Saturday, June 11, 2016

One chapter ends and another begins

It's been a while since I've posted to my blog and even longer since I've written a celebration post.

But I have something big worth celebrating today.

At the end of this month I will be leaving my position with NCTE as their social media coordinator due to some reorganization that they have been doing recently.. It was a wonderful 3 years working for an organization that has sustained my teaching career, but it is definitely time to move on.

And move on I have. For the past two years, I have worked part time for NCTE and taught 8th grade English part time at my alma mater. I'm excited to say that next year I will be staying at my school, but as the K-8 librarian! I'm sad to be losing my English classes, but but I'm excited to use my passion and knowledge of children's and YA lit to spread book love all across our school.


Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Links Worth Talking About 5-1-16


Links Worth Talking About is my weekly post of curated links about education, books, and apropos of nothing.


Once again it's been a few weeks since I've posted a "Links Worth Talking About." Moving into a new house and the swiftness at which the end of the school year seems to be approaching has left me feeling a little overwhelmed at the idea of writing and organizing blog posts. But I am procrastinating right now so what better time to actually sit down and write a blog post, right? :)


Will Richardson writes about the 9 Elephants in the (Class)Room that Should Unsettle Us.

John Green responds to Looking for Alaska being the most challenged book in the Country

And in this Vlogbrothers video, John Green makes the case for civil political discourse. Something we are sorely lacking these days.

And speaking of political discourse, check out this post I wrote on the NCTE blog reflecting on a recent #nctechat about this very topic.

And continuing in the political discourse theme, this poem by Jason Reynolds packs quite the punch and says more in fewer words than any op-ed or news article ever could 

I have recently been getting into podcasts (which is really cutting down on my audiobook listening time!) so I found this NYT article fascinating.

Like many others, I'm feeling some major Canada envy lately:
When It Comes to Diversity, Canada's Prime Minister Gets It

Last week as many people mourned the loss of an amazing artist and musician, I thought about how I never really felt a huge personal connection to Prince's music, but after his death, I realized what a genius he really was. These are two of my favorite shares from the outpouring of tributes that flooded social media:
Broadway's The Color Purple cast performs a beautiful tribute to Prince
Prince's amazing 2007 Superbowl performance in a downpour


And apropos of nothing...

Chopin is my favorite classical composer. So I loved this video of Beethoven's 5th Symphony reworked in the style of Chopin.

This made me laugh till I cried:
Boaty McBoatface inspires internet to rename animals 

And speaking of can't stop laughing, this NBA team changed their Kiss Cam to a Lion King Cam

Monday, April 11, 2016

Our native speakers are English language learners too

I have a new student this semester who recently moved here from Mexico. Both her spoken and written English are rather exceptional and she is an incredibly hard worker. Sometimes I forget that English is her second language when I read her writing. While reading her reflective letter for her Unfamiliar Genre Project, a transition at the beginning of one of her sentences immediately reminded me that English isn't her first language. The word was "firstable." I share this not to make fun, but to commend her for attempting to use a transition in the first place (something many students still struggle with). My guess is that she hears native speakers say "first of all" in rapid fire and therefore the words aren't enunciated when she hears them and so she interprets it as one word, "firstable."

It's easy for us to forgive this error because English is not her native language, but upon further reflection, why aren't we more forgiving with our native speaking students? English might be their first language, but they are still learning too -- and a difficult language at that -- one with more exceptions than rules. We have to remember that students aren't born with a rule book imprinted in their brains. They learn by making errors. We need to curb our frustrations when we come across them because if they're not making errors then they may as well not be learning.

When my husband and I lived in Germany, I was deathly afraid to make a mistake when I was learning the language because I didn't want people to laugh at me. So I understand how fragile minds can be when we project frustration and mockery on our students. And you know what that fear got me? An inability to become fluent in German. My husband was fearless and became fluent in 6 months.

So I want to ask you this question: Is our view of how pure and rule-abiding language should be preventing our students from even becoming fluent in their own native languages?  Do students see language as only an endless set of rules, and not as a means of communication, expression, maybe even innovation? Are we creating a classroom of fearful or fearless students?  


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Links Worth Talking About 4-10-16


Links Worth Talking About is my weekly post of curated links about education, books, and apropos of nothing.

It's been a while since I've posted to this blog. I thought finishing my master's degree would give me more time to write... but then I bought a new house and unpacking and home improvement projects have taken up a great deal of my time lately. So these links are some of my favorites from the past few weeks.


Do you know a middle school teacher who goes above and beyond? Nominate them for the NCTE  Outstanding Middle Level Educator in the English Language Arts Award. Deadline: May 1st


In March, NCTE hosted a Twitter chat about Everyday Advocacy which revolved around the idea of how we can advocate for our students and profession in small ways everyday. If you missed the chat, here is the Storify Archive.


Josh Funk is a generous, wonderful author. In this Nerdy Book Club post, he gives teachers his utmost love and praise. 


In honor of National Poetry Month, I wrote about 3 recent poetry books I am loving right now. 


Betsy Bird shares her early 2017 Caldecott and Newbery predictions 


Donalyn Miller shares the best books of 2016 (so far)


On Cult of Pedagogy, Jennifer Gonzalez tells the story of a school that increased its library use by 1,000 percent. Wow!


In another Cult of Pedagogy post, this one from 2014, Gonzalez explains why it's OK to leave spelling mistakes uncorrected (This post caused quite a stir).


Chris Boeskool shares this important post: When You're Accustomed to Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression


Some of these 49 phrases to calm an anxious child could work on adults too (I already shared this link with my husband)


When people hear that I teach middle school, most of the time their reaction is that of horror. I wouldn't want to teach any other age than teens. Why? Because my days are never boring.


Not a fan of reading classics but want to at least know what all the fuss is about? Here are Extremely Shortened Versions of Classic Books for Lazy People. :) 


Here are a few links to feed my recently discovered Hamilton obsession:
The sheet music for the musical is now available! I'm already practicing the title song on the piano.
Charlie Rose interviews Lin Manuel-Miranda
‘Hamilton’ Star Daveed Diggs on Being in the Room Where It Happens
'Hamilton Takes a Road Trip to the White House 
The New York Times Learning Network has some suggestions for using Hamilton in the classroom.


My husband and I lived in Germany for a few years and despite the fact that German will never be granted the World's Most Beautiful Language Award, we love the language just the same. I mean how can you not with words like these


And apropos of nothing other than my love of dogs:
LA just opened a dog cafe and I am insistent that we get one in Michigan!
Puppies invaded a retirement home, pre-school, and gym. Pure bliss ensued.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Links Worth Talking About 3-6-16


Links Worth Talking About is my weekly post of curated links about education, books, and apropos of nothing.

And let's start right off with apropos of nothing...

If we weren't laughing we'd all be crying, which is why Travis Jonker decided to make us laugh with this post: Donald Trump Reviews Children's Books

 Pernille Ripp shares an important post about looking beyond punishment when kids act out.

This week a fake New York Times article circulated saying that Senator Elizabeth Warren endorsed Bernie Sanders. Many people fell for it. So this was a really great opportunity to talk with my students about things like background information, context, (why does it matter that Elizabeth Warren apparently endorsed Sanders?), motivations (why would someone want to make a fake NYT article about Warren in the first place?) and why it's important to know your sources.

Are you coming to #nErDcampMI in July? This year they're putting out a call for day 1 proposals.

The articles against homework continue to pile up. Here's the most recent one. I particularly found this quote provocative: 

Homework does have an impact on young students, but it’s not a good one. A child just beginning school deserves the chance to develop a love of learning. Instead, homework at a young age causes many kids to turn against school, future homework and academic learning. 

Back in 2014, Jennifer Gonzalez wrote this wonderful blog post on Cult of Pedagogy about incorrect spelling and why we should allow kids to do it.

Another huge thing teachers need to keep in mind is what we are asking students to do all day: sit passively. Here's a Washington Post article that brings up this very issue.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Celebrate Getting Your Nerd On

My husband and I are currently between houses. We're still living in our old house, but we're doing work on the new house and will be completely moved in next weekend.

Gettin' my Nerd on at my new hometown library
Yesterday I changed the address on my driver's license. What's the first thing I did after that? Went and applied for a library card of course! I've been jonesin' to apply for a new library card because I often put stuff on hold that isn't available right away... so because we'll be moving soon, I haven't been putting anything on hold at my current library because I knew we'd be moved by the time it came in. Now that I have a home library again, all is right with the world.

And I am such a book nerd that after my husband and I applied for our library cards, I asked the librarian who was helping us to give us a tour -- because I plan on taking advantage of all that my my new library has to offer. So my husband was especially excited to see that our new library lets you check out "unusual items" like various tools for home improvement, crafting, and music -- even outdoor games like lawn chess, ping pong, and giant Jenga. And given that we're moving to a city that has significantly higher taxes than where we currently live, I definitely plan on taking advantage of all that my tax dollars are paying for. :)


Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Links Worth Talking About 2-28-16


Links Worth Talking About is my weekly post of curated links about education, books, and apropos of nothing.

Speaking of apropos of nothing, yesterday I celebrated getting stuck in the snow since the first memory in our new house was getting stuck while trying to pull in the driveway for the first time.

Did you see the video of the 106-year-old woman who met the President and First Lady? If you didn't watch it, please do. It's sure to put a smile on your face.

Speaking of President Obama, the #ObamaAndKids hashtag that took Twitter by storm last week is an even bigger smile-inducing piece of clickbait.

Need more reasons to smile? How about kids reading to shelter dogs?  Or asking yourself what does the sloth say?

I found this article to be incredibly thought-provoking and discussion-worthy:
America loves women like Hillary Clinton -- as long as they're not asking for a promotion

This week Travis Jonker shared some covet-worthy books:
2016 Books from Caldecott Winners
2016 Books from Newbery Winners

One of my favorite authors had a book birthday this week. Natalie Lloyd's new book The Key to Extraordinary finally hit bookstores.


Lots of great resources were shared during last weekend's #nctechat about celebrating and supporting African American writers. Check out the archive.

Back in 2013 my friend Sarah Andersen wrote a blog post that responded to the many people who ask her why she's just not a librarian if she loves to read so much. She shared this post again this week and her words really resonated with me: 

"The reason this question bothers me isn’t because I don’t love and appreciate librarians (schools need librarians), but because it’s asked under the pretense that teachers, English teachers in particular, shouldn’t be so excited about reading and shouldn’t be reading so much. Maybe I’m wrong in that assumption, but the tone when the question is asked, especially at school, leaves me feeling like they think my passion for reading is misplaced. That it’s better suited for a library than in my classroom. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t the people asking that question wonder to themselves why they aren’t as excited about reading?"

Pernille Ripp started a fabulous hashtag this week: #1s1w, which stands for 1 School, 1 World. It is a way for students and teachers to see how schools around the world are alike and different.

I loved this Atlantic article about the wrong way to teach grammar. I was criticized by colleagues when I first began teaching because I was told my method of teaching was "new fangled" and that it was just a trend that would pass. Except for the fact that there's decades of  research that proves traditional grammar instruction is detrimental to student success in writing. So whenever I come across articles like this I always add another mental tally mark for proving my former colleagues wrong.

My friend Kaitlin Popielarz, a PhD student and social justice warrior, wrote a beautiful poem: Stepping into the Uncomfortable.  

As someone who grew up in this town, Brian Stone's Huffington Post article really resonated with me:
What If America Looked Like Dearborn, Michigan?

Given who is currently leading in the presidential race and the media's misplaced fascination with this person, we need to talk about why decency has suddenly fallen out of favor. Max  Lucado is making the case for decency for president

"We take note of the person who pays their debts. We appreciate the physician who takes time to listen. When the husband honors his wedding vows, when the teacher makes time for the struggling student, when the employee refuses to gossip about her co-worker, when the losing team congratulates the winning team, we can characterize their behavior with the word decent.

We appreciate decency. We applaud decency. We teach decency. We seek to develop decency. Decency matters, right?

Then why isn’t decency doing better in the presidential race?"

*Mic drop*