Posted in Uncategorized

New Year, New Semester

The spring semester is the busiest time of year for me as a teacher. I don’t necessarily mean that I’m physically more busy, though sometimes I am. The spring is more demanding of all my cognitive and emotional resources. If you know a teacher, that person likely feels the same way. Pray for us ❤️

What I used to dread has now become my favorite part of what I do. This part of the year is like a marathon I’m running until May, and by February I’ll be enjoying a runner’s high. I’ve spent today knee deep in theory trying to put together the best of all I’ve ever done to offer it to my kids. And you know what? I’m going to have fun. If it isn’t fun, then my job is boring, and I can promise you no one can accuse me of having a boring job.

Here’s to Spring.

-CL

Advertisements
Posted in English escapades, Lesson plan component, teaching, Uncategorized

Mistakes vs. Choices

During a free write, I wrote this on the board.

IMG_6299

After I call time, I always share my writing and encourage anyone who wants to to share all or part of their writing. This time, I asked them to correct my work. They had a LOT to say. 

After taking a few suggestions, I posed this question:

Did I make mistakes? Or did I make choices?

There was a short, but spirited debate before I changed the question:

What was my purpose, and was it effective?

Clearly, I was trying to sound frantic. I intended to entertain my middle school students. And believe me, if you’d heard the dramatic reading I did of this piece, you would have been entertained, too, for sure! (They thought I had lost my mind!)

Eventually, they determined that I had made choices. This is when I introduced the term “craft”.

Author’s craft is all the choices we make when we create something.

So, I asked them:

What is on your paper: author’s craft, or author’s accident?

Circle one thing you chose to write, one choice you made on purpose because you knew it was good.

It was one of my favorite lessons so far this year.

-CL

Posted in English escapades, Lesson plan component, teaching, Uncategorized

They Sing of Rain

We are studying poetry right now in my ELAR classes. Usually, I have my students write whatever genre we are reading, that way, I can give them effective mentor texts and strategies. Today, I taught a strategy called “free association” to help my students generate topics and ideas for a new poem in their individual collections.

Anytime they write, I write. Today, I came up with this:

44157643_2177993032522134_920608798035410944_n.jpg

Posted in Uncategorized

Will you adopt me?

This question has been haunting me all day. For some reason I had the occasion to tell (an edited version of) this story to my first period class at my previous school one morning. Then, I was again reminded of it as I talked with a student who sometimes calls me mom. Again, the question reared its head even while I watched TV with my husband this evening.

Will you adopt me?

She grew up in the islands off of the Bahamas. But what you don’t see on the cruise paths are the houses she grew up in and the men who paid her mom’s drug money so they could be with her, even as young as age seven–prostituted out for her mother’s drug money.

Their version of Child Protective Services eventually caught on. They sent her to the U.S. to live with her dad. He was a garbage man. Things were better. One day he didn’t come home from work; he’d been crushed in a work-related incident.

Her aunt lived in the U.S. as well. She was the only family left. But her aunt didn’t want her, and resented her, and they fought. They fought so much that her aunt turned her over to the state.

Enter foster care. Enter “high needs” placement. Enter a girl with such trauma that her problems and attitude were honestly understandable. Enter my classroom.

I’ve got a way with certain kids that other people have already given up on, or don’t understand, or don’t want to deal with. I’m not a kid whisperer, and not every kid “comes around”. But this young lady, she was one of the ones I was able to reach, even if for a short time.

I remember this moment so vividly. It happened in slow motion. I don’t remember what happened before it, or after it, but everything during this moment was so…. clear. I was teaching something. It was near the end of the school year. She looked at me and spoke up.

“Mrs. W., will you adopt me?”

The world stood still. I pictured a future where she was loved, and safe, and part of my family. I pictured us fighting. And driving to counseling. And hating each other with furious love. I shook myself back to reality, and I knew that I couldn’t. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t drag her back to my 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house and give her an air mattress while we crammed a fifth person into our home with a mom, a dad, two kids, two dogs, and now her, too. God, I wanted to. I clearly still want to. I went home that night and begged my husband, even though I knew in my heart that it couldn’t happen.

I tell this story partly because I’ll never forget it and partly because she isn’t the only kid I’ve loved this deeply. I love them all this way. I don’t want to take them all home, of course. But some of them break my heart. Some of them make me want to take them home and give them all the things they tell me in their journals that they don’t have.

Sometimes I think about how I can’t save the world. I’m just one person. And other times, I realize that I can save the world one kid, one class, one word or note or listening ear at a time.

I had a chemistry teacher that said:

We are all either infinitely significant or infinitely insignificant. You decide.

I’m deciding. 

-CL

Posted in teaching, Uncategorized

Tag lines

This made my day today. Our superintendent gave us each our salary statements in Manila envelopes. Each envelope had a label. Each label has a tag line. She thought of a tag line for each teacher/ employee.

We have a small district. I’d guess we sit right at 20 employees total in the entire school DISTRICT. It is small and sweet. We are each well known one to another.

I have worked in small schools and districts before. I have attended tiny schools as a student. This is different. Very different. I can’t emphasize that enough.

-CL

Posted in Uncategorized

Writing

Last year, I attended some life changing writing trainings second semester. I get to start this year with all of that learning in mind. The best thing I learned is that I need to write when the students write. I’ve been doing that. We started our writing notebook with quick lists this week.

You can find awesome writing resources at bulbapp.com/shonarose2

-CL

Posted in Uncategorized

Teacher Rules

Teacher rules:

1.) you can turn ANYTHING into a game of Mexican Sweat.

2.) anything can be an excuse for students to get up and move

3.) anything can become an activity for fostering on topic small group talk.

4.) not everything has to be what it seems. Maybe instead of answering questions, kids are guessing questions based on their classmates answers.

5.) anything can be anything. Teachers decide if they are going to make it awesome or awful.

6.) extra work required: 2 min to cut out strips. Did it during passing period. #WorthIt

7.) the question on my head is a low level Q. But not all of them were. Low level Qs build confidence and provide cognitive breaks when kids have been working their brains hard. There is a reason I’m wearing this one and a student is wearing a question the length of a paragraph 👌🏼

-CL

Posted in Uncategorized

Wishlist…

Amy is a close friend of mine and a fellow educator. Who loves kids and families more than us? Please read her story and consider helping.

http://a.co/5kuVIVq

This Amazon wishlist is for my friend Any and her 5 foster kids!

On Thursday she was approved as a foster parent! 30 minutes later, she got her first emergency placement of FIVE (5) kids! Her heart is full… and now, so it her house and her car!!! Haha. She didn’t have any time to prepare for them, and since she was just approved, she had no supplies on hand. One reason this is so momentous for her is that Amy is a single foster parent and full time teacher with a car that only holds 4 kids! To say her hands are full is an understatement!

The kids are: twin boys age 5, Irish twins a boy and girl age 7, and another boy age 9!

They need some basics, and we can help lighten the burden for Amy while she coordinates school and appointments by purchasing from this list! All items will be shipped directly to her!

Underwear, socks, school uniform shirts, bedding, etc are priorities! There are also some basic toys listed as well! These kids care with the clothes they were wearing and backpacks… consider helping by purchasing from this list or sharing Amy’s amazing story! And, say a prayer for these babies and for Amy, and for the family from which they came. ❤️

Other ways to help:

PayPal: Amysoutherland@att.net

Facebook Fundraiser: https://www.facebook.com/donate/1448490565254919/

Share her story!

-CL

Posted in Uncategorized

Just a thought…

I’m in a few EDU related FB groups. Every day I see at least one post saying “my evaluation is this week. What is a good lesson I can do?”

I understand that no one wants an evaluation on a day when they are testing or something, but in general, if you are doing a one-day horse-and-pony show for your evaluation…. a.) your admin will know. B.) your kids will know c.) it will flop d.) if you think that is how you should teach for an evaluation, you should probably be teaching that way every day. 

I’ll put my soap box away now… 

Posted in English escapades, teaching, Uncategorized

a little bitty star.

I want to reflect a little bit on last school year. It was hard, and I doubted myself a lot. I was a first year English teacher. I tried hard to project confidence. I really did. I comforted myself in the silence of the night by rocking back and forth and repeating “I taught Spanish Literature for college credit… I taught Spanish Literature for college credit.”   I had to force myself to believe that if I can get students to read 38 works of literature in one school year and earn college credit when they really didn’t want to do all that work… I could do anything, even this.

I started last school year with a post about all the reasons I could, and would do this job. But, for all the confidence I posted last year, each day and each month proceeded to break me a little bit more. Could I really do this? Were my kids learning? Would they pass their exam? In May when we got our results, I was elated and disappointed. If I’m honest, I was mostly disappointed. Our pass rates aren’t nearly what I am used to and what I expected. However, despite that, we improved by 10% or more in every category. I was bum-fuzzled to say the least. How do the kids improve in every. single. area. and still only the same number of them pass? I knew my kids had significant gaps… but hadn’t I worked to fill them all year long? Perhaps a school year isn’t enough time to fill years of gaps…

This summer I wracked my brain. I made changes. I beat myself up.

Then, in August, we got our State Accountability Ratings back. I was shocked to learn that our campus had earned a distinction in ELA / Reading. We only have 2 English teachers in our high school. Between the upper division teacher taking on and encouraging more dual credit students, and pushing them to earn credit, and the incredible reading / writing growth in my 9th and 10th graders… this is what I saw:

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 8.16.59 PM.png

I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t cry. I cried. I freaked out. I jumped up and down a little.

Our campus only earned this one distinction this year. Although we are consistently considered one of the better schools in our area, the standards for this distinction are very, very high. Additionally, our campus has never, in the history of distinctions (since 2002), earned the ELA/ Reading distinction. 

This little star restored my hope and my confidence that what I am doing/ and did do works. This little star is actually a really big deal. This is the culmination of every crappy day last year, every email dealing with another parent unsure of my methods, every fight with a student, every doubt, and every kid/ parent/ colleague who occasionally thought I had fallen off my rocker.

This little star holds every student who came to school and pushed their limits in grades 9-12, every teacher/ coach/ sponsor who pushed literacy and writing techniques and encouraged kids to focus on school, and every parent who made their kid show up and buck up. This little star is the STARt of something big.

My home is Spanish, but my home away from home isn’t so bad after all. 

-CL