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Showing posts from June, 2011

Writing Games

In my years of teaching, I've worked with a lot of kids and adults on writing.  Many of these students have been extremely resistant to the writing process.  It's extremely common for people to have anxiety around writing, so it's important for teachers to not only teach the process, but to address this anxiety as well. Sometimes this involves tricking the student.  If, for example, the a perfectionist and overthinks everything, I often have them do speed writing.  They have to write for two minutes.  It doesn't have to make sense but all the words have to be actual words.  An old friend recently asked for help for her 9-year old who needs tutoring over the summer.  I wish I was near the kid because, as I immodestly pointed out to her, I'm very very good at this.  I did the best I could over the Internet and I think we've made a start.  Inter-state tutoring is kind of fun! The first timed writing exercise ended up being: "Man I word bomb numb ice r

A Need or a Want?

My friend wrote this beautiful post about trying to explain why some people are homeless.  Her daughter asked her one day, "Mommy, why are there homeless people?"  I think most of us would have trouble answering that one. My students were very familiar with homelessness.  I've told the story before about our unit on city wildlife - by the definition in the unit, the kids decided that homeless people should be included. There was another time, when the Junior Achievement program came to our classroom.  I love Junior Achievement - people from various careers in the community come to teach for a day.  I was teaching first grade at the time and wasn't really used to the school yet.  I was more used to it, though, than the woman who came.  She was coming from the prison system - she was some kind of administrator - and was excited to come teach first graders.  The first thing that tipped her off to the type of community she was in was when she asked where our tape pla

My Little Mexico

From five years ago - I love this. Monday, June 26, 2006 Mexico I'm going to Mexico for two weeks to visit my good friends (second family) who run an orphanage there. In honor of that, I thought I'd share a little essay one of the kids wrote: My dad told me about when he was a soldier in Mexico. When he was a soldier he went on a helicopters to go where they told them to go and keep mexico safe from other armys. He told me his life as a soldier. He said life as a soldier wasn't easy so he said don't go to the army. soldado means soldier in spanish. for my little mexico. Four years ago: Oakland Reschedules the Fourth of July

The Best Thank-You Note

Ever. This is from the guardian of a teenager I've been tutoring: "Just imagine where he'd be if you weren't in his life.  Probably a CYA somewhere out in the desert." Two years ago: How to Outsmart a Teenage Boy Four years ago: Teacher Turnover                          Is it That Hard to be Nice?                           Seriously, Can't You Just Be Nice?

This is Leadership?

Here's a story about one of the principals from another teacher. I can't decide if my favorite part was that she had to call and tell the district that they had openings because they didn't notice or if it was that the principal didn't feel like showing her where her classroom was. I was hired two days before school started, (After calling all the elementary schools in the city to find out where the openings were and then informing the district that they in fact did have jobs to fill). I went to the office to introduce myself to the principal and see if I could see my classroom so that I could get it ready for kids. When I walked in to the office it was utter chaos. I saw the principal in her office. I knocked and said, "Hi, my name is ---, and I was just hired to teach second grade here." Her response was "OK." I said, "I was wondering if I could go and see the classroom I am going to be in so I can set it up for the students tomorrow. Her r

Playground Equipment

Playground equipment is something that many of us who went to school in more affluent areas (or during more affluent times) take for granted.  We assume that big red four-square balls and jump ropes are found at every elementary school in America, since that was part of our childhood.  Some of us were really lucky and had “earth” balls and parachutes to play with; those are actually some of my best PE memories.    The reality, nowadays, is that playground equipment is much less available.  Some years I got a playground ball at the beginning of the year in my classroom supplies, and some years I didn’t.  It was never blown up though, and I was never given a ball pump so I usually bought or borrowed one.  Sometimes there was one teacher in the school with a ball pump and everyone knew it so kids were constantly bringing in balls to be pumped up.  Of course, they’d try to do it themselves and would end up bending or losing the needles so I was not only constantly buying pumps but also

The Good Ones

I've noticed that much of the time, dysfunctional situations/people make for better stories.  It's way more interesting and makes a better story for me to tell someone about my old upstairs neighbor whose son kept screaming at her that he was going to kill someone with a serrated knife "It's serrated!!" and how he threw his dead pet snake onto my balcony than it is to talk about my other neighbor who says hi to me each morning. Along those lines, it's often far more interesting - and needs to be brought up - to point out what schools and teachers do wrong.  And I think it is necessary, because these things need to be corrected.  But I was reminded recently when chatting online with a former coworker of the people who really did - and do - put all of themselves into it.  This woman I was chatting with was talking about how she's going to meet a former student who is now pregnant to give her some photos and what a wonderful beautiful person this former s

Remembering Guns and Lockdowns

Friday, June 12, 2009 Guns and Lockdowns (I thought about including an image of a gun on this page, for visual interest, and I couldn't do it. Just couldn't.) The kids I've been talking about in my last few posts are a little more stable, at least in terms of their living situation. Again, thanks to everyone who helped financially - you may very well have helped save these boys' lives - no exaggeration. Again, these are the kids who witnessed the murder and had to be relocated because the police (who I just love SO MUCH - is the sarcasm reaching you through the computer?) showed them off to the suspects so there are plenty of threats of retaliation to go around. Then they treated them like they were the criminals. But I digress. They are in an apartment now which is bigger than ones they've lived in before and - while not in an affluent area at all - are not in danger. I think they're talked into counseling - and thank goodness, their

School Break-Ins

An essay about so many of the school break-ins that have happened this year (and last year and the year before...) Two years ago: This is What I've Been Saying Five years ago: The Exploratorium                         Recycled Sculpture

I Think I Had This Kid...

This is not my note, it's from , but I definitely had kids who should have written me one just like it! Two years ago: An Apartment Four years ago: Last Report Cards

An Awesome Thing

Sometimes, you just need some good news about a school district. The custodians (who by the way, do not make a lot of money) in Oakland Unified have started a scholarship fund. (You can help if you'd like) Good job, custodians. Two years ago: Progress Five years ago: What's Normal to You...

TeachingTolerance: The Black Teacher Who Wasn't

I had a blog published in Teaching Tolerance!  Very exciting.  (Although I don't usually start sentences with "so," so you can tell there was editing.) Read it here .  It explains the origin of the blog's name. One year ago: Being Light Skinded Three years ago: What's Going On Five years ago: Bedtime