Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sometimes it's worth it.

at Two Writing Teachers!
Chook.  I look over to see one of my students snapping a picture of the SMARTboard with his phone.  Cute.

"Lo puedo grabar?" (Can I record it?) asks another, grabbing her phone. Didn't expect that! 
"Sure!" I grin and sit back.

A few are in our school's marching band.  Some have never even seen a marching band.  I don't think any of them have been to an OSU football game.  Some haven't been to an American football game.

I watch and listen to them watching and listening.

Wide eyes.  Wiggly bodies.  Pointing arms.

"Where is it going to make the Ohio?"

"No look, there's four of them, all over!"

"We did like this last week for Homecoming!"  (Once a year, our town's high school bands have always done a simplified version, with our town's name instead of Ohio.)

"WHOA, that is so cool, how do you guys go through each other like that?"

"Oh yeah, look, they have to go through each other right there!"

"Isn't it hard to march like that while you're playing?"

"Who's taking the video?"

"Sweet, look, I see how it's making Ohio!"

"Aw, they separated you and your husband?"

"How did you guys ever learn how to do that?"

"You guys practiced that a lot, right?"

"3:30 in the morning?!"

"How come the guy who makes the dot is so special?"

"WHOA look at the 4 Ohios!"

"Wow, how many people are in that stadium?"

Sometimes it's worth it to take five minutes of class time to weave the threads of a connection that will last all year.  Just like sometimes it's worth it to practice even when you're too tired, to get up at 3:30 in the morning, and to cram another thing into your already busy schedule.

Tradition is worth it.  Pride is worth it.  Connections are worth it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Where I'm From

at Two Writing Teachers!
This Saturday is the annual Alumni Band Reunion, where over 500 alumni will come back to march on the field at Ohio Stadium "just one more time".  It's a week full of fun, friends, and LOTS of hard work... just like my 5 years in TBDBITL!

Unfortunately, right now that means squeezing marching practice, full band rehearsals, and music memorization into my already overcrowded-with-schoolwork schedule.  (Sorry kids, you're going to have to wait just a little longer than usual to get those assignments back!)

However, I just couldn't miss out on writing this week!  Last week, my Intermediate and Advanced student wrote their own "Where I'm From" poems, modeled after the original by George Ella Lyon. As I try to do with any major assignment, I wrote my own first and shared my writing process with them as we worked through the process in class.

We got our brains going with a 3 minute freewrite on "home" and then expanded to lists, since that's how George Ella Lyon said her poem took shape.
Students: "How long did that take you?!"  Me: "About 45 min. I just got going..."
I think I need to write a few more poems, because there were so many things I wanted to write about that just didn't fit into the poem!  Maybe I'll write a new one each year?  :-)

Anyway, here's what I ended up with:

"Where I'm From" (based on the original poem by George Ella Lyon)

I am from bicycles,
from Legos and fuzzy stuffed friends.
I am from balancing on fallen logs.
(My muddy pink shoes
following Daddy's huge footsteps.)
I am from cherry trees
filling flaky pies,
portulaca who slept and awakened 
like faithful friends.

I'm from raspberries and neon bows,
from Ann, Wade, and Joshie Dave.
I'm from the engineers
and the poem-keepers,
from "Be a Marine" and "Hum a little, Marion."
I'm from How Great Thou Art,
soaring handbells and squirming choirs
and Silent Night with glowing candles aloft.

I'm from the Oval and the Shoe,
simmering spaghetti sauce and steaming Nani Soup.
From my Grandaddy's shuffling limp, a bullet
buried in his spine,
to the coiled fawn on my brother's grave.

Smiles shine out of thick blue albums,
bookshelves boast tattered storytime edges.
A puzzle piece of crinkly eyes,
Sweet Pea with a swinging golden braid.
Warm hugs and laughter light my path.

It was a blast sharing my writing with my students, and they did an amazing job with their poems.  I hope to share some of their special lines with you soon!  (Like, after I make it through this week!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Do you like kids like us?

at Two Writing Teachers!
I finally feel like a normal person today!  School is finally becoming slightly less of a whirlwind and I no longer have to work non-stop until 9pm just to get ready for the next day.  I even cooked a real dinner tonight, for possibly the first time in several weeks!   (To be clear, a "real dinner" means that I managed to throw some prepared chicken in the oven and heat up some Ready Rice... as opposed to just heating up leftovers, dipping out a crockpot meal that Husband started in the morning, or having him pick up Chinese on the way home.  I didn't say I was a cook!)

Anyway, the first two weeks of school have been AMAZING, in addition to tiring.  Here are some of my favorite snapshots:

  • My mom came to my school after one of the teacher workdays and brought me this awesome care package!  She is so proud of me for getting this new position! (And so excited that I'm teaching high school now: after all, she is a high school principal.)  It's full of all kinds of useful school supplies and I feel like I'm getting a hug from her whenever I use one of them.
My mom is awesome!
  • On the first day, after my usual "about me" talk, I let the students ask me whatever they want.  One girl, who had told me earlier that she doesn't like little kids, asked if I like little kids.  (I do!)  Then a boy (who I have since learned is one of the sweetest high school boys you could possibly work with) raised his hand and asked, "Do you like kids like us?"  (Of course I do!)  That simple question took my breath away.  After all, isn't that what all kids want (and need) to know on the first day of school?!  Do you like kids like us?  Sadly, my predecessor in this position apparently did not, especially boys of his ethnicity.  I hope I show them every day that I do.
  • On the first Friday, the school I now work at played the school I graduated from in football!  It was surreal and a blast, and the kids got a kick out of asking me who I was rooting for.  (My new school, of course!)
  • I found out that one of my sophomores had a baby last year.  Wow.  And she is such a hard worker!  I don't know how she does it, and I admire her persistence a lot.
  • After we talked about choosing a "just right" book and I recommended a few books to them, many students were excited to check out books.  In the afternoon, I mentioned that some of my highest recommendations were already checked out by some of my morning students.  I didn't expect this reaction: "M. checked out a book?!"  "Are you serious? He doesn't check out books!"  "Yeah, M. doesn't read!"  All the hours I spent organizing the mess of books into bins, buying new books so the kids will have high-quality books for choice reading, and making cute book bin labels are already paying off.  (By the way, the book was Origami Yoda.)
  • I always have my students bring in a special object from their country's culture and share with us about their country.  I was pleasantly surprised by the amount and quality of questions that students asked in all classes.  (I had planned to make each group come up with a question for each person, but I didn't even have to tell them to!)  Moreover, in my afternoon class the sharing turned into the most amazing discussions! (I hope to write more about this another day.)  It was awesome to see the students genuinely interested in each other's countries and valuing each other's cultures.
  • I've already had an amazing time writing for my students and sharing my writing with them.  This is one of the things I was most excited about in this new position, and it's as wonderful as I had hoped!
  • To top it all off, we have a gorgeous view from the classroom window and we had incredible visitors in 3rd period today!  It was a great chance to crowd around the window, let nature seep into our souls, and have a quick discussion about how writers have to be good "noticers"!
a mid-morning surprise!