Posted on

Baby mine.

It is no surprise that background knowledge and schema building are the foundations of reaching high-risk, lower level readers, and yet, I am still surprised by what kids don’t know about the world and how it functions.

And I am kind of angry about it.

Not at the students, mind you, but an inclusive spectrum of the planet to my own backyard. Last week, I was reviewing a Walter Dean Myer’s interview on NPR with all my classes: we listened, talked, whole class, partner, and then to independent work. Now understand, I had given this assignment over the long Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. All I wanted them to do was listen once, listen twice (don’t say chicken soup with rice) and develop their ‘levels of questions’ so we could talk about it after we returned on Tuesday.

First, we never returned due to a tremendous snow/ice storm. Many thousands of people lost power in my area. We’re back now, of course, but that week will cause a ripple effect for a while.

I listened to the interview again, and thought it was worth looking at again. So, back to it.

When talking with a student about it, I asked him what “industry” was. He didn’t know. I asked him about a factory. Nothing. I asked him if he knew where soup cans came from: “The grocery store.” I asked if he knew or could guess where the grocery stores got them, and this stumped him. Now, for those of you who are thinking I was giving this poor child the third degree, I promise you the conversation was safe and gentle. I explained how factories work, and that many of our jobs that exist in factories no longer are in the U.S., and when Walter Dean Myers talks about this, he means that the jobs that we want require more education than ever before.

And how ironic that we don’t get that?

I wish for three things:

1. All parents read to their children, at least 30 minutes a day, from the time they can sit in a lap. I don’t even care if it’s People magazine, or some equivalent to True Romance (listen to the Myer’s interview to understand this reference.)










2. No more negotiations: we have early childhood education for all.

3. The BIG FAT TEST is defeated. Again, I do not mind standards; they are necessary and important. I do not mind curriculum maps, scope/sequence, scaffolding, and reflection. I do not oppose targets, nor do I mind assessing those targets. I want every child to read and write. What I do mind, and am living the pain of now (you all tried to warn me, didn’t you?) is how the ONE TEST TO RULE THEM ALL has taken over, and helped no one really. It’s getting worse.

 John Spencer has often written about the factory model of schools, and yet, a young man doesn’t know where a can of soup comes from.

Now, in my own home, my sons struggle with school, for different reasons. My little guinea pigs are a testament to how public education works, or doesn’t, depending on things they have no control over, such as their fundamental personalities. They were indeed, born that way, different as night and day, equally intelligent and creative, but with very different styles.  As I look at my rosters of over 125 students, with every level of need or background knowledge accessibility or deficiency, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed.

So, onward.

Any advice?

“Levels of Questions” are based on Bloom’s Taxonomy and Costa’s questioning skills.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on

Cinderella, Minecraft, and Secret Super Ninja Powers

Last week I related to my students, a small table group, about how I explained the theme(s) of the original Cinderella to a grown-up that morning. I pontificated on those themes with this group, verbosely elaborating the bigger ideas of dysfunctional, blended families, distracted or neglectful parents, father/daughter relationships , and the price of greed (it was the original Grimms’ Cinderella, with cut-off toes and heels, pecked out eyeballs, you know–the works).

Small Ukrainian student looks up at me, and says, quietly: “Mrs. Love, are those your super powers?”

I look at him, at first not understanding, and then realize, “Oh, D….., you mean my ability to come up with the big or main idea of something so fast?” He says yes, and then says, “Well, Mrs. Love, that is not a very good super power…”

I bust out laughing. I told him I could also turn invisible, but that would scare him, and the abilitiy to decipher themes is the only real super power I have.

Now I’m reconsidering my super powers. Today is a testing day, and I find myself with time to actually read blogs, and now share that anecdote. I read Teacher Tom’s post on a hashtag, and it’s pretty impressive. He is pretty clear in that students have been complaining about the same things since anyone taught anyone anything. I do want students, and teachers too, to rethink some of their methods, and consider that even though all knowledge may not be pragmatically or immediately applied, it is still a good thing in and of itself. Just because I don’t personally use algebra doesn’t mean that I am sorry for the experience of having taken it. If anything, it enhances my ability and buffs my super powers. I know have an understanding of what it’s like to learn something uncomfortable and challenging. Is that all students want every experience to be breezy and blissful? I offer this idea: life is contrast, and education provides those options to fill in our own life chiaroscuros.

Detour: With the help of my younger son and the insistence of a few students, I started a Minecraft Mondays at school. My mission, to help this band of stalwart builders not only create their virtual worlds, but to learn to be kind to one another in the process, ambassadors as it were, as they are creating the social fabric they want to wrap themselves in. I am not a Minecraft player. I don’t want to be a Minecraft player. But I do know the excitement players feel. They live for this club. And, my agenda is to make sure they go out in those virtual world with some manners. There exists this fourth dimension, and it is just as real as any we face. I would link more information about Minecraft if I could, but alas, all is blocked.

Blocked. Blocked. Blocked.

And here is what I wish my super powers really were: the ability to protect students from the dangers of the world via transparency and knowledge. They could use that right away.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on

Stolen time…

As it turns out, I can only do ten things well, not eleven. Guess I don’t go to eleven. Oh well.

Anyway – I haven’t been posting on this blog frequently for two simple reasons: first, haven’t wanted to use any of the time in my contractual day with personal technological communications and missives, and second, by the time I get home I want to goof-off. You know, be a responsible wife, mom, writer, and part-time gamer. Sure there are loads of clean laundry in there, too, but have been suspicious about certain odors.

But the thing is, I started this blog as part of my integrated technology instruction for 2st Century Learners. There’s a mouthful. My intent was to use my technological prowess to provide my students a platform for their voices, too, and for the most part, have succeeded. Took a mini-break last year, more like break-down, but am trying to reconnect to these restless digital natives in new and innovative ways.

And it’s not easy.

And I’m even questioning its necessity.

So, a fabulous librarian offered to come to my school and talk to our students, in our classrooms, about new books, and what is being offered at the library.

You should know this: she shared with me that Neil Gaiman hugged her once. He. Hugged. Her. Among a group of well-heeled Gaiman Groupies, she was fresh from working in her garden, a little grimy, and he hugged HER. I immediately jumped up and hugged her, of course!! Forget you, Kevin Bacon. Two degrees of hugging Neil Gaiman works for me. When I shared this with my students, they ran up and hugged ME! It was hilarious! So, Neil, if you felt a little happier yesterday, there was adolescent worship coming your way in the universe.

You’re welcome.

Her personal blog is:

I think between the two of us, we got a few new converts to reading. I conspired with my students that over the break (which officially begins tomorrow…thank you loving heaven above, because I am wiped out….), if they needed to “escape” for a bit and were sick of playing Call of Duty, they should go to the library. I gave them four creative project choices from How to Be An Explorer of the World by Keri Smith.

My “everyone can be creative” belief may be greatly challenged by the results of my open-ended experiment. What the heck — it is extra credit, after all. There is no standard for “creativity.” Pity–but perhaps not having it tested on a national assessment is the best thing that ever happened to creativity.

Well, before the New Year, where am I now? Where are my young charges? Four months until the state tests of reading and writing for 7th grade, our school needs to meet AYP or something, and none of us know what, will happen. I have been placed in the care and feeding of 7th grade students because so much is riding on their scores, and I am feeling equally unbalanced in my wavering “YES I CAN DO THIS!” and “OH NO!!!!”

But I hugged Neil Gaiman.

Kind of.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on

Just a little story.

My husband and I have a great “how we met” story. Maybe I’ll tell the whole story another time. One of the details of that story is that, during our first unofficial date, I noticed on his Chevy Blazer (cool) that he had an Apple logo sticker on the back window (more cool). It was one more sign that he was the guy for me. No, we weren’t ‘hipsters’ before there even was such a word — we are the lost demographic. Those of us who share more in common with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than with Barbara Walters or dare I say it, Oprah? We are the children born at the end of the “Baby Boom” but he and I both feel we have nothing to do with that wave of post-war babies. Our parents didn’t fight in any of the wars of the 20th century; they were in school, having their own babies, being the last of their generation’s middle class and American Dream seekers. But my husband and I share what those of us in our 40s share: even though we straddle between the boomers and the gen-x’ers, we move mountains, too. We are the creative class. The artists, designers, and innovators who seek sublime beauty in code and interface; who seek to change the world with the good of technology, and instill those ethics in our children. I promise you, I am not overstating this.

We sat in darkened theatres as adolescents and had our own heroes and heroines, we were the digital pioneers who sought form and function. We pressed ‘send’ on the first e-mails and published the first blogs. The Mark Zuckerbergs of the world sadly have their own focus: world domination via distracting, mindless games and mean-spirited interchanges. Granted, it’s not all bad. And my and my husband’s hero, Steve Jobs, certainly had his share of human foibles.  All innovators do. I would just challenge those young billionaires to be the masters of the universe, and not the robber barons; to be the voices and catalysts for change and good, share the power, wealth, and narratives.

You will be missed, Steve.


(My husband created that image in homage. Oh, and by the way, my husband is a creative, innovative Renaissance man himself. No doubt. He attributes his successes to Job’s providing him with the creative tools to build his career and avocations.)


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on


déborder: in French, this means “overwhelmed.”

Summer, in terms of the agricultural traditions we have in the States, is over tomorrow for me. Tomorrow is our first in-service day: it promises to be a day of reviewing the Student Handbook to make sure we, both new and old staff, are “on the same page.”

Last week, on Thursday night, I found out that I will be switching grades, from 8th to 7th. A few weeks’ prior, I found out that I will be moving rooms. This is a photo of my new classroom, after two days’ of moving from across the campus. I spent two full days using an old grocery store shopping cart, hauling my books, office supplies, flotsam, jetsam, debris, clutter, memorabilia, Beatlemania, Harry Potter movie posters, and of course, my Spiderman life-size cut out, from old space to new. This is how I left it on Saturday. I did all I could physically do. It was warm, no air, stuffy, and a very long walk with small threshold bumps and doorjambs that needed maneuvering and anticipation. This took approximately 30 trips.

The one vow I made myself at the end of last year is I would have everything mapped out, to the day, just like I had in years prior. Every holiday noted. Every student’s name on their own folder. Every composition book ready to go. Bulletin boards up, and away we go!

But, oh, that was not meant to be. And call it a sixth-sense, but I knew the best laid plans of mice and men would be wonky again. I chose to spend my summer like I had more sense: I played, I walked, and I got my toenails done. The best part of this summer was that my older son asked to have a French exchange student come stay with us for almost three weeks. He was wonderful: he fit right into our crazy family. We all enjoyed talking about politics, visiting all our favorite old stomping grounds. It was incredibly enriching to see his love of:

1. Relish (Really, France? Can’t figure this one out?!)

2. Baseball game (explaining the 7th inning stretch to him–worth the price of admission right there)

3. Krispy Kreme doughnuts

4. Dr. Pepper

…and him explaining to me the meaning of


powerful stuff, my friend.

 We miss him already. I have more to say about what I learned from him, from someone who is learning a new language, sharing cultures, and stories. He brought us many gifts, not least of which was an appreciation of eating a family dinner together again. He wasn’t feeling well when he first arrived, and it included a trip to the urgent care on that first Saturday morning, redneck with a head injury included to add to the tableau, and later he told me, that he knew he would be okay with us because I took such good care of him when he was sick. Are you kidding? I would expect the same from any mother, anywhere in the world.

So I will get my classroom in order. I will have a plan. And I will teach my 7th grade charges with love, care, firmness and high expectations. They are somebody’s baby.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email