybe the pieces of chocolate that kids bring me.

It could be notes from parents.

But no.

It's this


To know that they get it. To see them share themselves and our room so openly. To remember where they came from and see where they are now. That is the best gift.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Nov 3 You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks


I am an old teacher.


57 on my last birthday.

And I'm pretty proud that I have kept up with all the changes I have seen in my teaching career. Not just kept up but kept ahead of them. I have never uttered the words, "We've done this before." Or "The last time we did this..." Well, OK, maybe I've said it once or twice. We've gone through a lot of curriculum management systems.

My students are amazed that
  • I stay pretty current on the latest fads/games/music/etc.
  • I taught junior high for 15 years before coming to the high school
  • I'm older than some of their parents
  • I've had some of their parents, aunts and uncles in class
  • I have a smart phone
  • I have a snapchat and Instagram account
  • I'm better at Twitter than they are
  • I'm "techy" and, again, better at it than many of them
I think what amazes them is that because I am so old, I shouldn't know the things I do. I should be content to teach the same thing every year until I die behind my desk.

That has never been my style.

I get bored too easily.

About every five years I feel the itch, the discontent begins. By the seventh year, I have to change what I am doing.

I started out as a para in our high school Special Ed department. Then I taught basic Math (gasp! I still can't believe I taught Math!) and basic English in the junior high (kind of a program for those who didn't qualify for special ed, but who were not making it in the regular classroom). Then I moved to teaching 7th grade English, switched to 7th grade Reading (even team taught the two classes for awhile). Eventually, I taught 7th and 8th grade Advanced English, Speech at the high school and also a class at the alternative school.

This semester I have Speech, Drama, Creative Writing, College Prep Lit and another class of 8th grade Advanced English.

I love the change. I love creating new plans, new units. I never want to teach the same thing twice. Sometimes I wonder why I keep old binders with old lesson plans in them. But just as I think I can throw them away (or trash them off my computer) a new idea comes to me. I can tweak this lesson. I can add this resource. I can flip this. I can make this an inquiry project.

I'm starting to think about retirement, but that doesn't mean I'll be resting on retired lesson plans. I'll keep thinking, keep changing, keep moving forward until the day they give me my retirement bell.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Celebrating Teaching

Discover. Play. Build.


I've been celebrating teaching and JOY in my life for a couple of years now. Concentrating on the good things in my life has changed my attitude in many ways.  I shared out Friday Favorites for awhile, and then Ruth started this lovely little community of celebration.  How much fun is it to spend a few moments with others and celebrating those little moments (and sometimes some big ones!).

So this month, I've decided to join a month long "Attitude of Gratitude" blogging challenge. I love that they have questions for every day of the challenge. I looked them over and already have some great ideas for writing (always a good thing!). And on the plus side, it fits right in with Celebration Saturdays and my OLW: ALOHA


Because yesterday my husband and I celebrated our youngest son's birthday with him at a Hawkeye football game, I'm going to combine two days in one. I think they go well together....

Nov 1 What are the best aspects of being a teacher?

Nov 2 What is one small delight in the day that you always look forward to?


Being a teacher is part of my soul. It's who I am. And the best part of it--my students, of course.
I love talking with them, connecting with them, and helping them become their best. Take A, for instance. Tall and skinny, head perpetually down so that his hair sometimes hides his face, he walks into my room most days and I can almost hear "Dead Man Walking" in the distance.  My class is his nightmare, his hell on earth. But he must have it to graduate. He's been doing his speeches for me out in the hall, away from the stares of his classmates. The last one he did, his best. He looked up at me, didn't stop when another teacher stopped in the hall and listened, and genuinely gave a good speech. We're working on his delivery one step at a time. Will he ever give a speech to the class? I don't know. But just getting him to look me in the eye is a major step.

My #Crazy8s are starting genius time in class.  These eighth graders are really smart. Most things come easy to them. My goal this quarter is to challenge them, their ideas and their learning.  Genius time is a start. I still have some who want to take the easy way out, but they're getting there.

This is also the class who groaned at personal narratives. So, we are writing "This I Believe" essays. And now they are groaning because these are HARD for them to write!  It's OK though. We're taking our time. Writing together. And seeing where this prompt takes us.

You know the moments of the day I love the most (and, admittedly, don't always get)?
These:

Those moments in your room where everything is clicking and the students don't really "need" me. They are working hard, learning on their own and with each other.

One other little delight I always look forward to...walking into my room in the morning.  I love my room, it's my home away from home. It's comfortable for all of us. There are lots of different work areas--a place for everyone.

But the real little delights of my day. The little pop-in visits from students. Whether they come during my prep or after school or during a class. I love kids just stopping in to say hi.

Sometimes the conversations are longer. Juniors and seniors with open time drop in during my first hour prep because they know they can eat breakfast and get a little work done. Sometimes we don't talk, other times we chat about the inconsequential. It's quiet and peaceful and I love to start my day like this.

Others stop in to say hi after school and 45 minutes later, it's time to say good-bye. We talk about families, friends, school drama, and even politics. It's loud and giggly or sometimes quiet and somber, but always a reminder about what's important about my job.

My kids.



Friday, October 24, 2014

Mouse Story on a Foggy Day

Our house was built in the late 1800's. It's an old farmhouse, now sitting in the middle of town. Nothing fancy, just old. And with old comes lots of little places in the foundation where those cute creepy,gross little mice get in. Since our cat died several years ago, mice have been a problem in the fall (and sometimes in the winter).

Chloe has never been a mouser. Squirrels. Rabbits. Cats. Anything outside she can chase is fair game (she caught the foot of a rabbit the other day). But mice?  Nope. I think she just watches them run across the kitchen floor, if she sees them at all.

And because of Chloe, the non-mousing dog, we have to rely on non-poisonous means to get rid of mice. Our brother-in-law, an exterminator, gave us a type of trap last year but we can't remember how to set it. So glue traps it is.

Now, we seem to have very smart mice. They avoided the glue traps easily. Would go right around it, them--or maybe over them... Obsessively  Diligently, I cleaned the counter several times a day with Lysol, hoping with no crumbs lying around, the mice would go somewhere else (I hear the neighbors are nice). However they did it, every day I was finding the signs of mice on the counter.
A couple of days ago I bought those little traps where the mice go in and don't come out. Hoping these would work I put one behind the microwave, the mice version of 5 star dining, and left the one glue trap behind it.

You know where this is going, don't you?

Fast forward to today. An extremely foggy day in northeast Iowa. Foggy enough we had a two hour delay. I was up at my normal time anyway. Time for an extra cup of coffee and some reading and commenting on stories from my creative writing class.

During my second cup of coffee and second class of stories, I heard a noise, a snap from the kitchen. Evilly I smiled, Gotcha I thought. I continued reading and enjoying my coffee.

About 8:00 I decided to take a shower and get ready for school. Two hour late starts are great mornings for accomplishing things at school. I wanted to get a jump start on things for next week. And, maybe, just maybe, I also thought, If I take a shower, and pretend like I'm going to school, maybe they will cancel. A three day weekend sure sounds nice. (Come on. Don't tell me you've never had that thought).

And sure enough, I check my phone and there is the message, CANCELLED.

Cool I think. I'll have a muffin and another cup of coffee.

Cue the creepy music

I put my cup under the Keurig and push the button. And there, behind the coffee maker,

MOUSE ON A GLUE TRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Those exclamation points are not for excitement.


I'm not going to lie, I jumped and a small scream may have come from my mouth.

I grabbed my cup, inched over to the other counter, carefully avoiding looking at the coffee pot, and hurried to get the honey on my muffin and headed to the living room.



And now, here I sit. Breakfast done. Coffeeless. And waiting for hubby to take care of the mouse.





Sunday, October 19, 2014

5 Pics/1 Story: A Collaborative Effort

You know me and Twitter.  I love it. Follow great people. Try new ideas I find there.
That's what this post is about. It's full of links, so I hope you have the patience to check them out!

Two Iowa educators, Erin Olson and Leslie Pralle Keehn, who now work for one of the education agencies in our state, have started a Connecting Creativity Series. I'll let you check it out. There is a new activity every month, and I use these as a way to connect my students to students in other parts of the state.

This month's "assignment" is a 5 Photo Story. This one excited me because my Creative Writing students and I already do this in collaboration with our art teacher and her digital camera class.  This post will share how we go about creating this activity and even meet some common core standards!

STEP 1A (and beyond. Will try to have her write about what she does in class)
@Artteach13 talks with her students about telling stories with pictures. They need to take pictures to give a setting, characters, mood, etc.  They get about a week to take pictures. Once they have their pictures taken, they upload them to a google doc with numbered folders. @Artteach13 grades their photos separately from the story (although WHEN we are allowed to have our digital storytelling class, this will be one grade)

Meanwhile, over in Creative Writing....

STEP 1CW

This is the beginning of our fiction writing unit, so we spend a couple of days writing group stories from picture prompts I found on Pinterest (where else?):

My students have fun with these little writing "episodes" and there is no pressure. We share them out in class and talk about what it takes to write a story from a picture.

On Day 2 or 3, I send them to my website to work through tutorials on creating 5 Pic Stories. It includes sending them to a site dedicated to 5 Card Flickr Stories. On this site they can pick five pictures and write a practice story of their own. They also have the ability to share their story, so I have them email me the link. This is not a graded activity, but it is an expectation.

By this time, the digital camera class photos are uploaded to the google doc. My students have two more things to do: Read/look through @Artteach13's and my mentor text and watch the tutorial on using tackkboard. We post our stories to tackk, and the video shows them how to do it. (Our hashtag this year: #CHS5Photos14 Look for it after Monday.  Last year's photo stories are here)

My students have several class periods to draft/share/conference before their deadline. At first, they look at the pictures and think they can't possibly come up with a story. But you know what? Once they stare at them for awhile, talk about them for awhile, move them around for awhile, a story pops into their heads. And they write.

This is a fun collaborative project for our two classes. Do we have kids who don't get pictures done on time? Yep. Kids who don't get story done on time? Yep. But because they are collaborating with peers, no one wants to be that kid who doesn't do the work. It all gets done!

Our students (and ourselves, actually) are always surprised at how the stories turn out. The photographers had a story in mind when they took the pictures, but the writers can arrange the pictures however they want. Our kids have created some amazing stories. I hope you'll try this fun activity in your own class, either on your own or in collaboration with another.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Celebrate

Discover. Play. Build.

Sometimes, when I sit at the computer and get ready to write my celebrations, it's hard to think of what to write.

Either I have too many

Or I don't feel anything is worthy.

And sometimes, I let dumb things block the celebrations.

This is one of those weeks.

But as I sit here, snuggled in a blanket, schoolwork spread around me, coffee in hand, waiting for the football game to start, lots of celebrations come flooding into my head


  • Our IT department. I can't imagine how hard their job is. 2 people and LOTS of devices. We are a 1 to 1 district. Every student in kindergarten through 12th grade have a device of some kind. Keeping everyone up and running is a tough job.
  • I have an amazing principal. Even when I don't handle things in the best way, he's got my back. He has totally changed the culture at our high school by being a role model and leader. I am so blessed to work with him.
  • I'm home. You all know I LOVE the lake, our friends there, the peace and quiet, being close to the grandkids.... But there's no place like home. And now that we've closed for the season, I can get some things done here.  Home gets a little neglected during lake time :)
  • Alone time. My husband has been at his brother's house for a couple of days. It's given me time to get grades done (end of first quarter-where did the time go?). I really needed this time!  He'll be home later today and promised going out to dinner or takeout. 
  • YEA for not having to cook!
So a little less thoughtful this week, but still celebrating. 
How was your week?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Forgetting Aloha: Anger

I could feel it welling up
Anger
Tears
(Damn it all. Why do I cry when I'm angry?)

A semi-unprofessional email
for which I will apologize tomorrow
But it got the job done

Why does it have to go this far
Why do I have to get angry
Why do I have to ask three times for
Something
Which should have been done a month ago

Tired of being part of the
Red-Headed step-child building
(I apologize for those I've offended with that remark)

Even now
hours later
I'm still angry
I had to take it this far


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Celebrating Student Voice

Discover. Play. Build.


After two days of state testing in Language, I explained to my #Crazy8s (8th graders taking 9th grade English) that we would be starting a personal narrative unit.

They moaned.

LOUDLY.

At 13 they are sick and tired of personal narratives.
I get it, but now what?
I know they are right. It's the go-to writing piece for everyone. I hate being lazy. My excuse is that I wanted to plan a new unit for them and doing something familiar would make that easier for me.

Shame on me.

Truth is. These are REALLY smart kids. Smarter than most I've had in advanced classes before and I'm struggling to challenge them, yet keep things fun.

So this weekend, our last at the lake, I am scrambling for new ideas.  (Any ideas appreciated)

But I'm still celebrating. The fact that 13 year olds speak up and let me know this is not an engaging lesson is GOOD. It's their education. They should speak up.

So I'll keep thinking.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This week has also been demonstration speech week. And if you've read my blog before you know I love this week. I've written about it before (although I can't find the posts right now).

As always, I learn a lot about students (and sometimes other staff members!)

Lots of drawing lessons and braiding lessons and gaming lessons
But I've also learned about the care and feeding of Royal Pythons (UGH!)


How to make a weed wacker bike. This was an amazing project done by this kid (Totally Unacceptable). He had to repeat my class and we still have issues, but as the para in my class said, "Why don't we have class like this for kids like this?"  
Yea, why don't we?


But the biggest celebration this week is for A. A tall thin young man, who seldom speaks above a whisper. He has a para who goes to every class with him. Speech class is his nightmare, his hell on earth. But it's required for graduation and we're doing our best to get him through the class. He has been doing his speeches just for me, out in the hall. Friday morning he came during his study hall to do his demonstration speech for me. He made a homemade lava lamp (pretty cool. He let me keep it in my room). At the end of his class later in the day, he put an Alka-Seltzer tablet in the bottle and showed a couple of kids how it worked.  Others noticed and liked his lamp.

It was a small, but important step for him.  And we celebrated!


And how was your week?









Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I Forgot

So caught up in the teaching of genres,
      in the teaching of the how and why and what
I forgot to make writing fun.

But they reminded me today
That everything doesn't have to be
      perfect
        or polished
          or even finished.
They reminded me of how important sharing is
      Even if it's just a silly little piece
        or one great line
          or a title that says it all.
 



I forgot
      the hook
        the engagement
          the fun.

But they reminded me.



Saturday, October 4, 2014

Celebrate

Discover. Play. Build.


This past week was Homecoming week in our district.  A week not only celebrated at our high school, but with our elementary and junior high as well. It is a crazy week of dressing up, selfie contests and and anticipation. For some it is easy to see negative behaviors and wasted class time, but for most of us, IT IS FUN.


Three little words that are so powerful.  I love you.  I've been saying them a lot this week--to students.  And I've been hearing those words a lot this week--from students. Kids drop in to talk, "Love you, Mrs. Day."

"Love you, too"

As I thought about it one night this week, it just made me smile.  Today, as I was looking through my quote board on Pinterest, I found this:

My students and I are creating quite the little community. We have a few "family" members who need to shape up, but most of us are taking care of each other in the classroom.  We're not perfect. Sometimes we lose our patience with others, sometimes we say things we shouldn't, sometimes we let things slide that we shouldn't. But mostly, we are getting it done.  And I do love my kids.....

This is my favorite picture of the week


When I asked him if was getting work done or if he was watching a movie or something, he immediately turned his computer around and showed me his work.  Never underestimate the power of putting yourself in the corner and getting a little work done!

And the last thing I am celebrating this week is a new friend, someone I know I can go to if I need to. She has joined @Artteach13 and I every Friday morning in a little project we have.  We are writing Happy Grams, for lack of a better term. Notes home celebrating something a student has done in the classroom or in school.  Not just the A students, but any kid who needs a boost.  It's been fun for us to meet and talk and write these notes.  We also decided that maybe they shouldn't be just for kids...there are a few adults who could use a boost also.  Here's to sharing celebrations!


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Celebrate: Letting It Go

Discover. Play. Build.
Take a moment out of your day and CELEBRATE with us at Ruth Ayers Writes.
It's a great place to share!
Last weekend, instead of heading to the lake, my husband and I headed to small town a few miles from my hometown. For the first time since I was in elementary school (well, at least the first one I could get to since then) my mom's family had a family reunion. All of her living siblings and their kids showed up (well, the ones who live in state. We missed the California cousins.) .  It was amazing. It was fun. It brought me back to who I am and where I'm from.

It was the first, but it won't be the last.

The first two of four generations gathering together
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Every semester in Drama, the first assignment is "Don't Be Boring". Kids can do anything they want in class and there is only one requirement...Don't Be Boring.  They are scared, nervous, and swear this is the worst assignment ever.

But

Something happens.

At some point in the weeks following, someone always asks, "Are we going to do Don't Be Boring again? "

So we do. Usually several times throughout the semester.

Friday was one of those times

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

We had such fun watching everyone perform that I don't think she realized that she was the only one they applauded. But she was. The only freshmen in a class mostly full of my contest speech kids. She stood in front of us and flat out told us that she doesn't sing well, but she loves this song. And then she pushed play and began to sing "Let it Go" from Frozen. 

And she's right. She doesn't sing well, but what she lacks in pitch, she makes up for in courage, passion and enthusiasm and belief in the song.  She stood in the center of our room and belted out it out.

Not one student laughed
or rolled their eyes
or made snide comments

And when she was finished, they applauded. Not polite claps. Not a smattering throughout the room. But LOUD applause.

I couldn't have been more proud of all of them....

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

One of my senior speech kids shared a "Where I'm From" poem that she wrote for a college class. She had shared it with me throughout the writing of it. I've taught this student since she was in seventh grade and she's an amazing writer.  She took a simple template and created a heartbreakingly beautiful piece about her mother and her.

The thing about this student is, she NEVER reads her poetry out loud. EVER.  She lets other people read it. She will share the written page. She just has never read it out loud, in her voice.

Ironically, in contest speech, she's does poetry--oral interpretation of poetry. I've convinced her, I think, to use this as her contest piece this year---her senior year. So Friday was the debut of her "Where I'm From". Kids sat there for a minute, shocked that she had written this piece. Her honesty and courage in sharing it will stay with me for awhile.

We took a break and danced with another student.






So I guess this week, I'm celebrating family. The one you are born into and the one you create for yourself.

How was your week?



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Blame Game

It seems so easy for some to put the total blame for a student's failure squarely on the shoulders of the student.  And, sometimes, that's exactly where the blame should be.

But most times, there is plenty of blame to go around.

And sometimes, we need to start with the teacher.

Back when I was in seventh grade (and I rode a dinosaur to school), I was required to take Home Economics--one semester of sewing, one semester of cooking (only girls, no boys). I can remember being so excited to take these classes.  Especially sewing. No one in my family sewed and I thought it would be cool to learn. Oh, I could thread a needle, I made lots of embroidered dish towels. But this class would get us at a sewing machine. We were going to sew our own clothes!

I soon hated going to class.

You see, the teacher stood in front of the class, told us what to do and then stepped back. If she helped anyone, it was the girls who already knew a little of what they were doing. Girls who had people who sewed at home. I don't remember her ever coming over to really help me. I don't remember anything about that class except wanting to cry the whole time I worked on the jumper I had picked out to work on.

It never got finished.

I carried it in my arms during the "fashion show" that was held to show off our work.

I do remember her telling me at the end of the semester that she was giving me a D- so I didn't have to take the class again (or so she wouldn't have to have me back in class again. At least that's what her words felt like).

I never tried to sew again (I aced Cooking, though).

This experience colors everything I do in my teaching. I try to never make a student feel like I did as a seventh grader (although I know I probably have). I start questioning myself every time I send out midterms, every time a student gets lower than a C-. What am I doing wrong? What could I be doing to help this student? Sometimes I don't have an answer. Sometimes I sit down and look the kid in the eye and say, "What can I do to help you? Is there something I should be doing differently?"

And sometimes, I have to ask, "What's going on with you?  What's happening in your life? What is keeping you from doing your best?"

As often as I joke about students thinking I live in my room, I have to remember that students don't live at school either. That sometimes, their lives outside of school are traumatic. Scary. Complicated.

I have to give the kid a break who left his computer at his dad's several hours away
or
the kid who misses morning practice because he brings siblings to school
or
the kid who needs to bring breakfast to my room because his/her last meal was yesterday's lunch
or
the kid whose dad left last night.

Yes. Sometimes students  are lazy and unmotivated. Sometimes they screw around in my class. Sometimes they are playing games on their computers or checking Facebook and Twitter or listening to music and watching YouTube videos.

Students will waste time once in awhile. I do too-- when I'm bored.

But it doesn't mean we should write them off.

It means we might need to look at ourselves. We might need to dust off lesson plans that have seen their better days.

We might need to really put students first and teach what they need, not what and how we were taught.

End of Rant.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Celebrating Students

Discover. Play. Build.


118 students. 5 preps.

This has been the smoothest, happiest start to a school year I can remember. I think I've said that before. But I come home every day loving my students more than I did the day before.

It helps I've had most of them in class before. We all know what to expect. They know I expect them to work hard, to think hard, to take charge. I know that they are kids and that won't always happen.

We adjust.

And when you love them, they love you back. And how can your day not be better when you receive all that love?

It's not that there aren't negative things going on. There are. Some personal. Some professional. Some both.

I'm choosing to ignore the negative. Choosing to focus on my kids and the community we are creating.  It's a safe, comfortable place. A place where kids can come and honestly say, "I don't get it." And no one will ridicule them. Or tell them to read it again. Or ignore them.


We are reading Fahrenheit 451 in College Prep Lit. I chose it because I wanted them to think, to question, to have opinions. I wanted them to have a say in their education. My big question for this class, one I have written on our writing graffiti wall is, "Why do we need the things in books?" Yesterday's class discussion was one of the best I've ever had in a classroom with students because they did all of that. And they were honest about things they want and need from a teacher. We talked about making mistakes, about why kids don't want to participate in some classes and why they all have something to say in others. They explained why they hate most lectures, but love the ones from a certain teacher (he connects everything to the world they know).

That conversation affected everyone of my student interactions the rest of the day.

I hope it affects evert interaction the rest of the year.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Celebrate #Hashtags



Here I sit on Saturday morning, doing exactly what I dreamed about all week...

  • drinking more that one cup of coffee
  • watching The Today Show
  • snuggled in a blanket on a chilly Iowa morning
  • writing about celebrating my week


And this was one amazing wonderful week.

I don't really know why the start of this school year has gone so smoothly, why I'm enjoying the start of this year more than years past, but I am. Seems like I am celebrating daily!

My favorite celebrations came in hashtags this week...

#CWFierce
I try to come up with hashtags for each class. As I tweet out what we are doing in class, I have a hashtag we can use. It's mostly for our class, but parents catch on and so do other teachers.  #CWFierce is the hashtag we came up with for Creative Writing.



It's been quite active this week as we wrote 6 Word Memoirs and Twitter Memoirs this week in preparation for Expressive/Reflective writing.  Once kids got writing, there were many great words shared. Some kids don't have Twitter or they preferred to remain anonymous, so they wrote their memoirs down for me and I tweeted them.  They loved seeing their stories out in the world.

And then, my blogging community teachers asked if they could also use the hashtag for sharing out student work. Of course, I said yes.

So, please, follow our hashtag. The kids are (and will) sharing some amazing things.

#OMW1415
This is going to be a fun project for my 8th graders to participate in this year (I may get my writing kids doing this too). Out My Window is a creative project to help kids become more aware of the world around them. Each month there is a different theme for kids to write about, all while using the five themes of geography.  We've taken our pictures and started our poems. Look for the final products next week!



#BoysDontRead
Ever since I read Grasshopper Jungle and then Winger I have been a HUGE  fan of Andrew Smith. I followed him on Twitter (he followed me back!)  I followed him on Facebook (he followed me back again!). This week on Facebook, he told a story about meeting several adult non-fiction writers. They seemed to believe that boys don't read, especially boys don't read YA. All week, teachers have been writing and sending pictures to him of boys that read. So yesterday, during our ten minute reading time, I snapped a couple of pictures of football players reading in College Prep Lit.  I tweeted them out with our school hashtag (#2020HowardWinn, just in case you want to follow that one) and then, thought What the heck and I added Andrew's name to the tweet.


This picture has taken on a life of it's own. It's been retweeted MANY times and Andrew put it on his Facebook page. How cool is that?  Well, the conversation on his page was pretty fun too. Especially after he said he should consider coming to Iowa and author Geoff Herbach jumped in. He visited my room last year and recognized it!


As I'm writing this, Andrew tweeted a promise to visit Iowa. I'm going to hold him to that :)

Well, that was my amazing wonderful week. How was yours?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Celebrate! A New School Year!

Discover. Play. Build.
Ruth Ayres has created a wonderful spot for sharing moments from your week. She even has  a page to give you all the details you need to know about sharing your own celebrations. So head  on over and see what everyone else is celebrating. 



This was my tweet at the end of the day on Thursday.  It was an amazing day. I had so much fun with kids. Since I am now teaching mostly upper classmen, I know almost everyone who comes to class. I didn't have to spend a lot of time learning names, so we could get right down to the business at hand.

I started off each class with a seating arrangement activity (we'll do this for the first five days of school).  I don't usually have seating charts in my classes, but I want to make sure that kids have a chance to interact with everyone in the class early on in the semester. They tend to get stuck in the same spots all semester!  High schoolers are definitely creatures of habit, so forcing them to sit with others, even for five days, will help create community. As we form discussion groups and conference groups, I want everyone to feel comfortable with each other.

Once seated, in most classes, we solved group mysteries the first day.


Again, a method to my madness.  Each group received an envelope with clues to a mystery--either a murder mystery or a bank robbery.  They were to divide the clues as evenly as possible and then work to solve.  They could not pass around the clues or put them all out in the middle of the table. The only way to share was to read them out loud.  They had to participate, listen, follow directions, and HAVE FUN.  All this will be needed when we start discussion groups and writing conference groups.

We ended our day with our home base advisory groups.  We have had homerooms before, but they were usually used to hand out information and take Iowa Assessments in.  Our CBE team wants all students to have a positive relationship with at least one adult at school. When we visited Pittsfield, New Hampshire's Middle High School last year, we were impressed with their advisory periods and how they ran. They happily shared info with us, so we could create our own.  Both Thursday and Friday we ran an early out schedule and had advisory at the end of the day.


We will stay with our advisory groups for all four years they are in high school (we've done that for awhile). Our fantastic principal sent out detailed plans on what to do during that time, although if we changed things up a bit, it wasn't a huge deal. We were involved in get to know you activities the first day (and the obligatory dress code rules) and on the second day we talked about student led conferences (for second semester) and what they need in teachers, what kind of learners they are, etc. Since I have freshmen this year, it was great for me to get to know them this way.  I knew all their names by the end of the first hour and even remembered them all the second day!

And so here I sit on Saturday  morning, eagerly waiting for Monday morning.  I can't wait to see where this year takes us....

Stay tuned!






Saturday, August 16, 2014

Celebrating Summer

Although I haven't been writing much this summer, it doesn't mean I haven't been celebrating! This has been a summer of family and friends and not be quite so connected.  Many Saturdays have found us with a cabin full of grandkids.  Our oldest son and his family moved to the lakes area this summer, so now we are all close together. It's been a blast! And Chloe has become quite spoiled with all the attention and activity.  I'm afraid she will have kid withdrawal this winter.



Another great thing to celebrate...quality time with my hubby. Now that he is semi-retired, he is spending a lot of time at the lake with me. We made an impromptu trip to South Dakota and Mount Rushmore, a place I had never been. We had a great trip and are already thinking of where we could go next year.



This week I spent time with friends...golfing, shopping, lunch and just staring at sunsets, marveling at how lucky we are. I have been told more than once by one friend that I am purring....I laughed, but she is right. I have been quite content this summer.



However, the last couple of days I have been restless because

School starts next week!!!!!!!

I am excited to get started. Excited to see kids. Even excited to be on a schedule. I wrote a post about my classroom yesterday. Click here if you want a little tour.  I feel ready for the new year.  I have a general plan for my new class, a couple of ideas to kickstart the old ones. Also, this year, I'll be teaching advanced English for 8th graders. I'm excited about that.  Can't wait to challenge them.

So, long story short, it was a fantastic summer.  Here's to a wonderful school year!