June 2017: What I’m Into

June. proper noun. The first burst of sweet summertime.

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June and its long, sweet days have slipped away. To where, I don’t know.  Why they had to leave so fast, I’m not sure.

This month has been jammed full of events and errands and emotions. Blogging fell off my radar, for a time, and that’s okay. Ideas are percolating on these slow summer afternoons. I’m learning to wait for them, to listen, and to know when to do the work of drawing them out. We’ll see what they hold.

In the meantime, here’s some of what’s been happening in June.

Reading

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Not mentioned – this very long tome, which has been abandoned for now.

A Man Called Ove – Fredrick Backman. I adored this book. The story of Ove, a widowed curmudgeon, is unexpectedly hilarious and tender and raw. However, do not listen to the last five minutes of the audiobook while running errands. You will be crying too hard to go into Trader Joe’s. Or so a friend tells me.

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas. This YA novel tells the story of Starr, an African American girl who is in the car when her childhood friend is shot and killed by a police officer. The book is timely and brings perspective to a situation that’s so often exploded by the media until the people closely linked to the event appear to be public figures giving interviews, rather than real people. It was engrossing. However, I do think that the book tried to do too much. It felt like the author wanted Starr to face every possible hurdle an African American teenager might encounter, which made some of the issues too thinly addressed. I would have preferred deeper insight into just a few issues, but I think it’s still worth reading.

The Cruelest Month – Louise Penny. This is the third mystery in the Inspector Gamache series, a delightful mystery series set in a little Quebec town. The murder in this book was creepier than in the first two, but I enjoyed how the author continued to deepen the bigger mystery that spans across the entire series. I’m excited to dive into the next one.

As You Like It – William Shakespeare. I much prefer Shakespeare’s comedies to his other works, and this one was great fun. There are a number of famous lines (“All the world’s a stage,” for example), and Rosalind is a fantastic character.

Currently reading: A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles. The Weight of Glory – C.S. Lewis.

 

Watching

Wonder Woman. I’m not a big superhero movie person, but I did enjoy this one. It portrayed of a strong woman who is motivated by love and avoided slamming the audience with a feminist agenda. Gal Gadot is a wonder. Bonus: the Amazon general is played by Robin Wright, who is both Princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride and Claire Underwood from House of Cards. Who knew?

The Great British Baking Show. I’m nearing the end of season 1. In a particularly tense episode, two bakers help another finish when she’s in a panic, and a shot of two women holding hands in support during the final reveal made me cry. I love this show.

Much Ado About Nothing. This is one of my absolute favorite plays, and Emma Thompson is young and hotblooded in this version.

 

Listening

This podcast explains one expert teacher’s views on how to deal with rude, disrespectful students. It merits a re-listen right before school starts.
Loving

Jockey wicking slipshorts. Perhaps this is too personal. But it’s a great discovery, so I’ll share anyway. Unlike my old volleyball spandex that I usually wear under dresses, these slipshorts don’t ride up and help prevent obnoxious leg sweat. Find ’em at Target.

This post is old, but I laughed out loud multiple times while reading it.

A makeup tutorial from a real person who forgets to wash their makeup brushes? Yes please.

Volstead’s Eporium. Thanks to a teacher friend, we discovered a little-known bar that, like a speakeasy, is completely unmarked, doesn’t have a website, and is hidden in a back alley. Once you’ve been let in and gone down a sketchy stairway, suddenly you enter the 1920s. Everything is decadent, and entire rooms are hidden behind moving bookshelves.

 

Doing

Celebrating Adam’s birthday! We got panekoeken, explored the Minnesota Zoo, and capped it off the day with a fancy dinner at The Lexington. I’m so glad he was born.

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Attending women’s retreat. My brother spends his summers at a Bible camp, and my mom, sister, and some women from my hometown church spent a refreshing weekend there. The weather cooperated enough for us to spend some time on the water and for three of us young, brave souls to attempt to sleep outside in hammocks.

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Watching An American in Paris at the Ordway. The show felt like spring and magic. We also got appetizers at Meritage, a fancy French restaurant. Not despising beef tartare made me feel very French indeed.

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Celebrating a rainy Father’s Day at the lake. It was a quiet, slow weekend, but we at least fit in an inaugural boat ride!

Attending the first of many summer weddings and wedding receptions. The wedding was held outdoors next to a creek, and it was entirely lovely. Congrats to Jack and Kaela!

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Running. Adam and I are still committed to running a half marathon. Despite one 5-mile run that left me convinced my knees would never be the same, things are progressing well. My knees have recovered, and I’m rediscovering that a runner’s high is actually a thing.

The school cycle continues! I finished up school midway through June, praise the Lord. I had one week of freedom (read: one week of catching up on everything I don’t do during the school year, like babysitting and sweeping the kitchen floor) before summer school began. Now I’m teaching summer school for 5 weeks…just not in the capacity I expected. Based on student class sizes, I’ve been moved from teaching ESL to assisting a 7th and 8th grade math class. Yep. Anyone who knew my attitude towards math in 10th grade is laughing right now. I’m getting good classroom management – and fractions – practice.

 

What are you into right now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I’m Into: May 2017

May. proper noun. It brings flowers. Specifically lilacs. Hallelujah.

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Spring has officially sprung! Here’s what I’ve been loving.

Reading

Lila – Marilynne Robinson. I adored Gilead, and this companion book was not a disappointment. Marilynne Robinson is a master. Her characters are ordinary and real and beautiful, and her rich, quiet storytelling is a treat. I can’t wait to read her others.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Anna Fowler. I found Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald intriguing, but I didn’t know much about them before reading this book. Their romance is dazzling and more heartbreaking than I realized. This story of their relationship, told from Zelda’s perspective, provides an interesting contrast to the vision of Scott that comes through in his writings.

The Tempest – Shakespeare. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever read Shakespeare’s full volumes, but listening to audiobooks of his works is good mental exercise. I can’t say that this play is my favorite – it’s difficult for a plot to hold much suspense when a sorcerer is controlling the actions of everyone who is shipwrecked on his island – but I loved hearing the line“they did confine him…Into a cloven pine; within which rift imprisoned, he didst painfully remain,” and gasping aloud at the depth in the book A Wrinkle in Time, which references The Tempest multiple times.

Out of My Mind – Sharon Draper. This story follows Melody, a young girl with cerebral palsy. She is brilliant, but is confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak. Throughout the book, Melody learns to talk and prove herself. Melody’s voice felt authentic, I enjoyed hearing from her perspective, and the story challenged me to make sure that my perceptions of people are fair. However, if you’ve read it, tell me your thoughts on the ending. I’m conflicted.

The False Prince – Jennifer Nielsen. Sage is taken from an orphanage and gets wrapped up in a plot to impersonate a supposedly dead prince. This book started out okay and got better as the story progressed – it had some major plot twists that had one of my students checking in with me daily to see how I was progressing and whether I had gotten to the exciting parts yet. Reader-ly middle school boys seem to love this one.

Currently reading: The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas; A Man Called Ove – Frederick Buechner (audiobook); The Weight of Glory – C.S. Lewis

Watching

The African Queen and Casablanca. Apparently it was the month for introducing Adam to Humphrey Bogart. These classics are two of my favorites, and everyone should watch them.

 The Great British Baking Show. This show is an utter delight. Brits bake in a tent on the countryside. Picture bunting and British accents and shots of lambs in between shots of cake. The competition is also the kindest I’ve ever watched – these people are from all walks of life, from construction to graphic design to homemaking – and they are more supportive of each other than any other competition I’ve watched.

Listening

Blue Babies Pink podcast (and blog). Brett Trapp shares his “Southern coming out story” in episodes on his blog. He also has a podcast where he reads the posts. I’m not too far into the series, but both are fantastic. Brett is real and honest and tells his story – one that needs to be heard.

What Should I Read Next podcast. I like Anne Bogel (or Modern Mrs. Darcy) and her reading guides, and I’ve known about this podcast for ages, but I didn’t check it out until this month. Guests share 3 books they love, one book they hate, and what they’re currently reading, and Anne matches them with 3 books she thinks they might enjoy. I’ve picked up some fun recommendations, but I also just really love hearing people talk about books.

Loving

I swear, this article could have been written about my students. I recently had two of them tell me that if I get married, they need to be invited to my wedding. Another asked me, in the middle of silent reading, what my favorite stores are.

This necklace in white. I think I’ve worn it at least 3 times a week since receiving it. It goes with everything.

Running. Sometimes. Adam convinced me to run a half-marathon at the end of July, and our training has officially begun. I am currently “enjoying” anything around 3 miles, but the long runs (my longest is 5 miles thus far) feel really, really long. Don’t tell me how many miles I have to add by race day. I’m not thinking about it.

Sunshine! The warm temps are finally here, and it’s all I can do to not wear shorts to school every day.

Doing

Attending a Kentucky Derby party. The race, was, well, shorter than I expected. But hey, it’s a great excuse to dress nicely and eat food with friends.

Watching La Boheme. Adam and I attended a performance of this opera at the Ordway. The first few acts are sad, but the last moments of the last act? Epically tragic. RENT is based on this opera, for context.

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Exploring the Twin Cities. In one weekend, we were able to hit up an estate sale on Summit Avenue and wander through an open house of a mansion that’s for sale. My standards for future houses have risen dramatically. We also stopped by the Grand Ole Creamery for pizza and ice cream (and to smell the homemade waffle cones. Delightful.)

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The parasol did not come home with me. Maybe it should have, since I got sunburned later that day.

 

Hosting an after-church tea with friends. I learned how to make scones for the occasion. They’re not that difficult. It’s a dangerous realization.

Celebrating Andrew’s graduation! My youngest brother graduated from high school this month. I still can’t handle the fact that he’s not 13 anymore! We all enjoyed listening to his trumpet solo during the band’s senior song, eating at the s’mores bar (I’m still thinking wistfully about brownies topped with marshmallow and a dark chocolate sea salt caramel) and catching up with family. Unfortunately, my sister was stranded overseas after flight cancellations and the party wasn’t complete without her!

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DSC_0970.jpgStarting off the lake season. We were ambitious with the paddleboards and tried to go around the lake…only to get stranded when the wind picked up and I panicked at the size of the waves. Lessons learned? Accept that falling in is not the end of the world (even when fully clothed), and Minnesota lake people are nice when you show up wet and bedraggled on their porch.

School. Almost. Done. This seems about accurate at this point.

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What have you been into this month?

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Send-Off: What I Wish My Students Knew

Send-Off. noun. Parting words; good wishes for a person starting on another journey.

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They warned me.

They said that Gilead was quiet, uneventful. Just an old man reflecting on his life, leaving letters for his son. Don’t expect much plot. Don’t even expect chapters. They were right.

It was beautiful.

In Gilead, the novel by Marilynne Robinson, John Ames is dying. He leaves behind a young wife and son, and he wants his child to know stories that the boy is not yet ready to hear. He wants to pass on the fear of his grandfather’s one-eyed gaze, the emptiness of the weeks-long walk with his father across the prairie, the simple and deep love for the light bathing the church pews in the morning, the feeling of a baby’s brow beneath his hand. His words breathe forgiveness, and loving friendship, and contentment with long-anticipated family, and gentle lament for an unknown future.

I’ve found myself returning to this book, in ways literal and figurative. The companion book Lila is now in my hands, its pages rounding out the story of John Ames’s wife. His letters, also, roll around in my head. The idea of thoughts shared for later, for when your absence is felt, intrigues me.

I don’t plan on dying anytime soon. But our school year is slipping away, quickly. I will soon say goodbye to the students who have filled my classroom. Like all endings, it is bittersweet.

This is the first class that’s been mine. They know to get their journals on Wednesdays, to find library passes in the checked box, to grab a book reviews on the front table. I’ve tested my nonverbal signals and exit directions and wait time on them. They laugh at mentions of Cookie Monster and chicken. They groan every day when, after interrupting me, they must return quietly to their seats before I dismiss them for lunch. One kid knows me well enough to ask me to solve a math problem so he can laugh at the confusion on my face, my eyebrows scrunched in concentration. Another says that she’s adopted the hand gestures I unconsciously make.

We might not notice each others’ absences right away. It’s likely that they won’t think much on me after June 10. They will move on to eighth grade, then to high school, then to colleges and jobs and children of their own. They will have many more teachers, and the memory of that one tall one from 7th grade will fall away.

My memories of them will fade too. In 20 years, I will have forgotten some of their names. I might not remember the tiny gymnastics leotard one student showed us from 2nd grade, that one family endured a house fire while their student was in my class, that one brought donuts to celebrate her birthday, that one gave a speech on getting lost in life and cried, and that another girl that ran across the room to hug her.

I hope they still read, after they’ve left my room. Some have learned to love books this year. One boy wrote a note telling me so. One girl didn’t consider herself a reader a few months ago, and she’s now reading 2,000 pages a week. It’s easier to decide that you’ll enjoy the 20 minutes we spend reading each day, I guess. Maybe having a teacher shoving book recommendations at you helps, too. For those who don’t love it (because they are legion, and they are loud), maybe, just once this summer, or next year, or on break from college, they’ll shut the screen and crack a book. It will do them good.

I hope they think, too. Much of school get it done, and not think. It’s true in my classroom too often. May their curiosity not be ruined and their minds not be dulled by it. When they can vote, as some of them are so excited to do, I pray that they do their research, that they consider carefully. If given the chance, they ought to vote for my student who read the Constitution one day during independent reading. I sure would. When seeking advice, may they turn to trusted authors and advisors. They will check the credibility of their sources, we can only pray.

I hope they know that they’ll make it through these awkward years. They’re sprouting into teenagers before my eyes. One boy began the year as a kid, who apologized for talking too much and thought school was “kinda fun.” He’s now a teen, with an attitude around his friends. I know his kindness and curiosity will reappear, even in public, someday. The others will learn how to apply eyeliner correctly and to wear pants other than leggings and to turn off Clash of Clans and to not care if others think they’re “cringey.” I have faith.

I hope they know they are valued. In their writing and speeches and their book choices, I see the people they are becoming. They are empathetic. They are funny. They are optimistic (occasionally). They want to be computer engineers and athletic trainers and nurses and authors and fathers and mothers. When they are absent, we notice. Their lives are precious. Even when they feel forgotten, they are not.

These are the things lost in the pre-adolescent brain fog, in my tiredness on Tuesday mornings, in the general insanity of May. I can barely make them stop talking after lunch, much less communicate that I care about more than how many pages they read last week and how many missing assignments they have.

We still have time before we part ways. (Too much, it feels some days.) I pray that in these last lingering days of the school year, in the hours of time we still share, they see a glimpse of truth. Even when they’ve forgotten The Outsiders and my presence and the hush of our room during silent reading, may they remember what I tried, and often failed to teach: Their ideas are important. Their minds are worth cultivating. They matter.

 

What I’m Into: April 2017

April. proper noun. Its showers are supposed to bring flowers. We’ll see.

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It’s cliche, I know, but where has April gone? I blinked, and now I’m mystified as I write May on the calendar. It’s been a mixed month – spring is slow in coming, and there have been some anxiety-inducing decisions stretching through this month. But Christ has risen. Though it’s easy to make that cliche, the magnitude of it has been hitting me in this Easter season. We are saved. We have hope. Our lives are worth celebrating.

Here’s what I’ve been loving this month.

Reading

The Four Loves – C.S. Lewis. There’s a reason that this is a classic. C.S. Lewis expounds on the four types of love (affection, friendship, erotic love, and charity) and why they are all important. The charity chapter was most mind-blowing to me. A favorite quote: “All who have good parents, wives, husbands, or children, may be sure that at some times – and perhaps at all times in respect of some one particular trait or habit – they are receiving Charity, are loved not because they are lovable but because Love Himself is in those who love them.” There are so many of these in this slim book – I need to read it again, soon.

The Boys in the Boat – Daniel James Brown. I adore this book. That’s in no small part because I listened to the audiobook, and Edward Hermann (the grandpa in Gilmore Girls) has the perfect voice to narrate this blend of history and rowing strategy and narrative. I am now half in love with all of the hardworking, dedicated boys of the 1936 crew team, and joining a rowing team has never had more appeal.

The Sun is Also a Star – Nicola Yoon. Recommendations for this book are all over the place, and I was a little scared to read it because I didn’t know if it would live up to the hype. It did. It chronicles one day in the life of Natasha and Daniel, two very different immigrant teens who meet on the streets of New York. Their story was unlikely and beautiful and heartbreaking and reminded me of how much our actions matter and influence those around us.

Very Married – Katherine Willis Pershey. This book is a sort of marriage memoir, with reflections on the beauty and struggles of lifelong commitment. Each chapter covers one aspect of marriage and offers stories, musings, and advice. I would love a bit more depth and length – sometimes it felt like Pershey just touched on a topic before moving on – but it was helpful to hear very real stories about married life.

Mosquitoland – David Arnold. In this book, a young girl runs away from her dad and stepmother in “Mosquitoland,” and boards a bus in search of the mother she left behind. It didn’t quite meet my expectations, but I did adore the characters, especially the friends Mim made along her journey. The empathetic, real portrayal of mental illness is also powerful.

Winter – Marissa Meyer. I finally finished the last book in the Lunar Chronicles. I’m glad to be done reading the series and know how it ended… but it seemed like Meyer was glad to be done writing the series, too. Overall assessment of the series? Great and fun and clever. Overall assessment of this installment? Meh.

Counting by 7s – Holly Goldberg Sloan. Willow, a super smart and socially awkward preteen, learns one day that her parents have been killed in a car crash. This book follows the unlikely generosity that helps her survive. The story is tender and sweet.

 

Watching

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Though this movie was a good deal creepier than my highly sensitive self expected, I loved the magical twist on 1920s New York and the subtle references to the world of Harry Potter. I’m curious what they’ll do with the sequel!

 

Listening

Spotify Daily Mix. I just found this Spotify feature, with individualized playlists that combine songs you’ve liked with other music of a similar genre. Yay for not making decisions.

The original version of this song got stuck in my head after every Zumba class (which is problematic when you only know 7 of the words…). But I have to admit, I love the Justin Bieber in this remix…

 

Loving

This video makes me laugh.

Olive green pants. I struggle dressing for spring in Minnesota, when boots feel too wintery but it’s still 38º on morning bus duty. These have given me a springier option than my constant black pants. Pseudo-neutrals for the win.

Salsa dancing. Adam and I finally tried out our moves at a dance this month. We are, well, not Latin. But it was fun!

Black Coffee & Waffle Bar. Leslie Knope would approve of this place. They understand the necessity of adequate whipped cream.

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Doing

Participating in a panel of new teachers at my alma mater. We spoke to student teachers about the hiring process. It was fun to hear the perspectives of a few teaching friends, and it also reminded me just how much I’ve learned in the short time that I’ve been teaching.

Dress shopping. I am lucky enough to get to be a bridesmaid in a college friend’s wedding this fall. We picked out our dresses this month, and I am now even more excited for their wedding!

Taking a family trip to Chicago. My sister had her final grad school interview over Easter weekend, so my family drove to the windy city to spend the weekend with her. We packed our little vacation full, walking over 20,000 steps each day. Highlights include the Tilt window at the John Hancock observatory, the beluga whales at the Shedd Aquarium, the mummy exhibit at the Field Museum, and the limo ride we took when we were too tired to walk back to our hotel. (Yes, you read that right. We rode in a limo. We were not at all chill about it.) We also fully recommend the CityPass, a booklet of tickets for the most popular museums and experiences in the city. It made everything, especially the long lines at the Willis Tower observatory, faster. We finished off the weekend by celebrating Easter at Moody Church, which had a full orchestra and choir for the occasion.

 

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Note the four blond adults staring enraptured at an animal spouting water…that’s us.

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We also got matching tattoos. They were temporary.

Attending a concert at Orchestra Hall with friends. One of our favorite double date couples invited us out on the town for a birthday celebration, and we loved eating dinner and listening to enchanting music with them. Ravel’s Ma Mere l’Oye, or Mother Goose, collection is dreamy.

Finally, as always, teaching. We finished off our final session of parent-teacher conferences and are on the last leg of our year. I have no idea how we will fit in everything left to cover. None. We are currently finishing up a public speaking unit. I’ve learned even more about my students by listening to them share about items that represent them – it’s a good time of year for a reminder that they are complex human beings. My Advanced kids are also practicing mock debates. So far, the most memorable thing they’ve learned has come from a debate we watched to study technique. One of the debators said that television can be a positive influence because Cookie Monster teaches us that “cookies are a sometimes snack, not an always snack.” I have since heard this line once a day. I am clearly an influential teacher.

 

What have you been into this month?

 

 

What I’m Into: March 2017

March. proper noun. The month in which it’s sorta spring and sorta not.

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March is always a weird month of transition in Minnesota. We’re dying for spring, but the temps rise from bitter to mild to warm oh-so-slowly. We’re getting there.

Below is what I’ve been loving in this current in-between season.

Reading

Crossing to Safety – Wallace Stegner. This book tells the story of two young married couples, the friendship that forms between them, and how it shifts as they age. The narrator, at one point in the story, says, “How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these?” I’m not sure how Stegner does, but his writing is gorgeous and provocative. I loved this one.

Gilead – Marilynne Robinson. This is another quiet, striking book. I had been warned when starting Gilead that there are no chapters and it is simply a collection of letters written by an old minister to his son. That’s it. Since I was armed with those expectations, this book seemed meditative and beautiful, and Robinson weaves subtle suspense as she reveals events one small moment at a time. I finished it and added Home and Lila, its companion books, to my to-read list.

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline. This book begins in a dystopian world where everything is falling to pieces, so everyone spends most of their time in a virtual reality called OASIS. The inventor of OASIS dies and leaves his fortune to the first person who can work through a series of clues to find an Easter egg hidden in the vast virtual world. Wade, known as Parzival online, is one of the people who joins in that quest. It’s not my typical style, but the concept was intriguing (and frighteningly possible), and the storytelling was well done. All the praise I’ve been hearing of it is justified.

Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher. Do not start this book unless you have no other plans for the night so you can read the entire thing. I started this during 6th hour at school (when I’m not conferencing with students during silent reading time, I “model good reading habits” by reading alongside them. That is not an excuse for wasting time at work. They genuinely read better when I’m reading at the same time)… and had finished it by 7:00 that same night. Anyway. A high school boy receives a mysterious set of cassette tapes. As he starts to listen, he realizes that they are the recordings of a girl who committed suicide, detailing the “thirteen reasons why” she allowed herself to make that decision. He is one of them. The story, told in both Hannah and Clay’s voices, is heartbreaking and suspenseful and completely worth reading. There’s a movie of this story coming out soon that I will not watch because it would make me weep copiously.

Currently reading: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradley. The Four Loves – C.S. Lewis. The Boys in the Boat (audiobook) – Daniel James Brown; narrated by Edward Hermann.

 

Watching

Beauty and the Beast. Twice. I’ve been anticipating this movie for literal years – it’s my favorite Disney princess story, and I adore Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. Overall, it was a delight. The new music was perfection, and the world they created was enchanting. That said, I also have to admit that Emma Watson’s portrayal of Belle didn’t seem quite as timeless as I had hoped. It felt more like I was watching Emma Watson, not her character, avoid Gaston and discover the Beast’s library. Recommended anyway.

 

Listening

Ed Sheeran’s new album Divide. His songwriting is so stellar. I especially love this.

 

I’ve also been listening to this, plus the rest of the new Beauty and the Beast soundtrack:

 

Loving – Spring break edition

The highlight of my March? Adam and I flew to Florida for my spring break, and I loved pretty much everything about it.

1st love: the beach.

On our first day in FL, we headed to the Tampa/Clearwater area, rented kayaks on Honeymoon Island, and paddled/waded across the bay to Caladesi Island. Even though it was the height of spring break, Caladesi was quiet and perfect. We packed a picnic, took our time lazing on the beach, and explored the mangroves by kayak. We did go to Clearwater Beach after the sun set to check out Frenchy’s South Beach Café for dinner, and to be very thankful that we chose a less rollicking place to spend the day.

 

2nd love: THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER.

IMG_7046.jpgIt deserves all caps. I love Disney, I do, but I think the Wizarding World may truly the most magical place on earth. Adam said that he has never seen me so excited in all of our relationship as when I was sprinting from the gate of Universal Studios to Diagon Alley. And I maintain that my fangirling was entirely justified. They have butterbeer (my definitive ranking of butterbeer varieties: 1st place – hot. 2nd place – cold. 3rd place – ice cream. 4th place – frozen.).

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They also have Hogwarts. And a fire-breathing dragon. And a freaking train station. And Honeyduke’s. The details are all perfection, and I want to go back next week.

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3rd love: manatees.

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We capped off our trip by an early morning trip to Crystal River to snorkel with manatees. Manatees are massive – 10 feet long and over 1000 pounds. I didn’t fully appreciate these facts until a manatee surfaced right in front of my face. We only saw two, but I would absolutely do this again.

So many thanks to my aunt and uncle for hosting us and making our trip extra awesome!

 

Doing

Road tripping to Madison, WI. My sister is interviewing for grad school, and her first interview was at UW-Madison. I joined her on a quick one-day road trip, which meant I had lots of time to explore the city while she did professional things. Even in the dead of late winter, the Olbrecht Botanical Garden and Conservatory was beautiful, and definitely worth another trip. (Imagine if the picture at the top of the post and the one below were green!) We also explored A Room of One’s Own, an independent bookstore with an excellent selection.

 

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Celebrating Brita! My sister turned 22 this month, and we had a weekend long celebration in her honor. On Friday, we went with my brother to our alma mater’s performance of Mary Poppins, which was an utter delight. My favorite moment was Bert tap dancing on the ceiling during the Chim Chim Cheree number. On Saturday, we ate donuts and did a girls’ viewing of Beauty and the Beast, went shopping, and ate Sebastian Joe’s ice cream cake (one of the best desserts on the planet). Sunday brought waffles and thrifting. Yay, Brita. Thank you for letting us eat sugar in your honor.

Attending Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring at Orchestra Hall. It was part of their Symphony in 60 series, where the piece is introduced with a quick lecture, then performed. Rite of Spring is, put bluntly, jarring and weird. But it also changed the face of music and has some fascinating moments. This format worked perfectly to help us get the most out of the performance.

And finally, school is still in session. Spring break kicked off the third trimester, and we’re onto the final (admittedly long) stretch before summer! We’re working through myths and legends (in the midst of MCA preparation) with both of my classes, and I have a new appreciation for just how wrong the Disney version of Hercules is.

 

What have you been into this month? Head to Leigh Kramer’s link-up to see other views of March, too!

 

 

What I’m Into: February 2017

February. proper noun. This year, a month of seasonal weariness and unseasonably warm temperatures.

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The beginning of February is always depressing. Winter seems endless and dark and freezing. Yet, the end of this month always sneaks up on me. Here we are, in Lent, almost to the last third of the school year, with longer, warmer days approaching. I can’t complain.

As always, I discovered some wonderful things this month and shared time with some wonderful people. Read on for recommendations, or head to Leigh Kramer’s link-up to discover more.

Reading

This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald. I will admit: I very nearly abandoned this book. Like most of F. Scott’s work, I am glad that I finished it, but I didn’t necessarily enjoy the process. This book tells the story how Amory, a young man born into wealth, moves from Minneapolis to an elite high school to Princeton to the real world. He finds and loses love and life’s meaning. A deep emptiness prevails in F. Scott’s writing, but his descriptions do make me stop, reach for a pencil, and underline, hoping I’ll someday write so aptly.

The Gospels in Our Image: An Anthology of Twentieth Century Poetry Based on Biblical Texts – edited by David Curzon. This collection of poems centers around biblical passages. I’m reading this as my morning devotional, and exploring more artistic interpretations of events like Jesus turning the water into wine at Cana is challenging but awakening. I’m also discovering that I’m a total nerd who very much likes poetry, and this helps read it more consistently.

March: Book 3 – Andrew Aydin and John Lewis. This is a graphic novel details John Lewis’s perspective on the march on Selma and the surrounding events. Though this is the 3rd book in the series by these collaborators, they don’t have to be read in order. This book challenged me in multiple ways: I don’t often read history or graphic novels, and this was an interesting combination of the two. I also wasn’t actively aware of how violent and life-threatening the work of the civil rights movement was. I highly recommend this, to students and adults.

Flora and Ulysses – Kate DiCamillo. I believe I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: I want to be Kate DiCamillo when I grow up. Her books have an innocent magic that I love as much now as I did when I was the age of her intended audience. Flora and Ulysses is a story of superheroes and unlikely friendships and poetry and love. It made me smile and tear up and text pictures of lines to Adam.

Cress – Marissa Meyer. This is the 3rd book in the Lunar Chronicles series, and I continue to love how Meyer twists traditional fairy tale characters and situations to fit a dystopian setting. I rarely read series, especially dystopian series, so that I plan to read the 4th book soon is high praise.

The Book Whisperer – Donalyn Miller. I read this in preparation to hear Donalyn speak. She believes strongly in the value of independent reading and student choice for creating lifelong readers who are engaged and in love with books. Ideas like this make me so excited.

A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson (audiobook). A man with little hiking experience decides to walk the entire Appalachian trail, with some gear and a great fear of bears and an unlikely trail companion who has even less hiking know-how. Bryson sprinkles facts about nature and the trail into his tales of long hikes and the thrill of restaurant days, so this was both entertaining and educational, and I know way more about death by hypothermia than I did before.

 

Watching

The Crown. We are almost done with the series, and I sort of don’t want it to end.

 

Listening

Ellie Holcomb – Find You Here. I play this song most mornings as I prep my classroom for the day.

Hearts & Colors – Rich Man.

Ed Sheeran. And all the covers, including this. Watch it until the end. Please.

Bonus: Is anyone else as delighted by this as I am?

 

Loving

Schmidt’s deodorant. I’m not super crunchy in my beauty product choices, but I can appreciate that this deodorant doesn’t have weirdo chemicals that may or may not have adverse side effects. The bergamot and lime also smells amazing and the thing actually works – and this is coming from someone who sweats enough that Secret is ineffective.

Trello. This website and app is hard to explain – it’s sort of like digital post-its that you can categorize and move around. Based on Kendra’s recommendation on The Lazy Genius blog, I’m using it primarily to organize my book lists, and it’s miraculous. The color coding and detail organizing possibilities make me swoon.

Zumba! Brita, my sister, and I have continued to shake our hips once a week. I don’t think our coordination has improved, but at least we’ve sweated and had fun.

Evening prayer. Adam and I joined an evening prayer group at the church we’re currently attending. As someone who was raised in a non-liturgical church, I continue to be surprised by the beauty of liturgy. Finding a community that prays together is also a delight.

 

Doing

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School. Right about now, I am celebrating my one year teaching anniversary. It feels rather anticlimactic. The kids have spring fever, and I feel like I’m barely hanging on to control. My brain feels like the desk above. I still don’t know how much talking is too much talking, how strictly to crack down on off-task behavior, and how high my expectations should be for how much we can get done in a day. But, on the bright side, these students continue to make me smile. We’ve nearly survived the trimester with argumentative essays and poetry – I think we’re going to make it. Having a day off for President’s Day helped, as did attending a workshop with Donalyn Miller.

Attending a Wild game – for the first time ever. We were in the nosebleeds but had a connection that got us into the club room between periods. It was definitely the way to go.

Hosting a Galentine’s Day brunch. Some friends came over to celebrate Galentine’s Day, and I like to believe Leslie Knope would be proud. Props to everyone who brought yummy food and to Ellen Degeneres for inventing Heads Up – she knew what she was doing.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day with Adam. He surprised me with Sunday brunch at the Nicollet Island Inn. On Valentine’s Day itself, we made dinner together and went to a dance lesson. I am very lucky to have him.

Attending a performance at Orchestra Hall with friends. Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony was the headlining piece, and it merits repeated listening.

Driving to Fargo and back in one day for a wedding. At least there was good company en route and at our destination. We did get stuck in a snowstorm on the way back – curse you, I-94 – but the audiobook of Macbeth got us through.

What have you been into this February?

Faithful: What Matters in Education (and Life)

faithful. adjective.”Thorough performance of a duty; steady in allegiance; reliable.”

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At the beginning of January, the teachers on my team analyzed the scores from our latest round of standardized testing. I was not entirely pleased. Not because proctoring tests is not exactly my favorite use of my time (ahem), but because there was more red in my results than I wanted to see.

I skedaddled back to my classroom and spent my prep comparing data and brainstorming how to bring nonfiction scores up and having a minor panic that I’m not an okay teacher and my lessons aren’t purposeful and I must have missed something crucial in college even though I didn’t skip class and maybe a real, qualified adult needs to be in my classroom at all times.

Then I forgot to go to a meeting, as one does.

After these solid affirmations of my competency, I turned on On Being for my commute. Krista Tippet interviewed Eugene Peterson, the pastor who translated The Message paraphrase of the Bible. Part of their conversation stuck with me:

“The tighter we cling to the norm of effectiveness, the smaller and smaller tasks we’re going to take on, because they’re the only ones with which you can be effective. But there has to be a standard that trumps effectiveness. And I have a word that I use for myself that helps me walk this path…that’s the word faithfulness. Faithfulness has to trump effectiveness.”

I cling, very tightly, to the norm of effectiveness.

I realized just how tightly again a few weeks later. My class was reading Arithmetic, a poem about the challenges of math. My quick pre-reading activity was having students discuss their least favorite class. That would get them engaged, I thought. Maybe it did. But as they talked, I heard what felt like a chorus of “ELA, ELA, ELA” across the classroom.

I brushed it off, at first. Later that evening, though, I realized how deeply their responses shook me when I turned teary and resistant to the idea of going to school in the morning. Was this not proof that all of my efforts were for naught? I was working late to grade, trying to plan things that seemed marginally interesting, and sharing snippets of my life so students could build relationships. If no one appreciated any of this, why was I showing up? No one was convinced that the way poets play with language is amazing. No one valued silent reading time. No one liked it. I had failed.

Let’s pause and summarize: I am a teacher who believes that in order to be effective, I must have stellar test scores and all 98 of my students must love every minute of my class. In addition, based on the educational theories I believe, most class time should be spent challenging students to use higher-order thinking to develop real-life reading and writing skills while also making them better citizens.

We have a problem.

I cannot do that effectively. No way.

Recognizing this leaves me leaning heavy on Eugene Peterson’s words: faithfulness has to trump effectiveness.

I still want to know what will create through the roof MCA scores. I want to know how much those scores actually matter. I want to know how to help struggling readers love my class, when every assignment requires intense effort from them. If I knew those answers, and had mind controlling abilities, I might be an awfully effective teacher.

But having all those answers, and all that control, isn’t possible. Being faithful is.

Right now, in the doldrums of February, faithfulness is simple but hard. It looks like continuing to get out of bed on Monday mornings. And Tuesday mornings. And Friday mornings. It means forcing kids to research beyond skimming Wikipedia because I believe that skill actually matters. It means brainstorming reading challenges so more of the munchkins read outside of class, even for ten minutes. It looks like making lessons as engaging as I can, not so my kids will love me but because it’s the best for their learning.

Faithfulness, in my attitude and effort and passion for my kids and my content, will be enough. It trumps effectiveness. For the sake of our students and our careers, it has to.

 

 

 

Grateful

Grateful. adjective. “Warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful.”

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I’ve felt fairly off-kilter this November.

Maybe it’s daylight savings time and darkness by 4:45. Maybe it’s the election (no comment). Maybe I need to start taking Vitamin D again. Maybe it’s this challenging point in the school trimester, where we’re trying to squeeze too much into too few days.

Being me, a person who believes there is a controllable solution for everything!, I figured I could solve this. I could fix my mild discontent, the underlying crankiness that makes me snappy with the boyfriend because why can’t he read my mind yet?, the frustration that builds up when middle schoolers act like, well, middle schoolers, the suppressed road rage that makes me sigh heavily in traffic.

My life can’t be that bad, right? I thought while washing dishes one night and pondering the state of my spirit. I am employed and loved and fed and relatively fulfilled. I must not be seeing all of the good things in my life. Like now. I should be really in the moment while I’m here washing dishes, noticing how good the dish soap smells and how accomplished I feel when the kitchen is clean. Hey. I should write down the little things that make me thankful. Even at school. Even though I don’t have time to go to the bathroom, much less write down more things. But I’ll do it! It will even make a timely November blog post. Look at me, solving everything.

So I set off on my Ann Voskamp-style crusade. (Nothing against Ann Voskamp. Obviously, I liked One Thousand Gifts since I’m using this strategy.) It was a random Thursday, and I decided that gratitude could be fostered on any ol’ day. So I wrote down how thankful I was that students actually make positive comments sometimes and that my 6th hour students are so curious (even though it makes them talk incessantly), and that I’m discovering more teaching strategies that work.

And then Friday came. The thankful list, topped with a smiley face, was sitting nearly on top of my keyboard.

I didn’t think about it all day. I definitely muttered complaints to myself when things didn’t go exactly as planned. (This happens approximately every 5 minutes.)

A blog post I read recently quoted Annie Dillard, who says, “The world is fairly studded and strewn with unwrapped gifts and free surprises…cast broadside from a generous hand.”

Remembering to unwrap those gifts, so generously given, is hard.

Our nice Christian blog posts make it seem like it should be so simple. Just look around you! See the good in the world! Be joyful! Get over your first world problems and think about how #blessed you are!

When I don’t find these blessings at first glance, it feels like I’m a lesser Christian woman. At the very least, I should not be allowed to write about faith. How dare I not find beauty in every sliver of the world and rejoice about it always.

But this practice of hope, of finding gifts in the world, of gratitude, is not so sugar-coated. It’s right at home in a world that’s busted and a heart that’s rough around the edges.

It is easy to bemoan all of the ways our worlds fall to bits. This year alone has shown us so much that is dark and tumultuous and fearful and ugly in the world. At school, all of the distractions and redirections and miscommunications are much more obvious than the times my kids listen and positively contribute. In my own cranky soul, I see far too much selfishness and greed and ego and anger and pettiness.

There are absolutely times to see those things and mourn them. Far too often, we slap a spiritual Band-Aid over gaping wounds and make ourselves move on. Even in this season of thanksgiving, I don’t want to shut my eyes to that bad stuff and pretend it’s not there. God encourages us to lament all that is imperfect.

But right now, I know I need to face the ick, in the world and my own heart, and believe that God is still there among the wreckage. He is still surprising us with beauty and giving us grace. Seeing his gifts is one way we move forward, closer to his light and his hope. Even when we’re scared for the future of our nation. Even when we’re lacking in Vitamin D. Even when we’re cranky too much of the time. Even when the world is broken.

The harder the practice of gratitude is, the more we need it.

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I lovingly forced my students to foster hope and gratitude this November with our Thankful Tree. Every Tuesday, we wrote a few things we were thankful for on leaves and taped them to a construction paper tree in the back of the classroom. Here are some of my favorites:

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This is what happens when you tell students they can’t talk about politics anymore. I don’t entirely share the sentiment, but it does make me laugh.

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SSR = sustained silent reading. Me too.

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I work in a public school. I love this extra.

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These kids are honest and funny and they make me smile. That’s something I’m thankful for.

There’s more: Autostart in my new car. Leftovers. Good books. Yoga videos. Comfortable shoes. Laughter. Family members who are my friends and friends who feel like family. Long weekends. The small thrill of having a full tank of gas. Pajamas. Audiobooks. Cold glasses of water. The satisfaction of crossing items off to-do lists. Clean sheets. Lip balm.

Today, it might be a struggle to add to the list. But I’m choosing to see past my tiredness, past the insanity that is a classroom before a long weekend, past the many approaching hours in the car, past the dozens of essays I still have to grade, past the newspaper headlines, and be grateful.

Will you join me?

What I’m Into: October 2016

October. The month where everyone quotes the delightful Anne Shirley about being thankful to live in a world where such a month exists.

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I’m still reminding myself to not write the date as 2015, and here we are in October. I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been loving in this full, beautiful month.

 

 

Reading

Raymie Nightingale – Kate DiCamillo. I want to write like Kate DiCamillo when I grow up. She takes an ordinary girl, an unlikely trio of friends, and baton twirling lessons, and wrings the most poignant of themes from them. Simple and sweet.

 

Rook – Sharon Cameron. This is a many-layered book. The world has been essentially destroyed by technology, so machines are outlawed. Those with enough money to build machines are being systematically arrested and killed under the Razor. The Red Rook, otherwise known as Sophia Bellamy, rescues prisoners from the prison with the help of her brother and friend. Their operation is threatened by suspicions from the deplorable minister of security and by Sophia’s unwanted engagement to a man whose fortune could save her father from a debtor’s prison – but whose mysterious demeanor makes it hard to tell if she can trust him. The plot twists kept me guessing enough that I couldn’t read this before bed, and the setting was an interesting take on typical dystopian worlds – the book read much more like historical fiction than fantasy. One caveat – the book ended just a little too serendipitously for me given what seemed realistic. Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoyed this story and gulped down half of it in one sitting.

A Fatal Grace – Louise Penny. This is the second book in the Inspector Gamache series. Penny’s mysteries are entrancing and explore horrors like murder in a way that doesn’t make you lose hope in humanity. This book also reminded me that I should not read mysteries before I go to bed – not only do I worry that a murderer is lurking outside my window, I also cannot. stop. reading.

 

Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love – The boyfriend and I joined a reading group to talk through this examination of Pope John Paul II’s teachings on love and marriage. We’re not Catholic, but this book has been full of helpful reminders about the depth that relationships should have. It’s not all warm fuzzies and cute Instagram pictures, and that has been such a valuable reminder.

 

 

 

Watching

Henry V in The Hollow Crown series. Out of these movie versions of Shakespeare’s histories, Henry V was my favorite. #henryVforpresident #tomhiddlestonwouldbefinetoo

Zootopia – I’m late to the party on this one (not surprising), but I enjoyed it so much. It’s a story ripe with truth for our culture, with enough simplicity for kids to understand and enough depth for adults to be challenged (and entertained!). For extra insight, I loved listening to The Smartest Person in the Room podcast interviewing Andrew Johnston, one of the writers of this movie.

 

 

Listening

All Sons and Daughters – Poets & Saints album. The whole album is gorgeous, but “Path of Sorrow” is one of my favorites.

 

Us the Duo – (Stop) Just Love. Plus their entire new album.

 

Pentatonix – Misbehavin’. It’s too catchy. I can’t stop listening.

 

 

Loving

All the tears from this video thanking teachers. Though I almost cried when a sweet kiddo gave me dark chocolate with a note about how much she enjoys my class, so my cry-o-meter may be a little off.

Apple cake. I made a family friend’s old recipe for a party, and even my first experimental attempt was delicious.

LOFT cardigans. This one in Lavish Eggplant Heather is my new favorite. It’s more of a plum color than it appears on the website, but it’s cozy and gorgeous and frequently 40% off.

Apple picking. I hit up apple orchards twice this month, once with my sister and the boyfriend, and once on a spontaneous double date with one of our favorite couples. Lessons learned: Always go to u-pick orchards. Corn mazes are hard – way harder than you think. I have good friends. Apples (covered in caramel, in donuts, straight off the tree) trump pumpkins every time.

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Doing

Trip north #1. A friend got married in Switzerland last month and had a reception in our hometown. It was a fast road trip to celebrate with them, but we’re glad we did. Congrats, Courtney and Ben! We wish you a lifetime of happiness.

The boyfriend and I saw Sense and Sensibility at the Guthrie, and it was a delight. We’re similarly delighted with the Under 30 Club. The program allows you to get rush price tickets on the day of the show by calling the box office instead of waiting in the rush line. There are no downsides. Unless you’re over 30, I suppose.

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Attending a lecture on Luther and Art. The MIA currently has an exhibit on Martin Luther and Art, and if you were looking for a way to celebrate Reformation Day (Anyone? Anyone?), you should have gone. It’s around for a while, so you have time if you were busy trick-or-treating on the 31st.

Two housewarming parties – in one night. This introvert does not know how to handle it when both her sister and boyfriend decide to host parties on the same night. Good thing that both of the hosts are delightful.

Trip north #2. The Nimbus 2000 has flown its last. We took our last road trip together over MEA break. Even though that car had been causing me issues (and anxiety), it was bittersweet to leave her behind.

So what am I driving now? Meet the Firebolt.

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I promise, she’s gorgeous when she hasn’t been down gravel roads.

So far, she’s started every time I need her to AND she has a CD player. Thank you to my grandpa for finding this baby for me and offering moral support when I bought her. Andrew, you get a shout-out for coming with us and running all of the errands I asked you to without complaining.

Our friends invited us over for dinner one evening. We got to try freshly hunted duck, and they introduced us to the game Idiom Addict. This English teacher is obsessed.

Concert-going! My college roomie, sister, and I went to a Pentatonix concert featuring Us the Duo.Let’s talk about a dream team. Go back up to the Listening section of this post if you need proof. Or imagine the following song sung as an encore, in the Xcel center, without any amplification or stage lights. I almost cried. That is not an exaggeration.

We were very excited about the entire thing.

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Celebrating Halloween. I’m not huge on Halloween, but when there are $3 Chipotle burritos with friends on the line, costumes are absolutely worth it. We are pretty proud of our last-minute renditions of Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby. Especially because, when we went to W.A. Frost afterward for dessert, someone told us, unprompted, “You look like you came straight out of Gatsby.” Goals = achieved.

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And then there’s school. I’ve been all over the board in how I feel about my job, from LOVING it (Socratic Seminars work! Sometimes lightbulbs go on!) to dead tired (like the morning after long nights of conferences) to frustrated (why do they talk so much?!). Overall, there have been more good moments than bad. The kids are asking to finish The Outsiders, our current class novel, because they want to know what happens. There is minimal complaining thus far. I’ve rediscovered how much I enjoy teaching writing. So we’re hanging in there!

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Pajama day and students who give you candy don’t hurt morale, either

What have you been loving in October?

Classroom: 10 Tricks That Keep Me Sane

Classroom. noun. A place of learning (I hope!) and where I spend a large portion of my life.

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Welcome to my classroom!

Confession: I’m a novice teacher, with an entire half a year of experience under my belt. I’m not sure you should take my advice.

But… I’m willing to risk it. I love seeing what other teacher’s classrooms look like, especially if they aren’t Pinterest perfect. My room sure isn’t – attainable (definition: so easy a beginner could come up with it after an hour of Internet searching) is more my style. And my very attainable set-up and organization this year have worked well – I’m happy, at least, and the students haven’t complained. So, without further ado, here are 10 things that are streamlining our lives in ELA 7 and preventing me from going crazy.

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1. Lamps and extra lighting. Oh, the horrors of overhead florescent lights. I had to turn them on to take photos, but when kids are in the room, we have only one of three light switches flipped. Two lamps and Christmas lights brighten things up and keep the room cozy. I have not once regretted spending $14 on lighting.

2. Numbered desks. Student desks are arranged in pods.  Each desk in each group has a number that’s written on the corner in Sharpie paint pen. I can tell #2s to turn in their pod’s work or #4s to record answers for group discussions. It’s makes everyone feel like they’re getting a fair deal and streamlines classroom procedures. (In theory) the paint pen comes off easily at the end of the year. I am so glad I overheard a teacher in the lounge talking about this strategy last year, because I LOVE it.

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3. The supply shelves. Note the basic “I ran out of ideas for bulletin boards, so here’s a poster,” weekly agenda, and instructional posters in this photo as well. Having all supplies that students can use centralized on these shelves simplifies everything. The boxes hold students’ journals, our class set of whiteboards, and copies of logic puzzles that students are allowed to work on when they’ve finished assignments. The drawers hold index cards, extra loose-leaf paper, construction paper, whiteboard markers, and clipboards. They might get labels…by December…maybe.

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4. Supply buckets. Each group of desks has its own bucket of colored pencils. Goodbye broken pencils strewn across the floor! Highlighters used to be included in the buckets, but did you know you can build a tower of highlighers while listening to an audio recording? And all your friends will catch on? And then the highlighters will earn their own bucket because your teacher isn’t an idiot?

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5. Our very very loose Adventure theme. I have some things from my own travels around my desk, but these posters are the decoration “focal point.” Applying that term is a stretch. Please don’t look too closely at the slapdash (but free!) “frame” of black chart paper, attached to the poster with sticky tack, then stuck to the wall with magnets. I do love this theme, and these posters, though, and that’s what counts.

rules.jpg 5. The inherited in/out boxes. Piles all over my desk stress me out, and this tower keeps all those assignments organized and out of sight. The trays at the bottom hold extra materials. Students get to dig through the drawer when they’ve lost something.

Other stuff: The white milk crate on the floor is our lost and found. The magazine holder has book reviews, which students fill out and tape into their journal every time they finish a book. In theory, the black tray on the table is for absent work. This is a nice concept, but I am atrocious at updating it. I have, at least, been keeping a paper copy of attendance. Seeing who was gone for what assignment is now SO MUCH easier. I’ll be honest, I haven’t had to strongly enforce those classroom rules laid out on the poster yet. However, I can sense that the time is coming. Soon.

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6. All the paper organization on ye ol’ desk. I am high maintenance about order.

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A very recent update: binders with resources and materials go right behind my desk. Easy access (i.e. not having to get out of my chair) means I actually look at them – and, on good days, file stuff in them.

papers.JPG The giant mail organizer is partly organized by day of the week for each of my preps – see fancy masking tape labels. It has worked wonders. The rest of it holds random stuff that I need on hand but haven’t found a great way to organize yet. I hate filing, so the upright organizer accumulates things that I’ve collected for each class period and materials that need to go into my unit binders. The expanding file folder is golden for transporting grading home – I try not to do it too often, but it happens.

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7. A clean desk. (This is not clean.) During the day my desk mostly looks…worse than this.  I am, however, enough of a weirdo that I clean it off every single afternoon before I leave. Things that help: I’m attempting to put my copies of answer keys and such and all handouts for the day into the stand-up organizer so I don’t set them down randomly/have to give kids a marginally content-related discussion question while I go on a mad hunt. It works better the more I do it. That purple binder has class lists in page protectors for easy note-taking. I keep class lists and weekly attendance sheets on a clipboard, which is buried in this photo. Taking out a binder each hour is legitimately too much work.

8. The cup of #2 pencils is for students to use. (See metal cup and purple/white sign in above photo.) They have to leave a phone/iPad or shoe as ransom so they don’t forget to return the pencil. This cup is nearly full a month in, so I’d say it’s working!

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9. The cell phone sign. Red = no phones, yellow = headphones allowed, and green = phones allowed for academic reasons. The signs are stuck to the front whiteboard with a magnet. Students take them very seriously and remind me to change them if I forget.

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10. Book recommendations.  I put bored students in my homeroom to work making this poster of books I’ve read recently and would recommend. It helps me think of recommendations, and I’ve already heard students discussing the merits of the books on it. I’ll add to it as I read more. This idea was borrowed from other awesome teachers on my team.

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Things I gave up on: Keeping track of every book in my classroom library. Alphabetizing the classroom library. Basically, the classroom library. Perfectly backing every learning target sign with coordinating construction paper and laminating them. (Taking advantage of bored students during advisory is worth messy posters.) Keeping those pods at perfect angles.

Things I’ll continue: Keeping a secret chocolate stash. Making kids pick their paper scraps off the floor. Trying new things. Creating a place where students can learn and grow.

 

What am I missing? What are YOUR best classroom tips?

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