Fashion · Uncategorized

Dressing and Educating: Days 84-86

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Day 84: December 19, 2016

I hit the home stretch toward Christmas break today. In English, we reviewed for our big test with a friendly game of Review Basketball. We recently finished the seventh chapter of Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis and so their test prior to Christmas Vacation is over the first seven chapters of the novel.

In Honors World History, my students performed their Epic Rap Battles between Karl Marx and Adam Smith. This was my first time conducting this project and my students really exceeded my expectations. I was so pleased with their finished products and enjoyed getting to see them rap live, listen to their pre-recorded videos, or present their slideshows about each philosopher.

I wore my brand new Perfect T and leggings from Lula Roe with a black cardigan, a scarf, and boots.

 

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Day 85: December 20, 2016

A few years ago we used to hold semester exams the last three days before Christmas break. Because of state testing and other requirements my district decided not to add to the already weighty test schedule with semester exams. I go back and forth on how I feel about taking exams off of the table, but one thing I know I miss is the order it created for the last three days. With an exam-adjusted schedule school was all-business those last days before break. I miss that.

Today my students were buzzing with talk about Christmas and many of them handed out gifts to friends in the hall way. It was a loud day and particularly challenging in my English classes as my students took their test over the first seven chapters of Not a Drop to Drink. I was not pleased with their scores on the test which has me worried that many of them have turned off their “school brain” a little early.

Today I wore red jeggings, a white tshirt, and a blue flannel from Primark in England.

 

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Day 86: December 21, 2016

Finally, the last day before break.

Students in Honors World History took their unit test today over the Industrial Revolution. It was a tidy end to the semester as we can begin a brand new unit after Christmas break. We will be moving on to the Age of Imperialism and barreling toward the first world war.

In English, since students took their test yesterday I decided to make today a reading day. Students were given a set of terms and ideas relating to irony. They defined the words and then we read “The Gift of the Magi” together. It’s a classic story that always leads into some interesting discussion.

Today I wore jeans and a pink sweater from Delias.

I’m so glad to be entering my Christmas break. By the time you read this I will already be in the midst of the most wonderful time of the year cherishing memories with those I love along the way. I hope you are all enjoying this same time during the Holidays season.

 

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fashion · Uncategorized

Dressing and Educating: Days 79-83

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Day 79: December 12, 2016

I would be lying if I said I was happy to wake up early and go to school this morning. For over a week the weather men had been predicting a winter storm for Sunday night. I pulled out all the old wives’ tales and superstitions hoping for that first snow day. I woke up to a few rain puddles and a damp yard. No snow in sight.

In History today my students presented their Industrial Revolution projects. This was a research based project where students selected their mode of communication. Some wrote novels, some made posters, and others created Google Slides presentations. Here is an artistic interpretation of life in the tenements and work in the factories.

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I wore a cowl neck sling dress, black Lula Roe leggings, and Sperry boots this Monday morning.

 

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Day 80: December 13, 2016

Today marked the beginning of snow season. It was the first snow storm this winter in Ohio. I arrived at school just before 7am to clear roads, but the snow started a few hours later and fell relentlessly through school hours and wasn’t expected to cease until 9pm.

As if the snow levels weren’t enough of a distraction the annual surprise lockdown took place today. Every year law enforcement officers from the county show up unannounced and conduct a thorough search of the campus. During this search they look for drugs and narcotics. Classrooms are held under a level 1 lockdown during this event which means students are not permitted out of the classroom and so I was held up with the same group of students for almost two hours.

I was wearing a top from Lula Roe, navy slacks from Old Navy and my Sperry boots which have become my best friend this winter.

 

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Day 81: December 14, 2016

As a result of the snowfall last night we had a 2 hour delay at my school today.

Most classes were shortened and the kids were all rambunctious as they were armed with some extra sleep. It was nice to get the day started under sunlight, but I was really pulling for a snow day.

In my short classes we worked on reading and finishing up homework.

Today I wore olive jeggings, a black tunic sweater from The Limited, a scarf from Charming Charlies, and my Sperry boots.

 

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Day 82: December 15, 2016

For the second day in a row we experienced a two hour delay at my school. Wind chills were below zero and so my district decided to give us all a little extra time to make it in to school. (Or to snuggle in the warmth of our beds as I did.)

On delay days, all but one of my classes is less than 25 minutes long. I had enough time to read one chapter of Not a Drop to Drink with my English classes and to go over a homework assignment with my Honors History class.

I wore my skinny black pants from the Limited, a polka dot blouse from The Limited, and a maroon sweater from Maurices.

 

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Day 83: December 16, 2016

We were back on a regular bell schedule despite the frigid, single-digit temperatures. In English, we finished up the seventh chapter of the book we are reading and I had each small group write six review questions for next week’s test. I will use the questions in a Review Basketball game Monday.

In History the students are working on rap battles between Karl Marx and Adam Smith. many of them recorded their raps today. I’m excited to hear the finished products on Monday!

Today I wore jeggings, a pinstriped top from Lula Roe and an oversized brown sweater from Kohls.

This week was wet and cold and I did my best to dress to keep myself warm in the classroom. Which of the looks was your favorite?

 

The Ameri Brit Mom

Fashion · Uncategorized

Dressing and Educating: Days 69-73

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Day 69: November 28, 2016

Monday after a long Thanksgiving break is rough. Not only was I physically exhausted long before usual, but today was also a tragic day for my city. At just after 9:30am a man of Somali descent crashed his vehicle into a crowd of pedestrians on the campus of Ohio State University. He emerged from his vehicle armed with a knife and began to stab people around him. Luckily, within minutes a security guard responded and neutralized the suspect quickly.

Although the fatality numbers were limited to the suspect it was still a tragic day as many students and faculty members of the nearby college were overcome with fear as they went to work and/or school. As a city the reality of threats and radical behavior have become real and security has been increased as a result. It was a strange day and I spent much of my off-periods tuned in to local news and browsing social media to ensure that my friends were all safe. It was such a strange and emotional day.

I was wearing a pair of LulaRoe OS leggings, a navy dress, beige cardigan and boots.

 

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Day 70: November 29, 2016

I came in ready to start some new content in my classes today. In English, I introduced the Young Adult novel that my classes will be reading for the next several weeks. Not a Drop to Drink was written by Mindy McGinnis and last school year she visited with our students who had just finished reading her book. Every year the students leave my introduction lesson excited for this post-apocalyptic novel.

In Honors World History, I introduced the Industrial Revolution unit with a discussion of primary sources about the Agricultural Revolution in England. We discussed the Enclosure Movement and how it led to urbanization and the dawn of the industrial age.

I was wearing a silver sweater from Kohls, black pants from The Limited and black TOMS.

 

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Day 71: November 30, 2016

This morning the Guidance Department at my school took my English classes to the computer lab to complete a survey about their needs and goals. As a result, I had some unplanned free periods to catch up on grading, planning, and data crunching. I was beyond grateful for this time as I was feeling a little overwhelmed about everything I needed to do outside of the regular activities of the classroom. As a teacher these types of days are golden!

In History, we spent more time investigating sources about the Enclosure Movement. Students were asked to decide if it was a positive or negative era in British History using evidence from the provided sources. We held an informal Socratic seminar where each student had the opportunity to voice their opinion and respond to the others in the class.

I was wearing navy slacks from Old Navy, a mint green scarf, matching camisole, a silver sweater and my favorite Sperrys.

 

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Day 72: December 1, 2016

I officially ended my tutoring group for Air Make up testing today. For the past month I’ve been staying several days a week for an extra hour and a half to tutor students who failed last year’s state tests. It’s been a very positive experience and has helped me as a teacher as I’ve taken the opportunity to examine the tests at a greater length.

In English today we continued reading Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. We discussed the mood in the beginning of the story. In Honors World History, students were assigned reading last night and so we addressed the reading through questions and class discussion.

Today I wore a new sweater/tunic from The Limited, a blanket scarf, khakis and black boots.

 

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Day 73: December 2, 2016

TGIF!

In English, my students were introduced to a new writing assignment. Once a quarter I assign them a writing prompt on Vantage, an online writing tool that my school has purchased for the past three years. Students are able to submit writing on this site and receive feedback and space to improve that writing. This is a valuable tool when utilized alongside class material and instruction. I always set a deadline for the writing to be finished and take the highest score for each student as they are able to submit their writing numerous times during the allotted window. This time around they are writing an argument and were given three prompts to choose from.

In Honors World History, we started our Friday as we usually do by watching CNN Student News and discussing worldwide news stories. Then, we jumped into our curriculum and reviewed the content from the week. I also introduced a new project in that class. Students were given three options for an Industrial Revolution project. They could write a story, make a poster, or create a presentation.

Today I wore a printed tank from Stitch Fix #6 , a cardigan from Stitch Fix #3, jeans from Stitch Fix #8 , and ankle boots.

Which outfit was your favorite this week?

 

The Ameri Brit Mom

fiction · Uncategorized

The Moral Point of View and Broccoli

This week has been a rewarding one in my writing career. I’ve recently joined an online critique group and have been overwhelmed with the positive and constructive feedback from authors and others aspiring to that title. I’ve met a few writing coaches who have helped me with my letters to agents and I’ve also developed friendships with other writers whose work I admire. Each morning this week I’ve awoken to feedback from people within the group from all over the world. This is something I have needed for a long time. I’ve been longing for a writing community and am so happy to have found a place that feels like home already.

As I open Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott I am happy to say that the wisdom I took from this week’s reading was received right on time. I had been struggling with a story I’m working on and trying to defeat writer’s block. I needed the reminders from both chapters today which encouraged me to look within myself for the moral point of view of my story as well as to my intuition in order to hear the voice of the character I’m currently wrestling with in my mind. I hope you will find my summaries of these chapters insightful!

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The Moral Point of View

“There is no point gathering an audience and demanding its attention unless you have something to say that is important and constructive.” (Lamott 108)

Within each person lies a moral compass. An internal directive which distinguishes between good, bad, and evil. Within each reader is the desire to interact with characters and conflicts that test that moral compass and strengthen its tendency toward True North.

Writing is an expression of our moral points of view as authors. We write about problems of our world and mask those things behind fictitious characters and settings. Our stories are born of human experience and blanched in lessons of life.

Although setting out to teach a lesson is seldom our goal as writers we become teachers in our craft as we highlight what is important to us in our novels. I love the quote above by Anne Lamott which speaks to the fact that our stories should all in some way reflect this life and apply to the grander scheme of humanity. There should be something to learn or glean from your work. So what are you trying to tell the world with your story?

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One of the most important resources in a writer’s arsenal is their intuition. Many of us had our intuition suppressed long ago as children. Things that we were certain of despite their insanity were scoffed at by adults or peers in our lives. As a writer, you really have to reclaim that intuition. To write from a rational mind only is to create dull stories full of true conflicts and characters based on all of your friends (or enemies.)

When you are able to think outside of the rational, your characters begin to take on a life of their own. Your intuition surrenders to their lives and the world in which they live instead of controlling those aspects of the story.

Anne Lamott uses broccoli as a metaphor for her intuition because of an old skit with Mel Gibson when he is told to, “Listen to your broccoli, it will tell you how to eat it.” It’s the same principal with writing. If you try to dictate your characters and plot then you will end up with a drab reflection of reality. Listen to the characters in your mind. Let them have the freedom to write their own stories. Be the vessel that communicates on their behalf. Do not stifle the irrational mind.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Books · Uncategorized

24 Book Challenge: A Book Published in 2016

The following is a book review by The Ameri Brit Mom. This is book #16 from The Ameri Brit Mom 24 Book Challenge in 2016. This post expresses the genuine opinion and experiences of The Ameri Brit Mom and is in no way endorsed by authors, publishers, or outside influences.

Title: Tru & Nelle

Author: G. Neri

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Copyright Date: 2016

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Another chance to live the timeless tale of To Kill A Mockingbird was my original draw toward this new book by G. Neri. The novel is based around the true childhood friendship between Truman Capote and Nelle Harper Lee. This friendship also served as inspiration for Lee’s famous classic.

In this novel, Nelle takes on the persona of Scout Finch. Living in Monroeville, Alabama, with her lawyer father, Nelle meets her new neighbor, Truman, and the two become fast friends. Both of the children are outsiders in their community. Nelle is the daughter of an insane woman and she walks the streets of Monroeville in her dirty coveralls and boyish haircut. Truman has been abandoned by his parents and has moved in with his Aunt Jenny next door to the Lees. The two misfits bond over their love for stories and their passion for mystery.

In search of real life mysteries Tru and Nelle encounter theft, lies, and crimes of true hate. One night, while following a niche, the young duo comes face-to-face with one of the most notorious hate groups of the south. Faced with the realities of racism and violence Tru and Nelle begin to mend the brokenness of their southern town.

I was delighted to find the beautiful parallels between this novel and To Kill a Mockingbird. I felt as though I was being reunited with Scout, Dill, Atticus, and Maycomb County. And as I neared the end of the book I was fed a gem by the author-my favorite quote of all time:

“you never really know until you consider things from their point of view. Until you can climb inside of their skin and walk around in it…”

Not to be melodramatic, but when I read this line a little hallelujah chorus went off in my head.

This time around Boo Radley might not have been the object which caused the young children to shift their worldview, but learning to live alongside people who are different is still a major theme in this book.

Now that I’ve read this book I’d like to read some of Truman Capote’s work. I’ve currently read EVERYTHING published by Harper Lee and I now feel like I could recite every detail of her childhood in Monroeville. Other than A Christmas Memory which I saw and read in college I am unfamiliar with the work of Capote. In the future I hope to read Breakfast at Tiffany’s or In Cold Blood.

If you are a fan of anything by Harper Lee I strongly urge you to pick up Tru and Nelle. You will not be disappointed!

The Ameri Brit Mom

fiction · Uncategorized

An Exercise in Characterization

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As many of you know I am in the final phase of draft 1 of my first novel. I’m in the process of tying up loose ends in the plot and bringing forth a resolution. This is definitely the hardest part thus far of writing as I’m trying to make sure that all conflicts are brought to a nice close. One that doesn’t feel too forced, but rather is naturally based on the characters and their personalities.

So as I prepare to bring about natural endings to the multiple conflicts of my book I was inspired by a student to take part in an exercise in characterization.

Every year right before Christmas Break I have my English students present to the class about a book they read on their own over the last quarter. One of my more motivated and well-read students created a presentation on Prezi. He had recently read The Catcher in the Rye, and decided to describe Holden Caulfield in 100 words in addition to the assignment.

He stood in front of his peers and recited his list of adjectives and pronouns followed by a standing round of applause from the class.

After his presentation, several of my students inquired about how to get a copy of the book to read over Christmas break. In his presentation about the main character, this student piqued the interest of his peers. They were intrigued by his descriptions of Caulfield and the students’ obvious enjoyment of the book.

So this morning as I sit and think about the novel I am working on I decided to take some time to find descriptive words and phrases for my main character. My novel is actually told from two perspectives so I decided to split up the number a bit. Below is my main characters each in 30 words.

Character: Kurt Robinson

homeless, driven, disciplined, self-conscious, embarrassed, articulate, former carpenter, honest, trustworthy, intelligent, recovering addict, ex-boyfriend, father, friend, resourceful, pickpocket, nervous, frugal, dirty, brunette, bearded, park bench-dweller, friendly, rough, lonely, veteran, round, faithful, happy, reader

Character: Michael Walker

writer, son, self-conscious, editor, minimalist, caring, distant, runner, graduate, obsessive, charming, boyish, traveler, coffee-drinker, friend, city-dweller, Volvo driver, clean, well-groomed, spectacle wearer, trusting, secretive, mourner, brother, grey-eyed, blond, fatherless, in-shape, hard working, beloved

As a writer this exercise has been helpful in rounding out the story. I think back to different scenes in the story where different adjectives are presented to describe these characters. These words contribute to how I bring a natural close to those plot lines. I hope that this exercise intrigues you. And if your wondering about some of the words that seem contradictory I guess you will have to wait and see how the same character can be both honest and a pickpocket, or both a friend and secretive.

 

photo credit: http://www.amazon.com/The-Catcher-Rye-J-D-Salinger/dp/0316769487

 

Teaching · Uncategorized

Book Worm or Social Butterfly?

I am currently enrolled in a course on teaching writing and during this course the class is reading the book,  In the Best Interest of Students by Kelly Gallagher. In his book, Kelly discusses some of the strengths and weaknesses of the current Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts.

I’m a big fan of Gallagher and in the past have read his other books, Teaching Adolescent Writers and Write Like This. He talks often about his experiences in the ninth grade English classroom and I sympathize with him on various levels about student apathy, concerns, and achievements.

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This week I was doing my reading to prepare for the course when I stumbled upon an idea which really resonated with me.

This is a quote within a quote from the book:

“In his study, ‘In the Minds of Others,’ Keith Oatley, professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, notes that recent research has found that

far from being a means to escape the social world, reading stories can actually improve your social skills by helping you better understand other human beings.” (2011, 1)

So often we hear the term “book worm” to describe someone who has developed an affinity for reading. This misnomer has carried with it a negative connotation. I’ve even heard other teachers use such negative language to describe students who consistently carry books to and from class. Readers can get a bad reputation from the rest of society. They are sometimes labeled antisocial, but the quote above points to the very opposite meaning.

One of my favorite pastimes is to sit at home near the fire place in the living room and read. I’ll even call it romantic when my husband sits beside me on the sofa and reads his own book as well. Because at the end of the day we share what we have read about. The people we have interacted with through reading. The lessons we learned from the stories we experienced. And there is nothing antisocial or negative about it.

People miss out on truly social experiences by choosing not to read. Reading provides us such unique opportunities to be a part of another life or time period that we may never otherwise experience.

I’m not saying every couple needs to be like me and my husband and bond through reading. Rather the point I am trying to make is that reading is not the negative experience that so many people have painted it to be. When I ask students why they are reluctant to read on their own I get responses like, “I would rather play games,” or, “My friends are more fun.” Although they may enjoy gaming and spending time with friends, reading can also be as much fun and engaging as both of those activities.

All of this to say, that just because someone enjoys reading does not mean that they are a book worm. It is indeed possible to read often and be a social butterfly. Reading can add authenticity to your social interactions outside of books and helps to develop the social skills needed for relating to others. By losing yourself in a good book you are setting yourself up for social success and training your mind for intellectual growth.

Citations:

Oatley, Keith. 2011. “In the Minds of Others.” Scientific American Mind.

Gallagher, Kelly. 2015. In the Best Interest of Students. Stenhouse: Maine.

Teaching

Honorable Debate

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It’s been some time since I’ve written about what is going on in Mrs. Sisley’s classroom. So in case you were wondering the year is off to a great start and I’m excited to share a little bit. Currently, I am teaching six classes. In the mornings I have three English 9 classes one of which is an Inclusion class. During the afternoons I teach three Honors World History classes. This is the first school year that an Honors History course has been offered since I’ve been working in my district and I’m thrilled to get the privilege of teaching this course.

The first few weeks have been spent getting their feet wet and providing opportunities for my students to discover my expectations. In English so far we’ve written one essay, read two short stories, and each student has now completed two of their Nine in 9th Independent Reading books. Next week we will be presenting book #2. (For more information on my Nine in 9th reading program check out my post Nine in 9th)

In history we have familiarized ourselves with GoogleDocs and the submission process through several assignments. They have completed the first of nine Current Event projects, written an article about the construction of the Palace of Versailles and taken their first test over the Age of Absolutism. I’ve been really pleased with my honors students and their drive to meet the high expectations that I have set for them. I’ve asked for quite a lot to be done in the first month of school, but for the most part they have risen to the challenge.

This week I am braving new territory and assigning my first ever debate in my Honors World History classes. We are currently learning about the Enlightenment and the impact that this time period and its thinkers have had on our world. I have chosen to center a debate around the ideas that we are learning in class. I’ve also researched many different debate methods and have chosen to use a Team Policy Debate format since this is their first formal debate.

The students will be assigned to a partner and position. Their goal will be to argue for or against a specific idea that came out of the Enlightenment. I have modified the time restraints for the Team Policy Debate for this first debate to last only twenty-four minutes (essentially halving the time allotted for each segment.) I’m a little nervous that debates could become chaotic, but sticking to a format should help with keeping things professional and moving at a quick pace. I’m also allowing the students to use pre-made note cards to direct their points in order to promote research and use of data to inform dialogue as opposed to feelings and thoughts of the students alone.

The purpose of this activity is to give the students an opportunity to perform research and put into the practice the principles that we are learning about in this unit. I have three classes of highly intelligent and opinionated people that make me eager to try this activity.

If you are a teacher and have used debates in your classroom I’d love to hear from you! What went well? What was a challenge? And any other advice you may have.

I love my job, my students, and my calling!