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updates for 12.09.2011

3 new posts today

Are we there yet?

Once again, I'm stumbling around the internet searching for drops of information that might paint a clearer picture of what my life might consist of during the next two years. I can't seem to contain myself. I'm daydreaming about June, i'm fantasizing about August and i'm living for May. Frankly, it's annoying to combat the daily realization that I am a 2012 corps member, but I haven't graduated yet. I'm about to start living my dream! But, first, I have class! and finals week! Ugh.  Do I really have to wait six months for induction? I think I'm in a slightly different position than many of the other 2012 corps members because I'm majoring in middle grade education. I've  already dedicated many hours to placement and i've developed a basic pedagogy that's been challenged and strengthened over the past year and a half; I don't think that this will make me automatically proficient in the field, but I am anticipating some familiarity with the theories, terms, and basic framework. My college program places education majors into a cohort and we complete a rigorous schedule of placement and classes with the same peers. My cohort consists of 24 members who collaborate on assignments. From what I understand, TFA also focuses on collaboration and interpersonal relationships. I'm absolutely positive that I'll be overwhelmed and nervous during institution, like many other corps members, but i'm so tremendously excited to already have my dream in my hands: I'm a part of a powerful movement that's dedicated to educating our youth and i'm able to travel while doing what I love.  I think my dedication to teaching during college will help me to be persistent in my efforts, but I'm so ready for this adventure to begin that it's almost painful to sit through classes knowing how close I am to a reality that i've been working towards for years. For the next six months, consider me the toddler in the back of the car screaming "are we there yet?"


The best of realizations.

Today, after yet another trying day at my school, I reached the (near) end and felt just as I usually feel at the end of a particularly long slog trying to get third graders to act like real, live, mini-people. My back hurt, my feet hurt, I was moving into unconsciously-rolling-my-eyes-at-everyone-for-everything territory rather swiftly, and the only thing getting me through to the end was the thoughts of my obligatory glass of Cab Sauvignon at 8:00 pm. Then came time to square up with one of my rather frequent troublemakers, who, if we're being honest, has been annoying the crap out of me lately. God bless this child, but seriously, for the last two days I have just been holding it in. Today, I had discovered his math textbook lying on the floor in my class, and the inside was defaced and missing the first five or so pages. These books were issued, for the first time to anyone, at the beginning of the school year, August 2011. Fresh from the press! They are the only not-used supplies anybody in my school happens to have. So I knew the condition of the book when it was given to him - pristine. And the condition of the book now? Not completely unsalvageable, but it doesn't look great. And there's writing on two of the three exposed edges. I just... snapped. I could not believe that this child had a book for less than 4 months, it ONLY stays in the classroom (they are not allowed to leave with textbooks) and had already pretty much ruined it for the years of students that would come after him. We had a conversation (very one-sided, as I'm sure you can guess) about what it means to take care of the things that are given to you, and to be thankful for that which not everyone has the opportunity to experience, and what that book could've meant to future school kids. As a consequence, he did not receive the privilege snack that all the kids in my class get when they have B or Better Behavior Days, and he started to cry. I told him he could earn it tomorrow but that today he had lost that opportunity by defacing the school's brand new property. As enraged as I was - and as a book lover, I was very, very enraged - all I could do was grab him and clutch him and let him cry into my dress. And when he calmed down, I asked him to explain why he'd gotten the consequence. He said, "I ruined a school book and I shouldn't have done that." And I realized that this kid, this most trying of little crazies that I seem to battle with on an hourly basis, is still my kid. Not biologically, obviously, but just in the way that all of the students are mine. I love them, even when I cannot stand a choice they have made, even when I am really very angry at them or because of them, or at my wit's end trying to work out their litany of issues. I was so mad but... I get that I have been happier lately not just because winter break is so close (but for real! Winter break is. so. close!) but also because, as bad as the day to day can sometimes be, I really do love these kids. They drive me crazy, and I will not lie and say that I spend all my time really liking them all, but they are mine. And I want to be good enough for them. I want to teach them things. I want them to learn from me and each other. I want them to grow up to be real, live, mature people. I want for them. It was a typical day at my school. Fights everywhere, the police came again, I restrained several students (none of whom I actually teach) and my class was a frenzied mess. And I felt like I typically feel at the end of these days - exhausted to my very core, puzzled at the life decisions that led me to teaching, angry at what I see everyday. But it was different. I can't really do anything other than this because I love it. I hate it and I love it, but the hate is temporal and the love is everlasting. I cannot believe how much I love a bunch of children who are, without a doubt, legitimately out of their minds. It is the best thing.


Seasons Greetings and Good Readings!

If the appearance of strings of twinkling lights, fresh garlands, and shiny ornaments are of any indication, the holiday season is officially upon us! The most wonderful time of the year is here – and what better way to get in the December spirit than with a list of holiday books sure to give you and your class a case of the warm and fuzzies? Here’s a list of festive titles to keep your students in a holly, jolly mood all month long! Books for Early Readers  Pocket’s Christmas Wish by Ann Bonwill, illustrated by Russell Julian On Christmas morning, Pocket the bunny wakes up wishing from his whiskers to his feet that he could discover what Christmas is really about. After following a set of children's snowy footprints to a cozy cabin in the woods, a simple act of kindness helps his wish come true! With soft-hued illustrations and the cutest bunny imaginable, this gentle picture book explores the true meaning of Christmas. K is for Kwanzaa: a Kwanzaa Alphabet Story by Juwanda G. Ford, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max A is for Africa, T is for Tales, Z is for Zawadi! This alphabetical book teaches readers about Kwanzaa, the non-religious African American holiday that celebrates cultural heritage, family, and community. Each letter of the alphabet introduces an English or Swahili word with a simple definition explaining the word's relation to the Kwanzaa. The childlike illustrations are brilliantly colored and boldly outlined to give the book a festive feel, and features an introduction explaining the holiday’s origins and Seven Kwanzaa Principles. The Chanukkah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Giora Carmi It's the first night of the holiday, and Old Bubba Brayna is preparing a feast for her friends and the rabbi. But her eyesight isn't as good as it used to be, and she doesn't realize that the first guest to arrive is not the rabbi wrapped in his fur coat - but a curious bear attracted by the smell of hot latkes! Readers will get the giggles over this silly holiday story! The Smiley Snowman by M. Christina Butler, illustrated by Tina Macnaughton Little Bear, Small Fox, and Fluff Bunny have a blast spending their time building a big, smiley snowman. When they return the next morning, they notice that their creation seems sad! He isn't cold, as they'd thought, but he is missing something very important—a big hug! The text is lively and the luminous illustrations are as soft as a snowflake. This book is a heartwarming friendship tale that's perfect for reading aloud on a cold winter's day! Books for Young Elementary Readers  It’s Christmas, David! by David Shannon The naughty star of No, David! returns in this hilarious look at Christmas traditions from a kid's perspective. For David, Christmastime means hearing a lot of "NO!"s - NO peeking at hidden gifts, NO snatching Christmas cookies from the baking sheet, and NO playing with the ornaments on the tree. Add to that having to wait in a long line to sit on Santa's lap and having sit up straight at holiday dinners, and it's no wonder that Christmas can be a challenge—for David, or any kid! It's enough to make David worry that Santa will only bring him a lump of coal. Young David learns that, despite the mischief he's caused, Christmas is a special day filled with joy! Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara With his animal friends hibernating for the winter, a young boy who lives in the woods feels lonely. When he looks outside and sees a mysterious visitor, he discovers the delight of playing on a snowy day. The touching story has a simple message about living in the moment and enjoying the gifts each day brings. From the award-winning creator of Ghosts in the House, this tale’s magical block-print illustrations make this story as beautifully unique as a snowflake! The Mitten by Jan Brett In this beloved picture book, Nicki loses one of his new white mittens in the snow, prompting a comically large number of woodland animals, from mice to bears to hedgehogs, to crawl into it to keep warm. Will Nicki find his mitten before it bursts at the seams? Jan Brett's beautifully detailed illustrations and well-told text bring this Ukrainian folktale to life, offering warm and cozy feelings to all who read it! Squirrel's New Years Resolution by Pat Miller, illustrated by Kathi Ember When little Squirrel hears about the tradition of making a resolution on New Year's, she interviews all of her forest friends to find out what they are planning to pledge. Porcupine is going to be less grumpy, Skunk is going to learn how to read, and Turtle and Mole have decided to plant a garden. What will Squirrel's resolution be? It just might have something to do with all her special friends! These sweetly illustrated woodland animals show their friend Squirrel how to start the year off right.     Books for Middle Elementary Readers  Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman Each year, menacing goblins make it impossible for a poor village to celebrate Hanukkah. The goblins blow out candles, damage the dreidels, and spoil the latkes. It takes the clever Hershel to outwit the goblins one by one, defeat the Goblin King, and break the spell forever! A creative adaptation of an ancient Hanukkah story, this book will captivate your class from cover to cover! A Bad Kitty Christmas by Nick Bruel The cards are all crushed, the wrapping paper is ripped, the tree has toppled, and one wacky cat is behind it all. The holiday hustle and bustle is just too much for cranky Kitty—and when she doesn't get everything she wants, she loses her temper. On the way to Uncle Murray's, crazy Kitty hops out of the car window and goes on a Christmas caper—creeping around the city while everyone else is sleeping. She meets a new friend and finds an old friend—and learns the meaning of Christmas (kind of)! Olive, The Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh After hearing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" on the radio, Olive’s life is completely changed!  This little dog mistakenly hears the lyric "all of the other reindeer," as "Olive, the other reindeer"... leading her to believe that she must not be a dog at all – but rather – Olive, the reindeer! Inspired by her newfound discovery, she sets off for the North Pole to help Santa on his big night. Although she can't actually fly, Olive does have some special skills of her own. Her talents of chewing, sniffing, and fetching save the day! It turns out Olive is just the “reindeer” that Santa needs! Can You See What I See? Toyland Express by Walter Wick Amazingly detailed miniature scenes take readers from the toy workshop to the Christmas tree—all in search of hidden items! From the toy workshop to the Christmas tree - children can read the simple text and use the picture clues to search for dozens of hidden trinkets and toys. Children will develop their observational skills, and become used to noticing subtle differences in both words and pictures.   Upper Elementary/Middle School Readers  Jake by Audrey Couloumbis Jake and his mom have always been just fine on their own. But when his mother ends up in the hospital with a broken leg, the grandfather Jake barely knows comes to stay—and brings his nightmare dog along. Jake is sure that his Christmas is ruined—until a makeshift new family of friends and neighbors help his family celebrate their best Christmas ever. A perfect book for fans of Because of Winn-Dixie - this heartwarming true-to-life story celebrates the importance of family and community. Readers will fall in love with the wise and endearing young narrator, and the story is ideal for reading aloud as a class. Secret Santa: Agent of X.M.A.S. by Guy Bass One night a year, Santa delivers presents. But have you ever wondered how he spends his other 364 days? Guy Bass lets us in on Santa’s biggest secret – he’s actually an agent for X.M.A.S.—the Extremely Mysterious Agency of Secrets! Armed with super-powered, wacky gadgets, he's ready to cross some bad guys off The Naughty List! The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson illustrated by Garth Williams In this heartwarming holiday tale, a man takes a homeless family under his wing and tries to find them a place to live in time for Christmas. First published in 1958, this Newbery Honor Book has become a classic holiday favorite. Armand, an old hobo, loves his solitary and carefree life under a bridge in Paris. But one day, Armand's simple life becomes complicated: He discovers a family living under his bridge, complete with a working mother and three children. As Christmas nears, Armand becomes not only a friend to the children, but someone who is determined to make their holiday wishes for a real home come true. Great for reading aloud the importance of kindness and selfless giving.


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