Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pay attention to signs. They're all arond us.

I am not someone who just gives in to the hands of fate and thinks that everything is predetermined. But I do think there are some things in life that you need to make happen and some things you need to let happen. The trick is finding a balance between the two. I sort of follow Oprah's belief that luck is merely when preparation meets the right moment.

I recently saw a job posting for a teaching position at the school I attended from 5th-12th grade. At first I tried to resist the temptation to apply, but something kept nagging at me to do it. So after many hesitant reaches for the computer mouse, I finally clicked send on the email I wrote to the principal with my resume attached.

The very next day I received a call to come in for an interview.

When I went to the interview, I was amazed at how easy and right it felt. I didn't feel like I was being grilled for a job, I felt like I was just talking with two colleagues about teaching. Next thing I know, I'm being offered a job to teach 8th grade English.

I didn't know how to feel at first. I wasn't expecting it all to happen so fast. So even though I accepted the offer, for the past week or so, I've had doubts about whether this was a good idea.

But then yesterday I walked to the mailbox and noticed there was an envelope addressed to me with the return address from a former student. I opened the envelope and immediately began to weep.
The letter this student wrote was telling me all about how she had just read my favorite book, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and she wanted to share her thoughts with me. She wrote it just like the letters they used to write in their reader-response notebooks in my literature class. She poured her heart and soul into this letter and showed me just how much she understood and pondered the book. It looks like she even tore it out of the same composition book she used in my class.

If I had any doubts about going back into the classroom in the fall, this letter just squashed them. God or the universe or whatever you happen to believe in really does send us signs. We just have to be observant enough to notice them. This sign was hard to ignore. It came at just the time I needed it, and if the letter weren't sign enough, this student will also be going into 8th grade. The grade I'll be teaching in the fall.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My faith has been restored

Last week on Twitter, there was a big kerfuffle because Borough Press, a UK imprint of HarperCollins, commandeered the hashtag that Donalyn Miller created six years ago for teachers to share the books they read over the summer. It's called the #bookaday challenge, and it is what it says: read a book a day during the summer and share it on Twitter. It has been an incredibly useful form of professional learning for teachers, as they can see what others are reading and talking about as a way to know what to bring back and talk about in their classrooms in the fall.

Borough Press didn't bother to research whether the hashtag was already in use, or if they did, they didn't seem to care, and chose to use #bookaday for their own marketing, creating a schedule of book-related tasks for Twitter users to complete such as:

Book I own more than one copy of
Book with a blue cover
Book that doesn't belong to me
Book I forgot I owned

Compared to Donalyn's version of #bookaday, these tasks were all very trivial and muddied the feed of what teachers and librarians were trying to use for the benefit of their profession and their students.

At first, Borough Press would not waver, going so far as to say that because they were using the hashtag, it was trending. Their "apology" had a very #sorrynotsorry tone to it, and so I felt compelled write a poem a la William Carlos Williams, via Gail Carson Levine:
#bookaday false apology poem

This whole situation felt like yet another example of a big corporation silencing the voices of teachers. But because so many teachers and librarians caused enough of a stir, and Donalyn also brought up the fact that #bookaday is referenced in her copyrighted work, Borough Press finally backed off and created a new hashtag, #bookadayUK.

The result of this unfortunate situation has restored my faith that teachers' voices do matter, can be heard, and can make a difference across the din of corporations muddying the educational waters. We're so used to hearing teachers' voices silenced or sullied that even a small victory like this is still a victory. We might be "small," but we are mighty.