Thursday, January 18, 2018


January 18, 2018

I'm getting ready to read 1984 with my students.  I love 1984, and as a matter of fact I love dystopian fiction in general.  It's my very favorite genre.  However, in today's world, where these dystopian novels seemed to have moved out of the realm of the theoretical and into the realm of "Oh my gosh, this is literally happening!", I'm a little worried about how my students are going to react.  Of course, this is exactly why we read these kinds of books, but it doesn't mean it's not going to be uncomfortable.  It will certainly cause discussion and debate.  And although I hope kids will be able to see the truly cautionary nature of the book, what I hope even more is that as we share differing perspectives and values that will undoubtedly be borne out of reading this book together, my students will learn how to share those differing values civilly and maturely, unlike quite a lot of the 'discourse' I see online right now.  It's a valuable skill I think a great many people should attempt to strengthen.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I Love it When I Get a Happy Email

January 17, 2018

Although I finished my Master's degree in December, I have been waiting anxiously for it to officially post.  This week I finally got the notification!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Feeling a Little Defeated

January 16, 2018

It's so hard not to take it personally when someone lies to you, especially when it's repeatedly.  When it's someone you love, it's so hard to find that balance between being supporting and loving and holding someone accountable for things they say that are not true, for whatever reasons they feel entitled to or empowered to lie.  I am really struggling with this today, and I am heartbroken because of it.

Monday, January 15, 2018

And On Today's Day Off, I Got Approximately 1% of The Things Done I Wanted To

January 15, 2018

Why is it every time I have a day off, I think time will stand still for that whole day so that I can get 3 million things done?  That includes:  going grocery shopping, dropping of donations at Goodwill, getting to the post office, catching up on laundry, finishing lesson plans for the whole semester, grading the new stuff that just came in, reading 3 books, re-doing the front bathroom, trying out a new recipe or two, calling a plumber, putting stuff into storage, finding some semblance of order in the garage, writing letters to friends, taking stuff to the dry get the picture.  Oh.  And catch up on sleep.  Totally reasonable, right?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Out of My Mind

January 14, 2018

A couple of years ago at the CATE conference I attended, I had the pleasure of hearing author Sharon Draper speak and read from her book, Out of My Mind.  She was incredibly engaging, and not surprisingly, a wonderful storyteller.  I actually got to meet her and she autographed a copy of her novel for me.

 It's a Young Adult novel, which I try to read quite a bit of in order to make good recommendations to my students.  This novel is about a fifth grade girl with an incredible mind who suffers from cerebral palsy.  Her condition, in addition to severely affecting her mobility, disrupts her ability to speak.  Doctors and teachers alike treat her as if she is incapable of much mental processing at all, although her mother, her beloved neighbor, and a couple of her teachers see a spark that shows she is able to process a good deal more than she can communicate.  When she finally gets a computer that allows her to "speak", she and those around her learn about her photographic memory and her incredible intelligence.

The writing style is engaging and keeps the reader invested.  Even though I was sure a couple of times I knew where the plot was going, there were a couple of plot turns that I didn't see coming, and I appreciated that.  Draper doesn't turn this book into a "And everyone who had ever treated her badly repented and became wonderful human beings" or even a "Melody was perfect and amazing and when she got her computer, she was even more perfect and amazing" kind of book.  Melody, the protagonist, has a disability but she isn't idealized.  She's allowed to be a typical 5th grader, with some ugly stubborness and moodiness, as well as empathy and reflectiveness.  She's also surrounded by people who are flawed and human--who sometimes make big mistakes.  They are 'real' humans dealing with the kind of real-life emotions that the rest of us go through.  It's not always an easy road, but we appreciate that we are on it with folks who respond like people we might know.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


January 13, 2018

Yes, I'm walking 10,000 steps every day, and yes I'm exercising every day.  I'm trying to drink a little less Diet Pepsi (not eliminating it altogether--let's not get crazy!), and trying to drink a little more water.  But dear friends, I'm not going to live my life wistfully staring at all the foods I "can't" have.  It's only going to make me sad.  Or it's going to just be plain ineffective, so I'll be mad at myself.  No, I'm not going into a battle with food like that.  So every once in awhile, when the mood strikes for something more decadent and cheesy, I'm going to make it, I'm going to enjoy eating it, and I'm going to move on with my life.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Reading Plan

January 12, 2018

One of my resolutions for this year is to do a little more reading for pleasure, now that I have finished my Master's degree.  I love to read, but it's had to take a bit of a back seat in the past two and a half years as I was working on all the reading I had to do for the program.  Weirdly, the first book I finished for the year was a business book we were given to read at work on dysfunctional work teams and how to create healthier environments.  Not the kind of book I would pick up on my own, but it wasn't bad, actually.  I tend to rotate among classics, young adult fiction (so that I can make recommendations to my students) contemporary fiction, and non-fiction.  Usually I read more than one book at a time, since my reading choice is dictated by my mood.  I'm not the fastest reader, so I'm not one who can pick up a book and polish it off in an afternoon, so my moods fluctuate as I'm progressing through a novel over the course of a couple of weeks.  Today my books of choice are Written on the Body by Winterson (a classic recommended by a friend), Out of My Mind by Draper (a YA novel by an author I actually had the privilege of hearing read from this book and meeting at a signing), and The Funny Thing Is by Ellen Degeneres (a woman I have great respect for because of her positive energy and outlook). 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Finding Balance

January 11, 2018

It's incredibly difficult to maintain a balance between keeping myself informed about what's going on in the news and keeping myself from feeling despair when I read about yet another hateful or demeaning statement coming from the White House--daily.  I mean, there have always been crass, belligerent, and blustery people in our country.  I miss the days when the person sitting in the White House wasn't one of them.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

One of My Best Days of Teaching

January 10, 2018

It's the start of the new semester as well as the new calendar year.  Two of my classes had a student teacher last semester, and even in the classes where there wasn't a student teacher, I sensed a bit of restlessness and stress as we returned for the home stretch of senior year.  I decided we needed to do a reset/refocus, something akin to the kind of reflection many of us do as a new year dawns.  I showed them a couple of short video clips from Pursuit of Happiness and Freedom Writers that focus on chasing your dreams and building community.  We talked about big picture ideas that reflected what we hope to see in the world and how we'd like to see ourselves in it.  I handed out 3 x 5 cards and asked them to anonymously answer the question: What Do I Hope?  I gathered them and read them aloud, and told my kids I'd post them on the wall to help us remember who we are at our core--as a community--as we are progressing through the rest of our year together.

If you've ever wondered if our kids today are shallow or callous or self-centered, perhaps here you have your answer.  I was incredibly impressed with the genuine, sincere, and heart-felt responses:
I hope to be kinder to others.
I hope to be the kind of person others can turn to for help.
I hope I can find my passion and purpose in life.
I hope I can make my parents proud.

I was also a bit broken-hearted by some of the responses:
I hope to finally find true friends.
I hope people notice my silence.
I hope to be able to find a reason to get up each day.
I hope to finally be able to love myself.

Our kids can be goofy and immature and caught up the tiny details of every day life.  But they have big dreams and hopes and aspirations--and many of them are carrying really heavy weights hidden in their hearts.  It eye-opening to me, and to my students as well.  One of my kids shook his head and said, "It's really sad how many people in here are dealing with such heavy feelings.  And we don't even know."

Yeah.  Yes, it is.  So maybe the best way to operate is to treat each other as if we all are.

One of my best days of teaching.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A Visit From Natalie and Ryann

January 9, 2018

One of my favorite things about the week before and after vacation is that many of my former students are home from college and come by to visit.  I am always in awe of the cool and amazing things my kids find themselves doing once they move into the world of adulthood.  It's such a privilege to live in a time when I can keep in touch via the magic of social media with students I've formed relationships with.  I love to follow their successes and adventures in life and see all the positive energy they're putting out into the world.  Today I got a visit from a couple of incredible young women I have a great deal of love, respect, and admiration for--these gals are truly going to make their mark on the world!