Sunday, February 15, 2009

It is wicked awesome when it works

Teacher Musings:
Its February break time and I'm south for the winter. Visiting my parents is always enjoyable because the live somewhere so different from Boston (and its so much warmer!!). It is also nice to be somewhere else with a different routine because it allows me to step back and reflect on my life and work. This is an especially opportune time for me because its the point of the year where all the work I've done so far starts to work - or not. I had a rough couple of weeks these past weeks with issues at work not related to my classroom. The stress of MCAS and massive changes at my school started to really take its toll. But what saved me is what always saved me - my students. In this case I experienced something that I have never really experienced before, even though I have been teaching for five years. I have been trying all sorts of different things with my students this year in terms of analytical writing. I have backed off of writing-graphic-organizers except for students who really need them, and I have spent way, way more time getting students to ask and answer their own analytical questions. I spent a week pushing them to read, re-read and really question the various meanings of various poems, even when they told me "I loved poetry before, but now you've killed it!" (true quote). I was a rewarded slightly when several students, in their weekly reflection, shared the fact that they felt they were learning how to really read poetry "deeply" for themselves. Yet the real reward was when they turned in their first 1-2 page poem analysis in first draft form. I had tried so many different things with this assignment. I had new ways to teach how to read a poem. I had a new way of running writer's workshop. I had a new way of conferencing with students. And the result of these in some form was some of the strongest independent analytical writing I have every done. Students who worked on their papers when they were supposed to and did all the assignments leading up to it (which of course wasn't everyone) really analyzed the poem they read with their own thoughts. Even students who struggled to wrote two of the body paragraphs and got a lot of help from me were able to synthesize their ideas about the authors' message and the time period the author lived in in interesting and insightful ways. What I loved about this, and what I saw for the first time in my teaching is that my incredibly smart and interesting students were able to translate their smart and interesting thoughts into their writing!! They weren't just filling in the blanks in a graphic organizer, they were really thinking!! Sure, not all their sentences were perfect grammatically, but when I read the essays I saw ideas develop and change and evolve. This is no small feat, as any writer knows. And when I saw my students do this, it was amazing, exciting and uplifting in ways that words can't capture. And it was why I struggle to find better ways of of doing things and fight through the cacophony of student voices that complain about thinking too hard - because it is wicked awesome when it works!

Yummy Stuff
So, again, it was a crazy week, so I didn't do much cooking. Thank goodness for Gary!! On Sunday we decided to make a huge pot of jambalaya to last as lunches during the week. However, we have been on the hunt for a good vegan sausage and it has been a struggle. So, last weekend, we made our own! So, we used the recipe from everydaydish for vegan italian sausage. It came out great!

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