I am “big girl” hear me roar

I’m reading The Giver by Lois Lowry with my 8th graders.

Student: Ms. Kaufman, is Lois Lowry a boy or a girl?

Me: She’s a woman.

Student: Oh, so she’s a big girl.

Other Student: No, she’s an old girl.

Me: (hand to forehead) big sigh.

Thank goodness feminism isn’t dead.

Goodreads for all

I recently started sharing book recommendations and reviews with my students on Goodreads. They are required to keep a reading list through out the year and I thought this would be a fun way to take it on-line and give them access to each other’s lists.  If you don’t have experience with goodreads, it’s basically social networking for book nerds.  You can add and review as many books as you want and when you “friend” people you can see what they’re reading and check out their reviews.

I thought about creating a separate account when I started sharing with my students but due to time constraints and laziness, I just use my personal account.  It’s not like I’ve reviewed Anais Nin on there or anything.  Besides, most of them are too busy messaging each other to care what I’m reading.  I had no idea there was even a messaging feature until my students found it within 4 minutes of being introduced to the site.

This is a long introduction to the idea of older versus younger YA.  Often on book review sites  books for young adults will be described as 15 and up.  I teach 12-14 year-olds with varying levels of life and literary experience.  Sometimes I will get really excited about a book and describe it to my students only to realize that it’s probably not a book they should read without parental approval.  Oops.

My most recent YA read The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Gothgirl is one of those books. I read it and would recommend it highly…but only if you’re 15 and up.

Inference 101

While reading an article about lung capacity my 7th grade students marveled at a picture of Dizzy Gillespie blowing on his trumpet.

Students: Who’s that?

Me: That’s Dizzy Gillespie.  He’s a famous jazz musician, but I don’t think he’s alive anymore.

Student: (shouting) Is he dead?!

Me: Mmmm, yep.

Shifting perspective or peeing alone

I used to think my job was really exhausting because of the emotional presence required to be an effective teacher.  Since having a baby 8 months ago and subsequently returning to work I’ve gained new perspective on what being present can really mean.

As exhausting as being a teacher is,  I get a prep period.  I get to eat lunch (for 17 minutes) and I get to pee alone.

Cultural hypocrisy?

I admit that at times I’ve been lax with the books I lend to my students.  I forget that being raised by hippies means I was allowed to read pretty much whatever I want whenever I wanted.  On occasion I’ve had to deal with an angry parent who felt the subject matter of the book I lent out was too much (It’s almost always about sex.)  Keep in mind these are all YA books.  It’s just that some YA books are more appropriate for the 12-15 set and some are more appropriate for the 15 and up crowd.

I take full responsibility here and try to get a note from parents whenever kids pick up one of my books from the “special shelf”.  But it’s hard to keep on top of it and frankly I get really excited whenever anyone shows excitement about reading.  Reading can be a hard sell in the days of IM, video games, movies, and youtube.

So I find it interesting that the same parents who object to sexuality in their child’s reading material are fine with the contents of The Hunger Games.  I have a number of 8th graders reading this book.  I read it.  It was a gripping page-turner.  But it is violent and graphic and disturbing.

Sex, drugs, or violence?  What would you let your 8th grader read?

Writing about writing

I’m trying to get back into blogging at least once a week.  I thought I would start off with some quotes and words of wisdom I keep posted in my classroom regarding writing.

I love to read and I love to teach reading.  I love to write but I don’t love teaching writing.  Why not?  I’m not sure.  Maybe a post for another time.

In the mean time, the first mini-poster I share with my writing students at the beginning of the year says; “I will not hate what I write.”  I got this from my Dad who has been working on a novel for over ten years.  He uses it as a mantra and a reminder to write and not judge.  I tell my students this early because I want to teach them to put away their inner critic while they’re brain-storming or drafting.  If they don’t, they’ll never get anything on paper.  “First drafts are supposed to suck,” I tell them.  (Yes, yes, I use the word suck to seem edgy and cool.  It doesn’t really work.)

Got a favorite quote or mantra about writing?

Long time, no blog

I could offer excuses, but I won’t bother.  None of them are interesting or original.

I’m back at work in the past few days, and trying to achieve some sort of balance between my mothering world and my working world.  So far, so good.  Even though it feels hard and overwhelming at times, it also feels right.  Teaching is always a good source of blog material.  I asked my students on an introductory questionnaire, if they could have any super power what would it be?

Me: So what did you write down for your super power?

Student: Migrating!

Me: (impressed) Really?  Wow, cool choice!  Yeah you could just flap your arms and fly south!

Student: (annoyed) No, not migrating, mind-reading!

Time to get my ears checked.

Teacher and writer

Being 9 months pregnant is not necessarily a great time to evaluate and judge one’s life choices.   However, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my writing life and my teaching life.  They intersect in some wonderful ways.  Teaching adolescents definitely gives me an ear for how they speak and what’s interesting to them.  On the other hand teaching is also incredibly draining and often leaves me too pooped to write at the end of the day.

I’ve often said/thought that if I won the lottery I still wouldn’t want to write full time.  I’m definitely a social animal and I enjoy the structure and community that school creates.   I don’t really want to see teaching as my “day” job and writing as my dream, mostly because it’s just not true for me.  They’re both fulfilling to different parts of me.

Perhaps this is coming up as I think about the time and energy that this new person is going to require from me, and I’m wondering how my writing life will survive and emerge?  It doesn’t help that everyone loves to tell pregnant people to enjoy their alone time because it’s the LAST TIME THEY’LL EVER HAVE ANY!  People just love to have something to say.

Day job or dream job?  How do you negotiate it all?

Top secret info.

My students find it very irritating that I don’t know the gender of my baby AND that I refuse to tell them what we’re thinking about naming it.  Here was the latest exchange today.

Student:  So you really don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl?

Me: Nope

Student: Do you know what you’re going to name it?

Me: We have some ideas, but they’re top secret.

Student:  Really?  You’re not going to tell us?

Me: Nope, we haven’t even told our parents our ideas!

Student:  (appreciatively) Ooh, that’s sassy!

Styrofoam balls

Today in class we were using styrofoam balls and the overhead projector to recreate the phases of the moon.  I had the boys go first since there weren’t enough balls for everyone to go at the same time.  I’m very careful when discussing this demo to avoid referring to the props in the plural form.  Here were a few of the choice comments:

Student:  Hey, tell him to move.  His head is blocking our balls.

Me: It’s time to switch and give the girls a turn.

Other student:  Should we give the girls our balls?

(Must keep straight face.  Must keep straight face.)