A Poem to Publish

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

rock solid

when you run your hands through water and feel it flow through your fingers, like putting your hand in the creek or over smoot, cool stones

warm, comforting and big; you couldn’t hold it

very small, but strong, steady, like a tiny light in the dark, and burns very low but no winds can make it flicker because it will not give up


the soft jackets you feel in Walmart

sticking your hand in a dark hole and not knowing what’s in the dark hole


hopeful, reassured, a texture I enjoy, like a blanket

velvety smooth, like God

I have no idea


Feathers, really soft and warm, almost like a warm snowball, you have to hold on but you can never hold on

bouncy, kinda smooth, like a six month baby’s bottom – resilient and youthful like a new born baby

the same as wine

Emily Dickinson poems

warm, baked chocolate chip cookies/everything’s going to be okay because you have cookies


like the fluffiest dog’s fur; comforting, like petting a dog’s fur is comforting and relaxing

or oobleck, its solid when you hold on but runs through your fingers when you let go



like a dirt road: some days, after a nasty storm, it gets bumpy, but it always gets flat again

like a Labrador puppy

soft, warm, fuzzy/rocky rough – that’s what makes it mature

warm, soft, smooth; like melted chocolate

being sockless

fluffy and chocolate

tingly and annoying

fuzzy and familiar

I did not write this poem, not really anyway. This is a form poem. It is formed from the words people I care about have said. These lines bring out three greatest gifts to life.


4 Professional Development books & what they mean to me

Breathing in, Breathing out: Keeping a Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher

See the source image
My favorite part of this book was the chapter called “Necessary Words”. It talked about the random words that spot our notebooks with seemingly no connection. I related hard to section because I love quotes and sayings. I am currently working on packing up my dorm room and I have found so many sticking notes and scraps with random quotes, song lyrics, Bible verses and snippets of conversations. Fletcher wrote, “we record words we like from others who have “mastered the craft.” We take phrases from people who have written before us as inspiration to keep writing.

If your writer’s notebook is similar to mine, there are unrelated quotes and random words all over the place. Fletcher tells us how we can use these pieces to build up their meaning and better our writing. Say you have a word or quote you just love but don’t know what to d with it; write a poem about it. Don’t look it up, just write.

I also liked the chapter about “Triggers: Lines, Bits, Lists, Questions”. I am a fan of writing short, descriptive pieces, if you couldn’t tell yet. Anyway, this section was all about what makes us want to write. Just by writing down odd facts you learn, you can create so many writing options. Write down questions; questions you have, questions other people ask, questions no one asks. The best pieces of writing will come from the hard, unanswerable ones. Lines and insights are like necessary words, the sparks that keep your paper lit. The last one is lists, a writer’s BFF. I make lists for everything. I make lists for what I have left to pack, what I need to get done, what I want to write, what I need to read and what I have done. My favorite current list is titled “Books I think I need”.

The Power of a Plant by Stephen Ritz

See the source imageI picked this book up at NCTE for the same reason I picked up forty other books – it was free. As I was walking away, I realized it was a professional development book, not a novel like I had expected. We have all heard the plant metaphor, planting the seed of learning and watering/nurturing students as they grow. I just figured this book was an extended version of that. I was wrong.

Mr. Ritz was a teacher in the Bronx and could see his students suffering culturally and agriculturally. These kids have never experienced what it is like to grow anything, let alone their own food, and some had never grocery shopped. One day, after determining the smell coming from the back of his classroom was the leftovers of a science experiment turned onion, he decided to help his students. If he could accidently grow an onion, what could they grow on purpose?

The story follows his classroom project to nation-wide program. It’s more than just an account of in-classroom gardens, it’s about how the gardens impact attendance, graduation rates and over-all well-being of the students for the better. The gardens benefitted Ritz’s and the students’ health and brought more jobs to their under resourced community. Even though I don’t see myself starting a classroom garden, I learned from the relationships the garden brought Ritz, his students and their community.

The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell

See the source imageThis book validated every feeling I’ve had about reading since I was a middle schooler. Seventh grader Jed is right there with me because he defined the zone. The Zone is the magical trance readers experience when they are completely immersed in their books. My goal is to get each of my students to experience and enjoy the zone.

The book continues on about what works in a reading-focused classroom and how to conduct these tactics. I thought the most helpful rundown of the book was a list Atwell made from student responses. She asked them to respond to “What conditions helped you engage in reading?”. The top three responses were: 1. Book talks and mini lessons, 2. A big, diverse classroom library and 3. Quiet, daily, in-class time to read. I felt empowered. There is no big, complex secret out there to get kids engaged in reading. We really just have to talk about reading, give them books and let them read and I know I am capable of that.

Jim Burke’s Letters to a New Teacher with Joy Krajicek

See the source imageI started this book forever ago and I think part of the reason it took me so long to finish is because I didn’t want it to end. The epistolary follows Krajicek’s first year of teaching. Burke acts as her mentor teacher, but askes her to write her questions and concerns down as he is a wordy person and would prefer to write her a letter in response. Notecards with questions and letters in response make up the book. Her questions are ones I imagine myself asking in a year’s time. I thought it was comforting that the dates on her questions cards become more spread out as the school year continues. We will all catch on to teaching with time and guidance from those with more experience. Even better, both Burke and Krajicek are English teachers, so their conversations were always relevant. I don’t really have anything specific to say about the letters, they map out a new and old teachers’ experiences and show how important relationships are with faulty, as well as students.

NCTE Experpience #3: Writing all over the Place

Okay, I know it’s been over a week since my last post but better late than never, right? Hoping back to that magical week in November, I would like to keep telling you all about my adventures at NCTE.

Image result for snow white the graphic novelI decided to attend “Reimaging Traditional Tales” for a fun break and to put myself outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes our uncomfort zones become comfort zones with the right coaching and Matt Phelan crooned me out with one of my favorite tales, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a Disney fan, but my love for this story goes beyond the Technicolor full-length feature, especially now.

Phelan, a graphic novelist, chose to retell Snow White because the main character inspires others and the story offers levels of characters. One of the themes of the session was how these traditional tales still exist for a reason, we are still teaching them because they hold moral value. He took us through his writing process step by step. I’ll outline it for you:

  • the motive must stay, but should change forms
  • Image result for snow white the graphic novelobjects/iconic props should keep their place
  • keep the character traits but alter the roles
  • let setting influence the story
  • recognize the elements of the original that make it good

I was so enthralled in his transformation of my favorite story into a time in history I am equally fascinated with (1920-30s NYC) I knew I had to buy the graphic novel. Lucky for me, they were up for sale later that day and I even got it signed!

Following Phelan, English instructor, Nancy Johnson, explained how we can take these traditional tales and create learning projects for our students. The first step is to let each student pick their own traditional tale to explore. It can be an old favorite, one from their heritage or a tale they just want to learn more about. Next, she discussed a series of multi-genre assignments including a creative, reimagined tale, research on different versions of their story and a queary letter. I had never heard of a queary letter before. It is a letter of persuasion, in this case, it was addressed to a publishing position and explained why the student’s retelling was the best version of the story to release. Discussions throughout the unit covered “How do fairy tales develop cultural literacy?”.

I left the room wanting to go rewrite almost every traditional tale I could name!


Image result for albert einstein quote fairy tales

This quote was on the board during the session and I just loved it.


I also attended a session on teaching media literacy which was absolutely modern, informative and 100% relevant. The most important thing I learned was how to use snopes.com. Snopes and Snopes Top 50 help teachers (and anyone else) by debunking the “fake news” stories that curriculate the web. We can teach our students to check their sources and daily reading with sites like Snopes to cultivate a more media literacy-friendly environment. I also learned a fun little acronym to check your sources, CRAPP, aka, Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose.Image result for snopes image search

The final notable session I learned from was presented by The Paper Graders. I liked the session a lot, but not a lot of the information seemed new to me because my lovely professor, Dr. E, has been using their methods on me for semesters! Here are the highlights from their message.

  1. Figure out what you’re teaching
  2. Build a classroom based on that focus
  3. Get your students working
  4. Collect data on their work
  5. Show them learning objectives (it’ll be a relief after they realize they have already been meeting them)
  6. Ask each student to chose a few objectives and track themselves
  7. Make the need for a grade a chance for self-evaluation

Their goal is to get students writing to write for the sake of writing, not for a grade. There is no need to tear a paper apart because the student hasn’t learned the value of paragraph breaks; their writing is not devalued just because it isn’t presented, worded or organized like a final draft.

At this session I sat next to an experienced teacher who was a treat to talk with. I liked her outlook on teaching, her position on student writing and overall personality so I asked her if she had any advice for a preservice teacher like me. She thought about it and told me “Don’t take to much to heart; take it one day at a time – don’t get overwhelmed; find good people to talk to; your first year will be heard and it’ll feel like nothing is going right when it actually is”. To that teacher out in sunny California, thank you.



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Living the dream 📚📄📑📚 #NCTE17