My Classroom Library

It grows frequently, I add books as often as I can. My classroom was once upon a time an art room so I have LOTS of cabinets but not so many bookshelves, that’s ok the cabinets work. I just keep the doors open, someday maybe I’ll get approval to take the doors off, in the meantime I’ll just keep them open, it works. Funny thing is a temp custodian closed all of the cabinets the other day, my students commented the next morning that my room looked empty, that was when I realized the cabinet doors were all shut.

Most of the books in my library came from my last classroom library thought much pared down. I weeded out books I kept for my own sentimental sake, I also weeded out the third, fourth, and fifth copies I had of books. Over time my library dropped from around 1000 books to around 250. That’s ok though I’m building back up. First my fellow English teacher and I went through a list we were given and ordered several novels to add to our classroom libraries, I also spent a lot of time driving to all the local thrift stores picking up books for anywhere from 25 cents to a dollar. Then came the dollar store trips, and a trip to the book fair at my kiddo’s school where I scouted out and purchased several of the sale books. If I keep adding I might just have to figure out something else to do with the books as I’m running out of room.

Here are some pics, you can see I use the cabinets, counters, and the one bookshelf I have:

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Magnetic Poetry

I had totally forgotten that I had magnetic poetry until I was having a discussion with my fellow English teacher who is also the gifted teacher in our building. We have some unused rooms in our building right now so he’s taken one over to allow the gifted kids to have a classroom of their own. He mentioned wanting to do magnetic poetry with them. The light went on and I remembered seeing mine as I was unpacking things when I moved into my room, so when I got back to my room I went hunting.

When I found it then it was a matter of finding a place to put it. Time to do a little rearranging of my white board. Once again no sooner do I introduce a new thing to class the kids jump all over it. We’ll see how long it lasts, but I already have some ideas to keep it going as interest fades.

Here’s the board after only a few students had tried it out:20161027_084823.jpg

some poems:

 

and the board after students had had some fun:

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Daily Prompt: Irksome

via Daily Prompt: Irksome

Giving students several days of class time to complete a large assignment and they play on their Chromebooks or talk. I can take Chromebooks away, move them away from other students and they still don’t work.

Warning students that in class work not turned in will be a zero then hearing complaints about how they’re in trouble with their sports team because they have a D or an F in my class. Students asking for extra credit when they don’t do the regular classwork.

Parents asking me what a child is missing in class rather than checking the online gradebook when that is where the got the grade in the first place.

Who are you voting for?

Over the past few weeks this is probably the question I have been most frequently asked at school. I hear it almost hourly, on Friday one of the other students then said “You’re not supposed to ask that.” I tried not to laugh.

I have never revealed to students who I vote for, it’s personal and I don’t want nor do I have the right to influence my student’s decisions on who they vote for (though I know there are man people who feel that is exactly what schools are these days) I want them to be educated voters and vote with their beliefs and conscience. It seems who you vote for becomes a more contentious issue each election. I see people on Facebook actually deleting people from their friends’ list due to political beliefs, it’s really disheartening. I know my views don’t align with all of my friends or family but that doesn’t change how I feel about them. They are still my family and friends. I’m not going to disown someone because their beliefs are different. Rather I want to learn why they feel the way they do, what is it that has led them to their beliefs.

So when students ask me that question I don’t tell who I’m voting for rather I share with them my process, looking at the candidates and their stance on issues I find more important and it should come as no surprise that education is at the top of that list. I remind students to never take commercials at face value, always look further into issues esp when looking at the federal government as bills can contain more than one issue. Since students are usually familiar with The Simpsons I mention the episode Bart’s Comet where the comet is coming and predicted to destroy Springfield. Congress has a bill to evacuate and someone tacks on a rider for the “perverted arts” the bill is then defeated.

While this is a cartoon I tell my students that this is often how things work one party will add something to a bill they don’t want passed to keep the other party from passing it, and it happens on both sides of the aisle. This is all to tell them to look deeper, when a commercial claims someone voted against something or for something, look to see what else was on that bill that they were truly voting for or against.

So today at the beginning of each hour I asked my students to write on a sheet of paper with no name on it who they would vote for and why, specifically why NOT why they wouldn’t vote for the other candidates. I did list the five candidates on the ballot in Missouri for president.

Even stating specifically to tell what it is you support about that candidate I’ve gotten several responses that students would vote for one because the other is awful, or an idiot, or retarded, lots of the comments about Hillary being a liar and deleting e-mails or about Trump being disrespectful and some about Trump just blurting things out. A few said they’d vote for Hillary because she would be the first female president (sorry this to me is not a good reason, wouldn’t matter which side the woman was on I’m not voting for someone because of gender or ethnicity, I vote on issues hopefully my students will come to that point in time, like before they actually vote for president the first time) I had a few say they just wouldn’t vote. One said she’d move to Canada and Long Live the Queen (we may have had a discussion about how the queen is still technically the Sovereign of the democratic government in Canada during our discussion on serial killers which is a whole other post). One student said they’d write in Taylor Swift and at least one student say out loud that they would write in Bernie Sanders though in Missouri we have a list of people you can write in who filed to be write-ins so that wouldn’t work. Another wants to vote for a potato, one student just wants government to be quiet (can’t say I blame them)

I think disappointing is the student who said they would vote for Trump because the idea of a female president is scary or the one who said their mother doesn’t want them paying attention to all of this. While I understand wanting to let your kid be a kid, kids today see and hear it all, don’t bury your head in the sand. Talk to them about what you believe and why, tell them who you are voting for and why, especially if two people in the home are voting for different people. Present facts NOT opinions, let them start to learn about the world around them so that they will be more educated voters when it’s their time to vote.

Some of the reason students put why they actually support one candidate include:

Donald Trump:

  • he isn’t going to start a war
  • he is going to protect the second amendment
  • he would lower taxes
  • he will stop illegal immigration which will stop weird diseases from spreading
  • I believe he will support the military
  • he will make the borders more secure
  • he’s going to take care of Mexicans and foreign people in our country and we don’t need foreign people in our country
  • he will keep our companies from moving to other countries
  • I also agree with him on not letting people get late abortions
  • he has a lot of money and could use it for helping society
  • he’s building a wall (THIS is overwhelmingly the most popular answer)
  • if we go to war he can help fund the war with his money and other resources
  • I don’t watch the news or care about politics but he’s in the Republican party (teacher note this is exactly the kind of thing I don’t want to see from any student about any party it makes me sad and worried)
  • it might be good to have someone who isn’t a politician
  • he is a businessman and maybe just maybe he will pull us out of our debt (THIS was the second most common answer)
  • get rid of Obamacare (teacher note: whether you like it or not could you please refer to it by it’s proper name the ACA the Affordable Care Act, or at least take a play on words off of that like the UCA Unaffordable Care Act)
  • because he doesn’t support Common Core (teacher note again: we now have our own learning standards in Missouri so not sure why they’re worried about Common Core but maybe we haven’t made that clear to them yet)
  • he will increase the pay for our military
  • because he doesn’t kill people
  • committed to education
  • because he is trustworthy
  • he is nicer
  • because he knows what he’s talking about
  • because he doesn’t support abortion

 

Hillary Clinton:

  • She has the experience
  • she would lower taxes
  • Help with Obamacare (there it  is again)
  • she is fair to all sexualities
  • she supports everyone’s rights: women’s rights, gay rights, people of color rights, and many more
  • she is going to raise minimum wage
  • she has respect for women
  • she doesn’t make giant assumptions
  • she can learn from her husband and his mistakes (interesting idea, she does have a unique view of what it’s like to run the country whether or not that makes her qualified it is an interesting thought)
  • she wants to improve marriage rights
  • she sounds more trustworthy
  • and sounds like she knows what she’s doing
  • she wants to help with children
  • she wants to work on education
  • she wants women to be able to access reproductive health care
  • she has a plan

 

Gary Johnson: students don’t seem to know much about him, this may be due to the fact that much of his campaigning has been done through social media like Facebook and Twitter, the students that have chosen him are doing so because he is not Trump or Clinton

Dr. Jill Stein:

  • we looked up what the green party is and they would fix problems like the ecosystems and social stuff
  • the green party wants to change the big 4: peace, ecology, social justice, democracy

I had a few students take time to look up the candidates websites to do some quick research, this gives me hope.

All of this makes me curious if students and adults for that matter were simply presented with the platforms and plans of each candidate who would they vote for? Maybe present some of the issues not usually covered by the media. Does the spewed vitriol really change voters opinions that much? I’d love to do that as an experiment and if we had class tomorrow instead of a field trip I just might try it but our building is a polling place so we need to be out of here as it will be a really busy place.

The final Kid’s Vote in our building had Trump winning in a landslide, my son said his school went Trump, the Scholastic kids vote went to Clinton and the newsela site vote went to Clinton. It’s going to be an interesting election and an interesting aftermath, I’m wondering if I’ll be going to bed with the same feeling of unease I had in 2000 when we didn’t know for sure if George W. Bush or Al Gore would be president.

Blind Date books

When kiddo went with me to the GWP youth writing festival we were done before the end of the school day. I had a sub so no need to return so kiddo and I took the time to do something he’d been wanting to do. We went to the St. Louis County library headquarters location so he could do the Star Wars scavenger hunt and get the pin.

While we were there he spotted the Blind Date books. I’ve seen the idea before but it was my child getting really excited that made me think of it again. So when I got back to school the next week I went through my library and pulled out a few books, then got out some paper, tape, and markers and went to work.

Here’s the final result, note my descriptions aren’t the best but I’m working on it:

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Immediately I had students asking what the display was all about. The student I mentioned in my post on responsibility was one of the first. Said student got really excited about one of the descriptions and checked out the book, then shared it with a friend who will be going to the school library to see if they have a copy so the two friends can read it together. I love it when things like this work.

Close-ups of the books:

Undercurrents by Willo Davis Roberts

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Shadow Spinner, that I wrote about for my friend Amy’s blog What Will She Read Next?

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Death Be Not Proud:

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DaVinci Code (I teach eighth graders after all)

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Little Women

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A Break With Charity:

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I have no idea, I just picked this book up at the dollar store but it looked like a great YA read, and I thought it was perfect for this time of year.

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I’d love suggestions for other books to put up along with some descriptions as mine clearly need a little work.

Youth Writing Festival

When I lived in Columbia, Missouri and taught at a small school my fellow English teacher introduced me to the Missouri Writer’s Project writer’s festival at Mizzou. We took students who then participated in three different little writing workshops.

So about a month ago when my fellow English teacher here told me there was a Gateway Writer’s Program that hosted a Youth Writing Festival here at UMSL and asked if I’d like to go and take students I jumped at the chance.

Even better this festival was for grade 3-8 so I was able to get permission to take my kiddo with me.

Off we went, students, fellow teacher and his younger child, as well as my kiddo. Up to UMSL where my kiddo joked it was his first day of college. Students were greeted and given name tags that included their schedule for the day, much like when I went with students to Mizzou, kids were given choices of sessions to attend when they registered.

They could go to a session on art and writing, political/persuasive writing, free verse poetry, character boot camp,

Students also received a notebook and pen, a snack, and water bottle in a bag.

Kiddo LOVED it, he took notes every session (if only he worked that hard in his actual classes LOL).

The motivation of responsibility

Ah there it is, one of the things I found while searching how to fight apathy was to give students responsibility. I know in the past it’s worked with students I have.

My second year teaching I had a student that I routinely had to speak to about her talking when she was supposed to be listening or working who complained she couldn’t read my handwriting on the agenda/homework on the board each week. So I showed her where my plan book was and said “Ok, you can write it.” Sure enough each day she came in, got her things together, then came to pick up my plan book and wrote the agenda/homework on the board. After that I had to speak to her much less in class about her behavior.

There are fewer responsibilities I can assign in a middle school classroom but this week is Red Ribbon week and we’re having a door decorating contest in our building. Several of my academic focus students, think homeroom, wanted to work on the door. One of those is a student who rarely if ever gets work done on time. This is a student who has gotten to experience lots of Mrs. Davis’ nagging to get said work done. Yesterday the student asked if during English class they could work on the door. I told them that when they finished the essay that is due today they could work on the door. The essay was done when the student arrived at class. I looked it over and it was done well too. Such is the motivation of having responsibility. Now to find another responsibility for that student and a few others.