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Monthly Archives: September 2015

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It’s a new year in Room 310. And since I just got married a couple weeks ago, it also means a new name for me! One of my first challenges of the school year will be adjusting to my new moniker. It’s not going to be easy. In a profession where people have constantly addressed me by my last name for the past six years, it’s going to take some concentration to introduce myself correctly as Mrs. Casey. Some of my former students will be confused for a while, but it’s a happy confusion that I’ll enjoy celebrating with them. So, on to Year Seven! I have many goals in mind for the new year, but I’ll share my biggest 2015 classroom resolution here.

THE GOAL

This year, I’d like to grow my classroom borrowing library into a more impressive and useful one. Here’s my September 2015 “Before” shot, which shows the full extent of my current collection. It’s laughably small:

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BEFORE

THE REASON BEHIND THE GOAL

Last year, my department started making a major move to establish a reading culture at our school. And it worked. Students are, for the most part, increasingly willing–sometimes even eager!–to make independent reading a part of their weekly academic experience. One of the important aspects of encouraging students to read is making sure that books are visible and readily available. A fantastic way to do this is to host a classroom library. Several of my colleagues have already been taking this philosophy to heart for years, and have expansive, exciting, meticulously catalogued collections of books surrounding the full perimeter of their classrooms. It’s humbling and awesome. As you can see above, my library is downright paltry in comparison. If I really want to commit to helping my students grow as readers, this is something that I can do to get there.

THE METHODOLOGY

I’m going to work on obtaining books primarily through free or almost-free means. I plan to get the word out to my own social networks, asking for hand-me-downs that people have enjoyed but no longer wish to hang on to. Many people are avid readers who enjoy passing on titles that they’ve finished. I’ll also encourage my students and their families to donate gently-loved books for a little bit of extra credit. I’m also going to spend a bit of my own money (but not a dollar more than the $250.00 that educators can deduct on their taxes for classroom expenses) at places like Goodwill or Half Price Books to get some high interest titles. If grants or other donations are available, I can pursue those as well.

For managing this collection, I’ve downloaded a simple app for my phone called “Lend it!”. It’s an easy-to-use resource for keeping track of texts that have been lent out to students. By putting in their school e-mail addresses when they borrow a book from me, students will get an automatic reminder when their agreed upon “due date” is coming up. I’ll get reminders, too, and access to an evolving, current list of which kid has what. I’ve also labeled each of my books with a neon sticker that has a “C” on it (for Casey!), so that my books are easily distinguishable from those that come from other classroom collections.

I’m looking forward to taking my classroom library from flab… to fab! Watch for the “After” photo next June!

 

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One of my favorite teaching memories actually has nothing to do with curriculum. It was the very end of the school year three years ago, during the last period of the seniors’ last day of school. As it worked out, that final hour was a flexible resource period, usually used for remediation or enrichment in learning. But since it was the last day, I did something a little more unconventional–I offered a karaoke session (surprisingly easy to organize with the power of YouTube) for any of my seniors who were brave enough to sign up. It’s a memory that still makes me smile unfailingly. Just me and a bunch of students who I had worked with over the course of three years, taking turns belting out ballads in the spotlight and laughing with delight at the utter seriousness with which each performer approached the task, regardless of skill level. We brought it home with a team-sing of “Hey, There, Delilah” by the Plain White T’s, sitting in a circle of school desks, watching the words pop up on the projector screen, and feeling summer right around the corner. Magic.

As I stand veritably peaking around the stage curtains of the new school year, I am intensely reminded of that moment. And I think that the concept of karaoke might have something important to do with how teachers can approach this new year. Maybe it’s because I’m still a little nostalgic for that special class of 2012. Maybe it’s because I watched the MTV Video Music Awards last night and Kanye West said, “Listen to the kids.” I’m not sure. But this metaphor of karaoke is working for me right now. Hear me out.

Karaoke is like good teaching.

You know the song. It’s familiar. You’ve been listening to it for years. The words are right there to look at. You’re ready. You have a plan. You walk up to the front of the room and grab the mic.

The plan doesn’t always work, though. Maybe the track is in a different key than you expected. Maybe you accidentally stumbled over the different lyrics of the radio edit. Maybe someone decides to join you on stage and it was not intentional.

But you muddle through. You sing your heart out. You recover and you rock it. Because you Love. This. Song.

And after you’ve had your brief moment in the spotlight, time moves forward and people mill around, resettle. Some of them might have been distracted by their own thoughts and completely missed it. But most of them clap, because if nothing else, they know that you’ve given them this raw, sometimes hilarious, always unique gift of your experience with this song. And every once in a while, that girl sitting way in the back, she got something really meaningful out of that performance. Most of the time, she quietly leaves without even saying “hi.” But it meant something awesome to her.

One woman show. Five days a week.

This is what we do. 

Bring ’em on! Happy new school year to all.