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Showing posts from 2015

Three Clichés

They say home is where the heart is
and they talk about the circle of life.
But home feels more like a tomb,
which may be the final residence but it’s no damn circle.
But, then again, home is where the heartache is:
it’s piles of scorched possessions and the relentless upkeep unkempt.
But, after all, I’m a rolling stone so I’ll leave that moss behind.

My Top Ten Reasons to Be a Proud NEA Member

It never fails: at least once a year somebody asks me why I give my hard-earned dollars and precious hours to the National Education Association, KNEA, and ONEA. My response usually seems to satisfy the asker’s immediate curiosity, but I’ve never been satisfied with it. So, here’s the response that does satisfy me.

10. Cha Ching! NEA Member Benefits
I’ll be honest . . . I am not a big coupon or discount person. On a recent plane ride home from Orlando, I had a fellow NEA member tell me all about how she saves the equivalent of her dues money each year from the NEA Magazine Service, NEA Click and Save, and discounts on home and auto insurance, among other benefit perks. I would imagine that this energetic elementary school teacher also loves watching Extreme Couponing. While I can’t say that I’ve explored all of the membership benefit options, I can say that my 14-year-old loves cats, so I subscribe to Cat Fancy for free. I am pretty sure that paying actual money for that magazine wo…

Developing Lifelong Readers

A few years ago, I felt I was hitting my stride in developing lifelong readers. Inspired by Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide and Donalyn Miller’s Book Whisperer, I had given up on trying to “catch” kids who weren’t reading their outside reading books; instead, I focused my energy on observing my students as they read self-selected books in and out of class.  Then, things changed. Leadership in my department changed. Standards changed. Assessments changed. And I cowed to those changes.
At the end of the 2014-2015 school year, my students completed a during-reading assignment over their outside reading book, which they selected from lists of banned and challenged books. The end assessment was an in-class writing, a letter to the district library coordinator advocating for the book to be included in high school libraries or requesting that the title be pulled from the shelves. In theory, this seemed a great assignment. It was aligned with the Kansas CCR standards, which requires student to c…

Intentional Connection: What Matters Most

The 2014-2015 school year remains a blur in my memory: a hazy conglomerate of assessments, melt-downs, and grading. Of course, the school year also introduced me to more than 100 unique adolescent faces to appreciate. Those faces emerge out of the haze as the silver lining of teaching in a state that devalues teachers in this anxiety-ridden educational era.
Even though I still believe that creating meaningful connections with students is a strength of mine, I began this summer with a piercing guilt. I questioned whether I knew my students well enough to serve their needs; I wondered if they felt like they were a person in my class, not just a name on my roster.
And then, I decided to attend the U3Unconference at MNU, which featured Dr. Michael Wesch. His message hit home: teaching starts with creating communities. He challenged me to learn my students’ superpowers. He urged me to start my planning with the question “Who?”, not “What?”. He inspired me to ask my students who they wanted …