Posted in Book Reviews, English escapades, teaching

They Both Die At The End

Picture of the book, They Both Die at the End, sittibg on my lap

Book 9 of 2021—don’t judge how far behind my goal I am. Packing and moving killed my reading this spring and summer. It turns out sitting around and reading when there are boxes to pack made me feel like I should have been packing instead… anyway.

On to Book Thoughts:

I enjoyed the read; I read it in about a day and a half. For some reason I’m not mourning the characters as much as I usually do, but I think that might be because either (1) the title mentally prepared me to lose them and / or (2) I didn’t identify with the characters a whole lot. I don’t usually read books with teen male protagonists, but it was really neat to be in their heads. At the end of the book, the author writes an essay addressing some aspects of the book (including criticism over the title), and he reveals how much he identifies with one of the characters. The thought processes are authentic. It’s not someone guessing “if I were a teen boy, how would I feel?”

On that note, I’m basically the same age as the author and he is on his 4th book. Nothing like reading about his book tour in Denmark to make me feel like I’ve accomplished nothing in my life 😅😐

What stands out? Oh my goodness. So much. First, the concept. I wouldn’t put this book in the “dystopian” genre at all. It’s our contemporary world with one simple change: around midnight on the day you die, someone calls you to let you know, so you can make the most of your last (up to) 24hrs on Earth. What would you do with a day if you knew it was your last?

Next, the concept of connection runs deep in this book. If you don’t pick up on subtleties on the first read, definitely read it a second time. Every character, every action, every moment is connected. It’s a good reminder that our actions impact others.

Lastly, what you probably already know is a theme in the book: Don’t take the moments for granted. The moments matter. Our culture robs us of moments. Consumerism, materialism, capitalism: these systems work together to ensure we have the best, the most, the newest, but they also rob us of time. We are all guilty of chasing the money or the promotion or setting aside our family to do the job that will get us the money or the promotion. Why? So we can have the resources to enjoy the moments, later. Always later. Until one day, later is gone.

-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 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:

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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