I can’t handle it

I don’t really know what to do with my heart and brain. My jaw dropped yesterday when I saw the Eric Garner news. In retrospect I guess I should be shocked, but I was beyond shocked. I was nauseated.

Last week when I posted this, a simple short post about how I am an ally, there were people who used words like “thug” on Facebook to describe Michael Brown. My post was not about Michael Brown. It has a picture of my three-year old nephews and my two-year old son. You bet I took offense, and started un-friending people quickly, when they showed those kinds of responses to a peaceful post.

You guys? I am at a loss.  I simply do not understand anything that is going on.

A man was taken down by cops using an illegal move. His death was ruled a homicide. The entire murder was on video. The guy who did it, a white cop, doesn’t get charged at all. BUT the guy who shot the video? A Latino man? Gets charged on a gun felony even though he was unarmed during the incident.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand how this can happen, and yet last night, as I am combing through Facebook, I see comments DEFENDING this ruling. Calling Garner a “thug” and saying if he hadn’t broken the law in the first place, he wouldn’t have to worry about the cops. They say it is the same as Michael Brown.

All I could do was blink.

And agree, that yes, it is similar to Michael Brown.

A cop took down an unarmed man and got away with it. Yup. Same.

The arguments that “he had it coming” or “if you obey it wouldn’t happen” piss me off in a way I can’t even describe. People say “well, he broke the law.”  So what?  I break the law when I speed every morning on my way to work. Every day I go 80 mph down the highway when the speed limit says 70. Have I gotten pulled over and ticketed? Yes. Do I continue to do it?  Yes.  So does that mean speeding is punishable by death at a cops hands next time?

You know what? Don’t even answer that. It’s a moot point because I am a thirty-something white lady who does not look like a “thug”. I don’t have to worry about this.

I have had students screw up and break the law over and over before getting clean and sober. Did they get arrested? Yes. Did they get killed by the cops? No. And in each case? I am thinking of a white kid. They don’t have this worry.

But you know who does? Members of my own family including my nephews some day. When  cop sees them, do you think they will know they have white parents who are in education and have multiple degrees?  Nope. They will see black men.

Studies show that by age SEVEN people begin to look at black males as more threatening than white males. SEVEN YEARS OLD. That is a third grader.

Eric Garner “looked” threatening to the cop because he was a large black man.

That is eff-ed up, yo.

And you know what, take race out of it for a minute (although I think it has EVERYTHING to do with race). HE WAS UNARMED.

What is it going to take for the American public to wake the heck up? What will it take for us to say, “No. Stop. This isn’t right”?

WHAT WILL IT TAKE?

Because obviously even a video of a homicide doesn’t do it.

My heart and mind are so confused.  I just don’t understand how people–people who are good people–can be so blind and racist. How can that exist in the same person?  I have unfriended people on Facebook that up until now, I could handle having differing opinions on most political things. But this? This is a deal breaker.

Using racist language like “thug” and making sweeping statements about how law breakers “deserve” to get 12 bullets pumped in them or suffocated to death is something I can’t tolerate. I even saw someone compare Eric Garner to a sick dog that needed to be put down. Just typing that makes me want to vomit.

Last night Eddie and I had an issue. In the end, he told me he didn’t like me, didn’t care about me, and didn’t care about the treat I promised him (in place of doing something else that we couldn’t do). He threw a fit. Once we got home, he still expected the treat and I said, “No. You called me mean. You said you didn’t like me. You said you didn’t care about the treat. Forget it then.”  He pouted. Then after putting on his pj’s he came over to read his nightly homework to me. I said, “Nope. Read to your dad tonight.” He asked me why and I told him, “Because you don’t like me or care about me. My feelings are hurt.”  He was devastated. After about 10 minutes, we talked about why he was crying and he admitted that it felt awful to have someone not care about you.  Of course we made up and all is fine.

But he had to feel what his words felt like. What they did to my heart.

Our issue is a far cry from making a statement that an unarmed man deserved to die, but it all boils down to a lack of empathy.

I don’t understand how people can say things without thinking about other people’s feelings and experiences. How can we lack even the most basic empathy for other human beings?

And I should point out that I am NOT anti-cop. Some of my great friends are the spouses of cops. People I went to high school with and greatly respect are cops. This is not me saying police officers are evil.  This is about me saying something in our minds is evil. Something is messed up when authority figures can KILL unarmed citizens and that is Ok.

That is not Ok. That is not what we want to perpetuate or encourage in this country, is it?  That we are a police state that deems any law breaker punishable by death on the spot? It’s not what I want.

If this post offends you, or you feel like writing a scathing comment about how these men deserved to die somehow, don’t. Just don’t. Just quit reading my blog right now. If we are friends on Facebook, just quietly unfriend me.

Because I can’t tolerate this anymore.

The faces I see are those of my students and my family. MY FAMILY.

My heart simply cannot handle the hate.

Every Child, Every Day

I spend a lot of time worrying about other people’s kids and whether or not they are reading, what they are reading, and if they are choosing things that are right for them.

In the first 10 minutes of class, my students are busy writing in their journals and getting their independent reading books out. Every day. I spend that 10 minutes walking around making sure every child has written something and has something to read. Every day. In fact, today during first hour I wrote three passes to the media center, had four kids check out books from my library, and conferenced with two kids who were having trouble getting started.  This is pretty typical for all of my hours.

I spend a large chunk of every day focused only on other kids’ reading.

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Last night, Eddie read a whole book to me.

A REAL book, not just one of his “just right library” books that says things like, “I see a dog,” and “I see a cat” on each page.  He read me, cover to cover, one of the Elephant and Piggie books, My Friend is Sad. If you know those books, you know they rely heavily on HOW you read the book too, and Eddie rocked it out. I spent a lot of time watching him rather than looking at the pages he was reading.

I was amazed.

My baby…ok, my oldest, but still…my BABY was READING a real BOOK.

And he loved it.

He didn’t fill out a reading log afterward (although school does send home a calendar each month and if you read for 20 minutes each day–and color in the days accordingly–you get a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. Not really my philosophy of creating readers, but Eddie does it for the joy of reading right now, and I am letting that just flow) or make a diorama. Instead he goes back to the cover and exclaims that the book is pretty funny and maybe the book fair will have more Elephant and Piggie books to choose from.

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Today when I pick Eddie up he will have two new books from a book order and whatever he chose at the book fair. He was still going back and forth about Skippy John Jones or Pete the Cat this morning as I hugged him goodbye, so I am eager to find out what he chose…what we will be reading together tonight.

I know he will keep the books out of his backpack and he’ll be holding them in his hand when I get to school.  I know he will smile and run when he sees me, waving the books to tell me what he bought. I know he will “take a picture walk” through them in the car to decide which one we should read first.

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Every time Eddie and I sit to read, I think about my students. How many of them were this ravenous about reading when they were in Kindergarten? How many of those kids “lost” that desire…and when did it happen?

Did those kids get a chance to read every single day like Eddie does?  Like I try to give them now?

I follow Richard Allington’s wordsEvery child, every day. This includes not just my students, but my own kids as well.

30 Blog Posts

I did it.

I posted all 30 days of November, and I learned a few things along the way.

1. I don’t really enjoy posting every single day.

2. I am not entirely happy with what I have written for that day, but instead of just hitting “save” on the draft, I hit “publish” because, well, a post a day!

3. I don’t feel like I wrote more than I usually do; I just hit publish more often.

4. I found myself thinking “is this a blog post?” about everything…like I used to do.

5. I am still annoyed about the picture thing. Yes, there have been pictures but that is either with copy/paste or embedding via Flickr. Both are annoying stand in’s to what I should be able to do here.

6. I do still enjoy writing every day, and it’s not all bad to have some pressure to hit publish once in a while.

7. I’ve been more stumped for content because, I think, I’ve been holding back.  No, I know I have. I have some stuff I really, really want to write about, but I am afraid of being controversial or whatever and I don’t have the energy to “deal with” the fall out. Or even the support.  I know. That is sad.

8. Blogging every day has me somehow missing real people more than usual. I am still working this through my brain about what this even means.

9. I’ve become acutely aware of how much has changed since I was at the “height” of my blogging (stats-wise that is) in 2011/12. I didn’t care what other people were logging about or what had been said already. I was writing my own truth not trying to say something new.  Now I feel like a small, repetitive voice in a sea of “been there, done that” type of writing.

10.. I made time to post, but I didn’t make enough time to read others, and I wish I had. I miss reading blogs just for fun. So to those of you who have popped over here, thank you. I know how big of a deal that is.

Will I do NaBloPoMo again next year? I don’t know. I didn’t know I was going to do it this year until I had posted on November one and decided to see if I could. So maybe?

I also know I am tired and tomorrow starts the three-week haul to Christmas break, so I am going to go grab some rest.

Confession: I’m Not Convinced

Yesterday my mom and I went shopping for Black Friday. We don’t get up super early or go on Thanksgiving or anything. No, we get up when we feel like it and are usually at the mall around 10am, give or take a few minutes depending on how slowly I am moving.

Anyway, we were in the infant/toddler section at Younkers’ yesterday looking at tiny clothes for tiny people. My mom wanted to buy Alice a little something for Christmas. I have wanted to try to pick out a jammy for her too–something that can be her coming home from the hospital jammy.

Something has held me back, though.

My mom had no problem digging through all the pink and purple searching for a cute little something for her second granddaughter. I looked, but I also looked through the boy things thinking about how I will miss the tiny man clothes. My mom told me to get over it.

But really? I think I am just not convinced I’m having a girl. Or I am skeptical. Or I just can’t wrap my mind around it. Or I have a mom “feeling”. Or I am paranoid.

I am something all right.

Both boys had unmistakable ultrasounds. There were most definitely boy bits on the black and white screen.

Alice was different. She didn’t cooperate at first and when she did, there wasn’t anything there, but I kept thinking maybe we just missed them? Is that possible?

I love looking at little girl stuff. It’s a whole new world to me to be fascinated by.

Yet I’m not convinced it’s my new world. I can’t imagine being handed a girl baby. I can’t imagine having another female in the house. I can’t imagine girl diaper changes and hair “pretties” (OMG the hair pretties).

Maybe I am just scared.

Last night I told Cortney I wasn’t 100% on board the girl train like I was with the boys. He said, “well we better talk about a boy name then, just in case.”

I love that guy.

He didn’t tell me to quit worrying or to accept that it’s a girl.

Nope. He said, “well, let’s be ready either way.”

And that is what we will be: ready either way. Because like we said before, it truly does not matter whether this is a boy or a girl, we are so SO excited to meet this new baby and complete our family.

lost for words

I don’t want to be another silent, white voice.

But I don’t know what to say.

My heart aches.

My mind is confused.

I’ve been trying since August to find the words, but I don’t have them.

But I am an ally.

I am listening.

I am standing, ready with you.

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Their names are Charlie, Kingston, and Kyrie.

They are equals.

His name was Michael Brown. #BlackLivesMatter

“Love your neighbor as yourself” ~Mark 12:31

Thanksgiving

It is almost 11pm on Thanksgiving and I just remembered that to “win” NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month–posting every day in November), I have to post today.

I’ve been off line almost all day. Yes, I flipped through instagram a few times to see all the Thanksgiving lovely so many of you were having, but for the most part, I just stayed away.

Cortney let me sleep in until 10am because of my stupid bad cold (yesterday I thought for sure I had the Plague), even though he got zero sleep due to my coughing and Charlie’s bad dreams cries AND the boys getting up by 6am.  I am thankful for his giving heart and his caring nature, for his natural tendency to put our needs before his own.

We packed up the boys just after noon to have Thanksgiving dinner at Granny and Grandpa’s house (Cortney’s mom and step-dad). The boys were well-behaved even though they were totally tired. I am thankful for two kind, polite boys who love to laugh and be with their family.

Nap time was way late today…Charlie fell asleep on the ride home from Granny’s and got to bed after 3pm. For the first time in a really, really long time, all of us took naps. Cortney fell asleep with football on, I headed to our bed and snoozed, and Eddie voluntarily put away the tablet and fell asleep on the couch.

After nap we packed up again and headed to my side of the family’s gathering just in time for the boys to get a little more pie (“MORE PIE!?!?” Charlie exclaimed with confused joy), and to play Bingo.

Bedtime was late, but both boys were in bed sleeping by 10pm.

And now?  Now Cortney and I are cuddled up: him with his apple pie-flavored craft brew beer and me with my second (or third, whatever) piece of apple pie.

I sure am thankful for my life.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Close and Critical Reading

Because one of my district’s School Improvement Goals is literacy-based, we developed an assessment called Close and Critical Reading (CCR). I know what you’re thinking…aw jeez, another assessment.

Hear me out.

Teaching CCR skills helps students not just understand what they read better, but it helps them to intelligently talk about the features of the text, the inferences they can make, and the connections they see. Students are given a text appropriate to the content of the class they are in (we do this across the curriculum so students can build their skills in all sorts of texts, not just fiction in the English class). Then they are given four questions:

  1. What does the text say? (summarize)
  2. How does the text say it? (discuss genre, features, and language)
  3. Why does the text say it? (inference of theme, lesson, or slice of life)
  4. So what? (making connections both with self and society)

We give the test as a summative assessment four times a year (once per marking period), but we do formative assessments of these skills almost daily–at least in the English Language Arts classes.

I have been doing CCR-type lessons with my high school students for year, but now that I am a junior high teacher, I need to remember that these students need the basics before they can refine the skills.

This led me to create my very first anchor charts!
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You can see that I do not have the neatness and creativity of a seasoned anchor chart maker, but I did my best.
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and as we move on, you can tell I lost my patience with trying to write neatly…
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and instead of starting over when there were boo boos, I just fudged it.

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In order to teach these skills, we also teach active reading, but that is another post.

It’s funny because if you tell the students they are learning CCR skills, they get all groany. But if you just have them do the skills without labeling, they do it with {almost} no whining.

Couple this with all the “free” silent reading we do in class in our own books means we are building much better readers…and kids who actually like to read!

Five Things

I was in band/colorguard in high school.

I didn’t play any sports. None. When I was a kid, my parents made me do T-ball and then one year of pitching machine until they finally agreed that I had no coordination–or motivation–to play sports. In 6th grade I started playing the trumpet. I didn’t love it or the instructor, but I did love band. I stuck with it through middle school because I wanted to march with the high school band. My freshman year of high school welcomed a new band director to the district who changed everything. I was in love with band, although I still didn’t love my trumpet. I found colorguard and became a full on band nerd.  I even almost tried out for my University’s colorguard, but realized at the last minute that I needed a job more than I needed to be in band and I didn’t have time for both.

I thought I wanted to be a lawyer when I was 16.

I can’t even tell you why I thought this other than I thought it would be cool to argue in a courtroom in front of people. I may enjoy the attention of a crowd. I quickly realized I didn’t have the stones to be in such a harsh profession. So I chose teaching instead. Yes, I see the ridiculousness of that last statement.

I’ve been to over 100 concerts.

I went to my first concert when I was 15 years old. My mom and dad (because they are delightfully naive) let me drive across the state with my boyfriend to see Aerosmith (because he has fun music and doesn’t swear!–according to my mom. HA!) at the Palace in Auburn Hills (near Detroit). The opening band was Collective Soul (remember them? Probably not). I was hooked. I’ve seen everyone from Tom Petty to Metallica, Dave Matthews to Type O Negative. Rock n Roll, yo.

I’ve never done drugs.

For some reason, people find this hard to believe. But it’s true! I’ve never smoked weed or taken anything mind altering. And I didn’t drink until college.

I’ve never been outside the US.

Well, I guess if you count the couple times I went over the boarder to Canada, I have been. I’ve never needed a passport for any travel. Considering I have a degree in Spanish and am certified to teach it, that is sad. I would LOVE to go to Mexico (or Spain or any Spanish-speaking country). I would love to go somewhere warm. I would love to see France, England, Germany, and all the other European countries from the literature I have taught. I would love to visit the Netherlands and see where my ancestors are from.

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The winner of the Stand Up book giveaway has been chosen! If it wasn’t you, you can still purchase the book here. It would make a GREAT holiday gift!

Challenge Completed

I think every year for the past five or so years, I have done the GoodReads book challenge. You are supposed to set a goal for how many books you want to read in that year.  Almost every year I put 24 – two books per month.

When I compare my goal to many of my friends, it is low. They aim for like 50 books. If I didn’t have to work or keep my children alive, I bet I could read 50 books a year. But, alas, people need me to do things, so 24 is the goal.

I have never met this goal. I usually start out Ok, but then drop off as spring comes and I get out of control busy with end of the school year things like grading and graduation.  I pick it back up in the summer, but not usually to a point where I can recover because once school starts up again, my reading life grinds to a halt.

Some how I managed to not just meet my goal of 25 books this year, but to surpass it! As of right now, I have read 30 books this year and I am on number 31.  Currently I am reading The Liar’s Club  by Mary Karr.

I’ll be honest too, that I have always tried to right up a review of the book over under my book categories, and not having time to write it up has held me back from starting a new book. I decided I had to let that go and just enjoy books. If I get them up there, awesome, but if not, at least I am reading, right?

So tell me, what are you reading?

I have a bunch of books from my classroom library on my To Read List including Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell and all of the John Green. The problem is that they are all checked out right now…by my students!

I guess that’s not really a problem.

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Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of the children’s book Stand UpContest closes at midnight!

Sunday Fun…er Sleepday

It’s almost 7:30pm.

I’m not entirely sure where this day went.

Yesterday I was on the go from 7am until 10pm: salon, birthday party, purge basement of toys, feed children, put children to bed, crash.

Today I paid for it. Today for the first time I thought I was going to fall asleep in church (and not because the sermon was boring, but because I was exhausted).

Cortney has been sick with a pretty bad cough/congestion thing. Yesterday I made him take a nap while I did the Toy Purge of 2014. Today I told him to stay home from church and rest–that I could handle the boys.

To their credit, the boys were very good, Sunday School went really well, and we all made it home without gnawing off any arms, but I had a pounding headache and tired aches everywhere.  As soon as Cort saw me walk in the door, he sent me to bed.

And I stayed there for two hours.

Like I said yesterday, this pregnancy is exhausting.

Since waking up, I’ve sat in sort of daze. My head still hurts, now I’m coughing, and somehow it’s 7:30pm already so it’s time to put the kids to bed.

The bright side is that Eddie and I only have two days of school this week and Charlie only has two days of daycare. Just two mornings to get through. Two.

We can do it.

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