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I wish I could tell you about my students.

The one who brings home books to her brothers from my classroom library.

The one who desperately tries to ignore the loud ones.

The one who understood completely when I said how many students let others dictate their love of learning.

And the one who did the memoir project, both the written and the podcast version, and asked me not to share.

To me, it was This American Life, Invisibilia, and StoryCorp level amazing. Perhaps, even more amazing because she didn’t have producers, writers, engineers, or Ira Glass prompting her on. Just me, telling her (and everyone) “just tell your story.”

It is enough.

More than enough.


I’ve used my goodwill on all-staff emails. There is no time, nor is it on the agenda, to share in a PLC. I know, and I can tell her thank you. I won’t think about the smell of blackberries or the lack of smell of sunflowers again.


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Los Zumbis de Washington



This will be a long post: I am retracing my steps on the creation of a unit. TL:DR: Zombies and survival themes are great for 8th-grade students. E-mail me if you want resources or have questions.

One of my teammates Nate had a fantastic idea for argumentative work:


With the help of my teammates Nate, Sabrina, and the Notice & Note social media site, especially Beth Crawford, we unleashed zombies. Trying to put together a unit without common planning or time to meet (each of us is in different phases in life: I could work on units all weekend, and I did over mid-winter break, but it’s better to collaborate with trustworthy, competent folks). We did the best we could, and it needs tweaking and refinement, but out of the box—not too shabby!

I put the call out to Notice and Note and received many great ideas. Beth Crawford followed up with Google docs resources, etc. Some things had to be left behind, and some were added without assessment concepts nailed down. But then again, when you’re dealing with flesh-melting concepts, it’s hard to nail anything down.

Took pics after Zombie Tag and created a Walking Dead look using Snapseed.

The Lumbering Steps:

  1. Overview: this needs work, no doubt: 
  2. Personality Inventory (aka “Body Armor”)
    • Rationale: students would discover their own personality traits, both figurative and literal, that add positive benefits for working with other partners. The goal was to have them create a personality inventory and share their strengths and advantages with others.
    • What worked: students like knowing where they fell on a quasi- Meyers-Briggs scale and gamer’s quiz.
    • What needs to be better: more time, and more explanation on how their inventory works with other personalities, or what pitfalls they might encounter. Critically thinking about attributes is one of the most difficult things to do.
    • We first used this document:
    • But then I changed my students’ work to
  3. Top Ten Survival Items
    • Partner: pare down to fifteen items out of the twenty: You know you’ve succeeded when a group of kids argues about duct tape versus rope for twenty minutes.
    • Rationale: coming up with important items in times of scarcity for survival, and perhaps how to plan ahead (we are in earthquake territory, after all)
  4. Annotated Bibliography
    • Rationale: having students curate their resources for research using an annotated bibliography would help them understand the importance of discerning and critiquing articles closely and carefully.
    • What worked: It served the purpose of getting kids to read, and by golly, they did really try: not sure how many I have turned in, but I know many of them were engaged in this. As soon as I re-introduced it as a “playlist” of a topic, the lightbulbs went off!
    • What could be better: more time to read articles together, and more focus on truth, opinion and fact lessons.
    • This is a poster my friend Sharon Clarke and I put together on our collective wisdom:

      Sharon is the best.
  5. Integration:
  6. What worked about integration: we barely scratched the surface. Maybe next year we can get the whole school involved.
  7. Writing: the partner teams had to write a collaborative ‘end of world’ scenario. This writing will appear on their shared PowerPoint.
    • What worked: they got this, mostly.
    • What could be better: More time. (Seeing a trend here?) Students didn’t have time to fully craft their POV points in the story: the plan was to have them create a story together, and then write a first-person narrative on what they were doing when everything fell apart, and how they eventually met up and survived. Students who love role-play and writing jumped right on this: students who are not quite patched-in with their own creativity didn’t. But as all good growth mindset conversations end: YET.

8. Zombie Partner Shared PowerPoint: The partner created a shared PowerPoint with many of these pieces. One aspect was the “film” slide: add any multimedia possible that goes along with survival or zombies, or film themselves. Some kids used their webcams and shot pics/videos, others found videos on YouTube, etc.

9. Article Links samples:

Here are some articles, etc. I gathered so students could choose for their annotated bibliography:

There were more, most I posted in ActivelyLearn and Canvas.

What I didn’t get to do: a handcrafted survival guide. 


Maybe next time.

What we will do: next week before spring break, I am giving them a choice of three writing prompts that are directly connected to SBA Brief Writes:

Mrs Love Zombie Presentation Final Survival

Please let me know if you have questions, or want to add to this awesomesauce.

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Pathos, logos, and ethos take a holiday.

Pathos, Logos, and Ethos
Pathos, Logos, and Ethos

In addition to short films, commercials can be another valuable asset. Many commercials live on multiple places on Bloom’s Taxonomy, and certainly any argumentative reading and writing unit worth its salt contains at least one or two commercials to support a conversation about pathos, ethos, and logos.

I just found this site this morning. This first ad can bring up so many relatable conversation points. To quote John Spencer,

“What’s so odd is that people have been creating art, writing letters, and talking about their food for years. Museums are filled with foodies and selfie shots. We just call them “still lifes” and “self-portraits.” The whole, “don’t miss the moment” mindset fails to recognize that it’s a deeply human need to capture and create precisely because we don’t want to forget it.”

So perhaps a contrast discussion — show a selfie and a self portrait, and ask students to discuss the possible purposes of the artist, or artistic intent. A conversation about pace, too — the speed of creation and its perceived value (in the moment and over time). I can honestly say that my photo albums are my life. One project this summer is to scan everything and save it to multiple places. (But I still have time…right?!)


This is one of my all-time favorites:

And this:

And this is PG-13, but amazing:

And speaking to our hearts, to differences, and most of all our humanity, you may want to share these:


A word of caution: advertisements intended for European markets do not have the same ratings codes as in the States. Seriously — watch everything first if you think it looks like something you want to use in the classroom. 

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As the girls grow…

As the crow flies

My three Colorado amigas, the ladies I’ve known since middle school astound me. If I could present a tableau of the three of them, and show my middle school students, all genders, what the possibilities are for them outside of the testing and the tardy slips, beyond the perceived limitations, oh what a powerful message that would be. So much discussion about ‘career and college ready,’ and the decline of cultural literacy, and here three of my dearest friends who’ve created lives based on things that will never be on a standardized test.

One of my greatest frustrations is trying to figure out how to show children that though the path may not have all the lights on, we educators will show you how to brighten the path.

Pay attention, please.


Lisa has always had grit and determination. I realize the word ‘grit’ is borderline abusive for children of poverty, but in this instance, she exemplifies all the best of that word. She put herself through college. She made sure she could support herself. She has fought for women’s health rights. And now she is a liaison between disenfranchised neighborhoods and city planners to make sure needs are met, communicated, and sustainable. She is the real deal. She understands access to facilities, and how in pockets of even large urban areas, communities are often shut out and marginalized. She gives them space and voice. Lisa truly levels the playing field. Literally.

And yes, Lisa, I hope that bridge over the railroad tracks gets built immediately. Now I’m going to look at that terrible intersection by our school. You made me want to demand better lights and traffic control.

How can I get teachers to stop saying girls are bossy, outspoken, etc. and reframe those traits as what they are? Leadership, strength, determination, and forces for change?



Kristin is pure joy and happiness, even if the face of the most challenging of circumstances. She is currently a kindergarten teacher, and if my boys were tiny again, I would move mountains to have her be their teacher. She embodies sunshine. Wicked smart, funny, and amazingly physically strong. She bikes over mountains. MOUNTAINS! For years, she has also planned gardens and landscaping projects. I wish I had thought to take a picture of her sketchbook and her resources about southwestern plants. She knows the names of trees and flowers. She sees what is painful to the silent, animals, plants, and sometimes people, and also gives them the nurturing they need.

And yes, Kristin, I wish I could fly you out here to cast your spells on my trashy backyard.

How can I tell people to stop looking at professions like teaching, landscaping, and gardening like it’s a hobby? To take the student who loves being on the GreenTeam or at our new Mill Creek garden to turn that into a valuable and sustainable future for themselves? Hey, people of planet earth, we need this rock we’re spinning on!



Tammy is a film festival producer, shaker, maker, creator, planner, presenter, and supporter of film, the arts, women in film, and great storytelling facilitation. She’s thoughtful, methodical, and intuitive.

And yes, Tammy, I wish I could go to every one of the film festivals you share. You understand my love of stories.

How do I tell students that story they’re writing, that movie they’re making, that podcast they’re trying might just speak to someone else who needs to hear they’re not alone? And, guess what…it might actually help you make a living creating?


I’ll keep this post handy for next year. I may start the Royal Queens Club again with this additional information to help students, girls in particular if they need, to see that they are in control of their paths, but it need not be terrifying. I can’t wait to see what we all do for the second half.


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Color me happy.

Draw what's in front of you...
Draw what’s in front of you…

The past two Fridays I’ve been out of pocket — two weeks ago I went to the doctor for an earache (!) and then this Friday was my younger son’s graduation. I am so proud of him I could burst–he focused on his favorite area of study and ended up with a pretty decent grade: it was all him, his diligence and focus, and he owns every point. As it should be.


All over social media my colleagues are posting beautiful albums of students, or their own children, graduating this weekend. There are even a few of our former students who are graduating from college.

On the Friday with the doc appointment, I left my students with a new idea called “Creativity Day,” and was enchanted when one girl’s assignment was ‘draw what’s in front of you,” and she drew my teaching station. I am not sure who the figure in the kitty cat ears is, but no matter. We welcome kitty cat ears, unicorn horns, beanies, earbuds when creating (not reading), eyebrows on fleek, new haircuts, miscalculated haircuts, rainbow hair, and pigtails. Whatever crown one wears and faces the sky is fine by me. And one of the best crowns is a mortarboard.

Allow me to steer this metaphor back from hats and noggins: this drawing made me very happy. She captured something I’ve tried to achieve, that it is more important to look at your own road signs than just the teacher’s. My son may experience apathy and indifference from some professors, TAs, and assistant professor, but I my wish for him is it won’t matter, that he’ll use his own gifts to see what’s ahead of him and make a path.

If you’d like to use my Creativity Day PowerPoint, it’s here:

Creativity Day PowerPoint

Much love to you all, and keep peace in your mind.



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