Is anyone reading this?

Is anyone reading this

If you are reading this, then it’s a damn miracle because there are billions of people in the world, and about 2.5 of them actually read my blog (that’s actually 2 1/2 people, not like 2.5 million or anything). I mean, hey, I think I’m pretty funny, and I have a lot to offer other teachers in the way of experience and expertise. I can come up with an English lesson for grades 6 to 12 on the fly like nobody’s business. Classroom management? Nailed it. Need help with your data disaggregation? Bring that mess over here. Having trouble with NJHS? StuCo? Cheerleaders? Technology? Yep, been there too.

Anchor charts. Symbolism. YA Authors. Grammar games and resources. Hero’s journey. Annotation. Reference folder. 11 minute essays. I’ve blogged about them all and gotten zero feedback. Basically I’m a walking encyclopedia of educational know-how spanning from 1999 to now. Someone should be taking advantage of all this stuff in my brain besides me, right?

Not a teacher? How about parenting advice? Bring it! I have two teenage daughters, and I’m still alive, so I’m obviously some sort of teenager whisperer or savant of some kind (although that might also be because I’ve taught middle and high school for 20 years).

Don’t have kids yet? What about marriage advice? No problem! I’ve been married for 21 years, so I guess that qualifies me as a professional at that too. Ladies, need to know how to get your guy to fix that fence that’s been leaning since God was a child? I’ve got this. Fellas, need some gift ideas to get you out of the doghouse? Hit me up for some great advice.

Are y’all feeling what I’m trying to tell you? I am frustrated with this whole thing. I’m trying to do everything at once, so nothing is getting 100%. Plus, why would I want to keep blogging when NO ONE reads it anyway? Okay, there was that one time I said nice things about my co-workers and they commented and stuff. Yeah, I sent a mass email with the link. So what? Still counts as readers. I even have a few brave souls who follow me. And I’m so grateful. Those followers (and my own need to talk about myself), are the only reason I still sit at this computer and pour myself on to the page, or screen. Whatever. The point is that I’m driven to share and collaborate with other educators, but I haven’t found an outlet for that desire that works for me.

When I go on Pinterest to try to get help with my side hustle, everyone wants money for stuff. Want your own website address? $300. Need an emailing service? That’ll be $12.50 a month. BUT we want you to pay off the next 17 years and 3 months in advance, so that’ll be $9,528 plus tax. Um…if I had that kind of coin, I wouldn’t need to write a blog so that people would check out my TPT store. Want us to host your blog? Do you even know what that means? No? We didn’t think so, but you need it, so we’re going to charge you the blood of your first born child and the naming rights to your next dog. Facebook ads, Instagram promotions, TPT marketing…the list of ways to drain your bank account to get yourself seen is endless.

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, blah, blah, blah… I understand now why so many of my students are depressed about social media. I didn’t get any likes either!!! How do these people keep up with it all? I’m going to assume that they were all already independently wealthy and, therefore, able to pay for those web-whatevers with no problem. It’s surely not because their blog is better or that they are funnier than me.

I think it would be great to get some feedback from my readers. What do you want to read? What do you need help with? What do you think is funny (besides me)? Do you have a lesson or novel that needs tweaking? Hit me up and let me help. I would be thrilled to be your go-to person for all things English! I also have a pretty cool TPT store that you can check out for more ideas.

Seeing Red: Teaching Symbolism by Close Reading Text and Film

Seeing Red

Last week I got to do one of my very favorite lessons of all time. Don’t you love those days? You can go to school knowing that you’re going to get to teach something way cool that you feel good about all day long. In my case, I got to teach it for two days because we’re on an A/B schedule. It was awesome!

So here it is: We compare and contrast the use of red as a symbol in the short story, “The Scarlet Ibis”, and in the film, The Village.

Day One: Tone Exercises

On the first day, we start with a tone exercise. This year, for the first time, I used paint chip tone. It was great! I gave each student a paint chip with four tones of the same color. Depending on what color they got, they were assigned a generic tone word to write at the top. Then they were to use the tone worksheet in their folder to write synonyms of that word in increasing intensity as they went down the card. (These tone notes, as well as 16 other pages of helpful English notes, can be found here in my TPT store) Here is a list of the words they were assigned according to the color of paint chip they were given:

  1. Red- Angry
  2. Orange- Bored
  3. Yellow- happy
  4. Green- jealous
  5. Blue- sad
  6. Purple- loving
  7. Brown- calm
  8. Black- tired

Here is a picture of the examples I showed them after they finished so they could see if they were on the right track:

IMG_6889[1]

After that, I gave them a sheet of words from the first paragraph of the story, and asked them to write three tone words for each, and tell me if the word has a generally positive or negative tone. The words are red, stained, rotting, autumn, empty cradle, and graveyard. For red, I have to steer them away from just naming things that are red and explain that I’m looking for things that red makes them think of (like stop, anger, or pain). For autumn, I typically get that they think it is generally positive in tone, and then I have to rain on their parade by telling that, in literature, autumn is negative because it’s the season when everything dies. For example, when they say autumn is nice because the leaves are colorful, I tell them, “The leaves are turning colors because they’re DYING!” After this, they generally get what I mean when I say I’m dark and twisty. 🙂

The Short Story

The Scarlet Ibis

After we’ve established that the story we’re about to read won’t be all warm and fuzzy, I give them the text with explicit instructions to mark every mention of red, every synonym of red, and everything in the story that makes them think of red. At this point we usually list synonyms for red, especially the ones mentioned in the story, like scarlet, crimson, mahogany, vermillion, etc. After we’ve listened to the story ( you can find an audio text here) and marked the text, I ask them to tell me what the scarlet ibis symbolizes and what red symbolizes (Doodle and death respectively) along with the inciting incident and climax.

Day Two- The Film

The-Village

During the next class period I tell them we are going to close read another type of text- media. I explain that the way that authors use words is the way directors use images. An author has edited and revised and edited again until every word on the page is purposeful and intentional. When a director puts out a movie, every frame of the movie or show, including the credits, is also purposeful and intentional. It’s also a good idea to tell them that they will NOT be “watching a movie”. They will be close reading text, just like they do when they read, except the text happens to be a film. That means there will be annotations, discussions, inferencing, and debate, just as there is when we read a piece of literature as a class.

Side note- I usually introduce the concept of close reading film with the credits of Edward Scissorhands so they understand what I’m talking about, but we moved some stuff around this year, and I didn’t get the chance. But I guess that’s a whole other blog post, huh?

During the film, I make sure that I highlight the first few glimpses of red. The first one doesn’t occur until five minutes into the film, and it takes me about 15 minutes to get there because I stop them so many times to ask things like, “What do you hear?”, “What is that?”, “What colors are on screen?”, “What is happening in this picture?”, “What time period is this? How do you know?” By the time we get to that first red, they have definitely figured out that we aren’t “watching a movie”! Here is a Viewing Guide for The Village. By the end, they are stunned speechless, and then they all try to talk at once. The end of this movie is one of the treasures of my teaching career. The engagement on their faces is priceless! I always warn them at the end of each class not to spoil it for others. I ask them to remember what they felt when they reached the end, and that usually makes them stay quiet so their friends can experience it too.

I’m not going to spoil it for you here, but you really should watch The Village as if it’s a piece of literature. Actually most of M. Night Shyamalan’s movies are directed the way books are written, and they are so amazing. You can use The Sixth Sense for red as well, but it’s a bit scarier, and it uses red to symbolize death just like “The Scarlet Ibis”, so I like The Village better for the suspense and contrast.

If you have questions about this lesson, or close reading film in general, please feel free to comment below or email me, and I’ll be glad to help in any way I can.

Yeah, I Saw That: The Crazy Stuff I’ve Seen Teachers Do

IMG_E6794

Teachers are insane. Factor in the public scrutiny, the low pay, the extra hours, the grading, and the enslavement to standardized testing, and you have to ask yourself what college-educated professional would sign up for that? Crazy ones, that’s who.

You would not believe some of the things I have seen teachers do in the course of a school day. Shocking, I tell you. Shocking. Once, a teacher put money in a student’s lunch account because she heard him in the hall saying he didn’t have any money left to eat that day. Can you believe that?

There is a teacher at my school that gets jackets out of the lost and found items that are bound for a donation site, takes them home, washes them, mends them if they need it, and hands them out to kids in the fall and winter that aren’t wearing any warm clothes. Are you serious?

During October, when we sell BooGrams, I have witnessed teachers buying for kids that typically don’t get one and sending them anonymously. What?!

I have seen teachers buying school supplies out of their own pocket so that kids don’t have to worry about their parents being able to afford their supplies. Craziness!

There was a time when a teacher quietly handed a student a tissue and patted her on the back when she saw her crying. She didn’t call attention to the girl, but that girl knew her teacher had her back. What kind of a monster does that?

One teacher at a former school bought a new book for each child she had (this was a high school teacher), wrote a personal note in it, wrapped it, and placed them on their desks the last day of school. She made sure she bought books based on what she had learned about them throughout the year. It became a tradition that the kids looked forward to all year. What a lunatic!

Don’t these teachers know it’s all about getting summers off? Don’t they know they don’t get paid enough to try so hard? Don’t they know that anyone who went to school could do their job and they shouldn’t want good benefits or a reasonable pension?

They must think that personal investment in kids is a payoff all its own.

And it is.

Share the crazy things you’ve seen at your school in the comments!

The Long Walk to Thanksgiving: Surviving School in the Fall

The Long Walk to Thanksgiving

It’s raining. Again. I think we’ve all mutated and developed webbed feet because it. never. stops. Seriously, shout out to people that live in Seattle. You guys must have superhero levels of optimism and happiness to deal with as much rain as you do. Added to that, it’s cold, like record-breaking cold. Don’t get me wrong, I much prefer fall and winter to summer, but COME ON.

All of this is happening during that interminable stretch of time leading up to Thanksgiving break. You know what I’m talking about, right? If you’re not lucky enough to have fall break (which, thankfully, I do) September, October, and the first part of November feel like a long walk down a road with no end in sight. Normally this time doesn’t really bother me. Like I said, I get fall break so I really shouldn’t be complaining. But for some reason, this year is different. I really think the stinkin’ rain must have something to do with this dour mood I can’t seem to shake. I’m even doing some of my favorite lessons right now, so I’m enjoying what I’m teaching, and the kids seem to be getting into it as well. So what is this funk?

I have started this blog post several times, and deleted most of what I’ve written. I think my confidence in myself is shaken by things other than my job. I mean, my job is AMAZING, and I’m thankful everyday that I work at the school I do, so I guess it feels like whining to say things are feeling a bit off. My hubby is awesome, my kids are healthy and happy (I hope), so what the heck is wrong with me?

If you have any tried and true pick me ups, please share. I know that we can all benefit from little rays of sunshine in our days. How do you get through days that have got you dragging? I’d love to try what works for you!

I Don’t Wanna

I Don't Wanna

I’m sitting here, having just wolfed down my lunch in record time, trying to get inspired to write a post. Lately, I haven’t had much to say. It’s been one of those weeks where every time I cross something off my to do list, two or three things get added. Finalizing first quarter grades. Setting up material for tutorials when we get back from break. Hanging stuff on the StuCo bulletin board. Getting ready to sell Boo Grams. Making the Red Ribbon Week dress up posters. Buying the gift for our teacher of the month. Running to Mardel because our laminator broke.

I know, I know. Boo hoo, quit your crying, we’re all trying to keep our heads above water. All I can think is, “Thank the good Lord that fall break is next week”.

Speaking of which, is it bad that I just want to spend the days in my pajamas? That I don’t want to think about anything school-related? I don’t want to make grand plans to deep clean my house, give away all our extra crap to Goodwill, and plan out the next semester of school (since next quarter is already planned and done- don’t hate me). I don’t want to plan a mini vacay, a trip to the state fair, or even a trip to the grocery store.

I want to stare mindlessly at the TV while endless episodes of Supernatural unfold in front of me, and Netflix has to ask me if I’m still watching. I want to eat junk food and drink soda.

All right, all right, let’s be honest, there is no reason in the world that I couldn’t make all of this happen. Except one. Teacher Guilt. Do y’all feel me? It’s that evil little voice inside my head that comes out during any sort of break and whispers, “You should be doing something productive. You should not be sitting here wasting the days when there is so much to be done.” As an English teacher, the least I should be doing is reading a book, right? Well, I don’t wanna.

Normally I would say, “Girl, you need an attitude adjustment!”, but not this time. The big buzz right now is self-care, right? That’s what I’m going to try. It’s called fall BREAK, so I should give myself one. So when I’m sitting on my couch watching Sam and Dean gank another demon, I’m not going to be thinking about how the grout in the kitchen would look so much better if I cleaned it with a toothbrush. As I’m sitting around in my pajamas eating ice cream with crushed up fortune cookies, I’m not going to mentally rearrange the linen closet.

I don’t wanna. This is my fall break mantra.