Posts In Category Reflections
I have no idea who JW Eagan is. I could probably look him/her up but it might ruin the magic of this quotation for me.
Just think of all the times you’ve been disappointed by a movie after having read the book. The scenes never match. The actors do not look like the characters. Favorite scenes are left on the cutting room floor.
I’m a member of a teacher book club. We read the book then watch the movie. Sometimes we’ll go out afterword to dinner to discuss the two, but just as often we’ll stand outside the theater and argue the finer points.
Join us online or in person. We’d love to have you!
“We’ll be meeting with Steven’s parents this afternoon after school. If you’re available, his parents would like to meet with all the teachers.”
I opened up Steven’s composition notebook to check the composition he’d written this afternoon. In 50 minutes, he’d managed to write 23 words. I responded “will attend”.
The other teachers were already there: both his math teachers, his band teacher, and the science teacher. The math teacher told us that she’d called Steven’s parents after she’d seen a recent test. Scrawled across the page were the letters IDK, I don’t know. The science teacher opened Steven’s science notebook and was relieved to point out that Steven was doing all his science work. The band teacher didn’t have a notebook but was happy to report that Steven was doing well with the flute.
Steven’s parents arrived with Steven in tow. His mother was in charge. She began by apologizing for not attending Meet the Teacher night but was grateful we’d all taken the time to meet with them on a Friday afternoon.
She then let us know that she’d been having problems with Steven’s aggression recently. “He’s so angry” was repeated throughout the meeting. She continued by letting us know that Steven has had aggression problems ever since his last concussion.
His last concussion?
“He’s had four,” his mother informed us. “Two of them were severe enough that he had seizures. One was bad enough that he ended up in a temporary coma.”
I think we were all wondering how they happened. Steven is only 12!
“The last one happened in February 2012.”
Steven’s father nodded in agreement.
“It happened while he was playing a pick-up game of football. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and hit his head on the sidewalk. He had seizures for a while but the MRI says he’s okay now. But he’s been angry ever since.
“The one before that happened when he slipped in a swimming pool. It was just temporary. He had a headache for a couple of days, that’s all. He was nine.
“The one before that happened when he was….” She counted back on her fingers before continuing, “Seven. He slipped in the bathtub but was fine.”
I looked back at Steven’s notebook as I reflected. Steven is a very energetic child, hyperactive even. Surely all these concussions were enough to warrant a 504.
“The first concussion,” she took a deep breath before continuing, “happened when he was five. Steven was raped when he was five. During the attack, he hit his head. He was unconscious so he doesn’t remember much.”
Steven nodded silently as tears slid down his cheeks.
“It was his sister,” his mother continued. “She was eight. Steven was five.”
She stopped to stroke Steven’s head and wipe away a tear.
Steven wiped his face on his sleeve.
“His sister was taken away. She’s been living in a halfway house and receiving therapy for the last six years.”
She took another breath. Steven’s father wrapped his arm around his wife.
“She came home this week. She came home yesterday. Last night, she tried to kill Steven. She was choking him. We called the people and they took her away.”
Steven was crying silently. His mom continued to stroke his hair.
“They’re bringing her back next week. She needs to be with her family, they say. She needs to be socialized before she’s an adult. She’s 15 now.”
Steven turned his back on us.
I looked at the table as I realized we were way over our heads. Steven needs a counselor. ‘Of course, he wrote IDK on his math test. He has more important problems going on right now,’ I thought.
His mother looked at us.
“But it’s no excuse. He needs to focus on his schoolwork. It’s his future.”
We talked with the parents and Steven for another 30 minutes. We made plans. We tried to figure out ways we could work to help Steven.
And my heart breaks every time I think of what Steven has gone through and what he will continue to undergo. No one deserves the kind of life he’s had. What can I do to help him?
Fifth period is my challenge class. You know the class–it’s composed of students who should never have been placed in the same class.
They’re not bad kids. They’re just… rambunctious.
After four days of having them, though, I’m seeing signs of progress.
The first thing is to establish a routine and stick to it. To tell you the truth, it’s often at the expense of the better behaved students and classes. The result, though, is worth it.
- Students enter the class quietly.
- Because our library isn’t open yet, students select a novel off the shelf to read. Once the library opens, students will bring in their own novels.
- Once they have selected their books, they go to their seats and read silently for 10 minutes. (I have a timer. It doesn’t start until everyone is quiet and at least pretending to read. If a student stops reading, the timer also stops. It resumes once everyone is back to reading.) This class’ record is 18 minutes to read for 10.
- The Mini-Lesson – I present the mini-lesson as slowly as necessary. I stop whenever a student isn’t paying attention, take a deep breath, and wait for the student to resume their focus before preceding. In this class, the mini-lesson can take twice as long as it would in other classes.
- The Activity – During the Activity, students are allowed to put their knowledge to use and to go to the restroom. Once the Activity is completed, the students may return to reading.
- DJ, a basketball player, entered the room quietly for the second day. She actually sat down and read.
- Sly was able to stay on task for the entire period.
- Frankie loves being the class librarian. He has stopped bothering the other students and the position allows him to get up to clear his nervous energy.
Now to deal with 7th period.
24 hours ago, I was preparing for the Kimbell Event. Two teachers who had planned to attend had to cancel: one teacher’s father had a heart attack on Monday and she was on her way to Oklahoma to be with him; the other teacher had unexpected family pop in on her. I nearly cancelled for the same reason: I had unexpected family pop in for a visit but I was able to foist them off on others so I could host the event. Who would show up?
I was astonished by who showed up: a teacher from California.
As it turns out, only one other teacher came but what a story! Lora was not in any way connected with DEN. Instead, she is the distant relative of a friend who had heard about my event through Facebook. Lora is from San Francisco and on her way to visit family in the Northeast. Her flight was cancelled, rerouted, etc. and she found herself stranded for the day in DFW. She asked for ideas of stuff to do on Facebook to while away the time and someone pointed her in my direction at the Kimbell. Thus, we met.
Lora doesn’t use Discovery; she’s not even sure they have it available at her school but she’s going to ask. We spent the afternoon talking about school, Discovery, lesson planning and curriculum, art, and how to use art in the classroom. We ended up visiting both the Kimbell and the FW Museum of Modern Art. We both found art we thought we could use in the classroom. We both had ideas for lesson plans by the time we left.
She asked for information about DEN, which I was able to supply. I’m hoping she left as inspired by me as I was by her.
Even though it was just the two of us, I’m glad I didn’t skip the event. I feel I made a very important contact… and perhaps a new friend.
From my book review on GoodReads
In 2012, I was selected to be a giver in the US’ first World Book Night giveaway. I was given a list of 30 books to provide to reluctant readers from which I was to choose three titles as possible giveaways. In addition to Because of Winn Dixie, I chose Friday Night Lights and Speak. World Book Night and Barnes and Noble selected Because of Winn Dixie as my giveaway book.
I hadn’t read the book nor had I seen the movie. To introduce World Book Night to the students selected from ESL and remedial classes, I bought and played the movie. (Watching the movie first is a “best practice” for ESL students. The movie provides a visual context for the book.) To lure students to this afterschool activity, I provided Oreos and fruit juice.
13 students showed up. Several students began reading the book as the movie was running. A small group of ESL students held commentary as the movie played. All the students appeared pleased with receiving their very own copy. One child, Lester, couldn’t believe that he was getting his very own book. (He’s in the foster care system and carries all his belongings in a plastic bag.)
Over the course of the next several weeks, students would drop by and let me know where they were in the book. Lester asked if he could borrow the movie to watch at home as he read. I lent it to him over Spring Break. Later, he asked if he could have another copy of the novel. Some boys had bullied him and torn out the pages before he was done. Fortunately, I had extras.
I donated the extra copies of the book to the medium security prison my mother works at. She runs a program at the prison wherein the prisoners record themselves reading books aloud. The books and recordings are sent to the prisoners’ children so that the children have books read to them by their parents.
Last night, in a final effort to put off doing my summer homework, I finally read Because of Winn Dixie. It’s a charming book and I can see its appeal. Animal and dog lovers will appreciate the good qualities of Winn Dixie, the dog. Both children and adults can appreciate the loneliness of a girl moving to a new town as well as the loneliness of her father, an abandoned husband. Parents in my very conservative school will appreciate the “Christian” feel to the book which never feels preachy.
I really, really appreciate Kate DiCamllo’s afterword. I think I’ll be adopting her mantra “writing is seeing” as part of my theme for the next school year.
Note: I have posted this book as one of my books for reluctant/struggling readers on Pinterest