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

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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. 

 

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: #NCTE15 Lives On

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Slice of Life Small LogoI’m listening to my Voxer app on the phone, and I hear my friends joyously celebrating their NCTE conference experiences. I finally met my Good-to-Great friends from Twitter’s #g2great chats of the last 6 months! A fabulous light turned on in my brain, and in my heart — meeting my virtual-to-real-life pals! Dr. Mary Howard, Amy Brennan, Jeanne-Marie Mazzaferro, Jenn Hayhurst, and Jill DeRosa presented “Making Powerful Connections Across the Twitterverse: Using Social Media to Become Agents of Change” on Friday morning. I had traveled 10 hours to hear this session, and support the people who lit my fire — the biggest professional change in my life to date.  They were fabulous! G2GreatPresentersNCTE15

The ladies began the session by introducing themselves and their roles as leaders in their school systems.  As tech-savvy people, they explained how they began using Twitter and Voxer, as well as other media, to work together across the country in the best interests of the students.  This “grassroots support system,” described in the NCTE program, is a never-ending journey of inspiration and motivation for the teachers who use it.  Kylene Beers spoke about Twitter over two years ago as wonderful (and free!) PD for teachers.  I joined Twitter then, and found that she was right. Last fall, I learned about Voxer from my daughter. Many teachers I follow on Twitter were using Voxer for their PLNs and team meetings. Later, the Good-to-Great team allowed me to join them in the learning and sharing of best literacy practices. My life has transformed! Truly, the reason I feel like I’m a “connected” educator now is that these “agents of change” changed me!

During the question-and-answer part of the session, I looked to my left and saw a young teacher using Twitter on his phone. He looked a little confused, so I went over to sit by him. He asked me, “How does this work, exactly? What do I do?” I was happy to show him how easy it was to find a #g2great chat (Thursday nights at 8:30 pm) and we traded Twitter handles. I told him of the last series of topics discussed during the chats, and his face started to light up (I KNEW that feeling!). I got such a warm-fuzzy feeling that I was the fan-turned-ambassador of the #g2great community.

Now I’m rereading the NCTE book, and I am so excited to be a part of the “ideas that flourish into tangible results.”

Join the chat! #g2great on Thursday evenings at 8:30 pm EST. I look forward to meeting you there!

PS: Thank you to Dr. Mary Howard, Amy Brennan, Jenn Hayhurst, Jill DeRosa, Jeanne-Marie Mazzaferro, Dani Burtsfield, Justin Dolcimascolo, Kari Yates, Erica Pecorale, Lisa Eickholdt, Kathryn Hoffmann-Thompson, Joan Moser, Julieanne Harmatz, and all the other “Good-to-Greaters,” for your friendship and support. I’m so glad we are REAL friends now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOLSC Day 24: Reader, or Writer?

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Slice of Life Small LogoThank you to the ladies at Two Writing Teachers (www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com) for hosting the March Slice of Life Story Challenge!

Reader, or Writer?

Today I feel more like a reader than a writer. I’ve read some fabulous posts on interesting SOLSC blogs. Thank you for sharing your stories with us! All of you are so inspiring and thoughtful with your words. I really want to read today, and not write. I’ll write about my “to do” reading:

Finish: Things a Little Bird Told Me by Biz Stone, co-creator of Twitter. (This guy is amazing!)

Read Again: Brown Girl Dreaming (Woodson), Charlotte’s Web (White), Sisters (Telgemeier), The Tiger Rising (DiCamillo), and Divergent (Roth)

Read the First Time: Turn Right at Machu Picchu (Adams), The Crossover (Alexander), Echo (Muñoz Ryan), Fish in a Tree (Hunt), there are so many titles! If I listed the rest of my books on my shelves I want to read, I’d be here until midnight!

I’d rather go back to reading. Please excuse me. Good night!

 

 

SOLSC Day 22: The Best Interest of Students

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Slice of Life Small LogoThank you to the ladies at Two Writing Teachers (www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com) for hosting the March Slice of Life Story Challenge!

The Best Interest of Students

I listened to a podcast today where Kelly Gallagher talked about his new book, In the Best Interest of Students. (Of course, I’m waiting for my copy!) In the first minute of the interview, Kelly addressed a problem with the Common Core State Standards, and I agreed. He stated that (for high school) the standards are actually quite good. (There is mention that the lower elementary grade teachers don’t seem to think that CCSS is good because they are not developmentally appropriate; since I am a middle school teacher, I’ll leave that for a different discussion.) This part of the podcast focused on “Lesson 2: Recognize the Standards by themselves are necessary, but insufficient.” Kelly explained: “The problem is, you can write down any standards on a piece of paper, but that doesn’t ensure what happens inside our classrooms when the bell rings.”

The lightbulb switched ON in my brain. Yes! I have my set of standards (although mine are Indiana State Standards) and my teaching plan, but if I don’t connect with the students, if I don’t teach them, and they don’t learn, then those standards mean nothing. One of our classroom walkthrough points for administrators (on teacher evaluation checklists) is that teachers should post the standards in the classroom and refer to them, so students will know what is expected.  I don’t mind. I typed them out and posted them on a bulletin board, and I showed them to the students. But we must not stop there! If my administrator checks that box (“Standards Posted in Classroom” or whatever it says), that doesn’t mean I’ve taught those standards. That doesn’t mean the students are learning them.

Teachers need to show students the purpose of deep learning — why those standards should matter to them. I’m thinking of a simple standard: “Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English: capitalization, punctuation, and spelling…” Just because those words are displayed in my room doesn’t mean I teach them. And how should I teach that standard, anyway? With DOL sentences? Just as I was thinking about that, Jeff Anderson showed up in my Twitter feed. “I call DOLs & their ilk ‘correct alls’ because you get the same result as you would if you took a Correct All.” LOL! No, I don’t use DOLs. They don’t work.  My students can state any error in any sentence, and correct the sentence, in isolation. They do NOT practice capitalization and punctuation in their own writing. Jeff Anderson’s books are still my favorite mentor texts for teaching grammar and writing: Mechanically Inclined and Everyday Editing. If you want your work published, you HAVE to capitalize the “I.” (It takes the place of your name. Names are capitalized because they are very important and specific.) You HAVE to show the reader where your thought ends. (Period) Right? (Question mark) Your voice comes through your writing in the form of punctuation. Do you want to pause? How long? Use a comma, dash, ellipses, depending on the voice and tone you want to convey.

Back to the podcast: Teachers must teach the standards so students will learn (notice how I’m NOT saying, “so students will achieve high scores“). In practice. Every day. Out there in the real world. School is a place for learning and growing; if the “necessary” Common Core State Standards stop at the classroom bulletin board, then they are “insufficient.” And that is not in the “best interest of students.”

(The podcast mentioned is from Ed Talk with Dr. Bob Bravo, Interview with Kelly Gallagher, Monday Night Live, 3/9/2015. You can hear it on ITunes.)

Slice of Life Tuesday: On NOT Attending the NCTE14 Conference

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No, I wasn’t able to attend the NCTE Conference. Woe is me. (Aw, quit feeling sorry for me — I’m fine!) I am a life-long learner who loves to travel to educational conferences. “Weirdo.”  I know. But that’s what I like to do. Back in May, I asked my principal if I could attend two conferences this year. One event I really wanted to attend was the NCTE 14 Conference at the beautiful Gaylord Resort in National Harbor. I’ve never been to Washington, D.C. before. I was ready to see some new sights and take part in the best PD opportunity of the fall! She said, “You could do that one.” But when it came down to filling out the paperwork, life happened. Time, money, family obligations, just happened at the wrong time this year. (Don’t get me started on the year — 2014 will NOT be missed!)

I logged on to Facebook and Twitter and signed up for the mobile app for NCTE14, hoping that attending virtually would help me to get over the mental pain of staying home. I have to say, it was nice to stay home in my warm pajamas on Wednesday, getting up at my regular weekday time instead of 4:00 a.m. to catch a plane to D.C. It was cold and windy! However, the relief soon turned to anxiety as I heard friend after friend, author after author, role model after role model, land at the airport and start preparing for their presentations and dinners and fun! Oh, to miss out was torture!

I was home, though, attending to work and family. I did get to go out to dinner, see my nephew for his birthday, and relax for the weekend. I used social media for hours, reading about and “Tweeting” with those who were there. It was nice to hear how much learning soaked up in the minds of the participants. Everyone shared their stories and pictures. (Thank you!) Although jealously reared its ugly head, I was also excited to “see” and “hear” about the reunions of the great people I have admired from afar for many years. The “Slicer” dinner looked absolutely fabulous, and I was there in spirit. Many fellow Slicers commented to me and I felt welcome — even though I was only watching my iPad screen. “Next time,” I said.

“Story is the Landscape of Knowing.” My story starts and ends in Indiana, but stories are everywhere. My story is not new, nor is it significant in the overall scheme of things. One lesson I learned from the NCTE Conference this year is that NEXT TIME I will be a part of the landscape, paying my way if necessary. I KNOW that life is a journey, and I KNOW that my story will be told — as an insider — next year!

And since next year will NOT be 2014, nothing can stop me!

 

 

(To all those who shared with me via Facebook and Twitter, again I thank you for your generosity! I’m so glad you all had a great time at NCTE!)

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: Starting a New Club for Those Slicers NOT going to NCTE!

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I’m starting a new club — who wants to join?

Requirement for my club: You will NOT be attending the FABULOUS NCTE conference at the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor this week! (#NCTE14)

Just kidding.

I WAS going, but…you know, life. And money. And work. Well, I will definitely be logged in on Twitter and Facebook to see all the wonderful learning posts and all the reunion comments by those in attendance.  I will be working, going to the orthodontist with my daughter, grading reading and writing notebooks, and attending a parent conference. Later this weekend, I will complain of the cold, make some crock pot dinner, and watch movies with a cup of hot tea. Then, I will try to get some Christmas shopping done, pay the bills, and read more books. Finally, I will let the dog out, write some essays, and get some sleep… and dream of “next time” –when I will be able to attend the conference and meet all of my Slicer friends in person!

Have a great week everybody!

“What Did She Say?” — Second Chat This Week!

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Twitter chat: ‪#TandCwriters

September 7, 2014 8pm EST

Q1: What do you expect your students to already know as writers?

A1: The writing process is not a one-day or one-period event. The basics. Parts of a story + some text knowledge

Q2: How do you find out what your students know as writers?

A2: “Write about the Bear” fun way to get to know style and learning profiles of writing.

Q3: How do you give and track feedback that shows you believe in writers?

A3: Many ways to write! Not just “my way.” Read and have conversations with Ss

(I favorited a Tweet,

Another A3: I try to spread my feedback and ensure all students hear from me in a positive way.)

Q4: How do you get writers to believe in one another?

A4: Make a point to state out loud what we like about everyone’s work during the sharing sessions.

(I favorited a Tweet here, as well:

Another A4: “each student ends up being an expert about something. Helps to give them each a boost.”)

Q5: What read alouds inspire writers to believe in themselves and others?

A5: So many! Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, If You Were a Writer…

Ruth Ayres (host) said, “Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon”

Another Tweet! Amazing conversations on Twitter tonight!

Another A5: “An Angel for Solomon Singer by Rylant is not about writing, but builds belief that all stories are important, people matter.”

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and others for a second amazing chat this evening. Time for bed now!

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