Slice of Life Challenge #15

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*inspired by Kevin’s post

This week is a long one….we are in the midst of our spring parent-teacher conferences.  We see almost all of our parents during this round, because our students are finishing our their tenure at our intermediate school.  Come September, my students will move from the top of the food chain to the bottom, as new 7th graders at our township middle school.  Because our students will be mixed in with 2 other intermediate schools from our town, many of their parents come to us with concerns about their placement and social skills.

Each evening, before the first conference, our team comes together to discuss each child we will be meeting with that night.  As we switch classes, parents only meet with their child’s homeroom teacher.  Meeting as a team allows us to discuss each child’s progress and any concerns we might have.  The parents appreciate receiving a well-rounded look at their child, even if they can’t meet with each individual teacher.

This year, most of our students are doing very well.  The parents are happy, the students are happy, and the teachers are even happier.  Thus, our conferences have focused on the transition to middle school.  It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of these conversations, as parents admit their fears and concerns.  Usually, the fears and concerns are not related to their child, but instead focus on the parent. This is a big step- their child will be leaving the comfort of the elementary and intermediate schools.  With that transition come a lot of trappings and traps of being a teenager.  Suddenly, all the rumors and exaggerated stories passed down over the years come flooding back to the parents.  Will their child be bullied?  Will they have enough friends?  Will the parents be able to handle this big step in their child’s life?

We have tears.  Many, many times we have tears.  But they are tears that fall over proud smiles.  Their baby is growing up….middle school leads to high school.  High school leads to college.  It all seems to happen in a blink of an eye.  And our conferences our the leaping point for many of these parents.  We are lucky to be a part of such an special part of their lives.

Slice of Life Challenge #14

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“All faculty please report to the faculty room for an emergency meeting.  An association meeting.”

The secretary’s voice jolted me out of my morning routine.  Like myself, most of my team mates were copying or setting up for the day.  The sighs and groans echoed down the hallway as we heard the announcement.  This was not an auspicious way to start out a week full of parent-teacher conferences.  8am emergency meetings usually don’t leave us feeling happy and content.  In fact, they usually rile us up and put a significant damper on the day.

As we began trudging down the hallway, carrying binders, do-nows, and other miscellaneous papers to run off, we tried to come up with a reason for this emergency meeting.  Working without a contract, we frequently have these types right-before-the morning bell meetings or right-after-dismissal meetings.  They usually involve updates on action committee meetings or other union news.  Neither of these leave us feeling satisfied.

Approaching the faculty room door, I could hear laughter inside.  Beside me, two of my team mates were discussing March Madness.  As we walked into the room I was greeted by a sea of green, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.  My colleagues were crowded in the room, seated at a few of our lunch tables.  Everyone was smiling and sharing stories from their weekend.  And the best part?  A surprise St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, complete with green bagels!  This was no typical emergency meeting!

Not the typical association meeting at all.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson

Leepike Ridge first came to my attention over the summer, when I read a review on a long-forgotten blog. Every so often I would search for it in a local bookstore, but it was never in-stock. I was again intrigued when it was nominated for the middle-grade Cybils and spent some more time searching for it. Finally, my wonderful media specialist ordered it for our school library. As soon as it was cataloged, covered, and put into circulation I snapped it up!

This is an awesome book! First of all, N.D. Wilson can write. I started out flagging the various passages that thrilled me in one way or another, but quickly ran out of steam. I was flagging something on every page! His sensory details, similes, metaphors, and all-around descriptions are mesmerizing. Take a moment and savor this, one of my favorite descriptions:

“After a few mouthfuls of moon-flavored air, even the stubbornly drowsy can find themselves wide-eyed. Tom was hardly drowsy, and he took more than a few mouthfuls. By the time he had reached the base of the rock, his senses were heightened nearly to the point of bursting. All of the normal noises of life were gone, leaving behind the secretive sounds, the shy sounds, the whispers and conversations of moss disputing with grass over some soft piece of earth, or the hummingbirds snoring…”

Just WOW. And every passage is like this! Even better, every passage is like while still being extremely readable and not overly academic. There are certain books that I consider well-written but I can not get a single child to pick up and read. They are too heavy-armed for many of my students. However, I know this will not be the case with Wilson’s novel. I’ve already recommended it to one of my students, a great adventure-lover.

Now for the story….Tom is a kid. He lives on top of a rock, in an old house that’s literally chained to the ground. He’s not too thrilled that his mom is considering marrying her boyfriend, Jeff, a teacher from his school. When a new refrigerator is delivered on the same day that his mother ponders accepting Jeff’s proposal, Tom takes the large box and sets off sailing down the creek that runs through his yard. Rebellious and angry, he rides the current for miles, eventually falling asleep. He awakens when the water becomes rough and he is suddenly pulled under a ridge and into the bowels of the mountain. He is alone, and trapped. Save for a dog and a corpse to keep him company….

I hesitate to summarize anymore of the plot for fear of spoilers. Tom is brave, scared, brilliant, naive, and in a million other ways a normal eleven year old boy. He is Robinson Crusoe. He is Odysseus. He is MacGuyver. He is eleven.

 

This is an adventure story; an Indiana Jones for a new generation, and Odyssey for a new century. I highly recommend it!

 

N.B. How can you not love a book that begins with one of the greatest leads I have ever encountered?

 

In the history of the world there have been lots of onces and lots of times, and every time has had a once upon it.Most people will tell you that the once upon a time happened in a land far, far away, but it really depends on where you are. The once upon a time may have been just outside your back door. It may have been beneath your very feet. It might not have been in a land at all but deep in the sea’s belly or bobbing around on its back.

 

 

Poetry

I am sitting here, trying to plan for April. In reading workshop we will be studying the Holocaust and reading Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic.  I began reviewing my great big binder this weekend and I have a rough sketch of my unit.  I plan to spend spring break finalizing my plans and gathering up any more materials that I might need.  I feel confident and this is one of my favorite units to teach. It is also one of the most important, I feel.

In writing workshop, I am planning to study poetry. I have been reading Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School by Georgia Heard and getting some great ideas.  Right now, I am struggling to find a way to start.  I want to really pull my kids in, start with a bang.  I know that my first lesson can make or break te unit because they have a lot of preconceived notions about poetry.  Thankfully, we do a monthly poetry museum where they bring in a poem of their choice and share it with the class.  But of course, I know they won’t make the connection between that and the genre study on poetry.

I am putting a call out to the educational blogosphere- D=does anyone have a great way to begin a unit on poetry?  Or any recommendations on other professional resources?  My biggest problem is finding something grade appropriate.  A lot of the poetry lessons and resources I find are aimed at K-3.  I am interested in 6-8, if at all possible.

Slice of Life Challenge #13

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I have an addictive personality- my vices are many.  Not the average vices of a 324-yr old, though.  I am obsessed with office and school supplies.  Post-its, pens, notebooks, markers, pencils, the list goes on and on.  One of my favorite store is OfficeDepot because of their phenomenal clearance section.  In the past I have purchased Post-it notes for $0.25.  And Post-it notes are my worst vice.  Well, Post-its and Moleskines.

For the past week I have been planning a trip to OfficeDepot because I hadn’t been there in a while.  This morning I discovered that this week’s circular has a coupon for $10 off $25 which also made me excited.  Thankfully, I discovered the coupon before heading to the store and not after it, like I usually do.

Upon entering the store I made a beeline to the left-hand corner in the front, the bright red signs and exclamation points drawing me in like a moth to the flame.  This was a particularly good day for clearance!  There were Crayola art tools for $2, 5-packs of bubble mailers for $1, Expo marker holders for $2, calendars for $2, and much more!  I began pulling items off the shelves, balancing them in my arms.  Soon enough, I realized I would need a hand cart- I couldn’t keep carrying all of the items I was grabbing!

Bubble mailers, check.  Post-its, check.  Crayola Explosions for my little sister, check.  Expo case, check.  My hand cart was quickly filling up.  I was attempting to reach a total of $25 so that I could use my coupon, but it wasn’t happening.   I just kept adding to my order and I still wasn’t close enough!

Shopping for office supplies relaxes me.  And I love new supplies for school.  It reminds me of the first day of school, back when I was a student.  Walking out of the store with my two ginormous bags, I smiled.  This was a great start to my week!

For future reference

This idea was mentioned on the Middle School Lit listserv and I LOVE it!  I am saving it here for possible use next year.

Middle School Lit is a great listserv for upper-grade/intermediate teachers.  I tend to lurk, but I get a lot of great ideas and inspiration from the amazing teachers who post.  I highly recommend joining if you teach 5th grade and up!

“Lowry’s “Giver,” “Gathering Blue” and “Messenger”–this is during our
novel study unit. Students ‘draw books’ out of a hat==1/2 read The
Giver, while the other half read GB. We all then read Messenger, and
in the end, a Giver student and a GB student have to come together to
create a culminating project over Messenger. It’s pretty neat how they
get excited to explain how their book plays a part in Messenger. ” – user glfprncs

Slice of Life Challenge #12

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All week, we have been planning our Friday night dinner.  We normally eat out or get take-out on Friday nights because I tutor from 6-7pm.  It’s just easier when I know I don’t have to do the cooking and the clean-up.

Earlier this week we found a local coupon book that had somehow slipped our minds.  The coupons expire on April 5th, and we do hate to waste them.  ;)  We flipped through the booklet and determined which ones we could reasonably get through before the expiration date.  One of my favorite restaurants was included- La Rosa’s Chicken.  It’s like a hometown Boston Market with delicious comfort food.

This evening I finished tutoring and was very excited. After driving up the street and ordering the meal, we brought it home and set the table.  The warm smell of chicken drifted out of the bag and filled the kitchen.  I scooped a large spoonful of rich, creamy, decadent macaroni & cheese and sighed contentedly.

Is there anything better than a meal full of comfort food……..that you didn’t have to cook yourself?

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