#CatholicEdChat

Every Saturday, at 9 AM Eastern, Catholic educators (or I should say educators in Catholic schools) gather on Twitter under the hashtag #CatholicEdChat. Though it is designed for those teaching in Catholic schools, the topics are generally good for anyone to be a part of. After all, at its heart, Catholic education is still about education.

This summer, as I’ve moved schools and cities, I haven’t been able to keep up on really anything as much as I wish I had. #CatholicEdChat has been one of those things I haven’t really kept up on. But I saw it active as I woke up this morning, so I figured I’d hop in. I’m glad I did. Today, the topic was blogging.

I’m not going to transcribe the whole chat or even summarize it. But we talked about teachers blogging and students blogging. School policies were discussed. Fears of putting oneself out there were discussed. And it made me realize that I need to do more to get my students blogging. I’m not sure where I’ll begin with this, but it is something I want to do (and if I’m not mistaken, it’s somewhere in the CCSS, no?).

So, what are your ideas? How do you blog with your students? How do you have your students blog? I’m curious to hear what you have to say. Leave a comment or a link to your own post below!

New Classroom is Coming Along; New Relationships are Here

I was hoping to have pictures and/or a video of my classroom posted by now. That’s part of why I hadn’t written a new post: waiting on me to complete the setup. But I know how I work. In some ways, that’ll never be done. But even so, it’s not ready for students and also isn’t ready for you guys. Not quite yet.

And you know why? Because of one of the most important things we can teach as teachers: relationships.

In the past week, I’ve gone out to lunch twice with my coworkers (though we’re not required to be at school yet). I’ve spent hours meeting with my new teaching partner, going over what she’s been doing, what I’d like to do, and how to make the two work together. It has been amazing. I’ve never taught high school English, and I feel so welcomed and ready to make this happen.

But it hasn’t been by accident that this has happened, though.

My teaching partner and I have:
-Made time for each other
-Put the work aside and talked about personal things over lunch
-Never put each other’s ideas or methods down, even when we disagreed
-Made it clear that we will support each other, even if we disagree
-Been open to change and compromise
-A tendency to get off-topic

Okay, maybe that last one isn’t vital. But I think these are all important things as we approach the school year as a united high school English department. I’m excited for September 3.

My First Day (Sort Of)

Yesterday, I began my new job. Sort of.

I was hired on as high school English teacher, but that wasn’t financially doable. At the rate they could afford to pay me for that full-time job that requires a bachelor’s degree and professional certification, I could only afford to do two of the following: eat, live in a building, pay off my student loans.

But I wanted to work here, and they wanted me to work here, so we worked something out. That something that was worked out is the church hired me as a youth minister.

Yesterday, we took 11 students to a diocesan youth rally in Saginaw. It. Was. Amazing.

I won’t comment much on the event itself, though it was very well put together and touched on a lot of needed things (sometimes these types of things tend to just feed on emotions, and there certainly was some of that, but there was also a lot of genuine pieces, such as a discussion on going through grief and depression and how to help yourself or help a friend). What I will talk about is the students.

It happened to be the case that these 11 students are all at my school. Many of them will be in my classroom this coming year. In light of Ruth Ayers’ post this morning, it got me thinking about how I sort of already had that first day with some of them. Some topics of conversation we had included:

What books they liked
That I’ve read the books they like
That I’ve met the authors of some of these books (that is a wonder of things like NCTE and ALA that we sometimes overlook, but it can really captivate the students)
How to make a good confession
How many concussions a student has had and his decision to play football again this year
Current and former students and parents welcoming me back to the school (I taught high school math here previously)
The crazy nature of choosing to pull an all-nighter the day before an all-day event

And on and on and on.

By the end of the day, I was practically in tears with how grateful I was to be back here and how accepted I felt (thought: do we let our students know they’re accepted in our classrooms and in our lives?). I also was grateful for this ability to already lay the ground work for the school year. I know these students now. They know me. We were clearly feeling each other out, and many of my discussion choices were intentional. I want them to go to their friends and say things like “did you know Mr. Wyzlic has read Sarah Dessen?” and “I told Mr. Wyzlic I liked The DaVinci Code, and he gave me another title to read” (inquiring minds: The Book of Blood and Shadow). I want them to know the culture of our classroom is that of reading. And it was an amazing chance to do that.

It’s going to be a good year 🙂

I Got to Say It Was a Good Day

I woke up this morning at about 8 o’ clock to the sound of workers drilling into concrete on the building across the parking lot. The annoyance at being awoken in this manner quickly turned to delight as I turned over and saw her smiling up at me.

That’s right. On my nightstand was the book I’m currently reading, and she was lighting up my day.

You see, today, I have nothing planned. No conferences to attend. No jobs to interview for. No packing to do. No unpacking to do. I can’t get into my school because they’re waxing the hallway, so even if I wanted to go in and organize my classroom, I couldn’t. It’s the first genuinely free day I’ve had all summer. And I get to spend it with my book.

This delights me, and I’m glad I am in a reading mood (we readers know that sometimes, even reading is not a comfort). But it got me thinking about my students.

They also have a lot of responsibilities over the summer. Navigating the waters of adolescent friendships can be daunting enough. Add to that summer jobs, summer school, family vacations, and their time is quickly taken up. But even so, they too will find those days on which they have nothing planned. What will they choose to do on those days?

When I was a teenager, I chose video games. Some may choose to go to the pool. Some might think it’s a good day to finally try one of mommy’s blue pills. But what do we do to help them see that reading is not only an option, but a worthy one? That it is, in fact, something to look forward to?

That’s a big part of what building lifelong readers is about. The school year is almost here (or, again, for some of us, it’s already arrived). What are we doing to present reading as a valuable free time activity?

A Fresh Start

Hello! Hello! To whomever may find their way stumbling upon my page: hello. I mentioned in my most recent post that I would be sort of re-branding my own blog. Taking it over. Taking it back. Well, here we go. It’s time for that fresh start.

What better topic to begin with, then, than of my recent move?

After spending the previous three years teaching in a wonderful school in Ann Arbor, I have moved to Mount Pleasant, Michigan, where I will be teaching 9th and 11th grade English, among other things. This move has been filled with peace for me, as I have felt like I am moving back home, despite most of my family being in or close to the Ann Arbor area. I’ve heard a lot of feedback on my decision, ranging from:

“So proud of you , Brian, following your heart!” (said by my mom, even though I’m moving further away) to

“What a sad move, from A2 to Central.” (said by an Internet acquaintance)

Now, even though this last quote was merely an acquaintance (we’re not really close enough for me to count him as a friend), it is symbolic of a lot of reaction I’ve had from my friends. They would say things like, “How could you leave Ann Arbor?” or “Well that’s an interesting choice.” And I would look at them and tell them that Mount Pleasant really is where I want to be, and I would (obviously) choose it above Ann Arbor. Some understood. Many didn’t.

The thing is, I understand where they’re coming from. Ann Arbor is a great place to be. I love visiting there. Many people love living there. It is often lauded as a Top Ten City in list after list.

Mount Pleasant is also a great place to be. It’s not going to win awards, but it’s the right place for the right people. I include myself in those people. It’s beautiful. It’s friendly. It’s smaller without being a one stop-light town. It’s home.

Let’s think about this. Any other things you can think of that are highly-loved, on all kinds of Top Ten lists, and people might not understand when you don’t love them? I know I can.

And do we find ourselves confused when people might shun the titles on these lists and gravitate towards something we don’t fully understand? I know I have.

The right city for the right person. The right book for the right reader. We must match these things up properly. Neither is a one-size-fits-all solution. Both require careful consideration of the individual involved.

As the school year approaches (and for some of you, has already begun), please keep this in mind. Help your students find what they need, not what you want them to need, even if it’s not your cup of tea. Even if you don’t drink tea.