Friday, January 21, 2011


Last week I had the pleasure of working with a consultant from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.  While in our building, he modeled writing lessons for teachers. I’ve conferred with kids for years.  I’ve led book studies on conferring, How’s it Going?  However, we can always learn something new!  It was laid out like this…

Three things to address in a conference:

1. Collect research – Where is the student in the process? How’s it going? Take notes to document evidence/set goals.

2. Give compliment – Point to the spot in the student’s writing and name what he is doing well so he will make the connection.

3. Teach – Find one thing he can improve.

While I probably do these things and I typically like students to show me three areas where they have questions, I’ve not seen it broken down in this way before.  I especially like the idea of the compliment. And to steal from a dear friend, I like telling kids during a conference what smart thing they are doing as a writer.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Goals for 2011

I know, I know, I'm a little late to the game...

1. Get published.
Well, last year I worked on this. I took a professional writing course facilitated by Joan Richardson, editor of Kappan Magazine (formerly Phi Delta Kappan). My dear colleague and I wrote an article and submitted it for publication to Educational Leadership. We were rejected - Ouch! Now we want to rework our piece and submit to another journal.

2. Read more books.
The past two years, I’ve been stuck on 45 books per year. I’d like to move that to 50 books! I constantly have a running list of books to read, so I’m in no shortage for titles from which to choose. However, I find myself frittering away time in other areas…can we say mindless tv and Facebook?!

3. Blog more often.
Well, since my move and acquiring a new job, the blogging during the second half of 2010 was abysmal. I want to do better. I’ll attempt to blog three times per month. I’m trying to find my groove/area of focus as a blogger, so that’s definitely something I want to explore.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Reading Year, 2010

As we begin a new year, I like reflect on what I’ve read in the previous year.  In 2010, I read 45 books (same as 2009, incidentally).  Since I keep a digital bookshelf on, it allows me to rate and review books as I read them.  I try to do this as soon as I finish, while the book is fresh on my mind.  Sometimes, looking back, I wonder about my rating…Why did I rate that book so high?  Why didn’t I rate that book higher?  These questions make me think about how books resonate with us over time.  Below are a few of the best that I read in 2010.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Marion Stone, a surgeon, has an extraordinary life. He is raised by two doctors from India who practice medicine in Ethiopia. Marion and his twin brother, Shiva, are raised in Ethiopia in the mission hospital where their parents practice. It’s no surprise when both brothers become surgeons. This is heart-wrenching tale of family struggles, civil unrest and how the choices we make impact the rest of our lives and our family.

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
17-year-old Terra must figure out what defines beauty. Born with a large port-wine stain birthmark covering her entire cheek, she has spent years covering it up and trying various surgeries for removal. As she conceals her birthmark daily to conform to society’s definition of beautiful, she also conceals so much more of herself – including her dysfunctional family.
A powerful novel about beauty, acceptance, art and destiny.

"Inertia is so easy - don't fix what's not broken. Leave well enough alone. So we end up accepting what is broken, mistaking complaining for action, procrastinating for deliberation."

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
"I realize now that dying is easy. Living is hard." 17-year-old Mia must make a difficult choice - to stay or to go. After a tragic accident, Mia is in limbo between life and death. She sees everything from outside her body, which is beautifully woven with flashbacks of times with her family and friends - most memories are centered on the music she loves.  What will be strong enough to compel Mia to stay?

After by Amy Efaw
How can an intelligent, driven, high school athlete block out nine months of her life?  The protagonist, Devon Davenport, is a high school sophomore, honor student, star soccer player, etc. She meets a boy, has sex once, and gets pregnant. However, she is totally in denial the entire pregnancy (which she is able to hide from everyone) and the denial continues when she delivers the baby and abandons IT in a trash bag. She has a major mental disconnect about the sex, pregnancy, delivery and aftermath. A very compelling story about how one’s drive and ambition can cloud one’s reality.

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink (enough said on this in previous blog posts)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
In the 1950s, a doctor at John Hopkins harvested cells from Henrietta Lacks’ cervix.  Ms. Lacks was an indigent, African American woman.  Her cells were the first to reproduce in a lab and since that time have been used to develop the polio vaccine, study cancer, viruses, in-vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping.  Billions of these HeLa cells have been bought and sold and used for research, all unbeknownst to the family.  The story traces HeLa cells from the 50s until today as the author works with Henrietta’s family to find answers to all their questions.  Raises questions about scientific research and compensation, especially when unknown to the patient.

That was my reading year for 2010.  Next up, reading goals for 2011.