My People

My People

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My Summer Institute Reflection

July 18

Summer Institute Reflection:

This morning on my drive into class, I heard a recording of Robin Roberts, anchor of Good Morning America.  She apparently underwent a bone marrow transplant last fall and has stayed incredibly emotionally strong through it all.  She frequently quotes her grandmother, who said, “Make your mess your message.”  It was the first time I had heard that saying, but it made me think of my journey this summer and the LMWP Summer Institute with my 16 fellows.

When I was first introduced to the project, there was a “mess” in my head.  It sounded like something I wanted to do, but what was it exactly that I would do.  My colleagues tried to assure me that it was writing and reading of my choice, both academic and personal.   I couldn’t envision how that would work, and what would I have to write about?  Plenty, it seems!

My next “mess” was my writing.  Not only what would I write about, but with what voice and for what audience.  Naturally, I settled into my own voice, my inner voice.  The voice of a 47-year-old wife, mother, and teacher.  I am sure I have other voices, but for now, this is my comfortable voice.  I have written about memories, immediate issue, such as middle age and poop, and about my daughter.

Another “mess” was my reading.  What would that look like?  We, my fellows and I, started off with a book “waterfall” of sorts, each choosing a book, perusing it for two minutes, and  passing it along.  (I am definitely using this with my students and their choice reading books!)  From that experience, I choose my first two reads, Rethinking Rubrics and Rethinking Silence in the Classroom.  I gleaned information from both of those and wrote my annotated bibliographies about them.

But when it was time to move onto book three and four, I was at a stand still.  Initially, I set out to read about Common Core, but no books on that subject were available.  Then Lindsay said something to Colleen in my reading group that freed me to read for myself, and I did.  My next two books were Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, both of which I have loved and plan to keep by my desk.  Beyond that I have quite a reading list.  I have purchase three books off Amazon, have four or five on hold through KDL, and have quite a growing Wish List on Amazon, including a Common Core book.

This reading fervor was a surprise to me.  I thought I’d focus on my writing this summer, but my thirst for academic reading has also be renewed.  Part of that I credit to just be back “on a campus.”  A college setting invites learning.  Plus, my fellows have inspired me and given me “food for thought,” as well as topics and experiences to investigate.

The changes I’d like to make personally and for next school year are still a “mess.”  I am hoping this afternoon to make a list of takeaways and things to remember.  So many of the teaching demonstrations had strategies I want to employ, such as Tom’s Silent Socratic Dialogue, but I also want to remember little insights.  For example, sometime yesterday, someone (Rachel maybe?) said that students want us to like their writing, and I realized that that, especially in beginning, was what I wanted from my writing group.  I wanted them to laugh at the appropriate times and voice the nuances of emotion they felt with a particular time.  Those gave me confidence to write more.  But am I that supportive of my students?  If I was, would they like writing more–and write more?

As a side benefit, I have embraced more technology.  Just using a laptop daily for me is new, and surprisingly, I am becoming better at it.  Also, I have chosen to use Google Docs, so I could access all my writing here and at home.  I had some exposure to it before, but not this much.  Then there is the blog.  I am going to start a personal one called “All Things Kim,” so I can keep my voice and blog about all parts of me, professionally and personally. might also be something I’ll look into for a classroom page.  There is a lot of pressure at our school for teachers to have their own websites, and I am starting to see some value in them, so it is a consideration.  Who knows, maybe there online teaching will be in my future!

Finally, what revisions to the institute need to be made?  Frankly, I am not sure any do.  In hindsight, I can see everything had a purpose from the interviews, to the first dinner, to the changing of seats, to the writing marathon.  We have been treated like adult professionals and have acted accordingly.  It will be an interesting change not to have Lindsay next summer, but I am sure Susan and Kari will add their own flavors.  Bravo, I say!


I have two colleagues in mind for next summer’s institute.  Both would be assets to the group as well as workhorses.  I sent their name to Sue Spears, but I will work on them on my end too.

I may also be interested in the Action Research.  I’d like more information on the requirements.

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Action Research

Action research sounds like something that should be on radio news.  I’d probably guess that teaching writing and giving valuable feedback would be my area of study.  After 24 years, I still don’t know if I am doing it “right” or, for that matter if there is a “right” way.  My current method is better–giving feedback in two stages on half of their essays at a time, but it is still more editing than revising.  How do I get kids to draft more, how do I manage the paper load?

Also, do my assignments need revamping, especially for Modern Lit.?  It seems like a lot of the beginning college writing classes are more narrative based.  Am I servicing those kids by having the write a five-paragraph, literary analysis?  How do I know?  What would be better?  Something more creative and personal?  Something to build their confidence as writers?

Thinking about Of Mice and Men, could I broaden it to writing about a friendship, a failed dream, a death, difficult decision?  Could they still write about the literature and incorporate something personal, meshing the two?

The great thing is that as far as I know, I am the only teacher for that course, so I could probably test-run the assignment without much grief.  I don’t think there would be any “harm” done with this type of assignment.  After all, there three more essays that I can do the “traditional” way if I decide to.  Hmmmm.

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My Math Anxiety

Math Anxiety

For me, math anxiety is a real thing.  How is it that I, who hasn’t had a math class in 27 years, still has math anxiety.  I actually have a recurring “nightmare” that I am in a college math class with a foreign-born, non-understandable-English-speaking professor, trying to prepare for an exam.  In the dream, I quit going to the class because of the language barrier, but I awaken one morning to remember that today is the exam, the one for which I have not studied.

When I have this dream, I startle awake to my 47-year-old’s bedroom, my husband sleeping soundly beside me, and remember that I do not have a math exam today.  In fact, it is within my control that I will never have another math exam, ever.  This dream does stem from a real experience though.  In my undergraduate studies, I had to take a not-for-credit, below-our-expectations-for-a-college-student, remedial math class.  And the professor was foreign and hard to understand, so I re-taught myself and passed the exam.  Apparently, I had more anxiety about that class that I’d like to admit.

But what is fascinating to me is that I still have this dream, several times a year, and that it is so frightening to me.

I have the privilege of teaching at the high school I attended.  So some of the teachers I work with were my high school teachers.  This is true for Mr. Babbitt, now just Bob.  I remember visiting his classroom one day during my first year of teaching and being dumbfounded by the nice, calming, hand-made posters he had on the wall.  One read something like: “Don’t be anxious.  Math isn’t bad.  I’ll help you through.”  Those weren’t the exact words, but that was the message.  Where were those posters when I was a kid?  Does “Bob” remember the B I worked my butt off for my senior year in Algebra II?  Apparently not.  (To his credit, he was a patient teacher.)

Another frequent dream is forgetting my locker combination and struggling to get it open, all the while, worrying about beating the bell to be on time for class.  The stress.  (Today, even as a teacher with the ability to write tardy passes for others, I am anxious if I can’t make it out of the bathroom before the bell to my own class!  I always tell my students that school is great training for prison.)  But because the locker combination involves numbers, I know this memory too hinges on my phobia of math.

My trouble all started when “they” attached letters to numbers.  I was good at fractions and loved geometry, but algebra, not so much.  It may have had more to do with Larry, my eventual first boyfriend, who sat beside me and was distracting to my adolescent mind.  (That whole experience should have been averted, but I was young and didn’t notice he was a senior in a freshman math class.)  When did X and Y start attaching themselves to numbers?  And who cares what’s the value of X anyway?  Not me.  Give me a sentences with all letters, and I can revise it for you, diagram it for you, but solve it for X, nope.

Plus, I am nearing 50, and to my knowledge, my math “deficiencies” haven’t hurt me.  I know what is important to me.  For example, I can tell you that something that is 3 for $1 means each item is 33 cents, and that if an item costs $20 and is 30% off, I’ll save $6, so the item will be $14 plus tax.  (Don’t ever forget the tax.)  I can measure a room and tell you the square footage or even the yardage needed for carpet, the same for walls for wallpaper or paint.  I can also balance my checkbook and look up my amortization schedule online for my mortgage payment–even if I pay more than required each month! So there, take that math geeks of America!  I feel functional enough!

I have a philosophy about math.  I have always thought that some people’s brains just aren’t ready to be taught certain types of math that are presented to them in school.  For instance, maybe if I had been taught algebra at 25, I would have been ready.  It’s that whole frontal- cortex-development-thing.  Or if it were taught when I had a need, like the carpet and wallpaper example, I’d be ready.

This philosophy was put the to the test this last year though.  My sixteen-year-old daughter is taking geometry, a course I loved and rocked in high school, if I might add.  But the course has changed.  I think math teachers are slipping in algebra  and maybe trigonometry into it.  I held my ground the first week or two, but after that I could only give my daughter blank stares when she asked me a question.  Now, I refer her to her teacher or Aunt Karol who is a math teacher.  I also bought her a $100 calculator (on sale, thank you very much), but I can barely turn it on, let alone, help her use the thing.  I am hoping there is refresher calculator instruction the first week of Algebra II, or we are both in trouble.

But, I still contend that given the right “atmosphere,” I, an intelligent, three-degreed English teacher, could learn math if I wanted to.  I just don’t seem to want to.  Maybe I will when my brain is more developed.

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My People

Today, our writing prompt was about our “go-to” person “professionally speaking.”

My person:  My intellectual person

I don’t think I have one person.  There are a handful at work that I call upon.  Becky, Donna, Doug, Dave, and Erica are the ones I talk to the most.  Doug is a tidal wave of knowledge; Dave has the knowledge but is gentler and reassuring; Donna is a deep thinker, philosophical; Becky is practical, a friend in the trenches; and Erica is enthusiastic and techy.

I am blessed.

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50-Word Saga

Getting to know your peers via the 50 Word Saga

Due: Monday, July 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm

50 Word Sagas

Tell us about yourself in EXACTLY 50 words. (It’s not easy.) Use your words carefully and respectfully. Don’t bother with the insignificant words. If you’d like, post a picture of yourself.  

Respond to as many peers as you possibly can. Treat this forum like a traditional ice-breaker. Make eye contact, listen carefully, be engaged, and interact with all the new people you meet. The difference– with an online class, all these actions are whittled down to reading and responding.

Here is my saga:

Mother of two, wife, Beagle owner, foodie: I love teaching, reading, chasing Oscar-nominated movies, and entertaining.  A Ram and Bronco grad, Falcon and Spartan mom, ArtPrize volunteer, this Tiger fan values education, sports, friends, and art. Must have’s: ice cream, sunbeam naps, over-sized sweatshirts, strong coffee, browned popcorn, and jazz.



Wife, mother, teacher, twin, friend. (How do they decide which will be on my tombstone?) Loves school, reading, and writing, as well as food, sweets especially ice cream, chocolate, and peanut butter. Love to travel, want to snorkel more, France and Italy next. Love my bichon frise Kip. That’s it!


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Evidence of Drafting/Revising

One of the requirements of LMWP is evidence of drafting/revision.  I did not save my writings in different stages, but I did use Google Docs, so my history is available.  Here are three of my pieces you can see evidence of drafting.

Karlee Will Never

Middle Age

Candy Store

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