Wednesday, May 30, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Courage

Today's word for for Daily Writing Habit is Courage.  This is one of my favorite words. Why? because I live by courage. As an extremely shy teenager growing up in the country I hid behind my writing. When my family would go camping I was fine playing with other kids around our campsite. However, I was never the one to make the first introduction. I tagged along after my older sister. When I got to school I hid behind reading. In first grade I chose to sit at recess and tutor those who struggled to read instead of getting out in the crowd of kids on the playground. I made friends. I had plenty of them. The problem was that as I grew older I kept close to that handful of kids. Middle School was difficult. I had one or two friends and if they weren't there I sat and read or wrote stories. However, I never shared those stories with others. What if they weren't good enough. When I moved to Florida my tenth grade year of high school it was really bad. I new a lot of people at the end of that first year, yet I chose to be friends with only one or two kids.  Micky Thompson was not someone I hung out with. He was someone I was good friends with. He was the first one to get me to talk to others. He was captain of the football team. I didn't think they would talk with people like me, you know the unpopular, not in the right clique people. He is the one who told me I have to learn to just open my mouth and not be afraid.  The class I met him in was the very class that almost ruined me. I had a teacher who had us write a story for history. I did. I poured my heart and soul into it. It broke my heart when I read it to the class and she said in front of everyone that it was a good thing I wanted to be a teacher because I'd never make it as a writer.  I believed her. She was the one who also taught me that I would never tell a kid what they could not do.  She didn't know me.

Nine-eleven happened and a story burned hot in my mind and soul, yet I didn't have the courage to write it. My husband believed in me and that is why "Steps to Courage" was written. I learned a lot about me by writing that fictional account of three teens who find themselves in the Twin Towers on 9/11.   Every day I am faced with new challenges and every day I have to take a deep breath and step out of my comfort zone. This is terrifying. That takes courage. Courage is doing what terrifies you the most because you want it and aren't going to let anything stand in your way.  I tell that child or teen who loves to write and has so many issues with their writing, or their first language isn't English, that I believe they have the bones of a great story. Then I show them some things they can do that can improve it. It takes courage to open up yourself to others.

Yesterday was the last day of school for our students.  I saw one of the most courageous sites ever. One of our graduating eighth graders took the biggest risk of his life. He is one of the smartest kids I know and yet his autism makes it difficult to try things that are of a sensory nature.  After our graduation ceremony and lunch the eighth graders had a dance. I watched in awe as this young man got out on the dance floor. Of course when he approached me I was shocked. I assumed he had gone home because he has problems with loud sounds. There he stood with cotton in his ears dancing. He participated in the different types of dances including the line dances. He did his best imitation of Michael Jackson's moon walk along with the other kids when the DJ asked for them to show it. He did all of this on his own, standing by himself.  Then I watched something miraculous happen. Because he was courageous enough to step out of his comfort zone onto that dance floor, other students came over and danced with him, showing him other moves. Was he the most graceful? No.  He had some fancy dance steps. I learned he had taken some dance classes over the summer. He and his mother have both stepped out of their comfort zones and pursued classes they felt would help them.  I look at students like this wonderful young man and ask myself how I can show other students my courage by doing things that are not in my comfort zone. Courage is my favorite word because I have to remind myself daily that I have to step out even though I am fearful. It takes courage to live doing things that are difficult. I tell my students that "Courage always begins with the first step." I take that step every morning. What does courage mean to you?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

20 Degrees From Normal by Anissa Ferris and Antonio Ferris

Genre: Children's Picture Book, Poetry
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

20 Degrees From Normal by Anissa Ferris and Antonio Ferris
This fun book of poetry was created by a brother and sister team. It isn’t only fun to read but has very subtle messages.  The very first poem, “Underappreciated Wheel” had be looking at wheels in a different way.  They carry all the weight on bikes, trikes and cars, yet no one ever talks about how wonderful they are. 
I teach middle school and I am here to say that my students would love this fun rhyming, quirky poetry.  I loved “Perfect Friend”. So often we want a “perfect” friend and after finding what we think they are we find that what we had before was much, much more.  “Skip” teaches that you have to do some preliminary things to be a success.
This book has something for everyone, old and young. I will enjoy adding this to my classroom library next year and providing a copy to our elementary school which will be merging with our school.  I highly recommend this book to teachers and parents.

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