Sunday, October 4, 2015

Starting Over

I guess I fell off the blogging wagon for awhile, but I am back! And I am trying to focus on this new school year, new goals, new blogs posts, and my new students!

So, here goes! I am excited to get back to blogging for myself, but I am even more excited about blogging with my new group of students.  At the end of last year, I gave my students a survey about their blogging experience. While not every single student had glowing remarks, many commented that they believed blogging helped them become a better reader and writer!  This was a totally anonymous survey, so I am going to take this as a major win!  But, like most teachers, I want to work on improving this practice for this year.  I want to find some ways to make blogging more fun, especially for those negative Nellys that had nothing nice to say about blogging (there were only a few, but man, the kids that hated blogging, REALLY HATED blogging). And, although my first instinct is to dismiss their criticisms as nothing more than unfounded complaints from a few crabby, lazy, unmotivated slackers, I know that I need to take this opportunity to reflect, refine, and redevelop how I use blogging in my classes.

(Maybe they would have liked blogged more if Ryan Gosling was reading and commenting on their blogs.)

My first and, if I do say so myself, best idea for the new year is Blogging Buddies! One of my favorite writing memories from my own childhood was having a Pen Pal.  Remember those?! How exciting it was to get an actual, physical letter in the mail from this semi-mysterious individual, somewhat like yourself, but also seemingly a world away.  So, I am trying to recreate this for my kiddos.  I posted a message on Facebook, putting out feelers into the social media world, to see if I could find any other middle school teachers willing to embark on this journey with me and my new classes.  I was pleasantly shocked by the immediate response! Within hours, multiple friends had reposted my message, offered to reach out to their colleagues, and responded showing interest in participating themselves!  I was overwhelmed by the offers!  One of the many people who reached out to me was a friend I met in nursery school - about 28 years ago! She now lives in Arizona and is also a middle school teacher. It's amazing how small the world can feel at times!

Then, just this past week, I was lucky enough to attend the Illinois Reading Council Conference in Peoria - also known as Disneyland for reading teachers! As I was walking to have breakfast with Donalyn Miller (I'll get to her and the other amazing presenters at the IRC in another post), I ran into my 8th grade ELA teacher!!! Mrs Joyner has always been one of my favorite teachers! Mrs Joyner, along with my 7th grade ELA teacher, Mr Gilman, helped mold me into the life long reader and learner I am today.  They challenged us with Shakespearean texts in middle school, encouraged us to write poetry on furniture, exposed us to the world outside our classroom! Every day was an adventure in their classrooms! So, you can imagine, I always geek out a little whenever I see them! I'm still in awe of their ability to inspire.  But I am extremely lucky because Mrs Joyner has agreed to try blog buddies with me! I can't wait!

(Me and Mrs Joyner at the IRC - Clearly, I'm terrible at selfies.)

I really think my kids will feel much more connected to their blog posts knowing they have an audience, besides me.  I'm also hoping that connecting to another middle school student will inspire them to express their voice in a new way. In addition, we will be blogging beyond the books. Students have already posted about their heritage, which was one of our school-wide vocabulary words that we discussed in conjunction with the poem Speak Up by Janet S. Wong. Take a look at their posts under the "My Kiddos" tab on my blog.

I have a feeling this is going to be a great year!