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The Things I Carry

I carry my CCSD identification badge and the tracking device contained therein. I carry my keys, guaranteed entrance to most doors in our school, except those most in need of opening.

I carry the burden of expectation, the anxiety borne of the worst kind of perfectionism–the feeling that you are forever letting other people down. I carry the endless list of questions: Am I a good teacher? Am I good enough to make this meaningful? If I cannot make it meaningful to students, does it matter that it matters to me? Have I picked the wrong job in the wrong era? Should I have said something to that student? Should I have said something different? Does that student who makes no eye contact want me to say hello, is she just introverted, or does she hate me?  What have I done to give her reason to hate me? Will I be fired if I tell this kid to shut the **** up? Am I being subtweeted?

I carry pain in my back, the dormant remnants of an optical nerve sheath meningioma behind my left eye socket, the worrisome twinges of aging.

I carry the gnawing pangs of hunger throughout the school day. Sometimes for food, always for meaning.

I carry my conscience, the vestiges of Catholic guilt, my sense of professional decorum. I carry a tie around my neck, a visible symbol of the weight of my father’s influence.

I carry pens and notecards, physical reminders that digital technology will not save us. I carry my laptop, encased in green, acknowledging our digital overlords. I carry the permanently on-call feeling technology in education has bestowed upon educators and students alike, a world where it has never been easier to learn but never harder to find time to process any learning.

I carry you and your learning and your humanity and your needs and your dreams and your fears. And I carry the growing awareness that no one can carry all that our society now expects teachers and students to carry.

I carry my frustrations that we have lost sight of learning and replaced it with grades, class rank, and the repugnant smudge of standardized test scores.

I carry what the Navajo poet Luci Tapahonso wrote:

“an undercurrent of fear,

  an outpouring of love,

  a whispered chant of loneliness.”

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How does communication affect our relationships with people?

 

“She opened the closet and dug through a pile of leftover junk until she found an antique, yellow rotary phone; she’d bought it herself at a garage sale back in high school--because she’d been exactly that kind of pretentious” (Rowell 25).

Landline phones have long since become a thing of the past. I’ve never seen an actual landline in my life, unless you count the one I had as a kid that made calls to pre-recorded princesses. So like things of the past, what happens to us as we get older? Or more specifically, our relationships? Much like the landline, our connections with people usually cut off once things get too hard. When the dial is just too difficult to turn. Georgie McCool and Neal Grafton know more than anyone in Rainbow Rowell’s adult fiction novel, Landlines.

“Sometimes she lost her place when she was arguing with Neal. The argument would shift into something else--into something more dangerous--and Georgie wouldn’t even realize it. Sometimes Neal would end the conversation or abandon it while she was still making her point, and she’d just go on arguing long after he’d checked out” (Rowell 6).

When I started this book, it became quite apparent which characters fit the theme’s parts best. Georgie was on one side of the coin. Always asking for a conversation, always begging for an answer in her head and wishing it was the one that fit best with her thoughts. And Neal, her husband, on the flipside being one who most usually didn’t talk. You can probably see why this relationship might not end well. Now, a lot of times people will say that opposites attract. But how well can things go if you put a talker and thinker at a dinner table for one hour? Or in this case, seventeen years.

But these two aren’t completely unaware of each other. They do love one another. They even have two kids, seven-year-old Alice and four-year-old Naomi. But just as Christmas is coming up, Georgie is asked to stay behind for work while the family goes to Nebraska. Keep in mind that this family lives in California, and Georgie is asking to be absent seven days from her family’s life. During Christmas. But Georgie’s job as a comedy writer for TV sitcoms has never had such a big break. And as soon as she tells Neal, she sees the blow it has left in the aftermath. But what can she do when lately the two have been so deaf to each others needs?

“Neal stepped up to her and looked over her shoulder, like he was thinking. “We land at five,” he said, “Central time So it’ll be around three here...I’ll call you when we get to my mom’s.”

Georgie nodded, but he still wasn’t looking at her.

“Be safe,” she said.

He checked his watch. “We’ll be fine-don’t worry about us. Just do what you have to do. Rock your meeting.” And then he was hugging her, sort of, an arm around her shoulder, his mouth bumping against hers. By the time he said, “Love you,” he was already pulling away.

Georgie wanted to catch him by the shoulders.

She wanted to hug him until her feet left the ground.

She wanted to tuck her head into his neck and feel his arms a little too hard around her ribs.

“Love you,” she said. She wasn’t sure if he heard her” (Rowell 18).

So Neal goes to Nebraska with the kids, and Georgie stays in California. Who knew this would cause one of the biggest rifts in their relationship since they met in college? Georgie already has anxiety that Neal is unhappy. She voices it repeatedly in the book, another repercussion of their miscommunication. As an ambivert of sorts Georgie thinks herself needy at times, and blames herself for Neal being unhappy.

“Neal wasn’t happy. Neal hadn’t been happy for a long time.

He didn’t complain about it. He didn’t say, “I’m unhappy.” (God--in a way, that would be a relief.) He just wore it, breathed it. Held it between them. Rolled away from it in his sleep.  

Neal wasn’t happy, and Georgie was why. And not because of anything she’d ever done or said. Just because of who she was” (Rowell 86).

If you really want to know how communication affects our relationships, this is a perfect example. Neal never said he wasn’t happy. He never turned to Georgie and just outwardly admitted his unhappiness. Like Georgie mentioned, it was just in his actions. It was as simple as the way she knew more about how he acted than by what he said. Its not always the words that make the conversation. Communication is revealed silently by the way we look, by our habits and our instincts. I read somewhere that you know someone’s having a bad day when they don’t sing along to their favorite song. The phrase “actions speak louder than words” isn’t just a silly mantra. It’s truth.

And wanna know what the ultimate action is? Finding a landline phone that allows you to call someone from your past! ... (And cue the straight jacket!) No, but seriously. The main idea of this entire book surrounds the fact that Georgie, who has decided to stay at her mother’s during these secluded seven days, finds an old telephone in her childhood bedroom. And when she tries to call present Neal about how things are going, she instead finds herself landline to landline with 1998 Neal. How ironic that a relationship that is going downhill from loss of communication, is semi-reunited by a telephone? Rainbow Rowell, you dog…

“Was she supposed to change something? If this were Quantum Leap, there’d be something specific she was supposed to change. (This is not Quantum Leap, Georgie--this is your life. You are not Scott Bakula.)

But what if…

Christmas 1998. They fought. Neal went home. He came back. He proposed. They lived not-exactly-happily ever after. Wait, was that what she was supposed to fix? The not-exactly-happy part? How was she supposed to fix something like that, over the phone, when she wasn’t even sure it was fixable?” (Rowell 113).

I think for Georgie and Neal, the phone is a perfect symbol. As young adults who were just learning how to live on their own in 1998, at an age where all they can do is work in an office for a magazine called The Spoon, the landline was their one way of talking. Reading about those two before they were married made me laugh and smile, because it was just the innocence of their interactions. How fresh their love was. For them, it was the first phone call, the two cups with the string holding them together. It reminded me of stories my mom and dad have told me about when they started dating. My mom lived in Iowa and my dad lived in Arizona, and then my mom spent time working in Hawaii and my dad was in some other state. But all that time apart was spent writing letters and making hours long phone calls, the phone bills stacking up time and time again for both of them to pay. It was their way of communication when talking face-to-face just wasn’t possible, just as it was for Georgie and Neal.

“I didn’t know you used real ink,” she said.

He nodded.

“Can I watch?”

He nodded again” (Rowell 56).

Neal is a simple man. Much like myself, he’s the thinker. He mulls and wonders and keeps it all inside. With Georgie, as she stood outside the small room where Neal drew the cartoons for the magazine they worked at, Neal accepted her into his life. This small sign of acknowledgment is what sent this snowball rolling. All it took was two nods and suddenly Georgie was a part of his story.

As the book progresses you learn more and more about Neal and Georgie’s past through these ‘Back to the Future’ phone calls, while also seeing how things will turn out for present Georgie and Neal. All I could think about this contrast was how truly sad it was to see what had become of their relationship. Where in the phone calls it felt like Neal couldn’t get enough of Georgie, couldn’t find enough words to suffice for all the things he thought of her, present Neal wouldn’t even talk to her. Everytime she tries calling Neal (via iPhone), he’s not there. And I think a lot of the time he was trying to figure things out. Like I’ve mentioned before, Georgie=talker. Neal=thinker. But this is where things can get a bit dodgy for relationships, because as much as I hate to admit it, I, too, have fallen victim to the impact of silence. Words are a powerful force, but silence is just as equally if not more of a contender. When Georgie needed reassurance, she turned to Neal, but Neal had already cut off his powerline by the time he’d landed in Nebraska. So what did that mean for Georgie?

Well it meant taking things into her own hands. Listening to Neal on the phone in 1998, remembering all the things they did to become what they are: it was like a breath of fresh air for Georgie. Imagine if, for one phone call, you could talk to someone from your past? Past lovers, boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, family, friends. Imagine if you could just talk as if you were there again, in that time way back when, when it seemed like the age you are now was so far away. Obviously, at 15, I can’t say I’d have many people to talk to. Maybe I’d give myself a call to say how stupid things are going to get. That its okay to say that thing you’re thinking, and sometimes you shouldn’t hold back.

But I’d like to think I’d be a bit wiser and instead use that time to appreciate the call spent pretending I was somewhere else. Someone else.  Because for Georgie, the landline calls were her TARDIS. It was her chance to step out of reality and into the shoes of her younger self. But after a while she knew she had to stop pretending, and that she needed to shake out of this Twilight Zone if she wanted to save her marriage.

“She just didn’t want this to be over.

Georgie wasn’t ready to lose Neal yet. Even to her past self. She wasn’t ready to let him go. (Somebody had given Georgie a magic phone, and all she’d wanted to do with it was stay up late talking to her old boyfriend. If they'd given her a proper time machine, she probably would have used it to cuddle with him. Let somebody else kill Hitler.) Maybe the Neal she’d talked to all week was on his way to California, maybe he wasn’t, maybe he was a figment of her imagination--but that Neal still felt like he was within reach. Georgie still believed she could make things right with him. Her Neal...

Her Neal didn’t answer anymore when she called. Her Neal had stopped trying to get through to her.

And maybe that meant he wasn’t hers. Not really” (Rowell 260).

Communication. Actions. What speaks louder than flying a plane from Cali to Nebraska on Christmas eve to rehash a possibly unfixable relationship? And as Georgie lands in Nebraska with nothing but the clothes on her back (which are pajamas) and the money in her wallet, it feels right. She’s doing what Neal had once done for her, on the week she swore their relationship was over, when he kneeled on her front step and asked for her hand. The character development is almost surreal because its like Georgie finally realizes that they’re not just the phone calls. Her marriage is not simply made up of words, but also gestures. The building blocks of Neal’s love for her is concocted out of shrugs and smiles and quietly drawn cartoons, not the expected communication using vocal chords. And it’s what might have just led up to them falling in love in the first place.

“He felt his cheeks warm, just thinking about seeing her again. That’s what Georgie did to him. She pulled the blood to the surface of his skin. She acted on him. Tidally. She made him feel like things were happening. Like life was happening--and even if he was miserable sometimes, he wasn’t going to sleep through it” (Rowell 302).

“It’s just--one more thing.”

“Okay, one more thing.”

“I’m going to be better.”

“We both are.”

“I’m going to try harder.”

“I believe you” (Rowel 307).

Both in real life and in books, we need communication. Sign language, jargon, slang, hand gestures. Humans have found an abundance of ways to reveal emotion and speak. And then there’s love, the one that defies them all. Love which tears down the rules and sets up its own with every relationship. For some people, verbal communication is futile. They have to talk it out or else it’s a do-or-die situation. I know people like that, and have come to care about a few myself. And then there’s others like Neal and Georgie, who realized that communication can be found through actions. That sometimes its more important to trudge through a blizzard then to sit around waiting for a storm. And in the end it worked out for them. And even if sometimes they can’t get their tongues to shape the words they need to say, the smaller much more discreet things can do it for them.











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"America" student poems

Here are some efforts from my English 11 students, using Whitman and, in one case, Hughes as models.

Macie B

 

I see America singing, the varied carols I see,
Those of teenagers, each one singing theirs as it should be emotional and strong,
The attention seeking, singing hers as she spreads another rumor,
The athlete singing his as his final season comes to an unfortunate end,
The alcoholic college kids singing what appears to be a jumbled mess as they attend another party,
The quiet one singing as she sits at home, more outgoing behind a screen than ever before,
The spoiled one’s song, bragging morning, noon, and night even though she’s home alone again,
The irritated singing of a student, hard at work, trying to meet the high expectations set,
Each singing what belongs to them and no one else,
The day what belongs to the day- at night the wandering thoughts of those trying to find themselves,
Singing with open minds their strong melodious songs.

 

Hannah P

I am. American

The younger generation
I sit at a smaller table
for I am not old enough
I stay quiet
I wish
Dream 
even wait

but I know
because I am American
my time will come 
I’ll be one of them
Laughing along
Cherishing memories

I am the generation 
I choose to make a stand 
the time is now
no more waiting
wishing

Change has come
and I am one of them
American

 

Cheyenne V

 

I hear America singing, the variety of music in my ears,
Those of doctors, each one proud of the work they’ve done, as it should be they are one of the most respected, 
The phones ringing as people spend hours watching their phones,
The minimum wage workers crying as they make ready for their paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle,
The people of Facebook quickly turning into the Tweeters of Twitter,
The teenagers spreading their talk of swag and basic white girls in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The rich and poor giving and spending what they don’t have, living a life pretending to be what they are not.
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The days go by one at a time- at night the party of teens, friends, and family.
I hear America singing.

 

Blake T

I hear America’s voice, the diverse chorus of injustice,
That of the mechanic, whose face stains with oil, and whose song sings of a sorrowful tone,

The carpenter, whose song is bound by rules and regulations, 
The construction worker, singing of long unforgiving hours and a back thats seen the stresses of manual labor,

The marine, whose family sings a song for their return, 
The fisherman, who fights the waves of anguish, whose tone is a rugged one,

The factory worker, the resonance of their voices crying of change,
The worker of retail, whose feet sing songs of distress and ache for relief,

The farmer whose song starts at dawn, and whose days are constant, and whose nights are restless, 

The single mother, whose song sings of welfare and worry, 

I too hear the songs, songs that hope for a better tomorrow and whose singing is vastly ignored,
So we shall sing louder, we will be heard, we will sing the song of change, and for a better future for all,
Our songs need to be heard.

 

Derrie R

I hear America dreaming, the diverse thoughts I hear,

those of tech-knows, each dreaming his new devices, 

the dancer dreaming about her breathtaking number, 
the teacher dreaming his future lessons,
the farmer dreaming what he loves, the farmhand dreaming of crops and livestock,
the chef dreaming her upcoming restaurant,
the actuary dreaming of various calculations, 
the librarian dreaming books on books on books,
the nurse dreaming for a cure, 
the teenager dreaming freedom.
Each dreaming what should or one day could be theirs.
Dreaming with open minds and full hearts.

 

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Thoughts on libraries and loss

I was a weird little kid—anxious and socially awkward, I felt more comfortable with books than I did people. Once, in elementary school, when the power went out, I asked the teacher if I could move my desk over by the window so I could continue reading. Yes, I was that kid.

My elementary librarian shepherded my reading, and it is only now as an adult and a reading teacher that I realize the extent of her gift to me. I hung out in the school library not only because I loved books, but also because it often felt like a safer place to me than hallways or commons or playgrounds.

I also haunted the public library, both the town’s original Carnegie Library and then later the “new” library a few blocks away. (One can currently best describe the aesthetic of our town’s library as “70’s Fluorescent,” so you can see why I put “new” in scare quotes.) Whether reading all the Hercule Poirot mysteries by Agatha Christie, spending a summer reading as many biographies as I could, trying books out just because their covers looked “cool” or because I had some vague sense that they were supposed to be important, or just browsing the stacks, the library was my Rushmore. (I realize this reference will make no sense to those of you who have not watched the film Rushmore, but if you are one of those people, stop reading right now and watch the film.)

And now I find myself back in my hometown, teaching at the public high school, and lamenting the future of libraries. Libraries in general, but my libraries in particular. My high school, due to budget cuts, has eliminated the shared middle school/high school librarian position for this year. So in the seven years since my return, my high school has gone from a full-time librarian to a part-time librarian to no librarian at all this year. There is talk of turning the library into a “digital hub.” Not entirely sure what that means, but I imagine it involves zeros and ones. Mostly zeros.

In addition, our town has been trying for nearly a decade to build a new library, only to find fatal resistance to every option put forth.  The latest debate was particularly contentious, with the opposition claiming vociferously that print is dead, so why do we need a new library? We all have our devices now, after all (rhetorical and otherwise).

It is not the thought of electronic devices replacing physical books that worries me (I expect most readers will incorporate both reading on screens and reading in print as part of their reading lives, much as we already have); it is the thought that we should all be left to our own devices. The changing nature of what a public library should be does not change the foundational arguments about why libraries matter. The technological determinists forget these foundational arguments, arguments best stated recently by Ann Patchett in her afterword to The Public Library: A Photographic Essay, by Robert Dawson.

“If you are fortunate enough to be able to buy your books, and you have your own computer with which to conduct research, and you’re not in search of a story hour for your children, then don’t forget about the members of your community who are like you but perhaps lack your resources—the ones who love to read, who long to learn, who need a place to go and sit and think. Make sure that in your good fortune you remember to support their quest for a better life. That’s what a library promises us, after all: a better life. And that’s what libraries have delivered.”

I am fortunate enough to buy my own books, both for myself and often for my classroom library. And I do have my own computer with which to conduct research. But most of all I do remember what it was like to need a place to go and sit and think. Not a digital space—an actual place.

 

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Big Question responses from the 9th graders

I am going to feature some writing and thinking from our freshmen. First up, Mariah C, asking us "How far is too far?" in conjunction with her book, Skinny, by Donna Coover.

How far is too far?

“Even in the shower, fully awake, I keep trying to figure out what exactly I’ve lost and where it could be. The dream tickles at my mind like that mosquito bit I get in the summer that’s right in the middle of my back and no matter how hard I try, just can’t quite touch it. It’s so perfectly out of reach that I can’t stop thinking about it.” (195) In this single quotation, Ever is finally realizing that she has let things go too far with her weight loss and leaving those who she loves. 

Skinny by Donna Cooner is about Ever Davies going through a life-changing experience as a high schooler. Ever’s mother died when she was just a child, so Ever has gone through some hard times in life. Once her mother died, Ever started gaining a lot of weight. Now that she is a high schooler, she is weighing about 300 pounds. Not only are people staring at her, she has a little “spirit” that sits on her shoulder that whispers in her ear what people are thinking about her too. Through it all though, she has a couple of friends that are supporting her. Then one day Ever makes a life changing decision: she is going to have gastric-bypass surgery. 

Ever does the surgery towards the end of the school year, so that way she has all summer to rest up and focus on losing weight. Through the preparation of the surgery and after the surgery, she has one friend that is sticking by her side the whole time: Rat. Rat is like Ever’s at-home nurse making sure that Ever is eating the right things and gets Ever started on a workout plan. Ever gets going on the right path and loses 68 pounds before school starts. Ever losing that weight is really great, but when she goes back to school, she gets started off on the wrong path. Ever’s dad is remarried, so Ever has a stepsister that is also in high school. 

Briella, Ever’s stepsister, hangs out with one of the popular girls of the school, Whitney. Whitney starts to hang out with Ever, and they become best buddies. That also means trouble that Ever is leaving behind those who she loves. Ever becomes so caught up in the popularity around the school that she kind of forgets about Rat, the one who was there during everything. The school dance is coming up, and Ever gets asked by her longtime crush Jackson. They go to the dance together only for everything to fall apart. Jackson ends up being forced by Whitney to ask Ever. It also ends up that Whitney was acting to be best buddies with Ever so she could practice her fashion skill. And just one night at the school dance, Ever realized that she had left those that she loves and had taken things too far. 

The little “spirit” that used to sit on Ever’s shoulder turned out to be just a voice that was inside Ever’s head. Those were all thoughts that Ever thought that she was hearing, but in reality she was thinking all of those thoughts. When Ever finds out the Skinny isn’t a real person, she then realizes that Skinny has taken over too many opportunities for many good things in her life, and maybe people loved her before and she just didn’t realize it. Ever then faces one of the hardest challenges of her life: she auditions for the school play. 

“I’ve been selfish and… blind,” I say quietly. What a hypocrite. I felt like nothing, but I made everything about me. I looked at the world around me through Skinny’s unseeing white, opaque eyes. Including Briella. “I didn’t see what you were going through. You were here in the same house, and I didn’t even know.” (232) After talking with Briella the night of the dance, Ever realizes that she is being selfish. She is not seeing what others are needing and only wanting the attention on her. When she takes a step back while talking to Briella that night, she realizes that she had taken things a little too far and that she now needs the most important people in her life to come back to her. She left those that she loved dearly, and desperately needs them back in this time of need. 

I am sure that this question comes up many times in your life. I know that in my life, this question has come up a lot. Looking at the people that mean the most to me, I can also tell that they are always asking themselves if someone went too far. I can say that I have probably taken things too far in life. For example, I was really mad at my friend. I was immature at the time, and went and spread rumors about her because I was mad. None of those actions should have been made. If I would have been mature at the time, I would have kept my problem with her to myself and not made lies up about her. That is what I would call too far. She didn’t deserve to be lied about, and me to be telling everyone that lie that I made up when none of it was true. I am also guilty of saying that someone went too far, when I don’t even know their story. 

We are constantly judging society thinking that they went too far with something. Thinking they went too far with the plastic surgery, too far with the tanning, too far with the exercising, but in reality, did they really go too far? This is a hard question to answer since everyone has different opinions of too far. For me, going too far would be exercising to look like that one girl that is a 00 and weighs 100 pounds at 20 years old. Now, I know some people that is just how they are built, but if you aren’t meant to be 100 pounds at 20 years old, then you just won’t be 100 pounds. That is what life is like. I wonder when as a society we will stop asking ourselves if that person went too far. You only saw them on the street, you don’t know why they look like they do. 

In the book Skinny by Donna Conner, I think that Ever has gone too far. I know that she wants to lose weight, but once she lost that weight, her whole personality changed. She soon left the ones who loved her the most through the hard times, and went after the people who used to bully her during the hard times. I would say that is a little too far. Leaving the ones who love you most for the people who used to hurt you on a day-to-day basis. Now I know that people change, but the bullies only became nice to her because of the way she looked. If she wouldn’t have changed at all, they would have continued to be bullies. That is where I think Ever took it a little too far by letting those who hurt her now love on her and leaving those who loved her during the tough times. “Don’t say you’re sorry. Say I’m dreaming. Say I’m crazy. Tell me how I can change things.” I realize I’m shouting. I take a deep, shaky breath, and my voice drops to a whisper. “How can I change me.. any more?” (217)

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the attention economy

I've been thinking about the attention economy this weekend, partly because we will be discussing it in my Media Literacy class, and partly because I am wondering how and whether education should compete in this economy. Should we microslice our lessons into 140 characters or less, shifting focus every few minutes to mimic an online video, pour water over our heads in order to raise awareness? Do we incorporate the more ephemeral forms of media into our classes, in hopes of grabbing the fleeting focus of our students?

Or should we perhaps, as Annie Murphy Paul wrote this week in Slate, recognize that our students' media consumption is teaching them things, but that our students still need to be taught the things they are not receiving from that media--and hence we need to read even more, read even more classics, and work on our students' face-to-face communication skills? And what is more important for students: a one-to-one device, or a one-to-one relationship with a passionate teacher? I know what answer following the money will provide, and it's not the answer I would give. 

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book club

Friday was a sad day for alumni of the University of Notre Dame. News of yet another academic scandal involving the football team, this one reaching beyond any one player and likely reaching beyond the current team. Once again we wonder if championship-level college athletics have simply become incommensurate with the stated goals of an academic institution, especially one such as Notre Dame that likes to claim a "higher standard." When fans chant "We Are ND," academic fraud is not what we have in mind.

But Friday was also the day I first saw this video about Malcolm Mitchell, a wide receiver for the University of Georgia Bulldogs. Malcolm is a big reader, and over the summer he joined a book club full of much older (and whiter) women. With all the bad news in the world this summer and these last two weeks in particular, this is a small reminder that the world can be better, and that reading can help make it so. It also reinforces my belief that we need a Book Club here at Carroll High School.

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Make it Stick

Just in time for the school year, I read a book called Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, written by Peter Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel. Two of these authors are cognitive scientists, and the third is a writer. This book should be required reading for all teachers and students--so many ideas about how to become better learners. 

The three learning tips for students involve retrieval practice (quizzing yourself as you read, making connections or elaborations to hold knowledge longer), spacing out this retrieval practice (cramming may work in the short term, but it's crap for long-term retention and conceptual understanding), and interleaving the study of different problem types, which refers to moving away from massed practice of one concept before moving onto another.

I will be referring to this book frequently in all of my classes, especially the first few weeks.

I also love the John McPhee called his first drafts "awful blurting."

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a juxtaposition

"Since an ineluctable part of being a human self is suffering, part of what we humans come to art for is an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience, more like a "generalization" of suffering. Does this make sense? We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy's impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character's pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside. It might just be that simple."

                          David Foster Wallace

"...as you grow up in this world you realize people don’t really give a s*** about what you feel or think."

                          David Coleman (one of the architects of the Common Core)

Which ethos do you want to drive how and why we teach language arts?

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thoughts on soccer and teaching

Just after the United States was eliminated by Belgium in the World Cup, journalist Brian Phillips tweeted this to his followers, but especially to those who were new to the game:

I favorited the tweet, not only because it so powerfully describes being a fan of soccer (or of sports in general, yes, but soccer is crueler than other sports) but also because you can replace "soccer" with "teaching" and it still holds true. So to paraphrase Mr. Phillips:

This is what teaching is like. It kills you, and you die, and sometimes it's beautiful, and then you do it again the next day.

Like soccer, teaching is more often than not an exercise in frustration. I am always bamused ("bamused" is a combination of "bitter" and "amused," the "hangry" of the mind) when people watching soccer say "Why don't they score more?" Because it's much more difficult than it looks, and even though these men/women are good at it, they still struggle. Because the opponents, the weather, the pitch conditions, and physics conspire against them. Because all your good can come undone in a moment and the ball is now in the back of your net. And you die.

Sometimes the weight of your pass is improbably perfect, and the object in motion and the people in motion arrive at the destination at precisely the same time, and everyone rises in anticipation of that elusive goal. And it's beautiful.

And so it is for teaching. Sometimes you leave school feeling as though you have won the World Cup, having scored a Mario Götze-like goal in the dying embers of extra time. And it's beautiful. Shakira is nowhere to be seen, but it's still beautiful. Other times you leave school feeling like you blasted your penalty kick into the fifth row, having let down an entire nation. And it kills you, and you die. 

But either way, you do it again the next day.

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