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Represent: Five Minute Friday

It’s finally Friday and time to sit down and breathe for a few minutes as I join my Five Minute Friday writing group on this week’s prompt: Represent.

One of my greatest joys as an educator is watching my students grow. Already this school year I’ve witnessed students gain knowledge and new ideas. The student who came in on day one and refused to do anything is now actively participating in class. Laughter and learning fill my classroom as ninth graders enjoy the environment we’ve created over the last month.

A major shift that I have made this year is reframing what a grade represents in my class. Gone are the days where teachers could get away with giving grades based on behaviors. Turning work in on-time is a life skill, but if the work is late (and correctly done) what should the grade measure?

I’ve wrestled and fought to get myself out of the mentality that grades represent the overall efforts in the classroom. I set absolute deadlines at the end of every unit, but there are no penalties until that point on a student’s grade. There are other punitive measures, of course. But the biggest shift in my mind has been that grades should represent learning not behaviors. Turning work in late is a behavior and falls under those consequences in my classroom.

What are the results?

A month into this school year where my focus has been standards-based grading, I have made more positive connections with students than in any year prior. The pressure to perform a certain way is lifted from their chest, and the freedom to learn in an authentic way has replaced that. Students have multiple opportunities to show mastery of content and growth, and the are less failures in my class than ever before. In fact, I don’t believe anyone is failing–because their grades represent learning not behaviors.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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My Favorite Banned Books

My experience in the classroom and with online teacher forums has led me to question the recent pushback from families and stakeholders over curriculum. While it may seem like a new trend that has today’s educators hyper-vigilant about what they post and send home, it is far from a new experience in the profession.

In fact, censorship of reading material has been around for thousands of years. And it’s been in the classroom since the printing press brought us the ability to read mass-produced literature.

Covid and distance learning brought curriculum to more eyes than ever before. That, coupled with social media has led to a recent increase in public inquisitions. But, this is not a new battle for society. We’ve been banning books and censoring author’s voices since the written word began to exist. Although educators may feel under attack during this time, we also must remember that in order for an individual to grow they must question.

I’m all for healthy challenges that lead to growth and a better understanding of our world. I also see tremendous value in challenging the censorship and reading the material that others try to ban.

Today, as we observe national Banned Books Week, I wanted to celebrate some of my favorite books from the list. Many of these books have shaped our society and brought to the surface the problems plaguing our world. They’ve caused us to think critically or in some cases, just to escape reality for a while to a land of what if?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

photo credit: Amazon

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

photo credit: Amazon

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

photo credit: Amazon

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

photo credit: Amazon

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

photo credit: Amazon

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

photo credit: Amazon

For a more extensive list of Banned Books in the US, check out this Barnes and Noble list, and remember that when society questions printed material it often brings to light productive conversations about topics of controversey–and that’s where the growth happens.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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The Measure: A Book Review

photo credit: Amazon

Title: The Measure

Author: Nikki Erlick

Publisher: William Morrow

Copyright: 2022

Life changed for everyone the day the boxes arrived. The world awoke to a wooden box with a single string inside. Before long, the phenomenon of the strings and their purpose became clear–each string is a measure of the amount of life that remains for each person.

While some were encouraged by the length of their string, others were given the harsh truth that life would end sooner than they’d hoped. Before long, the world began to dichotimize into Long Stringers and Short Stringers. Those with longer strings called the shots and limited those with shorter strings to “safe” roles in society.

Things became more complicated for those relationships where one learns they will far outlive the other, and society is rocked as it begins to wrestle with the terms of the strings and how each person should live out the remaining days or years.

This is a thought-provoking tale of

-an archetect who is afraid to tell his family of his fate

-a politician who uses the strings as a campaign ploy

-an editor who learns to cherish her partner and their moments together

-a college student who bravely chooses to serve his country in his final days

-a doctor who is near retirement

-a teacher who refuses to open her box

Each of these people are connected to a support group for those with short strings. Together, they ask the tough questions–now that you know your time is short, how will you spend it?

This story was equal parts engaging and thought provoking. I fell in love with the characters and questioned my life right along with them. Erlick beautifully wove some of life’s most important questions into a story about likeable characters. This was my favorite book of 2022 so far, and a debut novel for this author.

Be sure to follow me on Goodreads to see what I am reading next and to check out other reviews like this one.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Spontaneous: Five Minute Friday

It’s Friday and that can only mean one thing on the blog–Five Minute Friday! This week, I am joining friends from the link up to write according to our prompt which is Spontaneous.

Do you ever feel the urge to restart?

Right now, I wish I could crawl back in bed with my husband (and our daughter who made her way into our bed at some point in the night.) I woke up this morning after hitting snooze a few too many times. My preset coffee pot didn’t work and I think it’s actually broken this time. My head’s a little fuzzy from having stayed up too late watching Grey’s Anatomy last night. And my preplanned outfit for teaching on Constitution Day is wrinkled because my daughter saw it laying out last night and messed it up.

Despite all of my efforts to produce a smooth Friday morning it’s already shaping up to be anything but smooth.

I’m already running behind and I’m going to have to stop and get a coffee on the way to work. I need to iron my t-shirt, but I probably won’t if I’m being honest.

I just want to curl up in bed and restart.

It’s days like these that can make teaching a difficult job. I am an Enneagram One, and when my well-planned mornings don’t follow routine it can throw me off. I depend on the order and efficiency to start my day and when those things aren’t there I can get moody quickly.

Studying the Enneagram taught me many things about myself. It allowed me to recognize my habits and gave voice to my inner dialogue. Because I read about the Enneagram in Ian Morgan Cron’s book I also know that spontaneity is not natural for me. I thrive on planning and organizing my life as much as possible. But one thing I have learned about being a One is that as unnatural as it may be that being spontaneous every now and again can breathe life into the routines.

Today, I will seek out ways to be spontaneous in the midst of the chaos. Maybe I’ll try a new food or go for a stroll on a new path. Whatever may come today may opportunities to deviate from my plans bring the restart that I so desperately need.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Ciao, Amica!

Talia and Mae have been through a lot together over the past two decades. From raising children to beating cancer, these two friends have made their relationship a priority. Their friendship is about to change, however, as Talia prepares to move to Italy to care for her ill mother, but before she goes Mae must share the secret she’s been keeping. 

“Ciao, Amica” is an original piece offered to my patrons–those to pledge a small monthly donation to The Ameri Brit Mom. For access to this story and other exclusive content, join my Patreon page.

Joining Patreon gives you the freedom to choose an amount to give each month toward The Ameri Brit Mom. Each month, patrons receive an exclusive short story, critiques of their own work, and other exclusive content. I would love to have you join this small community of supporters.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Generous: Five Minute Friday

Happy Friday!

I’m excited to join my FMF community this weekend to discuss our prompt. I already know what I want to talk about and this title is a great way to describe the subject at hand. Join me as I explore the generosity of a woman who gave of herself in the name of country and God and remained generous in that service until her final moments.

photo credit: SkySports (England)

Yesterday the world stopped spinning for a moment. We joined in a collective silence as news broke that Queen Elizabeth II of England had passed. You don’t have to be British to admire the country’s longest reigning monarch, and one of history’s longest legacies. Her Majesty was beloved throughout the world and remained a solid foundation throughout her 70 years of service to her country.

While she reigned on the throne, England experienced…

-15 prime ministers

-The expansion and union of the Commonwealth territories

-The tragic death of the beloved Princess Diana

-The Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union

-Several acts of violence

-Natural disasters

-Periods of both economic hardships and prosperity

-COVID-19

-The death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II

Over the next several days, the country will mourn a woman who saw her duties as Queen through until the end. She served her country even in her final days by appointing Liz Truss as the new Prime Minister of England less than a week before her own passing. The sacrifices that Her Majesty made to remain the grounding force in a rapidly changing world will be remembered. She was generous with her life and gave in service to her country for 70 years.

May her legacy live on through the reign of Charles III.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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My Day at a Glance Download

If you are anything like me, then starting the day off with a plan is the best way to get motivated for what lies ahead. With coffee in hand (and my favorite Papermate Flair pens), I like to schedule or plan out my day and set intentions before the sun has risen.

The way I plan out my day differs throughout the year, but I’ve found that the easier my method is to use–the more likely that I am to actually use it. That is why I created a one-page My Day at a Glance worksheet. Everything that I need to know for the day is collected on a single page, and it takes five minutes to get all of my tasks on paper.

For $2.00, this download is available to you. You will receive the file as a pdf, which can be printed or converted from your device into a digital file (using Kami or similar apps). Getting organized can be difficult, but when you have a cute and simple strategy the likelihood of follow-through is also increased.

When you join my Patreon page, you will receive downloads to help you stay organized each month along with exclusive short stories and content.The price of these downloads are included in the monthly Patreon pledge.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Root: Five Minute Friday

Happy Friday! I’ve been less present than usual as I’ve worked to settle in to a new school year. Now that August is in the rearview, I hope to return to my usual writing routines. This week I’m excited to be back with my Five Minute Friday community. Our prompt is Root.

vase with a plant inside that has a long root.

I’ve struggled the past few weeks to stay disciplined. My favorite hobbies and activities have taken a backseat to the school year as it unfolded. Much of the free time that I’m used to having for ME was spent preparing (or surviving) the beginning of a new school year. Now that the calendar says “September”, I can begin to put down roots and return to the activities that bring me joy.

-Writing/Editing

-Reading

-Bullet Journaling

-Meal Prepping

-Working out

-Art

-Organizing

August is usually spent carving up and assembling a foundation for the next nine months of the school year. Extra energy goes into planning and implementing strategies for student learning to take root. I come home exhausted each day and my vocal chords are always aching.

As for this year’s students, I am very pleased. They come to class eager to learn and ask great questions during lessons. Their roots have been planted and now is the time to return to my roots. To writing. To editing. To reading. To bullet journaling. To meal prepping. To working out. To art. To organizing.

How can you return to your roots in this new month?

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Lakeside Getaway

photo of Lake Erie and the waves crashing against large marble cliffs.

It was a very last minute trip. This weekend, we decided to cling to summer a little longer. In the span of just a couple of hours we packed bags, loaded the car and made the journey to Lakeside Chautauqua on Lake Erie. So much of the weekend was spent unplugged with family, but I escaped for a little while to a small garden and did some writing.

This is what filled my page during that time:

Open water with visible waves and a boat

I’m starting to feel the hints of fall turning the pages of summer to reveal a new season. But here, the flowers still bloom. The boats still ride the waves. And the sun still turns my skin a warm copper tone.

Here I am not worried about work or expectations. I’m not anxious about a diagnosis or waiting for the next hiccup–inevitably caused by mistakes of my own doing.

The pace is still slow here. It’s quiet and gorgeous. It’s somehow only 7pm. What a time trap! Life moves slower here on the lake. It is beautiful and perfect and exactly what I needed.

In the distance, I see the lighthouse of Kelly’s Island guiding sailors to a remote slice of land. I hear cricuts and crashing waves. I smell the salty fish. I taste the strong cold brew that I just got from the local coffee shop.

Me holding a cold brew coffee with Lake Erie in the background

It’s breezy here on the edge of the land-on a bench at the memory gardens-where the footpath meets the edge of the marble cliffs. It is here where I find the peace that I’ve been chasing for the past few weeks. Each boat that passes, breaks the water and reminds me that summer is still here. She’s packed her bags and put them by the door–she’s departing soon–but she’s still here.

I feel at home and captured by God here. I feel wrapped up and covered. All of the questions of faith come to a head and find answers here. Like the waves and cricuts, God sees me. He knows me. He knows how my heart wrestles with a broken world. I’m still a little broken here, but I feel so whole.

family photo with Lake Erie in the background

May you find a place to cling to summer this week. Take a moment when you feel it and capture your thoughts. Write them down or record them on your phone. Search for the moments to honor with your attention and give those moments a chance to breathe.

The Ameri Brit Mom