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Halloween is in the air

22 Oct

My costume is ready and – spoiler alert –  I won’t be a ghost or a vampire. They are, however,  the topics of two fun (middle school aged) graphic novels I read this weekend.

In Sheets by Brenna Thummler, one of the main characters is a ghost. The other is a girl holding her grieving family together. This is a serious story of loneliness, grief and invisibility.

Marjorie Glatt feels like a ghost. A practical thirteen-year-old in charge of the family laundry business, her daily routine features unforgiving customers, unbearable P.E. classes and laundry…always, always laundry.

Wendell is a ghost. A boy who lost his life much too young, his daily routine features ineffective death therapy, a sheet-dependent identity, and a dangerous need to seek purpose in the forbidden human world.

Find out what happens when their worlds collide.

Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner, is sweet, funny, and chock full of Twilight  references.  It is about fandom and first crushes. All I have to say is, are you sure you teachers are what they say they are?

Publisher’s Summary: It’s the beginning of the new school year and AJ feels like everyone is changing but him. He hasn’t grown or had any exciting summer adventures like his best friends have. He even has the same crush he’s harbored for years. So AJ decides to take matters into his own hands. But how could a girl like Nia Winters ever like plain vanilla AJ when she only has eyes for vampires?

When AJ and Nia are paired up for a group project on Transylvania, it may be AJ’s chance to win over Nia’s affection by dressing up like the vamp of her dreams. And soon enough he’s got more of Nia’s attention than he bargained for when he learns she’s a slayer.

Now AJ has to worry about self-preservation while also trying to save everyone he cares about from a real-life threat lurking in the shadows of Spoons Middle School.

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Thank you, Universe!

11 Sep

I may have mentioned my deal with the universe, the one where, if the Universe let me stay in 6th grade, I would go to Outdoor School this year and not grumble about it.

There were many reasons why I didn’t go last year. one of them had to do with compensation. Teachers had to be away from home for three nights, with no financial compensation and I was going to be out-of-pocket for Lucy’s boarding fees. All teachers were given was an additional personal day.

Yesterday, at my union meeting I found out that we are going to be remunerated for those three nights at a rate that made me cheer.

I have several months yet to think up the woodsy name I will put on my wood cookie nametag.

3+wood+coookies

Look out Outdoor School. Here I come!

Gesundheit

4 Sep

On the second day of school, I collected the communal supplies – tissues, wipes glue, notebook paper – and planned to put them away at the end of the day Thursday. I was hoping that leaving the tissue boxes on the back table might lead to a few more arriving. Instead, it led to something else.

Thursday afternoon, we were in the midst of our informational writing sample. The students were super focused and working silently.  I was keeping busy, alternating between  puttering on a project and walking around, monitoring their progress. I looked up to see a student get out of his seat, sniffling. Ignoring the open tissue box sitting on my desk he walked straight to the pile of tissue boxes and tore one open. He took a tissue, blew his nose, left the box on the table, and returned to his seat.

This struck me as funny. Although I was glad he felt at home, I’d never had a student take such initiative before. I normally place several tissue boxes around the room in strategic locations. I guess because it was the beginning of the year, I’d forgotten to do so.The only open box was on my desk.

Did he see that box? I have no idea. Clearly the boxes on the back table were the ones that caught his eye. The lack of tissue boxes around the room caught my attention. When I finally put them away after school, I was sure to leave four boxes out. I opened them and placed them around the room, which was now, truly ready.

tissue

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.

813HgYpaK9L

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.

91-+PdrkZyL

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

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.

tn-huge-yahtzeesingleplayer

 

The elephant in my summer vacation

3 Jul

I love my job, working with gifted 6th graders. I especially love 6th grade because I get to guide these wide-eyed newbies into the world of middle school.

But our numbers are down.

Just over a month ago, our admin team came to tell us and said that our four person team would be reduced to a three person team if the numbers stayed the same. They also said they had applied for an additional position, which, if it were to be granted, would keep us a four person team. They also said that, if it didn’t come, we would go from 2 Humanities teachers to one. That meant my job or my teaching partner’s job.

I worried that last month of school. I was the newer Humanities teacher. I was the one who had changed jobs and/or rooms five times in the last six years. Finally, the last week of school, I heard that, although they were still hoping for the additional teaching position to be added, I would be the one to change jobs.

And so I am enjoying summer, trying desperately to ignore the elephant that is with me on vacation.

The team I would move to is wonderful.

I wouldn’t have to change rooms, though I would be teaching regular 7th grade.

Even though this year’s 6th graders have moved on, I feel as though I am leaving them.

I try not to check my email and phone several times a day, hoping for the message that say we got the position. It has yet to come.

I figure I can pretend and ignore the elephant through July, but once August rolls around, I might need to accept reality – unless that call finally comes.

slice-of-life_individual

 

Discombobulated and covered in glitter

7 Mar

I woke at my regular time, that Tuesday morning, and went through my usual morning routine. Except it was a Tuesday. And I’d been watching the price of airline tickets. And  I had a feeling today was the day to place my order.

It was and I did. I felt relief and triumph, until I looked at the clock.

Oh, crap! I bolted to my feet and hurried through the rest of my pre-work ritual.

Lunch packed? Check.

Coffee pot unplugged? Check.

Teeth brushed? Check.

I got dressed, took Lucy out for a shorter-than-usual walk, then exited the house. By then, I was running 15 minutes late.

And, of course, there was frost and I had to scrape the car. Add five more minutes to my lateness. Could this day get anymore more discombobulated? I wondered.

Of course it could!

I gained five minutes on my drive and was, once more,  only running 15 minutes late. We had a PLT meeting. On my way I found and picked up a few sparkly Shamrocks that were hidden around the school, for prizes at our staff breakfast on Friday. Maybe my luck was changing.

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Thank goodness. I had a first period plan. As I scrambled to get my morning together, I noticed little dark flecks on my papers. I blew them off unsure where they had come from. Just before the kids came in, I finally made a cup of tea and ate my banana. In my haste, I dropped a piece of banana. As I bent to pick it off the floor, I noticed sparkles on my top. Oh man, those sparkly shamrocks left a mess on me! I brushed off what I could see and got ready for the onslaught.

I felt shaky through my first class and warned them that I was off my game. They are a great group of kids and just rolled with my discombobulation. I laughed out loud when a student asked me why I was wearing glitter. I simply told them that today,  I was just “discombobulated and covered in glitter”.

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