Celebrate Book Love!

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Today I bought my class pizza. They were delighted – and so was I. This year I have fully committed to daily free reading in my Grade 10 English class. I am teaching the “lower” track English class, and not all of my students see themselves as readers. (To be fair, some do – some read a lot – but others do not read at all.) I am determined to give them enough reading time that they have a chance to experience what reading is like. I am determined to meet them where they are without judgment and to guide them forward with joy.

Now, I’ve tried choice reading before, but I never quite figured out how to make it work. Usually some kids loved it and some kids hated it, and eventually we gave it up. This year, I came to class full of ideas and strategies from Penny Kittle & Kelly Gallagher. Book Love and 180 Days are my inspiration (even though – full disclosure – I haven’t yet finished all of 180 Days yet.) I don’t have a real classroom, so no classroom library, but I gained an ally in our school librarian and we have free reign on a daily basis. And I’m really working to find the right book for each kid.

Last week marked 5 weeks of school, 1/4 of the semester – and it also marked the day we reached our first class goal of 10 books read. TEN. They thought I was crazy when I first suggested that. And today we hit 11 – and two are nearly done with another book apiece! This is practically a miracle. First of all, until last week we only ten students were attending class (an eleventh has joined us now). Second, when I surveyed my students at the beginning of the year, I found out that most of them read either one book (for English, and not entirely on their own) or none last year. Now some of my students are on their second or even third book. Our revised goal is 40 books, and the students are excited.

So today I ordered pizza to arrive during the last 15 minutes of class, and we celebrated. Because reading is joyous and milestones are worth noting. I let you know when we hit 40 – bet we get there faster than they think we will.

Let’s celebrate!

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I don’t want to write

It’s storming outside and quiet inside and I don’t want to write.

I don’t want to write because it means I have to get up and get my computer. I’m comfortable on the couch. Everything is quiet and I don’t want to move.

I don’t want to write because I don’t want to open my computer. I want to be technology-free. Stupid technology.

I don’t want to write because I’m reading and I just want to keep reading. Maybe forever. And fiction. I want to read fiction forever. No more non-fiction for me. Harumph.

I don’t want to write because I haven’t written at all this week and I’m embarrassed about it. Who am I to call myself a writer? Better to just give up now.

I don’t want to write because my brain is nicely blank and my thoughts are comfortably amorphous. Writing will give those thoughts shape, then pin them down and examine them. See? Look at that! A judgment here, a grump over there. I knew it. Not nearly as nice as I was hoping when they were just swirling in my head. Wait! a random delight! Well, I’m glad for that at least.

Maybe if I keep writing I can find more of those… Grr… but I really don’t want to write.

But I’m going to. I’m going to find three sentences about three things and then I’m going to post this slice JUST LIKE THIS.

  1. I have just realized that I am worried about a lot of things. Well, no wonder I don’t want to write. I’ll just ignore the truth that writing often soothes the worry.
  2. I love watching my children play on the sandbar in the lake. I love the way they get completely absorbed in whatever game they make up and how they traipse about half-in half-out of the murky water, finding rocks, playing with the red mud, diving, swimming, hiding in the bits of bushes sticking out of the water. I wish for them as many sandbar hours as they can get for as long as they can get them.

  3. I feel inadequate because I cannot bring myself to read the professional books I brought with me this summer. I love fiction. I really really love it. But I *should* be reading some of these other books, right? I may need to hide the horrible pd stack so that it stops glaring at me from the corner because I have a couple of really good novels hidden behind a pillow on the couch.

Harumph. I still don’t really want to write. So I’m stopping. For now. Because now that I’ve started I have a feeling that I might need to keep going. Later. Once the storm is over. Or maybe at the end of the next chapter.

Writing. Hmph.

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Read more slices like this one (though probably less grumpy) at twowritingteachers.org

Late to class

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I was late to class today. I was so late that the Vice Principal unlocked my classroom door then called up to the English office and asked if I was coming. Yikes!

I rushed downstairs, embarrassed and flustered, and my class greeted me with giddy laughter.

“Miss!” they hooted, “you are LATE!”
“You gonna have to stay after!”
“We gonna write your parents!”
“We’re gonna write an email to you and bcc your parents!”

That last one made me burst out laughing. We just learned about cc and bcc on Friday. My students’ eyes had widened when they realized what bcc meant, how it worked. One boy declared, “Well, that’s just evil,” and I had laughed out loud, but I struggled to find even one example of bcc that my students thought was acceptable use (aka “not evil”).

“I have a perfectly good excuse,” I batted my eyes and looked chastened. “You don’t need to tell my parents,” I paused, “or the principal.”

“I’m gonna email your parents and BCC the principal!” called one perpetually late student. Everyone fell into gales of laughter.

Once we settled into our lesson, my students busily writing about today’s picture prompt, I had a moment to reflect. How do I treat late students? I try to be aware, to remember that sometimes life gets busy for these kids, that English class isn’t always their top priority. Today I got confused. It happens. Lots of things happen.

I know that I am respectful of the almost-never-late student. That’s easy. And I can handle the occasionally late student, but how do I treat my perpetually late students? They mostly come in BIG, swaggering and waving their way into the classroom, disrupting class and (though I hate to admit it) making me angry. I have tried to teach them how to come in small, we’ve even practiced, but change is a struggle. They arrive loud and swaggering anyway, prepared for whatever I throw at them: reminders that they will have to stay after class, public scolding, comments about emailing their parents again. I try to be mindful, I do. In general we do more laughing than shouting in our classroom, but still…

Today I’m wondering what it feels like to be a student rushing to English class, late again, knowing that I will be waiting. Maybe tomorrow I will ask them. Maybe I will remember that my students always have reasons for their behaviour, even when I don’t understand or condone the reasons. Maybe tomorrow I will be just a little more patient.

I think it’s a good thing I was late today. Even if the VP did have to call. And for the record, I do have a good excuse.

 

 

The Slice of Life Challenge (Day 3; my day 1)

So. Welcome to me.

I have decided to participate in the Slice of Life Story Challenge, and I honestly have no idea what I’m doing. I have to send a permalink to someone, somewhere and… I’m not sure. But I’m doing this anyway because I have wanted to start a teaching blog, and I have wanted to write daily, and I have wanted to participate in a virtual community of educators, and so far I have done none of these things.

I am like my students in this way: I have so many excuses about why I can’t write.
And I am also like my students in this way: I can be impulsively enthusiastic about something that I may or may not be able to finish.

When one of my students is ready to leap into the unknown, I often ask them to think about the possible consequences of their choice: what good might come of this? what are the downsides? what might happen if you fail? what will happen if you don’t try? what will you learn?

Well, there’s not much downside here. I figure out how to create a permalink and where to send this permalink and then… I try. I try something new. I try something I have wanted to do. And I might fail – but I might not. And either way I’ll learn something.

So. Welcome to me.

Slice of life today:
Drive. Drop. Pick up. Shop.
Stir. Mix. Spread. Whisk.
Roast. Steep. Bake. Simmer.
Read. Dress. Kiss. Love.
Talk. Think. Create. Write.
Then sleep. Sweet sleep.