Slice of Life


sols_6I haven’t posted in TWT in a while, and I miss this community. I’m especially glad to be writing today, as I’m having existential angst with my writing instruction. My sophomores and juniors are so apathetic right now that I’m finding it difficult not to scream every day and pull my hair out!! Sounds drastic, right?

It does until my 2nd grader brings home her work from last week, and in the packet is a story she wrote about a girl named Alex who feels like other girls at school are bullying her because she doesn’t have the right kind of clothes. I have no clue what the assignment was, but the only feedback she had on the paper was a minuscule check mark at the top of the page. When I ask her about it, she says she just wrote something down because she “doesn’t have any stories in my head.”

After this exchange, all I want to do is cry. My high school students feel like my Lily. For so long, their voices haven’t mattered, except for a check mark that they did something. I see them just want to get an assignment finished — not write for an authentic audience or get feedback from me or share with classmates. Writing is something to hide — and to whisper in my ear or on a post-it note that they used to like to write, but now they don’t because there are “no stories in my head.”

My angst comes because the more I try to be mad at the apathetic teenagers sitting in front of me more concerned with their cell phones than my grand lesson plans, the more I see a room filled with tall Lilies….begging me to bring their stories out no matter how much they whine and complain and pretend that they have nothing worth saying.

Why can’t I just be mad?????

CS Lewis quote

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sols_6Dear Nookalicious:

I love you as an e-reader. You’re much cooler than my niece’s Kindle, plus, you’re better looking. It’s crazy cool that you can occupy Lily with Read-To-Me titles and gaming apps. It’s even okay that JakeyPie shakes his head every time he sees me reading you.

But you know what? As much as I love you and can’t imagine not having you around, you’ll never replace my books. I see you with that look in your eye when I choose you over them, but mostly, you just sit on my nightstand waiting for me to pack you up for a trip some where. You’ll never crackle with new-page-smell. Or fan me when I’m hot. Or let me bend the top of your page to hold my place, or the bottom of your page to catch a cool quote. I can’t even sticky-note you, for crying out loud!

Yes, I’ll admit, Kevin likes you better — less cluttered stacks of books waiting to be taken to school for my students. But you’ll never feel the electric current of being held and thumbed through and thrown in the backpack of a teenager. When your battery runs out, so does the story. My book will still be there, waiting for the page to turn.

Don’t cry, Nookalicious. You do have a purpose. I get to sample all kinds of books and decide if I want to buy a hard copy of it. That’s something, right? And I can always watch House of Cards on Netflix…

But I can’t fall asleep with you in my hands. If I do, I wake up with a TERRIBLE headache!

Love,

Stephanie

sols_6So, I’m trying to find different ways to address argument, common core crappy standards, NC high school English test-prep, and technology without boring my students (or me) to tears. In my unit on storytelling right now, I have planned on using two TED-Ed talks: Sir Ken Robinson’s on education killing creativity and Dan Pink’s on motivation. Well…

This morning, on Twitter, I followed a link to a TED talk (but I can’t find the link at the moment). Once at the site, a tab tells me to “Flip this lesson”!! I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon working on this activity that might be a total BUST!!! But I’m a tad excited about it. Rather than use a paper version of my Article of the Week assignment, my students will watch these two videos and complete test prep and extended writing about them. I know I don’t like the test-prep part, but that’s the nature of my job at the moment.

Anyone up for completing the activities — or really just looking at them — and giving me some feedback? If so, go here — my class website. I would definitely appreciate it!!

Happy Sunday!

sols_6My students are in the middle of writing a This I Believe essay. One of the writing prompts I give them to get their thinking going is Things I’ve Learned from _____(name your own cartoon). It’s usually one of the more popular writing assignments, and,usually, results in good writing.

One of my favorite cartoons growing up was the Looney Tunes — so, here is the list I share with my students:

 

13 Things I’ve Learned from Bugs Bunny bugs bunny

1. A little make-up brings a whole new perspective.
2. Missing that left turn at Albuquerque might make life interesting.
3. Music/singing can explain anything.
4. Hot tempers never win (think Yosemite Sam here).
5. Even a rabbit (shy person) can be a leader.
6. Brains before bullets (guns).
7. Seeking revenge on someone usually backfires.
8. You need friends to get through life.
9. Watch out for strange carrots (people!).
10. Aliens are really coming to get us — and they want an “Earth-shattering, kaboom!”
11. Humor diffuses a host of problems.
12. Just because you’re in charge doesn’t mean you know everything.
13. Be a hopeless romantic, and others can’t help but love you!

What’s on your list???

We are having lit circles in my two 10th grade Inclusion classes. I’ve got four books going in each class: Freedom Writers Diary, Fallen Angels, Ellen Foster, and The Bean Trees (The Chocolate War, too, in one of the classes). The themes of diversity, tolerance, abuse, and perseverance are prevalent in each book.

I’m hoping my students don’t get bogged down with the problems of the protagonists so much that they miss the ways the characters grow, making their lives better. I hope that during this unit I remind them to notice how the people in the books don’t stay stuck — They aren’t Myrtle, Tom, or Daisy in The Great Gatsby. These characters take their problems by the horns and don’t let go — each of them are determined to make a better life for themselves.

That’s what I want for the kids I teach, too. They need to see that they don’t have to let the world define them — they can make their own way. Hopefully that is the message I can get out to them.

I was going somewhere else with this post today…but I lost it when I started watching my students read. It’s a beautiful sight:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

sols_6We’re having visitors this week at school. Every five years in NC, teams of educators evaluate schools to make sure they are…educating people, I guess. Anyway, we (my faculty) have to dress-it-up while the team is here. Everything from de-cluttering our classrooms, hanging up student work, and cleaning up the roach families, to not sending the unrulies to the office! My administration has gone somewhat crazy. They are even making us wear our staff ID badges –something I haven’t had to do in six years!

It’s the badge that has me in a funk today, for life is a lot different this year than last. Last year, my hair had just started falling out — chemo treatments, the ones I thought I was going to get out of, were in full swing. I couldn’t see through that rough time to the part where cancer wasn’t in the forefront of my mind. I think I need a new badge, though. The one I have now shows a person I don’t recognize: long hair, easy smile, confident demeanor. My new badge should reflect the new (not particularly improved) me: crinkle-cut-fries hair, second-glance-in-the-rearview-mirror brows, too-much-belly-below-not-enough boobs.

I read somewhere the other day a person who wrote, “I will always have had cancer.” It’s my new normal — the one where I just don’t feel quite like the  me I used to be. It’s very hard to put into words — and as I’m writing these now, I can see the holes in my thinking and how I’m not able to put the words in the right order. Even a year later, the badge I wear doesn’t fit.

sols_6I’m not the same after a time change. Spring forward, fall back…it doesn’t matter because my internal clock just gets all confused. Either I can’t sleep, or I wake up too early. It reminds me that I need to look at where I am teaching-wise, and what I have left to do (Don’t ask why time change makes me think about teaching, but it does!).

Anyway, it’s also progress report time — AGAIN. I’m pretty sure I’ve written here many times that grading is my least favorite part of teaching. My students who never turn anything in always seem to want/need confirmation that they really haven’t done anything, and my students who complete everything get assurance that I see them!

So, as I try to get my body’s clock back into rhythm, and my students’ progress-report-temper-tantrums contained, The Foo Fighters sing me advice. My man, Dave Grohl (who is more than welcome to give me advice personally any day of the week!!), usually can make me remember what is important. His song-writing this time tells me that even though things change, that change can be good. It’s okay that the time changed; I’ll adjust. It’s okay that my students seem shocked with poor grades; maybe this time they will change. It’s okay that work is stressful at the moment; Spring Break is right around the corner.

Thanks, Dave!

 

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