Pot, Meet Kettle

In a meeting on Friday, I suggested that we ask teachers to reflect on their practices. Specifically, what they do to enhance reading comprehension in their classrooms. I was shocked at a colleague’s suggestion that we make a survey that staff could just “click through,” rather than what I wanted, which was narrative, thoughtful response.

I just don’t want to give them on more thing to do, was the rationale. And that’s when I lost all professional decorum.

How can we demand more from our students if we don’t hold ourselves to the same expectations? Aren’t we all professionals? Don’t most of us have master’s degrees? I’m asking for one paragraph. You’re telling me that’s asking too much?

Written here, these questions might not appear decorum-less. But let me assure you that the longer I ranted, the louder and higher my voice got, and I’m sure my face flushed, and I may or may not have banged my hand on the table for emphasis.

When I set up this blog at the beginning of the year, reflection was its purpose.

Well, I’m reflecting now and I haven’t been doing what my goal intended. I’ve posted about once a week, usually about something that is education-related. But I’m not using this blog to reflect on my teaching practice and how I might get better. Perhaps my rant on Friday was a tad more about self-loathing than it was about frustration with my colleagues wanting to make things easier for our staff.

Well, pot, I’m kettle. Time to do for myself what I wanted to ask of others.

So how did today go? Well, I forgot to plan a class. So when that class started and I reached for my notes and found nothing, I had to wing it. I didn’t ask enough questions. I didn’t let them talk enough. It wasn’t a good day, and I wasn’t at my best.

But here’s one of the many things I love about teaching: no two days are the same. So tomorrow will be better. And I won’t have time to reflect on it immediately, because right after school I teach piano lessons, and right after lessons I’m going to see Mary Poppins. But I’m reflecting now.

Time to practice what I preach.

NCTE Review: Friday, November 19

Friday morning, I wanted to make sure I made it to Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club in time for our 9:30 presentation, so I woke up early, hopped on a shuttle and arrived…90 minutes early. 

My colleagues on the panel arrived not long after me, and we made sure the tech worked and I nervously paced and hoped the room would fill up–after all, it could hold 200 people…

I tried so hard to be in the moment and soak up the experience of presenting at a national conference, but the moments passed quickly, and before I knew it, I was on the shuttle back to the Coronado Springs Resort for afternoon sessions.

I attended a session by Rosanne Parry, Sarah Lewis Holmes,  and Suzanne Morgan Williams about Young Adult Lit for military kids.  Their perspectives were enlightening for two reasons: first, I teach at a high school near one of the largest Air Force Bases in the country, and second, I had never thought about writing fiction from an adolescent military dependent point of view.  Bellevue Public Schools does quite a bit to emotionally support military students, but some of these books these authors discussed would be great additions and avenues with which to reach students who are concerned about their parents’ service.

Next up was a session titled “What Is College Writing?”  That’s a post unto itself.  But I’ll share here the best sound bite: “Parents need to learn that AP means Advanced Placement, not Advanced Exemption.”  I know I get so caught up in worrying about my students passing the AP exam–with a 3–that I forget a 3 is actually a C. 

I needed to process all that information from that session, so I wandered the exhibition hall, picked up a couple of books, signed up for some desk copies of books that would be helpful in writing curriculum, and then retreated to the gorgeous evening to grade papers.

I ended up instead talking for several hours with a professor from Western Washington University about a variety of topics–a perfectly lovely end to a perfectly lovely day.

I’m sifting through a ton of tweets to figure out what to share for Twitter Tuesday…til then…

Life is Good.

I’m sitting here on an esplanade at the Coronado Springs Resort, grading research outlines. I’m trying to forget about the manufactured nature of the whole Disney experience and just enjoy the sunshine, 70 degree weather, and cool breeze. There is a lake to my right, and occasionally a snapping turtle swims by. Looking straight ahead I see clusters of palm trees. And even though my arms are starting to burn a little bit from the sun, I don’t really want to move.

I’m surprised that I have been able to grade quite a bit; perhaps the lack of focus on all the other pieces of my life enables me to blitz through papers faster. Who knows. At any rate, I’m here, I’m happier than ever that I bought a Macbook, and so grateful that the sun is shining.

Last night as I stood on the jetway in St. Louis waiting to board the flight to Orlando, I realized just how much I’ve done this year. I stopped sending Christmas Cards a long time ago, because nothing really changed in my life. Teach, grade, sleep. And that still is my life, but this year I took some giant steps out of my comfort zone—almost to the point where my comfort zone has actually expanded. And possibly, people I meet and sessions I attend will continue to push me right out of my comfort zone, until I no longer see my life in a dichotomy of what is comfortable and what is uncomfortable. That would not be a bad place to be.

In the words of my favorite place to buy the most comfortable t-shirts, life is good.


Today I felt a glimmer of hope in the most unusual of places–our district office.

I was there with 20 or so fellow educators, discussing how the classes we teach matter.  They matter a lot.

And not that Math or Science or English aren’t important subjects–they most certainly are.  But I’m in the fortunate position of being in two departments and I teach subjects and skills that are completely woven.  Yet too often in high schools, subjects are treated as individual entities and we wonder why kids can’t seem to transfer knowledge from class to class.

But I digress.  Let me get back to hope:

That group of 20 colleagues shared idea after idea after idea for how we could improve our schools–and not all the suggestions involved buying new things.  (Although of course, a new network would be fabulous…)  We were encouraged to be honest with our administration.  We were asked to be innovative in our approach to building curriculum.

We were treated like professionals.

It hasn’t always been that way when I’ve been in meetings at the district office, and I don’t know if it will stay that way forever.  But today when I left, I felt trusted and a little empowered.  I felt hope.

Here’s hoping it continues.

Twitter Tuesday

Twitter was all, uh, a-twitter today, and really, this week.  So much so that I’m completely overwhelmed in choosing what to post.  It doesn’t help that I spent all day at the 21st Century Skills Fair, where I was overwhelmed with information that I want to share.  And since that is fresh on my mind, today’s Twitter Tuesday is a selection of links I learned about today…

For all you Mac users AND Star Wars fans: a way to mimic Star Wars credits in any presentation

If a site is blocked at school, put it into this search engine, and maybe you’ll find a suitable substitute.

A conference that won’t cost hotel or food: the K12 Online Conference in October.

And a “wayback machine.”  Pretty cool.

I have much more to share–plan on a bonus edition later this week that will include a recent Harvard study, commentary on what 21st century skills really mean, and one or two additional goodies.