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Showing posts from 2016

My Year in Reading

Although I won't meet my goal of reading 165 books by midnight tonight, I did read quite a few great books this year worth sharing. Other personal goals including reading more with my ears and getting over my hesitancy to read non-fiction. I did accomplish those two, although it's taken me months to get through the audio version of Endurance (I think this has caused a bit of an audio reading slump). I categorized my favorites of this past year below:

Picture Book: A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers

This book reminded me of words and their ability to lead us down thousands of different paths and journeys. Children and adults can appreciate the intertextuality of this book. Stories change us forever.

Non-Fiction: What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine by Danielle Ofri

This is a book that I seem to mention to every teacher friend of mine. There are so many parallels between the lives of doctors and teachers that we really need to explore how we can become a…

Don't Be Complicit

I'm enjoying winter break. It's given me time to catch up with friends and family and plenty of time to read. One of my bosses and I have been working through Tim Ferris' newest, Tools of Titans. By no means do I ever want to start a business, but I find the three-to-four page entries easily digestible and enlightening. What Ferris has done here is distill his interviews with so many successful people into small write-ups. I'm only halfway through, but I've found my to-read list growing at a high rate, and many quotes force me to stop and think.

During the chapter with Phil Libin, the co-founder of Evernote, Tim Ferris shares this advice from Jerry Colonna: "How are you complicit in creating the conditions you say you don't want?"

I'm very fortunate to work in a building with supportive colleagues and bosses, but I think of this quotation and how applicable it is to so many people that I know, especially those in education. Find ways to take a sta…

Six Things to Keep in Mind When Your Class is NaNo-ing

Students recently drafted their reflections about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so I wrote beside them about the lessons that I had learned. Here they are:


Limit the other work you give. While you may feel the pressure to have copious assignments in your grade book (there tends to be a sort of teacher shaming if you don't have many assignments in, as if there is a magical number), you have to recognize what is valuable and what is not, especially during the 30-day writing frenzy that NaNoWriMo is. I tried to make every assignment relevant for the month and their novels. Students encountered "daily challenges" (these quickly turned into every-other-day challenges) that focused on many of the necessary elements to good novels: dialogue, story world development, character creation, subplots, etc. Everything was designed so that students could use their work in their novels, and it allowed me to have short glimpses of the types of things they were writing about. Q…

Finding Words

I get to school early and my students know that. This morning, a student that I’m not even particularly close with arrived at 6:00 AM in tears. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out what to say to students and colleagues about the presidential election.
This student and I talked about fear. We talked about her history. We talked about how she encouraged her mother to vote for the first time—ever. We talked about how she can’t understand why people would vote for a fear-mongering, hate-talking candidate like Donald Trump. We talked about her experience Monday seeing President Obama for the first time, an experience that she was so motivated to make happen. Toward the end of our conversation, she said that she finally finished Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Not that I’m equating President-Elect Trump to the Dark Lord, but we talked about how even with Voldemort, people supported him. It may have been out of fear and group loyalty, but it was support nonetheless. And whil…

Comparing Teaching to Medicine

I’ve heard teaching and practicing medicine compared before, but I’ve often stood against the idea of diagnosing an illness in students. I don’t like talk of deficits and what students can’t do; I like to focus on what they can do.
But as I listened to Danielle Ofri’s book, What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect thePractice of Medicine, I found that teachers and doctors have a lot more in common than I thought. What started as a quick $5.00 Audible purchase turned into a book where I found that others expressed similar frustrations—others in a profession that’s often highly regarded and esteemed in ways that teaching isn’t lately. This is a book that I’m going to have to buy in print and read again. Like C.S. Lewis said, “We read to know we’re not alone,” and after reading Ofri’s work, teachers will know that they’re not.

When I heard Ofri share a doctor’s reason for staying late even though it would affect his family life, I paused: “Because it’s the right thing to do.” This idea…