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Remember to read.

martinamis1No matter who you are, your ability to read is so important to making who you are. I have spent hours myself, reading about my burning question of “Why should we read?” and its sister question, “How do we read?”

So, why should you?

The reasons for reading are as many as there are words on a page.

When I read, I feel that I am allowed access to a space that is unlike any other. I read other people’s voices on the page, screen, or cereal box. It doesn’t matter. I am a strong reader. And because I am a strong reader, I am a strong thinker.

I want you all to be strong thinkers, too.

Now, how do you read? Please do not continue your bad habits of saying you understood something when you didn’t. Please continue our good habits we’ve spent a year building of questioning the text, writing notes, considering and using new vocabulary, and if you feel that something has sparked you, even a little, do a little more investigation: for example, I reading a book called Arabat by Clive Barker. A student, a brilliant, beautiful, charming student, recommended it to me. I remember thinking Clive Barker was the man who directed the Freddy/Nightmare series a long time ago. But that wasn’t right – he did the Hellraiser movies. (How did I learn that? By reading.)

Arabat is an amazing book. Every time I read it, I feel as if I’m stepping into another world–that’s such a cliche to say, but Barker’s writing style creates a visual and textual world that I literally can almost reach out and touch. The salt air, fear, flying, hope, courage, and barnacles are so perfectly paced, described, and not overdone; I could only aspire to write such as he. His original illustrations leave me in awe. His villains are complex, cruel, and like all good villains (nice oxymoron, eh?) they want to destroy the light: one with creating a perpetual midnight, the other with creating a world of mindless purchasing and consuming zombies.

Whew. That was a ramble.

How did I go from admonishing you to read to writing a brief review of Arabat?

I guess the real question is, how would I not?


P.S. This book is out of print now. My quest? To seek as many copies I can.

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Pot luck.

potlatchAny fourth grade student in the Northwest worth his or her salt knows the term “potlatch.” It comes from Northwestern Native American tribes, and it means a gathering, bartering time, a feasting and sharing occasion. The key word is “reciprocity,” which means fairness and equality – you get want you want and need, and give to others what they want and need. Fairly simple concept, and apparently worked so well it was banned by Canadian and U.S. authorities at times in our collective North American histories. Because any student of history worth his or her salt knows that if a group is functioning, another bigger group must come along and control it.

 But this post isn’t about that.

It’s about what we all bring to the party.

We North, Central, and South Americans are constantly reinventing ourselves, make-over capital is in the U.S. Lots of heated debate over immigration laws, what it means to be free, and what it means to be responsible.

Here’s my challenge, my diverse, intelligent young leaders: What are YOU going to bring to the party? What are you proud of in your ancestors’ past, and what gifts and talents can you share to create the nation, the future, that you want?

I’ll see you at 8:25 AM. Dress casually.

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Spit happens.

spittoonA spit-take is in response to something that’s funny, but alas, this is not. Now I know I have friends who will be quick to remind me that I could be something of a class clown, seeking attention inappropriately (which is different from seeking inappropriate attention). But I would never, ever, have done something like this:

My garulous 7th period class is a challenge. We all know this. During a conversation that sounded more like begging and pleading to please behave when I had a guest teacher, I witness one young patron spitting, yes, SPITTING on the column/wall in the back of the room.

I stopped him with a “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING?! SPITTING?!?!?!?!?!” (Cue to me with tearing purple pants, face growing a shade of jolly-green Hulk, and speaking monosyllabically.) Stopped the lesson, which, oh, by the way, was all about how to write thesis statements, and begin to explore themes – sounds dry, but it wasn’t- it was all based on Descendants, which they all watched and really liked yesterday–ANYWAY – the young patron was asked to then take my cleaner and rag and clean all of the chairs while everyone moved up front. This took 10 minutes out of instruction time, and while people were jockeying to new positions, I called the disciplarian team to come and remove young patron from the premises.

I then proceeded to have a meltdown.

I know the words “disrespect’ was tossed out there. Perhaps a “disgusting” and “childish.”

But there was fear, too. I am sometimes scared for my students, although I should never show it. I don’t mean I’m afraid of them, never. I am afraid FOR them. Usually kids who have high disciplinary issues know exactly how to work the system so they spend more time out of the classroom than in.

I am scared because I see in many of my students this story:

Teen gets a year for assaulting Metro bus driver

A 14-year-old who assaulted a Metro bus driver was sentenced Tuesday to a year in juvenile detention.

By Christine Clarridge

Seattle Times staff reporter

With her 14-year-old son about to learn his fate Tuesday for assaulting a Metro bus driver, the boy’s mother rushed into the courtroom nearly 30 minutes late.

She missed the part when her son’s attorney, Craig McDonald, had sought a more lenient sentence and urged the judge not to place too much weight on the prosecution’s claim that there was a lack of parental involvement and control over the child.

Given a chance to speak before Juvenile Court Judge Chris Washington announced the sentence, the mother claimed her son was innocent of the assault to which he already had admitted guilt.

“My son is a victim,” she said. . “I do not believe he is guilty of hitting. … My son could not have hit anyone. Look at his size.”

The mother then turned to the victim, Katherine Batey, who was sitting in court next to the prosecutor, and began to blame her for her son’s predicament. “If you had handled it differently,” she began before she was abruptly cut off by an objection from the prosecutor and the judge, who warned her not to speak to the victim.

Washington then sentenced the boy to a year in juvenile detention, well above the standard range of 15 to 36 weeks. The boy will receive credit for the nearly three months he already has served in detention.

Washington also issued an order of protection banning the teen from riding Metro buses between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. once he’s released from detention. The prohibition will last until the boy turns 21, Washington said.

The Seattle Times is not naming the boy — nor his mother — because he was prosecuted as a juvenile.

The assault occurred shortly after midnight Jan. 23 on Metro’s Route 124 when the bus stopped at South 144th Street and International Boulevard South in Tukwila.

According to charging documents, the teen swore at Batey, 57, because she wouldn’t let him out the back door of the bus after some of his friends were allowed to use the door. The boy struck the driver, causing her to lose consciousness and suffer facial injuries.

Deputy Prosecutor Julie Kline called the attack a “savage assault” in a hearing Monday and said the teen, a former Renton High School student, is entrenched in gangs and has no parental guidance. She said the boy was intoxicated at the time of the attack.

The boy pleaded guilty to second-degree assault two weeks ago, but admitted in a statement only to “touching” and slapping the victim.


The difference between the driver’s injuries and the boy’s failure to fully accept responsibility for his actions contributed to the longer sentence, the judge said.

“Your action shows a complete indifference to how someone else feels,” Washington said. “I think you are a risk to reoffend, and I think you need the treatment available” in juvenile detention, he said.

Two other boys, 16 and 17, who were charged as juveniles with malicious mischief for allegedly punching and kicking out windows on the back door of the bus, received deferred dispositions after a judge found them guilty last month.

The 17-year-old was placed on six months of probation with 30 hours of community service; the 16-year-old was placed on 12 months of probation with 70 hours of community service.

The 14-year-old boy was originally scheduled to be sentenced Monday, but the hearing was postponed to Tuesday because the boy’s mother was given the wrong date for the sentencing. Nonetheless, Batey and Kline, the prosecutor, spoke in court Monday.

Batey said she still suffers nightmares from the attack and doesn’t leave her house very often. She said she doubts she can ever return to work as a bus driver because she’s afraid of being attacked again.

“I walk and I cry. I talk to my friends and I cry,” Batey said. “I’m hopeful in time I will heal.”

On Tuesday, when the time came for the 14-year-old to speak, he mumbled to the courtroom, “I’m sorry for assaulting you.”

But Batey asked the boy to say it again, this time while looking into her eyes. He complied.

“That’s all I needed,” Batey said. “Thank you.”

Staff reporter Jennifer Sullivan contributed to this report, which includes information from Seattle Times archives.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or

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Test day.

studentsToday is our third quarter reading assessment day. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

1. Many of you don’t know what a “text box” is. (And I need to think why this is important to your future.)

2. Many of you are still struggling with using the vocabulary in context clues (you have at least six different pathways). (And now I need to think why this is important to you, too, in this age of digital dictionaries and spell check.)

3. Many of you do not know how to “draw a conclusion.” (And I am reflecting on why you need to know this, too.)

I know and respect many great educational minds whose opinions include abolishing all grading, assessment, and testing. They make very strong cases for their viewpoints. And maybe I’m just un-evolved, but I’m not quite there yet, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be.

The reason is this: I don’t know what you know until you show me. And if you can’t show me, you probably can’t do it. So, I can teach it to you!

Your mastery of disguise and ability to use ‘smoke and mirrors’ to hide some of your academic shortcomings is amazing. And I’m not being sarcastic – many of you have learned the coping skills to get through the ‘system’ with nary a glance from your teachers. And most times, I would be complacent, too; it is only those times that I sit and conference with you individually do I learn how much you don’t know. You will say that you understood it, but when we break it down, you don’t.

So, back to my original questions:

1. Why do you need to know what a text box is? Text features help you find material quickly and easily. In this world of vast amounts of information, access to knowledge is just as important as the speed in which you can access it.

2. Vocabulary: the more you know, the more you know. Use logic, make educated guesses, too. Consider a strong vocabulary like a word “bank.” The more that’s in your bank, the more you can make mental withdrawls.

3. Drawing Conclusions: this, most of all,  is really important. This is your ability to show that you don’t take everything at face value. That you don’t believe everything you read or hear. That you can take a lot of facts and opinions, and develop your own opinion about it, that you can back up.

So, you took a test. And the results show these are your weakest areas. But it also shows where I need to support the framework, and strengthen my instruction. It’s for me, too. The test is a broad-stroke approach, and it has its faults and flaws. But at least now we know.

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