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Announcement :)

I’m excited to announce I’ve accepted a position at Eastwood High School in El Paso for the coming school year. Though my actual job title is a little ambiguous, I’ll be their campus testing coordinator. (The district reserves the word “coordinator” for district-level personnel.) Eastwood HS is only a few miles from our new home in EP. The school is part of Ysleta ISD and has 2300 enrollment.

I’ve gotten a few questions I thought I’d reflect on in this space:

Aren’t you sad you won’t be in the classroom next year?

Of course I am. It’s the first time in a decade I haven’t had my own classroom and the first time in over 11 years that I haven’t been in one. But, I’m also excited for this new adventure. It’s ok to feel both things at once. I know I’ll be mourning the loss of a classroom for a long time and in many ways; however, I’ve learned something along the way: in every job I’ve ever done from McDonald’s to the peach orchard to the classroom, I’ve always been a teacher. Not having a classroom or a roster of students doesn’t change that.

But, are you sure? I mean. You love teaching. Are you sure?

Yes. For one, I believe people who love teaching and want to do what’s best for kids should be in positions like this one!

Also, I think I need to take a position like this for a number of reasons. In fact, precisely because I love teaching so much, I need to do this job. I fight for what’s best for kids, sometimes to a fault. This year a colleague and friend paid me one of the highest compliments and simultaneously most accurate statements of my fatal flaw. She said, “You’d choke on your own integrity before you’d do something that wasn’t right or wasn’t best for kids.” She’s right. That sense of integrity will be valuable and even more important in this new role. At the same time, my singular focus on the classroom has sometimes limited my view. Schools and districts are complex organizations with a number of moving parts. I am looking forward to a new perspective on operations and the constantly moving pieces.

Aren’t you afraid all of that focus on testing and data will change you? or not be your cup of tea?

Well, I’m a huge nerd. So, no.

But also, I firmly believe that I can bring a new perspective to the table. If you’re reading this, you know they’ve never had someone like me at their table. In response to a reference to the data during my interview, I said something to the effect of this:

Testing and data are the big-bad monsters that hang over us, all of us. The students, the teachers, the admin, the district. They use the numbers to tell us who we are, but it’s my job to help you use those numbers to tell our story, the story we are writing together.

Last one: Wait. I thought you were going to teach in New Mexico.

Yes, you are correct that I had an offer in NM. When I recieved this offer, I turned the other one down. They understand and are happy for me.

-CL

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Back to work…

A picture of  my classroom
The day we realized we weren’t coming back…

Tomorrow I go back to work (physically, no more working from home!) exactly 5 months after our building was closed for COVID. #AllTheFeels

If I’m being honest, I have reservations about going back…

But more than every reservation, I’m excited. I’ve spent the summer drooling over curriculum and planning. I’ve spent the summer wishing I’d gotten those extra months with my students. I’ve spent the summer (and extra-long Spring Break 2020/ Crisis Schooling 101) remembering why I work outside the home 😅. I’ve loved being home with my boys… and now we’re all ready to get back to a new normal. Hopefully a safe normal. Undoubtedly a challenging normal. But I’m. R. E. A. D. Y.

Ready to see my coworkers and joke in the hallway.
Ready to collect on my free lunch from a bet we made in June.
Ready to train on new tech.
Ready to plan. (And re-plan when the plan doesn’t go to plan 🤷🏻‍♀️)
Ready to meet my kids. (The un-biological ones I get a new batch of each year)
Ready to teach someone that isn’t obligated to ignore everything I say the first 50x (like MT and JL are…)

Ready for my staff meeting burrito. 😋
With green sauce.
Because #Eagles gotta eat.

Back to those reservations. Pray for all the teachers and staff of your schools. We are all going to be working incredibly hard to give everyone (online and in-person) an equitable educational experience. We’re going to spend weeks training on new tech so we can DO. IT. RIGHT. We’re going to be training on a million and one ways to keep kids safe in-person. We’re going to add a whole extra layer to our jobs as we teach online and in-person simultaneously. We’re going to take on exposure to easily over 100 people a day in the name of learning. So yeah. Pray for us. A lot. Every day. Without ceasing.

❤️

-CL

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2020: Dreams and Nightmares

Take a journey with me, to a land far away, a land of dreams and nightmares…

I’m in a classroom surrounded by all my anxieties about the upcoming year. Teaching in person and online simultaneously. Getting Covid. Spreading it. Being too lax. Being so uptight it breeds fear. Not having enough time to do it all. Not being my best for my students. Failing them when they need me.

Then.

I stop. I breathe. I calmly affirm that I’m ready. 2020 has thrown almost anything it can at us already. We’ve got this; I’ve got this. I stand at peace with whatever comes next.

Suddenly I’m roused awake by chaotic barking. 6:54 am. I hear the back door crack open. Matthew sets the dogs loose on whatever it was. Then, from behind the safety of the screen door, Matthew screams, “SKUNK!!!!!”

I’m out of bed. Bobby is yelling, “get the dogs in! Get the dogs in!” But it’s too late. I arrive at the back door in time to watch the dogs rolling in grass and drooling profusely in an effort to clear the stench.

Touché 2020, touché.

Happy Sunday Morning.

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Reopening and equity.

So, part of the reopening plan for Texas gives the indicators for being able to return to school. (See below).

It puts the student or staff member out of school for a minimum of 10 days (because all three conditions must be met.) Now, I’m not picking a bone with that part. I want to be safe.

HOWEVER. The third option allows an individual with say, allergies, to get a doctor’s note saying that they don’t have COVID. It’s just allergies. It’s a great option. It’s an option my son with asthma could use. BUT. It puts students and families with few economic resources at a disadvantage. They will have to stay home for a minimum of 10 days (about 8 school days), and another kid with access to health care will be back in a day, note in hand. Who has an educational advantage in this situation? It’s an equity issue.

This illustrates one of the MANY simple yet profound injustices in our world.

And next time you see me in person, ask me what I know about being on the other side of this situation, the receiving end, if you will. It might surprise you.

“Any teacher, staff member, or student who experiences any of the symptoms of COVID-19 (listed below) should self-isolate until the below conditions have been met.

  • In the case of an individual who was diagnosed with COVID-19, the individual may return to school when all three of the following criteria are met: at least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (resolution of fever without the use of fever- reducing medications); and the individual has improvement in symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and at least ten days have passed since symptoms first appeared; or
  • In the case of an individual who has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and does not get evaluated by a medical professional or tested for COVID-19, the individual is assumed to have COVID-19, and the individual may not return to work until the individual has completed the same three-step criteria listed above; or
  • If the individual has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and wants to return to school before completing the above self-isolation period, the individual must obtain a medical professional’s note clearing the individual for return based on an alternative diagnosis.”

Edited to add: I don’t have a problem with requiring doctors notes, as long as everyone has access. If not everyone has access (which they don’t…), then we need to either: address the problem by creating access (ideal) or abandon the requirement until it can be addressed. In this case that would take the form of either (1) not requiring a note OR (2) making everyone complete all 3 criteria before returning.

Edited again: To be perfectly clear. This will mean that more poor children, more black and brown children, more children with unavailable parents, will miss school than kids with middle class and / or white and/ or available families.

Posted in English escapades, teaching, Uncategorized

Summer Reading Series: Dear Martin

So, as I started reading this one, I didn’t love it initially. I’m a language person, but the language isn’t particularly beautiful. There isn’t a line in this book that rocked me or made me need it as a tattoo. I struggled with the male protagonist because of how he objectifies his female counterparts. In the first 10 pages, it was *almost* enough to turn me off completely.

But then…

I gave it a chance.

  • The male’s thoughts are pretty authentic. Honestly, it’s what I hear come out of the mouths of high school students in the hallway. I wish it weren’t the case, but here I am in 2019 admitting that people actually talk about others that way. If nothing else, it is an entry point for a conversation about how we talk about others. As I read the book, I tracked the character’s evolution not only in his ideas about his identity, but also in the way he related to his girlfriends and spoke/ thought about them. It was refreshing to see him grow in that way.
  • The language isn’t beautiful, but it isn’t bad. There is a LOT that a teacher could use in the classroom from this book.
    • The book is code-switching heaven. For any teacher wanting to focus on dialogue an dialect, this would be a great read. The narration is primarily in standard English, but the dialogue ranges from “teen speak” to various levels of cultural interaction depending on the social context of the scene.
    • The book is a mix of typical narrative writing/ script-style dialogue/ and of course, the letters to MLK Jr. Introducing students to books written in mix-ed genres is always fun, and a great way to cover multiple genres with one text.
    • The situations are realistic. The bring up questions that society and teenagers are asking. What does racism look like today? Who’s fault is it? What is “my” identity? Why does it matter? How does poverty affect my education? Am I a traitor if I…? If I am successful, am I betraying my family, my culture, etc.? There’s a lot of substance here. And it’s worth exploring.

Once I decided to give it a chance, I couldn’t put it down. There were points that it seemed like the protagonist just couldn’t “catch a break”. One might say that is for dramatic effect or to add to the plot, but I know for a fact that life really breaks that way for some people. Some of those people are my own students who just never seem to be able to break the cycle that was started long before they were born.

Here’s to them, and the strength to change what we can.

#bookreview #books #ELAR #English #BlackLivesMatter #WeNeedDiverseBooks #Teachers #Education

-CL

Posted in English escapades, professional development, teaching, Uncategorized

Summer Reading Series: Freak The Mighty

My 6th graders and I started this book as a read aloud, but then I missed 3 days of school for a family funeral and I assigned the rest of the book as independent reading. Little did they know I hadn’t read the book 😬😬😬 Kids read at different speeds, so as they got to the climax and began to then finish the book, I could tell it was GOOD! I kept telling them to remember not to spoil it for “the rest of the class” aka: me 😬😂 I finally had time to finish it this summer.

This one was really good. There were several things I didn’t see coming at all, and to be honest, after reading as many books as I have, patterns emerge. This one does some things I didn’t expect.

Another thought: I’ve seen that several #ELAR teachers read this book during their Hero’s Journey unit. In a way, I could see it being a best companion book to a literary analysis unit also… not just as a piece to analyze, but as a piece to learn from. The author weaves a King Arthur allusion throughout the book, but more importantly, the allusions are broken down and explained along the way. The piece analyzes itself in many ways. What could our students learn from that? 

-CL

Posted in English escapades, professional development, teaching, Uncategorized

Summer Reading Series: Long Way Down

So. In February, I walked in to a training on literature circles (5 min late) and the group was just finishing a read-aloud from this book. I didn’t actually hear any of the book; I just saw their faces. I knew then that I had to read the book. What followed was a discussion on the value of engaging options for students to read, student choice.
I’m also part of an ELAR teacher group on Facebook and this title regularly comes up!

 

I finished the book; then I offered it to my exchange daughter from Spain.  Before I started it that morning, I flipped to a random page with her, and we admired the fact that the book is written in verse. Then, I turned it into a read aloud, and ten pages later, I realized she was hooked. So, I closed the book. I read it, and that evening at dinner I offered it to her.

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Sitting there, she started to read. And flip page after page after page. #win
See, she was my kid for the year, but her mission here was education. I’m a language person, so I’ve been paying close attention. One thing her mom mentioned to me in the beginning was wanting her to read while she is here. Being a language learner and a teenager, I picked a couple of less complex but super engaging texts. She started both and set them aside. The picture below is from the book #180days, and the middle box could have been a direct quote from our girl: this bright, bilingual future lawyer hasn’t read a book cover-to-cover not assigned by a teacher in… a very long time, in either language.

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We talked about it this evening before she stole away with my book. She said that when she was little, she remembers going to a place to “rent” (borrow?) books and videos. The place still exists but nobody goes there.

Not every kid in the room is a non-reader because they lack skills. Sometimes it’s something else all together. It is more than the “readicide” referred to in the book 180 Days. It is a cultural shift away from following through.

Here’s what I mean. The micro-texts we spend hours a day consuming (memes, texts, comment sections, headlines), they don’t tell a full story. They aren’t developed. And in fact, the only reason we can enjoy those texts is because our brains can fill in the rest of the allusions and implied texts. But what about the people after us who have never followed a story’s pattern to its end? The micro-texts lose meaning.
I commented on this to my kiddo, and she said, “yeah. I’m reading all the time, but I’m not learning anything.” From the mouths of babes…

 

-CL

Posted in English escapades, professional development, teaching, Uncategorized

Summer Reading Series: Ghost Boys

I went to a training, and the presenter provided books for the “students” (us) to use while we participated in independent reading to use for reading/ writing journaling. 87 pages later, she asked for her book back 😂😂😂 So… I drove my happy butt to Barnes and Nobel and picked up their last copy.

 
It isn’t what I expected. I’d heard politically charged reviews, but reading it for myself was enlightening.

 
I wrote before about helping helping kids see themselves in books. That’s important. It is also important that we learn to see others, really see them. Books can help with that too. I’ve never lived most of the experiences or circumstances in the book. But at least, now I’ve read them through the eyes of a first person narrator. That’s a start.

-CL

Posted in English escapades, professional development, teaching, Uncategorized

Summer Reading Series: Sea Prayer

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

One of my favorite authors, Khaled Hosseini ❤️

This is a short illustrated story (basically a picture book) that humanizes the struggles of refugees. In fact, I think it would be a GREAT book to pair with Refugee by Alan Gratz. A teacher might even use this as a read aloud and point students to Gratz if they want more.

I love how books can show us another world. The narrator begins by describing memories of how his country had been before the war. The narration shows both the common thread of carefree childhood and the distinct cultural beauty of a place and its people. The narrator mourns the loss of a country and culture his son will never know in he same way he did.

I’ve read that books can cure fascism. That is because reading helps us develop empathy and compassion. Reading helps us live their experiences and see it from their perspectives.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies; the man who never reads lives only one.” -George R. R. Martin

-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:

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