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That Moment

You know that one of my favorite things about teaching is watching my students change from being non-readers to kids who cannot put their books down.

It’s a metamorphosis, y’all…a process I am honored to witness every single year.

This year, I am teaching two intensive reading blocks.  These kiddos have the pleasure (ahem) of getting read to nearly every day.

This year, we’ve read The Honest Truth (gripping), Stuck in Neutral (nail biter at the end), and most recently Life Happens Next.

The last book is a sequel to the aforementioned one…both written by Terry Trueman.

Stuck in Neutral is about a boy named Shawn.  He has Cerebral Palsy.  Everyone thinks he’s a vegetable.  He’s not.  He has perfect auditory memory and can read, when his eyes will light on text long enough for him to focus on it.  He also thinks that his father is planning to kill him.

Is your interest piqued?  I know that my kids’ were.

So, we read the first book.  I didn’t tell them there was a second book, relishing their anguish at the cliffhanger of the first.

I am evil that way.  It’s one of the fun parts of being a teacher.

Anyhoo, the second book picks up where the first left off, introducing a couple of new characters.

My kids have been mesmerized.  Shawn’s personality comes through loud and clear…sarcastic but oh so relevant as a teenager.

I finished reading the book today, and I decided to share the author’s notes at the end.  I remembered being blown away by the fact that Mr. Trueman based his characters off of people in his own life.

My kids were in awe, and they had great questions about what happened to the “real” people.

So, being the fangirl that I am, I tweeted out to the author.

And he responded.

Don’t you just love being acknowledged by royalty?  In my world, authors rank right on up there with Prince William and Princess Kate.

For real, though.

Here’s what I received late this afternoon…

As I’m typing this, I am literally giddy.  I cannot WAIT to share this tweet with my kids.

It is a moment like this that solidifies their journey as readers…connecting with characters…reaching beyond their own lives in their quest to understand others.

I mean, y’all…you should have seen my kids’ responses when a character in the book passed away, unexpectedly.  The class had begged for “one more chapter.”  I had acquiesced to their request.

And then the character died.

And the room was dead silent.

For longer than a minute.

Until they blamed the gal who had finally convinced me to read that chapter.

Nobody saw it coming.  This would have ranked as a first class blindside on the show Survivor.

The fact that they were flabbergasted was “that moment.”

It was the moment that preceded today’s “moment.”

In the course of the year that I have my kiddos, we string many “moments” together that keep the kids coming back year after year until they graduate.  We often talk about books.  Sometimes, they’ll borrow some from me.  Mostly, our exchanges are about the bonds that we formed while they were students in my class…teacher to student…human to human.

So, I thank authors like Terry Trueman who stick their necks out and write about difficult topics to get us to think outside of the box…to ponder on things that go beyond the surface…to pick at feelings we didn’t know we had.

17 Weeks

Four months and one week…that’s how much time has passed since November 13th when I broke my ankle.

Each week brings me closer to a full recovery, but I am still a long ways out.

This past week, I learned some painful, yet powerful lessons.

Last weekend, I thought I’d be all that and did three very tough weight lifting routines.

I’d wanted to start Body Beast ever since I’d been sidelined in November.  I had done chest and triceps the previous Friday, legs that Saturday, and biceps and back that Sunday.

To make matters worse, I spent about seven hours on my feet on Sunday…cooking four different recipes.

Boy, was I hurting when Monday rolled around.  I always say that it’s not the day after a workout that you’re most sore but the second day after.

This was me on Tuesday…standing like a gorilla because I couldn’t straighten my arms from Sunday’s bicep workout…

My ankle was a hot mess from Saturday’s workout, let me tell you.  It was so bad that the outside of my ankle…the side where I have my plate, was hurting.  This side rarely gives me problems.

When I got to physical therapy on Monday afternoon, I was doing some serious hobbling.

My physical therapists were not happy, and because I’d done too much, they weren’t able to add new exercises to my regimen.

The ice and stem therapy when I finished that day were much needed.

I struggled all week with my ankle…all because I’d tried to be my former, overachieving self.

Here’s what’s hard for me…remembering that, although my ankle might feel okay while I’m doing something, the effects of being on my feet or doing whatever it is I’m doing don’t hit until later.

I have to start thinking about the after-effects, which is so hard for me because I feel as though I’m missing out on stuff.

Sigh.

So, last week was frustrating, and I might have had a pity party or two when nobody was looking (and even when someone was).

The Mr. got a bit upset with me and fussed…in a loving way (ahem).  He reminded me that I am only four months out from breaking my ankle.

Yes, I can walk.

Yes, my limp is getting better.

Yes, I can drive and do some things.

The key is the word “some.”  That doesn’t mean all, and it doesn’t even mean that those “some” things are going to be to the full extreme that I’ve done them in the past.

YET.

One day, I’ll be able to.

Just not yet.

Just like I can’t wear pretty shoes for very long, so it’s tennis shoes and dresses, on the days when I feel like looking uber-professional.

Don’t be jelly of my fashion style.

Before I left my PT session on Wednesday, I was instructed to take it easy over the weekend…to not do any more than a mile without checking to see how I felt (it had been my intention to get started on my S.P.E.W. virtual race…six miles…broken up for me, of course).

I took their words to heart and went home on Friday determined to be a better patient.  On my way in the house, I stopped to smell the roses…literally.

It had been a tough couple of days with work stuff, and I listened to my body and crashed in the recliner.

Then, I did NOTHING on Saturday.  I stayed in my pajamas and read my new Neal Shusterman book, Scythe.  I had started it Friday night after the Man in the Brown Truck delivered it and finished it early Saturday evening.  It was FANTASTIC!

There were a few twists I didn’t expect, which made this a real page turner.

I took a bit of time out on Saturday to watch the movie If I Stay, which is based on Gayle Forman’s book.  I read it last summer and enjoyed it.  It was a heart-wrenching book.  The movie didn’t disappoint except in a couple of places where things strayed from the book a bit.

Gambit chose to interrupt my “me” time periodically throughout the day.  Being in the recliner puts me at the perfect level to give him a good scratch or two.

All of the resting made a huge difference for my ankle, as evidenced by the fact that you can see most of the bones in my foot.  They’re usually slightly obscured by the swelling that seems to be a constant part of my world right now.

As I type this, it’s Sunday afternoon.  The Mr. is grocery shopping, and I’d like to try to make a couple of things.  We found some recipes that don’t look like they’ll require a lot of standing-up time.  My fingers are crossed.

This journey is reminding me of the importance of rest.  So often, I, along with most of America, use the weekends to try to catch up on tasks that aren’t able to be done during the week.

My body, however, tells on me.  I need the kind of rest that requires purposely sitting down and not doing a whole lot of much, whether it’s thinking or finishing chores.  Everything gets done eventually…it just doesn’t have to be done now.

Speaking of now…the Mr. just pulled into the garage which means for now, I’ll be starting work on those recipes and then hunkering down in my recliner to watch a little NASCAR and, perhaps, enjoy a quick nap.

Thank you for your continued prayers as I press on in my recovery. ❤

The Art of Finessing

Finesse…it doesn’t always mean what you think it means.

Especially if you teach at the high school level.

If you’re old, like me, when you hear the word finesse, you think of doing something with style.

In a way, this sort of fits the new-fangled slang that the kids have turned it into.

According to the Urban Dictionary, finesse means, “To talk someone out of their things. Not stealing persuading someone out of their belongs, or to do you a favor.

Please do not go to Urban Dictionary and look this up for yourselves.  The sample sentence that uses the word is definitely rated PG-13.

I’m just sayin’.

So anyhow, what in the world am I doing writing about a slang word?

Well you see, I tried really, really hard to finesse something from one of my students.

It all started last night when I posted the following picture on my favorite social media sites:

This book had arrived at my house just two days prior, and although I’m already in the middle of one book, I was curious, read the first two chapters, and was hooked immediately.

Rebecca commented on Facebook and told me how much she had enjoyed reading Everything, Everything by the same author.

I got excited because I already had that book in my class, so that’s what I looked for when I got to school this morning.

I couldn’t find it.

That meant one of two things:  1) A student was reading it, or 2) Someone had made off with the book already.

As my first period students began their silent reading today, I mentioned that I was looking for the book, and one of my girls told me that she had it.

Oh my.

I was so relieved and began hatching a plan.

A plan to finesse that book right out of her hands for the weekend.

When reading time was over, I asked if she was leaving it in her folder.

No such deal.

Dang.

I admitted that I had planned on finessing the book when she wasn’t looking because I really, really want to read it.

The entire class started laughing…because I was using their slang…and because I wanted her book.

She did take it home, which really is fine because I still have the newer book to read.

I’m going to have to work on my skills though.  Apparently my modus operandi is not stealthy enough.

And that’s Latin, not slang.

Celebrating Readers

My students continue to impress me with the rate at which they are finishing books.  It seems like a day doesn’t pass when a student stands in front of me and announces the end to another story.

I love hearing them explain why they liked certain characters over others, or why the stories touched their hearts.

As you can see in the picture below, Kwame Alexander continues to be a favorite for my boys, while Jennifer Brown is reigning supreme for the girls.  The Bluford series is also popular with the kids who aren’t exactly in love with reading or get intimated by larger books.

Oh, and the gal who read Lucy in the Sky?  She read Go Ask Alice a week or two ago.  This gal is on a roll!!!

When Boys Read

I teach a LOT of boys.  In fact, my last block of the day is currently comprised of 15 boys and four girls.  Until Friday of the week before, that number was 17 boys and four girls.  This doesn’t even count the young men in my other three classes.

It can be challenging to find books suited to them; young adult fiction seems to be permeated with “girly” books.

As a result, I’ve been searching really hard for books that will appeal to the young men who grace my classroom each day.  Kids are good at fake reading; many don’t actually finish books but float from one to another because they lose interest quickly.

Thus it is that I’m especially excited when one of my guys announces that he’s finished a book.

This past week, TWO of them did just that, and I had to capture photos.

I’m extra fond of the young man on the left (don’t tell my other students this).  I taught his sister two years ago; she’s a senior this year.  I really like teaching siblings!

He LOVED the book you see pictured.  It’s about a boy who is the only Muslim student in his school.  Tensions run high with the profiling that naturally accompanies such immigrants, and the lead character in the story finds himself in a quandary about how to come to terms when a federal investigation is launched against his father.

My student told me that he felt like it was incredibly relevant to what’s going on in the world today.

Cha-ching!  Connections made.  A teacher’s dream.

The guy on the right, another sweetie with an easy smile, picked up Code Talker after I gave a book talk about it.  He remembered his father mentioning this topic in passing one day.  The book is about the group of Navajos serving in the Navy during World World II who were tapped to send messages to one another in their native language while overseas.  They saved a lot of American lives because of this special task.

I’ve wanted to read this book for awhile.  I’m such a history buff.

Although my student liked the content itself, he said that parts of the story were a little boring.  I was so proud of him for not giving up on the book and seeing it through to the end.  As a result, he’s got background knowledge that might come in handy one day.

Cha-ching! Another teacher’s dream.

My biggest hope for my students is that they will become life-long readers.  With each book that is opened and each story devoured, my kids are certainly one step closer!

A Month Later…

Well crap.

I blinked.

Longest blink ever.

As in one month and six days.

Sheesh.

It’s hard to believe that the first grading period will be over in eleven days.

Even though this is my seventh year teaching, I feel as busy as I did my first two years.  Having an extra prep is wayyyyy more work than most people realize.

Every Monday finds me like this…

We’ve been incredibly busy.  My Intensive Reading classes are doing their thing.  We spent the first two weeks on my Brain Gardening unit.  This is where they study the science of positive affirmations on the brain.  I added in a Brainology article, assessment, and worksheet that my friend, Cinda, pointed me to.  The kids loved the lesson, as did I.

Kahoot made an appearance when I used it to review Text Features with my Intensive Reading students.  They loved it, as I knew they would.

My Honors classes are doing some seriously hard work.  They’re writing a huge essay about suicide prevention.  The ultimate purpose is to evaluate what our school is doing in this regard.  I brought in a few speakers, and my kids interviewed them.

I was very surprised when I read the following entry in one of my girl’s reading responses…

This made getting those speakers so worth the effort!!

My students just finished typing their rough drafts.  I’m taking the kids through the entire writing process.  They didn’t exactly enjoy the planning part, but one of my girls actually went above and beyond by typing her outline…

They typed their papers in Google Drive.  A friend, Ryan, who is also a tech employee with my district, came in and trained my kids on it and Canvas, an online classroom setting that we use.  I had my kids link their Google Drive essays with Canvas, and then they peer reviewed a computer-generated partner’s work.

It was some good stuff!  Yes, I am a teacher nerd.  🙂

Their papers are due on Friday.  I cannot wait to read their final drafts!!!

The second week of school found our routine interrupted when Hurricane Hermine came to the Panhandle.  We had two extra days off of school.  I’m not going to lie.  They were wonderful and provided a much-needed rest that allowed me to catch my breath.  The first few weeks are extremely tiring when you’re a teacher.

Notice my alarms…turned off?

I was able to work out…in daylight…on those mornings.

With extra classes comes extra grading.  I’m forever behind, although I did make serious headway last week.

I really take my time reading responses to my students’ books and providing feedback of their essays.  I want each student to feel like I care about them individually.

I’m also trying to evolve in my teaching practices by working on the use of progression scales.  These are measuring tools by which students assess their learning.  I used Plickers to have students answer the following question.  It was our first time using the cards.  There was a small learning curve, but eventually, I think it will be a quick way to get feedback from them.

I also adopted a new football player since the one I’d had for the past three years graduated in May.  These were some of the goodies I purchased to add to his bags over the next few weeks…

As a way to keep up with the latest hot reads, I’ve been listening to The Nerdy Bookcast podcast.  It.  Is.  Fabulous.  I think I’ve cried during every episode.  The impact that books have children is impressive.

Check out the book I ordered after listening to a book talk about it during one episode.  I already have a waiting list for it after doing my own book talk in my classroom!

Another book I heard on the podcast was The Twinkie Bin.  I ordered it immediately, book-talked it, and read the first three chapters to my Honors classes.  It was snatched up by a young lady.  Another student wrote down the title so her mom could order it for her.  It’s riveting.

Speaking of books…one of my favorite things about teaching is watching as my students develop a love for literature.  One young lady is reading Beautiful Creatures.  She looked up the lyrics for “Sixteen Moons,” the song that keeps playing over and over in the book.

I used my teacher lead money to purchase twenty five new books.  The first batch arrived early last week.

Here’s the second batch that came in…

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to maintain the boundaries between home and work.  So, I work super hard Monday through Thursday…into the evenings…and give myself the weekends to be me…no schoolwork allowed.

My life continues to revolve around my workouts.  I really like the 22 Minute Hard Corps program.  Tony Horton often refers to it as “functional fitness.”  It’s not so much lifting weights as it is building core strength and endurance, which you need for living.

I am not going to lie.  This program is deceptively hard.  I thought it was going to be easier.  I needed easier after Hammer and Chisel.

Boy, was I fooled.  I burn anywhere between 175-250 calories with each workout.

I found some worksheets online, and I love them!  They help me see which exercises are coming up, and I like seeing the blanks fill up during the week.

I did have a mishap one day when door I had the bands hanging over popped open.  The bands flew back and hit me in the head and hands.

My right hand got the worst of it, though.  My knuckle still hasn’t healed completely.

Yes, I am a klutz.

I’ve been mixing workouts with yard work.  I like to keep my heart rate monitor on while I’m outside out of simple curiosity.  Apparently, mowing, edging, and sweeping debris burns a crap-ton of calories.

The Hard Corps program is eight weeks long.  I just started Week 7.  The workouts have gotten progressively difficult.  There’s one workout every other day and two workouts every other day.  Although there are only a total of seven workouts, not counting the bonus ones, the combos vary according to the week and day.

There are still days when I dread getting out of bed…knowing what’s ahead of me in my workout…but I do get up, and I do push through.

As the weeks have gone by, I’ve started doing the workouts without the videos.  My friend, Rebecca, wrote an honest review of the program.  Her post explains how fast the videos go, and this was something I had a problem with too.  After I found the worksheets and got comfortable doing the exercises, I stopped watching the videos.  I was having to pause them frequently, because I was determined to do all of the reps.  Doing them at my own pace has allowed me to focus on my form.

I have needed a distraction while working out, though, so on Saturdays, I watch the ESPN College Gameday program.  I love the human interest stories and the picks of the commentators.

During one story, which left me in tears, I sketched out lesson plans that I hope to use some time this year.

I just couldn’t help myself.  I get ideas from so many places.

I’m seeing the fruits of my workouts…not just in my body but my endurance.  I completed the Hogwarts Running Club’s Platform 9 3/4k with, what my friend, LeAnne, said was a good time.  I was just happy to get through it!  I did walk/jog intervals.

With all of the exercising and calorie burning, I’ve been more motivated to cook.  I bought two cookbooks from Oh She Glows, a vegan cook.

I also recently downloaded her app…well worth the $4.99!

I have liked every single recipe I’ve made so far.

The 6 Vegetable and “Cheese” Soup was pretty good.  Next time I make it, I’ll leave out the cayenne pepper.

Peanut Better Balls (no typo)…so very delicious and super duper easy!

Pumpkin Pie Smoothy Bowl…oh word!!  This recipe is in the app.

Healthy Potato Soup for the Soul (in the app)…the BEST potato soup I’ve ever had!  I couldn’t wait to eat the leftovers each day at school!!!

This past weekend, I made the Spiced Red Lentil Tomato and Kale Soup.  I didn’t take pictures…shocker, I know…but this soup is seriously flavorful.  The broth is to die for!

Another thing that’s kept me busy is a new hobby…calligraphy!  I recently started following Scarlet and Gold on Instagram because this shop is based out of Auburn.  I saw that they would be offering a free online class and signed up.  I ordered my supplies and eagerly awaited.

What a wonderful job they did with the video!  It was easy to follow and very polished.  I learned a lot and had so much fun!

Not bad for a first attempt, eh?

I enjoyed it so much that I ordered more resources.

Although that’s not everything that I’ve been up to, it’s quite a lot of it.  As always, I continue to crave more writing time but find it almost impossible to carve out.

I’ll keep trying, though, and hopefully will get back on the train more frequently.

The Power of a Read Aloud

Twenty-two days.

That’s how long it’s been since I’ve last posted.

Clearly, this is getting ridiculous.

Forget the excuses.  I will just say that when I get home, I like to unplug from the world…except for Mondays, when I lesson plan, and during the evenings, when I’m watching various television shows.

So, let’s just get to today’s post, shall we?

Today was a good day at school…for a number of reasons.

The main reason had to do with the read aloud I did during my 4th/5th period block.

After I finished reading The Honest Truth to my classes earlier this year, I allowed my students to select the book they wanted next.  Each class chose something different.

My 4th/5th period class chose Bitter End, by Jennifer Brown.

You guys know that I am one of this author’s biggest fans.  She writes teen fiction that is extremely relevant.  It’s as if she hasn’t gotten so old that she doesn’t remember what a teenager actually thinks.

I read Bitter End a couple of summers ago, and I had to put it down at one point because the material was so realistic…so heartbreaking.

The book tells the story about Alex, a high school senior, who falls for Cole, the new boy in school.  He dotes on her until things change, and he begins to abuse her.

My class and I are about halfway through the book (remember that I’ve read it all the way through already…on my own…so I know what’s coming).

Today, I think we were on about Chapter 16 or so, and man, was the scene HEAVY.  I’d read ahead just to make sure I prepared myself for any possible discussion questions that might come up.  I tend to teach more organically when it comes to my read alouds and allow conversations and comments to flow naturally.

In this chapter, Cole really begins to abuse her for the first real time in the story.

My kids were sitting on the edge of their seats, let me tell you.  One girl had started to read the book earlier in the year but had put it down.  A few days ago, she told me how much more she enjoys it now that I’m reading it aloud because of the expression I put into it.

Quite a few times, as I read, they exploded with comments, and I had to stop to quiet them down.

When we finished the chapter, everyone had something to say, and we had a lively discussion.

I was in awe of my students.  Most of this class is comprised of young ladies…strong young ladies who are completely aghast at the doormat that Alex, the protagonist, is allowing herself to be.

Even my male students were indignant!

Yet, among the loud voices in my classroom came softer ones…the gals who suggested that we don’t know what we would really do if we were placed in similar situations.

One girl shared how a former boyfriend had pushed her down and spit on her (she wound up punching him…she’s a fighter, you see).

Then, I heard a gentle question:  “Mrs. Auburnchick, what would you have done?”

Oh boy.

While I try to get my kids to answer their own questions and think for themselves, I knew I had to answer this.

I told her that my broken, insecure, high school self probably would have taken the abuse.  My older, wiser, mama/teacher self would fight back.  It’s amazing what a few years of life experience will do for you.

My job as an intensive reading teacher is to help my students hone their reading skills.  Part of my job involves getting students to read…to explore their feelings about their reading…to connect their reading to their lives, other text, and the world.

Books such as Jennifer Brown’s make my job so much easier.  While we may not be completing graphic organizers, the rich discussions we are having as we read do just as much good and fill in the gap that overworked, uninterested parents create because they don’t know how to have these conversations with their children.

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