Monday, March 28, 2016

SOL #29: Spectacularly Ordinary

Monday, and the first day back at school after spring break.

I schlepp 45 new books into my classroom.  My "lesson" consists of letting kids look through them, and pull other books off the shelf.  I hope to get discussions going about how to better organize our classroom library so more kids make use of it, but many of that interpret my directions to mean "Hang out and chat with your friends while occasionally picking up a book when the teacher comes near."  Pernille Ripp makes this type of thing sound easier than it really is, probably because she actually has a plan of how to make it work.

Of course, there are plenty of kids who enter into the spirit of things.  There are some gasps of thrilling discovery as they paw through the books.  Kids who read over break share their recommendations.  I picked up a few books for particular students, and they all seem delighted.

I've brought in Some Assembly Required and give a quick blurb about it, not a full book talk.  Most of the students seem comfortable with the idea that the author was born with female body parts, but identifies as male.  In two classes someone says, "Like a tomboy?" and gets politely but clearly informed otherwise by classmates.   My mind is slightly blown by this.  I grew up in a liberal city, but we were not aware of the concept of transgender people, and if we'd heard of it, there would have been immediate and vicious mocking.  Here I am in a conservative rural town, and kids are completely unfazed.  What a difference a few decades can make.

Sixth period is ridiculous.  It's my tiny class--seven kids plus a TA.  Two other 8th grade girls have taken to visiting us from their study hall, since they're caught up on their work.  My staff of three gets some stuff done for me, but my actual students seem unwilling or unable to focus.  H. and V. bicker like siblings, something I thought we had gotten past.  N. is so scattered despite her good intentions that I begin to wonder if she has an attention deficit issue.  J. flat out refuses to pull out a book, so I try to put her to work looking up titles of new books to see if Common Sense Media indicates they should be on my PG-13 shelf.  C. finished her book over break, and loved it, and manages to find her next book.  A. spends the period watching videos about kids with horrific health issues.  She looks blankly at me when I redirect her.

When the day ends, my books are scattered all around the room.  I spend a solid hour puttering in the library.  We decided that series should get their own area, so I identify and move books, if I actually have the whole series, and note where I have holes.  I start new baskets based on student feedback: Latino authors, Latina authors.  Survival stories.  Living with physical and mental disabilities/differences.  I put together a sport basket, which reminds me how few sports-related books I still have.  I change up the books on display and wonder if it's too soon to bug our campus security guard and jack-of-all-trades about putting together my two-sided display shelf, which the principal ordered for my room.

It's a day, neither spectacular nor crushing.  I didn't lose my temper with the kid who reminds me oh so much of my son, but I didn't manage to get him engaged either.  I remember to sit and eat lunch and read a book, but I don't get any exercise.  The day is entirely unremarkable.  Forgettable.

But now I've marked it.

Written as part of the Slice of Life March writing challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers

Also, today would have been my dad's 84th birthday.  Happy Birthday, Daddy.  (This is him on his 80th, with all four daughters loving on him.)


  1. What a great photo of your family. Congratulations to your dad for his long life. Even unremarkable days are special.

  2. Happy Birthday to your dad, always will be a special day to you I know. What a day, unremarkable maybe, but it sounds like school to me, the different students, the different poses they show. You've described it well.

  3. I think every day that teachers spend with kids is remarkable. You are micromanaging so many things, even on an "ordinary" day. I'm now retired so reading your post reminds me of how much transpires in a classroom even on an "unremarkable" day. You still took the time to notice them and think about some of them in a caring way.

    1. You're right--there is a LOT going on in a classroom, no matter what.

  4. Wow - I wish I'd had you as a teacher when I was that age! And Happy Birthday wishes to your father, who looks like a delightful fellow!

    1. Well, thank you! I did not feel like the most successful teacher that day, so it's kind of you to say so.

  5. Sometimes ordinary days are the most important days! I reflected on this in the beginning of the month; I found it was one of the more thoughtful posts I wrote! Thanks for sharing!


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