Interim Week – 4th year to D.C.

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Mr. Hanson asked that all of our students reflect on our interim trip to Washington D.C. earlier this month. I decided to reflect as well. Here are my thoughts from my 4th trip to D.C. with the 8th grade class:

  1. What was the most meaningful thing you encountered on your trip?
As always, I enjoyed going to The Holocaust Museum. 
  1. Which historical site you visited left you most appreciative to be an American?
The US capitol always makes me most appreciative to be an American, especially to reflect on the decisions that our forefathers had to make so many years ago to grant us the opportunity to be such a strong nation. The White House and National Cathedral are close seconds.
  1. What was the most surprising moment of interim week? Why?
The weather! The cherry blossoms were about to bloom due to the unseasonably warmer temperatures!
  1. If you could have spent more time at a particular site, which would it have been? Why?
Mount Vernon – I could have spent more time on the grounds and in the museums. There was so much to take in! Also, the American History Museum – never enough time there!
  1. What was the first thing you told your parents about the trip upon returning home?
Getting drenched on our walk from Union Station to The Capitol.
  1. On which part of the trip did you find the experience most educational? What did you learn?
Our visit to Mount Vernon – I had not been there since I was a child, and I learned so much about George Washington!
  1. What story from your trip might you share with your children and/or grandchildren one day?
  2. If you could have lunch with any of the historical figures about which you learned, who would you choose? What would you ask them during lunch?
I would choose George Washington. I would like to know what motivated him, and how he was able to have such crystal clear vision for our country’s future. 
  1. If you gave your Interim Week trip experience a title, like a book or movie, what would it be?

    Sopping wet in our Nation’s Capital!

10. If you could give advice to next year’s students, about to take the trip, what would you tell them?
Don’t forget your umbrella!

Bringing Shakespeare to Life

Frequently when I am asked what I do for a living, the response of others tends to be looks of pity when I reveal my daily interactions with teens. However, I feel so fortunate to work at a school where kids are not bound to desks all day. In fact, as teachers, we are encouraged to get students up and on their feet, learning by performing. For example, our school’s educational initiative this year involved Project-Based Learning. What a better chance to demonstrate student learning than with performances of Romeo and Juliet? As I observed each class over the past two days as they prepared and rehearsed their chosen scenes to perform, this is what I noticed: students turned outdoor classroom space into theatrical stages; foam swords helped turned teenagers into Renaissance villains; technology like iphones, headphones, go-pros, and drones helped to enhance videos that Spielberg would admire; best of all, however, might have been the expressions on students faces. Have you ever seen kids so excited about learning Shakespeare before? This is why I love teaching teenagers!

Learning Walks: I spy 4Cs in every class

Last week, I decided to take on Chip Houston’s badge challenge to take a learning walk, and then to shine the spotlight on colleagues who were incorporating the 4 Cs into their daily instruction. This is what I observed:

  1. Last week, I started my learning walk through Braea’s third period 7th grade math class. Braea has a very full class – every seat is taken. She begins the lesson by asking students to raise their hands if they have ever raced a sibling or allowed someone younger than themselves to win a race on purpose. Lots of students raise their hands; they seem very eager to see where this is leading. Braea then reveals the question on the Clear Touch: Henri and Emile’s race, which they must solve by figuring out how Emile can let Henri win the race by 1 second. Braea allows the students to brainstorm answers on their own for two minutes before passing out sticks with which they will then be grouped accordingly. She offers that it will be “okay to use three different strategies or to use one combined strategy.” While in Braea’s classroom, I observed students who were tasked to think critically, to think creatively, to collaborate with their classmates, and to communicate their results effectively! Very impressed with my first observation of 7th grade math!
  1. I just had the pleasure of taking a learning walk through Kelly’s 7th grade French 1 class, where students were preparing for a French test by creating Kahoot games to review vocabulary and verb conjugations. Students were working at the highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy (creating their own review games as opposed to being spoon fed study guides), and the students were so enthusiastic about their review, it made me want to join in the games! I definitely observed collaboration, communication, with a sprinkle of critical thinking! Way to go, Kelly!
  1. I just had the pleasure of taking a learning walk through Kimberly’s 8th grade History course, where the students were gearing up for an assessment on Reconstruction. Students were sitting in assigned groups, with an incredibly detailed guide in front of them that outlined EVERYTHING they would need to do to be successful on their upcoming assessment. There were instructions on tutorial times, materials to bring (and not to bring,) questions to prepare for, and a detailed list of what they would be graded on. In groups, students were reading aloud the Reconstruction documents of the Radical Republicans and the 13th-15th Amendments, and answering corresponding questions. Kimberly is amazingly organized, and the following mindsets were intentionally infused and observed: collaboration, communication, and critical thinking, for sure! Way to go, Kimberly!
  1. I just popped through Mike’s room on my learning walk this afternoon, where students were completing a lab on inertia. Students were working collaboratively, thinking critically, and communicating their findings via a culminating questionnaire at the end of the lab. Students were able to make real-world connections to the lab by applying what they learned to real-life situations (like the automotive industry and roller coasters, to name a few). I was definitely impressed by the students’ enthusiasm and critical thinking skills! Way to go, Mike!

On my book list


Thursday I had the opportunity to attend a Literature conference, “What’s New in Young Adult Literature, grades 6-12” put on by the BER (Bureau of Education and Research). The guest speaker, Patti Tjomsland, was one of the most impressive people I have had the pleasure of hearing from. She previewed 335 titles of young adult literature, and selected her recommendations for schools for 2017. Here is what topped my list:

  1. The Girl I Used to Be, by April Henry
  2. Outrun the Moon, by Stacey Lee
  3. Falling Over Sideways, by Jordan Sonnenblick
  4. Front Lines, by Michael Grant
  5. Saving Red, by Sonya Sones
  6. The Worst Class Trip Ever (DC), by Dave Barry
  7. The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, by Janet Fox
  8. All We Have Left, by Wendy Mills
  9. Uprooted, (Japanese internment), by Albert Marrin
  10. We Will Not Be Silent, by Russell Freedman
  11. Sabotage: The Mission to Destroy Hitler’s Atomic Bomb (YA version), by Neal Bascomb

World War II – Holocaust Museum

It is the greatest joy as a teacher to see how fully your students blossom each year. I could not have been any prouder of my students this year than I was the night of our WWII-Holocaust Museum on December 7, the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor, which launched America’s involvement into WWII. The museum tied in all three of our major readings this year, including Unbroken, A Separate Peace, and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, and was held in conjunction with the Christmas Arts Showcase. Well done, 8th graders!

R&D #2: An exercise in poetry writing from powerful images

Yesterday afternoon I had the privilege of attending the ELA R&D. Becky Tussey walked us through an exercise where she showed a series of 20 images, allowing us only 45 seconds to write our first thoughts, ideas, or impressions of each image. After we completed the initial exercise, we then had to circle 5-7 words from our writing, which was then used to craft a 10-15 line poem. Here is mine:

Where are we going?

I’m thirsty

I never signed up for this

All lives matter

My heritage lies in this place

It’s what we’ve been waiting for

Who are these precious children?

Indestructible, fearless, lovely, resilient.

I love you, my darling, and will see you on the other side.

Be strong, and pray for us!



Happy Thanksgiving!

Last year, my daughter wowed our entire family with her list of post-it notes that she had accumulated throughout the month of November. She thought of the common recipients of her gratitude like her family, her friends and her teachers, but what impressed me the most was that she thought of people like the school custodian to include on that list. There are so many things for which I am grateful this time of year. Here is my list:

  1. My health, and the health and safety of my precious children
  2. My marriage, and the marriages of those who serve as models
  3. My family. We celebrated my father’s 80th birthday in late July, and I try to cherish the moments that have become fewer and farther between with my whole family. I am excited to spend Thanksgiving with my mom and my sister’s family this year, and am so grateful that we get to spend so much time with my husband’s family who live nearby.
  4. My job. I am grateful for a career that I love.
  5. My students. I appreciate the energy and imagination of 8th graders!
  6. My friends. I am so glad I have such a wonderful support group from all walks of my life.
  7. My church. This is my home away from home, and I am so grateful that my children have such a wonderful place to grow up!

For what are you thankful this year? I hope that your Thanksgiving break is a restful one, where you can recharge and reflect on your blessings.