Saturday, March 7, 2015

Walk Your Art #SOL15 Day 7

March Madness continues as I walk my way through the Slice of Life Story Challenge this month. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for walking the art of writing. Today is day 7/31. 

Let's go for a walk. 

During our walk, we'll admire the wonder of art produced by high school students. We'll meet one of our artists' teachers. We'll celebrate the creativity of youth and take comfort in the beauty they have created. 

Our venue for today's gallery is the Pocatello Art Center. 

We're greeted by Carrie, my long-time friend and colleague at Highland High School. Recognizing the importance of a unique point of view, we're looking at the displays sideways in a selfie. 

As a discriminating art connoisseur, I've selected images of art from my students to begin our tour. Here we have two of Alexis's pieces. Alexis is a senior taking Communication 1101 with me.

I think I owned these shoes when I was in 7th grade!

Next a touch of nature from Lexi. This little critter pops with color and animation. Lexi is in English 12B with me, and I can't wait to see what creativity she brings to her senior project.

Amanda's little bird has intricate details. I can see it perched on a flowery branch nesting in my mind. It reminds me of the delicate strokes Melissa Stewart uses in illustrating You Nest with Me. I'm honored to have Amanda nesting in my room for English 12B this trimester. Amanda is currently reading The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt as she gathers inspiration for her independent reading project. 
Across town my fiend and occasional road biking partner Jennifer teaches art and has her students participate in the Memory Project, comprised of a series of portraits of children from third-world countries. During the summer, Jen travels to the children's homes and delivers the portraits to the children there. 

Each day I walk the educator's walk with friends, and occasionally we see each other in our sprawling building. From left: Carrie, art teacher; Candi, French and U.S. history, me w/ my eyes closed (oops), and Cheryl, library aide. 

 No matter where we are, we never really walk alone. 

Thanks for "walking" by today. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Snippets of Slices #SOL15, Day 6

During March I'm participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by the wonderful ladies from Two Writing Teachers blog. Today is 6/31. Thanks for stopping by for a slice.

Sometimes choosing which slice to share is too hard!!! In the spirit of not wanting to choose, I'm sharing two snippets of slices from one day: 

Snippet #1

This afternoon we bid farewell to the basketball team as they travel to Boise for the state tournament as the #1 seed. Three of the players are in my first period, so I'm sending winning vibes to Dylan, Jawan, and Maverick.
Dylan headed for the bus during the sendoff. 
Two of these boys were in a wreck this morning, but thankfully only the cars sustained damage. Jawan is a real hero; he swerved to avoid hitting a child who had run into the road.

Jawan headed for the bus during the sendoff. 
Seeing Jawan's mom, who is also a teacher in our district, and having her thank me for "teaching outside the box" topped my afternoon. When Jawan graduates this spring, Yolanda and I will celebrate together; I've already decided I want her friendship in my life.

Jawan didn't forget to take a book for the road trip. He's reading The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. 

Snippet #2

A highlight of spring is the annual Teacher Appreciation Award banquet that has become a tradition of the Ninth Pocatello Stake from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Ann, who used to live down the street from me but who still lives in my neighborhood and whose beautiful daughter I taught last year, delivered the invitation. It is the coolest invitation I've ever seen.

Invitation for the Teacher Appreciation
I love the quote on the invitation: "LET US REMEMBER: ONE BOOK, ONE PEN, ONE CHILD, AND ONE TEACHER CAN CHANGE THE WORLD." --Malala Yousafzai

This particular recognition means so much because graduating seniors choose a teacher to honor, and they may choose any teacher from their thirteen years of school. Also, the recognition is totally independent of the school district and simply reflects a desire to honor and recognize the teachers students identify as having had a positive impact on their lives. Do they know how much more value they give my life? 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Margin Project Meets Controlled Research: #SOL15 No. 5 of 31

*It's day 5 of 31 in the Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by the Two Writing Teachers blog. 

"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation." --Oscar Wilde

Author Jen Malone created The Margin Project as a collaborative reading experience. When I first learned about The Margin Project, I thought about J.J. Abrams unique novel S. Then I said to myself: 

"Self, The Margin Project can move beyond students reading published imaginative texts. You should use it to start conversations about informational texts, too." I concurred with my inner teacher voice and decided to unite The Margin Project to The Controlled Research Paper. 

I first wrote a controlled research paper, which some call a synthesis paper, as a college freshman. In my first English class, I wrote two such papers, one on Huck Finn and one on Hamlet. I still own the copies of both texts that came with the scholarly articles I used to write my papers. Very bad papers. Embarrassingly bad papers. But I digress. 

The past week my students have been reading, text coding, and annotating four articles, all on cheating, a topic I chose after a colleague recently dealt with a spate of plagiarized papers and because I'm haunted by memories of two horrible experiences from last year. 

Today I'm sharing a slice of the project, some images from the student written conversations: 

Often students struggle to read difficult texts and to understand annotating. By having them share texts, they become part of a conversation with one another. By making no stipulations about with whom they share, a dialogic conversation emerges among students who often don't converse with one another. Additionally, students deepen their understanding of the issue as they read the annotations and examine the highlights of their peers. 

As students have worked their way through the journal articles, I've overheard snippets of conversations. Today, two students debated the merits of Chris Tovani's contention that teachers sometimes drive students to cheat. I've heard others discuss steps teachers should take to curb cheating. One student told his seat mates about a teacher who has students turn their phones over. 

Throughout the process, I asked students to put their names on each article they annotate. Additionally, I taught them how to take notes during the process, including selecting quotations, summarizing an entire article briefly, paraphrasing an idea, juxtaposing paraphrasing with quoted phrases,  accurately citing a quote within an author's article, and composing notes based on their own ideas so that their papers don't devolve into a string of quotes from the four sources. 

Typically students work in isolation on their research projects because each one has a different topic. Through conversing about a common topic utilizing common texts, The Margin Project uniting with the Controlled Research Paper is a learning experience written in the language students speak and understand. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dear Facebook: You Don't Know Me at All #SOL4

*During March I am participating in the Slice of Life blogging challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. Today is Slice #4! and is inspired by and used w/ permission by my friend Cherylann Schmidt who is defending her dissertation today.

Dear Facebook:

You don't know me. I'm glad you don't know me. You are a poser, pretending to know my desires, thinking you understand my needs, my values, my political leanings. How do I know you don't know me? If you knew me you would not post spam on my wall; nor would you attempt to entice me to purchase products and services I don't want or need. 

As evidence that you don't know me, I offer my friend Cherylann's letter to you from Monday: 

Dear Facebook, I used to get upset that you dared post advertisements for redundant education opportunities on my wall. I used to find your insistence that I purchase a set of Bose headphones from Amazon after I bought mine from Fred Meyer. I used to cringe when you suggested I buy the weight loss method Oprah and Dr. Oz, that pseudo-physician du jour, proclaim as the miracle cure to my midlife, mid-drift crisis. 

I used to wander how you could not get me after our lengthy acquaintance. Now I'm glad you don't. I like that my life is not the proverbial open book to you, that much of my privacy remains, well, private, that I can count on you to continue thinking you know me when "you don't know me at all. As David Klass says, "You don't know the first thing about me," and with a little luck, you never will.

Anonymously yours,


P.S. You don't know Cherylanne either. If you did, rather than suggesting she go back to school, you would congratulate her on her amazing achievement. You would tell her that her friends are impressed and proud of her accomplishment. 

Side Note: I sometimes use David Klass's "You Don't Know Me" passage as an introductory speech assignment and have used it as a way for students to write about a character in a book from the character's point of view. Here's the text: 

“You don't know me at all.
You don't know the first thing about me. You don't know where I'm writing this from. You don't know what I look like. You have no power over me.
What do you think I look like? Skinny? Freckles? Wire-rimmed glasses over brown eyes? No, I don't think so. Better look again. Deeper. It's like a kaleidoscope, isn't it? One minute I'm short, the next minute tall, one minute I'm geeky, one minute studly, my shape constantly changes, and the only thing that stays constant is my brown eyes. Watching you. ” 

I use the passage as a copy change and think I saw this specific idea in one of Kelly Gallagher's books or during a NCTE presentation. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

On My Incurable Insomnia SOL#15 Day 3

If my night life had a narrative, it would be this: I "lack the season of all natures, sleep." 

Lady Macbeth offers this diagnosis to Macbeth whose conscience torments him so that he earlier proclaims:  

Methought I heard a voice cry 'Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep,' the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast. (Macbeth 2.2.46-51)

I think about these lines from Macbeth often as I lie awake at night, which I did Sunday night. Indeed, Sunday night tends to be the time I most often experience insomnia. 

My insomnia has a name, but its causes are as numerous as the herd of sheep prancing through the insomniac's mind:

  • Worry--about school, about my children, about trip preparations, about the dogs, about this that and the other. 
  • Noise--from my husband's snoring, from my husband's C-Pap (sounds like heavy breathing), from the neighbors playing basketball or hosting a party during the summer, from the dogs barking at the air, from Snug's snoring (Snug is our schnauzer.)
  • Light--from the moon, from the stars, from the shadows, from the garage and porch lights I left on for my children when they come to visit, from my iPhone when a student in Comm 1101 texts me a question in the middle of the night.
  • Chronology--from my advancing years!
  • Reading--from reading through the night to finish a book, from thinking about the book I want to read but that I put down so I could sleep.
  • Temperature--from too much heat to too much cold. I rarely have a Goldilocks experience.
  • Pain--from exercise; from lack of exercise; from back pain, residue from a ruptured disc long ago. 
During the night, I'm a very busy person. I write lesson plans in my mind, I answer email, I check Facebook, I cruise Pinterest, I contemplate what I'll wear to work, I pet Snug as he snuggles at the foot of the bed, I think about retiring to a beach in the Caribbean, I daydream. 

I'm not alone. According to  "Fast Awake and Wide Asleep," a 2014 article in New Scientist, 15-40% of the population worldwide suffers from insomnia. 

Many who experience insomnia suffer from sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome, acute stress levels, orcadian rhythm disorder, REM parasomnia (violent behavior while sleeping), and in rare cases, narcolepsy. 

I'm lucky that I don't have any health issues that interfere with catching some shut-eye, and I know that I'll sleep the next night. I also know that come summertime my sleep will normalize. 

If your bedtime story, like mine, too often reads more like Eyes Wide Shut than like Goodnight Moon, rest easy in knowing other night walkers crowd source with you. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

My Hurting Hands #SoL2015 Day 2

My hands hurt. All. The. Time. 

"I don't know how you stand it." That's what my husband says when he looks at my hands. 

"I have a high pain threshold." That's my response to my husband and to others, often students, who comment about my cracking, bleeding hands. 

We live in an arid climate, so dry skin is common. However, the kind of dryness that splits my fingers and sends me running to the dermatologist began after I crossed the half-century mark. Time has exacerbated the problem. 

That my hands--more accurately my fingers--hurt persistently challenges my ability to write, to grade, to clean, to fold laundry, to work out, to function. The things most important to me are tasks I avoid or pass on to my husband. 

I couple of years ago I purchased my own mat to haul to the gym. I use gloves when I go to kettle bell classes. I no longer attend body pump because the bar, even with gloves, hurts my hands. 

Right now my hands look pretty good. Here are a few pics from Sunday: 

I have a prescription medication for my hands and lotion from the dermatologist. At night I medicate and wear gauze gloves on my hands to aide the healing process. It helps. But environmental factors make breakouts unpredictable. Too many triggers lurk in my world, and I can't identify them all.

A few weeks ago I fell and sliced the right pointer finger on the chalk board tray. In the process I hit my head, resulting in two knots on m forehead. I probably should have visited the urgent care across the street from my school, but I had another obligation. 

A colleague bandaged my finger while I sat on the floor and sobbed. Since the fall, the tip of my finger has bothered me. At first I worried about nerve damage, but as the skin has regenerated, the problem seems to have diminished. 

When my grading level is high, I experience more cracking and bleeding. Sometimes a split occurs when I'm in the middle of a student paper, and I return the paper w/ a brownish streak of blood on it. 

The pain I experience throughout each day is minor compared to the hand pain endured by so many others in professions that demand more of their hands. When I taught in Arizona I met migrant workers whose hands bent permanently into the shape of a lettuce head. That's pain beyond my imagination.

Having use of my hands is something I take for granted. They're small hands, but they have served me well. Yet I worry what others think when they shake my rough, lobster-like hands, hands no longer soft but coarse. 

Still, the art and craft of teaching necessitates I take this matter into my own hands. 

"In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine," writes Ralph Waldo Emerson. The story of my hurting hands is one I hope will help empower my students to imagine what they can overcome with their imaginations when they reach higher with their hands. 

*I'm participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. Thanks, TWT and all working behind the scenes. It takes a village of bloggers! 

**Edited to fix typos (I counted five!) at *:03 a.m. MST.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

On Differences--Those That Matter and Those That Don't #SliceofLifeChallenge

After much contemplation, I decided to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge, although I know a trip will interfere w/ my blogging. Here is Day 1: 
Two events this past week have me thinking about differences that matter and the way social networking turns a nonevent into an explosive debate.

The first happened at the Oscars last Sunday during Graham Moore's acceptance speech. During his speech for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game, Moore eloquently articulated the importance of embracing our differences, particularly since we never know where they might take us, what accomplishments might await us.

We began a new trimester on Monday, so I waited until Tuesday to show my students Moore's speech and the meme Upworthy posted:

After listening to the speech and viewing the meme, I asked students to quick write for ten minutes about a time they felt as though they didn't fit in or felt weird.

After the free write I asked students to share. This normally isn't a problem, but this time my students didn't want to share. Maybe this is because they didn't feel comfortable sharing something so personal at the beginning of the trimester. Maybe it's because they were grouped with new students.

One student did read his response. He shared that being different is part of his life daily, that he embraces his differences because we're all unique, that it's biologically impossible for us to be the same. It's a good reminder and one that gave us all an aha moment.

The second internet explosion happened on Thursday with what's now known as "the dress."

At first I ignored the plethora of posts about the iconic question, "Is the dress white and gold or black and blue?" Yet as I thought about the question and the debate, that to my mind is rather trivial, the dress images took on metaphorical meaning for me as I began seeing it as symbolic to our nation's discussions about race.

We make too much of a big deal about color, whether it's the color of a dress or the color of skin. Instead of fixating on the differences, maybe we should embrace our uniqueness. That's the message in Graham Moore's speech and a far more interesting discussion than this: