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Party DressesImagine you’re giving a grand party; you invite everyone you know. Your family, friends, and even perhaps a crush or two. You will be wearing amazing clothes – you look beautiful/handsome, the food is fresh and delicious, there’s a live band, and everyone has RSVP’s. (respondez-vous, s’il vous plait = French for Respond, Please).

Everyone is there, all eyes on you. You’ve worked for weeks to plan for every last detail, to make sure the guests have a good time, and it’s a night to remember.

Now, imagine all of your guests going nuts – they start a food fight, they spill and spray soda pop everywhere, they even give your grandma a black eye!

That’s how I feel every time I read guest teacher notes. The day starts off fine, because most of the students know how to behave, and then it deteriorates from there. Those of you in my 7th period class would say, or rationalize, “Well, it’s because they’re HONORSkids and they are know-it-alls.” Well, let me set you straight, once again: There is no magic formula to being successful. The honors students here at Mill Creek have one thing that distinguishes them from the other classes: It’s CHOICE. Their test scores aren’t necessarily higher, their grades aren’t better, it’s CHOICE.

The behaviors that get reported to me usually go like this:

*Called security



*Not on task

So, what this means is, you think it’s perfectly fine to act like a jerk. I’m not saying you ARE a jerk, I’m saying your behavior is.

I can’t throw a party for just 30 kids who know how to behave – you’re all invited. You’re invited to join the conversation, to be a part of something bigger than yourself. If you choose to ignore the festivities and celebration, then just be aware and awake in your decisions.

That’s a shame, too. Because you would have been the life of the party.

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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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Big test blues.

Tomorrow I’m scheduled to take a really big test. To say it’s stressing me out would be a $2950 understatement. It’s a really important test, and weighs heavily against my total “grade,”  and in my opinion, a bit disproportionally. I know exactly how our students feel every time they take a high-stakes assessment:

1. Even though I was provided “standards,” the list reads like a manual for a Millennium Falcon (and that’s not a Ford product, kids)

2. Even though they’ve given me a practice test, some of the subtleties of the test procedure were confusing, even to a technologically sophisticate such as myself, so I hope I don’t panic and spontaneously combust.

3. Even though they have given me “sample prompts,” they are general, vague, and inexplicable in nature.

Hmmmm. Sound familiar?

The parallels cannot be denied.

But I will do my best. I have been working on this assessment my entire teaching career. And failure does not mean I am a bad teacher.


Right. Just like not passing any high stakes test means one is a “bad” anything.

Wish me luck. Because brains ain’t going to cut this one.

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Ugly lies.

1974_GremlinTeaching middle school students stirs up so much goop. It is at this time of the year, I tap deep into inner reserves. Deep. Not oil-rig-explosion-and-we-can’t-cap-it deep, but into some murky areas.

Someday, when I have time, I might do a research project on the incidence of lying and academic achievement. I would probably find there is no correlation; students who are academically pressured by parents, class status, peers, to achieve academically may cheat, lie, and plagiarism. Student who are not pressured by parents, status, peers (and indeed peers cheer them at when they don’t achieve), also lie.

Everyone lies.

I have been lied to approximately 3 times in the past 8 school hours:

*One incident shall remain just an “incident.”

*One lie came in a stream of lies by a practiced liar

*One lie came in the form of this student having a doppelganger and “it wasn’t him/her.” (Another student quietly confirmed that yes, it was.) This student was here, was tardy, but their doppelganger was outside the building. Weird.

These lies pester me. They feel like little gremlins, walking underfoot, passing gas, giggling maniacally–no one else sees them but me. Not even the liar.

 I wish they could see how exhausting and smelly these lies make the fresh air.