It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 9/25/17

imwayr-2015-logo.png

Happy Monday, friends!

This week has been yet another crazy one (I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever have  week that I don’t categorize as “crazy”). Between the “lasts” of college and the insane workload, I often find myself feeling as though I’m slipping further into the abyss that is academia and stress. In the words of my middle school kids, “pls send help.”

BUT, one of the most refreshing pieces of my semester has been the emphasis placed on fun, choice reading. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been able to turn back the pages of my most recent novel and just dive straight into a different world for awhile. It was a cold, rainy weekend in Chadron, which, to me, means that it’s the perfect weather to curl up with my favorite blanket and read. Since the weather was dreary and wonderful, you can imagine what my entire weekend looked like.

something new - 1.jpg

I just want to shout it from the rooftops: I LOVE LUCY KNISLEY. Seriously. This woman is a genius. Her writing is witty, honest, heartwarming, and revolves around food; what more could a reader ask for? In her graphic novel Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride, Knisley takes readers on one of the biggest adventures of her life thus far: her wedding. From engagement to physically building the venue, this novel gives readers eyes into the entire process. I love that Knisley is so honest in her writing; it’s something that has struck me with both Relish and Something New. She never holds back, which allows readers to get the full experience of the stories she is telling us. I smiled when she and John, her husband, became engaged, and I screamed “YES” when she discussed her love of dresses with pockets and the fact that her wedding dress had them (sign me up). The genuine writing and personal touches, such as the photographs, made this novel absolutely fabulous.  Lucy Knisley doesn’t sugarcoat love or weddings, but I still found myself gushing over it all. (5/5 – just read it; you know you want to)

hilocover1.jpg

After talking with my professor about how much I loved Pedro & Me, I was sent home with Hilo: the Boy Who Crashed To Earth. This graphic novel was written by Judd Winick, the same person who wrote and illustrated Pedro’s story from last week (check out the post containing that review here). This story follows D.J., Hilo, and Gina and their friendship, even in trying times. Hilo has no idea who he is, where he came from, or why D.J., his new friend, won’t let him just wear his super cool silver underwear. As the newly united trio try to solve the mystery of Hilo and his past, new problems begin to surface on Earth. Is Hilo’s past coming back to haunt him? How far will friends go to help one another? As they fight for the good of the Earth, these three will learn their own worth and find out what true friendship looks like. This novel is, to quote Hilo himself, “outstanding.” As I was reading, I continually thought about how appealing this could be to several different audiences. It’s a must read if you enjoy action, comedy, and friendship. (4.5/5)

marchbookone_softcover_lg.jpg

I think a common misconception people have about graphic novels is that they are all “little kiddish” and lack “literary qualities” (whatever that means). However, with novels like March, I’m not sure how anyone can still believe this. The March trilogy follows the life of Congressman John Lewis as he fought for desegregation and equality in the 1960’s. Split between the day of President Obama’s inauguration and his own childhood in rural Alabama, Lewis tells the story of the Civil Right’s Movement and the impact it had on him as an African American male in the deep South. From meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to getting arrested at a sit-in, this novel faces the issues of discrimination and racism head on. The graphics are beautiful and the story is one we can’t let be unheard. (5/5)

On Friday, I came home from Block (the finale of the teacher ed program here at CSC) feeling exhausted and, to be quite honest, a little down in the dumps. When this happens, there are three things that get me out of the funk: 1.) copious amounts of sweets or junk food, 2.) phone calls with friends and/or family, or 3.) holing up in my room and devouring books. Friday, I opted to go with option #3, and I was not disappointed.

cvr9781416968290_9781416968290_hr.jpg

The Summer I Turned Pretty is one of my absolute favorite YA books. Jenny Han’s writing is something I have loved since I first read this trilogy years ago, and it greeted me like a warm, comforting blanket on Friday. I holed up in my room and re-read the story of Belly and her summer adventures at Cousins Beach with the Fisher boys and her family. As Belly grapples with the difference between first love and true love, she must make her choice: does she choose the always fun and loving Jeremiah, or does she choose Conrad, the brooding, seemingly unreachable brother. Belly has grown up, but does that mean Cousins has to change too?

Here’s to more reading and less stress!

Advertisements

Pleated Skirts, Weird Words, & Motivation

Last week, I hit the peak of my young 21 years on this earth when a student decided to let me in on what they truly thought of me:

“Ms. Regan? You kind of remind me of a grandma. I mean, you dress like a grandma and use big words… but, like, it works.”

FullSizeRender-12.jpg
My “grandma” outfit

You guys. I have done it. My dreams have been realized. Finally, the pinnacle has been reached. You see, that statement to me wasn’t an insult or a way to point out the ever-sprouting gray hairs on my head (they’ve done that too though, don’t worry); instead, it was a reminder that I am on the right track to becoming the teacher I’ve always wanted to be, cardigans and all.

Though this student in particular was referencing my wardrobe and overuse of the word “precious,” his statement warmed my heart for another reason. I believe wholeheartedly in using the grandma style “teaching” method. Sugata Mitra referenced this style in his TED Talk titled “The Child-Driven Education” and argues for its integration into education everywhere. The basis of the grandma method is this: be present, but let the children guide themselves. Your job is not to tell students what they need to learn, but to instead question and pry to see what they are truly interested in learning. In this model, teachers are called to stand behind children and the material while asking lots of questions and praising the efforts being made. If students are encouraged to think for themselves and lead their own education, they will be more engaged and truly learning.

I can hear the cries of outrage already; how can teachers possibly buy into this? How can we expect students of all people to want to learn and feel the internal drive to do so? What about rewards and punishment? We feel the need to control pulling so hard that sometimes it’s easy to give in; even as I write what I know is true, I can still feel my past traditional education whispering that there is no way this will work. However, it’s nice to have some science behind me. Mitra’s TED Talk focused on the grandma method, but Daniel Pink’s “The Puzzle of Motivation” hit home when discussing extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation. Do rewards even work? No, he argues, stating that there is a massive mismatch between what science knows and what businesses (and, I would argue, schools) do. The system of reward and punishment doesn’t work and can instead lead to harm. What we function in now, according to Pink, is trying to convince students to work in a system of compliance and expect them to be excited about it:

Traditional notions of management are great if you want compliance. But if you want engagement, self direction works better.

Isn’t that true for you? For me, I know it is. I am more excited and willing to go the extra mile for things that I love instead of things I am told to do. Pink states many studies in which higher incentives led to worse performances, so why do we continue to believe the false notion that kids must be extrinsically motivated when we all have drive and ambition within us?

Mitra says “if children have interest, then education happens.” Why, then, do we continue to shut the door on their interests and push our own agenda? If we want students to be thinkers and learners, we must open our eyes to the truth and allow them to explore their own intrinsic motivation. Step aside and let the information find its way into the minds of your students.

Embrace your inner grandma. Wear those cardigans and pleated skirts with pride. After all, “like, it works.”

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 9/18/17

 

imwayr-2015-logo.pngHappy Monday, all!

This post is coming to you later than usual this Monday because, well, life. This past week has been an absolute whirlwind. Between the loads of homework and a surprise visit from friends this weekend, I feel like I came into today crawling. I’m exhausted, still have homework to go tonight, and a lot of presentations/papers to come this week. Do I hear May calling yet?

Despite the pity party seen above, I cannot wait to share with you the books I devoured this week. My reading was all over the board, which led to some really interesting takeaways. I’m just going to begin by saying that all of these books will be found in my classroom library. In fact, I’m ordering on Amazon Prime right now; they are that great, people.

awkward.jpg

This week, my book choices were nearly all recommendations from my fabulous classmates. Awkward was recommended to me by my friend, Nicky Banzhaf. She told me it was one of her favorite graphic novels, and I must say, it ranks right up there for me too. Awkward follows Penelope – Peppi – as she begins at a new school. After a bad first impression with a kind boy in the hall, Peppi tries to find her place in the new school by throwing herself into her favorite hobby – art. But, when the principal decides to take the club fair booth away from the art club and give it to the science kids, an all-out war takes place. Peppi finds herself caught in the middle of the crossfire while trying to find a way to make up for her awkward encounter with Jaime, the quiet science lover she hasn’t been able to apologize to yet. As Peppi searches for a way to say sorry and bring the clubs back together, she finds that maybe some rules must be broken in order to make middle school worthwhile (including collaborating with the science club). (4.5/5)

8a625ee18f183e0a74c33ceb4bd3ded9.jpg

Pedro & Me was an unexpected find for me as I dug through the shelves at our campus library. This story follows Pedro and Judd’s friendship, which began on the set of MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco. Judd beautifully outlines the friendship he and Pedro shared and discusses the legacy Pedro left behind as an HIV-positive AIDS educator. Through his time on the show, Pedro was able to teach millions of viewers from all over the world about what it means to be HIV-positive and how your life changes in the wake of that shattering news. This novel details Judd’s journey and Pedro’s impact he left with the world. Heartbreaking and full of love, this novel left me in tears. Pedro & Me is important; this will be a graphic novel I will be book talking for years to come. (5/5 – I would 1,000% recommend everyone read this; if nothing else, you will learn and grow throughout the reading)

41I7V2BKeXL.jpg

Dental problems weren’t something I had to deal with growing up, but the same can’t be said for sweet Raina in Smile. Being a teenager is confusing as it is, but add in the external pressures of looking a certain way and drama and suddenly you have a very full plate. This is what Raina experiences as she goes through both middle and high school. Told from the author’s own personal experiences, Smile is a story that explores the difficult years of adolescence with the added difficulty of dental work – and I mean a lot of dental work. From fake teeth and headgear to friends who aren’t all that friendly, Raina navigates her way through school and finally finds a way to smile. Guys, this book is another must (I feel like I say that for nearly all these books, but oh well – I am a book pusher). Raina’s story gets to the heart of everyone’s awkward years and reminds us that the most important thing we can be is ourselves through it all. (4.5/5)

I did a lot of reflecting after reading these novels because there truly is a lot of value and worth in them. I cannot stress this enough: find these and read them. They are so worth it.

Here’s to a great week of reading and (hopefully) catching up on sleep!

 

Peeling Back The Layers — Week 3

Growing up, I was fascinated by my grandma’s wooden Matryoshka doll set.

il_570xN.674194613_n96z.jpg
Image: Bing CC

Not only was the exterior of these dolls gorgeous, but they also held a surprise within. Inside each doll was another doll, a size smaller, waiting to be discovered. I still remember the first time I uncovered the secret of the doll. I was delighted; a secret I was finally let in on! What looked like simply one doll was actually many, and my new favorite hobby became taking them all apart and putting them back together as one.

Though I haven’t seen my grandma’s Matryoshka doll set in a long time, I was reminded of it last week as we discussed unit creation. Unpacking the structure of the unit felt like pulling apart the doll set. Units, like a Matryoshka doll set, begin with a big picture or topic you want the class to explore. Under the umbrella of topic, you move on to the weekly plan and then the more specialized day-to-day lesson plan, uncovering narrowly defined goals of what you want your students to learn with each layer you peel back. As the teacher, you also have the responsibility of selecting the right Matryoshka set; do you prefer to move by genre or by time period? Do you prefer to look at the big question during inquiry units or go thematically? Once that is decided, you move on to the activities you want students to engage in and complete. The unit is yours to mold – how cool is that?

Prior to last week, I hadn’t really considered unit plans at all. I know this sounds crazy since I’ll be in the classroom in a few months, but to be fair, I never thought I would make it to this point. Last week really cleared up a lot of questions I had lingering about how to organize and implement a plan. Knowing how to go from the massive, scary unit plan all the way down to the bare building blocks for a class period makes it all seem more manageable. Using mentor texts and mini lessons also, in my opinion, creates a space for students to learn and grow without becoming overwhelmed or moving too quickly.

One of the most eye-opening pieces to last week’s discussion was the fact that the unit is ours. Not the administration’s, not the math teacher’s down the hall, but ours and the students’ alone. Though we may be required to teach certain things, we have the opportunity (or, I would argue, the responsibility) to frame them in a way that works within our classroom. We can design and pick our own Matryoshka doll set to implement and unpack that will set the tone for our class and benefit our students. How empowering is that?

350px-Russian-Matroshka_no_bg.jpg
Image: Bing CC

I want to be the teacher with the most engaging set of lessons and units. I hope that, soon, when my students are filing into the classroom, they feel as excited about uncovering the layers of the unit as I was at grandma’s house. Education should be an experience that both answers and gives questions while uncovering beauty; I want to make it that way.

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 9/11/17

imwayr-2015-logo.png

Greetings, fellow bookies!

It seems strange to me that the fourth week of my senior year has already begun; after this week, I will be a a quarter of the way through my final semester in Chadron. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet, but I can tell you that I will spend this year feeling 10 steps behind and sprinting to catch up. Thank goodness for my fun reads to keep me sane!

th-1.jpeg

First up this week was Phoebe and Her Unicorn, a laugh-out-loud story full of sarcasm and sweetness. My friend, Carlie, dropped this on my table recently, and because of this, I knew this one was a must read. Let me tell you what, Carlie did not disappoint. I literally lol’ed multiple times throughout this novel. Phoebe is searching for a best friend when she finds Marigold Heavenly Nostrils staring at herself in the pond. This narcissistic unicorn and quick witted 4th grader pair up to take on the world (or at least the dark and piano lessons) together. This sassy, heartwarming graphic novel is a must read for those of us who appreciate true friendship and the ability to love those who are not like us. (4/5)

th.jpeg

When I first began Relish, I was hooked. Lucy Knisely takes readers through her past with the help of food and the senses. From attempting (and failing) to make the perfect croissant to sneaking out for the greasy deliciousness that is McDonalds before her father woke up, Knisely’s graphic memoir is everything I didn’t know I needed. Her ability to tie senses and food to so many growing experiences is quite frankly amazing, I had to pause many times throughout the narrative to compare experiences I didn’t remember; suddenly the bowls of soup my cousin, Jaden, and I burnt the roofs of our mouth eating on Christmas Eve rushed to my mind, bringing out a wave of nostalgia and a frantic “remember that time” text. Food is something we can all relate to, and I love the numerous ways Knisley engages those memories and senses throughout this text. From the graphics to the life experiences shared, Relish knocked it out of the park and made me hungry every step of the way. (5/5 – Must read!)

pagepaige.jpgLaura Lee Gulledge’s Page by Paige was a graphic novel I literally devoured. Out of everything I have read so far this semester, the storyline of this novel aligns most with my reading tastes. Being a teenager is hard enough, but after Paige moves to New York City, she finds herself completely alone in an unfamiliar place. With the help of her secret sketchbook, Paige begins to gain confidence in herself and her art. As Paige begins to feel more “Paige-ish,” her parents begin to question where the old Paige went and why she left. Feeling as though she can’t make everyone happy, Paige finds herself opening up and revealing herself – her true self – for possibly the first time ever. Love, art, and new adventures abound in this book. (4.5/5)

25663382.jpg

Though not a graphic novel, I spent my free time at home this past weekend reading Tim Federle’s The Great American Whatever after receiving a recommendation from a friend. I’m not finished yet, but I can already tell you it’s classroom library worthy.

 

Happy reading!

The Week of Twitching

My eye twitched for 5 days straight this past week.

Beginning Wednesday afternoon, my left eye started having twitching spasms. The twitching got so bad my middle school kids commented on it (darn those boogers – they catch everything, I swear). But why, you may ask? What led my eye to begin to twitch uncontrollably when it had never done this before? It wasn’t an overdose of caffeine or a weird issue with my contacts. I can narrow it down to one particular cause: stress.

You see, I knew being a senior in college was going to be stressful. I have a lot on my plate at the moment; between the looming cloud of student teaching and my hours of work, it can all become a bit overwhelming. However, those factors didn’t play into the twitching of last week. Instead, the twitching started when I felt my values being tossed away. The stress came from sitting in a classroom, listening to a professor lecture on assessment and numbers. It was being told that my future classroom wouldn’t be tough or rigorous enough. It was a by-product of already feeling the need to assign numbers to my students’ heads that I haven’t met yet, pricing them on whether they are “good” enough. It was watching an entire class be taught to measure students. It was, to put it bluntly, the unfair practices of education being brought to fruition for a group of 30+ future teachers.

There are parts of assessment that make sense to me. In order to know what our students need from us, we must be able to assess how they are doing in the class. But to say that we must assign a number value to each student seems to be a futile practice. No two kids will write the same way; does that make one student a “good” writer and the other an awful one?

We put a large amount of emphasis on a single moment in time and neglect to realize that our students are walking into our classroom every day from something else. One student could be coming from a stable home while another was up caring for her siblings all night because her parents were no where to be found. Playing the comparison game is an unfair way to judge our students’ performance. Penny Kittle’s thoughts mirror mine in her article “No Evidence of Achievement:”

Our days are numbered: as teachers, as human beings. Will we waste our time comparing one child to another – pretending that the myriad of life experiences each brings to their desk has no bearing on their performance that day? Will we continue labeling and numbering children to determine where they fall short, even when we know that encouragement and love will move them forward faster and more humanely than this beating with scores and labels and inappropriate expectations?

Being a teacher is a big job title to fill. Each day, kids will walk into my classroom and need something from me. It’s my job to give them what they need to be successful, because I quite literally have their life in my hands. Students give pieces of themselves as they write and speak; I think it’s time we get back to the foundation of Language Arts and build something our students can flourish in.

As I stress about the numbers and how to create an environment where kids don’t feel less than, I am reminded of the foundation we outlined for LA: we read, we write, we talk. If we do more of that and less trying to squeeze everyone into the same box, less kids would walk away feeling worthless.

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 9/4/17

imwayr-2015-logo.png

Happy Labor Day, all! I hope you spent your weekend doing whatever relaxes you most to celebrate.

IMG_2907.jpg

As a college student, I think it’s expected of me to go home this weekend. My plans didn’t synch up with the schedule, though, and I ended up staying in Chadron over the weekend. To celebrate the much needed 3 day break, I spent a day in Rapid catching up with a student teacher friend placed up there and also watched a lot of Netflix (NCIS for the win!).

I also made sure to carve out some solid reading time this weekend. One thing I love about reading is the ability it has to relax me. I could be having the worst day of the week, but spending some time reading allows me to escape for just a brief period and regroup a bit. After the stressful week I had, this sounded like a great opportunity for me to really take some time for myself.

The toughest choice for me this week was deciding what to read. Between book recommendations from Dr. Ellington and numerous classmates, I had graphic novels coming out my ears! After narrowing down my choices, I settled down to read under the Christmas lights.

eldeafo.jpg

El Deafo was one of my choices for the week. Cece Bell wrote this book based on her own childhood experiences. When she lost hearing at the age of 4, Cece had a lot of life changes to adjust to. Suddenly, things that are challenging for some prove to be increasingly difficult for Cece. Between starting classes at a new school and trying to find friends who treat her the way she deserves to be treated, this graphic novel explores growing pains we all experienced while giving readers the added perspective of going through them under different circumstances. Cece struggles to accept the Phonic Ear device and sees it as a repellant of possible friends. However, with some help from Batman and true friends, Cece is able to realize her own superpowers.

El Deafo guides readers through the life of Cece in a way that is both heartbreaking and funny. Bell’s plea for acceptance and love is heard throughout and rings true to my educator heart. This book served as a window into he life of a person growing up deaf, which is something I have not experienced myself. Bell’s stories provided me with insight into what her life looked like while also telling readers that not all children with hearing issues will go through the same things. This humorous graphic novel should be on everyone’s must read list.

Little Robot by Ben Hatke was unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I can say that because the amount of words in this graphic novel is less than the amount in this blog post alone (this is not at all scientific, but it has to be close). What it lacks in words it makes up for in graphics and the storyline. When the little robot finds himself outside of the factory, he knows he is in trouble. The world is confusing (amen, little guy), but with some guidance from his new-found friend wielding tools, he just might make it. Can they escape from the evil yellow robot that is bound and determined to find them?

Little-Robot-Cover.jpg

This story reminded me what it is like to have the heart of a child. Little robot’s friend is unflinchingly loyal, always promising to return and never giving up on the rescue efforts. This friend tries their best to create an environment they believe little robot wants to live in, even if that means creating other robots from scratch. The friend teaches little robot how to walk and helps fix his parts when he needs it. The friend is hurt when little robot seems as though he wants to leave and tries to remedy the situation by creating more robots so he is “not alone” (85). Children see differences as beauty instead of seeing them as something that needs to be corrected.

I’m a little sad to say that these two books are the only ones I read completely through this week. I have two other graphic novels in the works right now, and I’m looking forward to finishing them this upcoming week!

th.jpegPrince-Tomboy.png

Happy reading, all!