SOL Saturday the 28th: On Discovering Nancie Atwell through Anna Cockerhill of Two Writing Teachers

Anna Cockerhill of Two Writing Teachers tweeted articles about Nancie Atwell, the winner of a $1,000,000 Global Teacher Prize. Ms. Atwell has written books and even founded a school: The Center for Teaching & Learning in Maine. I read the article by Jordan Shapiro at Forbes, who was at the ceremonies in Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). What an exotic setting for such a prestigious award! The Ruler of Dubai/UAE Vice-President was in attendance, as was Bill Clinton!!

Mr. Shapiro was already a fan of Nancie Atwell before the event and was hoping she’d win when the ten finalists were named. Shapiro proclaimed that Ms. Atwell is “empathetic, creative, and playful” in an era when such qualities are not esteemed enough. Shapiro also observed that Ms. Atwell “prioritizes student autonomy, voice, and empowerment.”

You can follow the school on Facebook; reading the “About” section was all it took. They’re art-friendly, have units that combine social studies and science, and special no bullying prevention.

Being a part of Slice of Life has made me more optimistic through stories like the Nancie Atwell saga.  It’s essential to be able to defend the philosophy of your textbook. A few years ago, I discovered the sustainability in composition work of Derek Owens of St. John’s University at the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) website. Dr. Owens urges teachers to let students write about their environment. Let them be good reporters. Then I found the #You Matter paradigm of Angela Maiers of Iowa because I followed her back on Twitter while my jaw dropped to the floor. Now we’re even friends on Facebook too. I really love her article in which she explains that heart-breaking things are your passion because you want to do something about it.

Cyberspace has expanded networking exponentially; meeting like-minded educators happens without leaving the house. Hang in their fellow Slicers; now we’re a little community.

SOL 15: Two Funny Ways to Teach Beginning Grammar, 3-26-15

How about hearing a couple of funny ways I taught beginning English grammar? The vast majority of our L-Squared audience isn’t retired, so I’m going to share some memories this morning.

A great man once wrote that if the students can identify prepositional phrases, then they’re more likely to find the subject and not make subject-verb agreement errors. I bet it was John Langan. The typical basic sentence structure in English is Subject-Verb-Object.

Prepositions are usually about space. Here’s a way to illustrate the relationship, “The teacher threw the eraser over the students’ heads.” Yes, I really threw it! Moreover, most prepositions start with the letters “a,” “b,” “o,” “u,” or “t.” I pointed out that feature on my handout or in the textbook too. It’s good to do something funny in the first week of the semester to build the teacher-student relationship.

Here’s another funny antic. Fragments are incomplete statements while a sentence has a subject, verb, and expresses a complete thought. However, “I type,” is a sentence, for it expresses a complete thought and an object isn’t required. “Drives to the basket after a fake in the opposite direction,” is a fragment because there’s no subject. One could change “drives” to “drive” and have an imperative order-giving (coaching?) statement because “you understood” would be the subject. Certainly adding a subject pronoun (he/she) or someone’s name to the start of the sentence would make a good sentence as well. Yes, I actually demonstrated  that favorite basketball move!

Furthermore, teachers who move around the classroom have better class control. Appearing stuck behind the desk may make one look stiff or scared.  Obviously walking up  to a loud student’s desk is a far more common tactic. Normally this is an issue for younger grades, but a remedial English class isn’t exempt from junior high style disruption by the students. By the way, I also substitute taught in all grades: PK through 12 as well as teaching college level Developmental English and Adult ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).

I hope the Slice of Life audience found these two stunts amusing and will consider doing them some day. Maybe you could do them for review because we’ve passed the mid-point of the semester!

March 3rd #SOL15: It’s Payday!

The 3rd is payday–actually disability check day, COPD in my case. It’s a day of scurrying around to pay bills and buy groceries. I no longer drive. I walk or ride the city bus. I’ve become so well-versed in the bus routes and times that I was recruited to switch to the new transportation committee of the East TX Human Needs Network (ETHNN). Our other committees are education, health, employment, and housing.

My first trip this morning was the Family Dollar to buy really cheap stuff, such as paper products, liquid bath soap, and a bar of dark chocolate–all really a dollar. After a beer stop for later in the day, I visited a former student who works at the cell phone store in the same shopping center. Now she’s married with two kids, some twelve years later after our Developmental English class. I went to her dad’s regional Mexican karaoke a few Fridays ago and sang a couple myself a norteno song and a duranguense song.

Then it was time to watch a compulsory Rockford Files episode–starring the late, great James Garner as a private detective in Los Angeles who lives in a mobile home on the beach. After some rooting around on the Internet with my cellphone alarm keeping track, I galloped to the Purple South bus and headed for Brookshire’s Grocery in Bergfeld Shopping Center–the second hub of the Tyler Transit too. Besides splurging on food, that’s where I get my cashier’s check for rent. Recently, I’ve become a smart shopper who really looks for bargains in the mailbox insert with pen in hand. Sorting heavy groceries into two canvas bags (one lined) preceded the wait for the ride home. I sat next to my new bus friend who was grappling with a scratch-off game.

Once I got home, it was time to lay down with my albuterol nebulizer, while watching news on MSNBC with the volume turned up., for I was exhausted. Then it was time for one more errand before a couple of episodes of “Two-and-a-Half-Men,” in the early Charlie Sheen. Finally, I went to visit friends at Stanley’s Famous Bar-B-Q, and I live just two doors away–really convenient to a well-known restaurant. Now I’m hurriedly typing this Slice of Life while watching J*A*G, the Navy lawyer show.

I prefer living in business districts over residential. My neighborhood is called Midtown, aka. The Hospital District. I can reach stores, pharmacies, restaurants, banks, and doctors fairly easily–even by COPD standards.