Four Weeks In: A Report

Tomorrow is the end of Week 4 of school, and I haven’t blogged about it at all. Mostly because the typical burn-out and overwhelming feelings I experience in November hit me by the end of Week 2. So blogging hasn’t really been a priority. But here’s some highlights.

    • Apple Training. I am part of a small group of teachers who were asked to participate in training sessions to learn the software on our new MacBook Pros. So for two days last week, I sat in a room with friends from my building (and colleagues from the district) and created Podcasts, music, and movies. Now the trick is to actually implement what I learned on a day-to-day basis. 


  • Student conferences. I’ve started having informal conferences with students during our end-of-the-day study hall. I’m doing these for a couple of reasons. First, it gives me a chance to make sure my students know how to use the technology I expect them to use (namely, Google’s suite of products). Second, it gives me a chance to get to know my students a little, especially since I’m asking them to take…



  • The 40 Book Challenge. Inspired by Donalyn Miller’s book, The Book Whisperer, I decided to challenge my students to read 40 books in a variety of genres by the end of the school year in May. Student response has been varied–a couple of students will probably hit 40 by Christmas. One student admitted to me today that he wasn’t sure he’d hit 40, but he knew he could do 25. And I’m fine with that–the whole point of the challenge is to just read. No reports, no tests, just read. I’m taking the challenge, too. Speaking of which…



I am working on this list of Young Adult Novels. I started with #100, and I’m working my way to #1. This is more challenging than my students might think, mostly because there is a lot of Fantasy Lit on this list, and I am not a fan. But if I’m challenging my students to read 40 books this year, I can read a couple Fantasy novels.

The year is really going rather well. I’m a little worked up as I’m reading this book. I’m afraid I’m allowing my frustration with the concepts in the book to color my feelings at the end of the day, so the challenge next week will be to try and separate the “stuff” from the “stuff,” if you know what I mean.

But if anyone reading this has any advice for how to effectively utilize “progress monitoring” in the secondary English classroom, let me know. I’d love to hear your ideas.

What Are You Reading 6/25

I love when I read a book and find out another in the series is coming out soon. I read “Darth Paper Strikes Back” this week, and I’m glad I only have to wait until August for the next in the series! 

This week, though, I’m just going to see what speaks to me. I still have a stack next to my bed, as well as four weeks of magazines that have piled up. But I’m planning to read some Nick Hornby, and I really want to start Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series (the first is “I Could Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You.”) 

And of course, there’s some professional reading I need to do to get ready for Newspaper camp…

My sister’s been in town for the past three weeks, which has definitely cut into my reading time (not complaining about it at all–just stating a fact) but she’s leaving this week so I will have more time to read, I’m sure. 

I can’t believe this time next week it will be July. Though I’m happy to say that I don’t feel like this summer is flying by. I’ve loved the easy, laid-back pace I’ve set for myself this month. I think I needed it.

What Are You Reading 6/18

Lesson about reading this past week: it’s okay to abandon books. 

I tell my students this all the time, but I rarely allow myself the same luxury. After slogging through 25 pages over four days of “The 10 P.M Question,” I couldn’t figure out who the protagonist was, what the setting was, what the conflict was…the things that keep me reading a book were completely escaping me.

So I stopped reading it, and instead read Ellen Schrieber’s “Comedy Girl.” In a day and a half.

And while I’m enjoying “The Book of Awesome,” it’s not a narrative. It’s 250 pages of little writing experiences. It’s going to be a great tool for teaching writing next year–his diction in some spots is vibrant–but I don’t feel compelled to finish it in a day. I’ll finish it sometime this summer.

Read what I want. That’s supposed to be what I’m doing this summer. So this week?

I’m going to start in on Grammar Girl’s Ultimate Writing Guide for Students as I start to retool my English class.

I’ll start High Fidelity…again…and see if this time I can finish it.

And today, I started reading this book. Can’t wait to finish it.

What are you reading?


What Are You Reading 6/11

My students often ask me why I don’t play video games. I tell them it’s because I lack hand-eye coordination. The students who pay attention to how I spend spare hours at school…accompanying choirs, soloists, playing in the pit for the musical…those students counter with, “Haven’t you been playing the piano for, like, ever?”

So I usually tell them it’s a different kind of hand-eye coordination and then change the subject.

But here’s the real reason why I don’t play video games: obsession. It’s too easy for me to just play and play and play. My niece and nephews are in town and when they asked to download Fruit Ninja on my iPod, I did. And then I played it once. And twice. And I have run down my iPod battery five times in the past three days. Which means I have not read hardly at all.

I did finish two of the three books I set out to read last week, but that was Pre-Fruit-Ninja. 

So this week, what am I reading?

Still working on The Book of Awesome.

Checked out The 10 PM Question and 3 Willows from the high school’s Overdrive ebook library and need to finish those this week.

And I need to stop playing Fruit Ninja so I can read more.

P.S. Love love love the Heist Society series. Uncommon Criminals was a fabulous sequel!

What Are You Reading 6/4

The problem with reading I’m having right now is that I don’t think I’m doing it for the right reasons.

Don’t get me wrong–I have thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve read so far. But I’m not reading because I feel driven to read, like I used to when I was a child. I’m reading because I set a goal. And I’m reading because of the satisfaction I feel when I change a book on my GoodReads “to-be-read” shelf to “read.” And I’m reading because I want to help my students next year. Does it matter, so long as I’m reading?

I don’t know.

At any rate, here’s what I’m reading this week…

The Accidental Genius of Weasel High: this, I am reading on my iPad, via the Overdrive checkout system from my library. Yay technology!

Uncommon Criminals: the sequel to Heist Society. Loved the characters in the first novel, and I’m a sucker for sequels.

The Book of Awesome: I heard the author give a TED talk about how he came up with the idea for the book, and I need a shot in the arm of optimism. Hope this does the trick.

What are YOU reading this week?