Tuesday, May 24, 2011

To remember

Two days to go and this school year will be in the past.  Today it feels like it cannot come quickly enough!  But, I now myself well enough to know that I won't feel this way on Thursday at 3:24.  So, I'm going to try and make a list of things to remember about this school year (in no particular order):

1.  I discovered YA books - and love them.
2.  I convinced my son and HUSBAND to read.
3.  My husband is the best judge of YA books for the boys in my classes.
4.  I love working with my daughter!
5.  It is essential to have at least one friend at work who you can trust completely.  This year, I discovered I have that person!
6.  I saw a student's heart truly broken when her best friend was killed.  I saw her deal with that pain in her writing - and was humbled to be a part of the process.
7.  I am not always more mature than an 8th grader.
8.  I am too tired tonight to make this list!  It sounds stilted and disjointed and inpersonal.  But, I am determined to post tonight. 
9.  I will reread my writer's notebook from this year and use that to be sure I remember these amazing kids and the things we did.
10.  I still love teaching.

178 days down.  2 to go...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Writing with my kids!

My 8th graders are neck-deep in creating multigenre projects...This is my favorite time of my year.  The classroom literally hums with their creativity and I love popping from desk to desk and hearing all the different ideas.  This year I have kids writing about dogs, their best friend dying (this year!), anorexia, soccer, murder, immigration, imaginary creatures...you name it, they are writing it.  One genre lots of kids are trying is a recipe - it makes me stop and think to see what they come up with for the "ingredients" of their theme or focus.  This weekend I wrote a recipe of my own.  Here it goes...:

Happy Classroom

1 teacher, passionate and flexible (no substitutes!)
20 - 30 students, an assortments of backgrounds, skill levels, and talent is best
3 C willingness to take risks
1/2 C imagination
3 Tbs understanding of the writing process
1 C revision, divided
2 tsp peer feedback
1 tsp honest teacher feedback

Combine teacher and students in a large room, preferably one with windows.  Fold in willingness to take risks.  Whip together understanding and imagination.  Carefully add to first mixture making sure not to overmix or mixture will collapse.  Cover and let rise at least one day.

After at least 24 hours, stir down mixture.  Whisk 1/2 C revision with peer and teacher feedback.  Add to mixture.  Continue to add revision until mixture holds together on its own.  Bake in medium oven (375) until golden.

This classroom will improve as it is shared with as many others as possible.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Have you ever been so mad you wanted to spit?  Lately, I seem to be trapped in spit-city.  I have my government officials - all the way from president to governor to, sometimes, my co-workers - telling me I'm not doing my job correctly.  My husband and kids often don't act in ways that I think are fair to me.  But, I can handle that.  I can be frustrated, even spitting mad, and still move on.  What I can't get past is one of my kids being treated unfairly.

My son was treated to the ultimate "unfair" example last night, and all I could do was sit in the stands and yell, "No fair!"  Picture this.  It's the conference season-ending competition.  Your child has worked all season and steadily improved.  He's not the best, but he's darn close and he's peaking at just the right time in his season.  It's the perfect spring night. You can wear flip flops. You don't need a coat.  You've already watched your son clear 6' in the high jump.  It a good night.  Now it is time for the 2nd heat of the 110 high hurdles.  Your son is seeded 7th out of 16.  The top 9 would make the finals.  The race begins.  He's a little slow, but quickly hits his stride.  Your heart races with his long legs as they smoothly glide up and over again and again.  He is gaining.  Coming into the 9th set of hurdles, he is 3rd in a very fast heat.  Suddenly, a hurdle FLIES from the lane to his right into his lane, sideways.  Reade literally stops for a second as he tries to figure out how to continue moving forward.  And there it is.  Not fair.  In that split second, the runner who smacked the hurdle pulls ahead of Reade and qualifies for the finals.  Reade...doesn't.

Now it would seem like there should be a rule for something like this.  Guess what - track, like life, often isn't fair. There is a rule about a runner impeding another runner's progress but nothing about a hurdle.  Is that fair?  Nope.  Can I do anything about it?  Nope again.  Am I happy.  Absolutely not.

All of this has been on my mind all day.  Fair.  It's so often not a part of our lives.  I don't like it.

But, guess what?  Next Thursday, that same boy will be racing again at sectionals.  I will try not to spit on him.  I will remember that I'm an adult and this is not my son's entire life.  I will force myself to have perspective. I will hope for a race that is fair.  Maybe I'll get lucky.