On the #firstdayofschool: I’d like to “glow in the dark,” too….

I intermittently follow and integrate into my writing class (due to its terrifically brief length) Seth Godin’s blog, which is the most succinct yet provocative blog online I have ever read.  Today, Seth blogged about “glowing in the dark.”  Here is a repost or quote of that blog – or you can click the link to read it on his page. It’s so short, I feel I should quote it so I can accurately and directly respond to it and how it impacted me this evening.

Photo credit: / Foter / CC BY joi via flickr

Glow in the dark

Some people are able to reflect the light that lands on them, to take directions or assets or energy and focus it where it needs to be focused. This is a really valuable skill.

Even more valuable, though, is the person who glows in the dark. Not reflecting energy, but creating it. Not redirecting urgencies but generating them. The glow in the dark colleague is able to restart momentum, even when everyone else is ready to give up.

At the other end of the spectrum (ahem) is the black hole. All the energy and all the urgency merely disappears.

Your glow in the dark colleague knows that recharging is eventually necessary, but for now, it’s okay that there’s not a lot of light. The glow is enough.

RePost from @NWPDigital_IS: Reflecting on My Writing Year, or “What I #Made in 2014”

6812988187_67c39c8e5bPhoto credit: / Foter / CC BY mrsdkrebs via flickr

They keep telling me I have to tell the story of my work. They keep saying, “You have to write it down or the moment will pass.  Someone else will write it.  And it will no longer be yours.”

In the last year, my inkwell has been quite dry, used up by difficult days in teaching, graduate school, presentations, changing jobs, learning new systems in new places…. The list continues. Over this holiday season, as the time for “resolutions” approaches (read: I never make them), I feel it is time for me to put some new ink in my well, especially since I have read Grant Faulkner’s most recent essay in Poets and Writers Jan/Feb 2015 edition, “More Ideas Faster: Writing with Abandon,” and felt especially challenged to write with the shameless recklessness I did in my younger years when I was less fettered as a teacher and not as entrenched in my own “rules” for making writing happen.Faulkner says: “I concluded that my labored approach [to writing/proess] had smothered my verve.”

I could not relate to this more.

Faulkner also references Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, particularly brother Dmitri, who claims that when he “fall[s] into the abyss, [he goes] straight into it, head down and heels up, and [he’s] even pleased that [he’s] falling in just such a humiliating position,” which Dmitri finds “beautiful.” It is in this “very shame” that Dmitri begins his work (Paraphrased from Dostoevsky, see full text here – page 135?).  I was convicted, cut to the heart, and stopped in my tracks, all by these beautiful words.  Faulkner does it right – starts with a mentor text, invokes the styles of said mentors, and challenges his readers to do the same.  So here I go, Mr. Faulkner, oh, young man with the amazingly old and revered last name. Here is my year as a writer, and maker, through my very well lit, rear-view mirror.

My friend and mentor Bridget Goree is continuing to teach me how to write on a topic and with depth, and how I should teach it to kids.  She is a patient, expert teacher. Let me share, and then invoke in like fashion, this model….

  1. Show/tell what it was
  2. Show/tell what it reminds me of
  3. Show/tell what I learned


“What it was.” Ok. I recently attended the National Writing Project Annual Meeting and the National Council for Teachers of English Annual Convention in Washignton, D.C., in November.  In thankfully expected form, each #NWPAM14 session began and ended with writing and/or sharing of writing. In Troy Hicks’, Danielle Lewis Ange’s, and Stephanie West-Puckett’s session on “Makers Unite–and Write! Crafting Democratic Spaces for Making and Writing,” Troy asked participants to write about what we believe is a connection between making and writing.  I revisited what I wrote, the subject of which has been a huge part of my journey in 2014 as I have learned about an implementing part of the pilot project for the “hacking your notebook” (also called “21st century notebooking”) with flat circuitry in conjunction with Nexamp, NWP, and others.

Here is what I believe.

I believe in writing as making because when I write, I make meaning. I make sense out of meaning and writing. And when I write, I make the me I wish to be come alive. I realize my own potential and I recognize my own capacity to create, describe, animate, visualize, symbolize, fulfill, and drive. And I remake myself with every stroke of pencil or key.

When my students see writing as making they explore their own thinking and find meaning in as well as “make” meaning happen for them. They find and create a voice for themselves as learners and writers, essentially “makers.” In the process of developing their own voices, they make an identity they wish others to see, not so unlike my own journey or process as a teacher-maker.

He writes. She writes. I write. They write.
We all revise. We all make and are made by our own hands.

So I began my technologically enriched journey as a writer/teacher/learner/maker with this belief. In the #NWPAM14 Opening Plenary, Elyse Eidman-Aadahl reflected on Jim Gray’s words from the fortieth anniversary edition of his Teachers at the Center: “The model we share we made together. It’s deeply local, and we all share the model.” Though about NWP local sites and/or work, this applies to the writer-maker process, too. We make meaning together as we read, write, work, share, and develop our own beliefs about this entire process. Elyse and Jim say we are part of a movement.  I believe this “movement” contains a reciprocal component for teaching, learning, or sharing to take place, or make the experience authentic for any of us: reading, writing, and making are interdependent and mutually inclusive of each other. One does not move forward without an investment in the other.

“What it reminds me of.” With that thought, I sort of trip into “what it reminds me of,” from my list above. But I have more. Troy Hicks kicks off his introduction to Crafting Digital Writing with one of of my #top5gurus (Who are yours? Please add to the trend!), Sir Ken Robinson, with this idea from Robinson’s 2011 book, Out of Our Minds: “Being creative involes doing something.” Hmmm. Making. Creativity is defined by its maker-ness. Thus writing, which is borne out of reading, is hopelessly hitched to making, because writing is the something we can do, sort of similar to what Helen Keller once said.  Do not refuse to do the something you can do, she says. So we read.  We write.  And we make.

We make sense. We make meaning. We make things for people to share or that we can share with others. We make stuff for people to quote.  We make Truth, Power, Change. And we make it all, with just a pencil or a keyboard.

“Show or tell what I learned.” Well, how do you make this succinct? I saw (read: experienced) Sir Ken Robinson speak at the SMU Tate Lecture Series for my birthday in 2013 (read: a life-altering, awe-inspring 60 minutes of hearing him speak so simply yet profoundly, and a great way to enter a fortieth anniversary of my own). I still carry around my little packet of tiny notes I scribbled during his talk. I attended (read: experienced) the #hackjam at NCTE in 2013 and was challenged to rethink my concept of “remix” in teaching, learning, reading, writing, and sharing, as I “made” new meaning out of often overlooked and underappreciated materials (read: a life-altering, heart-palpitating 60 minutes of stepping outside my comfortable conference self to do something completely different).  I also listened to  and participated with (read: experienced) Jie Qi, Jennifer Dick, David Cole, and Paul Oh sharing about the 21st century notebook project at NWP’s Annual Meeting in 2013, learning how circuits can illuminate thinking in notebooks (read: also a life-altering 90 minutes). Though I needed some additional tutorials, and knew nothing about circuitry short of putting in my own light bulbs and fixing a lamp kit and flipping a switch, all three of these events in 2013 jump-started (read: electrical re-animation of the machine that is me) a new idea that innovation needs to take center stage in how I am developing a literacy platform as a teacher, as a learner, and with my students.

So moving forward, I cannot help but look backward at my journey from A to B.  From a series, closed circuit, to a parallel, more well-connected circuit of learning, making, and writing. Paul Oh, whom I am privileged to call a friend (read: really a #top5gurus member and also a great writing and educator mentor, particularly when it comes to understanding Connected Learning and becoming anEducator Innovator), asked us to write about what innovation looks like in our teaching context in his #NWPAM14 session, “Educator Innovator and You.” My reflection seems to pull the many strands of these thoughts together from this already too-long blog post:

For me, innovation has changed in the last year as I changed jobs and focus. Last year, innovation was always about bringing science and engineering into the classroom by any means necssary, via project based learning, even by hook or by crook. Literally. We built. We hot-glued. We filmed.  We made learning alive. We even lit up the place.  Literally. Students always led this charge. I simply facilitated.

Though this period of making ended for me as a teacher at that location, this new school year has put innovation in a less-than-preferred back seat at my new school where I now teach freshmen, who take loads of technology classes but no engineering classes. It’s PBL.  But no STEAM.  Just STM. No E. No A. No making. No dirty hands.  No glue stuck to the table or smears of glitter all over everything that is or isn’t nailed down. Don’t get me wrong: the level of digital making is at a massive high. It is the physical, hands-on making that is missing. To get a new crop of students to desire hands-on making or maker-based learning is hard.  To teach them to inquire, or want to inquire, is diffcult. The “innovative spirit,” once birthed by engineering teachers which I capitalized on in English classes, now falls to me, the C-in-science, ill-confidented, I-don’t-do-maths English teacher, to bestow or instill.

To me, innovation is Newtonesque: If I as a teacher, learner, or maker, have seen farther/further (both metaphorical and geographic?) than others, it is becuase I have stood on the shoulders of my previous giants in this realm. I stand on Robinson, and Hicks, and Kittle, and Oh, and Cole, and Qi and Dick, and Gray, and Eidman-Aadahl, and NWP and NCTE #hackjammers and…. The list goes on. This year, innovation, and thus a new era of making, for me rests not only in facilitating giants for students to then stand on their shoulders, but also in convincing a group of ninth graders, who lack so many worldly experiences that they cannot access much of what we read without help, to climb up on the new giants I introduce.

Innovation now exists for me rife with a great deal of perspiration, anxiety, and responsibility.  But it is the bridge to making, learning, writing, and reading. It is the key to making meaning, because innovation is the something we can all do to move forward.

So what I made in 2014 was this: a journey, a start, and a first attempt at publishing some version of the story of my work. Thank you, Grant Faulkner, for jump-starting my idea machine to #writewithabandon shamelessly and headfirst in to the abyss of…. whatever is out there for us to write about. Thank you, gurus, distant teachers, and giants, for providing shoulders to stand on so I can have students climb up over both of us to see further and farther. To make sense.  To make meaning.  To make learning real.

And to write about it alongside, and beyond, all of us. Hopefully with said shameless abandon.

(Let’s create a real trending topic, shall we? Thanks, Faulkner and @NaNoWriMo –#writewithabandon.)

NOTE: Apologies for the lack of transferral of the photos. Please see this link for original post on NWP’s Digital IS site as a personal blog post by me, 12/23/2014.

10 Poems to Make You Better People: #1 – “Invictus” Is How We Move On, No Matter the Obstacle

As tragedy strikes in Oklahoma, residents find a way to carry on. We should all have such hope inside us. - AP photo

As tragedy strikes in Oklahoma, residents find a way to carry on. We should all have such hope inside us. – AP photo

So the test scores are in.  I’m happy.  I did my dance. The last blow didn’t knock us down!  But an unusual suspect dropped by this afternoon because “I want to talk to you about my scores,” he said.  After popping his invisible suspenders about his science, math, and social studies scores, he frowns and screws around his face for a fleeting second, shakes it off, and then begins to reveal feelings of great achievement tinged with bewilderment….

“But I tried something new.  I wrote my essay as a conversation. I mean, I thought it was a great idea – but maybe they didn’t get it. I mean, it’s what we worked on.  I thought it worked. I guess it was too ‘experimental’ or something.”

This is my diamond-in-the-rough writer who wouldn’t dare do anything experimental six months ago, and this is the same person who told me more than once, “Miss Adams, I’m not a writer. I’m going to be an engineer.” And now he sits before my desk, pensive, with, dare I say it… is that what I think it is… disappointment in his craft? He’s become his own worst enemy – the self editor.  And inside, I am thinking, I did it.  I really did it.  I helped make this thing before me – this person who feels he deserved a different shake from standardized essay graders, this person who hopes his writing has meaning and significance beyond his own periphery, this person who now thinks what he writes should matter and should be recognized. I love how when I share what I love about writing, somehow, somewhere, it trickles down into a warm pool of wonderfulness in a world rife with under-appreciated prose. When he left my room, he had shrugged it off like a winter coat. He again was bulletproof to the critics who don’t know him, who don’t understand him, who don’t “get” him.  And again, we can see great writing for what it is when we read it or write it, incorruptible by the critics beyond ourselves.

And somehow, this is connected to my other experience today with graduating seniors, who no longer care about my song and dance about great writing and reading beautiful British literary prose.  In fact, I’m lucky they are arriving on time, right? But today, something magical occurred that doesn’t often happen in school classrooms for a variety of reasons.  We stopped.  We smelled the roses.  And the discussion that followed afterwards was inspiring.

#1 poem to make you a better person? “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley.

Found this copy on... Pinterest.

Found this copy on… Pinterest.

“Invictus” is Latin for “unconquerable,” “invincible,” “undefeated.”  It also means “irresistible.” We talked about what this really means before and after reading the poem.  My students mentioned things like hope versus hopelessness, finding a way to hang on in face of tragedy and despair…. such as in the news today.  In Oklahoma.  We ended up talking about what tragedy really is, how we cannot truly understand it in the same way as those who experience cataclysmic destruction, and how in the world people hang on, smile, rebuild, and even stay, in the face of darkness, tears, horror, punishment, and bludgeonings that leave the heady “bloody but unbowed.”

In Texas, we see it closer to home.  Cleburne. Granbury. West. And further away in Boston, and in Moore, and in Sandy Hook, and in New Jersey and in Long Island….  “Invictus” is hard at work, combating sorrow, fighting circumstance, climbing out of the pit, and vanquishing the darkness, even with a tiny matchlight.  And as my students and I discussed how people find a path out of tragedy, our talk led to some enlightenment about racism, and poverty, and war, and hunger.

As our talk drew to its close, we couldn’t help but talk about Nelson Mandela, his 8-foot cell, and his unwavering commitment to a change that no one saw or believed could occur, a future which he knew in his soul was possible.  What “Invictus” seems to mean to Mandela took a new hold of my class, and was only enhanced by the reading of the poem, ever so gently, in cracked, heart-breaking clarity by Morgan Freeman in the trailer to the 2009 film of the same name.

I wish I could have found a way to bring the concept of “invictus” up to my downcast student whose writing was not rewarded as he had hoped, without sounding weird or trite, or out of context.  It wasn’t the right moment.  But “invictus” is always something we should seize hold of, white-knuckled and determined, when we find obstacles in our path, challenges to our faith, and experiences of great loss. When we read poetry with such a profound impact, as Henley’s poem has and leaves us in equally profound silence, we cannot help but see the glimmer of hope that often should not be.  We forget that regardless of the measurement assessed by the jury of our peers and the court of public opinion, we have something that cannot be taken.  We have something worth preserving. We have something that can drive and captain us, when the promise of security seems to be so far out of reach.

So as my graduates get ready to face the world, full of promise and certainly a few (hopefully not too many) hardships, at least they are somewhat bouyed by Henley’s sage reminders about the steely persistence of the human spirit.

In many ways, those graduates are masters of their own fates.  And with unwavering possibilities, the future rises to meet these captains.  These people with unconquerable souls.  And maybe, just maybe, they will not bow to fear.

And this, too, is my prayer for those putting back together the shattered pieces of lives undone by recent catastrophe.

Simus invicti.

Photo Courtesy of Red Cross via WSBT website

Photo Courtesy of Red Cross via WSBT website

Finding Forrest. And New Ways to Connect with Reading and Writing about the “Real.”

This was drawn by an amazing artist, Jashar Awan. On the link, he says he was inspired by a NYT review of the novel, The Wettest County in the World. There is more information about Jashar Awan here: http://jasharawan.com/.

You know, I promised to blog, and I haven’t blogged.  Too many classes to teach, too little time for writing! This is not how I wished to spend all of my time.  But let’s not get bogged down in that – I need to find a way to do some short spurts…. I have just finished tweeting during one of my favorite hours of the week, #pblchat.  Something magical happened afterwards when I tweeted an author who is my latest distant mentor about teaching writing, but first let me provide a little backstory.

I started teaching dual credit ENGL 1301/1302 this year – that’s freshmen comp and rhetoric for those not familiar with the numbers and acronyms. College in high school, with a little project based learning mixed in – it’s an interesting class.  I have a lot of freedom, and although I use a writing workshop model for teaching, I want students who don’t read (mostly what I have) to be exposed to as much rich and rewarding and impacting texts as I can find and have time to integrate. We have been working on using our distant teachers, using that #nwp tenet to its nth degree. Mentor texts.  The whole deal.  I live for finding a new text to share.  But today I stumbled onto something.  It’s the nonfiction-fiction thing. I really stops me in my tracks as a reader, writer, and teacher.  I’ve always been in love with this kind of writing, this style of storytelling, these books, these authors.  They’re not just my distant teachers – they are my friends.  My colleagues. Mano-a-mano, we take on the most reluctant writers and readers and teach them how to tell a story, and tell it slant, and tell it good, and tell it true.  All at the same time.  Each week I want them to meet someone new.  We love Frank McCourt, and Natalie Goldberg, and bell hooks, and Sarah Vowell, and Laurie Halse Anderson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Rick Bragg, and Leonard Pitts, Jr., and I go could on and on and on.  They have favorites.  I have mine, too.  So far, I have hit a homerun with all but one.  And today, we turned it into a really nice save.

I used an excerpt from Matt Bondurant‘s, The Wettest County in the World, recently – just passed out a copy I made from my personal copy of the book, of one page of description, rife with imagery and onomatopoeia and sensory language and all manner of delicious words that aren’t just for the mind but for the soul.  I mean, yes, I have read the entire copyright manual – I know, I know.  But I couldn’t resist – I had to put a page of it into my students’ hands.  I needed them to see what I saw.  I have read the book in snatches, because I fell in love with the story of those Bondurant boys from the recent film, Lawless, which to my chagrin was COMPLETELY SNUBBED by all things Oscar recently.  (That’s another blog.)  I plan to wear this book as a jacket this summer – really feel the words, let them wash over me, become like old friends and comfortable shoes.  I mean – Bondurant is truly a master of words.  If you haven’t tapped into his stories yet, do.  And soon. I put him up there with Rick Bragg.  And that – that is saying something. I love a Pulitzer.  (Dr. B, it will come. I’m convinced.)

But they didn’t bite. They didn’t like it.  They didn’t see it.

I went back to my mental drawing board and thought about the nonfiction-fiction issue.  I mean, in 1301, we work on more nonfiction than fiction – and creative nonfiction is my forte.  I can teach it.  I can do it.  I write, they write, we share, etc. I mean, I’m too chicken to try and get published, but who is talking about that? I’m so “do as I say, not as I do.”  We read aloud, we discuss, we table talk, we argue, we mimic style, and we read aloud some more.  The whole nine yards. But this time… this time, it didn’t work.  Everything else I shared, they loved.  This one, which was one of the greatest gold mines of language I’ve found so far – it just didn’t work.

And after some time, I figured it out – it was too much to ask in an excerpt without any context on those Bondurant boys, Prohibition, real gangsters in the late 1920’s.  I mean, if we want them to read Gatsby or Their Eyes Were Watching God, shouldn’t we show them how the other half lives? The half that made the hooch people were smuggling to sell and dying to buy? So we did a little Q & A. We did a little meet and greet with Dr. Bondurant on the screen. I pulled up his bio, his website, his picture – talked about how he teaches (or did? Still there? Not sure!) right down the road at the University of Texas at Dallas. He could be their teacher in 2 years.  (Man, are they ready for such greatness? I probably need to step it up….) We did a little flash research on that “Spanish lady flu” that Forrest Bondurant, a key player in the Wettest County saga, catches and miraculously survives, and on those 18th and 21st amendments…..  They knew stuff.  They knew 1933 and 1929 and Al Capone and tommy guns. They surprised me with their knowledge that 20 minutes earlier they seemed to be devoid of when prompted. We even listened to Tom Hardy share Forrest’s words of wisdom in a brief clip onscreen. (One girl said, “Miss Adams, I have no idea what Forrest said. I just couldn’t stop watching his lips.” I mean, I’ll take whatever hooks them, you know?)

Then…. we read the excerpt again.  With new eyes.  Thinking about Forrest’s bout with the flu, about that garish cut across the neck that left him near dead, about Maggie in that red dress with the gold chain and a valise that carried not only her secrets but an identity she let slip in and out like the shadows over the mountains at dusk, about what actually created the real scars they both wore, and how  a beautiful woman could sit night after night with a Bondurant like Forrest and only listen to the radio. Only LISTEN. (“What?” the kids say.  “Just the radio? No way.”  No kissing? No sex? Scandalous!)

And somehow, in the 90 minutes of our class that passed today….  Forrest came to life. He walked around our room.  He showed them his “mouthlike” scar.  And they understand what a Bondurant meant when he said, “Nothing can kill us.” What believing one is invincible really means.  What living really means.  How the respect and lack of fear for death makes a man brave, gutsy, and not the least bit bluish and hollow-chested from some Lady Flu that killed more healthy than sick. For my students, Forrest Bondurant stood ten feet tall in room 310 today.

So I told them – now go home and write something like that.  Make someone larger than life on paper.  Let us meet them.  Let them walk around our room when we read about them. Don’t worry about it being good or publishable or amazing – just tell a good story about a person you know who is larger than life to you.  Look at their eccentricities, their little catchphrases, the glint of their eyes when they are keeping a secret, and what things are really kept packed in a suitcase that they take on the road.  Do what Matt Bondurant does with his going-for-the-jugular (a la Natalie Goldberg) diction and powerful life reflection.  Don’t hold anything back.  And if you have to show a little ugliness, it’s all good.  Everyone has those skeletons in their closets.  They tell a tale that stands on its own two feet.  Sometimes not a bit of exaggeration is needed because the nonfiction looms larger than the fiction ever wanted to.

And thank you, Dr. Bondurant.  Your family and Franklin County found some new fans today.  One student even wanted to check out the book from my classroom library after class.   That’s what it is all about.  Creating more readers and writers, helping them read and write things that matter, and not just for college or work.  Stories like yours, reading about others or writing our own, are what we stay alive for and want to make more of – one page at a time. I can’t really teach it, but I can show it, and I couldn’t today without your help.

Postscript: As I was blogging this, Dr. Bondurant himself tweeted me back. I am so incredibly honored.  Maybe we should collaborate on this.  I’d like to use more of the book as I revamp the class for next year in my collection of memoirs and nonfiction-fiction “teachers” I bring to my students.  What do you think? I’ll even take a Skype call. My kids would never get over actually having a connection with a real, living author, especially one with such a powerful voice for storytelling.

A Brief Conversation with Matt Bondurant

Follow me @finchgirl10, and Dr. Bondurant @mbondurant.

“More Than Noise: How Speaking and Listening to Learn Enhance Literacy and Confidence in All Subjects”

Here is my presentation from the 2013 Best Practices STEM conference, sponsored by Aggie-STEM center and Educate Texas, on Jan. 24, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas (Menger Hotel).

Presentation slides (my original power point):
More than just noise_ADAMS_stemconf2013

Excerpt #1: A passage by Rick Bragg from Southern Living, September 2012 issue:
Original Article
PDF photocopy from my actual copy of SLRick Bragg excerpt_Southern Living

Excerpt #2: 2 pages of Prologue from All Over But the Shoutin’, by Rick Bragg, Random House, 1998.
Full text online
PDF photocopy of my actual copy of the novel: Rick Bragg excerpt_Shoutin’

Please email if you have any questions or want to collaborate in the future!

Come Fly with Me – Box Not Required

“I guess I’m more of an outside the box person.  I haven’t really been inside a box in a while.”
– An English I Student-

That is what he said. We talked about paper airplanes a few weeks ago in English I and started talking about thinking outside the box.  We made paper airplanes.  We flew them. In English class. It was pretty awesome. And somewhat disruptive.

I know nothing about the science of flight.

But they did.  They talked about wing span, resistance, jet stream, gliders, jets, tailwinds, and a whole bunch of other things I had never heard of.  I mean, I’ve stood at the crest of Kill Devil Hills in Kittyhawk overlooking the sea and the Outer Banks, the wind whipping my face with salt and sand.  I’ve looked down the long line where Wright planes once flew, the grass green and soft beneath my comfortable walking shoes.  I know very little about the science of flight except that I get in a plane, it stays up, I don’t die, it comes down, I get my passport stamped.  But I do know about dreams and imagination.  That was all I wanted to tap into with my Sam-I-Am Box Talk.

See? (You can also find this video for free here, but the book is really neat and worth the cost – it contains a DVD.) So yes, we were heading towards a conversation with 14-year-olds about thinking and working outside the box. They wrote things like the line above, which really rang true for me.  I haven’t been in the box in a while.  I took a new job – finding it was hard because so many people wanted me to climb back inside the box, to not rock the boat, to go at teaching with traditional, safe methods.  I kept telling my mother: “Well, once you’ve taken the mustang out of the corral and cut all of her ties, how do you get her to go back in?”

Didn’t they know my blog was about singing, not roosting? We don’t just sit and watch learning and life happen here. I’ve never been able to do that.

But I had forgotten about the box with my own students.  We’ve gotten kind of lazy about our attention to the box, and how we can step outside of it any time we want at our wonderful school.  So I had them read some of their responses to the box question (are you outside or inside, why?) posed by the video again and think about the paper airplane activity.  My 9th graders and I talked frankly about the 16 people who didn’t do their writing homework for today for their big newspaper project.  We read our responses to the box question and talked about how being outside the box can affect our attention and work ethic. How sometimes creativity is its own double-edged sword.  They mused, agreed, nodded, smirked, smiled, and also looked ashamed – all across the room.  We finished our talk and they got back to work.

Within about 5 minutes – they had their mojo back.  They remembered where the box was and they cast it aside and got excited about their propaganda projects on The Existence of Bigfoot, Unicorn Awareness, Promoting Teenage Hygiene, Bikini Bottom Fish Rights, and The Revolutionary Onslaught of the Uses of Duct Tape.  And suddenly – the box wasn’t even in our classroom anymore.  Everyone was outside, galloping like crazy people towards the limits of their imagination….

I sort of felt like singing, “come fly with me, let’s fly, fly away….” Out of the box, that is.

Bad Teacher/Failing Writing: Blogging by Telepathy?

Well, ok. Much like this beautiful rhinoceros at the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, I have had my head in the wall regarding this blog. I suck at blogging. My last entry was 8 months ago. Apparently I was blogging via ESP – I mentally sent the blogs while I ate, slept, taught, graded – yet, nothing appeared on the blog wall.  Hmmm. Guess that doesn’t work. And I had been cooking along so well… but I just fizzled.  I quit.  Life happened and blogs moved to the back of the filing cabinet in my brain.

But I am not a quitter.

So here’s the deal – to my 1 follower, I make this promise: I will be blogging at least once a week.  I will try to get on and blog about what is happening in my classroom at least once a week.

Yoda: There is no try.  There is only do or do not.

Ok, so not trying – DOING.  I am teaching freshman composition and rhetoric now, ENGL 1301. The Big Show. No little regular class now -well, I have a few still – but teaching that class has brought me to a new level of anxiety: how do I stay ahead of the curve? Right now, I am hoping to move them towards writing more confidently, with gusto and no holds barred, going for the “jugular” as Natalie Goldberg says (it’s one of our favorite tips and truths about good writing), and in my test kitchen of 1301, I am trying some new things. As a PBL teacher, I do really want to explore the marriage of writing workshop and PBL. With presentations and opportunities to submit to journals coming up, and as I grow as a dual credit college teacher, with one foot in the regular high school world and one foot in the world of higher education, I have to evolve myself. I have to write about what is happening – even if it is just for me.

So it is my solemn vow to blog more. To write more.  To explore. To question. To hope. To not try but do. And to push my 1301 students to new heights as writers who publish.  Do as I say, AND as I do. :)

Dear One Reader who Subscribes to This Blog:
I give you permission to tweet terrible things about me if I don’t keep my promise to write and publish each week.

I hear that web-based cattle prods are now available on Amazon, if you feel that is more effective….

This bird sings. Next gig: STEM Best Practices Conference, Jan. 2012

Things are happening so quickly that I haven’t had time to blog! I will be presenting with colleagues at my STEM campus in Longview at the STEM Best Practices Conference this weekend, Jan. 12-14, at Moody Gardens in Galveston. Our presentation will be Friday, Jan. 13 (yikes!), from 10:30-11:30. We will talking about “Square Peg, Round Hole,” and how to combat difficulties with interdisciplinary planning across science, history, engineering, and English – using a dystopian unit a colleague and I have been developing for two years, which I have actually been able to implement this year for the first time. I’m really excited about the prospects! People will get to work with their hands and make stuff using Google SketchUp in our session (we hope!). Should be fun! I’ll be tweeting, whether our STEM people tweet or not!

New blog post on Three Teachers Talk

I’ve posted on my collective blog with colleagues Amy and Heather, Three Teachers Talk, called “5 1/2 Blogs to Engage Online Readers: We <3 You.”  This time we are talking about reading online to enhance digital literacy.  Let me know what you think!

More later!

Most Recent Diigo Finds 07/20/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.