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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.

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.

Bruiser – A Book Review

I recently finished reading Bruiser, by Neal Shusterman.

This is the tenth book that I’ve read by Shusterman.  His books are chock-full of deep meaning and heart-wrenching themes.

Bruiser is no exception.

This book tells the story of a young man named Brewster who has a unique ability.  When a girl named Bronte befriends Brewster, strange things begin to happen.

Brewster’s relationship with Bronte and her twin brother, Tennyson, changes all of their lives in unexpected ways.

This book is told from the perspectives of each main character, as well as Brewster’s younger brother.

Oh word, but I rode a roller coaster of emotions with this book.

My heart broke for Brewster, as I saw the pain he allowed himself to go through because of his love for his brother and friends.

I grew angry at Bronte for trying to mold him into the person she wanted him to be.

Tennyson’s selfishness made me want to knock some sense into him!

What was most frustrating was Bronte and Tennyson’s inability to see what was clearly before them.  Grrrr!

As I think about how this book’s themes apply to real life, I’m surprised to find that most people are just like the twins.  We settle ourselves into our cozy lives, happy when we find things that satisfy us.

We foolishly allow ourselves to use things in our lives to mask the pain and heartache we face each day when, in reality, we need that pain to find our way through the difficult circumstances.

Ultimately, I saw a correlation between Brewster’s selfless sacrifice to that of Christ’s.  If you read the book, you’ll understand what I mean.  Shustermann never mentions Christianity, but one can’t help but think of it as this book reaches its climax.

I will probably do this book as a Read Aloud next fall.  The messages about not judging people by their reputation and not jumping on the bandwagon ‘just because” will ring true to my high school kids.

It rang true to this almost-44 year old gal, that’s for sure.

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