Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer thoughts

What are my plans for this summer?

I want to write, so I joined the Teachers Write Virtual Writing Seminar.
I want to clean my basement, so I am avoiding going down there.
I want to see friends that I have not seen in a few years, so I am flying solo first time in over 20 years.
I want to read more "teacher" professional books, so I have them piled on a table in the living room--I am still waiting for inspiration to open one of then hit me.
I want to eat healthy, so I had french toast for dinner and then ate some cherries and raspberries to make me feel better.

I want to keep watching TV, so I finally had to buy a digitally equipped TV.
I want to watch some new shows, so I am hooked on hulu.com
I want to buy some new clothes for my summer trip, so I am searching for coupons.
I want to go to sauna, so I am flying across the Atlantic.
I want to improve my writing, so I am writing more, and thinking about my long term goals regarding writing.
I want to think about the next school year, so that I can make plans how I can do more planning this summer.

I want to spend time with my daughter before she moves away.
I want to watch funny movies and laugh, so that I can live longer.
I want to watch the sun rise with a great cup of coffee, so that I do not waste any time during this summer.
I want read a romance novel, so that I can be transported to a different world.
I want to search for a deeper reason to serve, so that I can remember that I am part of a greater community that works together to help others.
I want to remember that everything has a purpose.
I want to spend time by the lake and just be amazed by the beauty of creation!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sweet Little White Wolf and the Mean Loud Blue Riding Hood

These are the directions for the Quick Write this Thursday:
Step One: Pick your favorite fairy tale.
Step Two: Flip all the genders.
Step Three: Write a paragraph or two from a flipped character’s perspective.

And here is my quick write:

I really want some ma's cooking. It has been so long since I tasted a sweet cake with cinnamon. Maybe I will venture out of the forest today and go see that house at the edge of the maple trees. That red house always looks so inviting. Wonder what I could take with me on my first visit? Flowers? Coffee? Flameless candles?
"Dad, I am going to go visit the Blue family!"
"Okay, son. Be careful; I have heard that there is a mean girl that likes to play in the woods People say she is scary. You better not stop anywhere on your way. And, don't forget to come straight home afterwards."
"I promise!"


I can almost see the house behind those trees. Oh, but wait! I see some wild flowers along the edge of the oak trees. Maybe I should pick a few for the lady... After all, I have heard about the lady's coffee cake. It has even won ribbons at the village fair--at least that is what the newspaper reported.
"What do you think you are doing?"
"Excuse me?"
"Oh, hi! I am-
"I know who you are! You are not welcome here. This is Blue land! We don't want your kind in here!"
"Hello Ms. Blue! I have heard that your father has taken ill and-
"I already told you once, get off our land, OR I WILL KICK YOU OUT!"

Wow! Dad really was right when he mentioned the mean girl. She really does talk loud; she even looks blue in the face. I don't think I will be getting any coffee cake today.

"Little Blue??? Who are you talking to?"
"Nobody Mom!"
"I know what I heard! Let me see who you are talking with!"
"It is White Wolf, Mrs. Blue."
"Well, come a little closer child. I want to look at you a little closer."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Curriculum Murders"

Once a week I volunteer at my local library's Corner Bookstore (maintained by the Friend's of the Library). This past week one of the customers picked this book from the mystery section at the store. I was immediately intrigued.
My imagination started running (and I haven't even read the book yet!)

Here is my story (part 1) with the same title:

Common Core is coming. Another change that has to be made. I could have spent my summer relaxing by the pool, reading mindless romance novels, living in a dream world where all my students master all of the curriculum  by mid-year and then I can start finding enrichment activities for the second part of the year. But that is not reality. Here I sit in a small cubicle with a few other teachers analyzing the common core ELA for our grade level.
 "W.9-10.1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence."
Is this really worth it? I look around. Everyone is really focused on analyzing the standard and thinking about the resources that we can use with it. My mind goes to mentor texts. Do I have mentor texts to use with this standard? What was that noise? The standards posters are all down! Nobody is working on the desk behind me....where is everyone?
I am thinking about the "relevant and sufficient evidence". That is really the hardest thing for my students to grasp. They can make a great argument, but then it tends to fall apart as they cannot sustain it with evidence. Really where are    the other writers? We only have a week to do this. Maybe I should write a model essay for my students? Oh yeah, where is that binder that we have organized all our existing samples/mentor texts?
No binders??? Where are they? Last year's curriculum??? Who took it? Where is everyone?? Maybe I need to stand up and stretch my legs and my brain. It's really quiet...
I walk around the office. It really is too quiet... I keep walking. I still can't see anyone else. Should I go outside? I peek in the back...WHAT?????? The sky is dark as the underside of my black sofa. But there is a fire burning with in a handmade fire-pit! What is going on? Are they researching Macbeth? Are we going to teach that next year? "Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble" (4.1.). What are we killing here at the back of the school right before the storm?? Old curriculum? Why am I the only one here?
Where is the evidence?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Random Noun Generator

The assignment today was to try "Noun Generator" and then just write!

Here is my word: Neighbor (and my second word; smell)

Long time ago I was living in Taipei, Taiwan. I lived with two roommates in a six story building. Our flat was in the third floor. All of our neighbors were local Chinese. Wonderful people, but curious--maybe I could even say nosy. Every single time when I went out, one of the neighbors would corner me and ask me where I am going. It was okay, I didn't really have to  say exactly where I was going; it was enough to say "I am going down the road". You know those cultural sayings that we foreigners ponder and try to digest, but we can't, so finally we just adapt and go along with the natives.

I don't think we ever had friends over that our neighbors would not know about. When we would go our the next day, someone would corner us and give us a mini inquisition about the visitors. Questions were plentiful. "What did you cook last night? I smelled something strange."  Or "Was that your boyfriend? Why are you not married? What does your mother think about you living here?"

But it wasn't always my roommates and I that caused a stir. Certain nights when you tried to sleep because you know you had to be rested for your presentation (in Chinese of course) the next day, you didn't really want to smell the "stinky" tofu and listen to the endless sounds of mahjong pieces hitting each other. I mean, I could have closed the window, but when it was 96 degrees outside and pretty much the same inside, even a little breeze to stir up the air was welcome. Yes, the air might have been mixed with smoke, smog, and fried tofu, but it also carried the sounds of my neighbors. It would not have felt as homey without those sounds and smells. And yes, I learned to ask my neighbors: "Where are you going?"

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sound bites from last day of school

Almost 100 %!
65 %?? I passed!
Ms. just came to say goodbye….
I might not be back next year….
Did you start the blog for us?
Do you need any help with these boxes?
Can I get a hug?
Is everything ready? Can power be turned off now?
I will miss you!
Ms. I’m gonna read. I promise!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dear Maria

As part of the Teachers Write Virtual Summer Writing Seminar, Tuesdays are quick writes based on different prompts. Here is my writing for today:

Dear Maria,

I am sitting in my car. The tank is full. Groceries are in the cooler (yes, in the trunk), and I have checked the weather. Everything is fine. I just don't seem find the energy to start the car. It's not even a long drive--just over 4 hours. I should be able to do that. Right?
What was it that you used to tell me? "Visualize yourself where you want to be." Okay, I will try that.
The water is blue, cold, sparkling yet so inviting. The pile of wood is resting along the sauna's wall. The deck is a little crooked, but I want to be sitting there when the sun comes up in the mornings. I want to welcome each new day as soon as it starts. I want to be ready for a new day. I want to experience each day. I want to receive the gift of each new day. I wish I could record the sounds that I hear, and then carry them with me to the real world to be played again and again.
What else would I need?
Coffee!!! I can almost hear your voice echo when I say that word aloud. Perfect morning absolutely requires a perfect cup of coffee--of two. So, I am imagining sitting on the deck with my blanket, coffee and of course a good book--or two--watching the sun raise. Do you know, I am so grateful to be alive! To be here at this time. Am I perfect? Am I content? Maybe not; but I believe I am on my way.  Do I have some choices to make in my life? fences to mend? Absolutely! But they can wait a while.
First, I want to welcome a new day. I want to count my blessings. You know, you are one of them. This place by the lake, is another. So, I guess it is time to start the car. The groceries don't keep forever.
I hope I will get to experience a sunrise with you soon!
Your friend,


Boxes, exams, goob byes, and hope

There are boxes everywhere in my room. Some are full and others are still waiting to be filled. Bookshelves are almost empty. Classroom library is gone. Missing books are almost paid for. Files are relocated to a box--to be hopefully sorted later on this summer. In my basement there is a line of baskets and boxes. They are longing to find a place of their own. I am wondering when they will grow feet and start moving?? Maybe tomorrow? Maybe next week?

"Ms. please pray, I gotta pass this exam?"

Yeah, those exams. Mine still need to be tweaked. Should I add an item or too? What about the essay rubric?? Should I make it easier or harder? Couldn't somebody else make these choices for me?

"Ms. I'm not gonna come back next year."
"Why not?"
"I don't know. Maybe I come back the year after."

Goodbyes are hard. I've poured my energy on these students. We have found ways to learn and other ways that did not work. We have all changed. We have ALL made progress! Why are you leaving at this time??

"Ms. am I gonna be in your class next year?"
"I am not sure but I hope so."
"Me too!"

In the middle of packing, sorting and tearing down (I am moving from portable to an actual building), I feel the hope of a better future. Where ever my students will end up next year, they will be okay. I will miss them terribly. So, we might start a blog to stay in touch as we will be all moving around the world!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Learning about mentor texts

All through this school year I have been learning about mentor texts and how I could effectively use them in my class. I have read some great blog posts--or entire blogs devoted to this topic--I have saved some professional books to read this summer, but most of all, I am determined to write some mentor texts myself to use with my students next school year (this year I only have exams left).

What are my top needs?
In my sheltered English class, which is a smaller high school English class for ELLs, I want to use mentor texts to model the writing process for my students. For the last essay that we wrote this year, I also wrote an essay. Then I used Microsoft Word's track changes button to show my  thinking and how I made changes I as read my essay again. My students' response was amazing! I definitely got the encouragement that I needed!

For my younger ELLs I want to show how we go from learning to write words to putting those words together to form sentences, and then putting a group of sentences together about one topic to form a paragraph! I want to have mentor texts available for different proficiency levels. I am also trying to correlate these mentor texts to match what the students are doing in their regular class. Common Core is coming; I too, need to be prepared.

For my middles and high school students, I also need to show the different text types and how we write them. For my high school class, I used Kelly Gallagher's articles of the week this year. When we read the first one, I talked a lot about how to write the reflection, and we even wrote the first paragraph together. When I look back to that lesson, I wonder, why did I stop there???? Why did it take me a couple of months before we worked with a sample reflection again?? Lessons learned I guess...

For all of my students, I want to spend more time in sharing our writing and learning from each other. Also, I want to incorporate more technology. I am lucky to have a smart-board in my classroom and I want to make sure that I use it maximize learning for my students.

I believe that my biggest challenge will be to find mentor texts that I can use and making time to write some of these mentor texts myself. Does anyone have advice??? Recommendations?? I am open to all! JJ

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Student, books, reading and the library

I gotta get an AR book! I need AR points like yesterday. I don’t understand why the heck I have to read anyway. I already do my homework. Reading is so stupid! Ms keeps talking about the characters and what they say and feel. What do I care!!!! I already have enough chat inside my head. Why do I need AR points?? This school is stupid. Oh yeah, Jake said we need to do better on the NWEA. Whatever…Like the NWEA is going to help me to get to college.

Maybe I’ll “read” the same book that Jake read. What was it?? “Dude, what’s the AR book you read?” Jake must be deaf. “DUDE, what’s the book that had points?” Okay, that just got me kicked out of the library. I was only asking a question. I have the right. America’s got freedom! I got rights! Fine, I don’t need to read anyway!

I read! I know spice and civil rights. Want me to tell you? “Hey, what’s this?” “It’s the book you wanted!” “Thanks man!” Bummer, maybe I could just forget the book somewhere? Could I really?

Wonder what’s it about? From Somalia, with Love. You gotta be kidding me…this is the book?? What does Ms always say?? “Read the back cover and see, you can always change the book.” Yeah, I know. My teach has like a library in the class. Everywhere I look, there are books. Doesn’t she do anything else? Okay, From Somalia, with Love, about a girl in London…maybe she’s hot??? Maybe there is some kissing…

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesday 6.5.2012 Quick Write

Here is the place where I go every time that I return home. I can hear the birds flying low, and the sellers who believe that their product is so much better than in the next booth. "Makeaa Mansikkaa!" I can smell  the aroma of fresh fish, especially the smoked salmon. It makes my mouth water...I love to get a good cup of strong coffee, taste the pastries that I have not eaten in years.It is hard tolimit myself to just one at a time. Savor them, and of course, chat with my friends and just watch the people go by. The atmosphere is busy, but there is also something so soothing at watching and relaxing with no agenda--as I am on  holiday.

I teach writing therefore I also must write

Two weeks of school left. Well, actually it is 8 days after today. I am already thinking about next year, and what I could do better.
Out of the blue (well maybe) I saw a post about "Teachers Write" Virtual Summer Camp for teachers. I read the info, pondered if I could really do it, and decided: it is time to challenge myself as a writer! I joined the camp!!!!!!
It started on Monday; my first assignment was to figure out how I can make a plan for writing both for this summer and for the school year. Easy? I don't think so. How can I make a schedule and then stick to it?
Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. I will watch less TV and do less "useless stuff" on the Internet
  2. I plan to write in the evenings; after dinner and chores are done (but still get to bed at a decent time). I plan to write 15-20 minutes at least 5 days per week. I am thinking that this might change during the summer: I will most likely do  my writing in the mornings--perhaps even sitting outside. In fall, my writing location might change: empty nest, re-use an empty bedroom for a new hobby!
  3. For now, I will do my writing sitting on my chair with my laptop, but this might change as I travel overseas this summer. I believe I will "have to" invest in journal (maybe something that inspires writing when I don't feel like it....)
  4. I have told some of my friends (and now you who are reading this also know about my new plans:-)) I am hoping that someone I know would also take up this challenge with me. Any takers?????