Archive | August, 2018

This Week’s Booktalks 8/28-31

31 Aug

School’s back on and so are the book talks. Here are the books I talked about this week.

Tuesday

She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)  by Ann Hood

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Wednesday

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

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Thursday

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

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Friday

My Deal With the Universe  by Deborah Kerbel

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Read my post on The Hub

30 Aug

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I am today’s guest blogger on The HUB, the blog for YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association). I can’t repost what I wrote here, but you can click on the link below to check out what I said.

http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2018/08/30/what-would-ruth-read/

Let me give you this clue, though

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First day follies

28 Aug

“Can I help you find a room?” I asked the sparkly clean but perplexed 6th grader who was wandering the halls at a strange time.

He pulled out the paper with his new schedule, transliterated from computerese into sixth-gradish. “I’m looking for Mr. Nelson’s room,” he said pointing to the class he was looking for.

“Oh, his room is there, ” I replied pointing, “but that class isn’t now. You should be in the gym for PE.”

“But I just came from there,” he said, brow wrinkled.

“Just go back and tell Mr. V you should be there now. He’ll understand. It’s why  only 6th graders come on the first day,” I said encouragingly, and smiled.

Off he went.

And then he was back.

This time, though, I had my elective class was in my room. I brought the young man in and we began what looked like a “Who’s on first” comedy routine.

In the end, we figured it out. He’d gotten a bit ahead of the schedule, so I sent him on his way. I saw him later, coming out of Mr. Nelson’s room at the right time.

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“I got this now!” he replied over his shoulder as he walked confidently down the hall to his next elective.

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What to wear

27 Aug

I can’t say that I’ve spent the whole weekend thinking about what to wear today, the first day of school. I can say that I have given it more than just a passing thought. I was planning on wearing a skirt, but it looks as though I will have tp participate in a game at the “Welcome 6th graders” assembly. Although there is little chance I will fall @$$ over teakettle and expose myself, I believe it is better to be safe than sorry.

A teacher’s first day outfit needs to send a couple of messages:

  • I am professional
  • I know my stuff
  • I am fun
  • I care about you

I am sure there are students out there, getting ready for their first day of school thinking thoughts similar to mine. There are some who have given it no thought at all. There also others whose mother will make the decision for them.

First day of school clothing gets me thinking about Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. This is the book I snorted over at the TCRWP institute two weeks ago.

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Willow, the main character, makes a poor choice about her first day outfit, although she uses flawless logic to come to her decision. To her mother’s credit, although she knows Willow’s choice is a poor one, she lets her wear it.

Another book that gets me thinking about back-to-school is All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson. Imogene’s descriptions of her teachers on the first day made me crack up.

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Happy first day to students and colleagues starting today, to those who have already started, and to those who have yet to start.

Making her point

26 Aug

I picked up an ARC of Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad. It was part of my effort to get books with covers featuring people who looked like my students. Although middle schoolers aren’t the target audience for this book, I think many of my students will enjoy reading it.

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There are several reasons why I think it will work in a middle school classroom. First is Muhammad’s honesty in her descriptions of her struggles and self-doubts. Her strict upbringing and expectations of success mirror those of my students. The book is definitely more memoir than biography because she delves deeper in some parts than in others, in the same way that I encourage my writers to tell microstories that illustrate the point they are trying to make.

Of course, I love that this is the story of a women of color who has achieved success in sports. Her dedication and personal sacrifice exemplify the grit everyone needs to succeed in whatever they undertake.

Publisher’s Summary: Growing up in New Jersey as the only African American Muslim at school, Ibtihaj Muhammad always had to find her own way. When she discovered fencing, a sport traditionally reserved for the wealthy, she had to defy expectations and make a place for herself in a sport she grew to love.

From winning state championships to three-time All-America selections at Duke University, Ibtihaj was poised for success, but the fencing community wasn’t ready to welcome her with open arms just yet. As the only woman of color and the only religious minority on Team USA’s saber fencing squad, Ibtihaj had to chart her own path to success and Olympic glory.

Proud is a moving coming-of-age story from one of the nation’s most influential athletes and illustrates how she rose above it all.

A Young Reader’s Edition is also available.

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Very often, the big difference in a young readers version of  a book is the simplification of language and the expurgation  of  scenes considered in appropriate for the audience. Ibtihaj Muhammad has lived a very disciplined life and I have no problem sharing my ARC of the “adult” version with my students. I think they will understand the struggles and successes of Ibtihaj Muhammad.

 

Put me in coach

23 Aug

I spent a lot of time working on my classroom library yesterday and it is ready. I was thrilled to create new tubs in several categories that I felt were a little lacking. One of those categories was sports books. And I just read an amazing novel about baseball that would be the perfect addition to the tub: Out of Left Field  by Ellen Klages.

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Although we know that Katy doesn’t win her battle to play ball – that would be a work of alternative history – you can’t help but admire her passion and dedication to baseball.    Just We can look to those who came before us to ignite our passion for justice just as Katy took inspiration from all the women she learns about who played ball before her.

Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages is advertised as the third book in the Gordon Family series. I had to look that up and remembered how much I had loved The Green Glass Sea and White Sands, Red Menace.  I might need to reread those. So many books, so little time!

The Timmins Hex

21 Aug

On the second last day of school, I learned I would teach 7th grade this year.

On the last day of school, my Mom died.

It has been a  summer of coming to terms with a lot of change.

In mid August, I met with my new teaching partner to get up to speed on what happens in 7th grade reading, writing, and social studies.

Last week, I attended a TCRWP homegrown institute last week and met with the 7th grade team. I accepted the print copy of the reading unit that was handed out at registrations, the one district has decided 7th grade will pilot this year. Just one more step towards making 7th grade a reality,  I thought.  As the week rolled along, I sat with my 6th grade teaching partner during class, but met with my new 7th grade colleagues when we met as a grade level.

I knew that the admins at my school had applied for additional funding (APU) that would allow me to stay in 6th grade. My 6th grade teaching partner had spotted the assistant superintendent in charge of middle schools on Monday and had politely but fiercely, advocated for the APU. For her, it meant not only losing her teaching partner, it meant she would go from a 120 minute Humanities block to 80 minutes. She was justifiably fired up. He told her he would go to war for us and that the decision about that funding would be made on the last day of the TCRWP Institute.

The night before our TCRWP institute ended, I had a little conversation with Mom. She was a very competitive Yahtzee player and, as an opponent shook the Yahtzee dice, she would make a “TSSSS” sound with her teeth to curse them. We affectionately referred to it as “The Timmins Hex”.

Mom grew up poor in Timmins, the mining town in Northern Ontario she ran away from when she was 15 because she knew what her life would be like if she stayed. She wanted more. Timmins holds a sort of mythic place in the minds of her children and grandchildren. The Timmins Hex was part joke, part family tradition. And yet, the night before that additional staffing decision was made, I had a little conversation with my Mom asking her to invoke The Timmins Hex.

I checked messages all day, distracting me from some of what we were doing. I was torn between being a realist – knowing that there were needier schools that were probably also asking for additional staffing – and being an optimist. I ran errands on the way home disappointed I hadn’t heard anything.

The message light on my home phone was blinking as I walked through the door. After walking Lucy (who really has to go when I get home) I listened to the message and called my principal back. Despite my sincere belief that the decision-makers would say “No”, they said “Yes”. I was staying in 6th grade after all that.

A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I could imagine  ghost Mom, floating around the table in that meeting room, putting The Timmins Hex on those decision makers, helping me out one last time, her last Yahtzee.

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