Sunday, December 27, 2015

Links Worth Talking About 12-27-15

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

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, not an angsty Christmas like Chase Holfelder, who made this way emo version of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" in a minor key.

If you live in Michigan, I encourage you to sign this petition urging Governor Snyder to veto SB 571, which if it becomes law, "librarians would be sent to jail for sharing factual information about elections with their communities."

Everything Kwame Alexander writes, I will read. This School Library Journal article is no exception.

Kelly Gallagher tweeted the link to this article from 2011 and it just reinforces in my mind the need for mentors as we learn to write, whether those mentors are other writers, entire texts, or as simple as sentences on a page. I'm thinking I might make this an article of the week for my 8th graders.
Think You Know "How to Write a Sentence?"

Thanks to The Yarn podcast, I have recently begun dipping my toe into the world of podcasts, of which I had no interest before. So I enjoyed this Nerdy Book Club post from Colby Sharp and Travis Jonker about podcast recommendations to complement favorite books.

Kevin English informed me of this place last summer, but I have yet to visit it. I definitely need to go sometime: the University of Michigan Property Disposition Warehouse. I'm thinking if I ever need furniture for my classroom, this might be a good place to look.

Marquin Parks is a friend of mine from Michigan and fellow Writing Project teacher consultant who did an Ignite session at NCTE last month. I just discovered someone recorded it. It was by far my favorite Ignite session of the entire group.

Speaking of NCTE, who is submitting an NCTE proposal for 2016? The due date is January 13th.

And finally, I grew up in Dearborn. My mother still lives there. The city has the largest percentage of Arab Americans in the country. I have never felt unsafe there despite the rhetoric that is perpetuated by politicians and the media these days.  It's a place I am proud to have called home.
Dearborn, MI: Where the Muslims Are... Americans

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Links Worth Talking About (Return from Hiatus Edition) 12-20-15

Links Worth Talking About is a weekly post of curated links about education, books, and apropos of nothing. This weekly list of links was inspired by my friend and blogger Elisabeth Ellington. I started to join her every Sunday on this endeavor but I took a short hiatus due to how frazzled I have been finishing up my last semester of grad school. I am here to announce that I am done and have earned my master's degree in English Studies from Eastern Michigan University. Huzzah!

 The following links are ones that I have been talking about for the past few weeks:

With all the hateful rhetoric spurred on by certain politicians these days, this story has made me not lose lose all faith in humanity:
Blindfolded Muslim Student Asks Fellow Auburn Students for Hugs

I'm currently reading Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me. This Huffington Post list of curated links will certainly be a good supplement:
The Most Important Writing from People of Color of 2015
I loved this Boston Globe profile of Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, authors of one of the most important YA novels of the year, All American Boys

I am so grateful to friends and colleagues who help me examine my own privilege. This blog post from Chris Lehman after NCTE was one of those examination of conscience moments for me. 

Kobe Bryant recently announced his retirement from basketball in the form of a poem. NPR's Bill Littlefield interviewed his former high school English teacher and it just made me so happy. 

If you love children's lit and you need a good laugh today, here is Travis Jonker's 2015 Children's Lit: The Year in Miscellanea post to get you out of your funk.

Show of hands. Anyone else have this problem with fancy notebooks? I know I do. 

Chronicle Books and First Book are pledging to donate a book to a child in need every time someone uses the #GiveBooks hashtag.

What are your favorite unconventional book dedications?
26 of the Greatest Book Dedications You Will Ever Read

Hip Hop music has the largest average vocabulary size
(But, you know, "kids these days" are ruining the English language as we know it)

I am convinced as the world is becoming more and more hateful that we need to teach empathy in schools and exercise it like a muscle. 
Six Ways to Flex Your Empathy Muscle

My friend Cheryl Mizerny wrote a post for Middle Web that references the NCTE presentation I gave with Kevin English, Amy Watkins, Lindsay Grady, and Dave Stuart, Jr.
 How Do We Teach and Have a Healthy Life?

Here are some great tips from Pernille Ripp about how to prepare students for a Skype visit

Given the title of my book blog, A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust, I love this Nerdy Book Club post from Thursday:
Top Ten Books for Foodies

If you weren't in attendance to hear Laurie Halse Anderson give her acceptance speech at NCTE for the Intellectual freedom award, you can read the text on the NCTE blog

"Those of us who create for young readers know that our freedoms to think, speak, and write cannot bear fruit unless America respects the intellectual freedom of educators as well." - Laurie Halse Anderson

And finally, I hope you'll join #nctechat tonight to reflect on your 2015. Preview questions for tonight's chat on the NCTE blog.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

It's time to get uncomfortable, America

"Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 
Where there is injury, pardon; 
Where there is doubt, faith; 
Where there is despair, hope; 
Where there is darkness, light; 
Where there is sadness, joy. 

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek 
To be consoled as to console, 
To be understood as to understand, 
To be loved as to love; 
For it is in giving that we receive; 
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life."  

- Prayer of St. Francis

These pictures were taken back in 2006 when the Catholic school where I taught visited the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, which is home to the largest percentage of Arab Americans in the United States. Almost ten years later and that moment is still vividly imprinted on my soul.

Prior to that visit, I, like so many in this country, had made certain assumptions about the faith of Islam that were purely out of ignorance and fear. But then I had to look my ignorance and fear straight in the eye and force myself to learn and grow. And you know what? It's really difficult to perpetuate that fear when you meet someone, shake their hand, look them in the eye, and see their humanity.

Even in a pluralistic country like the United States, where so many different ethnicities and faith traditions live under one banner, it is very easy for those in the white Christian majority to otherize people. To always refer to "those people" and remain comfortably at a distance.

But we can no longer remain comfortable in our complacency and oblivious bigotry. Because guess what? Our oblivious, quiet bigotry has now entered our public consciousness. And it is SHOUTING AT US.

So today I am celebrating discomfort. I am taking time out of my day to humbly beseech that we as a nation (i.e., those in the majority) stop hiding behind our ignorance and start educating ourselves and recognize that we can no longer afford to talk about a group of people with nothing but hearsay as evidence. As we become more and more of a global society, the notion that we can continue to make (and publicize!) those uneducated assumptions is downright dangerous. It's time to force ourselves out of our own contented bubbles and get uncomfortable, America. The health, vitality, and SAFETY of our nation depend upon it.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Celebrate the need for laughter and human connection

I have been reeling this week from the news out of California (and Paris and Colorado and...). I am having a hard time being productive because I can't stop focusing on the hatred and negativity that seems to be swirling around me, our country, and our world in recent days and months.

So I need to celebrate and focus on the good that is happening in the world and in my classroom. I need to celebrate laughter.

So here's a couple good laughs for you, and especially for me.

Last night while I couldn't stop festering about something that happened earlier in the day, one of my good friends posted this link on Facebook of an interview with Carrie Fisher on Good Morning America and it gave me the good laugh I needed. I have a confession to make, though: I don't even like Star Wars, but I have to say that this was the best celebrity interview EVER.

More laughter came in the form of a wonderful writing conference I had with a student yesterday. Students have been revising their author bios this week that they wrote at the beginning of NaNoWriMo. Many of them, now that they had spent a month donning the identity kit of a writer,  decided to completely overhaul their author bios and start over. I am a proud and beaming teacher right now to see them embrace revision in this way.

I came close to not having writing conferences yesterday because I was feeling particularly negative and questioned if they even make a difference, especially because they are so time consuming. And plus, I always worry if my comments are hurtful rather than helpful to their writing. But I pressed on. And I met with one particular student who completely changed his author bio and in so doing, had deleted one quirky detail that I suggested he put back in. In his first draft, he said that one of his hobbies was "lawn care." I have to admit, for an 8th grader that gave me a good chuckle and I said that I would love to see that incorporated into his final draft somehow. My good chuckle then turned into full on uproarious laughter replete with happy tears when he proceeded to tell me that he loves "lawn care" so much that his most recent birthday present from his parents was a backpack leaf blower. And he was serious. He said his parents haven't had to do any yard work for the past three years.

(But, you know, "kids these days" only care about spending time in front of screens.) <--- It's very hard to perpetuate that negative attitude when you actually force yourself to sit down with each student and talk to them as individuals. 

So had I not taken the time to confer with students yesterday, I would have never heard such an entertaining story that made me see this particular young man in a new light.

And as the world continues to fester in its hatred of those who are "Other," all I can do is hope that the personal connections I make with my own students will make a difference in helping to contribute to creating a more tolerant and accepting world. When it comes right down to it, humans just want to be validated. They want others' words and actions to say, "I see you." I am striving every day to try to make that a reality in my own classroom.  It's not always successful, but I am making a conscious effort.

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres