Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Sometimes we need to be pushed. I talk in my class about struggle. There is a notion pervasive in high schools that once things get hard' the thing to do is whine, to stomp, and to give up. Not always in that order. 

We all have times  in life where we want to do this. Yet, there are times when we must remember the notion of graceful struggle. 

This is how I describe it to my students: you try hard. You are putting forth your best honest effort and so me times even that's not enough. Well, friends, this is the he point where we need top ya close attention becauset his means that we are about to learn something. But we will only learn this thing if we listen closely to what the world has to tell us. This means the at we must stop in our tracks...become silent...and simply listen. This means the at the whining about assignments, or the prompt being too hard will not allow you to hear it. You must stop.

Sometimes in our stoppage we discover the best thing to do is ask for help. Other times, the best action is to revisit where we were and move forward. There are other times when it makes sense to go to the in telnet to try to find someone else who has experience in our area of struggle. And yes, there are other times still when the best thing to do is to go for a run, a bike ride, go to. A yoga class, cook a meal, whatever helps you breathe in your space and let go.

The thing with  graceful  struggle is that we work, to quote my good friend, to become the solution to whatever we are struggling with rather than to become a bigger part of the problem. My students are figuring this out. They ask questions, they come in for help...this is a really beautiful time of year for that reason. 

Struggle can be graceful.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Orange and Gray

Let me be clear, I am not a football fan. I don't understand the game. I finally figured out what a down was two years ago when the high school team where I work went to the state championship. The game, quite frankly, scares me with all the hitting and concussing and blows to the body.

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But this year I hopped on the bandwagon and got behind our team, the Broncos. They had a great season and even made it to the SuperBowl. Shouts of Omaha! could be heard on a daily basis in our school hallways. The city was draped in orange. Declarations of "Time to Ride" were displayed on FaceBook, Twitter, and every other social media site.

I even bought my first Broncos orange shirt to display my devotion to my team. Upon purchasing my shirt, I even told the cashier, "I don't think I've seen this much orange in Denver since the Orange Crush days," but I'm sure it fell on deaf ears since she wasn't even out of high school yet. These declarations that, yes, I was here back in the day the last time our beloved Broncos were any good was my own way of saying "I am a part of this."

To say the city was hopeful about the game is an understatement. There was an excitement in the air that our team is great. Orange was worn throughout our school halls on a daily basis. People felt like their allegiances could be made public. Heck, even I came out of the woodwork to show my support.

The hard truth is that we lost the SuperBowl game; we lost miserably. It was a bummer, and school yesterday felt like the land of zombies: people moving from class to class, nobody really wanting to talk about the game, a few die hards wearing their jerseys despite ridicule from the newest Seahawks fans.

This got me thinking how much like our struggling students my behavior has been. I teach kids who struggle with writing. They struggle for a lot of different reasons, but they all want to be better. They never come into this class thinking they want to struggle. My job is to help them move past their previous experiences with writing so they can grow.

Showing my support in my classroom.
Much like I hopped on board with the Broncos late in the season, many of my students hop on board with writing when they feel they might be successful. When they feel confident enough that they might actually be making progress, they begin to see how they are actually good writers, it's just a matter of tapping into their belief.

This means that I have to make explicit to them where they struggle so that they can see where they can make improvements. We celebrate even seemingly small accomplishments. And we write…we write a lot.

There are some students who end up in my class a second year. Most of these students are either on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), or they simply don't test well. I have students from honors and AP English courses who can write well, but give them a test and they don't perform - for whatever reason. In this case, my job is to help them bring their test scores up in English so they can prove they are College and Career Ready.

Coming back to Writing Lab, the course I teach, must be a lot like me coming to school the day after the Broncos lose the SuperBowl. I got on that bandwagon. I cheered for my team. I believed they could actually win, and they didn't. My students write a ton. My students work a ton. And sometimes, it just isn't quite enough to bring them over the tipping point.

So we do what we do: we brush off. We reassess. We reevaluate what we're doing. We vow to work together and we do our best. After all, isn't that all we ask of anyone: do your best. We ask that of our teams, do your best and we'll be behind you. We ask that of one another in the classroom: do your best and I'll do my best, and hopefully it will all work out.