Friday, October 31, 2008

get graphic

Happy Halloween!  This was a cake that a student made for our class - how sweet!  My costume was the Velveteen Rabbit :)

"Get Graphic" is the name of our public library system's promotional campaign to use graphic novels to reach struggling readers.  I started teaching Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and my students (grades 6, 7, and yes even 8) LOVE it.  Greg Heffley is the protagonist in Kinney's series - funny, annoying, exasperating, honest.  I highly recommend the Do-it-Yourself book - such an accessible, easy way for students who "hate" to read/write to start their own journal and, in my opinion, claim their human right to use language to assert their humanity.  OK, I just mean students NEED to grow confidence as readers and writers.

Next, we'll read The Arrival by Shaun Tan - a wordless graphic novel mixing fantasy and symbolism into an immigration story. The art is stunning, breathtaking.  You MUST read it.  My students don't have much background knowledge about immigration, so I'll probably use an easy connection like the movie "An American Tail" to introduce immigration themes.

Ultimately, my goal is a graphic family history project, in which students will interview a family member about an important event or person and then write a graphic narrative.  I'm going to build in some easy drawing lessons with help from the art teachers.  Well, that's the plan!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

a cold, bright day

At UB's homecoming game against Army today, I was cold, officially.  (No other reason to wear a random hat found in my husband's car.)  Truly "COOL" factors of this game - military planes "fly by" during national anthem, the Bronze Star awarded to UB student and ROTC cadet who served as medic in Iraq and helped save lives during enemy attack in March 2007 (picture shows the uniformed cadet on the jumbotron with wife and stepdaughter WHO IS MY STUDENT!), and oh yeah UB's overtime win ;)

Monday, October 13, 2008


This is Blackman Homestead Farm in Cambria, NY.  My friend Julie's parents own and operate the farm, which has apple orchards, turkeys, pheasants, pies, apple butter, cider, etc. , with the very hands-on help of Julie and her siblings.  We have been visiting annually since my daughter was a baby, even before I met Julie through a mutual friend.  We were there today and had fun picking crispin apples from the trees and selecting pumpkins.

We saw Julie as soon as we arrived at the farm today, right before she went to do something that relates to grape pie fillings (that she tried to explain and I couldn't grasp much).  The weather was warm and mild, and I began to think of family farm life in a romantic way, as in "Oh to work the land with loved ones, instead of in a packed institutional building with hormonal teenagers and harried colleagues".  I wondered what Julie would say if I ran to her and begged for a farm job.  So the downside of this otherwise perfectly lovely holiday weekend is too much time to think too much.

PS - Today's family farm visit is the opposite of our Great Pumpkin Farm visit yesterday.  The Great Pumpkin Farm is perfect for the urban and suburban folks to check out "the country" and spend a lot of money for rides and food and time in traffic.  Blackman Homestead Farm is a working farm that sells what it makes.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

fall holiday weekend

At the Great Pumpkin Farm, the girls climbed huge pumpkins (above).  Old jalopies accompanied mums, and the kids enjoyed rides and fed goats (below).

 Above - I'm sitting next to my father-in-law's grave.  We visited to say hi and water the flowers.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Jonathan Kozol made me cry

... during his keynote speech "Arts and the Aesthetics in the Age of Tests and Terror in our Nation's Public Schools" at the 21st Century Arts in Learning conference at the University at Buffalo Friday, October 3.  Kozol shared stories that inspired his newest book, Letters to a Young Teacher, and explained that the "young teacher" Francesca whose first grade, inner city Boston classroom he visited, loved her students, and he looked in No Child Left Behind and didn't find the word "love" in it.  That's when I cried.  Not surprisingly, he ranted and railed against NCLB robbing love and joy and beauty from urban schools.  His speech probably reflects how he thinks - in poetry, in tangents, with passion.

The top picture shows him wearing Keds sneakers just like Mr. Rogers!  Middle pic is me at his book signing.  Bottom pic shows what he wrote/drew in my book.  Love the halo!  (Why long hair?  He was talking to the woman in line before me when he signed MY book, and SHE had long hair.)

I attended the conference with fellow English teacher H from my school - so fun!