Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2016

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…

"Top 5 Lessons I Learned" Blog Directions

Your blog post should delineate the top five things you learned from your experience with the book Sway and related readings, writings, and discussion. Emulate the Top Five Social Media Lessons blog post we read in class to help you with your writing.

Here are the requirements of your post:

Compose a first paragraph in which you introduce the topic in an interesting way (consider relating it to yourself) and preview the rest of the blog post.Include a numbered list of the five lessons you learned from Sway and related learning experiences.Consider revisiting your focus questions, evidence connections, and Socratic Seminar packet as you brainstorm what you are going to write about.Your lessons can be SPECIFIC TERMS (like "loss aversion"), SKILLS (like how to compose central claim statements), or IDEAS (like re-evaluating your own biases).Develop your ideas in at least one paragraph under each numbered lesson using anecdotes, definitions, quotations, definitions, etc. to help t…


That first day of school.

As a student, those words sent shivers down my spine. As a teacher, those words absolutely terrify me. But the reason I'm terrified of the first day of school as a teacher might not be what you expect.

On the first day of school, I want to welcome my students. And get to know them. And build a sense of community. And let them know what to expect from my class. And I have to do all of this in between accomplishing all of the things I'm required to do like fire drills, tornado drills, distribute planners, etc.

This year, I attempted to accomplish as many as my goals for the first day of school by playing a tabletop game called Witness. In essence, this game requires players in groups of four to communicate and collaborate by piecing together clues to solve a mystery.

I've wanted to integrate tabletop games into my classroom the past couple of years, but quite honestly, that's pretty much as far as I went. Thanks to my sophomore collaboration team, m…

A Tabletop Game Approach to Teaching Rhetoric

First, a confession: it’s been over a year since I began toying with the idea of integrating tabletop games in my classroom, but I have yet to use even one.
Recently, I attended my second MNU Games and Learning Conference. So, the pressure is on now. No excuses.
A key part of the conference was time to play games from the Center of Games and Learning’s games collection. One of the games I played was Snake Oil.
How to Play the Game The goal of Snake Oil is simple: convince a customer to buy a product in 30 seconds. The player who is the customer selects a card that provides a descriptor: anything ranging from “senior citizen” to “beggar.” The other players have six cards in their hands with words like “TV” and “glasses.” Players combine two of the words to create a product the customer would want.
For example, I might pitch “TV glasses” to the “senior citizens”: “Have you ever trouble seeing that TV from across the room? Ever been frustrated by misplacing the remote control? If so, ou…

GKCWP SI Portfolio

Creative Introductions: Poems of Introduction and Response to Creative Introductions

Seven Blind Mice: Reaction

Scribe Notes: 6.15.16 Zoom Notes

Reflections on Orlando: Permission
Nicole's Poetry Exercise: My Life as a Flair Pen

Rankine's CitizenReading Response
Power of Place: Out of Place

Shelly's d6 Tables of Creative Creation Exercise: Byron's Vociferous Gun is Unloaded

Casey's TIW Exercise: Write a letter convincing somebody to date you (commitment fear evident)

Teacher Inquiry Workshop: Tired & Haggard (Research Paper) and Presentation

Colby's Some of My Best Friends Are BlackReading Response
Literary Luncheon: Offering

Poem Inspired by AC Cleaning: Poem for Rowan

My Life as a Flair Pen

I am flying like a green rocket
through the air
and across the page. I am smooth and matte but bisected,
composed of hard plastic
and alcohol-soaked felt. I am from a far-away island,
bombed and occupied and
then reconstructed. I am forgotten in the bottom of bags
and wedged under car mats
but nowhere to be found. I am lush yet practical and cathartic,
birthing irregular circles that sprawl across whitespace,
delivering well-intentioned commentary on nascent thoughts,
bearing stream of consciousness upon the page before sleep.

Poem for Rowan

The cottonwood seeds my daughter says
make our cul de sac liminal gather around
the outside of our air conditioner.

Like a cocoon, the puffs of fluff
congregate on the metal webbing,
converging into a solid layer.

I unwind the green hose,
fighting against its kinks and untying its knots,
until water spurts from the nozzle.

The white cocoon softens in the deluge,
graying as the dirt melts into the fibers,
and then breaks into continents.

Each continent floats downward,
toward the leaf-crusted concrete;
some tiny islands loiter at the metal crossroads.

I press my thumb harder into the nozzle,
forcing the water to coax
the remaining islands out and down.

A halo around the machine, what was once the fluff
that revealed the faerie circle hidden in our cul de sac
splayed out, drowned.


“Accept what people offer. Drink their milkshakes. Take their love.” Wally Lamb

But what I was really asking: “Daughter, even though you are 20 now and even though you have your own house and even though you pay your own bills, do I still have something to offer you?”
When my mother had nothing to offer my brother and me, my grandma offered to raise us. I picture her making this offer clad in her red apron with black piping and grease stains, standing in front of the stove. She offered herself every night at the kitchen table, the same one in my dining room today. She offered herself up in too-sweet tea. She offered herself up in green beans with butter and bacon. She offered herself up in the double breading on the fried chicken. She offered herself up in the warmed-up can of Spaghettios in front of my brother, who was too picky to accept her other offerings. She offered so much of herself up that we never left the kitchen table hungry. But what I read: “Yes, mom, I still value what you…

Out of Place

I’ve found my place in being out of place. Of course, being out of place didn’t feel like my place at first. At first, being out of place made me feel just displaced.
My freckles made me out place in the sea of white, unblemished skin around me. Despite the wrinkles, even my teacher’s skin was uniform and spotless. Even my teacher, the only one in the room who loved reading as much as I did, was separate from me in this way.  Her unmarred hands displayed a book and its title dropped from her mouth: Freckle Juice by Judy Blume. I felt my own language betray me as the student next to me pointed and declared, “It’s about you!”. I dissolved into my desk and chair until I was sure the only evidence of me was my spots. I was sure I was gone until the next time the word “freckle” exploded out of my teacher’s mouth and another student contorted around to gawk and taunt. I was sure that the next student to turn would be astonished to discover my desk empty, but adorned with a peculiar polka…


Yesterday, I granted permission to the tears. I allowed them to well up and over the ledges of my eyes and pool where my cheek and sunglasses met as I commuted. I allowed them to collect there, even granting just a couple passage down my chin and my neck for two long minutes. In those two long minutes, I blocked out the sight of other cars, the drivers who might see my vulnerability, my humanity. In those two long minutes, the soothing voice on the radio introduced me to a man whose friend Omar sheltered him when nobody else--not even his parents--would. Omar was killed by Omar, and both had a mother and father.
The day of, I refused to grant permission to my tears, instead batting them away with vigorous blinking and choking them down with considerable will. I read only half articles and spoke in only fragmented conversations because I could not bear to confront my own vulnerability, my own humanity.
Today, my tears granted my body permission to sob--a deep wracking sob--the kind o…

Poems of Introduction

My Initial Reaction to Writing a Poem of Introduction
Is this sufficient? activist socialist anti-conformist humanist unionist populist feminist pacifist atheist liberalist existentialist absurdist
No?   You want something more-- more personal, you say?
Myers Briggs: Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perception StrengthsFinder: Input, Intellection, Learner, Achiever, Focus True Colors: Green, Orange, Blue, Gold Still not enough? Something more-- something beyond labels, you say? Be patient: look, listen, and then maybe you’ll see.

Then The Typical “Where I’m From” Poem of Introduction
I am from a dog-shaped cookie jar, from Nintendo Track and Field and sardines in mustard sauce.
I am from Main Street, Olive Street, Labette Terrace, Ash Street
(and don’t forget Main Street again).

I am from sauerkraut and silence,

Bathtub Poem

The anemic gray bubbles
nibble at my edges
encased in the white acrylic bathtub.

They nibble at the tension,
caress the tissue,
unfurl the fibers.

They weigh down my eyelids
and I go blank
until I see black.

I'm floating--
gray bubbles fade to celestial bodies,
warm water evaporates in a vacuum of air.

I sense the tethers once securing me:
lines stretched to the North, South, East, West,
ropes pulled thin by eager independence,
strings snapped in all arrays,

Each snap tugged me to the left, right, front, back:
an inch, a centimeter, a millimeter,
rocking me with a maternal rhythm.

My eyes, fixed to the distance,
focused on some ethereal destination,
only wavered after decades of snaps.

The strange weight of the final tethers,
only two, extend
to the East and West.

The lines tauten and
the fibers elongate
until one snaps.

And I am a planet
spinning off its axis
defying the laws of nature--
but not the law of the last tether.

The last line gives me gravity
transforming my spin into …


The gymnasium bursts--
Tiered gardens sprout black and blue buds
(Youth is full of sport)
Crackles and giggles and glee punctuate the buzz of the mic
(Youth is nimble)
Claps and stomps and cheers celebrate already fading glories
(Youth is hot and bold)
Sweet songs of goodbyes herald new beginnings
(Youth is wild)

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow . . .
Out, out, brief candle!
(She dons a black dress and colors her delicate face)
Life's but a walking shadow,
(Her countenance shudders as the door creaks, black heels stretching to meet the asphalt below)
a poor player,
(Her legs carry her forward with automation, countless cars cascading in all directions)
that struts and frets this hour upon the stage,
(Her eyes steel, set upon the structure ahead: stark, white spire shooting into the vast blue)
and then is heard no more.