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Summer Series of Saves: Can we talk about this?

Trying something new: let me know if this works:


Lots of good stuff in here — keep scrolling!

Questioning and Discussion go together like:


Cult posted a comprehensive list of discussion ideas and asked for additions. As I scrambled through my Binder of Power, Volume III, Section 8.5, 2ii, ready to scan and share, this article in Medium popped up by Jon Westenberg, “Do you have a Protective mindset or a Proactive mindset?” 

Oh, no. It’s too early for this level of heavy-duty self-reflection. Oh. No. I could predict with sharp accuracy, which side of the line my mindset would sit: I mean, who has huge binders full of teaching ideas, ideas and handout from almost every PD session, curriculum maps created and abandoned, ledgers of standards and learning targets? This girl. And I would bet most teachers worth their salt do, too.

But what excellent timing: cleaning out my binders and virtual digital works is daunting. I’ve been on break for almost two weeks, and it’s one chore I have completed.

However– protective and proactive may not be a fair case when it comes to educational “wheels.” We are constantly told not to ‘recreate the wheel’ but I strongly encourage to make better wheels.

Taking the wheel cliche too far: we still need the wheels–how to make them better?

The Westenberg article made me think: what do students need to build strong foundations, and what can be trashed or treasured in this process?

One area the 8th grade PLC decided to focus on for next year, and I’m saving this so I won’t forget, are the ‘grand discussion’ techniques and tools.

Whole Class Discussion Types of Talkers Smartnotebook in a PDF form:

TownHall Meeting format (from Puget Sound Writing Project PD on ELA/SS)

Discussion Checklist sheets:

Substantive Partner Project Talk organizers:

Writing Workshop Feedback forms

And don’t forget, if you use an LMS like Canvas, to dive into the Discussion on line, and teach those protocols, too.

There’s more, but I’m going to go play now.


Here are a few snapshots from the binder:

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Summer Series of Saves: S.O.S.

I am going on my twelfth year at the same Title I middle school. That is not said as a martyred projection or badge of honor, but a statement of fact, circumstances, decision making, and choices. Every teacher I know has had a rough time this past decade. Some have gone to “easier” schools, or districts, where they found a comfortable home. Some have expressed to me survivor’s guilt, and some have ‘ghosted’ our friendships, probably because working at a school like mine is hard, and it takes an emotional toll, causing me to leak out stress. Occasionally those leaks become straight-up tsunamis. I don’t blame them for not wanting to be around me: I don’t want to be around myself sometimes.

This video got to me. She maintained her composure while rubbing her hands, refocusing on her paper, and staying the course, to its climatic ending of her resignation. Her paper may well have been a white flag, and her hands in surrender. When my husband watched it, he commented how he knew I had felt this same level of pain.

No one is to blame for this: administrators do their best, district-level personnel want and desire excellence. However,  in the championed cause of “students come first” the heads of teachers become the stepping stones across this mighty gulf. Teachers are sometimes not considered the human connection between student and world, but merely the middle management, with no real authority. And some teachers do not deserve respect. I would wager, though, that any social-emotional well-being for teachers is considered superfluous. Teachers should just ‘have it.’ If you’re a parent, you know that the hardest job in the world is given to amateurs, (as my dad likes to say), and so is teaching. We make mistakes: but dang, so do our students. So how do all of us learn to do better?

We are never to take anything personally, always build relationships, and create safe places. And we do. Or we try to. But being human, we have amygdalas, too: keeping in control of our frontal cortexes in the moment is challenging. The smatterings of misogynistic, sexist, ageist, and disrespectful things said to me by a small group of students is nothing compared to the national stage of police violence, political decrepitude, and social media bruising. But I am still charged with teaching ‘soft skills’ in a world so racist and vile it hardly seems to matter.

We were all feeling something this year. No matter who you voted for, or if you didn’t vote at all, something shifted, violently and without justice.

Maybe it’s time we’re honest with one another. If we reach out for help. platitudes and trope quotes won’t help. Prayers and thoughts are sweet, but not helpful. Listen. Truly listen. Good advice: click the link.

One of my favorite episodes –not so much hope, but we are all of us in this together:

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Saving Summer: Our country, tis of thee….

This September, right from the get-go, around Constitution Day (which falls on a Sunday this year), I shall share a unit on the Declaration of Independence, sparked by this exchange.  And it’s here, too. 

And from this thread, I learned so much.

So folks didn’t know that NPR’s annual reading of the Declaration of Indepence was just that: a reminder of what our nation is founded upon, what were the reasons for the Revolutionary War, and throwing over a tyrannous ruler.

Here is the first draft of potential discussions, lessons, etc.

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Saving Summer: Where the Stories Are


If you follow the Notice and Note site on Facebook (and why are you still reading this if you’re not?!), you will see many teachers asking for recommendations on a variety of themes, theme topics, units, and niche text recommendations for a variety of grade levels and kids. It’s fantastic.

There are many places to get good stories and texts, and here are just a few:

Open Culture

Book Riot:


Free texts — how awesome is that?


Excerpts, recommendations, etc.

Project Gutenberg

Thousands of free books and other texts.

Actively Learn

You can control a variety of texts and upload Google Docs and links from the Internet.


Podcasts: (make sure age appropriate)

These are a smattering of my favorites:

And if you browse for ‘free short stories’ over a million entries come up:


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Saving Summer: Let’s dance.

What about an enduring understanding about the history of dance as an answer to societal issues?

Possible Teaching Point: Music and dance are considered humankind’s earliest language. Dance speaks with the whole body and the whole community. In order to understand culture, society, and communication in physical forms we must study the effects and purposes of dance in social justice, protests, and acknowledgment of community’s needs.

Question: Do you think people should focus on dance over violence, and if yes, how should the message spread?

Here are some resources that may help you if you wish to put together a unit on dance and its place in human communication. This could easily lend itself to a Humanities/Physical Education cross-content unit.

Beyonce’s Formation is annotated in this article in the Washington Post by Yanan Wang.

Published on Apr 14, 2016

Seattle Dances in Solidarity with Standing Rock.

Though these movies get a lot of play, I’m including them as a contrast for discussion with students. What is being ‘protested’ in these movie clips? Does the majority of white actors influence the lack of gravitas or does it make any difference?

One idea that lingers for me is the dance scene from the Titanic: the third class steerage looks like they’re having so much more fun than the stuffy dinner party:

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