Monday, November 25, 2013

It's Monday! What Are Your Reading 11/25

Once again I am the guest blogger over at the Maine Reading Association's blog. So to find out what I'm reading, head on over there!

Maybe some day I'll get back into the regular habit of blogging without the assignment from MRA. In the mean time, it's good to have that responsibility because it does get me blogging and it helps me to see that I am getting some reading done, even when it doesn't feel like it!

Monday, November 11, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 11/11/13

I have to admit that right now, if it weren't for my responsibility to post to the Maine Reading Association Blog once a month, I wouldn't be getting a IMWAYR post up at all. This week I blogged over at the MRA blog, you should check it out! Also be sure to check out Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for links to other IMWAYR posts.

And a big thank you to Gigi McAllister of The Late Bloomer's Book Blog for innocently asking me if I knew who was supposed to post this week, and therefore reminding me that it was indeed me, so that I could get the post up on time!

Sunday, November 10, 2013


My poor, neglected blog. Every once in a while I blow the dust off, lament my neglect, then log out and let the dust collect again.

I need to write.

There is so much swirling around in my brain. School, family, books. I struggle with so much dissatisfaction- mostly in myself. I set the bar so high and then scold myself for not making it over such an impossible height.

Writing will help me process. Writing will help me think.

Right now my biggest frustrations lie in two areas:
My professional life and my personal life.

Professionally I am feeling a bit stuck. I know what I need to do. I know what works. But trying to actually flesh that out is where I feel stuck. I strongly believe in two major pedagogical practices: Workshop and Standards Based Grading. But these ideas are progressive and go against what everyone else believes and expects. I feel like Jeremiah- a voice crying in the wilderness. So I am trying to make mid-stream corrections. Sometimes mid-stream corrections are easier because you have momentum. Sometimes they are so much harder because you need to go in such a different direction.

Workshop and SBG require a lot of initial time and energy to establish- you need to think through everything you are doing and look what the students need to learn, how they're going to learn it, and how they're going to demonstrate that learning. I love Understanding by Design (UbD). It makes so much sense! But it's so much work. And when you are teaching five different subjects, and you're on your own for planning and implementing, it quickly gets overwhelming and discouraging.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around what the reading/writing workshop looks like in the high school English classroom. I am facing the following hurdles:
mindset of students & parents
space- a tiny classroom
schedule- currently running an A/B Day block schedule with 80 minute periods.

When I went to NERA in September, I grabbed a few minutes with Penny Kittle after her keynote. I expressed my frustration with trying to do workshop, yet feeling that I was coming up against the expectation that "that's just not how high school English is done". Penny surprised me with her response, "Who's expectation is that? The parents' or your's? Most parents are thrilled that their kids are reading." Her parting words to me were, "I've read your tweets. You know what you need to do. Do it. Trust yourself."

I keep reminding myself of those words. I know what I need to do. Just do it. I need to stop giving into the fear that I'm going to be judged or criticized and just do what I know is what needs to be done. I've been thinking about Penny's question- who's expectation is it? Maybe it really is my own expectation and it is that that is causing my fear and preventing me from just moving forward in what I need to do in my classroom. Maybe this also applies to my struggle with constantly feeling that I'm not measuring up as a high school teacher or that I'm being weighted and found lacking because I don't have a masters degree in education or literacy. Maybe those feeling are coming from me and I'm projecting them onto my students and their parents. Whether it's real or perceived, it is a constant struggle. It does lead me to realize I need to be practicing 2 Corinthians 10: 5 "...take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ."

My professional struggles are tied to my personal frustrations. I need to reclaim my life from my job. I feel like I've been stuffed into a mould that isn't really me. This morning I told my husband, "I feel like I'm not allowed to be myself and I'm sick of that." I can't fully articulate that feeling or where it's coming from and after reflecting on the possibility of the transference of my professional expectation, I wonder how much is true and how much is transference. But I don't always feel like me, or that I can truly be me.

It hit me this weekend that I really missing hiking and skiing. I haven't done much of either in a very long time. I put so much of my time and energy into my job and my relationships and my personal time suffers. Unfortunately it's been that way for a very long time. I need to get back into the woods, back to the mountains, back on the water, and I need to find me. Thoreau said,
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.” 
I'm not planning to go spend a year in the woods, living in a cabin I built myself, foraging for food (and nearly burning down the woods!). But I do need to get back to the woods to find what I've lost- namely myself. I think I've been so concerned with succeeding, that I've forgotten to be me.

I'll probably read this tomorrow and think. Wow. What a bunch of self-righteous crap! But tonight, this is what is on my mind, and I've written.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” ― Henry David ThoreauWalden: Or, Life in the Woods