Posted in Uncategorized

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.

Posted in Uncategorized

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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Posted in Spanish relapses, teaching

mija.

I was standing in line at the school cafeteria the other day. There was a student in front of me. The cafeteria server was asking the young girl to choose an option. From behind the serving line, I hear a familiar mantra: “this or that, mija”. Mija. Four years of elementary school lunches came rushing back with such force that I was nearly swept away with the flood.

There was a whole line of sweet women who knew me by name and took special care to make sure I had food on my plate. As I stopped for steak fingers, just before sliding her spatula away, she would whisper, “mija”. The next woman, presumably someone’s mother, too, would scoop a vegetable and repeat the word. “Mija”. I’d get mashed potatoes, and a roll, and then slide my tray and pass the last lady my lunch card. Mija. Mija. Mija. I remember the day that I worked up the courage to ask what it meant. And I remember the warm feeling of family that overcame me when the lady replied, “daughter”. This elementary school had a population of 97% Hispanic students. 1% Caucasian. For years, I had been one of the few people in the line who didn’t know the word, but had instead felt it.

Years later, I learned Spanish. In the family unit, we learned “hija”. I was confused, and lost, and I remember saying, “No.” I brought up the word. My teacher was kind enough to explain that mi hija shortened to mija because the first word ends with the same sound that the next word begins with, so they combine. I was at home again.

I talk a lot about the women who have mothered me in the absence of my own mother, but these women are different. My mother was alive and well during these years. My mom even subbed at my school. She spoke Spanish and knew these women. One of them was our neighbor across the street. These women represent motherhood in a different way, in the way that all of us do when we work at a school. Whether we whisper “mija” to a student while we guide her through the lunch line or we speak life or encouragement or correction to a child as we guide him through learning, these are the weighty tasks of a motherhood of sorts. And kids remember it. And it matters.

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