Saturday, October 31, 2015

Celebrate This Week: Provoking Dialogue and Debate

I've been reeling since I heard (and saw) the news of the student in South Carolina who was thrown from her desk and the classroom by a student resource officer. I've tried to stay on the DL about my feelings regarding race on Facebook, at least with regard to initiating conversations in my own space. I've remained comfortably silent because I didn't want to get into the social media equivalent of a screaming match with friends and family who hold differing viewpoints than mine and might suddenly find myself with contentious feelings both from and about me.

But that's a coward's way of thinking.

And my One Little Word this year is Brave.

So I need to be brave and have these hard conversations and pose difficult questions, otherwise I'm not being a positive agent for change. My blog's title IS Use Your Outside Voice, after all. I'm a hypocrite if I don't speak up for my own beliefs.

So I posted something provocative on Facebook about what happened at Spring Valley High in South Carolina and sure enough, it raised some ire. But it was also done in a mostly respectful and productive way despite the differing and sometimes heated viewpoints.

In the end though, we need to welcome that kind of dialogue and debate. If our social media spaces are just echo chambers of our own views and we unfriend everyone who disagrees with us, then that is going to be a rude awakening for you when you leave the comfort of your electronic devices and have to interact with real people in the real world who believe and behave differently than you.

I want us to talk ABOUT these things. We can't do that if we're talking AT each other or we're afraid to speak up because we fear confrontation so we just unfriend people who don't agree with our way of thinking. So as long as it stays respectful, I'm going to keep talking about tough topics and posing hard questions. And we can all stay friends... even when we disagree sometimes.

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

When words fail me, I seek the words of others

On October 26, 2015, an officer assaulted a defiant yet peaceful student at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina. The shocking encounter was captured on video and immediately spread across social media. When I watched the video last night, I felt physically ill. I cried. How can anyone justify treating a child like that, defiant or not? But as I struggle to find my words, luckily, someone else managed to find them for me. In this series of 6 tweets, high school teacher and friend, Mitch Nobis, gets to the heart of a whole lot of systemic violence and hatred towards African Americans. THIS, this moment right here is why everyone needs to stop countering #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter. Because actions speak louder than words, my friends. And right now (or EVER for that matter) The System isn't behaving in a way that can make those words true.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

All the things I want to say....

I have fallen off the blogging habit recently. I have been focused on finishing my last semester of grad school, dealing with anxiety issues, and frantically wrapping up the first quarter of the school year.

I have so much to write and no time to do it.

So here are all the things I want to say right now but don't have the time:

President Obama's admission about standardized testing this week feels like both a victory and a slap in the face. I worry with only one year left of his presidency, we're just going to have to go through the same rigmarole when a new president comes into office.

Yesterday was an amazing day of learning at #EdCampEMWP. I can't wait to do it again next year! Check out the Facebook photo album.

This coming week I'll be getting my students primed for National Novel Writing Month. All of my 8th graders will be doing this in class. Last year was the first time I did NaNoWriMo with my entire class. I fully expected it to be a complete disaster. What I discovered was that my students yearned to come to class to write every day.

A year ago today my shiny black baby grand piano was delivered. I haven't played it in weeks. I've been so busy. I think I need to take some time today and go sit down and tickle her keys.

I have so much more to write, but I must attend to other things...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why I Write

October 20th is National Day on Writing. This year the theme is Why I Write. I spent some time contemplating that very thing. Here are just some of the many reasons why I write:

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Links Worth Talking About 10-11-15

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

Don't forget: if you live in or near southeastern Michigan, you should totally come to EdCamp EMWP at Eastern Michigan University on October 24th.

In this NCTE Google Hangout on Air, Kim Parker talks about the importance of teacher research and why you should apply for an NCTE teacher research grant.

As someone who is an English teacher because I feared math in school (still do), this article resonated with me:
Does our approach to teaching math fail even the smartest kids? 

A powerful slam poetry performance:
On Standardized Testing by Olivia Fantini

As a fierce proponent of young adult literature, this article is a must-read for teachers who cast aspersions on this important literature:
A Letter to Teachers: Stop telling teens that you don’t like them!

Ann Arbor is my favorite city in Michigan, and Literati Bookstore is my favorite bookstore therein. Actually, it's probably my favorite bookstore in the whole wide world.
Literati and the Revival of  Ann Arbor Book Culture

A local newspaper did a profile on my friend Kevin English about his ILA 30 Under 30 Award. I was quoted in said article. :)  

And, of course, apropos of nothing:
 My husband and I have two pugs. If we ever get another pug, we shall name him Biggie Smalls, the Notorious P.U.G. 

Not only do I love that Jim Harbaugh returned to college football to coach Michigan because he seems to have turned the program around, but the dude is crazy entertaining to watch.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Links Worth Talking About 10-4-15

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.

If you live in or near southeastern Michigan, you need to come to #EdCampEMWP on Saturday October 24th. It's going to be a fantastic day of learning, plus there's going to be giveaways and SWAG. Speaking of which, this is what greeted me on my front porch when I came home from work on Friday:
A delivery of TWELVE boxes of ARCs and SWAG from Scholastic! We also have SWAG and giveaways from Candlewick Press, Simon & Schuster, and a few professional texts from NCTE.

Speaking of NCTE, to close out Banned Books Week, I wrote a post on the NCTE blog:
On Banned Books and Beyond: Say YA to Reading

And on this Banned Books Week, Laurie Halse Anderson was awarded the NCTE Intellectual Freedom Award. I can't wait to congratulate her in person at #ncte15 in November.

Dav Pilkey shares a great video for Banned Books Week and why we need to change the language of censorship.

And Jacqueline Woodson is eloquent as always in this Washington Post article: It's Banned Books Week. Can We Stop Yelling at Each Other about It?

"Are you really protecting your child, or are you keeping your child from the tools they’ll need to deal with these issues?”

My friend Kaitlin just started a PhD program at Wayne State this fall and she came to my classroom on Friday to hang out and to share a book and a writing prompt with my students. She read the book Magic Trash about Tyree Guyton, founder of the Heidelberg Project, and then shared about a tour she took through Detroit last week to experience its street art.

I love this Washington Post article about private schools allowing staff to bring dogs into the classroom. It reminded me of an interview I did a while ago with my friend Danielle Kulawiak who brings her dog Tonka, a certified therapy dog, to her high school classroom.

This week hasn't only been full of good news and warm and fuzzy stories. We also had tragedy. Tragedy that I believe could be prevented. I'm tired of hearing these stories of mass shootings at schools. It's time to start doing something about it. The first thing I'm going to do is start better educating myself about the topic of gun safety and gun control, starting with the Brady Campaign, which was brought to my attention when someone shared it on Facebook this week when a friend asked for reliable sources about the topic of gun control. And this opinion piece from the Sydney Morning Herald eloquently explains why Australia is not like the U.S. to counter what President Obama said in his press conference this week. And while we're on this topic, here are a few more articles to read:
Mental Illness is the Wrong Scapegoat after Mass Shootings
Rehearsing for death: a pre-K teacher on the trouble with lockdown drills

Other blog posts I wrote this week:
One of my all-time favorite Twitter encounters
Confidence is a roller coaster
Celebrate the need for change

And apropos of nothing:
This "movie trailer" for Saving Daylight had me laughing until I was crying.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Celebrate the Need for Change.

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres

It's funny how when I get an idea in my mind, I become monomaniacal about it.

One of my favorite books is Natalie Lloyd's middle grade novel, A Snicker of Magic. I love the quirky town of Midnight Gulch and I love the main character Felicty Pickle's desire for a place to finally call home despite her mama's wandering heart.

I always thought I was more like Felicity than her mama. While I do have a sense of wanderlust, I also want a consistent place to call home. Lately I've been feeling more like mama than Felicity.

For the past ten years, my husband and I have lived contentedly in Canton, Michigan. I have been happy here. We have plenty of space, we live in a condo so we don't have to mow the lawn, shovel snow, or do yard work.

But lately I've been feeling the pull to leave this place. I've just outgrown it, metaphorically speaking.

I'm tired of the sprawl of the suburbs.
I'm tired of subdivisions and homeowner's associations.
I'm tired of sharing walls with neighbors.

I want to live in a tree-lined neighborhood.
I want to be able to go places without having to get in my car.
I want to live in a town where culture and activity are always around the corner or down the road.

I've been hinting at these thoughts to my husband for the past few months. This week, he finally acknowledged this desire of mine and said he'd be willing to entertain the idea of moving. We've decided that with winter coming though it's probably not the best of ideas to move right now. So we will begin looking for a new home in earnest in the spring. We plan to move to my
Hoping to get the chance to hang out on this corner in Ann Arbor more often
favorite town in Michigan, Ann Arbor, which has just about everything I want in a town: a downtown with loads of restaurants and cool shops, cultural events, mindful residents, it's walkable, and has those tree-lined neighborhoods I'm seeking. The only thing it doesn't have is a warm climate year-round, but we can't have it all, friends. :)

As I write this, I'm listening to the doors closing and walls banging of new neighbors moving in to the condo next door. This incessant reminder that the walls of this home are not completely ours is beginning to take its toll. As I said, once I get an idea in my head, it begins to fester. I'm ready for a change of scenery.

And so the process of change begins.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Confidence is a roller coaster

Today was one of those days as a teacher that you dream about.

Where you don't feel like a fraud. Where you don't wonder why responsible people have entrusted you with the lives of these innocent children. Where everything just clicks. And suddenly you feel like, "Yeah... I got this."

It took almost ten years to get there, but I'm finally here.

That is, until a student fails to turn in that writing assignment on Monday that's already two weeks late.
Or I botch a lesson on Monday
Or a parent castigates me next month for not challenging their child enough. 

Because, truth be told, "I got this" is fleeting when you're a teacher.

And so right now, I'm just going to relish in this moment, because I'm sure to screw something up tomorrow.

Just keepin' it real.

One of my all-time favorite Twitter encounters

If you're a teacher and you're not on Twitter, here's a good reason why you should be. Because you'd miss out on nuggets of wisdom and humor like this: