Sunday, December 9, 2018

A Seed of Light

I don't have time to write tonight, but I feel that I must. 

The last three or four weeks have been exceedingly difficult for me. We are implementing a new instructional model that I believe in, but actually putting it into practice has been rough. In theory, most of the class will be reading independently and responding in their journals while I focus on guided reading with a small group.

The reading part is getting better, for the most part. We started several weeks ago with 20 minutes of reading followed by whole-group instruction. That was a battle because over half of my students profess to hate reading. Every day, they'd say, "We're reading again? Why do we have to read every day?"

Each day, I calmly repeated, "This is reading class. That's what we do. You can't get better at reading without reading."

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Good Times With a Hall Walker

I have three or four teaching stories saved up, and I hope to share them all over Thanksgiving break (thank you, Jesus!), in chronological order. Here's the first....

Remember Julia*, the student who was overwhelmed by a grade-level reading comprehension test? She continues to drive me batty on a daily basis in class, yet our relationship has been growing over the last few weeks. She came in for tutoring again about three weeks back; I'd arranged it with her mother in order to make up for the independent reading and response that she'd refused to do during class.

I'd expected a surly attitude, but she was surprisingly cheerful as we waited for the campus to clear after the final bell and then strolled to the cafeteria for snacks. I think she was happy to get the undivided attention that she clearly craves. We chatted easily about the day, and about the nearly empty box of donuts that she'd spotted on top of a cabinet in my room. Those had been a reward for the classes that behaved for the substitute when I had jury duty. Julia's class, the last period of the day, had definitely not earned them.

"There are a few donuts left," I said. "Would you like one?"

She nodded vigorously, and then she asked if there were any chocolate ones.

"No, I'm sorry. Only plain glazed."

She pursed her lips for a moment and then grinned. "That's okay. I'll still eat one."

"Great! I'll eat one with you."

Sunday, October 28, 2018

So Proud of You

A few weeks back, one of my struggling readers stayed after school for a behavior conference. Julia* and I had a relaxed conversation while she helped me clean graffiti off the desks.

"Tell me how it is for you in my class," I said. "I know you don't like it. What's going on?"

"Well..." she said, hesitating as she scrubbed off a SnapChat user name.

"Go ahead," I urged. "Be honest."

"Well, usually I'm just bored. I don't get what we're doing. Sometimes I want to try, but it's too hard. And then my friends tell me to do things to make them laugh, so..."

"So you do things to keep them entertained?"


Friday, October 26, 2018

I Love You Even Then

Please forgive my long silence now that school has started. What a year it has been so far! There have been so many blog-worthy moments, but no time to write about them. I've lost track of the days I've gone home wanting to quit, but there have been many other days that made my heart sing. Yesterday was one of the latter, and I've decided that grading papers can wait. 

I thought this year would be easier than my first year because I'd be teaching the same subject and could use some of the same lesson plans. Plus, I learned a lot from my mistakes last year, and I planned to start the year off on the right foot this time.

There was only one problem. Our students came to seventh grade reading at much lower levels than last year; our average student reads at the fourth-grade level, and some of them read at the second-grade level. It only took a few weeks to realize that last year's model was not serving our students. There is no point asking students who cannot read a passage questions about point of view, setting, and author's purpose.

What these students really need is time to actually read. As I've told them all year long, the only way to get better at reading is reading. But there are two problems with that: 1) The ones who need it most despise reading, and we can't force them to do it. They will use any diversionary tactic to avoid reading and to prevent their classmates from reading, too. 2) We are a middle school. We don't have books on the second- and third-grade level. [Our principal just now obtained funding to provide us with leveled libraries for our classrooms, as well as a consultant to help us implement a reading workshop approach. Hallelujah!]

For the last two weeks, I've devoted over half of my class time to silent reading--in theory. But a handful of students have made that time both unfruitful and highly stressful, at least for me. Wednesday was the low point. On the advice of an administrator who has been helping with my most challenging class, I sent every disruptive student to the office and set up parent conferences. Guess how many I sent out in one period? Six. Six! With all of that drama, only the most determined readers could have read anything.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Algo Mejor / Something Better


[Here is my last bilingual travelogue for a while. School has started and I'm horribly busy with teaching now. For this bilingual series, I compose the story in Spanish and then translate into English so that we can see my progress in learning the language. Disclaimer: All grammar errors in the dialogue are my responsibility.]


[Aquí está mi último travelogue bilingüe por un tiempo. La escuela ha empezado y estoy terriblemente ocupada con la enseñanza ahora. Todos errores gramatical en el diágolo son mios.]

Muy temprano una mañana, oí una voz masculine y desconocida. Me levanté y me vestí, y entonces me apuré a la cocina.

Allí conocí a un hombre mayor que se parecía a Mecho. Estaban sentados a la mesa, hablando y comiendo.

“¿Es su hermano?” le pregunté a Mecho.

El sonreió. “Sí.”

Le di la mano al hombre y dije, “Me llamo Sarah.”

Él miró a su hermano. Mecho repitío mis palabras. (Aperentemente, mi acento es muy fuerte.)

“Ah. Mi nombre es Israel, pero todos me llaman Lulu,” dijo.

“Oh. Me gusta mucho su nombre… Israel. Y tambien Lulu.”

Lulu reió.

Como de costumbre, no podía entender la conversación de otras personas, pero esto no me molestó. Miré a y escuché a los hermanos y comí mi desayuno con tranquilidad.

Después del desayuno, ellos fueron afuera, donde  Mecho hábilmente le cortó el cabello de Lulu.

“Mecho, usted tiena muchas habilidades diferentes,” dije en mi discurso lento y cuidadoso.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Un Tipo Diferente de Aventura / A Different Kind of Adventure


[This is not your typical travelogue, but an important part of my story in Costa Rica. For this bilingual series, I compose the story in Spanish and then translate into English so that we can see my progress in learning the language. (By the way, I'm back home now. It was a difficult adjustment.) Disclaimer: All grammar errors in the dialogue are my responsibility.]


[Todos errores gramatical en el diágolo son mios.]

¿Se preguntaba sobre que pasó con Walter? Me preguntaba tambien; pensaba sobre esto mucho. 

El domingo siguiente mi tour de su campo, Zeidy y yo debíamos tener una cita en su casa. Recordé el consejo de mi amiga Kim el día antes mi viaje: “Pinta sus uñas. Quizás tú vas a conocer al amor de su vida.”

“No tengo tiempo,” he contestado. 

“Si conoces a un hombre guapo, vas a desear que había pintado sus uñas.”

Decidí que corro el riesgo.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Por el Borde / Over the Edge


[Here is another bilingual travelogue entry about my trip to Costa Rica for a Spanish Immersion program.]


En la tarde del día cuando visité a Turrialba, hice un excursión con mi profesora, Karen.  Pensé que este canopy tour habían solamente cables, pero la experiencia incluyó más.

Una sorpresa esperó para mí: ¡Antes el primer cable, debemos hacer rappel debajo de una catarata! Nuestro guía nos mostró el proceso y me explicó en inglés. 

Entonces, él me dijo, "¿Está lista? ¡Vaya!" Él pusó mi hombro suavemente.

No podía cambiar de parecer. La situación era misma que mi viaje entiro; aquí, nunca sé exactamente que va a pasar, pero he aprendido que tener confianza. Siempre, todo es bueno. 


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