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Friday, July 13, 2018

POETRY FRIDAY

Like so many Americans, I live in a constant state of disbelief. Pretty much every day, and often several times a day, I say to myself, "How can this be happening?" And I send emails and sign petitions and make phone calls and give money and march and wonder when this nightmare will be over. I spend a lot of time, too,  wondering what to say to the children and young adults in my life.

Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson are releasing a new collection that may help, just a little. In the introduction to WE RISE, WE RESIST, WE RAISE OUR VOICES they describe waking up the day after the election, wondering what they could say to the young people in their lives:

"We grew up in the segregated south, when life for us was much different than it is today. Racial discrimination, prejudice, and hatred against African Americans were pervasive. We were prohibited from going to school with White children, so we went to all-Black schools. We couldn't go to the public library that Whites used. We were forced to sit in a "special section" in movie theaters. We couldn't even try on clothes or shoes from the stores downtown. Our parents had to purchase them , bring them home, and then see if they were a good fit. If they weren't they couldn't be returned…

This segregated but unequal system we were forced to endure was extremely trying and often frightening. Yet in our all-Black communities, we were embraced by accepting arms, motivated by encouraging words, and shelted by watchful eyes that probed for signs of lurking dangers seeking to engulf us. We were loved! We knew it! we could feel it!…

"How could we share this valuable advice with you?" we thought. "How could we let you know that there are nuggets of sustenance for you just as there were for us when we were your age?"

That's how the idea for this treasury was born…

WE RISE, WE RESIST, WE RAISE OUR VOICES is a collection of more than fifty texts- poems, prose, letters, essays, and art, all by contemporary authors of color. People like Arnold Adoff, Kwame Alexander, Joseph Bruchac, Ashley Bryan, Floyd Cooper, Sharon Draper, Margarita Engle, Tony Medina, Marilyn Nelson, Ellen Oh, Eric Velasquez, Rita Williams-Garcia, Jacqueline Woodson, and oh, so many more. The book doesn't come out until early September, but it's definitely one you will want to preorder. Here are two of the many poems I know I will use.

We've Got You
Pat Cummings

The storm is coming.
There is always a storm
But we've got you.
We've weathered the fury
you're heading into
and we know how to shelter.
How to gather force.
We've seen where the storm
     is weak.
We've got you.
So tuck in,
     stay close,
        grow strong.
We're here. You're wind.

            And you?
                   You're our coming storm.


A Talkin-To
Jason Reynolds

I could tell you all the bad things,
all the bad things that cut and scare
and howl and growl and gnash and
bear teeth, bright and sharp that
glint in the moonlight.

I could tell you all that's frightening,
all that's frightening and lurking
and looming and hiding in the brush,
razor-hair pricked up on the back
of something too sly to see.

I could tell you about all the loud things,
all the loud things that scream
and shriek and shred our ability to hear
each other, the beasts behind screens,
scrolling banners of bully-banter

I could tell you all the things
all the things that are trying to tell you
about you, about how you should run,
and how you should run,
and how you should run,
but I'm about you above all things,
above all things, so I'd rather tell you
one thing and one thing only:

everything bad and frightening and loud
will always hide when you hold your head up,
will always hide when you hold your heart out,
will always sing a shrinking song
when you fly.

Sylvia Vardell is hosting Poetry Friday today. She and Janet Wong are releasing another fabulous new poetry collection! This one is for school leaders! I know what will be on my administrators' desks the first day of school.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

CYBER PD, Part One

I'm participating in CYBER PD, which I have done almost every summer for a number of years. This week, we are reading, BEING THE CHANGE: LESSONS AND STRATEGIES TO TEACH SOCIAL COMPREHENSION by Sara K. Ahmed.

I'm excited about the book, because this year I will have my own classroom, at least half time this year. I'll be teaching three sections of sixth grade language arts. My school is K-8, Dual Language. Since I started there, six years ago, we have always had two sections of every grade. This year, the primary grades are down a little, and the demand for our middle school was high, so we added another section of sixth grade. That means that approximately 45 of my students will have been together and known each other since kindergarten, and the other 20 are brand new to the school.

There is also a socioeconomic factor at my school. The majority of our existing students are working class poor. Many of our new students have come to the school because their families are interested in our dual language model. These students tend to be more middle class. They do interesting things on weekends,  go on vacations, have the cool toys that show up on television.  I suspect that this will also play a role in our classroom dynamics.

I also know that middle school is a hard, hard time physically, socially, and emotionally. I want to do all that we can to make every single kid feel comfortable and valued and loved and accepted and honored for who they are as a human being. I want to make sure that kindness is something that every single kid values and practices every single day.

For these reasons, my teammate and I know we are going to have to spend a great deal of time building community. I'm grateful then, for the suggestions in the book. I know I will use a lot of them. I especially love the ideas in chapter two, thinking about how to teach kids to "Listen with Love." That's an area I really want to work on this year.

One part of the book, however, did leave me with huge concerns. I'm going to address that in this next section.

Names: A Cautionary Tale
Once upon a time there were two little boys. The little boys had traveled an extremely rough road. Their own mama couldn't take care of them, so they ended up in a variety of less than savory situations. For a few months, they even slept in someone's garage. Finally, they ended up in the care of an evil queen. There wasn't enough food. They slept on mattresses on the floor. They were little and afraid and they sometimes wet the bed.  And then she beat them. Eventually, their principal found out. And they were taken out of that situation, and went to live somewhere else. At the new house there was food, lots of it. And there were toys and bicycles and a dog named Maggie who licked people's faces when they were sad. And things weren't perfect, but they were definitely much, much better.

Most of the time, anyway. One of the times that was hardest for the boys was when people asked them about their family. Their mom always told them that families are made lots of different ways. She told them that they could love more than one mom, and that the mom who had birthed them had done the best that she could. She told them that they could call her mom, or they could call her Miss C, or anything that felt comfortable to them.

Deep down inside, the boys knew that theirs was not an ordinary family. There was no dad. And their new mom wasn't a typical mom. She was a little older than most moms. And she didn't look anything like the boys. She was very short, and they were both tall and strong. She was white, and they had rich chocolate brown skin. When kids asked them about their family, they usually tried to change the subject.

And then there was that name activity. It always happened the first week of school. "Tell us about your name. Where did your name come from?" These boys had strong and wonderful names. Isaiah was one of the four major prophets of the Old Testament, and there's a whole book in the Bible named after him. Kadeem is a Muslim name. People with the name Kadeem are "very versatile, idealistic and intuitive. They are bold, independent, inquisitive and interested in research." 

The problem was, the boys had no idea why their biological mother, the person who named them, had picked these names. They didn't know the story of their names, and they didn't have any way of finding out. And it always caused problems that first week of school, when the "tell the story of your name activity came up." Their mother wrote down the generic stories behind their names, and put them in their backpacks that first week of school. She told them that they could talk about how their hyphenated last name had come to be, they knew that story well. They didn't want to do that. They wanted a first name story, just like everyone else's name story. And that made the first week of school really, really hard. Sometimes there were even behavior issues, because it was easier to draw attention in a different way than to admit that that they didn't know the story of their names. They were excluded from the classroom community from Day One. 

People who know me have probably figured out that the boys in this story are my sons. They were students at my school, and I adopted them, from the foster care system, at ages 7 and 9. We didn't know the stories of how/why they were named, and we didn't have any way of getting those stories. And it made for some really hard times. More than once, I got bad behavior phone calls the first week of school.

I don't know how I would address the name issue. I fully agree with Ahmed, that names are important. I work hard to learn kids' names, even before the first day of school. Most of my students are Hispanic, and in that culture, the child retains the name of both their mother and their father. I encourage my students to use their full last names, to honor both parents. I think it's incredibly important to pronounce peoples' names correctly.

I also know, though, that there are kids like my sons, who come from a hard background, who don't know the stories of their names, or who find those stories painful, and who would rather not remember or talk about their names. I don't know, then, exactly how I will approach this activity, but I know it will look very different in my class. We might look up what their names mean, but we probably won't do the "tell where your names come from." Not unless I can think of a different way to do it, that doesn't exclude kids who have already had a hard time in life.

Social comprehension. So important and yet so very complex....

Friday, July 6, 2018

POETRY FRIDAY

I might have already told this story, but one of my first memories of poetry as an adult has to do with Naomi Shihab Nye. I was at the International Reading Association Convention (now the International Literacy Association) in San Antonio, in the late 1990's. My dear friend, Lisa Lenz Bianchi, and I were walking through a little shopping area close to the Riverwalk. Lisa, a poet and lover of poetry, noticed that Naomi Shihab Nye was doing a reading that night, and so we went.  Nye read poetry while her little boy, probably about four, played with a truck on the floor in the back of the room. And it was magical.

I'm always excited, then, when I find a new book by Naomi Shihab Nye. I grabbed an ARC of her latest book, VOICES IN THE AIR, at ALA, when it came to Denver in February. And like pretty much everything she has ever written, I love it. I say that with a caution, though. Naomi Shihab Nye regularly writes poetry (A MAZE ME), and picture books (SITTI's SECRET), and novels (THE TURTLE OF OMAN) for children and young adults; she's written more than thirty books. If you pick up VOICES IN THE AIR, expecting to add it to your classroom library, especially if you are an elementary teacher, you might be disappointed. There are poems in the book that I would use with children, but it's more a book for older students and also for adults.

VOICES IN THE AIR celebrates many of the people who have shaped Nye as a poet and as a human being.  Each page (or most pages) includes a dedication or a quote to that person, followed by an original poem; the review of the book says that there are over one hundred, but I didn't count. The range is wide- historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison, poets (Lucille Clifton, Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry Longfellow) and people who live in Nye's world (her father, neighbors, etc). In the back of the book, there is a quick biography of each person. Nye's poems (and the introduction to the book, which is also beautiful) remind me to live well, to slow down, to be still, to pay attention and to listen, to others and to my own heart. A really important reminder during this hard and often awful time.


PLEASE SIT DOWN
      for Vera B. Williams

Your mama will have a chair
Everyone will have a chair
There are enough chairs

In the dreams we share
desks with smooth wooden tops
name cards in calligraphy
cubbyholes under seats
what else might people be given?

When everyone sits calmly in chairs
Numbers march across pages
Letters line up friendly-fashion

Hopefully we might like those letters enough
to shape them into stories
Where have you been before here?
Who did you see?
A woman of sturdy conviction
clear, clear focus
making history with her hands

A garden, a muffin, a world
Greedy men say "More!" to war
Sitting together telling stories
could change that but who will take the time?
Missiles faster

All our lives to speak of simple things
turns out to be
most complicated

Naomi Shihab Nye


CONVERSATION WITH GRACE PALEY
FLIGHT OF THE MIND WRITING WORKSHOP, OREGON

It's been a spectacular day, Grace!
We gushed
and she cleared her throat.
Not that great, she said--
but pretty good.
Didn't you like our long drive into the woods
     to see trees with rounded buttocks?
They were okay.
Our splendid dinner?
Tasty.
Grace, guide us. What is politics to you?
You are such a brave activist.
How do we live?
What do we do?
Politics is simply the way human beings
     treat one another on the earth.

Naomi Shihab Nye


MOMENT OF RELIEF

News loves to be bad.
It's a bad habit.
Think of all the good things people do---
Right now, how many people in our own town
are stirring soup to give away...
Bad news still gets more attention.
trash talk, insult...
at some point you make a decision.
Which world?
Malala, smiling warmly, speaks of dreams,
girls going to school,
mutual respect.
The newscasters stick her in
after lots of badness.
They know we can only take so much.

Naomi Shihab Nye


POETRY FRIDAY is at MISS RUMPHIUS EFFECT today.
Have a peaceful week…

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

SLICE OF LIFE

I am a morning person. I love, love, love the early hours of the day. I bounce cheerily out of bed at a time my sons grumpily  refer to as the "butt crack of dawn," take my shower, have my breakfast, throw my teacher bag out of my shoulder, and I'm off. I'm pretty much always one of the first people in the parking lot at work.

Son #1, on the other hand, is NOT a morning person. When I adopted the boys, Son #1 was 9, and one of my biggest learnings that first year was that not everyone wakes up bright and cheery.  Not everyone wants to interact right away. Or eat breakfast. Son #1 and I have had many, ummm, less-than-stellar interactions in the morning.

Since the boys have been driving, it's been a little easier. You see, I'm usually gone long before they awaken. I sometimes text, or leave them a note, but I don't see my sons in the morning. And I think
that's better for all of us.

Except not in the summer. In the summer, I am around a little more. I see what's going on. And it pretty much makes me crazy.

Take this morning for instance.

I was awake right around 5. I had my shower, did a little spiritual reading and reflection, and then went to work around 6, in preparation for a meeting at 9:30. At about 7:20, it occurred to me that Son #1 was still not up. Son #1 has to be at work at 8. He works close to downtown. Downtown is about twenty minutes from our house, when traffic is good. At this time of day, traffic is never good. And he has to park in a lot and catch a van to his actual work site at 7:50

I wonder if I should wake him up, but remind myself he is an adult. He can set an alarm. He can get himself up.

At 7:24, I hear him emerge from his bedroom and head to the bathroom. Phew. But he is in there ten minutes. I know there is no way he will be on time. My stomach is in knots, but I don't say anything.

And then he comes out and is in his bedroom for another few minutes, presumably getting dressed.  I resist the urge to tell him that he is going to be late. He is an adult after all. He is supposed to be able to manage his own time.

At 7:41 he emerges from the bedroom, and saunters toward the door. Every fiber of my being feels the need to scream,"HURRY UP!!!! YOU'LL BE LATE. PEOPLE GET FIRED FOR BEING LATE!" I bite my tongue, look up from my computer, and smile.

"Goodbye, have a good day."

He smiles back and manages, what for him, a non-morning person, is a somewhat pleasant greeting. "Uh-huh." And then he walks out the door. At 7:42. He is definitely going to be late. But I didn't say anything. Crisis averted. 

I am so glad I am a morning person. I am really thankful I go to work before he gets up. I couldn't stand this every morning.

Friday, June 29, 2018

POETRY FRIDAY ROUNDUP

Vail, Colorado, July 2016

So today I think we will start the round up with celebrations. There are quite a lot, big and small. 

At "There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Country, " Ruth is celebrating the publication of our own Margaret Simon's brand new book, BAYOU SONG: CREATIVE EXPLORATION OF THE SOUTH LOUISIANA LANDSCAPE. Ruth begins by sharing her thoughts on a podcast, "Nature, Joy, and Human Becoming," which helped her think about how we might use Margaret's book to help children appreciate the natural world. (The podcast sounds absolutely wonderful, and I'm definitely going to go back and listen to it this weekend). Ruth then uses Margaret's "Ode to a Toad," to write her own "Ode to a Flamboyant Tree."

While Ruth is celebrating Margaret's book, Margaret celebrates a new friend, Gienah, that she met in a line at ALA, by writing a poem especially for her.

And then Molly Hogan celebrates the beginning of summer. First she celebrates a new month with an Elizabeth Coatsworth poem, "July Rain." And then she celebrates a really special gift she received in the mail from Margaret, as a part of the Summer Poetry Swap.

At A TEACHING LIFE, Tara Smith is definitely in a season of celebrating endings and new beginnings. She's very recently (last week, I think?) retired from teaching, and is packing her house, in preparation for a big move to a beautiful farm. In going through her children's drawers, she's uncovering lots of memories. She celebrates her son's early years in school with William Trowbridge's poem, "Taking My Son to His First Day of Kindergarten."

Catherine Flynn has a lot to celebrate this week! First, she had two original poems published in Linda Rief's new Quickwrites Handbook. Second, Catherine found a vintage Aileen Fisher book, FEATHERED ONES AND FURRY, (illustrated by Eric Carle) in a culled books box at her school. Catherine shares "Wrens"with us today.

Our favorite Aussie, Kathryn Appel, also has lots to celebrate this week. Her book, BULLY ON THE BUS, is making its way across the ocean, and will be published in the United States by Kane Miller.

Over at Teacher Dance, Linda Baie has two original poems. The first captures the desolation we are all feeling in these days, and the second, somewhat like the Lynn Ungar poem I shared today, reminds us to celebrate life's small goodnesses. Thank you, Linda!

From The Water's Edge, Erin brings us "Sunset on the Spire" by Eleanor Wylie, another collection of the small and lovely.

Donna Smith celebrates the power of the water with "Pulse," an original poem that she wrote earlier this week. Today she has photographs from a family trek to Camden, Maine, which is where poet Edna St. Vincent Millay comes from.

Kay McGriff's original poem, "How to Float Down a River," reminds me of how the water refreshes my spirit. Thanks for reminding me that I need to find some water time really soon!

Carol Varsalona wrote her first ever cherita to celebrate the colorful palette she finds every day in a garden. It's extra special because she waters her flowers with an heirloom watering can, owned by her grandmother!


Another theme that showed up today was big life truths. 

Tabatha Yeatts, the first poster last night had a found poem in a Harry Beston quote." I love thinking about how people are "sometimes very lovely flowers and are always more than flowers." Thinking her poem might be perfect for my sixth graders to read as they get to know each other and become a community this fall.

At Gathering Books, Fats Suela introduces us to more big truths in the poetry of Andrea Gibson. I can't help but imagine Lynn and Andrea talking to each other; I think they would have great conversations.

Michelle's entry, around the theme of responsibility and freedom includes original art and an original poem, which captures perfectly how so many of us are feeling about the situation on our southern border. Then, as if that was not enough, she also includes art from Charles' White's exhibition in Chicago.

Liz Steinglass visited the Holocaust Museum yesterday, then wrote "Shoes of the Dead." If I had to describe her poem, I'd use words like stunning and heartbreaking.  Do not miss it!


And then there are some terrific poems that don't fit into either of these categories...

After several days of record breaking temperatures in Denver, it's refreshing to read Laura Purdie Salas' poem, "A Thousand Nicknames for Snow." I love all of the different perspectives Laura brings in and am hoping she will say I can use it with my sixth graders this year.

I'm always intrigued by the journey people take in writing a poem, so reading about that was an added bonus to Keisha Shepard's original poem, Summer Wind, which was born after she heard a line in a song last week.

I have not yet tried writing a cherita, mostly because I think it would be really hard to shape a story in that way, but over at Random Noodling, Diane Mayr is continuing her series of ekphrastic cherita, this week's are about the circus. And at Kurious Kitty, Diane celebrates the life of Poet Laureate, Donald Hall.

Heidi Mordhorst helped kick start Taylor Mali's metaphor dice project, and she used her set to create a full length metaphor poem, "funhouse," in which she compares her heart to an "unruly mirror." Alas, those of us who didn't get a set of dice in the kickstart have to wait until November.

Little Willow has a really interesting poem, "Story," by Nayyirah Waheed. The last two lines:
            just because you were not writing
            externally
            does not mean you were not writing
            internally"
intrigue me. I wonder, are there some genres, e.g. fiction, that I am always writing, whether it be in my head or on paper; and other genre, such as poetry, that are more elusive, and that I have down on paper more quickly, before I lose them.

Wishing you a terrific week!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

POETRY FRIDAY IS HERE!




Welcome! Poetry Friday is here today!

Every time it is my turn to host Poetry Friday, I hope I will think of something special and wonderful and spectacular to share. Mostly I don't. But today, I think I kind of do have something, or at least someone, special and wonderful and spectacular! Please allow me to introduce you to Lynn Ungar. Lynn is a Unitarian minister, a dog trainer, a singer and contra dancer. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her wife and teenage daughter, and several dogs and cats.

Most importantly, at least for today, Lynn is a poet. I don't even know how exactly to describe her poetry, except to say that she uses small details to share big truths, just like Marge Piercy, and Mary Oliver, and Barbara Crooker do. She reminds to watch and breathe and celebrate the miraculous ordinary. And somehow, in these weeks when every day seems to bring new atrocities and new sadness, that's very comforting to me.  Here is a new favorite poem that I found on Lynn's website.

"The Last Good Days"
by Lynn Ungar


What will you do with the last good days?
Before the seas rise and the skies close in,
before the terrible bill
for all our thoughtless wanting
finally comes due?

What will you do
with the last fresh morning,
filled with the watermelon scent
of cut grass and the insistent
bird calling sweet  sweet
across the shining day?

Crops are dying, economies failing,
men crazy with the lust for power and fame
are shooting up movie theaters and
engineering the profits of banks.

It is entirely possible
it only gets worse from here.
How can you leave your heart
open to such a vast, pervasive sadness?
How can you close your eyes
to the riot of joy and beauty
that remains?

The solutions, if there are any
to be had, are complex, detailed,
demanding. The answers
are immediate and small.

Wake up. Give thanks. Sing.


Another poem I absolutely loved, and actually considered sharing, is  Camas Lilies

Lynn's Website is here
On the website you can read more of Lynn's poems. 
You can listen to Lynn read several of her poems, including "The Last Good Days."
You can read other writing by Lynn or read her musings, which are also poetry. 

You can buy Lynn's book, BREAD AND OTHER MIRACLES, here.

Leave your comments below and I will upload them throughout the day.

Wishing you peace…

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

SLICE OF LIFE

I'm learning some new things about teaching this week.
I'm learning them from my dog.
I've had dogs most of my adult life.
First there was Ramsey, then Maggie, Star, then Jack, and finally Boo.
All of them have taught me something.
But this week I'm learning some brand new lessons.

It all started about a year ago. I ran into Debbie, a friend who I taught with years ago. Debbie was accompanied by Shadow, a huge black lab she is training for Canine Partners of the Rockies. I told her I have always wanted to do something like that, and she invited me to come to class with her some Saturday morning. I've been going since about November and recently, I decided to step up my game and become a puppy sitter. I actually want to raise a puppy but there are several other obstacles in the way right now.

To be a puppy sitter, you have to have a home visit. They check to make sure that your house is safe, and that you have a good fence. They also check out the pets that already live in the home. Debbie has worked with CaPR for several years, so she can do the home visits. Star is not always really excited about other dogs, but her dog Shadow, is really mellow, and really good with other dogs, so the director of CaPR thought it might work to try with him.

It didn't go well at all.

Debbie and I went to class one Saturday and then brought Shadow back to my house. We brought him in through the front door and let the dogs sniff each other a little. That went ok. As soon as Debbie let Shadow off the leash, however, the action began. Shadow immediately trotted over to Star's food dish. It was empty (like it is two minutes after I put it down every morning) and I didn't think it would be a big deal.

Star did. She did not want Shadow checking out her food bowl. If there was a single morsel left in there, she wanted to be the one to find it. She growled at him and showed her teeth.

It went similarly when he picked up a toy. We have had that toy since Christmas and Star has never played with it, so again, I didn't think it was a big deal. Star evidently did, because she growled and bared her teeth again.

Debbie put Shadow back on the leash and they left shortly after that. She and I pretty much thought that was the end of it. If Star couldn't get along with other dogs, even a really mellow, well-trained almost service dog, we definitely didn't think she could get along with any of the younger dogs, who are much younger and not nearly as calm.

The trainers from CaPR didn't think that was necessarily true. They wanted to come over with Pete, another dog in advanced training. They thought they could work with Star. They came last Thursday. They set up the learning conditions very differently. For starters, Pete didn't come in the house right away. First one trainer walked him down one side of the street and the other trainer and I walked Star. It was fine. Then we tried crossing the street and passing each other, first with the dogs on the outside, and then with the dogs on the inside. Everything was still fine. We walked to a nearby school and practiced passing each other, then walking side by side. Everything was fine, but I still wasn't convinced.

We brought the dogs back to the house and took them through the gate into the backyard. Pete had to check every corner of the yard. Star watched, but didn't approach him. Soon he was ready to play and bounded up to her. Lo and behold, she wagged her tail. They circled each other and began a vigorous game of tag. He found a ball in one corner of the backyard and tried to get her to play. And she did. Occasionally Star would fuss a little, but the trainers assured me it was no big deal; Star was just asserting herself and reminding Pete that she was the Alpha Dog here. Pete was more than willing to acquiesce. The trainers told me that Star could communicate with Pete much better than any of us could

Finally we tried taking Pete into the house. Before we did that, however, the trainers made me check to make sure the conditions were ripe for success. I had to pick up the food bowls and all of the toys and bones. Star's food canister, usually in the corner of our dining room, went into the laundry room, with the door shut.

Star and Pete came inside and Star was the hostess with the mostest. Friendly, mannerly, playful. Pete ended up coming back for the night. This week Shadow is here for the entire week and it's going fine. The two dogs play with each other for awhile, then, because it's really hot, they collapse on the cool wood floors. After a little rest, they are ready to go again.

As I'm watching them, I can't help thinking about school. Star wasn't successful at all, the first time we brought Shadow over, but it was because I set her up for failure. We didn't start slowly. We left the toys and food dishes, known sources of conflict, out in the open. When the CaPR trainers came, they started slowly and gave Star ample opportunities to be successful in a controlled environment. When we brought Pete back to the house, they again made sure conditions were right, and that they dogs could be successful.

Even though I am a pretty good reading teacher, with lots of strategies in my boxI think I do the same thing to kids way too often. I take a kid that hasn't quite found her groove as a reader. I tell the kid to choose a book on the first day of school and offer lots of options. The child doesn't know how to make a good choice, or there are too many possibilities, and she fails miserably and thus I reinforce her conceptions of herself, or remind her of previous failures, and thus I start the cycle of failure all over again.

I wonder what it would be like if I adjusted the conditions just a little. What about if I made sure Reina Telgemeier's graphic novels were on her table? What about if I threw a couple of picture books into each table's basket? Or book talked a series I knew she could read that first day, and then casually left the book on her table? Might she be more successful not just that day, but for many days to come?

I'm going to be thinking about Star and Shadow a lot as I start this school year. They have reminded me that my choices, as the teacher, really do matter.