My No Dead Dog Policy (broken)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I've always had a policy against making my students read books where the dog dies.  I love a good dog book, but the dog has to make it in the end.  There may be sad or scary parts, but I always promise my students that in the end, the dog will make it.  I can't stand it myself otherwise so I don't want to put them through it.  When I wrote my unit for Stone Fox, I thought I'd never stop crying at the end.

I just broke my own policy.  I wanted to teach Love That Dog by Sharon Creech because really, has there ever been a better gift to an upper elementary classroom teacher than this book?  I mean, do you teach poetry?  Like not if your principal or curriculum coordinator is asking but REALLY teach poetry?  It's tough.  I always say I'm going to do a "poem of the week" or dig into some quality poems for comprehension but it's hard.  Love That Dog is an entire novel written in poetry form WITH real poems snuck in there.

My students loved the book and so did I.  I've had my unit on TPT for a while for free (click here for the Comprehension Packet) but it was the first chance I've had to use the unit myself.  My students truly enjoyed the book and were so excited that the actual poems referenced in the story were in the back.  They were so enthralled by Robert Frost that I'm going to be able to capitalize on that and do more AND they wanted to know if Walter Dean Myers (the poet invited to Jack's school in the book) was a real poet and were so excited to find out that he was!

I had to confess to my students midway through that I was breaking my policy on dogs dying.  I told them it didn't actually count since the whole situation with the dog is told in flashback form and the boy is writing about a past experience.  They didn't buy it and I don't blame them... They nearly cried when we read the part about Sky getting hit by the car.  Then, as if I didn't feel bad enough, they wrote poems like this for their constructed response on their final test.

Even if I did feel extra bad for breaking my own policy when I read that poem, I'd say it's a sure sign that the unit was a success!  I highly recommend the book to anyone who teaches upper elementary and is tired of pretending to teach poetry.  And loves dogs.  Especially the last part.


Who Will You Vote For?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

"How old are you?"
"Why don't you have any kids?"
"Why are you wearing that?"

Students have asked me plenty of awkward and less than appropriate questions over the years.  I'm pretty good with a poker face and a diplomatic response.  But there's one question I've already struggled with this school year.

"Who will you vote for?"

This is the third presidential election of my teaching career, and I always used to be excited for those teachable moments that only come along once every four years.  For reasons we all can understand, this year feels different.  This campaign has been especially divisive, and for those of us who aren't staking signs in our yard and poking fights on Facebook daily, we're mostly just trying to stay out of the crossfire.

It's most desirable to avoid the subject of this election altogether, and I'll admit I've faced that same temptation in my lesson plans.  When it came time to change out a bulletin board last week, I knew I had a pile of election materials saved up from 2008 and 2012.  However, I found myself procrastinating the task, trying to think of something different for a focal point in my classroom for the next month.  I mean, who really wants to be reminded of the upcoming election more often than every time we drive down the road, get on social media, or watch television?

Last week, I got my hair cut and my stylist asked me how deeply I delve into the political arena with my students this time of year.  I told her I obviously keep my personal opinions out of it, but I try to educate them on the process and the positions of the different parties.  One of my fundamental beliefs about public education is that it's our responsibility to teach students how to be functional, contributing members of society.  And whether we like the current system or not, learning to be an active voice in our political system is a big part of that, whether we're preparing future candidates or, at the minimum, teaching the importance of voting.

While this year's election isn't my favorite topic, personally or professionally, that is no excuse for avoiding the subject.  I'd dare say avoiding the subject is how we ended up in this position in the first place.  For those of us who aren't thrilled with either candidate, perhaps we should consider what we're doing to inspire, support, and educate the future world changers that are entrusted to us as children.  It takes learning about the process to want to be a part of it.

I'll admit I've been procrastinating this task so far this school year, but I've got the next six weeks to make up for it.  I finally drug out those bulletin board supplies yesterday so we can started.  Who's with me?  In the meantime, I'll keep my fingers crossed for all of us on upholding those poker faces and diplomatic responses...