Posted in 29 for 29, Life Musings, Uncategorized

29 books that will change how you see the world.

29. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

bookthief

28. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

outsiders

27. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

racingintherain

26. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Cornel West

thenewjimcrow

25. Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Finding Flow

24. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

ellaminnowpea

23. The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield

warofart

22. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

tokillamockingbird

21. The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl

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20. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

graceling

19. …And I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944

butterfly

18. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

ellaenchanted

17. Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger

9stories

16. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock  by Matthew Quick

ForgiveMe

15. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

North-of-Beautiful

14. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

mockingjay

13. House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

HouseofLeaves

12. A Monster Calls by Siohan Dowd

monstercalls

11. M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker

MASH

10. Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco Stork

lastsummer

9. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

godot

8. Hero by Perry Moore

hero

7. The Thursday Next Series by Jasper Fforde

eyreaffair

6. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

incoldblood

5. The Wump World by Bill Peet

Wump_World

4. The Tale of Two Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean

duelingneurosurgeons

3. Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

RunningWithScissors

2. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

HP5_Cover

1. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

catch_22

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Posted in Life Musings, This is real life.

Dear First-Year Teachers…

Dear First Year Teachers,

I know you’re tired.

I know you feel overwhelmed.

I know you’ve thought a lot about quitting.

But I’m going to ask you for one more thing: when everything else is making you crazy, and you’re worried about your scores, and you’re afraid to ask for help…take time to know your students. 

There will never, ever be another group of students that you will love, hate, and love to hate more in your entire career.

I’m not saying that you won’t have amazing relationships with your future students.

Three of my former students brought their parents to meet me at Community Night this week, and those parents each thanked me, in different words, for caring about their kids beyond the classroom.

I’m not saying that there won’t be special ones.

Not every outstanding, successful high school senior remembers their middle school yearbook teacher (and her dad) and greets them with excitement. Only the special ones.

What I’m saying is that these kids, your first-year kids, are the ones you will remember forever.

They are the ones whose first, middle, and last names will never escape you.

The ones whose stories you will tell for years to come, and stories that your best friends will prompt by saying, “Tell them about that one time that Michael…” because they feel like they know each one personally.

The ones you wish you knew what happened to, what they’re doing, how they are, and the ones you never stop worrying about – wondering if they still need you.

The ones who show up the week before they graduate high school to tell you thank you, and do their best to make you cry in front of your current students.

The ones who hug you just as tightly in the grocery store five years after the last time they saw you as they did on the last day of school, who you spend half an hour talking to after a long day in the middle of Homecoming Week.

But most of all, they are the ones who are truly your children. They belong to you, and you belong to them.

So please, please, savor the best part of our jobs. Build relationships. Make connections. Open your heart to these kids and believe in your ability to make their lives better.

Because when all else fails, that’s what life is about.

Love, an 8th year teacher

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Posted in The 12 Books of Christmas Break

12 Books of Christmas Break: The Book Whisperer

“Now, I accept that I may never arrive at teaching paradise, but as long as I hold on to my love of books and show my students what it really means to live as a reader, I’ll be a lot closer than I was.” – The Book Whisperer, pg. 18

I’ve read this book before, at least a couple times (I believe I’ve been saying 4 recently, but I have no real data to back that up). However, all this talk of new curriculum had me very quickly re-reading it, looking to remind myself of the keys she teaches.

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Title: The Book Whisperer
Author: Donalyn Miller
Genre: Nonfiction (it’s a teacher book)
Erin’s teaser synopsis: While many teachers will say that students have changed drastically over the past few years, I’ll say that the biggest change that I’ve noticed in K-12 is the reluctance to read. Donalyn Miller wrote a book about her uncanny ability to turn any of her students into a reader with choice, high-interest novels, and independence.
Why I relate to it: I’m a teacher who loves to read and write, teaching kids who love me – but not necessarily my subject. Obviously, this is a book that speaks to me.
Judgement call:  While there are valuable insights to it…I feel that many people rave about it like it’s the end-all-be-all of getting kiddos to read. It’s not. It’s a great way to help you rethink teaching a whole class novel or make you feel like literature circles are possible (and maybe they are!) but it’s not some miracle that’s going to help your suspiciously-absent-from-her-list category of “Refusing Readers” suddenly race each other to the library. So yes, read it, but don’t expect miracles – and don’t be surprised if you already do 90% of what’s mentioned if you’re truly a good teacher.

I personally have never purchased it, preferring to check it out from the public library. However, you can also find it at Amazon (of course) if I already have it checked out.

Posted in The 12 Books of Christmas Break

12 Books of Christmas Break: Jackaby

“Following the curious encounter, I asked the barman if he knew anything about the stranger. The man chuckled and rolled his eyes. ‘I’ve heard lots of things, and one or two of them might even be true. Just about everyone’s got a story about that one.’” – Jackaby, pg. 8

Okay, yes, technically I’m back at work, but not back to school – I still have a week and a half or so. But my job has, admittedly, slowed down my reading progress. Still, I managed to get a few in this week (even if they WERE mainly for non-adults).

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Title: Jackaby
Author: William Ritter
Genre: Young Adult fiction
Erin’s teaser synopsis: When Abby arrives in the US and begins to search for a job, she runs into your typical creeper at a restaurant (okay, a bar) and eventually this guy turns out to be her soon-to-be mystical employer. The critics describe the character as “the Doctor meets Sherlock Holmes” but I see it a lot more as “Harry Potter meets Sherlock Holmes” with a lot weaker plot.
Why I relate to it: I actually kind of don’t…relate to it, that is. I mean, we could stretch and say that I liked the main character, Abby, and her gumption that allowed her to pursue independence. But I’m a grown up who found her rebellion just a touch foolhardy to my mind.
Judgement call: It was interesting, actually. I really liked the detective character (Jackaby himself) and I enjoyed the fact that the main character, from whose perspective you view the story, is a normal person. Surprising ending? Not really. I pretty much pegged all of the three big “reveals,” but what the story lacked in plot, it made up for in character development. Hazard of being an avid reader and writer, I suppose.

Looking for a new, off-kilter detective that’s just a little bit magic? Pick this one (or the sequel) up at your library, or at Amazon.

Posted in This is real life.

Walking the Balance Beam

I haven’t posted in a while, I know. Blame grad school – not my crazy job, not writer’s block, not anything except all the classes that have me completely swamped online.

In any case, I feel like I’ve been teetering on one side or another of a balance beam lately. Not a tightrope, mind you, I could never even stand on one of those. And not the Olympic balance beam, either. We’re talking one of those barely-off-the-floor kinds you find in kiddie gyms. Or the one this dog is about to fall off of.

That’s my kind of balance beam.

Either way, today, for some reason, everything balanced out.

Seriously, everything. And I wanted to take five seconds to just appreciate it.

This morning, I realized that the healthy debate I was planning on having at work was too little too late and I was stuck with what someone else had decided. I immediately dreaded having to tell the person who recommended my course of action what happened. Later this afternoon, said person emailed me, thanking me for my input and letting me know that even if I couldn’t sway the group, she would help me figure out how to help my kids. All before I had a chance to tell her.

Then, I had my first day teaching my extra tutoring group, which was a beating, but on the way out, one of the kids told me that now he understood what it meant when his thesis “wasn’t supported.” (Baby steps, y’all.)

Second period, I had to write up a kid who JUST came back from … not here … because he was losing it in class, but by the end, he’d come back, apologized, acted out again, checked himself, and had a long talk with me about his struggles. By the time he left, he told me that we probably wouldn’t be friends, and that he’d probably end up in the office from my room again soon. 

Not the outcome we look for after that much work. 

Thankfully, the very next class period, I found a note on my desk from a student that made me literally cry in between class periods. I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it. The kid wasn’t one I put a lot of work into, but according to the note, I’m a teacher who kids can trust just because I’m honest and genuine with them. 

Balance, right there.

I made a list of possible projects that I have no idea whether or not will be acceptable for my grad project last year and then also a list of back-up professors to have on my grad committee. Then, as I went in to draft an email to basically “propose” to these professors, I opened an email from my fave prof that started “Thanks for helping me cry today,” in reference to the rather hearten-my-sleeve paper I submitted and ended with him asking for which font I would recommend he print his favorite line out in to hang up in his office.

Finally, I realized that I had unfortunately booked my massage at a time that ended in the height of rush hour. Then I decided that instead of sitting in the stand-still traffic for an hour, I’d head up toward Plano and get to listen to a little “librarian” read me a story about puppies.

It almost makes me feel like I’m ready for the grown up version.

Almost.

Posted in Saturday Snapshot

Saturday Snapshot 052

I’ve been falling down on the photo job, because I’m sooooooo exhausted lately. Even my dogs are tired and they just nap all day.

Photo Jun 04, 4 44 09 PM

I could give it up, but I’m not going to. I’m just going to be less type-A about it.

It’s a struggle.

Anyway, it’s the end of the year, so I have some traditional end of the year photos for you this week.

Today, we celebrated one of the best teachers I had the privilege to both learn from and work with, who taught me a lot more about having high expectations for your students and inspiring them to do their best than how to become a famous singer (that’s okay, because it was never a goal of mine anyway).

Photo Jun 06, 2 07 11 PM Photo Jun 06, 3 27 38 PM

But before that, I bought a selfie stick.

Oh yes.

But I bought it in order to take photos with my (much larger) classes at the end of the year. Not that I play favorites, but…here are my two favorite classes, which – by the way – are night and day behavior-wise, though incredibly similar in academic performance. It boggles the mind, but I love them anyway.

Photo Jun 02, 3 30 18 PM (2) Photo Jun 03, 11 32 47 AM (1)

We’re almost there, MISD! Congrats to all you teachers who are already finished – pray for us on Monday!

Posted in Deep deepness, Humor, Life Musings, Life's A Trip., New But Not Improved, This is real life.

27 lessons I learned at 27

Happy birthday to me!

I’m 28. Which means that there’s no longer any pretending, at all, that I’m not in my late 20s.

Without further ado, here’s the list of the 27 most important (debatable) things I learned this year:

27. Everything is better when it’s dyed purple.
10304638_10102355702669920_7018318408632320615_n 26. How to use a floor sander. No, really, I did.
25. Never use a toaster if you’re even a little bit distracted.
24. Any shirt I ever thought was awful and tacky can be easily surpassed by searching “Harry Potter” or “Star Wars” on lookhuman.com, and I want to own them all anyway.
horrifyingness 23. How old Pharrell actually is.
22. When it comes to chicken biscuits, or lack thereof, people are quite unforgiving.
21. The best way to intrigue people is to let all your eccentricities show – wear them proudly!
Photo May 04, 5 12 36 PM (1) 20. I have the sense of humor of a high schooler – which, by the way, I didn’t have when I actually attended high school. (reference #24)
19. The best way to ruin a bar is to add a DJ.
18. I own CDs that are older than most of my current students.
old albums 17. Much like celebrity deaths, coworker pregnancies can also come in threes, making for an interesting last six weeks at your new job. #loveyouguys #butreallythough
16. I am not above ordering and then using a selfie stick, though I desperately want to be.
15. Remodeling your bathroom is really effing expensive but totally worth it, if you like daily indulgences. And I do.
Photo May 09, 4 59 34 PM 14. I can easily relate to 90% of male hispanics by casually dropping the phrase, “I mean, he’s no Messi, but…” into a conversation.
13. There are some things that even dads can’t fix…like when a tree falls on your house.
12. People who say “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” are either lying or just plain wrong (probably both). If that were true, we wouldn’t need willpower.

Did I eat a piece of this made-from-scratch coffee cake at 12:15am today? Yep. Do I regret it? Not even a little.
Did I eat a piece of this made-from-scratch coffee cake at 12:15am today? Yep. Do I regret it? Not even a little.

11. The definition of “thot,” according to today’s youths.
10. There is, in fact, a limit to my generosity.
9. Even though they’re horrible people, the Underwoods are actually the ideal couple. #houseofcards
 8. Vodka is not now, nor has it ever been my friend. I need to accept that and move on.
7. Getting a third dog pretty much guarantees that you’re going to be vacuuming your house every other day. Accept it and get one anyway.
Photo Feb 27, 9 47 09 PM6. Some friendships deserve second chances.
5. Some don’t deserve the third, fourth, and fifth chances you gave them.
4. How to operate a real-life popcorn machine (highlight of my teaching career, ladies and gents).
hUw2gw 3. I’m the ultimate female sidekickGet in line, ladies.
2. Believing that you have value is a lot easier if there are others who believe it, too, but it’s not impossible if there aren’t.
and
1. The older I get, the younger I feel.
1969160_10102877040090550_2545704298991365085_nHappy Friday, y’all.