Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Silence is Deafening

I know my silence on this blog is deafening. Trust me, I am working on it. I am finishing up my coursework for my doctoral program over the next few weeks. It involves some pretty heavy lifting in a time when we are living through a global pandemic and massive civil unrest. I support Black Lives Matter. I will say more when I get a chance to write something thoughtful and coherent. In the meantime, take a look at this from Facing History.

I promise I’ll share more soon.

blessing the boats

Do you get the newsletter “Teach This Poem” from If not, you should definitely go sign up. I don’t always find time to implement each plan, but they are great for tucking away to fill in lesson plans at times. What I like about the plans is they incorporate other disciplines, such as art, history, or science. Students have a chance to discuss and write in each lesson.

Some time back, the lesson plan revolved around Lucille Clifton’s poem “blessing the boats.” Please check out the poem at don’t want to reprint it here without permission. I have even set the link to open up in a new tab, so you don’t lose your place. Come back, because I have more to say.

I think Monday is an important day to teach this poem, and the final instruction in the lesson plan caught my eye:

In recent weeks, students around the country have become activists and are leading campaigns to change minds and laws. Ask your students to write about how this poem might relate to the context of student activism today. Ask for volunteers to read their writing to the class.

Yesterday, I joined student activists and their allies at the March for Our Lives in Boston. It was a powerful and meaningful event for me. I haven’t ever done something like that before, and that was one of the reasons I went. I feel strongly about the issue of safety and schools, and I have ever since I was in college, preparing to become a teacher, and we first started hearing about school shootings. The organizers asked that adults hang back and let the students start the march, which began at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury and ran mostly up Columbus Avenue, ending with a rally at the Boston Common. During the rally, speakers included Leonor and Beca Muñoz. Beca is an alumna of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who now attends college at Northeastern and her younger sister Leonor is a current MSD student who survived the shooting. Leslie Chiu, another MSD alumna who also attends Northeastern, spoke as well.  Harvard University student Reed Shafer-Ray lost a friend to suicide and spoke about a couple of bills before the Massachusetts legislature that might have helped save his friend’s life. Graciela Mohamedi, a teacher who was a former US Marine spoke on behalf of teachers, including highly trained teachers such as herself, who do not want a gun.  A former child soldier from the Democratic Republic of the Congo also spoke about escaping from violence—I regret I didn’t get his name, and it would seem none of the news outlets covering the event did either. If someone finds it, let me know in the comments, and I will update this post.

This was my view as I began marching.

It was heartening to see so many people coming out to support our young people. These adults were, as Clifton describes in her poem, “blessing the boats.” This is not going to be an easy fight for them, but based on what I’ve seen, they have got this one. There were volunteers registering people to vote at the rally. I can remember being in college and being fired up to act politically for what I believed in. There is a lot of energy in these young people. There is some energy in their allies, too.

I could barely keep up with this guy, who started out right in front of me at the march but outstripped me somewhere along the route.

Some of the signs were really clever, and there were a few I wish I’d been able to capture. One, for instance, had a great drawing of Angela Davis along with her comment, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

The English teacher in me was happy to see literary references.

There were definitely a lot of teachers there. I was behind three teachers talking about Paulo Freire near the beginning of the march.

I’ve been criticized before for being political on this blog. I’m supposed to shut up and share lesson ideas, I guess. Freire says, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” I’m not going to side with the powerful against my students. Freire also says, “This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well.” As far as I’m concerned, I’m with the kids. I’m just here to bless their boats.

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.

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.

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

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.

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):


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.

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.


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.

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.