Saturday, January 28, 2017

Reflecting on the Women's March on Washington

Last weekend my husband and I attended the Women's March in Washington, D.C. with some dear friends. It was an amazing day and one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I've never marched or protested before. This was my first time. Given my anxiety in crowds and my introverted nature, driving 8 hours through the night on Friday after work and spending my Saturday on my feet, trapped in a sea of humanity didn't sound all that appealing to me.

But if I want to live up to my One Little Word this year, I felt like I needed to be a part of this. I want to be on the right side of history. Imagine if I had been given the opportunity to attend the March on Washington back in 1963 and I declined because I don't like crowds. I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.

Our friend Joe who attended the march with us said something really profound in the van on our way home from the march: "I fell in love with 500,000 people I never met."

Words can't express what a powerful, unifying day it was for those 500,000 people we'd never met, but also for the friends with whom we traveled. Words also can't express how proud I am of my husband, whose presence at this march lit a fire under him and has turned him into an activist. It fills me with pride to see him standing up for something he believes in.

Here are a few pictures from that historic day:

I am under no delusion that this day was perfect. Yes, this was the largest march in American history. Yes, there were zero arrests, which is not only a source of pride but also a source of criticism. Why? Because if this had been a Black Lives Matter march or a march in support of any other marginalized people of color, would police presence been more aggressive? I'll let you mull over that one for a while. The day was also overwhelmingly white despite the emphasis on intersectional feminism. So yes, it was a beautiful, empowering day. But we still have work to do. And marching one day is not enough. This march was not a novelty. It was the beginning of a movement. We need to step up and pay more attention to our democracy, stop reading headlines on Facebook and start reading full-fledged articles from legitimate news sources. We need to start calling our senators and representatives on the regular. If you attended the march last weekend and HAVEN'T called your senators yet, what are you waiting for? And finally, all of us white feminists need to step up and start listening to more women of color. Feminism is stronger than our own white fragility.

Check out my current giveaway on my book blog, inspired by the Women's March on Washington.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

One Little Word 2017

Hello teacher friends. It's been a while.

Back in 2015 I was introduced to the concept of the One Little Word and ever since then, instead of New Year's resolutions, I have decided to use one word to be my theme for the year and my source of motivation and meditation.

My word for 2015 was BRAVE.
Last year my word was DO.

My word for 2017 has proven to be more of a challenge.

In many ways 2016 was a great year for me personally. My husband and I bought a new house in a town we love as the community here very much aligns with our values, we started running over the summer and completed our first 5K in October, in August, I started a new position at my school as the K-8 librarian and am loving every second of spending my day with kids and books,  I presented with some amazing authors like Laurie Halse Anderson, Matt de la Pena and Brendan Kiely at NCTE in November, AND on top of all that, I got to see Hamilton in Chicago.

But 2016 has also been a hard year for reasons I probably don't have to elucidate. That difficulty turned to outright grief when we all woke up on November 9th to a reality that many of us could have never imagined. To realize that we now live in a country that will be led by a man who is not only grossly unqualified for the job, but who is basically a danger to our liberty, values, civil rights, and peace means it's time for many of us to really WAKE UP and SPEAK UP.

So I considered choosing a word like RESIST or PROTEST as my word for 2017, but I didn't want the theme for my year to be about anger and outrage. I also considered SPEAK as my word as reminder that I should not and cannot remain silent as people's rights are violated and lives are put at risk. And while I was on the right track, that too didn't feel right.

And then I was reminded of some very powerful words said by Jason Reynolds at the ALAN workshop in November. He said that if you really want to have hope, you have to go out and DO SOMETHING. We all have to earn our hope. We can't just sit around and wait for our hope to sprout wings and get to work. WE have to do the work.

And with those words still ringing in my ears, I found my word for 2017:
with the reminder that I have to earn it each and every day.
And so when I grab my purse and keys every morning and leave the house, I am reminded every day of what I need to do. I HOPE if you're reading this you will DO SOMETHING to earn yours too.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Celebrating New Adventures and Accomplishments

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres

So yeah, it's been a few months since I've posted here. This new gig as librarian is overwhelming to say the least. Not in a bad way, just in a way that you realize you're doing something new and have to get used to the learning curve.

But I have a couple things worth celebrating this week so I thought I'd dust off my lonely blog.

Yesterday I found out the exciting news that I was selected to serve on ALAN's Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award committee! I can't wait to get started! I've wanted to serve on this committee ever since I took a Prizing Children's Literature class in grad school and did a project on this award. I'd been an ALAN member for a few years but didn't know that much about this award until I did that project on it so it's really exciting that I finally get to serve on the committee.

My second celebration is that my husband and I finished all of our Couch to 5K workouts! We are officially runners now. And it just so happens that there's a 5K at the University of Michigan next month that we just signed up for. I can't wait!
After finishing our last C25K workout. We're runners now!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

That time I went to nErDcampMI and didn't take any pictures

*Cough Cough*

*Dusts off blog*

*Tap tap tap*

Is this thing on?

I haven't been blogging much lately. I'm not sure why. I just haven't been feeling a compulsion to write as of late. Even my writer's notebook has gone ignored since the school year let out.

But an event like nErDcampMI deserves to attempt to bring my blog back from obscurity into regular posting again.

For those of you who don't know, nErDcamp is a spinoff of the Edcamp model with a literacy focus. The name nErDcamp comes from Nerdy Book Club co-founder Colby Sharp who, along with his wife Alaina and a slew of Nerdy planners and volunteers, began the first nErDcamp in 2013. The first  nErDcamp was in Battle Creek, Michigan and had about 200-250 people in attendance. This year? Over 1000.

I was very low key at this year's nErDcamp. I didn't tweet much. I took like two pictures. It's not that I wasn't excited to be there. I've just been off my social media game lately.

So rather than write up a big long post about everything that happened at nErDcamp, here are some of my personal highlights:

  • When author/illustrator Deborah Freedman came up to me and said, "Are you Beth?" and then introduced herself. Woa. Crazy that authors know who I am.
  • Getting to hug Gae Polisner.
  • Chatting with Jess Keating about her upcoming picture books
  • Letting the tears flow freely during Raina Telgemeier's touching Nerd Talk about the boy she had a crush on in Smile who recently passed away.
  • When Kate DiCamillo made a surprise appearance (How on earth are they going to top THAT next year?) 
  • Pondering the mysteries of Cardboard Schu
  • Learning more about the ways I can use picture books with my 8th graders from Pernille Ripp 
  • When I ran into Jenni Holm and she gave me a huge hug and then told me to tell my husband she said hi. 
  • A session led by authors that talked about helping kids learn from their mistakes

If you've never been to nErDcamp and have been wanting to go, I highly recommend making the trip. Registration is completely free and you have an opportunity ot learn from teachers, librarians, authors, and illustrators from all over the country.

For more nErDcamp highlights, check out my Storify archive:

Saturday, June 11, 2016

One chapter ends and another begins

It's been a while since I've posted to my blog and even longer since I've written a celebration post.

But I have something big worth celebrating today.

At the end of this month I will be leaving my position with NCTE as their social media coordinator due to some reorganization that they have been doing recently.. It was a wonderful 3 years working for an organization that has sustained my teaching career, but it is definitely time to move on.

And move on I have. For the past two years, I have worked part time for NCTE and taught 8th grade English part time at my alma mater. I'm excited to say that next year I will be staying at my school, but as the K-8 librarian! I'm sad to be losing my English classes, but but I'm excited to use my passion and knowledge of children's and YA lit to spread book love all across our school.

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Links Worth Talking About 5-1-16

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

Once again it's been a few weeks since I've posted a "Links Worth Talking About." Moving into a new house and the swiftness at which the end of the school year seems to be approaching has left me feeling a little overwhelmed at the idea of writing and organizing blog posts. But I am procrastinating right now so what better time to actually sit down and write a blog post, right? :)

Will Richardson writes about the 9 Elephants in the (Class)Room that Should Unsettle Us.

John Green responds to Looking for Alaska being the most challenged book in the Country

And in this Vlogbrothers video, John Green makes the case for civil political discourse. Something we are sorely lacking these days.

And speaking of political discourse, check out this post I wrote on the NCTE blog reflecting on a recent #nctechat about this very topic.

And continuing in the political discourse theme, this poem by Jason Reynolds packs quite the punch and says more in fewer words than any op-ed or news article ever could 

I have recently been getting into podcasts (which is really cutting down on my audiobook listening time!) so I found this NYT article fascinating.

Like many others, I'm feeling some major Canada envy lately:
When It Comes to Diversity, Canada's Prime Minister Gets It

Last week as many people mourned the loss of an amazing artist and musician, I thought about how I never really felt a huge personal connection to Prince's music, but after his death, I realized what a genius he really was. These are two of my favorite shares from the outpouring of tributes that flooded social media:
Broadway's The Color Purple cast performs a beautiful tribute to Prince
Prince's amazing 2007 Superbowl performance in a downpour

And apropos of nothing...

Chopin is my favorite classical composer. So I loved this video of Beethoven's 5th Symphony reworked in the style of Chopin.

This made me laugh till I cried:
Boaty McBoatface inspires internet to rename animals 

And speaking of can't stop laughing, this NBA team changed their Kiss Cam to a Lion King Cam

Monday, April 11, 2016

Our native speakers are English language learners too

I have a new student this semester who recently moved here from Mexico. Both her spoken and written English are rather exceptional and she is an incredibly hard worker. Sometimes I forget that English is her second language when I read her writing. While reading her reflective letter for her Unfamiliar Genre Project, a transition at the beginning of one of her sentences immediately reminded me that English isn't her first language. The word was "firstable." I share this not to make fun, but to commend her for attempting to use a transition in the first place (something many students still struggle with). My guess is that she hears native speakers say "first of all" in rapid fire and therefore the words aren't enunciated when she hears them and so she interprets it as one word, "firstable."

It's easy for us to forgive this error because English is not her native language, but upon further reflection, why aren't we more forgiving with our native speaking students? English might be their first language, but they are still learning too -- and a difficult language at that -- one with more exceptions than rules. We have to remember that students aren't born with a rule book imprinted in their brains. They learn by making errors. We need to curb our frustrations when we come across them because if they're not making errors then they may as well not be learning.

When my husband and I lived in Germany, I was deathly afraid to make a mistake when I was learning the language because I didn't want people to laugh at me. So I understand how fragile minds can be when we project frustration and mockery on our students. And you know what that fear got me? An inability to become fluent in German. My husband was fearless and became fluent in 6 months.

So I want to ask you this question: Is our view of how pure and rule-abiding language should be preventing our students from even becoming fluent in their own native languages?  Do students see language as only an endless set of rules, and not as a means of communication, expression, maybe even innovation? Are we creating a classroom of fearful or fearless students?