Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I dread this time of year. Just as I'm getting in the swing of things for teaching with my students, along comes homecoming. Grrrr... Sure this is a super-great time of the year for yearbook. We have lots of pictures to take. We have lots of activities to document. But, for my junior high classes let me give a big groan! Grrrroannnnn

The kids are so excited. They can hardly focus on their schoolwork. They wonder if they will dance with their crush.

I wonder if they can turn their brain juice on to understand literary elements.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Someone Who Matters- Mrs. Amy Christianson

This morning one of my childhood friends called me and said that she saw a past English teacher at Kmart in Grand Forks this morning. She couldn't remember her name, but I did immediately. "It was Mrs. Christianson - Amy Christianson. She's the reason I became an English teacher. Did you tell her that Kurt, Tina, and I are English teachers because of her?"

I'll tell you what. Mrs. Christianson confirmed the idea to me that I was not dumb. I had her in 8th and ninth grade? Was that it? It was two years for sure. I remember I was pretty sad when she announced she was moving to Grand Forks. Pretty sad for us. It was a good thing for her.

My favorite things we did in her class included reading Romeo and Juliet, "The Cask of Amontillado," and The Outsiders. I loved it when mom would go to parent/teacher conferences and come back and reported how Mrs. C enjoyed having me in class. Imagine that? ME?? One time Mrs. C even told mom that I was a good writer. Hooray! My heart soared at the compliment.

Mrs. Christianson had awakened something in me to become a more caring person. I loved to hear her talk about literature and writing. I loved the smiley faces she left on my papers.

Last year, one of my friends asked me which of our English teachers I wished to be like. I told her Mrs. Christianson because she taught me when I was young and needed the encouragement. I had other great English teachers too, but Mrs. Christianson was the first to see me for me. Mrs. Christianson was the first teacher who really inspired me.

I looked her up and found the school where she teaches. I'm going to write her and tell her. Perhaps she'd like to know what a difference she made in at least one student's life.

Friday, September 25, 2009

On Gary Paulsen - That Other Boy

I showed this video to my eighth graders. I cry whenever I watch this. I know students just like him. Yesterday, I showed this video, and I said to the kids;

"Hey life is tough. So read. Time passes. Life gets better. I promise. If Gary Paulsen can do it, so can you."

I always remember how a librarian saved Paulsen's life. It breaks my heart to know that one person can change someone's life. In this case that someone was Gary Paulsen. Who inspires some of those kids just like him in Northern Minnesota. Those kids just like him, those other kids, keep going to his books in our school library.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Crush

My seventh graders and I read "The Crush" by Cynthia Rylant. For some reason, we didn't read this story last year. And now, we've found a treasure. Cynthia Rylant creates such wonderful characters who captivated our imagination. We loved the gentle spirit of Ernie, the Mentally Disabled man who has a crush on Delores. Delores captivated my imagination with her tattoo of a coyote and the gentle mustache on her upper lip. Students giggled at the thought of a woman with a mustache, and I did too.

I told them about a childhood memory of the yellow church and a little old lady with a real mustache standing outside. I'd stare at her through the backseat window of my mom's car and wonder about her mustache. Then, I laughed and told them that if she looked up, she probably would have seen me with my nose pierced to the window making a flat face.

This story was the kind of story that made us sigh... And love the characters... And sigh at the beauty of life. How lucky we are that writers like Cynthia Rylant open our eyes to these stories.

Monday, September 21, 2009

And so it goes...

We are reading "The Lie" by Kurt Vonnegut in eighth grade. The kids truly don't understand the genius of Kurt Vonnegut. "The Lie" is nothing like Slaughterhouse Five. "The Lie" is more everyday more every person. Of course Slaughterhouse Five is deep and confusing and leaves you asking more questions then answering them.

The last words on this video say so much doesn't it?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Citizen Journalism...

I'm wondering if I should do our school newspaper as a blog?

Hmmm... It's free? The kids already look at their school via the internet?

For Example ---

One day...

One day, I'll be in a nursing home, or a hospital, or at a restaurant, or anywhere where I'll need help and the role will reverse. One of my students will be helping me. They may just see an old lady and suddenly realize that it is Mrs. Aakhus they are helping. I hope they remember me as kindly and caring and decide to treat me the same way.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

They Should Have Written More...

My eighth grade was so mad today. GRrrrr... They were mad. I made them write a paragraph describing their favorite character from "The Treasure of Lemon Brown." How could I? What the hockey sticks am I thinking? How could I?

I swear to God. I got a couple of evil eyes.

Some ninth graders walked by and heard their belly-aching.

I smiled at one and said; "They thought they were going to have my class without writing journals."

"Yeah... that'll be the day." She laughed. "We have to write journals in ninth grade too."

The nerve.

It's like we think their thoughts are important or something.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I just realized...

I married Yosemite Sam

he he!!! Of course Jason is smarter... but this has been what he sounds like as we've been battling mosquitoes this week...


I'm sharing this video with my yearbookers tomorrow. They love to take pictures, and they love looking at pictures.

By the way, this is my first junior and senior high class. It's odd how these students don't wiggle. These students also don't talk when I'm talking. They are quite a phenomenon.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Second First Week...

Tuesday morning, I woke up at 7:00 a.m. That's the time I should be on the road. Lucky thing I had all of my clothes out the night before and ready to go. I was out the door by 7:15 and made to work at 8:00 sharp. Lucky thing I had my papers all ready to go so I just had to pop into my classroom and open the door.

I have just got to tell ya... My seventh graders are the cutest things in the whole world. They were waiting in the classroom at 8:05 a.m. Did you know school doesn't start until 8:25? So yeah, they stared at me while I walked around the classroom making sure everything was ready for them. At 8:25, they were disappointed to see that I have a seating chart. I know... pretty lame eh? The truth of the matter is that if they sit by whom they want to sit by... They won't learn a thing. For some reason, they're too focused on figuring out ways to talk about lunch rather than listen to my mini-lecture on semi-colons. Which is totally weird because everyone knows that semi-colons are awesome.

I loved meeting my new students. They have such cute puppy-dog faces. I think this year's batch made more of an impression on me because I'm a little more sure of myself. I am more focused on them than on me. I can see them more clearly because I am not nervous. I could tell the difference between seventh graders and eighth graders. Last year, everyone seemed to be a blur for me. I couldn't tell ya what I thought of any of my students on my first day... only they were pretty disappointed I wasn't as cute as their previous teacher... Out with the new and in with the old... Pretty lame for them.

Last year's seventh graders still seem young to me, but they are so tall. They are taller than me. I used to think I was a tad tall, but now, I must tell you I AM SHORT compared to these kids. They take being older so seriously. I lay that on thick.. "Just because I say you can chat for three minutes does not mean you should get up and do jumping jacks." These beautiful girls are more beautiful. These funny boys are even funnier then last year. I wonder if I will connect with these eighth graders as much as I did last year's?

I miss last year's eighth graders with all of my heart. I will tell you that at the beginning of last year I thought these kids were some of the worst kids in the whole world. By the end of the year, they stole my heart.

I found these kids to be kindred spirits. I remember reading stories with them and choking back tears as we were discussing the characters. I could let a tear or two fall in front of these kids as we talked about life lessons from the stories. Some of those kids told me things about themselves that made me cry sobs of tears behind closed doors.

I tell you I appreciated the hugs from these kids on the first days of school. They will always be my eighth graders even when they invite me to their graduations, and even when they invite me to their weddings. Just as I will always think of Natalie and Allison as my babies, I will think of these darlings as my eighth graders.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My favorite...

Last spring I wrote about being pleasantly surprised at a student's writing. As a teacher, that's one of the best things ever. FO SHO! The last day of class he took the story and gave it to me. He told me that I inspired the story. I know... Golly gee. That was my favorite moment of teaching. Those last five minutes of my first year. I will keep that story forever. I smiled so big when he told me that and then told him he should dedicate EVERYTHING he writes in honor of me!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Results NOW~

This past week, my district sent all of us us eager teachers to a presentation on Michael Schmoker on his book Results Now. I turned to a fellow teacher and said "This sounds like a satire. How can anyone seriously name their book Results Now?" She laughed because it would be a great satire wouldn't it?

Because this guy was serious, I took notes. The main argument of this book is less worksheets, less movies, and less projects while incorporating more discussion, more critical thinking, and more higher learning. Well... of course. Don't we all want our children to be critical thinkers?

I love discussion. I love critical thinking. I love higher levels of learning. The truth of the matter is that not all of my students want to be engaged learners, and not all of my students can remember which parts of speech are necessary for a complete sentence. I'm sorry to say... I don't know how to do it without a worksheet.

I left the speaker feeling a little sad. I left wondering how I could be everything to every student.

One of my favorite books is Teach like Your Hair is on Fire. Maybe we could listen to him next year. This teacher has taught fifth graders Shakespeare. Though I don't think he uses a million worksheets to do it, he truly is an inspiration to teachers. I love to be "fired up" about teaching.

I love poetry, literature, and even grammar. I want my students to love them too. I think I've had some success because I am enthusiastic about these concepts. I tell the kids; "I'm so excited to talk about prepositional phrases." They laugh even though they know I'm serious. Not all of my lesson plans are a stroke of genius. I've had students turn in homework that clearly showed they didn't understand the concepts.