Sunday, December 8, 2013

On Grattitude

Earlier this week, I found this blogpost , "The Forgotten Thank You" by Nicholas Provenzano. It made me realize all that my students have done for me.

These past years, my days have been filled with a lot of personal worries.  When I mention worries of my sister's eyesight or struggling health, they listen.  You could hear a pin drop.  I'm so thankful that they care.  It makes all the difference in the world to me.

Some of my students share some of the funniest stories.  Some of the stories are told in front of the classroom, full of animation and giggles.  Not all students have the guts to draw in an audience, and when I come across a giggle or two within their journals or writing.  I smile.  Most of these stories are about snowmobiles or the evil of twerking.

Not all students share everything with me, but sometimes, they really spill their guts out. Kids go through a lot.  That's all I have to say about that. 

I could think of many  times they make me smile and bring real meaning to my life.  I'm so lucky to have one of the hardest jobs in the world.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Big Ideas

For the past months, Senior High English has had an interesting mix of ups and downs.  I find it interesting how kids can vary their maturity.  Some days, they're spot on, and I'm amazed at their abilities.  Others days, they get the cold-steely-eyed stare of a pessimistic literature teacher wondering what she did to deserve them.

Luckily, that literature teacher forgives and forgets and remembers that they are just kids.

Yesterday, we circled up and had a discussion of big ideas.  It always surprises me how deep these kids are and how some of them are really interested on what others think.

Is there destiny? Are we fools to think we have any control over our futures?

Is true-love predestined?

How did people first start talking about aliens?

I loved that the paraprofessional in our room opened up and started talking about her big questions. 

 I love this job.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Exercise has taken over my life.  Every free moment I have I find I'm finding a way to run.  I love it.  I never thought in my life I would write that sentence.  I remember seeing people run and thinking; "Crazy, who do they do it?" 

I started running for one minute. Then, I ran for a minute and a half.  I started running very slowly.  In fact, I'm still slow, but I can run for a full hour.  I'm faster.  I feel great.

I had to choose.  Would I blog?  Or would I run?  I decided to run, but I've missed blogging.  I think I now have the energy to do both.

Monday, September 30, 2013


We just finished reading The Giver in 8th grade. 

And Hooray!

Of course - not everyone cheered and the best parts - but those kids,  you know the ones...

The ones who yell out "I hate reading."

Those were who cheered at the best part ever in the book -

and even read ahead -

They even knew not to give the best part away - and definitely not the ending -  They did not give away the ending.

Now - I hope the next things we read hooks them just as much!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On helping ...

Tina decided we were going to be in the Uff Da Mud Run in Grand Forks, ND.  I'm not quite sure how she talked me into it - but she did.

I'm not sure I knew what I was in for until I paid the registration fee and starting reading about the different obstacles. I was scared to death.

Caron, Tina, and I trained.  We ran. And then, we ran some more.  We army crawled.  We swam.

Eventually...   they put the course map out.

View UFF DA mud run (public) in a larger map

In the back of my mind, I figured I would do some of the obstacles and support Tina and Caron as they managed the course.

 Every Thursday, we met at the park and ran the hills of Red Lake Falls.  I always knew they were faster than I was, but I plugged away.  I did what I could.

Friday night, Caron and Tina picked me up.  We registered for the race and went for supper.  We scanned the course took a big gulp went home and tried to sleep.

Jason brought  me and the girls to the starting line the next morning.  Natalie and I stood at the riverbank looking at the final swim when she turned to me and said "Mom, it's just sad."


"I wonder how many people will drown today."

 IF that didn't comfort my anxiety for the day, I'm not sure what would.

Tina, Caron, and I started at the finish line pumped and ready to go!

We started over the first few obstacles of muddy rocks, hay bales, and increasing wall heights, and looked at each other and knew we were going to try them all.

I wasn't the fastest runner, but I had heart and determination, and I did things that day that I never thought I'd do.

What sticks in my mind the most is when I stood in line to climb a cliff and thinking that there was no way I'd do that.  In the back of my mind, I wondered how I was going to get out of it.  I watched Tina go, and then, Caron.  I decided that if they could do it, I could do it too.  I grabbed the rope and wrapped the rope around my wrist.  I climbed up  about 4/5 of the way and looked down.  I did not want to fall. I was so tired.  I looked up - it seemed so far.  I looked down.  I didn't want to go down either.  And, at the top my friends yelled "You can do it. You can do it."  And I went a bit further.. and then, arms hugged on to me, and they lifted me up the rest of the way.  I did it. 

In every day's struggles, I think of  reaching the top with someone's help.  I think of helping kids get to the top.  I'm more determined. 

Monday, September 9, 2013


I'm in awe.  We did it.  We swam. We crawled.  We jumped. We balanced.  We climbed. We laughed.  I'm in awe at what my friends helped me do.

There were a few times that I wondered if I would quit, but they pushed me through to the end.  After this, I think I can do anything. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

On Summer

The past few weeks we've been busy enjoying summer.  August brought the beginning of summer for Allie Ann as her neck brace came off.

We spent every spare minute at the pool enjoying the freedom of being young and healthy.  We even got Allison's bike fixed up only to realize that she is too tall for her small bike.

 I saw that my youngest daughter has grown up.  When I looked to my oldest, I realized that she is a hair to be being half way to twenty.

I'm reminded of the Robert Frost poem, "Nothing Gold Can Stay"

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay. 

As summer turns to fall, I see the girls age a year.  The growth always astounds me in the Fall, when nature is the most golden.

Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf's a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. - See more at:
Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf's a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. - See more at:

Monday, August 12, 2013

Uff Da - Mud Run?

Tina talked me and our friend Caron to do a Mud Run next month.

We've been running.  We've been walking.  We've been cutting wood.

We've been hanging from monkey bars wondering if... perhaps we could swing from one bar to the next.  So far, for me, the answer has been no.

I'm not sure why I agreed to do this.  Maybe it's because I'm going through a mid-life crisis?  I'll be forty in 10 months you see.

But yes.  I decided to do something that scares me.

View UFF DA mud run (public) in a larger map

Maybe I realized life is to short to sit on a couch?  Maybe life is too short to be scared? Maybe I need an adventure.  It looks like I got an adventure.

Monday, July 15, 2013


This spring, I requisitioned 30 copies of Hiroshima by John Hersey. Personally, I had never heard of the book until five years ago when I assigned a journal asking students what book they would recommend for me to read.  At the end of class, one of my students went to my book shelf and came back with the classroom copy.

Japan has always pulled at my heartstrings.  There were a few exchange students from Japan in my high school, and I was always drawn to be their friend.  I even took a year of Japanese in high school.

 I read the book within a few weeks of the recommendation.

I decided we would read Hiroshima this Spring. As I researched the book, I learned the the book was originally published within The New Yorker published a year after the bombing of Hiroshima.  What fascinates me is the cover.
Never would a reader suspect what the story enfolded within the magazine. The irony of the cover floors me.  I wonder if I could make this bigger and make it a book cover to give students the effect that readers had had 67 years ago.  They would get the book thinking it was entitled The New Yorker with a picture of Americans in Central Park having the time of their lives, but when they read, they would realize what the Japanese were encountering at the same time.

We'll see what happens here - I'd like to have students look at many opinions and try to grasp an opinion of their own.  Personally, it's awesome when an junior high student picks it up and places it in his teacher's hand.  Then, that teacher takes that book and passes it out five years later to a Senior High English class. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I'm here to tell you I have never read Macbeth.

And bam!  Here it is in next year's book for my eleventh and twelfth graders.

I'm liking it.  I've never taught Shakespeare.

In five years of teaching, I've never had a Shakespeare play put in my curriculum.

In five years of teaching, I've had to renew my license without ever teaching Shakespeare....

So, my palms are a little sweaty.  I'm looking down at the dirt and tilting one foot.  I'm a little shy on the idea.

So, I take out my text and read.  I find resources online and consider which resources are useful to the kids and which resources sound like a thirty-nine year old chubby lady trying to make Shakespeare cool and hip. Maybe I'll go for the meaningful.

And I take out my text and read again.

And I remember my Shakespeare 314 and Brit Lit 200.  This is why I became an English teacher.  I remember sitting across from Tina Mar and Kurt in our tiny classroom and trying to figure it out while Dr. Drake asked just the right questions.  

And even so, this is the first time I've ever read Macbeth.  But alas, it will be the second time I read Macbeth when I read it with my senior high this fall!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.
Helen Keller

 My mom's dad died when she was thirteen.  Her favorite memories of her dad is when they traveled.  My dad's dad died when dad was fifteen.  And so, mom and dad decided when Missi and I were young that we would travel.  We would make memories to last a lifetime.

Mom and dad took Missi and I to Disney World, Michigan, Washington D.C., Hawaii, South Dakota, and the Wisconsin Dells.  Eventually, Nathan joined us on our travels.  We made memories.

Mom and dad wanted to make a impression.  They wanted us to realize that the world was bigger than Red Lake Falls.  There was more to the world than our seventh grade classes.  There were more people in the world to embrace.  

The truth of the situation is that Missi got to see these things before losing her sight.  Missi will forever remember seeing the mountains.  She will  forever remember seeing the ocean.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mother's Day

Mother's Day ended up being an incredible day of celebration.  Allie could walk.  Allie would be able to swim again.  Allie would be able to skip, dance, and run.  Allie can do all of these things.  

In twelve weeks.

Saturday the 11th, My mom and I took the my girls and their cousin Mariah to Grand Forks to open gym.  We went to the food court, and afterwards, mom took Natalie to shop, and I took Allie and Mariah to tumble.

I told them to have fun, and I went upstairs to watch. I remember looking at the weather on my phone and looking up to see Allison crying and heading to the door.

The rest is history.  Saturday afternoon was spent in the E.R. waiting for tests and decisions.  Allie had an M.R.I., and we waited some more.  Eventually, it was decided that Allie would take Life Flight to Children's Hospital of Minnesota, Minneapolis for consultation.  Allie had fractured her neck.

I would like to say that I was an excellent mother that day.  I'd like to say that I didn't panic and cry.  I'd like to say that I had faith all along that she'd be okay.  I'd like to say that I calmed her down instead of reaching for my mom.  

But that wouldn't be the case.

The Life Flight crew did that for me.  By the time Allie was in the ambulance, ready to be moved to the airport, they had her calm and giggling.  I will forever be grateful for that.

After what seemed to be a long transport and transfer to the hospital.  I'll never forget how fast the neurosurgeon was in his diagnosis and prognosis.  Allie would be fine.  She wouldn't need surgery.  She would need to wear her brace for twelve weeks.  She would spend the night in I.C.U. for observation, and she would be sent home the next day -

On Mother's Day.  

Mother's Day ended up being an incredible day of celebration.  Allie could walk.  Allie would be able to swim again.  Allie would be able to skip, dance, and run.  Allie can do all of these things.  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

G is Grandma

Grandma taught me many things.  She taught me how to sew, crochet, and stand up for myself.  Grandma tried to teach me to knit, but for some reason, I still haven't gotten the hang of it.

I loved to listen to my grandma's stories.  She had so many bits of wisdom.  She wasn't the flowery kind, and she swore like a sailor.  That was part of her charm.

I was with grandma when she died.  We were lucky enough to remember all of her stories and songs.  I sang "Yellow Bird" to her like she sang to me.  Two months before grandma passed, my daughter was born and was baptized.  My pastor put the sign of the cross on Allison's head and said "Allison Ann, child of God, welcome to "Family of God"  When grandma died, her pastor made the sign of the cross on her head and said, "Shirley June, Child of God, welcome to the "Kingdom of God".  That always brings me peace.

F is for Family

I love my family.  I'm so lucky to have such kind daughters and a funny husband.  We love to go places together.  I love to have them around me.

One of my favorite things is to overhear my daughters talking.  The eldest giving the youngest advice, and most of the time, the advice is pretty good. 

When I graduated college, my mom and dad, my mother-in-law, my girls, and Jason all came to see me walk across the stage.  I wanted my daughters to see me achieve my dream.  I wanted that to be embedded in their brains.  Work and  your dreams can come true!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

E is for Eggs

Never in my life did I expect that we would have chickens.  I never thought I would be collecting eggs in the spring and chasing chickens out of my garage.  Never in my life did I think I would wake up to the sound of a rooster crowing in the morning.

I still can't believe that I live in the country.  I grew up in town.  We had neighbors I cut across their lawns.  We played "Kick-the-Can-Alley" and "Tag".  Of course, I was the weird kid who always started newspapers and circuses, parades and lemondade stands.

I'm sure my girls long for town and playing "Kick-the-Can".  I'm sure they'd like to hang with their friends instead of collecting eggs.  To tell you the truth, I'm glad that they live out in the country.  I'm glad they can be by themselves once in awhile and skip down the driveway if they want.  And, I never have to worry about lemonade stands.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

D is for Dreams

I couldn't decide if I was going to chose D for Dad or dreaming.  I figured dreaming covered both concepts!  My dad is the wisest man I know.  He always cheered my dreaming on.  I am where I am today because of my dad.

Dreams are only dreams until you work hard to achieve them.  My dad didn't go to college because he and mom started a family at such a young age.  Dad worked hard at his job and eventually got a promotion as a Line Superintendent at Red Lake Electric.

When I went back to school, I would call dad to tell him about my struggles and triumphs.  He was there to remind me to learn from my mistakes.  He kept me going. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

C is for Cancer

I could have picked many words for C, but I chose cancer.  Once cancer enters your life, your life is never the same.  When my mom and sister were diagnosed, our lives would forever be rocked.  Looking at this picture, I can see how exhausted I was at the time.  My life revolved around cancer, and I was exhausted.  My life still revolves around cancer.  I'm constantly checking my blood levels and making sure my fiber intake is acceptable.  I took a special cancer insurance policy out on my family to be sure that we would be financially secure if cancer reared its ugly head within my household.

Even though it's been a year and a half since my sister came home from Rochester, she is still healing.  Her eyesight had always been perfect, and now, she is legally blind in one eye.  With the bone marrow transplant, side effects can be very devastating.  Missi had Graft V. Host disease in her eyes, mouth, and sinuses.  She still struggles with her eyesight and platelet levels.  She's tired all the time, but she's here.  My sister survived.  Thank God she survived.

At the same time, my mom had Colon Cancer.  Luckily, her cancer was diagnosed at an early enough stage that we never doubted her survival.  Colon Cancer can be very deadly if it's not caught in time.  My mom struggled a lot with the side effects, but we never doubted her strength or survival. 

B is for Bobby

My nephew Bobby is one of the joys of my life.  Although he wasn't named for me, we have a special connection because really there are only about three Bobby(i) Aakhuses in the world.  We are a rare commodity.

Bobby is so full of life and is always getting into trouble.  He's loud but kind. He's the center of his dad's world.  One day we celebrated his fourth birthday at a waterpark near Detroit Lakes.  We couldn't find him when it was time for pictures.  When we finally found him, he was with another family as they were taking family pictures.  Bobby photo-bombed their family pictures.  I love that a  four-year old could do that.  I wonder what they think about when they see the little brown -haired kid in their family pictures.

Bobby makes friends where ever he goes.  He wears a fedora.  He calls out to the pretty,  teenage girls; "Hey girlfriend, give me a kiss."  That is our Bobby.  What a guy!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Autobiography A - Z: A is for Allison

My Practical English class is writing their Autobiography -- an Alphabetic Biography - This will be something they can put out at their graduations and think about what's important to their lives.  Maybe it'll be one last chance for  me to get to know them even better.  As they write their autobiographies, I will write mine.

A is for Allison
Allison  Ann is my second born.   One of the first things I noticed about her is that she is very smiley, and she likes to snuggle.  When the nurses and daddy took her away to bathe, she cried and cried until she was returned to momma.  She hasn't liked to bathe ever since!

Allison is very flexible.  Yesterday, she called out to me; "Mom look!"  She was doing the splits up against the wall.  You read that right.  One foot was on the floor, and the other pointed to the ceiling.  Crazy girl.  Allie's dream is to go to the Olympics as a gymnast.  Well, that has been what she has talked nonstop about since last summer when she met the neighbor-lady's granddaughter who is in gymnastics in Fargo.  She and her cousin have set up a gym in her aunt's basement. They have beanbags and sleeping bags to cushion their falls.

Allison loves apple pie and Chicken Belden.  She loves fashion, and her favorite store is Justice. My Allie is a dreamer.  She is full of love.  She is confident and won't let anyone bully anyone else in her presence.  She has been rumored to stick up to the big kids on the playground.  No one gets in her way. She sticks up for the underdog.  She is my Allie.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cup Hoarder

Before leaving school Thursday evening, I packed up for the weekend.  Every weekend, this is a process of throwing things out and tidying up to the best of my ability.  And as I sat at my desk my right foot hit the box under my table.


Oh - yeah - that's where my stash of used cups were.  You see, I often am so busy during the day that I forget my coffee cups all around my room and then, I don't have time to clean them...  And well, it's kind of gross, so I don't feel that the "Dishes Fairy of the Teacher's Lounge" should have to wash my dishes... and I feel so guilty..

I started putting them in a box to wash later.

But last week, I started realizing that we were running out of cups in the staff room....

So I brought the box of cups home, washed them, soaked them in bleach, and rinsed them out again.  Yesterday morning, I got to work very early and put the cups in the cupboards when no one was looking...

Good thing no one knows that I am the Cup Hoarder ---(insert evil laugh here.)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Soundtrack to My Life

While at Fosston, one of my favorite assignments is "The Soundtrack to My Life". I'm hoping it's one of the Mustang's favorite assignments, too. 

When I passed out my assignment sheet on that Tuesday, I saw a couple of jaws drop.  I couldn't read if they were excited to have another writing assignment that was so original and fantastic that they were speechless, or if they just thought it was another one of Aakhus' crazy ideas.

When I read their papers, I found some students were able to share their lives like they had never shared before. I found that the students who went beyond their usual genre of music had more interesting papers.   I also found that some students don't equate music to their lives and would rather take a 0 than finish the assignment. 

Meanwhile here is my soundtrack.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


When I realized that there are kids out there who don't know how to dream, it broke my heart.  All this talk of dreams really ticked some of them off

"I don't have a dream - I'm not good at anything."

This stumped me. As a young teen, I didn't have a lot of self-confidence either, but at least, I had a dream.  I was going to become famous.  I might not have been the best singer, writer, student, athlete, or actress, but I was going to become famous.

I think it was because I had books.  I had an escape from school.  Books gave me a dream.

So - I try.  I try and give them a dream by demonstrating others' dreams.  Maybe they don't know of all the possible dreams out there.

Like this

How cool is that?  Reading through journals, I could see one day one girl's dream was to have a family - which is a good dream in itself.  But, the next day, she added canoeing in the Mississippi as another strand of dream woven into her life.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Never Give Up

We use our 6th hour for Grad Prep - or a Reading Class that runs opposite our music program.  How I wish all of our students had an extra class for reading everyday, but I get our seventh grade every two weeks and then, switch with their Math teacher, and get the 8th grade for two weeks.  During those two weeks, I rotate standards. 

Monday is Main Idea Monday. We focus on the big picture with details to support it.

Tuesday is Time Line Tuesday.  We look at material and comment on how it applies to our own lives.

Wednesday is Wordy Wednesday.  We study vocab.

Thursday is ummm well... I haven't thought of a cool name for that, but we take a story and make it into a poem or take a poem and write a summary - we take the basic meaning behind the work and re-create it into a different form.

Friday is Opine Friday.  We study Author's point of View and then, express our own ideas!

Today, of course was Timeline Tuesday.  We read an article about the invention of water skiing.  Ralph Samuelson invented water skiing in Minnesota at Lake Pepin.  He struggled and struggled to achieve his dream and never let go of his idea.  I thought that this was a great message for seventh graders.  I paired it with this youtube video.

While reading the students' timelines, I found that there are a lot of dreams out there.  Kids wanting to do well in the world.  They want to be nurses, mechanics, teachers, and motor cross racers. What I worry about most are those kids who don't know how to dream. 

"Why dream?  Nothing good comes of it anyways...."

"Don't give up - " I whisper and pat their arm.  "Your assignment is to dream..."

Now, how do I grade that?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Why didn't I do it sooner?

This week, I started a twitter feed for my class.  All I can think of is "Why didn't I do this sooner?"   Seventh Graders were reading an excerpt from Into Thin Air by Jon Krakuer.  They were fascinated by Krakauer's account of Mount Everest.  They started asking questions about what I knew about Mount Everest.  I didn't know much.

Then, I remembered Flat Stanley.  A few years ago, Belden had taken Allie O's Flat Stanley with him to the Taj Mahal and ta daaaaa  Mount Everest. I had thought about shooting him an e-mail or texting him but at the spur of the moment, I decided to tweet him. 

The kids had a bunch of questions for him.  When he didn't answer the questions right away, I explained that he was at work.  He would probably tweet on his lunch break. Which he did, and I pointed out the next day.

And at that moment, I realized my class needed its own twitter account.  We would ask the questions we needed, and we would shout out to the world our morsels of wisdom.  I would put up homework reminders and use "Tweets of the Day" as journal prompts.

And I just wonder, "Why didn't I do this sooner?"

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mixing it Up

With the start of the new semester, we mixed up our seventh grade class. We switched some students  from one section and placed them into the other while keeping some in the same section.

When the students first learned that we were going to changing things up a bit, they panicked.  Did this mean that they were in a higher group?  Did this mean they were in a low group?  I had to reassure them  that we were not looking at test scores but maybe focusing on learning compatibility - which trust me, has nothing to do with learning compatibility.

We looked at how students work together. Do they allow these other students to concentrate?  Would they do better paired with this other student who would perhaps own their work and tell them to step it up?  Do they need a paraprofessional resource?

The mix was under lock and key.  I have to say that I was nervous.  I was worried that I'd have two sections that were challenging to handle instead of just one. 

And on Tuesday, when we made the switch.  I have to say.  I regretted it.  Change is hard for seventh graders.  Change is so hard.

But on Thursday, they had already forgotten there was a change.  The morning went by brilliantly.  These students have been some of the best behaved students I've seen all year.

And now,  maybe we can move on to more rewarding challenges. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Gateway Poet

Three of my English sections are selecting and studying poetry.  My seventh grade and Practical English course that includes twelfth and eleventh graders.  

I came across the poem, "Digging" by Seamus Heaney along with an example essay based on the poem.  Even though there was not a specific assessment that went along with the poem the kids could start to have an idea on what to write about when writing about poetry.  How can a poem inspire 500 words?

I asked my students how do 500 words inspire one tweet.  They followed along and read the poem with me and saw how to point out poetic devices and personal connections within the poetry.

Earlier in the month, I went back to  And even though, I'm not sure if we'll be ready for a competition.  I gave these students the instructions of finding a poem that finds them.  They all laughed at how corny it was - some of the kids picked the usual "Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost - and really?  What's so bad about that poem?  They probably think they're being lazy - silly kids.

One of the titles I found interesting was "Fishing" by A. E. Stallings,   I can't wait to read this guy's paper - this guy is an excellent writer -  Of course, I had the usual Emily Dickinson - which I pointed out to one young girl "I'm so glad you like poetry."

She laughed "I only like Emily Dickinson."

I laughed; "You know she's a gateway poet, don't you?"

Friday, January 11, 2013

Advice to Myself -

Wednesday,  I took a fancy to Louise Erdich and brought "Advice to Myself" to the attention to my 11th and 12th grade class along with my 8th grade class. 

Advice to Myself
Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

I noticed that my 8th graders were the ones clinging to the words of the poems and really thinking about being authentic, being real - where my older students  - I had to rattle their cage and ask them the old age question if they were "Duds or Studs of Learning"? +

And then, yesterday, my eighth grade girls came rushing into class and told me to turn on the youtube video of  "Girl on Fire" by  Alicia Keys.

It was one of those moments - when I knew just knew I had the best job in the world...  and then, sang the song to every kid I saw in the hallway.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sticky Note Book Club

Even though I haven't been constantly writing on my blog, my brain has been reeling researching best practices.  One of my favorite ideas came from my friend, Teacherscribe, a blogger I've been following for years.  And, he just happens to be a childhood school friend.

The basic idea of the Sticky Note book report is for kids to write on sticky notes and tag it in their books as they read giving us, the teacher, an insight into what they are thinking as they read.  Most importantly, it forces kids to slow down and think about what they are reading and interact with the book.

The Sticky Note Book Report has pretty much rocked Red Lake County Central's junior high.  Kids love sticky notes.  They love, love sticky notes.

After the first project, another teacher member of my team commented that book reports need to be fresh.  So, she was trying to decide what to do for her next report.  I had an idea... TA DA!

I gave my kids the choice of four books.

The Giver by Lois Lowery

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia


Roll of Thunder Hear Me Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

In the end, only three books left the room for Christmas vacation.  I had two kids reading The Giver, five girls reading One Crazy Summer, and four kids reading Hatchet.  Of course, there were kids who took books and didn't finish the assignment.


Those kids didn't have anything talk about. They were left out.

But.... those students who read their books.  .....  Those students had lots to talk about. Each kid took a sticky note and talked about it with their group.  This gave the kids something to talk about.   I had a room full of twelve and thirteen year old  students talking about the characters they admired. They were really, really talking about their books.

Just like a book club.  The only thing missing was hot coco and biscotti....

Maybe next time.