Sunday, May 29, 2016


Digilit Sunday

Today I am participating in Digital Learning Sunday with Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche.  This week Margaret has encouraged us to write about perspective. 

When I began teaching middle school, I incorporated an Article of the Week or AoW into my curriculum. Each week I choose a nonfiction article, and students read, annotate, and write something about it.  AoW's are one of the best practices I have implemented in my middle school classroom.  

My goal is to allow students to talk about the article in small groups because in these small groups is where the real learning happens.  This is where they get to state their own opinions and views and have opportunities to learn and respect what others think about the same issue.  This is where they learn about perspective.

Several months ago, they read an article about Apple being forced by the FBI to look at the text messages of the person responsible for killing 14 people in California.  The class was evenly divided in their support for which side was "correct." 

Because the content of this article was relevant to their lives as cell phone users, they had very strong feelings on the issue.  Giving them the opportunity to discuss this issue became a window for me as their teacher.  As the students began talking and sharing ideas, they also began to revise and change their perspectives.  I would hear them say, "Hey, I never thought about that." and "That's a good point." 

I learned that the development of perspective lies in the heart of discussion. Is it possible for someone to have a true perspective if no one challenges it or questions it?

This summer I am taking part in an on-line book study with several teacher-bloggers. We are reading Katherine Bomer's The Journey is Everything, a book about essaying. In the the first chapter, the reader is asked to read closely an essay titled "Pride" by Dagoberto Gilb.  (A very difficult read, I might add.)  I read the essay, closed the book, and wanted to share my perspective. I wanted to state my thoughts and feelings about the essay, and I wanted to see what others thought as well.  Most importantly, I wanted someone to question and challenge me.  

Only then will I feel my perspective is real.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Bittersweet Goodbye - Celebrate #11

Each week Ruth Ayres extends an invitation to share and celebrate events, big or small, from our week. 

My summer officially started this week, and that is a cause for celebration.  But a part of me did not want that celebration to begin because it meant I had to say goodbye to a special group of students.

Two years ago I made the decision to leave 4th grade and take a 6th grade position at our middle school.  At the end of that year, I said goodbye to a wonderful class. It was a year filled with "specialness" and one of those years that every teacher dreams of having. Knowing that I could have the opportunity to teach them again as 6th graders made saying goodbye a little bit easier.  

Last fall when I received my class rosters, I was thrilled when I saw most of my 4th graders on that list.  It is special when a teacher has "that" class, but to have them for a second time was serendipitous. 

It has been so much fun watching them learn and grow as students again in my classroom, but it has been a privilege watching them become young people.  They are smart and kind and funny and talented.  I am proud of who they have become, and I look forward to watching them move on.

I know teachers are not supposed to have favorites, so I will just say they occupy a little extra space in my heart.

Saying goodbye a second time did not make it any easier on Wednesday.  But I know my life has truly been blessed because they have been a part of it.  I am proud to have been their teacher...twice!

My 4th Graders
My 6th Graders

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Surprising Intention

Digilit Sunday

Today I am participating in Digital Learning Sunday with Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche.  This week Margaret has encouraged us to write with the idea of "intent."  
I am not a regular writer with Digital Learning Sunday, because most times I feel I have very little to offer.  I use technology in my classroom, but I am what I would call "a work in progress."  Saturday while I was grading some student writing,  I had an online conversation with Julieanne Harmatz, and I knew I wanted to write about it.

Let me back up to Thursday night.  During the Good to Great chat {#g2great}, I tweeted if anyone had created a bookmark for lifting a line to write about reading. Lifting a line is not something we have done very much, and I just wasn't getting the reflection I wanted.  Julieanne, along with Fran McVeigh, asked me some good thinking questions which I referred back to as I was grading.

This year I have dabbled with Google Classroom with the intent of creating a more digital literacy environment.  We also use Google Docs within our distrct as a collaboration tools among teachers.

As I was grading one particular student's writing, I realized I could share it with Julieanne and get her feedback on it.  We were able to comment back and forth as if we were sitting together at a table at school sharing student work.  She pointed out a certain line my student wrote and suggested that he expand on his thoughts.  We were collaborating...from two separate parts of the country.

My intent for using Google docs was with my students, but it became a wonderful surprise for me Saturday afternoon as I used it to broaden my own digital literacy environment.  

Below is the student reflection from the book, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.  Feel free to join in on the collaboration and feedback.

“I can’t do anything right.  I don’t want to be all that, I just want to be like everyone else”
Page 242

Melody Brooks is an eleven year old girl that is confined to a wheelchair.  She can’t walk, talk, or even feed herself.  Everyone thinks that Melody is either stupid, or in their own words, a mental retard.  She made a friend at school, she even has enemies (like most girls her age).  She has always been looked down on by the public eye, but her parents, her own personal aide at school, Catherine,  and Mrs. V won't let her give up.  One day the 5th and 6th grade were having tryouts for a quiz team. Even Mr. Dimmings didn’t believe in her.  But when she got a perfect score on the tryout, everyone seemed to praise her.  And when the public was only focused on her, she felt all alone.  The team even forgot about her on the flight to the championship, and didn’t do anything about it. I can connect to this because I’ve had days when I feel like I can't do anything right.  I’ve been called “special”  and not in the good way.  I’m not the smartest or most popular kid, but I just want to be like everyone else.  As Melody said “I can’t do anything right.  I don’t want to be all that, I just want to be like everyone else”.

*The line in bold is the line Julieanne commented on.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Have you ever said yes to something, and then wonder, "What in the world did I just do?"

I agreed to let our high school newspaper write an article about book clubs in my classroom.  A student reporter asked to come and observe the book clubs in action and ask me and my students some questions.

Here is where I say yes.

Only one of my classes fits into her schedule.  The class with the most behavior problems.  The class where reading is not their favorite thing to do.  The class where reading is not the easiest thing for them to do.

Here is where I wonder what in the world did I do.

I had prepped my students yesterday by telling them we were having a visitor and why she was coming. Today they walk in, find their seats, and see her sitting in the back of the classroom.  I teach my mini-lesson about looking for critical scenes and jotting those down on sticky notes in order to prepare for Discussion Day.

Then I send them off to their groups.
Here is where I hold my breath.

I quickly scan the groups and see which one I want to go to first.  And then I hear it. The buzz.  The buzz of students discussing their books.  The buzz of enthusiasm over reading.

This continues for 15 minutes, and I ask them to return to their seats for questions from the reporter.

The first question is, "What was your favorite part of book clubs?"  

Hand after hand goes up into the air.  They tell her how much fun it is to read with their friends, and how reading these books pushes them as readers, and how reading makes them think about things in different ways.

And here is where I smile.

When I carry that passion and enthusiasm for reading into my classroom each day, magic happens.  And I was able to see that magic happen an unexpected class.

That is why I teach.

Monday, May 2, 2016


Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating this space for me to share my corner of the world.

"When you focus on possibilities instead of limitations, a whole new world will open up to you, a world of optimism and new opportunity.  Because you will be less distracted by your worries and fears, it will be much easier to get through things, no matter how difficult.  And, because your spirits will be filled with optimism, you'll be happier each and every day.  

These words were spoken by our guidance counselor during our morning show on Monday.  After hearing them, I was compelled to include them in this post I had already written for today.

Earlier this week on Twitter, Starr Sackstein asked teachers to share our stories and to elevate our profession by writing about why we teach.  

Here's my story.

A few weeks ago a student wrote these words to me in a card:

"Some bad stuff has happened in my life.  Like DCS took me and my brothers away from home and my dad's in's feels nice to tell someone about my life..."

This student is just one of many who come into my classroom each day.  I have students who move from place to place to avoid living on the streets.  I have students who have no food to eat on the weekends.  I have students who have parents incarcerated. I have students who suffer from abuse.

Different stories, different situations.  But similar heartbreak.

I want my students to know a way out is possible.  They do not have to see their lives repeating or continuing in the cycle of their parents.

I teach because I want my students to believe in the possible.

I want them to know they do not have to live in poverty...
they have the ability to break the cycle.

They do not have to be homeless, or hungry...
they have the opportunity to find a good job.

They do not have to live with abuse...
they can learn to love and to stand up for what they believe in.

They do not have to go to jail...
they can learn to make good decisions.

They only need to have someone who believes in them, who believes in the possible, and who can help them believe it too.

That is why I teach.