What Do I Say To My Students?

A teacher friend just asked me how I plan to talk to my students about Charlottesville on the first day of school. The country is on fire. White supremacy has taken over the White House. People are dying in the streets. What am I going to say? I do have a plan about what I’m going to say to the students in my English classes on Wednesday about the political turmoil in this country. It’s the same plan I had at the end of the summer of 2016 in light of the murder of Philando Castile and the police officers…

Whose Jersey I Was Wearing

A couple of days ago, a line of Varsity football players barreled into my classroom. I’ve been known to offer encouraging journal writing times before big game days. Friday was a huge game day. The league championship was at stake against a higher ranked team. I thought they might have been there to ask to write with me. They weren’t there to write. They were uncharacteristically quiet, this group of boys. Shuffling their enormous feet. Smiling funny. “Guess what,” one of the guys finally said. “We get to pick one teacher to be with us on the field for Friday’s game…

Rerun: 7 Thoughts For Labor Day

My students’ daily homework assignment is usually to frolic in the clover. When I write frolic in the clover on the board where the homework assignment goes, new students want to know what I mean. Students:  Is that a book we are supposed to read? A website we’re supposed to look at? Me: No. Just find a patch of clover and frolic in it for a second. Students: What do you mean frolic? Me: Why does the forty-five year old lady have to tell the teenager how to frolic? Just find a patch of clover and do this (takes off shoes and…

Rerun: Army Dreamers

Steven, one of my former advisory sons, came by my classroom to visit after school today. He graduated high school four months ago. “I’m thinking of the armed forces,” he said. Steven is an accomplished soccer player and football kicker. He landed some poetic field goals in his football career. I cheered him from the sidelines while he did it. This is a young man on his own. He has no support besides what he can rustle up for himself. School was never Steven’s thing. He hates the thought of going to college. He graduated on time but sitting in…

What Resilience Looks Like

Some of my favorite lines of poetry come from DH Lawrence’s “Self Pity:” I never saw a wild thing  sorry for itself.  A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself. My students have stories that I sometimes never hear. We are busy people in the classroom. We don’t have a lot of time to sit around and talk about our feelings and cry. Sometimes, though, I get a chance to know the true resilience of the rising generation. Their stories evoke the tenacious bird of the poem, its gnarly little feet curled around…

Call Me Helicopter Parent One More Time

My husband and I make our daughters’ education a high priority, and we have always insisted they do their best. We get to know the parents of our daughters’ friends and drive them to their play dates. (Do you hear the whirring of the blades yet?) When my kids have been right, I’ve taken their sides, even against adults. When one elementary school wasn’t working for my youngest, we found another that was a better fit. I prepare separate meals according to my children’s taste preferences and cut off the crusts of the sandwiches I make for lunches. (I know you want to call me Helicopter…

We Weren’t That Resilient

In response to the bell ringing that kids these days aren’t resilient the way their parents were growing up in the Wild West of the seventies and eighties suburban American neighborhoods and schools: I call bullshit. We weren’t that resilient. Those of us growing up in the seventies and eighties were not tilling Victory gardens and whittling useful things out of sticks that we found on the ground. I know. I was there. I can only speak to my own experience, and trigger warning, I’m not prone to nostalgia. Yes, we played outside with the neighborhood kids until the streetlights came on….

One to Watch: David Pino

I love hearing the news that a former student is making waves in writing. In my One to Watch series, I highlight up and coming former students who are using writing to do great things. David Pino was in my Advanced Placement English Class seven years ago at a school called Sacramento Charter High. He knew more about most of the curriculum than I did, and was an encyclopedic resource for our Mythology and Archetype unit.  Also, I can never read Frankenstein again without thinking of his brilliant dramatic presentation of the Monster. He was a wonderful student in a…

One to Watch: Chantel Carnes

I love hearing the news that a former student is making waves in writing. In my One to Watch series, I highlight up and coming former students who are using writing to do great things. Chantel Carnes was in my Advanced Placement Language and Composition course five years ago when I taught at Sacramento Charter High School. She was one of those young writers whose papers I would place at the bottom of the stack when I was grading. It wasn’t fair to the other students for me to see hers first. She tended to set the bar pretty high….

Work Hard

  I have a saying in my classroom: We work smarter not harder in Wanket World. (My name is Mrs. Wanket at work. I know. I know.)  That doesn’t mean we don’t work hard. It just means we work with purpose and focus on our collective and individual goals. We don’t flail around with busy work. We have goals. We do more in such a way that we get more. More skill, more pages written, more ideas explored. The classroom scene gets me to thinking. . . .I can do so much more in all areas of my life with just a…