Letter to Parents

Over the course of my not-that-old-as-of-yet career, I have had the opportunity to curate a fairly impressive classroom library. We have close to 1,000 titles available for my high school students. As there is often some concern from parents and other educators when students are given that many choices, I decided to be proactive and send a letter home to my students’ parents addressing this concern.

When I decided to send a letter, though, I didn’t know where to start. Fortunately, Kate Messner and Penny Kittle have posted their letters online, and those both gave me great starting points (you’ll notice a lot of similarities between their letters and mine, with mine occasionally using the same phrases — THANK YOU Kate and Penny!). Beth Shaum shared her letter, and that gave me some of the oomph I needed to figure out how to incorporate the Catholic school angle into the letter, as both she and I teach at Catholic schools.

The only feedback I have received has been positive. One of my favorite responses: “We’re pleased to see that we are being thoroughly supported in your approach to [our child’s] education.” What parent wouldn’t want to know they have their teacher’s support in choices regarding their child? I highly encourage to you write a similar letter and send it home. It’s a great way to open communication with your students’ parents at the start of the year as well as addressing some concerns and potentially heading off challenges before they arise.

What follows is the complete text of what I sent home.

Dear Amazing Parent of one of Mr Wyzlic’s Fantastic Students:

I call you amazing because you are. You have brought up and raised a child to high school age. This is not an easy task, and you have done a wonderful job. You have survived the middle school years with your son or daughter! Not an accomplishment to be taken lightly. You have also made the decision and found the resources to send your child to Cardinal Mooney Catholic. I assure you, this is a decision you will be glad of for years to come. I welcome you and your child to my classroom for the 2015-2016 school year. I hope you are all excited as I am.

This classroom serves ninth graders as young as thirteen years old and twelfth graders as old as eighteen. Five years is a big gap, and those are no ordinary five years. The difference between thirteen and eighteen is the difference between Disney Channel and A&E. The difference between first school dances and senior prom. The difference between playing war and being sent to war. The difference between emerging young adult and nearly adult.

These kids are not only different ages, but they arrive at school with different reading levels, different backgrounds, and different experiences that have shaped their lives in both positive and negative ways. They have different needs when it comes to reading.

The book that is perfect for your wide-eyed ninth grade girl isn’t likely to be a good fit for a seventeen-year-old boy. The book that twelfth grader will read and love is probably not one that would be right for your tenth grader right now. But as teachers, we have a responsibility to serve all of the kids who come to us. We have a responsibility to offer literature choices that speak to all of them and meet all of their diverse needs.

Cardinal Mooney is a college preparatory environment. We know that colleges and universities are asking their students to read 200 to 600 pages a week from the start of freshman year (Kittle). Even if your child is only a freshman right now, we need to work their reading capacity up to this level by their senior year. We also know that access to books can be one of the most important factors in reading level, fluency, and volume (Shin). Of course, as with many things, teenagers are going to gravitate towards what they like and work up to what they need. While we have diverse readers, everyone needs to become a reader before they leave our halls. For this reason, I have spent 9 years cultivating and curating a classroom library of nearly 1000 diverse books. I am constantly adding and removing titles based on the needs of my students.

With a library of this size, it is impossible for me to be intimately familiar with every book I have available for the students. I do my best to read widely so I can make as honest a suggestion as I can to our students when they are looking for books. When I haven’t read a book, I read the dust jacket, I look at what the publisher recommends, and I seek out trusted colleagues who have read the book for their thoughts. This helps me maintain a library that can meet the needs of all the students who need the books.

While I do my best to make good recommendations, it is important to keep in mind that kids, in general, do a fantastic job self-selecting books. When they find they’ve picked up something they’re not ready for, they’re usually quick to put it down and ask for help choosing something else. As your child’s teacher, I’ll offer recommendations and steer kids toward books that are age-appropriate, and I encourage you to talk about books with your kids. I have multiple copies of many titles in the classroom library. Let me know if you’d like to check out two copies of a book so you can read together. And if you find that your child has chosen a book that you think might not be the right book for him or her right now, talk about that, too.

I respect your right to help your own child choose reading material, and I ask that you respect the rights of other parents to do the same. I am keenly aware, as I hope you are, that you as the parent are “first responsible for the education of [your] children” (Catholic Church 2223). That places me, as their school teacher, as second responsible at best. If you object to your child reading a particular book, send it back to my library, and I’ll help your child find another selection. I’ll put the first book back on the shelf because even though you don’t feel it’s the right book for your child right now, it may be the perfect book for someone else’s. I would not want to limit the choices available to your family because it’s not the right fit for another family.

One thing I love about teaching at Cardinal Mooney is we don’t have to pretend that our academics are separate from our faith. The two are constantly intertwined. Book choices are, therefore, also intertwined with our faith. For some families, this means something like not reading material that contains plot elements of witchcraft. For others, this means no restrictions on reading materials, but having a discussion about it when there is conflict between what happens in the book and what we believe to be true as Catholics. Most families are somewhere in between these two places. Regardless of your family’s approach, I encourage you to have conversations with your child about the faith and how we can be strong Catholics in a world that sometimes has some rough stuff in it. Sometimes we experience that rough stuff through our life experiences. Sometimes, though, we merely experience it through a book, and that can help prepare us for the bigger, wider world that awaits us.

The thing is, as important as books are to the academic success of our youth, they are equally as important to the emotional well-being of our youth. Books not only develop our empathy for each other, but they also help us find acceptance for ourselves. They can be a comfort in ways few other media can. Video games can be cold and distant. Movies are not as intimate. Books will give the heart a hug. Our teenagers need this in their lives. So I will do everything in my power to help every student who passes through my doorway develop a love of reading. Having a wealth of books to choose from is a crucial part of this. If I can ever be of help to you in recommending titles for your family, please don’t hesitate to ask.

I look forward to a wonderful year of reading, growing, and learning. Thank you for choosing Cardinal Mooney, and for granting me the opportunity to be a part of the education of your child.

In Peace,
Mr. Brian Wyzlic

Works Cited
Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd ed. Vatican: Libraria Editrice Vaticana, 2000.
Kittle, Penny. Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2013.
Shin, Fay H., and Stephen D. Krashen. Summer Reading: Program and Evidence. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2008.

Last Night’s Dream

I had a dream last night.

It wasn’t MLK-worthy. So maybe it’s not okay to paraphrase his most famous speech. But I actually had this dream (and maybe he actually had his, too — perhaps I’ll ask him if I get to heaven someday).

In this dream, I was teaching. But it wasn’t a school — more of a big house, and a large community feel. I had one student who was having a really difficult time writing. Eventually, he found something important to write about, and he got to it.

I don’t remember what. I don’t think it was important to me — it was important to him.

Then, we were looking in a mirror together. The only thing of him that was reflected was his head. And he was fascinated by it, practically giggling.

You see, before he had found the drive to write, he had no reflection. He saw nothing of himself.

Once he began to write, he began to find himself. For the first time in his life, he was able to see himself reflected back at him. And he did this through his writing.

The metaphor is so strong here that it’s barely a metaphor at all. Are we giving our students opportunities to find themselves in their writing? Are we helping them see themselves in a new way through their writing?

If not: what are we waiting for?

Week 1 Community Building

I know that there are really two lasting things I want to do in my classroom: 1) help every student become a life-long reader, and 2) help my students build a community. With my freshmen especially, I really work on this second one. There are only a couple teachers they all have, and I’m fortunate enough to be one of them. They also are going to be with each other for 4 years, so they should work from the outset at making those 4 years fantastic.

So for the first week, I have them sit somewhere new each day, helping them just get to know each other a little bit. I put their directions on the screen for when they walk into the room.

Day one: “Without talking, seat yourselves in alphabetical order.” I don’t tell them if I mean by first name or last name. I don’t tell them where to start (my room is in table groups, so this is a hurdle to them). I don’t tell them how to communicate. I also don’t remind them that all of their names are inside their agenda books which they received the day before at orientation and are required to bring to every class.

Because we have students come from many different schools (of our 28 freshman, the largest number from any one school is 6), they have to find ways to communicate. Something pretty cool happens when their voices are taken away. They don’t just go to those whom they know. They’re all in this together, immediately.

Day two: “Sit with the person you got to know for HW. Didn’t get to know someone? You have until the bell rings.” Their HW at the end of day one is to find someone they didn’t go to school with last year and find out 4 things: their name, where they went to school in 8th grade, their favorite book of all-time, and the last book they read and enjoyed. I purposely don’t give them class time for this. It’s up to them to find someone and talk with them in the halls, at lunch, or exchange e-mail addresses or phone numbers.

Our students live far apart (up to 50 miles away from each other), but they also are going to be friends and study partners for the next 4 years. They have to find ways to make this work. Also, when we then do quick introductions the next day, I get the information I want: what books do they like, and have they read any good ones recently? The student who says their favorite book is one that came out in the past year is a reader. The one who says their favorite book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar is either testing me about picture books, the class clown, or hasn’t read a book in years. Perhaps all three. Regardless, this is good for me to know, and also helps them connect as a class.

Day 3: “Sit with someone who’s read your favorite book or whose favorite book you have read.” This gets them thinking back to the previous day and the favorite book conversation. It forces them to talk, and to connect about books. One of my classes even went so far as to move tables together so they could all sit together, as they found they had so many books in common already. Yet in no class had they all read any single student’s favorite book.

This also ties into the grammar instruction I like to sneak in for the first couple weeks: apostrophes and possessives. Pronouns get weird with these concepts, and I want to help my students avoid who’s/whose and it’s/its confusions in their writing.

Day 4 this week was different. Every quarter, my school does what’s called “Stop and Drop.” “Stop and Drop” is a half day for the students where they focus on test prep. We do things like take practice ACT/SAT, have a couple classes about specific skills for those tests, or anything else that doesn’t fit into our normal curricula. For the freshmen, they had quick lessons on note taking, test taking, and stress reduction techniques.

We had a few extra minutes in one of my sessions with them, so I asked them what they liked about our school so far. One of their answers made me wonder if all the community-building I put into our first week was really worth it:
“I like how when we got on the bus on the first day, we didn’t just sit there in silence because we didn’t know each other. Whenever people got on, everyone said ‘hi’ and smiled and we all got to know each other.”

I asked if that was the case on the other bus (we have two buses). They said yes, it was.

These kids get it. It’s going to be a great year 🙂

On Presenting

Last week, my school had their week of professional development before the start of classes. I was privileged enough to present two short sessions: one with a coworker on positive relationships, and one on Google Drive to our entire staff.

It was thrilling.

It was just what I needed to prepare for the school year — getting in front of a room of people, and helping them learn a thing.

Of course, it was also quite different from what I do with students. In my stats class, for example, I work with 24 students who come from different backgrounds, who are entering different professions, and who have varying interest and abilities in statistics. I work with them one on one to help each of them find success.

In presenting to my faculty, I have several teachers who come from different backgrounds, but all in the same profession, with similar interest in if not the same ability level in teaching. The presentation style is markedly different.

Not to mention they’re adults.

But it was a lot of fun. And I can’t wait for the chance to do it again.

Year 2; Year 9

Tomorrow is a pretty awesome day, and I’m incredibly excited. At my school, we offer what we call Summer Boot Camp. This is a chance for any student who would like to to come in for a couple hours a day for three days for some focused instruction on any specific areas. So if a student wants to get a little more attention in math, for example, before the school year starts, they can do that. It helps any student who would like it have an extra push before the school year starts.

I’m teaching the English boot camp, and it begins tomorrow. This is the first official teaching capacity I will have with our new students.

It’s here. My second year at this school. My ninth year teaching. It’s upon us. I am both ready and completely not ready — as is always the case, it seems.

But beyond anything, I am excited. HERE WE GO!

The Beauty of August

Today is August 1st. For the past couple years, this meant that I would be creating and uploading my first #VEDA video (Vlog Every Day in August). I’m not doing VEDA this year, but August still brings some important things with it:

The nitty-gritty prep work for school
I don’t know if I’ll admit this if you corner me, but I really like prepping for school. I love putting together lessons that I hope will reach my students in new and exciting ways. I love thinking of the books we’ll be sharing that the writing that we’ll be doing. I love thinking up or finding new units to do throughout the year, or new ways of approaching certain concepts.

That’s largely July’s work, though. August is when the rubber meets the road. Maybe in July I thought of a new letter I want to send home with parents. Well, August is when I have to make sure I write and revise that letter. Maybe in July I thought of doing more play-acting or pantomime in the classroom for a softer transition into formal speeches. August is the time to put that together. In July this year, I was spending a lot of time doing big idea planning for a new course I’m teaching, Contemporary Literature & Writing. August is the time when I’ll create the rubrics and the unit overviews and the syllabus.

August is also the time to figure out what I’m going to do with my desk this year (I envy those who go deskless, but haven’t been able to figure out how to make that work with my lack of classroom storage space). Also: how are my student desks going to be arranged? Will the TV be a focal point, or more periphery? How much will I use my whiteboards this year? What will go on the bulletin boards?

I love asking these questions in July, but I love even more answering them in August.

Staff/State/National PD
This year, I’ve been asked to lead a PD for my coworkers on two topics: Google Drive and positive relationships with students. I spent July putting together some outlines, but August is the time to finalize and actually give those presentations. It’s also a time to think about proposals for the Michigan Reading Association conference (proposals due September 30) and begin crafting my NCTE presentation (for November).

The Students!
This year, my school is starting on August 24. Prior to that, I’ll be teaching a summer “boot camp” for those who want a little warm-up to school. This is my absolute favorite time of year. Everyone is refreshed from summer, and I am reminded of why I love my job so much: I get to interact with teenagers on a daily basis. I get to see their smiles and their frustrations and watch them grow into young men and women. It’s an absolute blessing. As much as I need the summer to recharge for the school year, I need the school year to recharge for life.

I can’t wait.

What are you looking forward to in August?

Rabbit, Rabbit.

Comic Peeps You Need to Know

You may or may not have noticed this, but we are kind of in the midst of a high point of comic love, especially for kids. Graphic novels (or as they’d been called for years before people got freaked out by their kids reading comics instead of traditional books, “comic books”) were honored by the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz committees this past awards season. The Kids’ Comics Revolution Kids’ Comics Awards were announced just a few weeks ago at the Kids Read Comics Festival in Ann Arbor. The Eisner Awards were just announced last night at the San Diego Comic-Con, and we saw authors who write mainly or exclusively for children win major awards — awards without a “kids” category.

In all of this, I’ve been thinking about some of the best and smartest people in the comics industry, especially when it comes to bringing comics into the classroom with success. I assume that, if you’re reading this blog, you probably know the likes of Cece Bell, Jenni Holm, Matthew Holm, Jeff Smith, and Raina Telgemeier. If you don’t, go look them up, read their works, and get them for your classroom. You probably won’t see those books for months, aside from when your students have them open.

But what about some superstars who aren’t, for whatever reason, as well known? There’s a few I’ve become familiar with over the past few years, and they are absolutely stellar.

Jerzy Drozd
Who is he? Jerzy is an accomplished comics creator, including the webcomic Boulder and Fleet and as part of the trio who created the graphic version of The Warren Commission Report.
Why should I know him? While Jerzy’s comics creating skills are unquestionable, his teaching is beyond compare. I’ve been fortunate enough to witness him give a workshop for kids, and the amount of teaching he did and the amount of learning that the kids did was mind-blowing. I’ve seen good educators do their thing, but. . .wow. You can find Jerzy on Twitter @Jerzy or on his website (with links to his webcomic and workshops).

Faith Erin Hicks
Who is she? Faith is the creator of 10 comics for teens, including the Eisner-winning Adventures of Superhero Girl.
Why should I know her? In addition to writing amazing things, Faith is a strong advocate for intelligent things: using comics with people who like to read them, treating women and men with equal amounts of respect and admiration, and the benefits of being Canadian. Basically, she’s the entire package, and you should be hunting down her every book and including it in your classroom (preview first — some of her stuff tends to skew more YA than MG). I was able to read an early copy of her upcoming solo project, The Nameless City, and, you guys. Holy crap. It’s amazing. Not at all surprising. Follow Faith on Twitter @FaithErinHicks or her website.

Scott Robins
Who is he? Scott is a Children’s librarian for the Toronto Public Library system. He writes on a School Library Journal blog called Good Comics for Kids and is also the author of A Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids’ Comics.
Why should I know him? Okay, if the above two sentences didn’t give you enough reason, then I don’t know what you’re looking for. Scott is incredibly knowledgeable (like, top of his field knowledgeable). If you haven’t heard of him, then he is absolutely the best librarian dealing with comics who you haven’t heard of. If you have heard of him, then he is the best librarian dealing with comics who you have heard of. You can find Scott on Twitter @scout101.

Dave Roman
Who is he? Dave is the creator of several comics for kids and teens, including one of my absolute favorites, TeenBoat! (co-created with illustrator John Green).
Why should I know him? He is the smartest person I’ve ever heard talk about comics. If you find yourself needing some rational thinking about why comics are good to use with students or just a shot in the arm to support what you’re already doing, look up Dave Roman and the things he has to say. In addition to being a great comics creator and possessing a superior comics brain, Dave and Jerzy Drozd (see above) also run the Kids’ Comics Revolution Podcast. It is worth every second of your time. You can find him on Twitter @yaytime or at his website.

Bonus Website! Reading With Pictures
Reading With Pictures is not a person, I know. But it’s a website run by some amazing people. Their mission statement says it all, I think:

Reading With Pictures advocates for the use of comics in the classroom and beyond to promote literacy and improve educational outcomes for all students. We work with academics to cultivate groundbreaking research into the proper role of comics in education. We collaborate with cartoonists to produce exceptional graphic novel content for scholastic use. Most importantly, we partner with educators to develop a system of best practices for integrating comics into their curriculum. At Reading With Pictures, we get comics into schools and get schools into comics.

So there you go! If you’re not familiar with these people (or website), go check them out. We’re living in an age where comics are amazing, and those being written for a school-age audience are both well-written and enjoyable. Why would you not want to do everything you can to include them for your students?

Google Drive as a Lesson Organizer

Ahhhh…

Doesn’t Summer just feel nice? I know for some of you, it’s way too hot. Where I am, it’s been a bit cooler than normal. But if you’re a teacher, there’s a good chance that Summer means you don’t have to go in to work every day. For a month or two. That’s a pretty darn good feeling.

But, of course, if you’re a teacher, you probably also have the itch to do something for your classroom. So while I’ve been reflooring my house, salvaging a flooded basement, and awaiting the birth of my first child (his due date is today, and as you can probably infer from the fact that I’m writing a blog post and not at the hospital, we’re still waiting on Baby Wyzlic), I’ve also been doing a lot for school. There’s one thing I’ve been working on in particular that maybe you find interesting/helpful as well: using Google Drive to organize my lessons.

I’m a big believer in using Google Drive for basically all things communication among staff members. Need to do athletic eligibility checks? Make a spreadsheet and share it. Have a roster of students who will be going on a field trip all day? Make a document and share it. Organizing a potluck? Make a spreadsheet or even a form and have everyone add their items to the list.

I love it so much, that my school has asked me to do a short PD on it in the fall so we can start to use it more as a staff. And while I was putting this together, I thought about how I might use this not with my students (I use Forms all the time with them already), but for myself as a teacher.

So I’ve created a spreadsheet for each class and I will be using it as my yearly lesson planner. Here’s what my first week of English 9 looks like:

First Week

 

I need this structure so I can keep track of the grammar, reading, writing, and speaking skills I’ve covered, as well as the standards we’ve hit. In the “Lesson Plan Outline” section, I’ve linked to the lesson I’ve created (I don’t have a lesson plan for every lesson, but I will try to have at least a basic outline created), also using Google Drive. Each of these is then nested in folders in my main Google Drive area.

This is no different than what many people do with a paper lesson planner, but I think it’s going to work really well for me. The main benefit is going to be CTRL+H. Many people are familiar with CTRL+F on a Word document or in most web browsers as being the “find” command. That works in Google Drive items as well, but is limited to searching through only the active sheet in a spreadsheet.

CTRL+H usually brings up your history in a web browser. But if you’re using a Google Spreadsheet, this happens:

CTRL+H

It’s a find and replace! Not necessarily all that handy, until you look at the search options. Do you see it?

ALL SHEETS.

With this tool, I can easily search through my entire year’s worth of lessons and look for when we hit a given standard. “You’re saying I didn’t hit RL.9-10.7? Let me show you exactly when, where, and how I did.” Or if a student asks when we learned such-and-such a thing, instead of saying “oh, it was last Tuesday — wait, no, Wednesday — I think,” I can do a quick search, tell them the exact day, and also any other times we happened to touch on that (at least according to my plans).

This also makes for an easy way to make changes for the future, as Google tracks changes and can go into “comment” mode quite easily. For me, these are the things that have made curriculum mapping and unit planning difficult: having a place where it all exists together, and being able to make changes or suggestions for the future.

It’s possible this will blow up in my face. But I’m feeling pretty good about this.

It’s May Already?

After completing a more or less successful Slice of Life March (I missed a day at the beginning and a few at the end), I apparently took April off from blogging. Oops!

It’s that time of year, though. The snow has melted. The crocuses have bloomed. Spring break has come and gone. So now, it’s time for the break-neck sprint to mid-June and the end of the school year.

I’ve been at 4 different schools in my career, and each school has a different feel to it in May. However, there is one thing that is consistent: May is busy. Spring sports wrap up, so athletes are missing more and more school as tournaments abound. Seniors can see, smell, taste, and nearly touch the end of their high school career. Prom planning takes over at least one or two teachers’ lives and occasionally their classes. Honors nights are emphasized and de-emphasized. Graduation is planned, and it will happen.

Meanwhile, we need to not forget our focus: teaching our content. Even though it’s 75 degrees outside and 92 in our classrooms. Even though a promposal is happening between classes and all the students are atwitter (and a few even on Twitter). Even though even though even though.

Something I’ve found helps in these months: knowing what’s going on at the school, top-down. Is next week Tuesday a different schedule? Why? When do the students need to know? You don’t want to be the teacher without these answers. Also, keeping a solid bond between teachers and students. If the students trust you and your teaching, they’re much less likely to rebel in this last hectic month. You can actually get a full year of teaching in! And finally, keep a solid bond among teachers. This is not the time of year to cancel the Friday happy hour (or whatever you may do as a staff to keep connected). In fact, it’s even more important now as sometimes emotions and tempers can match the weather for increase in heat.

To teachers everywhere: good luck this month! You can do it!

Lessons from a Sunny, Snowy Day

While gazing out my window this morning, I noticed it was one of those days: those cold, sunny days in Winter. For those who live where snow is a novelty and not a way of life from October to May, that may seem odd to you. But the sunny days are the worst. They are the most bitterly cold. There is no cloud cover to keep in the warmth, so it seems to just leak from the air and vanish.

However, there’s something really wonderful about these days, too. Let me share a story.

I have 2 brothers, and when we were growing up, we were the main snow-shoveling age kids on the street. We had a few retired couples, a widow, some families with younger kids, and some families with kids who had already left home. So we did a lot of the shoveling for the elderly folks on our short street.

One day, I was shoveling the drive of our neighbor, Mrs. Bommarito. My older brother was shoveling our drive. He wasn’t doing a great job. There was packed-down snow and ice from people walking and cars driving over it, and he was just leaving it on the driveway! I was going to do a much better job. I mean, I didn’t want Mrs. Bommarito to slip and fall because I had left a spot untouched. So I shoveled away the top layer of snow. When it got to the packed-down stuff, I chipped away at it. I grabbed our smaller metal shovel, designed to cut through ice, and got every last piece of snow and ice off the pavement. I was out there at least half an hour longer than my brother, but I did a far superior job. I took a look at my work, and I was quite proud of what I had done.

Then I turned around (Mrs. Bommarito’s house was on the other side of the street from ours), and I saw what my brother had left. When he went in over half an hour earlier, there was still all the packed-down snow. But much to my amazement, it was now all gone! I hadn’t heard anyone else shoveling. Nobody came and finished the job. How did that happen?

What I really wanted to know: how did he do the exact same job that I did, even though I put in so much more time and effort?

The answer was simple: it was one of those cold, sunny days. The sun, being unimpeded by any clouds, melted away what my brother had left. I bet if you looked closely, you would have seen sublimation take place. Meanwhile, he was inside with a hot drink, while I was doing the work that the sun would have done for me.

So what’s the lesson here?

How often do we work, as teachers, harder than we need to in order to reach our students and help them learn? What are the things that are already in place for us that will help our students if we just get out of the way and let them do their thing? I can think of a few:

  • Cell phones
  • Interest in the content
  • Engagement with the activity

Are we so scared of some of these things that we don’t use them to their full potential? Are we working twice as long as we have to, while our colleagues sit at home with a nice drink, achieving the same results?

Here’s the rub: this snow shoveling trick only works on the sunny days. If you leave the packed-down ice out there on a cloudy day, or at night, it turns to ice. There is nothing more dangerous on your pavement. But those sunny days: they’re bitterly cold.

We have to endure the cold of the sunny days in order to let the sun do its trick. We have to test the uncertain waters of using cell phones. We have to put in the work to find out our students’ interests so we can use them to our advantage. We have to help our students be engaged with the material. This is hard work. But which would you rather do: work harder so your students will learn more effectively and efficiently, or work harder so your students will learn in a way that takes more time and effort?</P.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s a bitterly cold, sunny day. And there’s snow on my driveway.


While writing this post, I looked up Mrs. Bommarito to make sure I was spelling her name correctly. In doing so, I discovered she passed away in January 2012. She was a fixture in my childhood, as we went to church together and then out to brunch at Big Boy’s afterwards. Thank you for this lesson that you didn’t even know you were teaching me.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen.