Sunday, August 30, 2015

Links Worth Talking About 8-30-15

Inspired by Elisabeth Ellington's weekly Links I Loved Last Week posts, I've decided to curate my own set of notable links from the past week. I'm hoping, like Elisabeth, to also make this a weekly event.

On the NCTE blog, LuAnn McNabb talks about the ways legislators around the country have been trying to stifle teacher voice. If this doesn't get teachers to start speaking up, then I don't know what will. We've remained silent for far too long out of fear for our jobs. Our perceived submissiveness has resulted in our profession being taken away from us. It's time to start taking it back.

On the second week of school, I assigned my students their first article of the week. Since we're still working on building our classroom community of learners in addition to discussing the ways we can be brave by reading the book Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo and watching the music video Brave by Sara Bareilles, I decided this blog post by Jennifer Gonzalez called The Breathtaking, Life-Altering Power of Being a Dork would be the perfect first article of the week for my 8th graders. I'm looking forward to discussing it with them tomorrow.

Speaking of my 8th graders, yesterday I celebrated a tall pile of their writers' notebooks on my kitchen table. And on Tuesday I celebrated a pulchritudinous day.

And while we're talking about building classroom community, I have to say I absolutely love the ways Brian Wyzlic is encouraging community building with his 9th graders on the first week of school.

Ever since I read the book Quiet by Susan Cain, I have felt so relieved to know that there is nothing wrong with being introverted and I should stop trying to force extroversion on myself. So I love coming across posts like this one: 10 Myths About Introverts because every single one of them applies to me. For those of us who are teachers, I think it's important to understand why forcing extroverted tasks on your introverted students is forcing them to be someone they're not. The better question in our minds should be, how can we create an authentic classroom community that welcomes and values both the extroverted and introverted students.

I'm very excited about the new calendar integration of Google Classroom and some of the other new features. If you're a teacher and haven't used Google Classroom yet,  start talking to the necessary people you need to in order to make your school a Google Apps for Education school. It's totally free so there should be no reason why it can't happen. Google Classroom completely streamlines the grading process and saves you so much time. As someone who is organizationally challenged, I can attest to what an incredible Godsend it was to me last year.

On Friday I read the picture book Rules of Summer to my 8th graders. I admitted that I don't really understand what the book's about. So we had some really great discussions about the book and what we think might be happening in the story. But then Elisabeth Ellington pointed out to me in a Tweet that even Shaun Tan doesn't really know what's going on in the story and then I felt better about myself. :) 

Mind numbing district faculty meeting + Les Mis + flash mob = pure awesome.

John and Hank Green do Question Tuesday: Goat Edition and these two brothers never cease to make me laugh.

In which I rant about celebrities writing children's books.

Josh Funk, author of Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, writes a great blog post about how to buy picture books without actually buying picture books (and I promise there's no shoplifting involved).

And speaking of picture books, here's a fantastic Huffington Post article of 50 more great 2015 picture books.

And finally, Leonard Pitts, Jr. wrote an absolutely beautiful piece about Jimmy Carter and what REAL faith should look like in America. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Celebrate a Pile of Notebooks

This is my Saturday morning. Reading writers' notebooks and doing laundry. I much prefer reading the notebooks over laundry.
Reading student notebooks over tea and toast while laundry taunts me from the right

Despite this looming pile, I really do love reading my students' notebooks. It helps me get to know them better and also see those treasured nuggets of wisdom that are often revealed when they embrace the mantra that "writing is thinking."

So I'm going to cut today's celebration post short. I have lots of notebooks to read and writers to nurture.

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Pulchritudinous Day

Today was a great day.

  • We are reading The Crossover as a class and relishing in its playful language. I may or may not be overusing the word swag to describe it. ;)
  • We listened to Filthy McNasty during sacred writing time.
  • We learned what the word pulchritudinous means. Now let's see it catch on.
  • A student told me, "Mrs. Shaum, your laugh is priceless." I hope that I have created a classroom where joyful laughter occurs frequently. 
  • I scored some great books at my library's used bookstore today. 
  • When I got home, there was some unexpected book mail from HarperCollins on my doorstep.
  • I am perpetually tired when I get home from work but my students never cease to make me smile.

Slice of Life is brought to you by Two Writing Teachers 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

First day of school stream of consciousness

Slice of Life is brought to you by Two Writing Teachers 

Well I got through it. My ninth first day of school as a teacher. Today was a half day but it felt like a full day. I've been home for a few hours already and haven't done anything but sit around. Yet I still feel like I got hit by a truck. No amount of napping can take this tired away. Why is the first day of school so incredibly exhausting?

I only got to spend 20 minutes with each of my three classes. Not enough to get to know much about them, but just enough to sense that this is a great group of kids and I'm going to have a lot of fun with them this year.

I can already feel great things happening, not just with my students, but with the staff this year as well. My commitment to help build a community of readers, not just in the classroom, but in our school, is already happening in small but wonderful ways. I created this bulletin board outside my classroom to share and celebrate the reading lives of our staff and to show students that reading is not a singular activity. It got a fantastic response. Also, my fabulous fourth grade colleagues, who went to Jillian Heise's session at nErDcampMI, are committing to reading a book a day with their classes. Book Love is spreading.

Monday, August 17, 2015

On the First Day of School Eve...

I've been strangely chill and non-freaked out about this upcoming school year. School starts tomorrow but you'd think I still had two weeks left to plan the way I'm just hemming and hawing about stuff. It's not for lack of caring. It's just that this isn't my first rodeo. I'm coming up on year nine. I got this.

Plus, I've finally come to learn, thanks to the help of my amazing PLN of teachers, that building authentic relationships matter more than silly ice breakers, detailed syllabi, and giant posters of numbered classroom rules. So on this first week of school (and for the rest of the school year), here are some friendly reminders I've made for myself:

1) I will write with my students.
2) I will do daily book talks or read aloud to my students.
3) I will treat my students as individuals with unique needs and talents.
4) I will be a learner as well as a leader.
5) I teach students, not curriculum.

If I keep those things in mind, I know this is going to be a great year.

As I was getting pumped up for tomorrow, I decided to watch Penny Kittle's Book Love video that she made with her students because it's a nice reminder of the kind of teacher I want to be for my students.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Wearing my hope and struggle on my sleeve

I've had a tattoo for over ten years now. It's on my lower back and hidden from sight. I had no intention of ever getting a tattoo that was regularly visible to the world.

But as the years have gone on, I have entertained the thought of getting another, more visible tattoo. Something small, dainty, and literary. Something to show the world that I am a reader and a teacher.

But out of all the books and poems and lines I love from literature, how could I possibly choose a defining one?

For a while I considered getting the line:
My thoughts are stars I can't fathom into constellations
from The Fault in Our Stars because it was my favorite book for a few years. But then it became a pop culture phenomenon with the release of the movie and that gave the book a shelf life for me and the line quickly lost its luster.

Then I considered getting:
I go to seek a great perhaps
on my foot as a way to remind myself that there are so many great perhapses in life for us to go out and seek and I need to be the one to make things happen rather than waiting for them to happen. But... it's sort of like a bad omen that those were someone's last words. So I decided maybe that wasn't the best idea after all.

Then my most recent idea was to get in very small, dainty font on my wrist
Do I dare disturb the universe?
for a couple reasons. 1) Because a student wrote in her final essay last year that I made her think about how she could "disrupt the universe" and that really touched me. 2) As a reminder that there are things in life worth fighting for and that while it might make me and other people uncomfortable, I need to be brave and speak up.What was holding me back about getting this one though is that besides that one line, I'm actually not a huge fan of the poem or of T.S. Eliot. (I'm still traumatized from studying The Waste Land in a grad school class a few years ago.)

But then a few things happened this summer that cemented my decision as to what tattoo to get.

1) Thanks to some of my brave friends who have shared their struggles as well as the teachers sharing their stories on #semicolonEDU, I realized that I have been struggling with anxiety for many years and am just finally starting to give it a name.
2) A former student of mine took his own life last month and it shook my very soul.
3) I started reading up on Project Semicolon and love its message and mission.

So yesterday, before my husband and I went out to dinner for our regular Friday date night, I went to a tattoo place in Ann Arbor and got this:

Now I want to make something very clear. I am not, nor have I ever been suicidal. My semicolon has a slightly different symbolic meaning to me than its original intention. Actually, truth be told, it has several symbolic meanings, which is why I decided it was the perfect tattoo for me. Here is what the semicolon means to me:

1) A semicolon is sophisticated punctuation. There is a great deal of nuance that I didn't really understand until I was well out of college. So it symbolizes my growth as a writer, reader, and teacher.
2) A semicolon is a difficult and complicated piece of punctuation to understand. And I am a difficult and complicated person to try to understand. I need to be more forgiving of myself when I'm having a hard time articulating my feelings.
3) A semicolon is a reminder to stop and pause when my anxiety is getting the best of me. That things might seem bad to me at that moment, but that the only way out is through. And I will get through it.
4) A semicolon on my wrist is a conversation starter. A way to talk about mental health in a safe, non-threatening way with anyone who feels alone and like they can't talk about it.

Social media, and our real-life public personas for that matter, is often a place where we only share our joys and triumphs. We filter our photos, posts, and conversations through rose colored lenses. But let's also be brave enough to share our struggles and our sorrows. Humans are three-dimensional beings. We have emotions that go far beyond happiness and excitement. Let's stop sweeping those less flattering emotions under the rug – because we all have them; we're often just really good at hiding them. But at what cost?

So in the words of the Semicolon Project:
Stay strong; Love endlessly; Change lives.

I do dare disturb the universe.

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres

Monday, August 10, 2015

#PB10for10: Ten Picture Books I Read This Summer That I Can't Wait to Share with My 8th Graders

 #PB10for10 is a great community of teachers, librarians, and children's literature enthusiasts. The idea is to share 10 of your favorite picture books on a theme of your choosing. This year I'm choosing to talk about the ten picture books I'm most excited to share with my new 8th graders as soon as the school year starts.

This is Sadie by Sara O'Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Oh my heart. This book is everything. This book is about as perfect as a book could possibly be. This book isn't just about Sadie. This book is about us all. We are all Sadie. Some of us just have to look harder to find her within ourselves than others. But she is there.

The Moon is Going to Addy's House by Ida Pearle
Poetry doesn't always have to come in words. Sometimes poetry speaks in pictures, movement, music, or all of these things at once. The Moon is Going to Addy's House is a beautiful example of how poetry can be created in the confluence of art forms. It is a book that feels both classic and modern, both back in time and of the time.  

Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah E. Harrison
marvelous book to share with kids to show them how one person's kindness and change of attitude can have a ripple effect on everyone around you.  But it is also so much more than that. Hannah E. Harrison is a very special illustrator who deserves some Caldecott hardware in her future.

Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt
Cinderella, rock on with your bad self. I love the message of girl power in this futuristic version of a beloved fairy tale.

Marilyn's Monster by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Matt Phelan  
This is a book I will be thinking about for a long time, not just because of how good and content it made me feel at the end, but because there's a lot of complexity in the story that I know I missed upon first reading. This is one of those picture books that I can see very clearly being discussed in a university children's lit class because not only does it appeal to kids on an aesthetic level, but it also appeals to adults on an analytic level.

Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Drum Dream Girl is one of many Margarita Engle books that help to educate and remind us that Cuba is a country of people with hopes, dreams, and fears like we all are. This book, paired with Engle's brand new memoir, Enchanted Air, has given me the itch to someday travel to this once verboten country.

One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail
Sophia is an adorable, eloquent little protagonist. I especially loved the glossary at the end that pointed out the irony of having so many words for "using too many words." :)

I'm Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton
Who says factual books can't be funny and full of voice? Certainly not Bethany Barton! This book helps arachnophobes come to grips with their fear through humor and logic.

Something Extraordinary by Ben Clanton 
The wish and search for something extraordinary to happen often means we are missing out on the extraordinary things that are happening all around us that are just disguised as ordinary things. The message of this book puts me in mind of The Man with the Violin and how so often beautiful things are passing us by because we are too oblivious to notice. 

"Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," Said the Sloth by Eric Carle  
Because, sloths

This was crossposted to my book blog, A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Celebrating a Grad School Milestone

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres

This week I finished writing my master's project proposal and will formally submit it next week. I have one semester of grad school left and then I am DONE. Part of me is celebrating and the other part is mourning a little bit. I have loved being a grad student in the English Studies for Teachers program at Eastern Michigan University. I have appreciated my education more in this program than
Office floor while writing my MA project proposal
What my office floor looked like while I was writing my proposal
I ever have in my entire life. After all, grad school is the reason why I started this blog in the first place.

Part of me wishes I could be a professional student. I have toyed with the idea of applying for a PhD program right after I graduate with my master's degree, but I think I need to give myself a few years. And I also need to give myself a few more pep talks that writing a dissertation REALLY isn't that scary (HA!).

But I need to stop getting so far ahead of myself. Right now I'm just going live in the moment and celebrate this milestone of being that much closer to a master's degree.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Giveaway: Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth

I have mad respect and love for Jeff Anderson. His teaching books Mechanically Inclined, Everyday Editing, and 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know hold a place of honor on my bookshelf and in my heart because I use his practical teaching methods so frequently.

I was elated when Jeff told me at the NCTE Annual Convention last year that he was writing a middle grade novel. Given that Jeff was a middle school teacher for so many years, I love that he has transitioned from writing professional texts for teachers to middle grade fiction for kids. It just makes my heart happy.

And after you watch this book trailer/interview with Jeff, I think it will make your heart happy too.

And then you'll definitely want to win a copy of his new book, out in stores now:

Zack Delacruz: Me and my Big Mouth by Jeff Anderson
Published: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Sterling Children's Books
Pages: 176
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: Finished copy provided by publisher

 Goodreads Summary:
Zack Delacruz is unnoticed at his middle school—and that’s just the way he likes it. But a school assembly, a typhoon of spit, and an uncharacteristic moment of bravery are all it takes to change everything. Suddenly Zack is in charge of the class fundraiser. Worse, his partner is the school’s biggest bully! If they don’t sell all the chocolate bars, there will be no dance for the sixth grade.  Zack never wanted to be a hero, but with his classmates’ hopes on the line, can he save the day? 


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Finding comfort in a time of sorrow from the pages of a book

Last week I received the devastating news of the unexpected death of a former student. He was 18 years old. Headed to college. He had a bright future ahead of him.

This news shook me to my very soul. All of our students touch our lives in some way, but he was one of those kids who sticks out so vividly in my memory. He had a great sense of humor, but he also could be really thoughtful and profound and he always made me smile. The phrase "with a heavy heart" was not figurative for me upon hearing the news. I literally felt a weight of sadness in my chest for a good 24 hours afterwards.

Yesterday I attended this young man's funeral visitation and to say it was hard was an understatement. I didn't know what to say to his family, friends, and my former students other than to give them hugs and say I wish I were seeing them under better circumstances. I will never forget the feeling of hugging one particular student yesterday. I had just seen her at 8th grade graduation back in June. She had just graduated from high school and was glowing. Her hug only a few weeks ago was quick, light, and joyful. It was full of all of the excitement and promise of what the world had in store for her. Yesterday's hug on the other hand, was heavy, lingering, and full of sorrow. There were no words spoken between us. Our embrace said everything.

Somehow, through it all, I managed to keep myself together, even when hugging his younger brother, who was also a student of mine and who made me smile, laugh, and ponder in equal measure. For someone who cries at the drop of a hat, this behavior was unusual for me. But as I tried to make sense of a life gone too soon, I found myself taking comfort in a book. I started to think about Matt Miller, the main character in The Boy in the Black Suit and how working in a funeral home and constantly being in the presence of grief helped him process his own. So as I sat in the church, I immediately went into observation mode. My way of coping and keeping it together was to almost step outside myself and take comfort in knowing that others were trying to make sense of it all, too. That we were not alone in our sadness and questioning as to why this had to happen. So I am grateful to Jason Reynolds for Matthew Miller, a young man whose poise and wisdom belies his years. It just goes to show you that books can sometimes touch us and give us comfort us in ways we least expect.

Slice of Life is brought to you by Two Writing Teachers