The Author

My photo
I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I have a small person of papers to grade...

What does that mean, right? Let me tell you what it means. It means that after I heaved all of the papers I took home to grade onto my passenger seat, and turned my car on, my car sensed a person and wanted me to buckle them.
There's a first for everything I suppose. I've had that happen before with my computer in the pile, but no computer today- just.... papers.... lots.... of.... papers.
None of it is too complex, but sadly, it is stuff I do need to do personally to know where they are at, and just plain looking at and writing a number on 500 pages takes a crapload of time.
I am also under crazy pressure to have crazy detailed lesson plans right now for reasons I don't want to go into.  The dark cloud of BTSA (teacher induction program) is looming heavily in the distance. There are piles of legalistic paper work I have fallen behind on, and several books that my students are actually reading that I haven't read yet- that would be the problem with literature circles. When you add new books each year, it is hard to keep up with them all.  There are currently 12 different books in my students' hands for assignments. I have read all but 3 of those. Well, at least a business trip is coming up and I can read them on the plane.
My students are amazing. My honors students particularly. They had the most amazing literature circle discussions yesterday. I even had the coolest opportunity to sit down with the group that read Jesus Freaks and share some of my life and past Christian walk with them. It was a neat experience. It was equally neat to turn 5 minutes later to the group reading The Laramie Project and listen in on a discussion about whether or not the defendants truly killed him because he was gay or if it was just a robbery gone wrong. I love my job.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Will Never Forget

Today my students read their poems and shared their butterflies with the class. Then, I told them the fate of their child. If the child died (which all but 2 in each group did), the student had to cut down the butterfly.

This is a picture of Cameron cutting down his butterfly. Cameron was very attached to his butterfly. He was the first to finish on art day (Monday), and then ended up going back up to his butterfly to edit it the next day. When I asked why, he explained that he thought about it at home and decided he needed to cut off part of the butterfly's wing. Why? Because he explained, "If a butterfly is missing part of its wing, it cannot fly, and the children lost a part of themselves when they went to the camp, and they are like broken butterflies because they can't just fly away."  Yeah...

When Cameron cut his butterfly down today, I thought he might cry.

A few students did cry. When I asked the students at the end to share with their group what they would remember about this experience, I overheard a student say, "I will never forget what it felt like to chop down my butterfly."

You know what I will never forget?

I will never forget watching Adriana get choked up reading the last few lines of "Letter to Daddy," and I will never forget watching the tears stream down her cheek as I told her the child died. I'll never forget wishing I could just hug her as she ran to the bathroom to compose herself.  I'll never forget Claudia's face as I read the biographical information and she reached for the scissors, only to let go in shock as she heard me say, "Alena Survived! You may leave your butterfly hanging." I will never forget the way the entire class clapped and cheered for the butterflies that survived.

I will never forget the two students who had butterflies representing the same poet... who accidentally made almost the same exact butterfly. I will never forget the concern on Vanessa's face as she begged me to let her go pick her butterfly up off the ground and glue the rhinestones back on that had come off in the fall to the ground. I will never forget how many students insisted that we travel to Houston to see the butterflies in the exhibit in 2013.

I will never forget that for maybe the first time ever, my students really, truly, sincerely understood that the fact that 1.5 million children died in the Holocaust means that the world lost 1.5 million innocent, beautiful, amazing young people...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I have so much to do, so of course what am I going to do first.... blog.

This has been an emotional unit for me at school. The students created butterflies to send to the Holocaust Museum of Houston for their Butterfly Project. The Museum is collecting 1.5 million handmade butterflies to represent the 1.5 million children that died in the Holocaust. My students made butterflies that each reflect a child poet from the book I Never Saw Another Butterfly, which is a compilation of poems written by young Holocaust victims.

They put so much work into these butterflies. They poured their souls into these butterflies. I had students who never seem to care about anything in my room at nutrition and lunch. I had a student who I don't have until after lunch come in during nutrition and lunch, because he heard about the project and wanted to get started. They worked on them at home; they dragged their friends over to see them. One student asked me with great concern, "What if my butterfly isn't what my child was really like at all? What if he sees it and thinks I got it wrong?"  Her comment, with such great concern to do justice for this precious child, touched my heart.

They do not know yet that the second part of this project involves cutting down the butterflies of the children who died. Considering that only 100 of the 15,000 children at the Terezin camp survived, this means most of their butterflies will "die" tomorrow. It is going to be an emotional day.

During my Honors class today, I showed them a video of my family's trip to the Holocaust Memorial in Miami because they are entering an essay contest to win a trip to the memorial. In the video, my son looks at a statue of a young child and asks, "Why is he crying, Mommy?"
I could feel that the entire class felt the awful painful irony of that question. Their eyes were full of tears. Immediately after this, one of the seniors on campus stopped by my class to invite my students to participate in the Walk to End Genocide on April 10th. When he ended his presentation and asked who would like a registration form, nearly every hand in the room shot up.

I.... am.... emotionally.... drained.

The salary I make might be small, but do you know what I really make?

I make a difference.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I'm having a "Jesus Come Back Now" kind of day...

This morning, the sky looked so beautiful that I took a picture of it while I was driving. (Yes, I know, totally dangerous). I am pretty sure that is what heaven will look like.

My day has gone downhill from there. Teaching the Holocaust is hard. I am emotional. It is hard not to be. I feel like I am pregnant again I am so emotional (no, I am not pregnant, just saying). I just sat in my department chair's room crying because my advisory kids talked during a video about the destruction in Japan, my English students made a mess of the art supplies, and someone stole some of my markers. Silly stuff, I know. I am just emotional.

My college adviser in my curriculum program told me there would be days I would want to apply at Bank of America. Today is one of those days. I don't know how long I can do this.... but I don't know that I could handle not doing this.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Happy Weekend to Me!

It feels like a special occasion. Tiana is now sleeping 90% in her own crib. She usually wakes up to eat around 5am, which is fine by me, since that is just in time for me to feed her before I have to go to work, but we lay in bed and she goes back to sleep until  it is time to leave for day care. TODAY... however, she slept in her crib until around 7:30! It is funny, she has never slept that long, so when I first woke up and looked at the clock, I panicked. I thought, "Oh my gosh! She's dead!" (I'm not kidding. I was terrified she had died of  SIDS in the middle of the night). When I walked in there and she was laying there, eyes open, smiling at me, I was so relieved and thrilled. What a wonderful milestone.

This has been an interesting week. I started a new warm-up routine with my students. I created a bulletin board in my room called the "Grammar Wall of Shame." This is not for posting students' errors (this would be contradictory to my belief of never embarrassing students), but errors that the students find. It has been fantastic. We go over them in class the first few minutes of each period. It took a few days to pick up momentum, but the students are turning into little grammar hunters. On the bus on our field trip yesterday, the sophomores were shouting with glee when we passed a take-out pizza place, "Mrs. Mohr! Mrs. Mohr! Look!  "Slices Yogurt! Ahhhh!" They made a mad dash to take a picture of it (they get extra credit for emailing me the pictures).  I am sure what the pizza place meant was that they sell slices of pizza, as well as yogurt, but they found "slices yogurt" to be wonderfully incorrect. They have found some other good stuff too.  One student was thrilled to find an ad in his mailbox for a party place that supplies "ballooms and tableclothes."  Another found these pictures in a teacher's classroom. To be fair, I am pretty sure they were made by a T.A., but when my T.A. makes grammar mistakes on signs I ask her to make, I fix them before I put them up,  or better yet, I make her fix them. Anyhow, I am thrilled with the learning that is taking place. When I went over the "schedule" one in class, several students looked at it and honestly didn't know which one was correct, which is great, because now they do. I bet when I do a quiz next week, they are all going to get it right. :-)  After further consideration, I have found it necessary to find my own grammar mistakes online as well for the purpose of teaching a wide variety of grammar lessons, but I am going to use student examples whenever possible.

I haven't posted in a while because I was sick. Last week Vinny was (and I was getting it), then this week I was pretty miserable. I taught via projector in some periods on Monday, because I just had no voice. This happens to me a few times a year, but hadn't happened yet this school year. I seriously get sick way too much. It is a combination of things, mostly allergies and asthma making me extremely susceptible to respiratory problems, but it is also being a teacher, having two kids in two different day cares, and a husband who runs after school care. We actually  pull from 4 different germ pools. Fantastic. By the time my kids are 10, they will never get sick again; they will have the world's strongest immune systems. I finally went to the doctor Wednesday night though and actually got a nurse practitioner who understood my issues. This is rare for me. It is only when I find asthmatic doctors that I have success with treatment. No, I don't mean doctors that specialize in asthma; I mean doctors who actually have asthma. My primary has asthma, and so did this nurse practitioner. I think it is one of those things- you don't really know a person's plight until you've walked a mile in his shoes. At least I am finally getting better.

The steam room at the gym has become my best friend. It clears my sinuses like no other. I have even managed to sort of keep working out despite sick. I didn't go as much in the past couple weeks, but I did go a few times, and I even swam laps. :-) Go me. I always forget how much I love swimming as a workout until I am in the pool doing it. The biggest impediment to it is that I HATE the feeling of jumping into the pool and trying to get used to the water. Yes, it is a heated pool, but it is not "hot," and I am never at the gym in the heat of the day, so this always means an uncomfortable couple of minutes, plus a freezing few minutes after getting out too. I don't know how Marc does it. Like 2-3 days a week he swims in the early morning... like 5:30a.m. early. I would die. I really could not bring myself to jump in a pool that early. The rest of the days he goes at lunch. I could handle that... if my lunch hour wasn't non-existent. Haha.

I even found a solution to my nursing woes this week. I decided to cut down to one pumping session during the day at work. It has worked well. It opens up time for me during the day at school so I don't feel so stressed out all the time, and it spaces out the feedings enough that I still produce. I get enough at that one session to fill four bottles halfway, and then I just fill them up the rest of the way with formula. This means she is getting overall, with nursing at home, about 75% breastmilk and 25% formula, which is a ratio I still feel good about, allows me to keep that bonding relationship with her, and makes life easier on me at school. This is a good thing.

In February when Tiana wasn't sleeping well, Vinny was miserable about going back to full-time preschool and being moody all the time, and I was super stressed all day every day, I kept telling myself, "This too shall pass; it will get easier." What do you know... it has. :-)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Teaching Honors Students...

Teaching honors students is a paradox. It is one of my favorite parts of being a teacher... it is also one of the most challenging parts. I've cried more tears over Honors students than any of my other classes, both tears of joy and sorrow.

It is an art I am still perfecting.

There are some really awesome positives to teaching honors students-
  • They can get through curriculum in like half the time of other classes, which gives time for experimenting. I love to try stuff out on Honors. For the most part, if I can't make it work with them, I can't make it work, period.
  • They produce amazing work that is a pleasure to read.
  • They are intelligent, critical thinkers, and it is such a pleasure to engage them in discussion.

There are also some challenges-
  • If you are slightly under-prepared for a lesson, it is pretty easy to wing it in regular classes, but not in Honors. They know. And they resent you for it (I know this from experience both as a student and a teacher. I hated when my teachers were unprepared). This means having excellent preparation at all times, which is hard. It is hard to be that on top of everything all the time.
  • They often realize that they can achieve "pretty darn good" with very little effort, so they give the minimal effort and turn in "pretty darn good," when you know they can achieve "spectacular." This makes me crazy because I want to be fair and objective, but I also want so bad for them to know that it could have been better. How to do this and still be fair?
  • They ask questions you sometimes don't have the answer to. You can't really fake it and maintain respect, so the best decision is honesty, but I always hate having to admit that I don't know.
  • They hate doing stuff that is forced or doesn't really matter. You would think this is true of all students, but most students will tolerate the occasional lame assignment "for the sake of an assignment" stuff, but these students really only thrive when the educational endeavors that they are presented with are genuine and have relevant, real-world significance.  This is awesome, but challenging.
However, I think, to a certain extent, that I may love my Honors kids more than most teachers because I have awesome kids who are not like regular Honors kids. They are not all perfectionists who stress over a fraction of a percent. They are an eccentric, eclectic mix of incredibly talented students who just long to control the world some day (and will).

I guess some schools don't think this way, because in doing research for something I would like to present to my department, I found this story:
My colleague, who teaches eighth grade Language Arts, tripped on a cord, flew to the corner of a table and was momentarily knocked unconscious behind her desk. It was during her honors class.
Apparently, the class sat stunned. Finally, and we're talking after a long "finally", one student, and I mean only one, crept around the teacher's desk, looked at the floor, and announced, "Um, guys, she's not moving."
The teacher opened an eye with a groan, whispered for the student to go to the office, and the teacher, bleeding from the head, had to sit up by herself and ask for a paper towel.
So my question is this: would you rather be hit on the head in a room of A students stunned by a spontaneous turn of events that would never be covered on a standardized test, or a room of struggling latch-key kids who have to juggle their own nightly homework with the added responsibility of taking care of their three younger cousins?

This would so NEVER happen in my classroom. My Honors students are NOTHING like this. They are these incredibly responsible students who have no problem taking charge. I'd far rather pass out in my Honors class than any other class. If I passed out in period 5,  it might take them half the period to even notice.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Nursing Woes

To moms who nursed long-term, a question/request for advice...
I am sick, sick, sick of nursing. Correction... I am not sick of nursing- I actually love nursing my daughter- just pumping. I have been a real trooper about it, but it is a lot of work. On days when we have block schedule at school (2 days a week), my only break during the morning is nutrition, and it is not very long, so pumping takes most of that time. I hate it because I used to be very available to help my students at nutrition and lunch, but I have now banned them from my room during breaks, so that I can pump. Then there are other issues.... like detention.

The teachers all switch off covering detention during nutrition. I requested that the office manager not schedule me for detention coverage on block days, which means Wednesday or Thursday, so this week she scheduled me Friday, which would normally be okay, because I normally have a break 3rd period on Fridays, but today we were on a special block schedule and I forgot I had detention, so I ended up just having to do it. I know they are required to give me a nursing break if I need one, so I had my boss come cover me for a few minutes during homeroom (after nutrition), which worked okay, but honestly, I hate asking for those favors.

And I hate having no time for myself during the day. At least we had a prolonged lunch today, which was AMAZING. I actually had lunch with friends today, which is a rarity lately, since a 30 minute lunch does not allow time for eating, socializing, and pumping. Eating and pumping are musts, so I will let you guess which was one gets cut.

I am also sick of worrying about my milk production.  I have given in to the reality that I am apparently just not making enough to keep her satisfied. I am able to pump about 12-16 ounces during the day at work, and she wants to eat about 20 ounces a day, so I pack four 5-oz-bottles and I have to add a couple of ounces of formula to each, depending on how much milk I have, to make them full. Some days, I have to add like 2.5 ounces to one of the bottles. I guess in a lot of ways, it is not that big of a deal, but then it makes me feel like, "What the heck? If she is getting formula anyway, why am I bothering to do all this damn pumping?"

Why? Well, several reasons. We are B-R-O-K-E!  (Funny side note, I had a discussion with my students today about why we use the figurative expression "broke," instead of just saying "I have no money." We decided it is just because it makes it feel so much more desperate and sucky that way). Formula is expensive, so not having to buy it (or at least buy a lot of it anyway), is really, really nice, and sort of worth the pumping hassle.

I also continue to do it for the obvious health reasons, but even more so, because I do honestly like nursing her. I like that when she is cranky or tired I can just pop her on and she is happy. I like the sense of calm I get from her when she is nursing. It is really nice. I like that if I have to feed her in the middle of the night, there is nothing to prepare, and I can just fall asleep. I sort of wish that I could just stop nursing while at school and continue nursing the rest of the time, but my production is already low and my best time is the morning, so I do not know if I would continue to lactate if I didn't pump for 10-12 hours at a time. Maybe I could just drop to one time pumping during the day? Right now, I pump 3 times during the day- 2 on a bad day, but usually 3.

She already eats a lot of solid food (about 3 ounces for breakfast, 2 ounces for lunch, 2 ounces in the afternoon, and 3-4 ounces for dinner) and really loves it. You can tell she is already getting tired of pureed spoon feeding, and she is not even 6 months old! She is always reaching for our food, staring at our food, etc., but I know the majority of  her diet will continue to be milk for the next few months. Ugh... what do I do? I want to quit as much as I don't.  I just wish I could quit at school.

In other news, Vinny's teacher told me today, "He is SO creative!" I replied, "Yes, true, but what makes you say that?" She told me that there is always some story being created and some show being put on during play time. He is always the director and he is always searching for actors to be in his shows. Hahahahaha. I wonder where he gets that. She said today he was putting on a "Princess and the Frog" show and was insisting that he didn't have enough background singers. Too funny.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sleep Deprivation and Figurative Language

I have lesson plan writer's block. I need to be writing a lesson right now, but I can't get through it. I keep getting stuck and distracted. So, I decided to blog instead. (Effective decision making, right?)
I am having one of those periods in my life where I feel like life is running away without me. It feels very much like running on a treadmill on a setting that feels just a little too fast to barely keep up. I desperately want to reach for the control panel and hit the "jog" button and turn the speed down, only it is not a treadmill, and I can't hit stop.
My son is sick with some weird infection in his eye, and he feels miserable. I came home from work early yesterday to care for him. By the end of his cranky, cranky day, I wanted to run away. So I did, after Tiana finally went to bed. Just to the gym, but, as tired as I was, it felt really freaking good. I think I exercised off the anxiety of the week. It was the PERFECT end to a rough day. They were showing Chicago in the movie theater and it was just starting, so I got to watch pretty much the whole thing, which meant I worked out pretty much non-stop for a little over and hour and a half. It is odd how much energy working out gives you. I felt wonderful today.

But now I am really tired, bordering on the edge of sleep deprived, which is honestly probably why I can't focus on lesson planning right now. I'm gonna try to go to bed soon here.

I just feel so bleh guilty that my son is sick, and I have to work and can't be here for him. I had to work from 7am-6pm today, and I have to do it again tomorrow. It is parent conference time, and I really need to be here for these. This is usually a rough couple of days, because it is so "go, go, go," but it feels awful to pretty much look at my husband when he says, "Vinny can't go to school tomorrow," and just throw my hands up. I do my best to help make arrangements, but I feel like my hands are just tied. I hate dumping my sick kid on other people. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about it.

We've reach an interesting point with Tiana and bed. She goes to bed every night in her own crib, and really likes it! In fact, it is now like she can't really relax and settle until I lay her down and she gets all comfy. Yet, I somehow wake up with her in my arms in the wee hours of the morning. I am not completely sure how she gets there. I might be getting up to get her, or Marc is and then putting her in my arms. I think, in my right mind, I would comfort her and put her back, but I am always a ridiculously hard sleeper, and I don't trace my nights well. I have been known to sleep walk and talk in my younger days, and the recollection of nighttime actions is exacerbated by sleep deprivation. I think maybe Spring Break will be the ultimate time to fix this.

You know what's funny... you know what my lesson is on right now- figurative language. Do I usually write with this much figurative language and I am just noticing it in the light of this lesson.... or am I subconsciously integrating my lesson topic into my blog?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Happy Birthday to Marc

So, today was Marc's birthday. He swam in a pentathalon meet this morning in which he nearly lost his speedo halfway through his 50 fly. He was in the lane closest to his teammates, so we are still waiting to see which one will end up posting Marc's full moon on YouTube or FB. Somebody is bound to have had a camera handy. Oh boy. Fantastic.

Since we normally would have a Mardi Gras party the weekend before Fat Tuesday and Marc's  birthday happened to fall on the particular weekend it would be, we decided to do a relatively low key Mardi Gras inspired birthday party this year. We did it all traditional- purple green and gold decor with lots of beads and Cajun food. The only thing we didn't do traditional was the cake, which would normally be a king cake (think cinnamon roll like cake with colored sprinkles). Marc wanted chocolate and strawberries though, so that's what I made.

Marc's Parents
I made some really yummy jamabalya that cooked in the crock pot all day, my dad made his famous fried chicken, Marc's mom made gumbo, and Mo made blackened hot wings with Lousiana hot sauce. Marc's mom's food was clearly the most authentic, but hey, we can't all be truly Cajun. :-)

It was fun. :-)

What's that, Daddy? Clippers tickets? I wanna go!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

This Weekend...

I will be doing some shopping!! Woo hoo! Our tax return came and Marc got paid. It mostly goes towards bills, but it is Marc's birthday tomorrow, and there are some other things we need, so I get to go shopping.

I get to go shopping this morning with just the baby, since Daddy is busy and Grandma and Papa took Vinny to Disneyland. They enacted his fantasy this weekend. He loves to play at their house and pretend that he is at preschool and then Papa picks him up from preschool, and then they all go to a hotel and then go to Disneyland. Well, they decided that they could make his fantasy a reality, so Papa picked him up from preschool and then they surprised him by taking him to a hotel last night and to Disneyland this morning. They also made reservations at the Blue Bayou. I am officially jealous. Also very excited for him, but a little jealous. My kids are so lucky to have such awesome grandparents.

Last night, Marc and I were at Kohl's and Marc picked up a massage lotion called "Peace Potion," made with chamomile and lavender. He thought he was being thoughtful.

We got home and he offered to give me a massage. Just a few minutes into the massage, my entire back started burning and tingling and I felt like I wanted to rip my skin off. I rushed to the bathroom to frantically wash it off, but too much of it had absorbed, so my back was burning and tingling until I finally fell asleep last night. I was trying to remember the last time I had felt that way, because I knew I had felt that feeling before.

So, I look it up online, and... did you know chamomile is a ragweed?  Yup.  I'm allergic to ragweed. Severely, actually. It is why I spend the majority of the Fall sick with hay fever.  When I had felt that feeling
before?  Allergy testing. The week they tested ragweed, my arm itched and burned and tingled like crazy. The nurse had to rub the Benadryl cream all over it right away. Yeah, the allergy test was like a few drops of it injected just under my skin on my forearm. I will let you imagine how much worse having it absorbed into my whole back felt. Wanted to just rip my skin off. Miserableness.

Tiana is so adorable. She is sitting here next to me just smiling and cooing. She slept in her own crib last night. We have been co-sleeping up until this point. I recognize how many naysayers there are to co-sleeping, but you know, it worked for us. She had reflux until she was about 4 months old, and slept better propped up in my arms. We all got more sleep that way, and the close relationship I have with my daughter is very special to me, in a way I never had with Vinny. I think it is such an American thing, or at least a Western thing, to feel like babies need to be so independent, that they even need to be on their own when they sleep. It seems strange to me when I really think about it. Why do we want to insist on independent sleeping situations for these little creatures who are anything but independent in every other way?  I understand that some people think it is for safety purposes because of SIDS, but there has been just as much research done to show that babies are safer with their mothers. Most SIDS deaths occur when babies are in cribs by themselves. I am truly not saying that one way is better than the other- Vinny slept better in his crib (which was in our room though), and Tiana slept better in my arms, so we did what worked for us. I think people are too judgmental about this stuff in general.

Anyhow... so it is time for her to move because she is becoming too roly poly. She seriously moves so much now. Changing her diaper is quite challenging, since she will not stay still. This is not a problem when she is asleep, but she does wake up sometimes. In addition, I have been known to roll over with her to feed her (in my sleep), and I don't want to risk falling asleep with her on the outside instead of in the center and then rolling off the bed. We had the bassinet pushed up against it, or sometimes a pillow, but now it really is seeming like a safety concern. I figure we have two choices... buy a co-sleeper or put her in the crib. We are going with the cheaper option first. So far, so good. She went to sleep in her crib around 10pm, and woke up once at 2, but I nursed her back to sleep and she slept in her crib until 5. Not bad, eh?  Eventually, I will try to get her to drop that middle of the night feeding. I honestly don't know if she normally wakes up that time to eat or if it was just because of the change. Marc says she does sometimes, but I wouldn't know. I honestly thought she was sleeping through the night every night, but Marc swears she wakes up about half the time to eat once or twice. I just feed her in my sleep I guess, because I honestly didn't know that until he told me.

Well, we will see how the next couple of nights go.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Teaching From the Heart

A little over a year ago, I took some students with me to meet Erin Gruwell and some of the original Freedom Writers after we had just finished reading The Freedom Writers Diary. They were inspired... and so was I. I had first heard about the FWD when I was in college doing my Bachelor's in English in the credential prep program at CSUN. I saw that there was definitely something different about how that woman taught, and I knew I wanted to teach like that. Maybe not the same lessons, or even in exactly the same style, but with the same...I don't know what one would call it really, maybe.... gusto?

Anyhow, Erin Gruwell herself does a perfectly good job describing what made her experience different in a book she wrote, Teach From the Heart, which she gave me personally on the night I took my students to meet her. She even signed it. :-)

The title of the book really says it all... teach from the heart. It almost doesn't even matter what you teach or how you teach it, but you are bound to make a difference when you teach from the heart. When you teach from the heart, you teach each and every one of them like you would teach your own kids. If they don't "get it," you don't think... "Oh well, let's move on," because you know they need to get it. You rejoice with the student who is proud of her persuasive speech because... well... because she even spoke at all, even if her presentation confused the heck out of everyone. You rejoice because you know its a little victory and because it lifts your heart to see her smile. That's what happens when you teach from the heart.

You know what else happens when you teach from your heart? It breaks.

Teaching, like parenting, is so full of back-to-back highs and lows. One minute I am cringing at the huge number of students who totally missed the boat on the main point of my unit, the next I am brainstorming awesome ideas with my English colleagues, then I am talking about taking a super exciting trip to New York with my drama students, and then I am crying the whole way home at the huge disappointments that can come with loving these wonderfully imperfect children like my own.

But there is always a silver lining. The speeches we have been doing this unit have been about this quote from Robert F.  Kennedy...

“Each time a man stands for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”


It is one thing to get students talking about standing up for an ideal and sending out tiny ripples of hope. It is another thing entirely to watch the ripples of hope happening... to see one student's act of courage cross other centers of energy and daring. I'm still kind of in the wave right now... but I believe the walls of oppression and resistance are crumbling, one stone at a time.


And the icing on today's cake... another Donors Choose project funded. We are getting the extra literature circle books for our Holocaust literature circle unit.  :-) 

What can I say.... I am lucky and loved. 

Big day tomorrow, time to get some rest  ;-)