Saturday, February 18, 2017

Best. Email. EVER.

Three years ago...I embarked on a mission to learn the Common Core Standards for ELA. I wanted to be able to teach my own kids...and teach them well. I created It's a W.R.A.P because I wanted to have interesting stories for my kids to read while they learn how to analyze the elements of a story. I have sold quite a few assessments, but last week I received an email that was the true evidence of my success.

"Hi Tera. My name is Lana (I changed it to protect her identity!) and I am a sixth grade student in Louisiana. I have been reading your passages and I have fallen in love with The New Girl. In my opinion, this story has a really good theme. My class has been going over theme for a while. I am not trying to say my class is bad at recognizing theme. We just like going over things once in a while. I was just introducing myself and wanting to get to know you."

The subject line said "Author" and it occurred to me later that she meant ME! I responded to her email and I asked her why my story, The New Girl" had such an impact on her. I also asked her what she thought the theme of the story was since that is the reason I wrote it in the first place. Her response blew me away.

"Hi Tera! It's me Lana. Thank you so much for reading my email! The New Girl had an impact on me because the same thing happened to me on Instagram. Someone had photoshopped a picture of me to make me look bad. The theme we discovered from The New Girl was accepting cultural differences is important. Hopefully this is the true theme. I am really glad that Emma stood up for herself and for her new friend Noor."

YES!!!! I just finished responding to her to let her know that the story could have several different themes, but if I had to select just one, I would choose the exact same one that she did. This amazing little sixth grader had the same experience as the fictional "Emma" from the story, and she connected with her as she became friends with the also fictional "Noor" that I wrote about three years ago.

I have received TONS of amazing feedback from teachers all over the country that use my curriculum and assessment resources. And I LOVE hearing from teachers that have found them helpful and useful in their classrooms. It is the reason I have continued to create new things and write new stories. I want teachers to have valuable resources that their students can connect to while they learn all of the different skills they need to be strong readers. But this email, from this amazing young reader in Louisiana, is the VERY best piece of feedback I could have ever received. It's from a KID!!! Not only did she learn to identify the theme of a story, which will make her a stronger reader, but she connected with the characters that way I hoped kids would. I love this. I just love it.

Ironically, this is a story about a young Muslim girl who recently immigrated to the United States from Syria. Who knew how important this topic would be three years later...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Where are the PENCILS??? Seriously???

I don't think you can blog about education right now without politics rearing its ugly head. This week...we watched Betsy DeVos become the most influential person in the world of school. Her first question was, "Where are the pencils?"

Sorry Betsy. We buy our OWN pencils. I get that she has never stepped foot in a public school before...but come on.

We buy our own EVERYTHING, dear Betsy. 

I have to talk about this. This is crazy! We have a woman in charge of ALL public education (the most important thing we have to offer our kids) and she has never been to one. She didn't go to public school. Her kids didn't go to public school. She has no formal training in anything related to education. And she has absolutely NO knowledge of how the public schools work. She can't say she believes kids with disabilities deserve an education....but she DOES think we should have guns in schools, just in case of a grizzly attack. 

Grizzlies are the LEAST of our worries now that Betsy is in charge!

 The world has gone mad. And this is one of the things that must be discussed. I am from Michigan. I have worked for a public school system for 15 years. Before that...I spent four years at a charter school in the city of Detroit. I've seen both sides. I even loved my charter school. But I can tell you the charters that are popping up every day in Michigan are WRECKING the public schools. And their  student achievement data is not better that traditional public schools. In fact. It is WORSE...far worse. 

Buckle up America...Betsy bought herself a position as the Secretary of Education...and it ain't gonna be pretty.