Tuesday, October 30, 2012

HIdden Heartshots

They were here for under 24 hours. 
Things shouldn't "disappear". 
Four adults scoured the house, 
looking for anything left behind 
or forgotten. 

But, slowly 
throughout the week,
 small heartshots revealed themselves 

A pacifier 
dropped as something new to explore was found.

A sippy cup
Abandoned in the excitement
of being outside
and dogs and balls and running

A shirt nestled in the couch
A package of wipes forgotten on the table.

All found at different times 
On different days
bringing smiles in the midst
of a busy week

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sometimes It Gets Ugly

I'm starting a personal narrative unit with my freshmen, so in looking for mentor texts, I decided to share a couple of blogs posts with them. I wanted them to see how to take a small, everyday moment and explode it into a piece of writing.

I've discovered that since sharing with all of you on this blog, I don't mind sharing my writing with my students. It gives me another audience and it lets them see that when I talk about writing, I know a little something.

As I was reading, I discovered something...

I write a lot about the successes in my classroom. It sounds like a magical place to be.


It's not.


it's just plain ugly.

For every boy who comes in, excited about his poetry, there's five more who would rather do homework for other classes, check out Craig's list, and watch videos on YouTube.  By the way, the tech guy in our district called me one day when a boy was on Craig's List, that's how I know it happens.  The truth is, in teaching an elective class on writing, you get kids in your class who DON'T LIKE TO WRITE!

I know. Hard to believe.

For every student who writes a wonderful, intense memoir in verse, there's the others who if feels like I have to drag words out of their mouths with my hands.

I might convince a student to come to school every day for a week....
But then she misses two days the next week.

Here's the truth. My teaching is sometimes just down right ugly. Ugly days I'd just as soon forget. Ugly days I'd like to take back and start over.

There are days I am behind my desk just way to much.
Days I spend Creative Writing time grading papers or planning for the afternoon classes instead of talking with my writers.

I'm STILL working with 9th graders to make them thinkers and learners instead of receptacles. Many days, I feel like I'm trying to herd cats. Reading and writing workshop--forget it.

Ugly days.


Sometimes, those ugly days end with an email from a student:

"Sooo I really miss creative writing and being able to write everything that was on my mind down and have someone read it and comment and feel everything I'm feeling.  Are there any writing competitions or anything I can do stuff for?  I really miss just showing the emotions I normally hide..."

And then, I put the ugly days back in the closet and celebrate small successes....

Friday, October 19, 2012

What I Write

Letters and lists
Plans and poetry and posts
Tweets and To dos
Status updates
These are the things
I write.

Conversations with Chloe
Sharing giggles with grandkids
My love of the lake
and my classroom.
These are the things
I write.

A secret novel
Mentor texts
Comments for kids
Ideas ideas ideas
These are the things
I write

Hopes and fears
Loves and hates
These are the things
I write...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What I Didn't Intend to Write

I didn't intend to write a post like this today. I intended to write a poem about fall at the lake, or a review of The Raven Boys, or

...well, anything but this.

Shots were fired in a small town to the south of us. Our school district is not in lock down, although the schools closer are. It's scary.

And here's what is worse. One of the shooters is rumored to be a former student of our district. As soon as his name was announced, there were shakes of the head. Kind of like, Yeah. That makes sense. He always was trouble. And I know he could be....

He must be 25 or so now, but to me, he will always be 13 and sitting in my English class. Hair in his face. Doodling on his paper. Drawing cartoon characters. He almost never turned work in. When he did, it was a mess. Pencil smudges everywhere. He was often sent to the alternative classroom for behavior or late work.

I remember his dad died after he left my class. Mom didn't have much control over the three boys (brothers, whom I also had in class.) More serious trouble seemed to follow him.  When I had the youngest of the three boys in class, he hated it when a teacher slipped and called him by a brother's name. He didn't want that reputation.

I look back now, with 20/20 vision. I see a young man who needed someone to care. Needed someone to hold out a hand and offer help. Someone to set boundaries and expectations.

No one did. It was easier to write him off as a bad one. Easier to expect the worse and ignore the good.

He was someone's kid. Someone's brother. And the adults in his life failed him.

And now, it seems, it may be too late.

So, the lesson for today is to take the time to connect to that kid in your class that no one likes. Smile at the "bad one" and ask how his/her day is going. Take a minute to give a pat on the back to the kid who never gets one.

Take the time to say You Matter.

Thanks again, Christy Rush-Levine!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why Do You Come To Work Every Day?

That's the question Bossman has asked us to discuss in our PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) during Wednesday's inservice time. Oh, there are other things scheduled. Other learning we will be doing. But this is the first task on the agenda.  I've been thinking about it for several days.  It's a question that hangs with me.

Monday I came to school to begin our demonstration speech unit. I think it's my favorite speech.  I am privileged to sit and learn about the passions of my students--most of those passions I don't really have a working knowledge of, so it is truly a day of learning.

Tuesday I came to school to wear J's volleyball button as she played her first JV game. She was nervous about moving up. I think she was worried about what her friends would think and what the JV players would think.  She did great.

On Wednesday I had to come to school to chew on a student a little bit.  This young man is in my room twice a day. Once for speech. Once for freshman English. He's smart and personable. He thinks he's going to get by in my classes because we can laugh and joke around. I needed to tell him to quit being a slacker. I was tired of getting less than his best. He looked kind of astonished that I called him on this, but his attitude about the work changed.

New Boy started on Thursday in my 8th hour class. So I came to school to make sure he had a smiling face and a safe place to land at the end of the day. I talked to my students on Wednesday about being the New Boy in a new school two and half months into the school year. They rose to the challenge. They made sure he didn't eat lunch by himself. They introduced themselves in classes. And they fought over whose video group he was going to be in.

Friday I came to school to celebrate with K.

It was the first week she made it to school ALL day, EVERY day. Really. Going back to when I had her as a freshman last year. K isn't much of a school kid. She could be. I think she wants to be.

She wants to please.
She wants someone in her corner.
She wants to matter to someone.
She always had me. This year, she has another (thanks, Roomie). And, it's making a difference.

At midterm, she had Ds or Fs in most of her classes. As of Friday, she has only one. And that should be moving up when some last minute work gets recorded in the gradebook.

That was last week.

Tomorrow I'll be back
to listen
to cajole
to smile
to laugh
to cry
to learn

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Little Secret

Check out more Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers.
We're going to let you in on a little secret.

Shhhhhh. Don't tell anyone.

It's OK to write poetry in Creative Writing.

No one makes fun of you.

It's not girly.

It's not "gay" (God how I hate that word).

It's not stupid.

It doesn't have to rhyme---or it can if you want.

It can be about anything--

Anything at all.
And we're pretty good at it too!

Just don't tell anyone about it.
We don't want them to think we're weird.

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