Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sneak Peeks: NCTE

Thank you to StaceyBetsyDanaTaraBeth, Anna, Kathleen & Deb for creating community and valuing voice. Join us at Two Writing TeachersSlide by the Slice of Life buffet for seconds or link up to serve your own slice of life.

Catherine  and NCTE and Carol  and NCTE and Bonnie and Margaret, and Dana and oh so many teachers are packing for NCTE's annual conference. I am too!

I am excited to talk about art, writing and creativity with Paul Hankins, Glenda Funk and Melissa Sweet during our session Word by Word: The Art of Crafting Responsibility and Creativity on Saturday (F.47). My segment of the session will focus on an arts infusion project: the art of analysis. For this project, students use art to think critically and creatively about poetry in order to write analysis.

A student's surrealist illustration of a poem. I'll be talking about how teaching
art movements and techniques scaffolds literary analysis in the session.

Sunday, I'm looking forward to a round table session, From Oops to Aha (L.02). We will all be talking about what we have learned from reflective on failure in our classrooms, in our professional lives, in our writing lives or in our lives as learners.  I am going to talk about a student I, as a teacher, failed and what I learned from that experience. You can read my reflective writing here.

Collaborating with educators from fifteen different schools or states inspires and energizes me. These people are part of my tribe and I can't wait to see them and share what we've learned this year.

  • Co-Chair: Gary Anderson EMC Publishing 
  • Co-Chair: Teresa Bunner Wake County Public Schools
  • Co-Chair: Karen LaBonte Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York
  • Roundtable Leader: Russ Anderson William Fremd High School 
  • Roundtable Leader: Jennifer Ansbach Manchester Township High School, New Jersey 
  • Roundtable Leader: Leslie Healey St. Mark's High School, Wilmington, Delaware 
  • Roundtable Leader: Jeana Hrepich Antioch University Seattle 
  • Roundtable Leader: Kim McCollum-Clark Millersville University 
  • Roundtable Leader: Cindy Minnich Upper Dauphin Area High School, Elizabethville, Pennsylvania 
  • Roundtable Leader: Cheryl Mizerny Cranbrook Schools 
  • Roundtable Leader: Meenoo Rami Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 
  • Roundtable Leader: Amy Rasmussen Lewisville High School, Lewisville, TX 
  • Roundtable Leader: Jennifer Roberts San Diego Unified 
  • Roundtable Leader: Lee Ann Spillane Orange County Public Schools, Orlando, Florida
  • Roundtable Leader: Andrea Zellner Michigan State University, East Lansing 
I get to sleep at home one more night before I leave for NCTE. My husband will drive me to the airport early in the morning on Thursday. I can't wait! I can't wait to connect with authors at ALAN, to share great books with my son, Collin and enjoy a room full of passionate readers.

I can't wait to see my teacher friends. I can't wait to learn from the educators I admire. I can't wait to discover new voices and meet new people. I can't wait to man the ALAN booth and talk about YA literature. I can't wait to reconnect and recharge.

I told my students I'd be geeking out with thousands of English teachers who are just like me. It's true--we are going to geek out and fan girl and follow rock stars (teacher rock stars that is).

I can't wait. I'm packed.

In fact, I know I over packed.  I live in Florida and  thinking about packing for thirty degree lows sends
Love the Paper Towns echo...
me a sweater message. We just don't have those temperatures here (yet or often). I packed layers: shirts, sweaters, a cape, two suit jackets, a few sweaters, a coat. I even got my boots re-soled.

I can't wait to wear them. And I can't wait to see you at NCTE and ALAN. If you are not going to the conference this year, you can tune in using the NCTE hashtag on Twitter #ncte15 or #ncte2015. You can hear our voices on Voxer. Margaret Simon is setting up a Voxer stream to capture and share voices from NCTE. It's going to be a fantastic conference. I can't wait to see you.

Safe travels, everyone!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Meeting Virtually

Good morning CCHS English Teachers,

We are using video as a means to flip our time today. Instead of meeting as a department for our Wednesday hour of PD, Mrs. Knight gave me permission to share the need-to-know topics via video and record "attendance" via comments. That will free your hour up after school, so that you can do the work that needs doing in your PLC groups.

Watch the video, leave a comment here, be counted as present for our department meeting. If you have trouble commenting, try to refresh the page. Then choose anonymous as your commenting profile; include your first name in your comment please. If that fails, call me and I'll come help you.

The district disables commenting  on YouTube, so to show that you attended this meeting, please comment here instead of on YouTube.

Nerdfighter rules do not apply for this video. I am over the time limit of 4 minutes; please no punishments!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What Matters?

A team of talented teachers hosted Family Literacy Night, an evening of games, workshops, book talks and fun. Beth Scanlon our school's reading coach and fellow slice organizes the team for this event. The literacy committee she works with began offering the night several years ago as a way to reach out to families, celebrate reading and build community.

Break out sessions, games, story time and crafts for siblings, pizza AND book give aways AND spoken word poetry on the patio, worth it for the late night at school.
Three moments sparkled for me this evening.

One, pre-game, a student I sponsor and mentor gave me a pep talk before my presentation. I was a little nervous to talk about students on social media. I hosted about social media session: the good, the bad and the ugly. I covered up students' account information and profile pictures, but I shared actual posts that students from our school published.

My student asked about my presentation. Listened as I summed it up and showed the slides. Then he said, "I have confidence in you."

And you know what? His words worked. They did so much to lift me up this evening.

How often do I tell students I have confidence in them? How often do I tell colleagues I have confidence in them? Encouragement matters. Choosing KIND matters.

 The second moment was a moment of strategy and craft. I wanted to start my session by listening to parents and teens. Talk less, listen more (I keep telling myself that, some days I succeed at listening more). This evening, I listened. I snicked a conversation strategy for tonight's session from a colleague and love how it worked. I do not know what my favorite social studies' teacher calls the strategy but I called it toss and talk.

Parents and teens wrote all sorts of concerns (anonymously) on the papers they tossed into a box. Here a few of them:
"He spends too much time on social media and does his homework late, making him tired."
"Addictive for kids"
"Steal each others' identity"
"Explicit content available for teenagers"
"Broke connections with the family" 
We started a good conversation in my room. A conversation that matters to me as a parent and as a teacher. Linda Baie asked "what matters to you?" in her slice post today. I've been thinking about Linda and the question all day.

Listening thoughtfully to one another matters to me. Being with the people--being fully present with and for one another-- matters to me.

Poetry matters to me too. Youth poets from the poetry club I sponsor performed at the end of the evening. We might have needed a microphone. We might have needed a clearer performance space. I could focus on things that were just a bit not quite right, but man, the poetry, the poetry was awesome. One of the poets, Widlin, did a piece he titled "Reptiles." I have heard Widlin perform this piece many times. I even once recorded it and posted it to YouTube (the sound quality needs fixing).


The poem, the poem, the poem is about a family and about age and about how the idea of home changes when the person who defines home in your heart dies. Widlin moved three moms who were standing or sitting near me to tears this evening. One looked at me and said, "I'm a nurse and wow... just wow. That was really great! I'm, I'm... I am crying."

I was too.

Eyes all watery, chest full of feeling. What matters to you? Linda asked. Kids, parents, people and their stories matter to me. Amazing, all.