Reading Teacher Writes

Sharing a love of literacy with fellow readers and writers


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Slice of Life Tuesdays: July 4th and Freedom, and Hope

For me, July 4th brings complicated feelings this year. I’ve been out of sorts all day. Although it’s a day of celebration, it’s also a day of remembrance, thankfulness, and prayer. Watching current national news makes me feel ill, and yet when I read tweets and posts of my friends and family working hard to resist the gloom-and-doom, I have hope.

I am celebrating my freedom to speak and write.

I ran across several tweets today from Laura Ruby, author of York: The Shadow Cipher, a book I just finished reading (and loved). Her words brought to mind my own mouthiness (is that a word?) — speaking up against the cruel and insane people who think our country is now a better place than it was last year. I have friends and family who are gay, poor, and disabled. My own daughters and I have medical issues that need constant monitoring. I fear for the future, for my family’s future. I have no right to feel this way, while many people still do not enjoy these freedoms. It burns me up when I see and hear inequalities in life. As a white woman with a traditional family, I have no right to enjoy all this freedom while others don’t. But I have the freedom to speak and write. I need to use it more. I will; I promise. I feel blessed to have so many friends and family who support me, who read with me, and who write with me. I am able to say and do what I need to do without much backlash or fear. I feel lucky. 

Laura Ruby wrote about her own medical diagnosis and struggles with a person at a hotel who asked her questions about why she was upset and afraid after the last election. She was able to speak, and later write, about this incident. I am inspired by her spirited tweets. I don’t feel alone in the world — I know people like Laura are out there with me, being mouthy and telling their stories. She mentioned how she felt moved, hearing John Lewis’s acceptance speech for winning the National Book Award (for March: Book Three – part of a wonderful trilogy about his own experiences with civil rights issues), and how his words put so much into perspective for her. John Lewis couldn’t get a library card because of the color of his skin. He dreamed, and fought, and wrote his story to share with us. As I re-read his words today, I feel lucky.

I am celebrating my freedom to read and to learn.

As a teacher, it is my job to use my mouthiness to inspire a new generation of thinkers and learners who will carry on this struggle for independence. It’s not easy — it’s really hard. I appreciate my students’ needs, hopes, and dreams, and I want to hear what they have to say. It’s my job to introduce them to books — reading — that will expand their minds and hearts. It’s my job to teach them to write their stories, so that others can be inspired by them as much as I have been inspired. I am lucky. 

I am celebrating my freedom to teach.

July 4th is Independence Day. I don’t have to worry about looking different (as in un-American), buying what I need (and want), or living with people I love. I have excellent healthcare coverage (for now) and a wonderful job. I don’t fear leaving my neighborhood to do the daily tasks I need to do. It’s not fair. July 4th means freedom for me, and I am celebrating my hope for the future, just as others are still being oppressed. I wonder what I can do. I hope future citizens of America will be as lucky as I am.

Laura Ruby wrote, “Protest. Run for office. Create art.” I love that! Those freedoms exist, although many still have to struggle and fight for those freedoms. I want to help. Today, I’m not sure what good I’ll do. For me, this July 4th brings complicated feelings. Ms. Ruby inspires me, saying, “Make all the noise you can. We are our own best hope.” I am lucky. 

 

 


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Slice of Life Tuesdays: Back with a Vengeance!

Hello again!

I haven’t written a “Slice” in a while. I was busy finishing up my last school year as a 6th grade teacher and transitioning to a school librarian position, which starts in August!

I am so excited to use my School Librarian license!

I went in to school today to take a tour and get started with reading the handbook of procedures, learn how-to-do tasks, and have some fun.

“Happy Summer” just got busy!


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Slice of Life Tuesdays: When There’s Not Enough Time

Dream School: Have enough time for all my students to read whatever they want, write to publish their own longer works, and travel to the places we study in geography.

“There’s never enough time.” Who said that? Mike Miller? Somebody said it first.

One of the frustrating parts of losing time is that it seems that you once had so much that you slacked off, got lazy. You goofed around and wasted your time. It was fine, because you had enough time – no need to worry because the due date was far in the future. Now, the deadline is looming; now you are in “crunch time.” There’s not enough time left to show your true potential.

If I had more time now, I’d read aloud more books to my students. I never got to read Pax, or share all the new titles that came across my desk this year. There’s a new pile of “To-Be-Reads” at home, too, and a growing list of books I wish I’d purchased. Sharing great titles with students and encouraging a love of reading is the best! But I’m almost out of time.

If I had more time now, I’d help students to publish more of their works. I have a nice pile of fantastic writing from this school year, but some students were not able to revise, edit, and send their work in to publishers. I would have entered more contests, as well. Some of the contest topics seemed amazing! But I’m almost out of time.

If I had all the time in the world, I’d travel around the world. I’d love to climb the steps at Machu Picchu! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could take my students on a field trip to  Canada, or the Dominican Republic, or to Ecuador? I have many places on my bucket list of travel. But alas, I’m not sure I’ll have the time.

As this school year winds down, I wish you all the time you need to achieve your goals.

 


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Slice of Life Tuesday: The 4th Quarter

Kwame Alexander’s book, The Playbook, is divided into 4 parts — 4 quarters of lessons people should know to be successful in life. It is a fabulous guide for living, rich with quotes and good advice. Today we started the 4th quarter of our school year, and I’m thinking about the lessons I will teach until June.

Our 4th quarter is actually split up into even more parts: spring break, more state testing, and the end-of-year celebrations and field trips. It’s a long quarter — from March 21st until June 8th. It seems like the 4th quarter will take as long to complete as the rest of the year all together!

We have a lot to do in this 4th quarter of school! Time periods in history, such as the Renaissance, in social studies, reading projects with podcasts (hopefully), and writing about literature. We will review character development, plot lines, setting, and theme. We will talk, write, and create.

In the 4th quarter, we will succeed…just like Kwame said!

 


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Slice of Life Tuesday: Valentine’s Day Dream

Slice of Life Small LogoI’m looking out the classroom window; the sun is bright overhead.

My head is spinning in dreams; Dreams take over my day.

Daylight, vitamin D. I need this day to be over!

“Over the river and through the woods…” Wait! It’s not Thanksgiving, but it is a holiday.

Holidays are meant for sharing.   valentineweather2017classroom

I’m sharing Valentine’s love with my family from far away.

Away I go…Ah! Back to class!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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Slice of Life Tuesday: Analyzing Books for Awards Season

Slice of Life Small LogoI love awards season! The Golden Globes hooked me on Sunday and reeled me into the bedroom so I could watch and not bother the other family members. I love the gowns, the tuxes, the speeches — all of it. I have a passion for awards. I now want to see all the movies and TV shows, and hear all the music that won those awards. It’s only natural, I think, to want to continue participating in the “buzz” that surrounds awards.

This is the same feeling I have when I read books that are considered for awards. I read list after list, recommendation after recommendation, to find the books that I consider noteworthy. I share books with my classes. I read books aloud, I talk about books, I show my students how books affect my life. That “buzz” is the passion that led me to take some time in class to teach a Mock Caldecott unit this year.  Wow! What an experience!

My students are actively engaged, in learning! Yes, we are meeting the standards. I can prove it: 6.RL.2.1 (Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what a text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text); 6.RN.2.3 (Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text); 6.RL.2.2 (Determine how a theme or central idea is conveyed through particular details…) Wow! Our experiences matter! caldecott_2017_classtop6

We narrowed the list to six books and we are voting this week. We took the criteria from the ALA/ALSC Caldecott Medal Terms and Criteria. We made lists. We ranked each point: 4 means “absolutely meets criteria”, 3 means “yes, meets criteria”, 2 means “maybe meets criteria”, and 1 means “nope.” (It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences in the two sections/classes, too.)

We will decide a winner on Thursday. Then we will watch on January 23rd as we find out if the real voters for the Caldecott Medal and Honors books will issue the same awards that we did. It’s going to be great! Just like learning should be.

 


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Slice of Life Tuesday: The Loss Within

SliceofLifeSwagMarch2016I found out that one of my mentor teachers has passed away. At the age of 53, it’s not fair that such an intelligent mind and driven spirit is no longer with us. Even though I only knew her a short time and only in the context of education workshops, I feel sort of empty inside this week because of all the learning others will miss in the future with her not around. I met her at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project summer institute in 2008. Here’s what Kathleen Tolan taught me: kathleentolan

  • Testing is a genre. Teaching to the test is not acceptable, but helping students to realize that sometimes school reading is a different kind of reading, for a different purpose, and that students can pass a test if they know some key pieces of information.
  • You must have a passion for what you do. Lucy Calkins once told a group, “Passion is powerful.” Kathleen had a passion for teaching and learning. She wanted everyone to do their best always. She was stubborn about it! She put forth great effort in her work, and expected the same from others. When I applied to become a staff developer at TCRWP, she wrote me a long letter about the aspects of the job I was not qualified for. I appreciated her honesty, and my reading workshop teaching is now better because of her advice.
  • Children are the future. She held students on a pedestal. Children can learn to become intelligent thinkers and take part in the world. Allow children to be their best, and even you can learn from them.

Thank you for your time, Kathleen. We will miss your determined drive and work in the world of education.

picture credit: www.heinemann.com

 


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Slice of Life Tuesdays: Meeting the Slicers

Slice of Life Small LogoI had the opportunity to meet many fellow “Slicers” during my week at NCTE16. It was fabulous to get to know more friends in person and place the faces with the small square icons on Two Writing Teachers blog (www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com).

Thank you to Deb, Mandy, Julieanne, Margaret, Dahlia, Beth, Glenda, Melanie, Fran, Tara, Dana, and Michelle for being my virtual—-> real friends!

By the way, who has the picture of our table? I would love a copy please.


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Slice of Life Tuesday: See You in Atlanta, NCTE Friends!

Slice of Life Small LogoGo to bank. Check. Shop for a carry on bag with wheels. Check.

Feed family dinner (quickly). Check. Pack. Check. Do one more load of laundry for the people staying home. Check.

Check in for flight online. Check. Schedule Shuttle Van service. Check. Go to bed…!

NCTE, here I come!