In the Wake of Tragedy

Like every other educator in America (probably most of the world, too), I’ve been trying to process the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. It’s not very far from where I live—a few hours’ drive at most. I cannot comprehend the mind of someone who would murder young children, who would even come into a school bent on that kind of violence. I am humbled by the heroism shown by the teachers at Sandy Hook.

I am disturbed by some of the backlash I am seeing towards people with autism. We don’t really even know for sure if Adam Lanza was autistic, and as often as we hear news reporters and talking heads assert that autistic individuals are not violent, the possibility that Lanza was autistic is still continuously brought up. And then you see things like this (follow the link to see the Facebook screen cap).

The resulting response by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg is an exercise in restraint and compassion.

As the mother of two children on the autism spectrum, I can tell you my children are amazing, loving, intelligent, beautiful children. Sometimes they have a little bit of trouble with social skills, and empathy is among them. They have difficulty reading emotion. They would never hurt anyone on purpose. I cannot envision a world in which they would they hurt anyone. My children are not monsters. And they do not need to be locked up. They need understanding and compassion.

I fear very much that the next time my son has a minor meltdown in a public place, and as the people around us stare and we explain, “I apologize; he’s autistic,” we will see the people around us recoil—”You mean like that guy who killed all those kids.”

No, not like that guy. Nothing like that guy. Because that kind of violence has nothing to do with autism. I don’t know what causes it. I don’t know if it’s a gun culture, or lack of care for the mentally ill, or lax security in schools, or just plain evil, or all of them and none of them. I really don’t. But I live with autism every day, and I know that it isn’t autism. My children are not violent “ppl,” they are not “monsters,” and they are not (pardon the language, but it’s hers not mine) “sick fucks.” No, it’s people like you that spread misinformation, hatred, and fear who are truly monsters. It is people like you I would want to protect my children from—actually, who I’d like to protect all of society from. The fact that someone, anyone, would say something like this about people, children, they don’t even know, makes me feel sick to my stomach and scared for my children. I pray more than anything else that people like this are able to see the error in their thinking and get help.

The only thing I have to say in closing is that my heart is broken for the children and adults in Newtown, and I hope we have what it takes to be reflective and change. But pointing fingers at individuals with autism, who face enough challenges in life, is not the answer.

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New Year Update

Hi everyone. I realize that I haven’t posted much here, but a change to Technology Integration Specialist last August has changed my focus, and I need to re-orient myself I appreciate your patience very much. I would suggest that you might want to subscribe in a feed reader or via email if you would like an easy way to check for updates. We have also had some upheaval at home that I need to sort out, and I hope you will forgive me if I am a little quiet online until I do. Thank you very much for continuing to read.

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Adobe Influencer Program

The big question in the skyAs you probably know if you read this blog regularly, I have moved into a new role as Technology Integration Specialist at my school. When Adobe approached me and invited me to participate in their Influencer program, I readily accepted because I want to learn a great deal about some of their products, especially Flash, Dreamweaver, and and InDesign. I had so much trouble with Flash when I was creating my project as a student in grad school, and I wish I had been able to ask their experts for help then! I also had a great deal of trouble with InDesign last year as my students were using it to create the newspaper. Adobe has been really great about reaching out to me and offering assistance, but it’s a case of not even knowing where to begin. Furthermore, I have been so swamped learning the ropes in my new position and supporting my faculty with training that I haven’t had much time to play with their Master Collection 5.5 suite.

To that end, I am asking for your help. If you are curious about Adobe and would like to learn how to do something, can you please leave a comment describing what you’d like to learn how to do? I have access to Adobe experts, and it seems a shame not to take advantage of their willingness to help.

Thanks in advance, folks.

Creative Commons License photo credit: kevindooley

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Georgia DOE Excellence Recognition Program

The Georgia DOE recognized me for being the Georgia Council of Teachers of English High School Teacher of the Year.

State Superintendent Brad Bryant, me, and Sixth Congressional District Board Member Robert "Buzz" Law

It was a nice ceremony, mainly because the announcers took time to tell the audience all about the people being recognized. Often it seems these kinds of things are a blitz of names, and you don’t really have an understanding why anyone is being recognized. You can view other pictures from the event here. You should have seen the student writers being recognized for being state winners of the Georgia Young Authors Writing Competition. The young ones were especially cute. I liked hearing about the stories they wrote.

The DOE also recognized two other English teachers, winners of USDA awards for school nutrition, the School Bus Technician of the Year, and winners of Georgia Association of Educational Leaders awards. I was honored to be in such company, especially the student writers.

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A Hogwarts Education

As a result of my post on Hogwarts teachers being linked by Sarah Ebner’s SchoolGate blog, I was interviewed by Sean Moncrieff of Moncrieff on Newstalk in Ireland. They graciously sent me an mp3 of my interview to share with you here (click the plus sign):

Download

I was about to explain that Lupin also gives the best exam assessments, but we ran out of time.

In other news, I already have my tickets to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which I’m really looking forward to seeing.

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My Classroom

I changed classrooms this year, and I’m still putting things away and decorating, but here’s a peek.

This image shows my desk in the corner.  You can see part of my SMART Board, my Macbeth on one page poster, my diploma, and a Harry Potter poster one of my students gave me last year.  The view out that window looks over our baseball field and the student parking lot.

In this view, you can see one of my doors (I have two), my SMART Board, many of my student desks, my Romeo and Juliet and Midsummer Night’s Dream on one page posters, my Madama Butterfly poster, and across the hall, my friend and co-English teacher Corinne’s open door.

Here is my desk.  I have my UbD unit plan for Brave New World ready as well as my teaching copies of that novel and The Bean Trees.

My room has a sort of odd shape due to its proximity to a stairwell, and I have a large space in the back with a small seminar setup and lots of bookshelves, but the pictures didn’t come out as well, so I’ll have to take others and post later.

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Classmates

Can someone tell me why Facebook doesn’t allow users to search using both graduation year and major as criteria?  Or am I missing something?  I wind up having to wade through hundreds of grads when I’m only looking for classmates, or I wind up wading through hundreds of English Education majors that didn’t even go to UGA.  It seems obvious to me that searches should be able to be narrowed by both major and graduation year.

Anyway, I’m looking for classmates who graduated from UGA with an English Education major in 1997 (Bachelor’s or Master’s), especially folks who were in Mark and Sally’s group.  If that’s you, I’d love to re-establish contact.

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My Fall Preview

Robert at Casting Out Nines just posted a Fall Preview.  It’s nice to know what our fellow bloggers are doing so we can pick their brains or follow along when they write about instruction.  This is what I have going on this semester:

  • A daughter starting high school (yikes!), a daughter starting second grade, and a son starting kindergarten.  The two younger children are on the autism spectrum (my daughter has Asperger’s and my son is currently diagnosed as developmentally delayed).
  • A new course entitled The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a senior elective in which students will analyze literature and a couple of films based on Joseph Campbell’s theory of the monomyth.
  • 11th grade college prep British Literature and Composition (a chronological study of British literature)
  • 11th grade college prep 2 British Literature and Composition (also chronological, but at a different pace and depth and with some different reading selections, mainly the novels, but others will differ as well)
  • 9th grade college prep 2 Grammar, Composition, and Literature, which is our 9th grade English course, including The Odyssey and Romeo and Juliet.  Our focus is on grammar and writing.
  • Department Chair of our English department.
  • National Honor Society Adviser.
  • Returning to school to begin my masters in Curriculum and Instruction with an Instructional Technology focus.

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Tagged! I’m It

Clix tagged me for a meme. First, I am supposed to post the rules:

  1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
  2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
  3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
  4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

OK, so now the questions.

What were you doing ten years ago?

I was finishing up my first year teaching at a rural school. It was probably the most awful job I’ve ever had, and certainly the most awful teaching experience. We had gang problems and a do-nothing administration.

What are five things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order)*

  1. Grade vocabulary and quizzes and start on projects.
  2. Follow up on and answer some e-mails.
  3. Sketch out next week’s lesson plans.
  4. Re-read chapter eight of The Great Gatsby and take some notes.
  5. E-mail students absent on Monday who have not checked in with me and do not have their final exam assignment.

What are some snacks I enjoy?

  • popcorn
  • Hint of Lime Tostitos
  • nuts
  • chocolate

What would I do if I were a billionaire?

  • Like Clix, pay off debt.
  • Buy a house.
  • Get a new car.
  • Travel like mad.
  • Share with my family, friends, and favorite charities.
  • Outfit my school with more technology—SMART Boards in each room, laptops for teachers, etc.
  • Honestly, this is one of those questions that has an unlimited number of answers, as I can’t even imagine all I could do with that money. Sigh.

What are three of my bad habits?

  1. Clutter. It’s how I live.
  2. Procrastination.
  3. Worrying.

What are five places where you have lived?**

  1. California
  2. Germany
  3. Virginia
  4. Colorado
  5. North Carolina

What are five jobs I have had?

  1. Teacher
  2. Waitress at Sonny’s Real Pit Barbecue
  3. Student Worker in the Science Library at UGA
  4. Student Worker in the Financial Aid Office at Macon College
  5. Temp. Bleh.

What five or six people do I want to tag?

Well, this is hard for me because I can never tell if people like these things and want to be tagged and included, or not. So I tag the following folks, who only have to play if they feel like it (no pressure):

* Because it’s so late, and the only thing on my to-do list at this hour is to blowdry my hair and go to bed, perhaps read, this is tomorrow’s list.

** I didn’t include my current residence because I think most people know that about me. However, it might be a surprise to learn I have lived in some of the other places.

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Week in Reflection, April 7-11

I feel good about this week.  My senior class started A Streetcar Named Desire, and they are enjoying it.  Well, it’s just a really good play, isn’t it?  They’re excited to watch the movie when we finish.

One of my ninth grade classes finished phrases with a quiz and performed very well on it.  I am sure they studied, and I was proud of their work, but I would like to think I also taught it in a way that was understandable.  We should finish clauses on Tuesday.

My other ninth grade class is finishing up The Catcher in the Rye and seems to like the project they are working on.

I only met with my writing class once this week.  They were in Boston on Monday and Tuesday (grade level trip); on Wednesday we don’t normally have class (unless there is a schedule change); and on Thursday, school was canceled because of a water main break.  So we just had Friday.  After learning about what not to do with Power Point, a lesson for which one student gamely donated a Power Point show in which he effectively demonstrated everything one shouldn’t do with Power Point, students are creating informative Power Points on some topic that interest them.  Some students are doing soccer, while others are doing stem cells and global warming, while still others are researching teen pregnancy.

The water main break is a perfect example of why it’s important to be flexible.  I wanted to finish clauses and do misplaced modifiers and perhaps even start on verb usage with my freshmen, but we missed our entire weekly double-block, so it didn’t happen.  Our juniors were going to have a grade level meeting to discuss registration and learn about senior electives, but that couldn’t happen either.  Registration is still scheduled for Monday, so I will most likely be answering more questions than usual about English electives, especially because my department chair will not be present.  All this is fine, and I am prepared to do it.  I have often thought one of the best things one can be, especially at my school, is flexible, and I’d like to think that I am.

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