Class Notes: Writing: Broken Hearts, Dogs, & Shoes

There’s something about Back to School Night that’s inspiring. Meeting parents of students, even if only for a quick handshake, reinforces why I’m back in the classroom. Yes, it’s for the kids. But also for the parents, who work hard and put their trust in us to help guide their children along the sometimes rocky path of adolescence.

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The second week of school was still a bit disruptive with the interruptions caused by testing. Knowing I see each group of kids for about 8 weeks, I’m feeling the time crunch.

I’m working on lesson plans. Having left the classroom so long ago, I have only a few student artifacts to use as models. What I do this quarter will give me some for the rest of the year, though I’ve never been a teacher who can simply pull a lesson from a file drawer, re-date and reuse. Every class and every student has different needs and lessons need to be tweaked.

The plan is to have them answer a “Do Now” question in their notebooks—the entire school uses composition notebooks for all work. Then a mini-lesson, demonstrating something about writing, then more time to write. I’ve created long term short story assignments for each class so students have something to do when they’re finished with the daily work and so they’ll experience the writing process of drafting, conferencing, revising and rewriting.

Students have been selecting some writing from their heart maps. One girl wrote, “broken” in block letters then wrote a long saga about a failed relationship. The next day, she crumbled up the heart and her writing, and asked for a new one, and a fresh start. Ah, the whims of teenagers.

There have been a few pet stories. One student wrote about how he misses a dog that died who doesn’t compare the two dogs he now has. I asked him if he’d mind if I used his story as an example on how to expand writing as a basis for next week’s lessons.

I received my school-issued computer so now need to take attendance every period, do all progress reports, grades, and disciplinary actions—there’s a merit/demerit system, on it. It’s a PC and I’m an Apple girl, so there’s a learning curve.

Of course one of the very fun parts of working is dressing for the job. Mostly skirts and tops, though the classrooms are air-conditioned, it still can be quite hot. I pick out my clothes the night before—a habit encouraged by my mother when I started school. I have fun selecting the right earrings and bracelets and for now at least, sandals. I’m an avid Dansko clog and sandal wearer and the past couple of weeks reminded me how annoyed I am with the company because they’ve discontinued favorite styles. I’d been composing a letter to them for years in my head and finally wrote it and emailed it.

I said:

…the styles in recent years have been hugely disappointing and offer none of the class or comfort of ones that have been discontinued. I’ve had strangers stop me ask where I got my turquoise Maxines or red Heloises. I can wear a pair of these sandals all day walking around New York City and never get a blister, no matter how hot the temperature. At school, colleagues ask me where I got my sandals and I direct them to you but have to tell them that the styles I have no longer exist…

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I received this response:

Thank you for your email.  I am so happy to hear how much you love your Danskos! 🙂  I will certainly share your feedback with our Product Development Team. 

The writer encouraged me to look at the company’s new styles scheduled for a January debut.

Oh well. No gift certificate. No guarantee they’ll consider my requests, but maybe a good writing exercise to share with students. You never know when writing a letter could have some affect.

 

 

 

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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15 Responses to Class Notes: Writing: Broken Hearts, Dogs, & Shoes

  1. Yes to the fun of dressing.

    The kids are lucky to have you! I snuck in some creative writing when I taught expository writing at the community college and was overwhelmed by how some of the poorest writers (by traditional standards) could produce such breathtaking pieces.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such great ideas! Cute that you wrote that letter to the shoe company. Next your students will be writing complaint letters… they always like that.

    I have the same problem (after a 6 year hiatus from teaching) as I’m faced with a binder of saved hand-outs that don’t necessarily work for this generation of students.

    I wish I had a teacher like you for English in 7th/8th grade. Those were my weakest years of writing. Thank G-d, I had good teachers in 9th grade and on.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember my 9th grade teacher and 4th. Most writing skills I learned as a newspaper reporter. Best training. I’m dealing with classroom management issues too. The kids have so much structure and rules that they have to let loose now and then… in my classroom. New teachers– no matter how old or experienced — are tested!!

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  4. What an interesting and adventurous choice you made, Lisa. Surely both you and the children will learn an enormous amount this year!

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  5. Remind me of the time that I wrote to Heinz because I didn’t like their ne baked beand. The sent me lots of coupons which I used for, you guessed it, Baked Beans. Great posts, new challenges and smiles every year.

    Like

  6. Pat Skene says:

    Great post Lisa. Good luck with your classes. I’m speaking to my first grade 9 class in a couple of weeks. I usually attend elementary schools. Maybe I should get a new pair of shoes for the occasion. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s great– do you find it difficult to get into schools as a self-published author?

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      • Pat Skene says:

        Not al all. They call me, I don’t go looking anymore…too exhausting. So I’m very selective about where I go. In October, I’m visiting a small elementary school in a tiny town…would never get an author there, mostly native children from nearby reserves. And I accepted the grade 9 gig locally becasue the project interested me. The 150 grade 9 students write a children’s story, then take it to elementary schools to validate and read to their young audience. This is part of the curriculum and I love the idea of it all. So I will go and kick off the programme this year.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Good for you Pat, have fun. I’m sure you’re an inspiration the students.

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  8. so glad you’re enjoying your class Lisa. You know…anytime I really like something, every time I fall in love with a product – they discontinue it! ❤
    Diana xo

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  9. Have fun. I know you are.

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  10. jmgoyder says:

    Lucky kids to have a teacher with such wisdom.

    Like

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