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Bluebird of happiness

I ordered this five minutes ago, (because it’s payday, and these things must wait for paydays) and even indulgently asked for free same-day shipping. I am so grateful for Three Teachers Talk for promoting Newkirk’s new book.

My great and burning question may be answered by this text: How do we help students look past their peers’ acceptance and gain self-respect and confidence? 

After I receive the book, I’ll follow up on my tweet: the ideas he put forth are the ultimate playlist of pedagogy –putting these concepts into practice will be the trick.

Looking for theme teaching ideas? Check out this great post by Gwen Flaskamp: she provides the step by step path using the greats: Notice and Note, Book Love, and Falling in Love with Close Reading.

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’tis the season: December Ideas

Two Writing Teachers posted:

Narrative Writing Makes a Beautiful Gift

Writing is a gift–and perhaps if students of writing see themselves, their words, as gifts to themselves and others we can reshape how they feel about writing (which isn’t always positive).

My favorite December idea:


Creative constraints provide necessary restrictions for all of us who wish to create productively. It may seem counter-intuitive, but creative constraints produce better focus and creativity, not less.

Drabble A Day Writer Portfolio Document: (click for Google Doc)

Using Signposts:

Going to freshen this up today, too:


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syllabus of silliness

This young man chose to story map The Landlady by Roald Dahl. Classic old lady and poisoned tea!

Ah, on my to-do list: an updated syllabus for the Computer Technology Essentials course. I put one together this summer with the foresight that it would need to be modified. As with all things new, what we expect doesn’t always materialize, and what we get is sometimes far greater than we hoped.

The current unit of study is “Documents.” I had hoped to get all the students into Google apps, but alas, because of the age restrictions I’m taking a step back and asking parents to sign their children up with accounts since many of them aren’t 13 yet. I know the method of adding them in edublogs with the +name method, but that’s not enough, and time-consuming for a single semester course.

This week we focused on mind mapping/story mapping. Of all the software and apps I looked at, everything requires potential money, were too dry, boring, and tediously requiring logins. I have login fatigue: only imagine what this generation will feel. They’ll welcome the biometrics with open arms and eyeballs, surrendering more data to the Borg.

My district, thankfully, is in the process of obtaining new software, but we can’t wait for POs and checks. I did what any smart teacher would: went low-tech. Paper, pencils, colored pencils, highlighters. And modeling.

The criteria:

  • The map had to be for a class: math, science, language arts, social studies, pe/health
    • character sketches
    • story maps
    • scientific process
    • claim, evidence and reasoning charts
    • claim, evidence, and reasoning questions
    • math processes and equations
  • It would have a central idea/topic/question and a minimum of nine other connections
  • Choose something that’s currently challenging or difficult to help make sense of it OR
  • Choose something that’s currently interesting/easy to show what you know

I asked the teachers in the building what they were working on this week, and received so much support. The students loved that I helped them make connections to CTE and their other classes. (Not to mention the mad teacher ninja skills we possess.)

After they spent a class sketching on rough paper, they drew a more finished copy on blank paper (it was tough to give up my own paper supply, but worth it). The next day I walked them through Word features: shapes, inserting Youtube videos, pictures, online pictures, etc. to recreate their sketches digitally. With writing, the process is key on the path to publication.

Some examples:

There may be hundreds of apps and software companies trying to get a piece of the ed-tech dollars. I would ask that perhaps you talk to teachers in the classroom about the hurdles we help our students jump over to use your products. Ask yourselves the same questions my students ask: What is the point of this product? Is it helping me or getting in my way?

I’m not sure how to phrase that on a syllabus, those nuances and subtleties of creating.

Never be afraid to slow it down, stop, look up, and then move forward.

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today was a good day

My first period: my friend’s first period. Her second period. My other friend’s third period. My fourth, fifth, and sixth periods. Almost 170 students signing up and starting blogging on the Digital Dogs’ blog. 

I KNEW they could do it!

And, I even recognized some writers in the crowd. Those who lingered a little longer, or confessed to having Tumblrs and Wattpads. I have writer-adar.

Yes, I realize their posts are not works of grand literary import. Pfft. Putting in your first HTML embed is addicting. Sharing content, and seeing your words published is this generation’s ‘Andy Warhol fifteen minutes of fame on television,’ but this screen is more relevant and powerful.

It’s working…

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the perils of control


My head hurt all weekend since an odd idea came to me late last week. Did you ever get an off-hand comment that seemed vaguely critical and out of context the only explanation could be it was growing in the background for a long time? Writing is processing, and thinking about how to frame bizarre moments on this rainy Sunday afternoon solved the pain.

The best thing about my PLN is that we all understand that sharing, curating, and responding are part of the culture of being a creative collaborator. There are no egos, no “stay in your lane’s” or titles and job descriptions that prevent us from sharing our ideas and resources freely and kindly. From Notice and Note Facebook page and other groups that share ideas and insights I have made new friends. And–never doubt it that it’s a small educational world after all. A good friend and former colleague who moved back to Florida last year is friends with a teacher who’s become a good professional friend via these channels. You just never know.

But what I do know is good work is good work: the younger teachers I work with, even though I’m not officially in the ELA group/department anymore (insert long trombone sound here) they continue to work with me, and we seek out ideas and resources. Which is why I was perplexed last week. What is expected from a staff in terms of sharing? What if a teacher decides she is not going to share her resources? What if, like I am simply because I’ve been in my building so long, should not be the Keeper of Continuity and Nooks and Crannies Resources? For one thing, that title doesn’t fit on a business card. Quite impractical.

One of the…trends?…I’m hearing and seeing is this idea that more seasoned teachers aren’t supposed to share their expertise. It’s curious and confusing. We, teachers, are constantly asked to wash and rinse a laundry basket full of mixed messages:

  • Share your resources and time!
  • Take on a student teacher!
  • Mentor younger teachers!
  • It’s not your job anymore, so don’t share!
  • Keep your advice to yourself!
  • You’re (fill in the blank: overwhelming, emotional, fractured, walking wounded)
  • Too many emails
  • Not enough emails
  • Too passive
  • Too aggressive
  • If you send it, no one will read it
  • More training
  • Less training
  • Walk on eggshells
  • Stand up to bullies
  • Let her do it
  • Open your classroom door!
  • Keep your door shut!
  • Don’t smile!
  • Welcome them!
  • Open your heart!
  • You’re bleeding on the carpet!
  • You do it.
  • Stop doing that.
  • Can you?
  • Will you?
  • Just….

How do we shut out the static and tune in to what’s essential? How do we enjoy our days at our jobs? Our professional, heavily invested-in, challenging, humanly flawed jobs?

Yes. Shut the door. Temporarily at least. And just listen to students. Whatever the grown-ups are saying or thinking doesn’t matter too much on the periphery. When we work together instead of working outside-in to inside-out, perhaps some authentic professional relationships will grow.

Read Stuff Students Say by Alice T. Rust.

Follow Jackie Gerstein and feel her joy in her teaching.

Follow John Spencer and see how a creative fellow nerd brings passion and respect to new and seasoned teachers alike.

Follow Three Teachers Talk and Sarah Donovan/Ethical ELA.

Thank goodness there are folks in my real and virtual worlds who do appreciate what I offer and encourage and support me. It is through that love, and it is love and not control, that sustains us all.

PS This is the best advice of all: