Blackout Poetry for the Win!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Okay, so I hardly ever post lesson plans/resources. There is a cornucopia of reasons for why I don't, including:

1) Writing about lesson plans/resources is not fun for me. Maybe this makes me a bad teacher? Oops.
2) I often come up with my lesson plans the week (and sometimes even the morning) that I'm doing them.  Again, maybe this makes me a bad teacher. But because of the disparities in ability level of the population that I teach and the fact that I have close to forty 8th graders in my classes, it's hard for me to plan ahead when I don't know until I teach something whether or not they will be able to master it one day or whether it'll take a week.
3) My lesson plans are very rarely phenomenal. 
4) There's just way too many other things I'd write about, like students long-jumping over piles of barf or the bizarre things I catch myself saying out loud on a daily basis.

But once in a blue moon, there's something we do in class that makes me want to bust through the doors of the teachers' lounge, saloon-style, and shout at the top of my lungs, "ALL OF YOU MUST DO THIS!!!"

Thursday was one of those days.

We had some leftover time on Thursday, and earlier in the week I had discovered some class library books that had been ruined in my move across campus this summer. Some had been torn in half, others had a huge chunk of the middle missing. Obviously, I couldn't throw them away (that's breaking one of the 10 Commandments of Reading), so I decided to tear out all the pages and assign my students some blackout poetry.

The idea comes from this website, Newspaper Blackout, recommended to me by a Love, Teach reader. Basically this guy takes a permanent marker and redacts newspaper articles to create poetry.  So we did, too! I showed my students from examples, talked them through how to not get Sharpie on their desks/heads/faces/tongues, and let them loose with the pages I'd torn out.

IT WAS THE COOLEST. Take a gander.

Doesn't this remind you of that famous line in Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater? No? Just me? Oh, well. Still cool.

"She took a deep breath and felt all the love whisper to her." Excuse me while I cry ALL THE TEARS

"Less than pleased is all you are."

This is just a handful of the amazing stuff my kids made. It is really cool to see what they turn out, and you'll find yourself in really neat conversations with students about their work. Do it this week, ELA teachers! You'll be surprazed (that's my portmanteau for "surprised" and "amazed." You're welcome.)



14 Reasons Why I Will Die Alone

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Most of the time, I love being a single gal teaching in a big city.

But sometimes, like this week, I take a look at my life and realize that I will probably die alone and that my body will be eaten by coyotes.

Because it's Tuesday and everyone knows that Tuesdays are for whining, I give you:

14 Reasons Why I Will Die Alone

1) I don't go out anymore because I'm tired all the time. If I do happen to be persuaded to venture out beyond the confines of my apartment, car, and classroom, I'm usually:
  • With a pack of other teachers 
  • Wearing my faculty shirt that has a giant paw print on it
  • Sporting stray pen marks and dry erase marker ruboff on my arms because I erase my white board with my forearms now, like a Neanderthal
  • Yawning at 8:00 and telling anyone who will listen how I'd rather be in my pajamas
Line up, fellas.

2) I for sure won't meet anyone at school. The male teachers at my school are either:
  • Married
  • Have caught me whispering to my clothing
  • Have said the following words to me, "Did you forget your comb today? Haha. Relax, I'm just kidding. I actually think your hair looks nice like that."
  • Also crazy and our offspring would be genetically forced into a disturbing brand of weird
  • Maybe too normal, which says a lot about how weird I've become
3) I basically have been controlling my own life for the past several years now, and I'm not sure I could handle not being in control anymore. Isn't that an attractive quality?

4) I bought these plastic mystical ponies at Target tonight.

What? Why? I have no answers to these questions.

5) See my fingernails in the above picture.

6) Because I live in a large city, I've learned to walk with a sense of purpose so that strange men don't approach me to say gross things. However, I am now so good at this that NOBODY approaches me.

7) These are my recently used emojis:

8) I have limited interaction with the male species due to my schedule, so when I am around a guy that is even marginally attractive or nice to me, my body betrays me and I can't stop giggling, sweating, or saying super weird things like facts about dolphins that I learned from a podcast P.S. it's this one and it's amazing.

9) Looking cute is time-consuming, expensive, and I give up. My student teacher has offered to help me, so that's hopeful. I told her I may have time next March.

10) I am too afraid to have kids anymore. I used to want to crank out so many kids it would require some kind of commune to raise them all, but teaching has made me realize that kids, while lovely, are mostly just fragile and dangerous creatures. They're basically walking Ziploc bags full of organs that sass you sometimes. Also, I blame my lack of interest on my pregnant coworkers and their absolutely horrifying daily updates on what pregnancy does to your body. Thanks for nothing, pregnant coworkers!

11) My standards are warped because of my literature man crushes, which may be the dorkiest thing ever typed in human history.

12) I'm looking into taking a quilting class at the suggestion of my pen pal.

13) I just believe that the above sentence should probably count twice in my list of reasons I will die alone.

14) Someone has been lingering outside my window listening to the radio on speakerphone for the past several minutes. So I may actually die alone tonight.

I know that I won't really die alone-- I'm just being dramatic. I'll die surrounded by my books, my lifelong companions.



My First Day of School Questionnaire

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Is it just me, or is there something about this school year that makes this back-to-school season particularly exhausting? I'm so tired and slept so hard last night that I woke up and thought my nightstand was a Viking and threw a pillow at it.

Anyway, school starts this week for me, so yesterday I found myself needing to make a first day of school questionnaire. You know, something to keep the kids busy on those first few minutes while you're out in the hall wrangling lost 6th graders and unworking lockers.

In past years, I've made them more "real" get-to-know-you questions, like "Tell me about your family," and "What are your interests?", but this year:

a) I am moving up with same kids from last year
b) Even if I didn't know them already, I think there's something inorganic and maybe even intrusive about asking kids, especially from the population I teach, to talk about their home life or answer personal questions with someone they've just met
c) I like finding out about them in conversation better anyway
d) I think you can find out a lot about people by asking them disarmingly weird questions

So, thus was born this first-day-of-school questionnaire:

1. What is your name?
2. What do you wish people had to call you? 
3. Which do you feel have a better chance of taking over the world: zombies or pirates? Justify your answer.
4. Would you rather find yourself in the world of Harry Potter (during the last two books) or The Hunger Games? Justify your answer.
5. If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? (You get an entree, side, drink, and dessert.)
6. Would you rather be attacked by one horse-sized duck, or one hundred duck-sized horses? Justify your answer.
7. Draw a visual representation of your answer to number 6 in the space below to the best of your ability.
8. Would you rather have the ability to fly or read minds?
9. What is your spirit animal?
10. On the back of this paper, write a list of everything that makes you happy. If you do not want to write a list of everything that makes you happy, write a list of everything you can think of that is the color orange.

Here's to the weirdest year ever.

What would you add to this questionnaire? Can you even get on my weird level?



P.S. Please feel free to steal/share/tweak/add and use for your first day!

59 Real-Life Thoughts I Had on the First Day Back at In-Service

Saturday, August 16, 2014

      This week, my body went back to school for the first day of professional development. This post is all about what was going on in my mind.

           59 Real-Life Thoughts I Had on the First Day Back at In-Service
           By: Love, Teach

  •       6:00 alarm, you are my EVEREST.
  •       Snooze.
  •       Snooze.
  •       FINE. But only for the children.
  •       At least I can finally take this mountain of school stuff that’s been sitting in my bedroom all summer.
  •       Okay, what to wear... Betting my summer uniform would be frowned upon, as it does not involve pants.
  •       Should I even try to look somewhat decent, or stick with comfy-casual?

Arguments for looking decent
Arguments for comfy-casual
-There might be new people whom you don’t want to think you’re a slovenly old bag
-Comfortable. So, so comfortable.
-Takes almost zero time.
-You can dress up one day, take a picture of yourself, make copies of it, and distribute to the new people that serve both as gifts and proof that sometimes you don’t look like a slovenly old bag.
  • Comfy-casual it is!
  • Should I wear my ID? 
  • District policy says yes, but is that even for in-service? 
  • What if I’m the only one wearing one? 
  • Will people think I’m a suck-up if I’m wearing it? 
  • Or what if I’m the only one NOT wearing it? 
  • I’ll bring it.
  • Welp, can’t find it anyway, so that idea’s out.
  • I wonder if anyone got plastic surgery over the summer.
  • What? Why is there traffic?
  • Oh, because it’s in-service and I’m going to work at a normal human time instead of negative fifty o’clock.
  • I wonder what they will have for breakfast.
  • I hope yogurt.
  • I hope waffles.
  • I hope a gourmet omelet station.
  • I hope a crown roast and keg of mead.
  • Hahaha.
  • But seriously, I hope there’s yogurt.
  • Please, God, if you love me at all, make this a classroom workday.
  • YES. SAM SMITH. This is my JAM.
  • Aaaand I’m behind that one math teacher I don’t know at a red light. 
  • Did he see me singing ultra-seriously by myself in my car as I was pulling up?
  • Awkward. Don’t make eye contact. Play it cool. Drink your coffee.
  • Where are we even supposed to be meeting?
  • I’m just going to follow the herd.
  • And they’re all wearing their IDs. Perfect.
  • Would it be weird to feign illness and hide in my room?
  • I bet I could do a reasonably believable impression of fainting.
  • Okay, it’s fun to see people again. Good job, self. You’re being normal.
  • Uh-oh. All this interaction with people is making me sweaty.
  • Hello, nice to meet you, my name is Miss Clammyhands.
  • Yogurt!!!!!
  • Oh, helloooooo beautiful new science teacher.
  • Oh, wedding ring. Whew.
  • Just realized that all my conversations with people sound like this: “HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!” “It’s so good to see you!” “How was your summer?!” “Do you know if we get to work in our rooms today or not?”
  • Oh, dear. The Back-to-School speeches/PowerPoints have begun.
  • Time for me to pretend like I’m taking notes on this legal pad.
  • What should I get at the grocery store?
  • What do I need to buy at Home Depot to be able to fix that broken metal bookshelf in my classroom that is waiting to give me tetanus?
  • What do I want to name my future children?
  • Let’s doodle a crossbow-wielding panda.
  • Geez, who is talking behind me? That’s so rude to talk when someone’s presenting.
  • It’s also probably rude to be doodling crossbow-wielding pandas.
  • Oh, an inspirational video!
  • I think I’m easily inspired.
  • I think that means I would make a good cult member.
  • YES! Classroom workday! Thank you, teaching gods!
  • I’m taking another yogurt.

Sorry there were no pictures in this post, but I didn't know what to use for a post all about my thoughts. I wonder what the inside of my mind even looks like. Probably a Dali painting. One of the weirder ones, I'm betting.

Are you back at school yet? What were some of your thoughts?



10 Teaching Inventions I Wish Existed

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Summer means I have lots of time to do important thinking, which this morning has meant coming up with this list of teaching inventions I wish existed. 

1) Grading machine

You'll notice that it looks remarkably like a fax machine. It can even grade essays! Oh, also it can create make-up exams. I just decided.

2) Silent spray
Extra strength: for grades 6-8

I’ve seen cute versions of this on Pinterest for pre-school age kiddos, but mine would be very serious. Sort of like Febreze except instead of working with smells it will work with sounds. A quick spray across the room and a hush just falls over everyone. Ahhhh.

Also, my roommate held up a placemat just behind our coffee table for this picture to happen. Thanks, Esther!

3) A special telephone that has a direct hotline for answers to everything

Preferably the hotline attendant would be Morgan Freeman. He would have the answers to my most plaguing questions, which, last year, were things like:
“Yeah, it’s October and our school ran out of paper and toner for the rest of the year. What do I do?”
“Who wrote ‘Charlie = bae’ in this copy of Flowers for Algernon?”
“Where did I put my Easy Grader?”
“Why is there a staple in my hair?”

4) A life-sized hamster wheel
For that one angel we all have.

5) A light-up PMS necklace
The heart of the ocean.
I love life most of the time. But exactly five days before my period, I love nothing and nobody. If I had a necklace that lit up and played a song (preferably, a happy, twinkly tune) when I was PMSing, it would help me to recognize that my irritability and tears were coming from a place of hormonal chaos rather than the real world, and I would be able to cope accordingly.

6) A clock that sings the perfect song at the beginning of the day, during every passing period, and at the end of the day
This isn’t like an iPod alarm or something where I choose the song; it just knows what to play. IT KNOWS!

7) Food-multiplying wand
If I’m starving during class and take out a granola bar during class, everyone wants one. It would be nice to turn one into 35 with a simple wave of my wand. Also, I could easily promise my classes cookies or mini quiches or whatever I felt like because I would only have to make one instead of a hundred and twenty.  

The wand would also come in handy when your coworker brings amazing leftovers from last night’s dinner at that new steakhouse in town and you accidentally packed yourself a bell pepper because you thought it was an apple in your early morning lunch-packing stupor.

8) A zipline that goes from my room to my parking space
Because why not?

9) A remote-control robot teacher for active monitoring during testing

Just program it to go up and down the aisles, sit back at your desk, and Sudoku your little heart out. Also I emailed my mom and asked her to draw a robot teacher with a Sharpie in under 30 seconds and this is what she sent back. I cackled.

10) An arm belt
Basically I just want another set of hands.

Excuse me while I go have a nightmare about that arm belt.

What teaching inventions do you wish existed? I'm almost worried about your creativity.



A Letter to Myself On My First Day of Teaching

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pictured: my rare mahogany shoe rack that I use as a coffee table (oops), a fake letter I didn't finish writing, and the world's best writing instrument, a Uni-Ball Vision Elite Micro.

A few months ago, I saw this article on Edutopia asking teachers to write letters to their first-day-of-teaching selves. And I did it! And now I'm sharing mine with you.
Dear First-Year Teach,
First of all, you look so cute! What an adorable cardigan. (Lay it flat to dry like the cleaning instructions say, or in a couple of years it'll look and feel like a washcloth and you will be a sad girl.)
Wow. Your first day. Your FIRST first day. I know how you're feeling. Nervous. Excited. Hopeful. Diarrhea-ish. It's like how you felt about that piano recital, except instead of five minutes in front of people it's fifty minutes times six periods times five days times four weeks times nine months, and instead of everyone listening to you quietly NOBODY will listen to you quietly unless you train them, and instead of memorizing something and delivering it your job is to improvise while convincing everyone in the audience that it's something worth playing; that they want to play it, too.
You have every right to feel diarrhea-ish.
I wish I could tell you that you'll have more good days than bad days this year. That you'll get a hang of this teaching thing after a few weeks and after that it's smooth sailing. That, like babysitting and being a camp counselor and volunteering, if you can just get the kids to like you, that means they'll do whatever you say.
But it won't.
It's not like that.
This will be the most difficult, challenging thing you will ever do. It will push you to your limits as a person. It will almost break you. There are times when it will feel like life has sucker-punched you, then offered you crutches, then taken the crutches and is beating you over the back with them while laughing hysterically.
Teaching will also be the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to you.
Weird, huh?
There will be a whole month where it feels like you don't go a day without crying. But guess what? In a couple of years, most of the crying you will do at school will be because of stuff like how awesome Poetry Day is, or from when you will read that darn chapter at the end of Wonder about standing ovations (it's this book coming out soon--trust me, it's the best), or from the time your choir students will sing "Gentle Annie" on a day just a liiiiittle too close to your period.
You know all those cute bins and folders that you think will keep you and your students organized? They won't. Part of teaching is learning how inept all your systems are and adjusting them to work for you. But you are about to embark on a journey that will leave you as THE MOST ORGANIZED PERSON IN THE ENTIRE WORLD! Or at least out of the people you know who are non-teachers.
Other perks:
  • You know those super annoying kiosk salespeople in the mall who accost you with flatirons and phones and perfumes? After you have a few years in this gig, THEY WON'T BOTHER YOU ANYMORE! Teaching has made you more confident; taught you to walk with your shoulders tall and with a purpose. Or maybe you just walk around with Teacher Face now.
  • You will be the master of time management. (This doesn't necessarily mean you choose to employ these skills all the time, but you can when needed.)
  • Summer, my friend. Just wait. It's glorious.

But the real perk--the thing that is going to keep you coming back--is something that's hard for me to explain. It's not because of what you're thinking right now on your first day: that you will be the hero in this story, or that you are about to change lives/the world by bestowing your benevolence and your knowledge upon them.
This isn't about you.
You are a vessel. You are at your most important when you make yourself the least important. You are here not to be in front of everyone, but to stand beside them. You are here not to impress others, but to encourage and lift up the kids in your classroom and the people around you. You are here not to be recognized, but to help other people figure out what is recognizable about them and how to use that for good.
I'll let you figure out what that means (I still am).
Good luck out there, kid.
Oh, and go ahead and put that Keurig in your classroom now. You'll need it.
Future Teach

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some summering to do. 

5 Motivational Posters You Can Make for Your Home or Classroom, All While Consuming Hours of Your Favorite Guilty Pleasure TV Show Whose Name You’re Too Ashamed to Admit

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Well, I think the title of this post is sufficient as an explanation not only for the post itself, but for why my life is one giant contradiction.

I’m housesitting right now for my parents right now, and since they have a) lots of space in their home, b) art supplies, c) cable TV, I’ve been cranking out some posters for my classroom next year.  You should do the same! You will need:

Kiddie watercolors, brushes, watercolor paper (optional), a little plate for mixing, and a white crayon (optional). And a little test paper. Oh, and a pencil (not pictured).

THIS IS SO EASY, Y'ALL. I can't stress that enough. All you need to do is:

1) Pick a quote you want to use. 
2) Sketch out the quote on a piece of watercolor paper in pencil.
3) Paint over it in watercolor.
4) Erase the pencil.

What?! So easy. Here are some of the ones I've made recently:

Man, Amy Poehler is a total powerhouse. I love this quote, especially for my middle schoolers who try to act like they're allergic to silliness.

One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes I was reminded of recently.  I think the mark of a good classroom quote is something that you AND the kids benefit from reading.  The Lady fancied this version floating around on Pinterest, so she copied it.

This was so fun to make even though it took the longest!  I was inspired by Kid President, circus fonts, and Pinterest typography.

Oh, sweet, sweet Charlie. Excuse me while I go bawl my eyes out. 

This one's a little hard to read, but it says, "And above all, watch with glittering eyes the world around you." Roald Dahl wins again.  For this one, I wrote the quote first in white crayon (which is a little scary because you can't see it at ALL), then just painted over with watercolor. 

I'm telling you. So easy.

In other news, during my painting I saw a back-to-school shoe commercial.  IT'S JULY 17TH.  Just another thing that won't happen when I'm president.

What are some of your favorite quotes?