Saturday, August 23, 2014

Celebrate the New School Year

I thought I would participate in my first "Celebrate This Week" post, established by Ruth Ayers, since each day of the start of this new school year found something new and joyous to celebrate. Here is the rundown:

Today began the first week of school at my new/old school (new because it's my first year teaching there/old because it's where I went to school). No matter how many years I've been teaching, the first day will always be nerve-racking. Being the new kid compounds that times ten! Plus, being a graduate of this school piles on the pressure of expectations in some ways. Still, it was a great first day and I'm excited to learn and write alongside my students.

Still in the "getting to know you" phase with my 8th graders - AKA "What's your name again?" But I had a great moment in all three of my classes when I was convinced they'd all think they were too cool to sit on the floor and have a picture book read to them, but instead most of them got up and sat on the floor with great enthusiasm and listened attentively to the story, which was Deborah Freedman's The Story of Fish and Snail. Afterwards we talked about the message of the story, which is to move outside your comfort zone, take risks, and be brave. We even invited Deborah into our conversation by asking her a question on Twitter:

Tuesday was also cause for celebration because author Gae Polisner was in town and she led a wonderful event at Nicola's Books with three other YA authors called 90 Second reads. It was so wonderful hanging out with Nerdy friends and authors.

 Today we continued our class discussion about being brave by showing my classes the video "Brave" by Sara Bareilles and then asked them to write about the ways they plan to be brave this school year.

When I asked each of my classes who wanted to be brave and share with everyone, I had one brave soul in my last hour raise his hand and proceed to share words so heartfelt and moving that I couldn't help but find tears welling up in my eyes. And on the first week of school no less! It wasn't long before a few more students showed their bravery and shared their thoughts with the class too. I have no doubt this is gong to be a great school year.

Wednesday was also my husband's birthday and we celebrated by having dinner with some friends at one of our favorite restaurants, Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, and then attending another book event at Nicola's, this time for author Kathleen Flinn's new memoir, Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good, which is a book I will do doubt be using as a mentor text in my own classroom. 

Parent night. Which always gets my hands clammy and my face about three or four shades of red and blotchy, as I am not the most articulate of speakers when I am nervous. But the best part of the night is when I had a parent come up to me and tell me how much it meant to her that I wrote a syllabus that was so positive and uplifting. She said, "So often teachers write what students can't do. I was so impressed at how you focused on the positive."

Today I finally got around to showing my students the classroom library and how to check out books with Booksource Classroom Organizer. They took some time to peruse the shelves and book boxes, and most students left class with a new book to read. Individual discussions with students about favorite books or what types of books they were looking for reminded me of just how important it is to make those personal connections with kids to show we care about them and their interests. That idea his home even more when I read this article on Slate about the two things students want from their professors more than anything else. I think it can also be said of K-12 teachers as well. 

I also had the privilege of meeting the newest Nerdy Book Club member, Sarah Andersen's baby boy, Jack William.
Jack Will
Not only is he absolutely precious, but as Brian Wyzlic pointed out yesterday on Facebook, it's a WONDERful thing that Jack Will was born in August (especially since Sarah was due in September!). And if you don't understand that reference, it's time for you to drop everything and read Wonder by RJ Palacio. What makes Jack's name even more special is that Sarah didn't even make the Wonder connection until Brian pointed it out. Such a happy moment or serendipity.


  1. Got the wonder connection immediately! Of course we are reading it now. We write every morning. Brave will be the preamble for our writing on Monday. Thanks for the video and the inspiration.

  2. Love reading about all those special moments with your students this week. So glad they embraced the picture book and I'm betting they were impressed when the awesome Deborah Freedman tweeted back. Story of Fish & Snail is such a terrific book to begin the year with its important message about being brave. (Also, kitty pirates. Love!) So interesting how one student sharing work and showing that bravery inspires others. My comp class was totally silent on Tuesday, but on Thursday, a couple of brave souls volunteered to read their writing and that encouraged others to speak up and speak out.