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29 November 2015 @ 08:43 pm
Today we celebrated the first Sunday of Advent at church. The service included a Bach cantata with incredible performances by our own and some visiting musicians. But I was struck also when our priest remarked that Advent was a time of looking back while moving forward. I jotted down that phrase because it has such resonance for me.

It seems that the older I get, the more years I have as an educator, the more I not only move forward in terms of my approach to teaching and learning, but I also find myself going back to those foundational pieces that continue to inform who I am and what I do.That was a large part of the presentation I did for the Middle Mosaic at NCTE. It is also a presentation I have given in the past year and will continue to refine.

While I have grown professionally (and thanks to #titletalk tonight for the chance to reflect on professionalism), I also cling to some of the pedagogy that provide echoes from the past that read out to the future. In the coming months, beginning in 2016, I hope to pull many of these foundational pieces together, to find a way to make them available, and to talk about them with other professionals. Yes, a resolution from me, and early as well.

Stay tuned.
28 November 2015 @ 08:19 pm
Guilt was programmed into me from an early age. Have all As and 1 B on a report card? What happened in that one class? Have a 97? Where are the 3 other points? It is so built in that now I can do it to myself without any outside help. And so these past few days have found me wrestling with some guilt. I was not reading. My blog posts have been short. For the most part, I have spent time vegging out in front of the TV, catching up with family, cooking, and napping.

And then I remembered that I have read more than 700 books so far this year. And I have written almost every day on this blog. I have also managed to write some articles and have put together countless presentations for workshops and PD.

Why do we hold ourselves to some unrealistic standards when what we should do is celebrate what we HAVE done? I am grateful this Thanksgiving holiday that I shed the guilt and enjoyed the moments.
27 November 2015 @ 03:06 pm
The trick is to stay focused on the gratitude, right? Today, I am grateful for my BH who is patient with my tired and cranky self, who helps me unload groceries, and then lets me nap. I a, grateful for homemade cranberry sauce cooling on the stove (yes, I can actually cook when motivated). And I am grateful for our post-Thanksgiving dinner I will assemble tomorrow.

I am very grateful that The Wizard of Oz is on this afternoon so I can lose myself somewhere over the rainbow. And I will return from Oz knowing there's no place like home.
26 November 2015 @ 05:59 pm
Home. Four letters that say so much. After dragging the suitcases into the living room, I began the last "chore": unpacking. Filled the washer with the first load. Tossed the rest into the hamper for later this weekend (I was on the road for 2 weeks, so there was more dirty launch than usual). Then I began putting together all the myriad pieces of paper with notes-things to do next week, names of new colleagues, ideas for next year. Despite having three devices with me most of the time, there always seems to be a plethora of notes to gather. The books came last. There were the 4 I had packed for the trip, now read and needing review. And finally, the 10 books I. Fought home.

That's right, I said 10. I have seen others post about more than 100 books. I brought home 10. The others were handed to teachers for their classroom libraries. It gave me so much pleasure to see them carry away a book from my pile. Several returned over the course of the ALAN Workshop for more. There is so much thanks in giving. So much joy. So much reward. I hope these books find their ways into the hands of readers. I already have bags of books to float on to schools in my neck of the woods. The time for weeding is approaching. Make way for 2016.

Today was a wonderful morning spent with family and friends, friends who have become family. This afternoon was time for Scout cuddles. Tonight it is almost like any other night except for this still strong feeling of thanks and joy. May it stay strong in the days and weeks to come.

I think some books might just be the way to hold on to these feelings...
25 November 2015 @ 04:45 am
Yes, I am leaving on a jet plane today, heading home to BH and Scout. Tomorrow we will gather for Thanksgiving with family and friends (and mimosas). I have been on the road for 2 weeks in a row. I have one suitcase filled with dirty clothes, another one with books and audio collected from NCTE and ALAN, and the "spare" bag that contains the mementos I am taking home. It is very light. Here are the contents:

1. The program from the National Book Award ceremony
2. The wrist corsage I received as a judge for the NBA ceremony
3. The ALAN Workshop program
4. Emergency books in case flights are delayed
5. Power cord for the computer

But the real unpacking I will do is not physical. I will be sorting through my notes, physical and mental, from these past two weeks. There is so much there to ponder. One of the reasons I love being active in this profession is that I get the chance to learn more and more about what I love: books and reading and kids.

And so I head home today, suitcases filled with things. But mind stuffed with ideas, plans, and so much more.
Current Location: Minneapolis
Current Mood: happy tired
24 November 2015 @ 08:36 am
Or as Yogi would have said, "It ain't over till it's over." Today is Day 2 of the ALAN Workshop in Minneapolis. Even though I have been on the road since November 12, and I am more than ready to be home with this guy

I still am excited about sitting and listening to authors and educators. This morning open with Laurie Halse Anderson and Sharon Draper in conversation. Seriously? Why would I be anywhere else? Over this 2 days, I will have heard dozens of authors, received dozens of free books, and networked with colleagues. And I have had the chance to talk to others who are as passionate about YA as I am.

So, as all of you prepare to give thanks with family and friends, remember to lift up some thanks to the talented folks who work to bring the joy and love of reading to you and to your kids.
Current Location: Minneapolis
Current Mood: thankfulthankful
23 November 2015 @ 10:00 am
So, this is the first day of the ALAN Workshop. There are so many books that folks will be staggering to the UPS place to mail back books which would send their luggage over the limit. This is the polar opposite of the bad behavior going on in the Exhibit Hall during NCTE. Today, folks are stockage books in front of them and drooling over the embarrassment of riches.

There are tables stacked with additional books to give away from time to time. Here is Laura Renzi guarding them with her life. No one is stopping them up. Folks are waiting. Patiently.

And then there is the Exchange Table. Melanie Hundley and Marshall George are helping folks leave a book and select a different title.

Register for the ALAN Workshop. Join in the embarrassment of riches. Be a book junkie. See you next year in Atlanta, perhaps.
Current Location: Minneapolis
Current Mood: happyhappy
22 November 2015 @ 08:52 am
Okay, I blog this at least once a year, but it bears repeating. I am embarrassed beyond belief at the chutzpah of some attendees at the National Council of Teachers of English who wheeled huge suitcases and carts into the Exhibit Hall. They swooped up multiple copies of ARCS and loaded them into their carts. Their rationale:

1. They are free.
2. I need books for kids.
3. I cannot buy them on my own.
4. My school does not have funds for buying books.
5. ALL of the above.

Here is my response.

They are not free. Folks, these books all cost money. Publishers are kind enough to provide them to us free of charge. The purpose of these books is for PR, to get books purchased and onto shelves and into hands. If you school has $$$ for test prep, they need to use some of that $$$ for books, for libraries, for librarians. The research confirms that books and access to books can impact test scores and, more importantly, improve attitude toward books and reading. As for purchasing books out of your own pocket. I do. I always have. It is sad. But I also sought funding. I applied for and received grants from my state professional organizations, from ALAN, even from my university. With a small amount of $$$, I purchased books and audio and more.

Bottom line:

If your students acted as you did by taking ore than 1 book or waiting until someone turned attention elsewhere so they could take everything, how would YOU react? I know how I would as a teacher. I hold myself to standards. I wish all educators would do the same.
Current Location: Minneapolis
Current Mood: unhappy
21 November 2015 @ 04:07 pm
Paul W. Hankins has called this a micro blog. Not sure I would agree most of the time. I say what I have planned to say and then bring it to an end for the day. Since I do write daily, I like to keep it short and sweet and to the point. I doubt even the most ardent fans of the blog would want to read pages each and every day. All this preamble is to say that today's post will be micro.

I have been at the Minneapolis Convention Center since 6 am. I will not leave until 6 pm to join colleagues for dinner. It is NCTE time, and today included the ALAN Breakfast, two presentations, and some time in the ALAN booth.

And I just want to say that the ALAN Breakfast was an incredibly moving experience for me. I saw lots of folks I see only once a year. Hugs, grins, good natured ribbing about the blue hair. And then the awards were give. cj Bott received the Hipple Award for her service to ALAN. Her husband, Don Gallo was the first recipient. This dynamic duo has done so much for YA literature. Next, Lois Lowry received the ALAN Award for lifetime contribution to literature for YA readers. And finally, Chris Crutcher delivered the breakfast speech that left us all in tears. He basically told us all how we save lives, save kids. With that message still reverberating in my ears, I headed out to the other sessions of the day.


Important words to remember.
Current Location: Minneapolis
Current Mood: ecstaticecstatic
20 November 2015 @ 05:02 pm
Yes, I am flogging that dead horse. The annual report from Reading Renaissance lists the books that hundreds of thousands of kids have read. AS PART OF THE AR PROGRAM, I am quick to add. I find the lists interesting. So here are some highlights. But remember, these lists are from one program.

1. At 3rd grade, 9 of the top 25 titles are from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
2. At 4th grade, the top 10 out of 25 titles are Diary of a Wimpy Kid series books.
3. Grade 5, top 9 of 25 titles are (you guessed it) Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
4. Grade 6 includes 9 Diary of a Wimpy Kid titles and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and DIVERGENT.
5. Grade 7 has those same 9 Diary of a Wimpy Kid titles plus FIOS and The Lightning Thief.
6. Grade 8 has only 3 of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid titles and THE TELL TALE HEART.
7. High school lists are about 30-40% classic titles plus a couple of Nicolas Sparks' books.

So, what do we make of this? Some further observations:

a. It is interesting to see Dairy of a Wimpy Kid cross grades 3-8 for a couple of reasons. One has to do with reading levels. Normally, kids are not permitted to read books well below their grade level. And no one can take a test on a book they have already read. So...

b. Why are kids reading THE FAULT IN OUR STARS in 6th grade? Yep, reading level is 5.5. DIVERGENT, on the other hand, is 4.8. So I am still a bit puzzled.

c. THE TELL TALE HEART is not a book but apparently it counts. There are a few more short stories in upper high school lists.

And a final observation: the only NF included in the charts are articles from the AR program. Few NF titles appear on the lists of the top 25. I think of all the wonderful NF out there and wonder why it did to make the top 25 lists? Is it not being promoted, discussed, recommended, purchased?

And I guess my final thought has to do with those individual classes and classrooms. It is fine to know what some kids are reading. But what are the needs and interests of your kids and your classes?
Current Location: NYC-Minneapolis
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed