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Lifelong Reader #1

As a high school English teacher, teaching students WHY to read is just as important as HOW to read. Inspired by Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher, I dedicate class time to developing lifelong reading habits in class. The first habit is seeking out and self-selecting reading material.

One of the most important things I can do to support this habit is model it, so I show students how I use GoodReads as a method for finding books. I use this website (or app on my phone) nearly every week. If somebody I know suggests a book that sounds interesting, I add that book to my To-Read shelf on GoodReads. I currently have 70 books on this shelf, so when I retire, I have LOTS of options for reading material! In fact, while students were using GoodReads in class, I noticed a few of them rated This is Where It Endsby Marieke Nikamphighly. As I asked them about the book, it captured my attention, so now, this book is on my To-Read shelf! Some students don't like GoodReads because it requires a l…

Soul Force Reflection

What did I learn? As my students learned about how to research their problem, I learned a great deal about teaching research skills.

Teaching research is hard. Students link it's a linear process where people start with a question and then they find sources that will give them the answer. Instead, it's an incessantly circular process where sources give different perspectives and sometimes even more questions. On top of that, good teaching means making sure students question sources, especially those on the Internet. In the past, I've used CARRDS to teach students about assessing the accuracy of internet sources. The steps of the acronym are great, but it does seem a little repetitive and long. This year, I used CRAP instead, and I liked being able to say "Don't use CRAPpy sources." More importantly, the acronym is shorter and simpler. Most importantly, I learned that I need to model HOW to assess sources with the CRAP rubric, as well as provide students time…

Soul Force Survey

Why a survey? In the research portion of my Soul Force project, I found many stories from schools across the nation that have been impacted since the election. I also found a great deal of data, mostly collected through surveys of the nation as a whole. What I didn't find is what's happening here at ONW. Sure, I hear comments and receive reports from students about conflicts--but there was nothing that gave me a big picture of ONW. Thus, instead of interviewing somebody who is an "expert" in my problem, I decided to survey the student body. I can't think of a more credible and authoritative source than the students who walk down the halls everyday.

What did the survey tell me? I am still compiling the results of ONW's 2016-2017 Climate Survey, but so far, I'm not surprised by the data. Overall, ONW is a great school with great students and great staff, and the data supports this claim. The key takeaway from the partial results has been the data for the f…

Soul Force Research

Why My Problem Is Relevant If a picture speaks a thousand words, I think this picture totally nails why the problem of school climate after the election is important. While team rivalry and vandalism existed way before the election, graffiti such "Hilary Won LOL" and the swastikas refer to the backlash that's occurred since the election. There's no doubt that this election has fueled contempt.
What Questions Lingered The questions that lingered after my pre-search were "How does school climate affect learning?" and "How can school climate be improved?". I felt my pre-search process revealed a clear picture of the rise in bullying, harassment, and assault in schools before, during, and after the election. I don't think just these problems are just going away on their own, so my research focused mostly on why school climate is important and how to improve it.

What Source Addressed My Lingering Questions I found one source in particular helpful …

Soul Force Launch!

This summer, I watched We Are Superman for the first time with a dozen other educators across the metro area who all shared my passion for teaching and writing. As we learned about the history of Kansas City together, my mind kept wandering: how could I use this documentary in my classroom to launch students into the kind of literacy-based problem solving shown in the film? Just a few months later, here I am in a cape--ready to introduce my students to the documentary and their new roles as superheroes. But wait . . . as inspiring as the activists in the documentary are, I knew that my students needed me to guide them along the way. And this isn't the time for me to pretend I know all of the answers.
Pick a Problem Just like my students, I began my Soul Force project by picking a problem that bugs me: school climate. No, I don't mean how hot or cold the school is; I mean how "safe" the school is for students physically and emotionally. One of the reasons I picked thi…

My Philosophy of Teaching

Too often, our students, staff, and schools hear the word no. My philosophy is yes. It is my job to say yes to preparing, empowering, and protecting. It is my job to say yes despite, to spite, and in spite of those around us and across the state who too often say no to adequate funding, no to opportunity seizing, and no to risk taking. In my work, the yesses are free; it’s the noes that cost our students the most. 
I say yes to my students and their learning. Yes to the student in my class who asks to revise her “Myself as a Learner” reflection because she just figured out what imagery is—even though the due date was two weeks ago. Yes to the curly haired boy in the front who makes a laugh escape my lips even when my mind forms a salty retort. Yes to the challenges my students lay at my feet: how to teach complex sentences when they aren’t quite sure what a verb is, how to engage them in reading Shakespeare when they are hungry, how to make them feel they are unique – even when they …

Top Five Lessons I Learned from Students and Sway

The past couple of years, students enrolled in PreAP English II at Olathe Northwest High School have read Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori and Rom Brafman. This book is a short Malcolm Gladwell-esque look at why we humans do all of the stupid things that we do. The great thing is about this book is how it sparks so many valuable discussions about bias, labeling, politics, group dynamics, etc.  My work with students reading, writing, and talking about all of these topics have made me realize that my experience with students in teaching this text has taught me more than I would have ever learned just reading the book. Here are these top five lessons:

Lesson #1: Cheater, cheater: loss aversion eater!

Early in the book, the authors articulate a simple definition of loss aversion: "our tendency to go to great lengths to avoid potential losses" (Brafman and Brafman 17). They develop the readers' understanding of loss aversion through examples such as C…