Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Giving Thanks!

In the ALAN workshop today in a session that was billed as a master class in YA lit, Cris Crowe talked about his professionalization or how he came to be a teacher-leader.  Don Gallo also shared his story too. They both didn't get their alone.  They had mentors, peers, and memberships in organizationsthat helped  them  grow.  I wanted to say thank you to the Stacey Shubitz and the slice community be ukase they go have helped me grow as writer and a teacher of writing! I had the exciting opportunity to meet some of the members and Stacey on Saturday. It was exciting to put faces to blogs and discover other people to add to my blogroll. I have been a member of this professional learning network for almost three years and never met anyone face-2-face before Saturday. When I think about my professionalization, being an activity writer in the Slice community is one of those keys! Happy Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sacred Saturday

Teaching is hard work, no matter your experience.  There is always work to be done.  You could spend the next 72 hours working and still find more to do, that's the truth.  Therefore it is important to carve out sacred time for yourself.  I call mine Saturday.  This Saturday, however, I gave it up for a worthy cause. Our debate team needed judges.  My friend is the debate coach.  It was a simple equation.  It is important to give back to those who give to you, those who fill you up as a friend and colleague. Hence my Saturday spent at school.

If you have never spent a day contributing to the world by judging competitors in a high school debate tournament, you are missing something.  The perks, food and beverage galore, would be enough for some to give up their Saturday, but truly the best part of my day was garnering in inspiration from the students themselves. If you are ever worried about the youth of tomorrow, spend a half a day in Congress where students work to pass legislation that they have crafted and present arguments for and against each law.  It was the swiftest two and half hours of my teaching life. The twenty students debated about mandatory Ebola screenings for travelers and providing free internet for all Americans. There were many other laws that they considered passing.   Congress is a level playing field for all levels of debaters, novices and varsity members.  The students managed themselves. I just listened and evaluated..   I was in awe.

I suggest that if you are a secondary English language arts educator, you donate some time judging. You don't need much experience just time. You also will be able to study teens and learn about them as critical listeners, readers, writers, speakers, and thinkers. Powerful stuff!  They were powerful. Students are most always the fount of our teaching inspiration and I was glad to give up my Saturday to be reminded of that truth.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Light Up the Night

Yellow lanterns were carried in memory.
Red lanterns were for supporters.
White for survivors.
Last Thursday was out of my ordinary. I headed up to Jacksonville for a Light Up the Night Walk with my friend and daughter to meet my family to walk in memory of my Aunt Joanie who lost her short, but fierce battle with ACL last January.  The purpose of the walk was to raise money to defeat blood cancers, Everywhere you turn, you might be asked to donate for a cause and the money is certainly a part of it.  Without events, there might not be a cure.  You might even question the necessity of putting on a walk, a run, or an event. Wouldn't money just be better spent giving directly to the cause? Ultimately the events are for the living too.  The events celebrate the surviving, celebrate the supporters, and memorialize those who didn't survive because there are always                                                               those who must carry on when they are no survivors

It was a beautiful night to celebrate a life lost.  Last week would have been around the time that my aunt confessed she didn't feel well and went to the hospital.  Once she was admitted in November, she spent only a few days from November to January out of hospital care.   This fall we created TEAM JEM.  Friends and family donated money.  A few of us, her husband, her sister, her niece, and friends, walked.  Our hearts weren't light that night, because the first year is always the hardest.  The first of everything without them always is.  Later the firsts become less, but the firsts without never end.  The two mile walk was a small way for us to collectively face the sadness.  My daughter summed it up wisely, especially for a ten year old.  As we crossed the last bridge, she said that she wished there were more white lanterns, because that would mean that there were more survivors. Which is always in the end why we walk.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My Pie Slice

Frederick Buechner once wrote or said, "Vocation is where your deep gladness meets the world's hunger."  I credit Jaana, a fellow slicer, for allowing me the steal from her slice last October. I copied it from her blog as well as her link and created a draft which I have come back to several times over course of this the year. Read her amazing post here!   

I've only meet Jaana through blogging as part of the Slice of Life writing community.  She probably doesn't know about the impact or inspiration that I derived from her write.  I kept coming back to that draft post all year.  I finally found the words today that went well with her quote.  I engage in a vocation that meets my students' hunger and feeds my gladness.   It only took one of Oprah's writing exercises last weekend, pie graphing our life to help me uncover the connection. Trust me, I have graphed my life before, but this time was different.  I discovered that I was pretty lucky; my pie pieces melded.  My hobbies are directly connected to my health and occupation and friends.  I don't feel torn.  My biggest aha was that my occupation and my contribution to the world were married.  I don't think many adults can say that, but in the teaching profession we can.  

We need to remember it is each child's story and our story that matters especially when we are asked to crunch kid's data like they are dollars on a spreadsheet or when teachers's VAM scores are being crunched to calculate our value. There is no doubt in my mind that each teacher's contribution to student life cannot be quantified and reduced to a number.  We might not see our contribution in the short-term or in the long-run, but in the end it the students matter most.