A 360º View

When I look at the past few courses I’ve had on writing, it makes it really difficult to think about what exactly I’ve learned. The first thing that comes to mind is just how much I feel like I’ve grown as a writer myself, and also as a teacher. I won’t say that I’ve grown as a teacher of writing, because I definitely not a writing teacher to start. I will say that I have grown into a writing teacher. I did not see how, as technically a biology teacher, I would ever incorporate writing into my curriculum, and honestly, I wasn’t really concerned with it. I looked at the impending writing courses as requirements for this program, and not much more. Now, I can see how very wrong I was. I learned that writing in my classroom is truly beneficial and dare I say… fun! I’ve learned so much in terms of how to write. Not mechanically obviously, but how to decide what to write, how to encourage students to write, how to model writing, and how to write across the curricula. I’ve learned that writing doesn’t always mean scholarly essays. I’ve learned that poetry doesn’t have to be something so deep no one understands it, or have a rhyme scheme that would make Dr. Seuss envious. I’ve learned that I can successfully incorporate more genres than I care to list in a high school biology classroom, and equally as important, I’ve learned that this writing is enjoyed by students and truly enhances their learning. It was fun and exciting to create writing opportunities for my students. See my final paper  here (FinalPaperBuchholz) to read more on my study of using multigenre writing in my biology classroom.

Looking forward, I am simply excited to implement more writing into my classroom. I felt like I created several really great writing opportunities for my students so I look forward to expanding even further. I also want to expand these opportunities beyond my honors students to my regular biology students. I think this will be a wonderful opportunity to show these students, who are likely more reluctant writers in general, the benefits of multigenre writing in the content area, and more specifically in biology. I want to commit to sharing these strategies with my colleagues and to encourage them to implement more writing in their classes as well. I feel this would do nothing but benefit students in any content area and at any achievement level. An increase in their writing would most definitely increase their reading abilities, which would help everyone involved, but especially the students. I think by sharing my successes, struggles, questions, and research, I have the potential to be a teacher-leader in writing instruction across all grades and curricula. I think by showing teachers my thought process, my steps to implementation, and how research supports what I have accomplished this semester, it would be more likely to get gears in their brains going as to how they could also implement more frequent and diverse writing opportunities. I truly believe my colleagues would be interested to see that I was able to effectively implement writing into what I was already teaching, and how it generated creativity and humor, all while seeing students self-motivated to research our content further. It’s important for all to see that my students were motivated, exciting, and willing to write, and on multiple occasions, even asking to turn it in after class simply because they wanted more time to write! All in all I am very happy with my choice of study for the semester. It really opened my eyes to possibilities for my students and that any teacher can, in fact, be a writing teacher. All teachers should, in fact, be writing teachers. Thanks for a great semester everyone!

 

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Looking Back

It’s hard to believe this semester is almost over. It’s even harder to believe how much I feel I’ve accomplished in just a few short months. My goal for the semester was to transform the types of writing my students were doing in my classroom. I was somewhat apprehensive about how I would find the time to incorporate this and even more apprehensive about how I would sell it to my students. I definitely have felt like the outlier in our program. I am the only teacher teaching high school, and even more so the only teacher not teaching actual writing and reading. How in the world was I supposed to teach writing in my biology class?

With a giant leap of faith, I set out, easing my students in with found poetry and then moving on to more difficult and various types of multigenre writing. It was definitely something the students were not used to. Though very receptive, I could see the looks on their face when I would tell them their assignment. Wait, you want me to write an obituary for cell signals? With a little creativity and planning, I was able to rework several assignments into these multigenre forms. Definitely my most valuable resource this semester has been the book I received, Fearless Writing by Tom Romano. It has definitely inspired me and given me a lot of great ideas that I have been able to adapt to my classroom.

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What this has really taught me is this: any teacher can and should work writing into their class. I’ve learned so much through this endeavor. First of being that writing, that requires thought and creativity, is very doable and at the end of the day much more meaningful in the classroom. Not to mention fun to do and much more fun for me to read! Another thing is that students will always seem to surprise you! I tasked my students with some very out-of-the-box assignments this semester, and they nearly always not only rose to the challenge, but completely blew me away.

As I look toward the end of the semester in these last few weeks, I am looking forward to putting together my professional development piece, in hopes that I will be able to share with my colleagues and inspire them to teach writing in their curriculum as well!

It is our choices, Harry…

No apologies for shamelessly plugging history’s best series. But! It also really fit in with my goal for the week; having students make their own choices.

Multigenre writing has truly transformed how I view and do writing in my classroom. It has been an awesome experience to say the least. My students have really taken a liking to it, and as you can see in my previous blog posts, have really excelled! Though most of my reading for the class has been based on the idea of a multigenre project, a rather large cumulative-type paper, I have been able to adapt it to our needs and have seen it really work in my classroom. This being said, I have held their hands a lot through this process. I’m ok with that, even with my students being high schoolers. I knew it was going to be a very different experience and was, in all honesty, prepared to hold their hands much more than they really needed. I prepared a lesson weekly for them to stretch their multigenre legs, gave them a genre and a few examples, and some guidelines, albeit not super strict. This week I wanted them to really get the feel for the full multigenre experience; the largest part meaning they had to choose their own genre.

Before I began using this strategy, I could maybe come up with four or five genres on my own, but with my research, I have found so many neat ideas that I would’ve never thought of. Along with reading Romano’s Fearless Writing, this site in particular gave me several great ideas and examples to share with my students. So at the beginning of the lesson we had a chat. What makes this type of writing effective? How can you choose the best genre? We talked about how I had made choices that made sense. Obituaries for when cells don’t communicate, break-up letters for mitosis, recipes, for protein synthesis. I gave them a topic, transgenic organisms (some know them better as genetically modified organisms or GMOs), and set them on their way. I know it seems redundant to say, as I do every week, but these kids just never cease to surprise me. They made Death Certificates, Birth Certificates, Advertisements, journals, and even a Police Case. What is so great is that all of them made sense, all of the choices made the students think outside of the box, and you can tell that they really learned and understand the topic, even thought they all turned in something very different. I hope you will take time to look through a couple of these awesome products. It’s so cool to see my students presenting their findings in such unique and creative ways!

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April 10th, 1943

The Case of the Excessive Nicotine

Charlie Vogler and Caleb Osborne

4:00 PM, Police Headquarters.

It was a rainy day in Chicago on the 5th of April, 1943. The name is Charlie “No-Voice” Vogler, me and my partner, Caleb “Lefty” Osborne, had been working for all of it. Our Job? To rid the streets of this disgusting drug, Nicotine.

I have been head of the Narcotics squad for five years now. It’s a tough job, but rewarding. If there’s one thing I have learned through all of these years, it is that no drug is an “easy” job. Those scumbags will fight tooth and nail to hold on to their “Drufs.” Lefty and I were heading to the warehouse of the nicotine King Pins, Justin “Cigar” Riley and his twin, Trevor “Cigarette” Riley.

6:00 PM, Warehouse

We pulled up to the door of the warehouse at 6:00 in the PM. The minute we stepped out we were bombarded with nuclear explosives. We split up, Lefty taking the right, and I took the left. We entered the building, only to find that they had left, taking all of the nicotine with them. We got back in our 1937 Chevy, and began chasing them. They took a left onto Sardine Lane, where they were cornered in by boxes full of fish at the local supermarket. There we were able to wrestle them out of the vehicle and confiscate the nicotine.

7:00 PM, Police Interrogation Room

“WHERE IS THE NICOTINE !”

We had enlisted the help of our best interrogator, Mr. Lucius Paiysli. He had been with the station for 10 years, and no one could get a criminal to fuss up quite like him.

“Ain’t gonna tell ya’” replied Cigar.

Paiysli backhanded the twin. After 5 years as a drill sergeant prior to joining the force, he wasn’t gonna let a criminal talk sass to him.

“This one grade will count for 100% of your LIFE”

“Oh well.” said Trevor.

It was at this moment that our two scientists, Will “Mad Guy” Vestal, and Levi “Brody” Brown. They had results.

“It came back positive,” began Mad Guy. He had been in the forensics division for 50 years, even though he was only 20.

“We found the nicotine,” finished Brody.

“Well, well” said Lefty, “looks like we don’t need you help anymore.”

“Look, fellas,” Justin said, reaching for his wallet.

“YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO SHUT UP” yelled Lefty, violently punching Justin in the face.

9:00 PM, Police Laboratory

I had sent the two criminals with one of our officers, Tyler “Anthony Gregorovich” Downer. He was to take them to one of the cells and book them.

Me and lefty followed Mad-Guy and Brody to the lab. They had found a way to reduce the nicotine in the Tobacco.

“Well, No-Voice,” said Brody, “we think we found it.”

“It is a solution that contains Salicylic Acid-” began Brody.

“English” interrupted Lefty.

“It is a nicotine reducing agent,” finished Mad-Guy. “We put it into the tobacco plant at it causes the plant to yield less nicotine, thus making the drug less addictive.”

“How does it work,” I asked.

“We put the composition the plant during the period that tobacco blooms on the top. This in turn will alter the final product genetically to produce less nicotine. It will also increase the yield of the plant.” Brody said.

“It isn’t a sure fire solution, nor will it rid the streets of nicotine. But it will greatly decrease the addictive properties of the drug.”

“We are sure it works?” Lefty asked.

“Yes sir,” replied Mad-Guy, “we have done extensive tests.”

April 8th, 1943. 12:00 PM, District Attorney’s Office.

Me and Lefty had just filed the charges against the Riley twins. Endangerment, Drug Dealing, and Obstruction of Justice.

The new genetically altered cigarettes had been leaked into the streets. People could no longer get the hard stuff, it was all the safer product made by Mad-Guy and Brody.

Me and Lefty got a call from the Chief congratulating us. As usual, I took all the credit. We are both getting a one week vacation, but after that, we are being place on the toughest case of them all. The case of the Excessive Sugars.

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Entry 1:9/24/98
I am a bacteria; I was brought into a science lab a few days ago by several researchers andscientists, after being removed from my native environment. I have discovered that bacteria likeme and even some virus have also been brought into this lab for scientific reasons. I have beenlistening in on their conversations and they talk about these reasons; they talk about how I,other types of bacteria, and a few viruses will be used in scientific experiments to help advancemedical research, biotechnology, and help make a process called gene therapy, which appearsto be the process of using bacteria or viruses to correct a defective gene, more effective. I havebeen able to make minor communications with some of the other bacteria and some of theviruses; none of us know what is going to happen to any of us or when it will happen.
Entry 2:10/1/98
Most of the other bacteria and most of the viruses have been taken to be experimented on; theyhaven’t returned. It’s been abnormally quiet, despite the conversations between the scientistsand researchers. Those of us who remain have heard the researchers and scientists talk abouta few successful experiments; however, we also heard about how several of the experimentsfailed to accomplish anything. The scientists and researchers are discussing a potential, newmethod to be used while conducting new experiments. I have heard that this method is referredto as recombinant DNA, or something similar to that. The remaining bacteria, viruses, and Ibelieve this could be a safer alternative to the current methods being used, but we still don’tknow for sure.
Entry 3:10/15/98
I have been taken for usage in one of the experiments; I was the final bacteria to be taken. Thescientists and researchers have removed my plasmid, which was part of my DNA, for furthertesting. I can, somewhat, see what they are doing from my current location, it seems as if theyhave removed a portion of my plasmid to make room for something else, like a gene. Now, itappears they are taking what I assume to be a fully functioning gene from a different organism’sDNA and are implanting it into my plasmid. According to them, this re-engineered version of myplasmid is intended to help a person with a serious genetic disorder. They are walking back towhere I am and they appear to be getting ready to inject my changed plasmid back into me.Hopefully, nothing will go wrong.
Entry 4:11/1/98
After producing several identical copies of myself, I finally heard that I am going to be shippedoff to a different location. I have heard that I am one of the successful experiments and thescientists and researchers believe that, I will help treat a person’s genetic disorder and that I,having been a successful experiment, will help with more biotechnological breakthroughs in thefuture. I truly have no idea where I am being sent to or if I will be re-united with a familiarbacteria or virus, but I hope whatever corrected, functional gene I am equipped with helps aperson in their treatment against their serious, dangerous genetic disease. I am still hoping thatnothing goes wrong. I would like to know what happened to the failed experiments, which iswhat the scientists and researchers referred to them as.
Entry 5:12/2/98
I was used in the process of gene therapy; this therapy was mostly successful for the personwho had the gene therapy. I and my identical copies were placed in the air of an enclosed roomand we were indented to be inhaled by the person with the genetic disorder; we were intendedto be inhaled so we could locate the erroneous gene easily and attempt to repair it. As I and myidentical copies carry a corrected and functional gene, we have helped in the process of fixingand correcting an incorrect gene that did not function properly. While I have heard this person’sgenetic disorder was not fully cured, the gene therapy helped reduce the effects and symptomsof the disorder. I, unfortunately, have not found any familiar bacteria or viruses to communicatewith; they were probably sent to different areas to help other people with their genetic disorders.I still wonder what happened to those bacteria and viruses that were considered failedexperiments; when I was still at that lab, I heard that the failed experiments were removed fromthe facility and disposed of. I am not sure what that legitimately means, but I assume it does nothave a good meaning.

Blossoming with Blogging

When you think of teacher leadership, many things pop into mind. A mentor, someone in leadership roles on committees, someone with many years of experience– all of which are true. However, throughout this semester, I’ve quickly learned that it is much more, and is much more simply. Through blogging I have watched myself and my classmates transform into teacher leaders, and it’s all stemmed from our blogging platform. Teacher leaders identify issues in the classroom and systematically implement strategies to resolve these issues. These issues involve everything from academic to social to behavioral  instances we see need attention.

All of us have identified something writing related in our classroom that we wanted to focus on. For myself, I chose making writing more meaningful, and I have worked on this by using multigenre writing. In a typical graduate course setting, I would have likely implemented this strategy and then typed up and turned in a few papers regarding my implementation, how the students received it, and likely my analysis of the whole thing. I would’ve gotten the instructors feedback and chosen whether or not to take the advice to heart, and that would likely be the end of it. However, blogging about the implementation of our strategies has opened up a whole new array of leadership possibilities. Blogging has allowed all of us to be teacher leaders by sharing our experiences with others. We are all implementing strategies different from one another. By writing about this process on a public platform, we have been able to share ideas, spark conversation, and have an influence on others beyond our own classrooms.

Sharing feedback with one another has allowed us to demonstrate leadership qualities by supporting our fellow educators all while supporting growth in our students, school, and district. We have a comprehensive collection of writing strategies that range from pre-K to high school, that likely could benefit any student with slight modification, and we have done so by sharing with honesty and humility. We have shared our successes and our shortcomings, both of which are important leadership qualities. Blogging has allowed us to seek and share feedback with each other and to have an inside view of the incredible things we have done with students through these short few months.

Blogging has allowed each of us to blossom further as teacher leaders by learning to share and support one another. It has allowed us to lead efforts to improve the writing in our schools and to share with one another and the general public our methodical approaches to engage our students in becoming the best writers they can possibly be.

Email — A Teacher’s Best Friend

This week I gave my kiddos a break from writing. It was actually a bit unintentional but between life, and delays/schedule changes, and well, there ya go. Between said delays, and missing days myself, I feel like I’ve barely seen my kids this week, but that of course does not mean I have thought about them any less. When writing my reflection of a student’s piece of writing, I feel like I got this whole new sense of pride about the awesome things my students are doing with writing this semester. I’ve wrote several times about how impressed I am with their ability to pick up this strategy I’ve thrown at them, and have completely blown the roof off my expectations. As teachers, we all, unfortunately know how it goes with students: we seem to be in constant contact when there are behavior/grade issues, but tend to let the others slip by. While I am sure the parents of these students know how awesome their kid is, I wanted to take the opportunity to write a few emails and show them the work their kids are doing.

Email has definitely changed our world, and say what you will about the dying art of conversation, as a teacher, it sure is a time-saver. It’s much simpler and quicker to send an email (even a somewhat lengthy one!) to a parent than it is to try to get a hold of them on the phone, then end up playing phone tag, etc. So! I constructed a few emails and sent them out to parents about the awesome things their kids are doing in my class, and even sent along some writing examples highlighting their creativity. While it was a labor of love, what I didn’t expect were the overwhelmingly appreciative responses that made it absolutely, 110% worth the 20 minutes out of my day. Parents were so excited to see the writing (I could tell by the large usage of exclamation marks) and I hope that it was nice to hear positive feedback about their student.

I was an overachiever good student myself and wonder if my mom ever heard anything from teachers about the neat things I was doing in class. It sure would’ve brightened her day to get a call/email from a teacher and it not be about my rotten younger brother. All in all, to toot my own horn just a smidge,  I was proud of myself for reaching out to parents, something I definitely do not do enough of, and has really encouraged me to seek out bright spots about these awesome kids, and then let their parents feel the same pride in them that I do daily!!

 

The Recipe for Multigenre Writing

1 c. courage (of the teacher variety)

3 tbsp. encouragement

Pinch of creativity

11 willing biology students

Bake at 70° F for 15-20 minutes, and voila! 
Multigenre writing is in full effect!

After two weeks of, what I felt like, pretty darn stellar lessons (if I do say so myself…), I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to design yet another successful lesson around multigenre writing. I have said it before, but I am so genuinely thankful for a group of students this semester that are willing and eager, and roll with whatever crazy idea I throw at them week to week. But all that glitters is NOT gold, and I did feel just a bit less excited about the products as a whole this week. I also had some students who completely blew off this task, which is super not like them. Still investigating that… (Was it a full moon?)

However, I can’t fail to mention that, while a couple did kind of slack off, the majority produced, yet again, some really awesome work. I love that my students are really getting the hang of these. This is an Honors course, so of course I expect a certain quality of work. However, what you may be surprised to learn, is that Honors students are sometimes the most resistant in creative work. A lot of these students share the characteristic of really needing strict guidelines and rubrics (they have to have that A, and have to know what is expected to get it!). They are uncomfortable with no length requirements, no content requirements, and “Just be creative!” So to give them minimal guidelines, and only optional suggestions or “things to consider,” I’ve been really impressed by their lack of resistance and their willingness and ability to really just go with it!  Some really neat thought went into these. One student, when considering her “baking temperature,” asked “What temperature do cells function best at?” To which I responded, “Well what temperature does your body need to be at?” “Ohhhhhh!”

We are studying Protein Synthesis, the process that makes proteins from DNA through transcription and translation. So at this point in the implementation of my multigenre goal, I am thinking, what’s best for this topic? So with making protein I think, oh yes, recipes! To increase creativity and thinking, I am trying to give minimal, yet meaningful instructions. The instructions I gave are below:

Hello Chef! Today you will be writing a recipe for making protein! It is a delicacy in this part of the world and you are especially known for your dish!

Consider the format of a recipe. What things are typical in a recipe (ingredients, instructions, cook time and temperature, etc)? Also consider what you have learned about Protein Synthesis (locations, processes, products, etc). Be creative and have fun!

My favorite scrumptious product is below!

For our homemade Protein Bars you will need:

-Amino acids of any kind (keratin for hair, etc.)

-Polypeptides

-nucleotides

– a nucleus

-ribosomes

-DNA

-mRNA

-tRNA

In order to make the Protein bars, you’ll need to purchase our book, DNA recipes for dummies. This first step is written under the section called TRANSCRIPTION. You will begin with mixing the RNA molecules in the nucleus bowl, keep in mind to follow the directions written in the DNA template. Once you stir this up well you will have a single strand ribonucleic acid or an RNA. You will now pour this mRNA in the Ribosome mixer and leave it there to be mixed and read. This second step is labeled as TRANSLATION. Use your tRNA-spoon and dip it into the ribosome mixer and allow it to read the codons in the mRNA. If you used the Keratin earlier mentioned, the codon will code for a keratin amino acid group. Place these acids in the oven at about 98 degrees Fahrenheit. These acids will create a polypeptide which will chain up and create a protein! Now you have your protein bars! Eat up!

It’s not you… It’s me.

Another week has passed and my students continue to impress me. Teaching is hard, but when you have a group like I do that is so willing, eager, and receptive, it sure does make it easier… and fun! This week we’re covering the cell cycle and mitosis. You may remember this from middle school or high school when you learned how cells divide and multiply… at the same time! So of course with cells splitting, I just had to give these kiddos a chance to write their best break-up letter. Yep. They took on the role of a cell going through mitosis and had to “break-up” with their significant other.

It was sad, it was a little messy, but, in the end, it had to be done. 

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landon

A larger compilation of the letters can be found here.

Of course at the end of this, I had to express my concern to the kids that I felt like they had way too much experience in this area. On a more serious note, how awesome! Again this week, students were sharing with one another, enjoying writing, asking questions (What’s it called again when they have a full set of chromosomes?), reading through their notes, and looking up information to include. I am one proud teacher! I have been so pleased with my choice of research and implementation this semester. I feel like students are truly writing for a purpose in my class, enjoying it, and learning from it. What more could I ask for?

Dearly Beloved, We Are Gathered to Honor a Dear Friend…

I feel like Bob Ross today with my “happy accidents.” You could imagine my excitement when I was so easily able to turn the run-of-the-mill, 1 page essay assignment I had planned for my class, into a chance for them to really stretch their multigenre legs. Our topic for today was Cell Communication. For all of my not-so-sciencey readers, this topics dives into the cell membrane and looks at neurotransmitters and hormones, and exactly how does each cell in your body send signals to one another! Woo! If that doesn’t get your blood pumping, then you may be reading the wrong post. If it does, stay tuned, it’s about to get better.

Of course along with cell communication, we talk about what happens when cells don’t communicate properly, or fail to do so at all. So what’s the worst thing that could happen? Well I could give you a long list of diseases and disorders that can occur, but why not let these obituaries do the explaining for me. That’s right. My sophomores spent the wee hours of the school day writing obituaries. And they loved it!

 

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insulin-signals

insulin-signals

In my complete and unabashedly biased opinion, I think these turned out so awesome.

Not only were my students able to take the concept and run with it. I saw and heard them sharing with their friends, laughing at what each other had written, sharing ideas, and, wait for it, RESEARCHING information to see what all they could fit into their obituary. They took what I would have had them do in a rather boring, straightforward essay, and turned it into something informational, that’s actually fun to read. And, I dare say, they enjoyed writing it! Overall a major success for my students, myself, and our adventures in multigenre-land.

And the Race is On…

My students got their first real dose of multigenre writing this week. Last semester’s students toyed around with it just a bit, but this semester’s group is really getting fully immersed in this new strategy I have decided to take on. My goal is to transform the type of writing my students are doing, from simple summaries, to multigenre writing. To do this, I am having students read news articles that relate to what we are doing in class, and respond in the multigenre form. Before, I was simply having students summarize, and sometimes answer a question, in paragraph form, so this is definitely a new challenge to the kids and myself as well!

I prepared myself for introducing the assignment. It seems as though high school students are so not accustomed to writing outside of English class, that asking this of them sends their already-hormone-crazed bodies into shock. So, I knew I was going to hear it when I told them that not only would they have their typical writing to do, but this time it would be in poetry! As expected I did receive some moans and groans. Mostly “I hate poetry!” or “I’m going to fail! I’m bad at poetry!”

I had decided to ease them into this change by doing Found Poetry. I felt it was a fun, and likely different, type of poetry for them. Sure enough, none had seen this strategy before. The article they read was on desalination plants and their expense and inefficiency contrasted with an extreme need for water in drought-ridden California. I showed them an example I had written and they were off! I made sure to let them know that there were no specifications; on length, tone, rhyming, etc. The only thing I requested is that they did capture the idea of the article. Since it was still a biology assignment, I did not want just random word found poems. Again, I wanted them to respond to the article. Here are a couple final products:

California. Carlsbad. Drought.

Desalination. Salt. Water.

Fresh. Expensive. Environment.

Fish, Organisms, Death.

LA, Storm water, No Imported Water

Future. Water Supply Guaranteed

And another:

Desalination

56 Million Gallons of Water

Into Drinking Water

Expensive, 1 Billion Dollars.

With a lot of environment risks as well.

80 Percent of Organisms

Sucked in and Killed

And one more:

The Pacific Ocean.

Seawater into drinking water,

water scarcity a thing of the past.

With a lot of environmental risks,

there’s a lot of challenges to it.

Returning the water is tricky,

like oil and vinegar.

Being innovative and open-minded,

to produce a solution.

All in all, for a first try, I thought they did really well! I even got a few “That wasn’t so bad!” and “That was kind of cool!” comments afterwards. One thing I wish I had done a little differently would be to provide them more examples. They seemed to model theirs quite closely after mine. Of course, that’s not a horrible thing, and we’ve learned that good writers model after others, but I do want them to understand that there isn’t a wrong or right form, and allow their creative juices to flow! I am looking forward to trying out other multigenre forms. What other multigenre forms have you tried with your students? I would love to hear suggestions!

A Little Goes a Long Way

This may turn into a long post, but bear with me. I have to share what’s on my heart this week. I am still in early stages of implementing my new writing goals in my classroom, but I felt it was important to take a break from talking about writing to share these things.

Sometimes, as teachers, we have to celebrate the small things in our classroom. Our job is hard! So when something comes along worth celebrating, I try to relish in the moment. Kids in high school are a different breed, y’all. I don’t see a lot of things my cohorts see. I don’t deal with runny noses or accidents, or really even with many behavior issues. What I do deal with is a lot different. Students who are on the brink of dropping out. Students who are on probation. Students who are living on their own already because of less-than-stellar home lives. In fact, just a few months after I started teaching high school, a student brought me a drop out form to sign. This affected me way more than I ever thought it would. I suppose, in my mind, when a student dropped out, they’d just be there one day and gone the next. I didn’t know I would actually have to have a conversation with the student before they left.

Now, I don’t want to make it seem like all of my students are on a weary path. In fact the overwhelming majority are extremely bright, enthusiastic, college or career bound kids that come in daily, work hard, and learn. But again, it’s those ones that you just know are struggling, with life, school, or whatever else, that seem to tug on your heart-strings.

One is a student who is that kid. You know, the one you see coming and kind of want to hide. He would much rather be at home, at work, absolutely anywhere but your classroom. He misses a lot of school and, when he does come, he is often late. He misses work but doesn’t mind. “That’s fine I’ll take a zero.” He’s typically loud and loves, unfortunately, any form of attention available from his peers. He is very well liked by his peers, so I’m not sure why he still feels the need to seek out that attention, but that’s another mystery for another day.

I walked into the office upon arriving to school one morning. Went to clock in and check my mail, and saw, what I thought I recognized as this student sitting in the back conference room, alone. I asked our secretary if that was him and she said yes, that he was making up time. I’m not sure what it was but I decided to go say hi. “Good morning! Glad to see you here!” He said “good morning” back and I went upstairs and got ready for my classes. When his period rolled around he came straggling in. We were doing a lab that day. Labs are particularly hard on the teacher, and particularly hard on the late-2nd-trimester-pregnant teacher especially, but are invaluable for the kids. We were looking at onion cells and the students were scraping their own mouths to look at their cheek cells. I demonstrated how to prepare these slides and set the kids to work.

After everyone seemed to be on their way, I went back to my desk to grab a drink, put my flavor enhancer in my water and of course made a mess. (White shirt, purple water dye, lab gloves on, spillage… oh yeah). He sees me struggling and comes and takes the water out of my hands, takes it to the sink, washes it, dries it, and hands it back to me. One of those times where you just stand there thinking “Ummm… what is going on?” I said “Thanks friend!” and he continued looking at his cells.We wrapped up the lab and started cleaning up. I had the samples I had prepared plus some other glassware that needed cleaning and headed over to the sink to wash. He again takes this out of my hands and proceeds to wash it all himself. By this point, I’m glancing around waiting on a hidden camera to show up.

The bell rings and the kids start to filter out, and he’s kind of lagging behind the crowd, eyes glued to his phone. As he approaches where I am, he looks up and says, “What’d you mean by that this morning?” I think for a second and said “What do you mean?” He says, “Why’d you say you were happy I was here?” I just smiled and said, “Because I am! I was glad to see you!” He just kind of looked at me and nodded and walked out. He came in the next day and, though we were not doing lab work, he worked equally as hard on what we had to do that day.

As teachers, we never know when a smile, comment, or a “good morning” is going to be exactly what a kid needs that day or week or in their life in general. I’m not sure what made me stop and talk to him that morning but I sure am glad I did.

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