Tag Archives: back-to-school

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.

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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.

Kickstarting

15 Aug

Along with about 60 colleagues and I gathered yesterday to spend the day with TCRWP’s  Mary Ehrenworth. We’ve been fortunate in my school district over the last few years to have Mary come a few times. We have also been fortunate enough to have TCRWP trainers come to our schools for days at a time. I have loved every minute of it. And yet, when the email came a few days ago saying shed be talking about grammar, I can’t lie – my heart sank.

I should have known better.

Here are a few of the many things I learned.

  1. Kids master grammar. Then comes slippage. With exposure to the various ways people write on social media, students unlearn spelling and grammar rules. Mary said that 3rd graders have better skills in some areas than 8th graders, who have greater exposure to social media. We need to teach them to code switch and expose them to a high volume of accurate language.
  2. We can teach grammar in meaning full ways
    • Demonstration – a ten minute mini-lesson, once they have a draft they are invested in
    • Inquiry centers – 20-25 minutes once during a unit, once they have a draft they are invested in, so they can apply the skill to their draft RIGHT NOW!
  3. Extravaganza & Interludes – a way to study tricky grammar in which kids make tools for other units

We spent some time working together to create some Inquiry centers. My teaching partner and I made centers that focused on narrative paragraphs and writing dialogue. We thought the dialogue center would be helpful for that small group of student who wrote ONLY DIALOGUE in their narrative.

After this work, we broke for lunch. Mary packs a lot into a morning.

In the afternoon we looked at teaching verb tense by looking at the movement of time. Mary taught some mini-lessons and we learned ways to have kids create timelines  for fiction and non-fiction, through read-alouds and shared reading.

Needless to say, even though I am sad that summer vacation is almost over,  I am now excited to get back to school and apply what I learned.

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Germ warfare

13 Sep

September means exposure to back-to-school contagions. That’s why most schools now include had sanitizer on their supply lists. That’s why new teachers get sick so often. I taught at my last school for 12 years and for the last few, I didn’t even get a cold. I knew those germs intimately and had developed a good system of defense. Now that I’m at a new school, I’m being extra cautious, taking more precautions that usual to keep myself healthy, although I think the problem is less severe at a middle school that it is in an elementary school. I hope I’m not carrying new germs into my new school community, either. I;d hate to be a Typhoid Mary.

Yes, poor Mary Mallon, who has gone down in history as Typhoid Mary, or Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America  which is how Susan Campbell Bartoletti refers to Mary in her recently published book.

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Publisher’s Summary:This is the story of a cook – a quiet, diligent cook who kept to herself. Her speciality was homemade ice cream topped with fresh peaches, which she served on hot summer days. She worked for some of the wealthiest families in New York, who spoke highly of her skills.

In August 1906, when six members of one household nearly died, the cook mysteriously disappeared – and the hunt for Typhoid Mary began. The resulting story became a tabloid scandal. But the true story of Mary Mallon is far greater than the sensationalized and fear-mongering stories. It’s also a lesser known story of human and civil rights violations. How did this private and obscure domestic cook become one of the most notorious women in American history? What happens to a person whose name and reputation are forever damaged? And who is responsible for the lasting legacy of the woman who became known as Typhoid Mary?

There is not a lot of documentary evidence of Mary Mallon’s life, so the book is as much a narrative of hygiene and social customs at the time Mary lived. Because of this, Bartoletti has to create an idea of what could have happened by using words such as “probably”, “perhaps”, “may have”, etc. In spite of this, I found this a very interesting read, and would be great nonfiction companion to Deborah Hopkinson’s The Great Trouble (about  a cholera plague in London) and  Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever, 1783 ( a Yellow Fever outbreak in Philadelphia).

Good PD…and there was homework!

18 Aug

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I am easing out of summer and back into work.

The teachers who read my blog know that this is both practical ( there’s no way to get the room ready during inservice week) and metaphysical ( I need to radically shift my  sense of being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space).

This week, I am helping myself with the transition by attending a four day training. Many people groaned when this offer was made, and I might have grumbled a little. After signing up, I found out that we’d have trainers from the Teachers College Reading & Writing Project and I was thrilled. The group of middle school teachers who signed up are basically getting a summer Writing Institute here in our own district.

Kate Roberts, one of the authors of the book I used for last year’s teacher book club, Falling in Love With Close Reading,  is our most famous presenter.

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She is funny and inspiring and talked to us about the Silent Standard: sharing our love with kids, making them laugh and cry because when we do this, they really listen.

Yes, there was homework and I really struggled to get the story on paper last night. I couldn’t find the rhythm of the story I wanted to tell. When I finally found it, after taking a knitting break to clear my head, the story practically wrote itself.

We also had to read a story (poem in prose?) by Naomi Shihab Nye, Gate 4A. I can hardly wait to see what we do with them today.

A picture Book Round Up

18 Aug

I was in Powell’s the other day and read a few picture books. They always have lovely displays and I find books I have on hold at the library and others I didn’t even know I wanted to read. Here are a few things I read.

I picked this one up because I thought it was a biography of Julia Child.

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But if you look carefully, you will see that this book, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Julie Morstad, there is a comma in the title Julia, Child. Inspired by the idea of Julia Child, this book is about butter, friendship and the art of childhood. Julia and her friend Simca love to cook but have no wish to turn into big, busy people who worry too much and watch too few cartoons. They decide to create a feast for growing and staying young. A playful, scrumptious celebration of the joy of eating,the book celebrates the importance of never completely growing up, and mastering the art of having a good time.

With the start of school around the corner (I have a 2-day training this week !) I have started wearing my mouth guard at night because stress and worry cause me to grind and clench my teeth while I sleep. Right now, I bet kids are wondering and worrying about which teacher they will get in a few weeks. Some will be disappointed, but most will find out that the scary/mean teacher they didn’t want isn’t as bad as they feared. Peter Brown tackles this feeling head on in My Teacher is a Monster.

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Bobby thinks his teacher is a monster, but a chance meeting in the park transforms their relationship.  By the time the two separate, Bobby is no longer quite as afraid if Ms. Kirby as he originally was, and the illustrations show how she has morphed from monster to human being.

A random book that pleasantly surprised me was Ninja! by Arree Chung.

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True ninjas can overcome all obstacles. And our protagonist, Maxwell, does his best, using his rich fantasy life to share his suggestions for becoming an awesome ninja as he goes on a mission for milk and cookies. Funny and heart-warming, this book celebrates imagination and the love of family. Chung has a website full of fun activities kids can do after reading the book.

Back-to-school knitting

12 Aug

It has been my tradition to knit something for myself, as a cure for my back to school blues. I love my job. Quite frankly, I can’t even begin to imagine how awful August would feel if you hated teaching.

Rather than spending a lot of money on new clothes, I let myself buy yarn and knit. It is far more satisfying than clothes shopping, which I loathe.

This year, I had trouble deciding, so I chose not to choose. I have decided to knit myself two back-to-school items. I usually knit myself a pair of socks and found this pattern: Starry Night Socks by Suzanne Bryan

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I am knitting them in similar colors and have made it this far:

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I love vests and found this pattern:Buttonbox Vest by Elizabeth McCarten.

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I have longed to knit myself something green, so I chose Malabrigo Rios in a shade of green they call  Ivy.

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Neither project will likely be finished by the day after Labor Day. It’s often too warm to wear my back to school knitting project. But I will have two projects to concentrate on while I begin a new school year and that helps me manage the nervousness I feel at the beginning of each year.

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