October 19, 2012

Why I Buy Books For My Classroom

Every few months I spend between $200-$300 on books for my classroom.

And I'm not talking about textbooks either. I am very fortunate to teach in a district that provides more than enough resources for my classroom. I have curriculum textbooks, supplemental textbooks. digital textbooks, dictionaries, atlases. I have never wanted for a subject-area book (and if I did all I need to do is ask for it).

What my classroom lacked when I arrived here last year were engaging, for-fun, reading books. I never gave it much thought because hey, I teach social studies and I've got textbooks in every corner. The high school English classroom down the hall is stacked to the ceiling with novels and we have a library downstairs. I really wasn't concerned... until I noticed that my students never had a book in their hands.

Maybe it concerned me because I'm an avid reader, but I took notice. There was no reading for fun going on at all. All of my students were wasting and suppressing their starved teenage imaginations on television and school work. They never let their minds roam free to Olympus, Hogwarts, Narnia, or Middle Earth. There were no tears for characters they had connected with, no outrage that a book ended a way they didn't like, no anticipation to get the next book in the series.


And on the academic side, there was no familiarization with acceptable patterns of language. You see, when a child reads they are not only stretching their imaginations, they're also secretly getting familiar with how written language should sound in their heads. An important skill for all students, but especially those with limited English proficiency who struggle with grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation.

So I took a tentative step and used some scholastic book order points to order some classroom books: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Hoot, The Guardians of Ga'Hoole 1-4, Warriors, and The Hunger Games. The books arrived two weeks later and we established some ground rules:
  1. Books must be treated with respect
  2. Books must be checked out
  3. Books must be returned quickly so other students can enjoy them 
  4. If you find one of our books in the school, bring it back to the bookshelf. 

By the end of the day they were all checked out and I had a waiting list posted for each book.

I was sold, and decided that high interest reading books were something I wanted in my classroom. I jumped on Scholastic and started searching. Three weeks later I had over 40 new books sitting on my shelves and a board full of book check-outs. (Thank you scholastic for free shipping and book club points!)

Tuesday was our book arrival day. I labeled all of the books with my name and put them on the shelf (some of them were checked out before I could even take them off my desk):

Inspecting the new arrivals

Now my classroom looks like this after school:

Books and Music. 
Calvin and Hobbes Action
And my front white board looks like this:

Sure, some of my books never come back. Over the course of time I've lost four books to sticky fingers and forgetful minds. Other books are so well loved by the students that they are falling apart from over-use and have been lovingly taped back together (Percy Jackson).

Seeing this change in my students taught me that no child truly hates to read. They just haven't found their perfect book yet. Even my most reluctant readers are in love with some of the graphic novels series that I have ( Bone, Amulet, Maus) and almost all of my kids go crazy for an engaging scary story/ thriller.

October 16, 2012

Sports Travel in the Bush

Chaperoning a sporting event in rural Alaska is no small thing. It can easily eat up your entire weekend and leave you looking like you survived a war.

Travel usually starts during the school day on Friday. Coaches leave on the first charter flight in the morning with a selection of players. This is so all coaches can meet up and iron out the fine details of what's going to happen over the weekend. Chaperones follow with the rest of the team around lunch time, arriving in time for a little settling in time and the first game/ match.

Wait, flights?! Yes, flights. When your district is the size of a large east coast state and there are no roads, flying is the only option. Which also means that it is very rare to have an event that doesn't include an overnight stay.

Sleeping on a classroom floor.

With limited access to showers.

Always a recipe for fun. But sleeping and travel aside, it's always fun to travel with students. I love traveling with kids from our school because they are the living embodiment of community pride and sportsmanship. They clean up after themselves, are polite to other teachers, cheer each other on, cause very few problems (if any), and are gracious winners.

Seriously, I've had teachers tell me how jealous they are of our travel team. They're that amazing.

Be jealous. No stray, running around kids here.
Just perfectly behaved gentlemen ready to cheer for
their teammates. 
This past weekend I travelled north to Emmonak with a team of wrestlers. I know it seems strange to have a female chaperone for wrestling, but wrestling is co-ed 4-12 sport and we had five girls compete this weekend.

Elementary School Wrestlers

When we weren't wrestling, our team made a few trips to the community store and the AC. Lucky for the chaperones the weekend was pretty packed with very little down time, which meant very little boredom.

Our kids wrestled in two meets, one on Friday night and one Saturday morning. On Saturday afternoon there was a wrestling clinic to teach rules and technique to one of our district's smaller schools (Nunam Iqua) that has just started their wrestling program this year.

It was a great weekend, we saw the Northern Lights on Friday night and whistled at them with the kids.

We arrived back in Scammon Saturday night. The barge was in the river with our winter fuel delivery (over 65,000 gallons) and it felt like winter.

M. and I walked down to town just as it started snowing to get pizza at the store and make a few house calls.

I was barely able to get off the couch on Sunday, I was so exhausted.

October 15, 2012

Snow, Snow, Snow....

It started snowing here in Scammon at the end of September, but nothing stuck around for too long.

When I returned from EMO on Saturday night (more on that trip later), it was just starting to snow. You know, that really pretty snow that isn't quite sticking and looks like glitter. People in town were heating up their steam houses and it even SMELLED like winter.

M. and I took a walk down to town to visit a few people and enjoy the crisp weather. Everything about it was perfect and, with the right layers, it was a nice fall temperature.

Fast forward to this morning. By now it's been snowing for over 24 hours and not only do we have snow accumulating on the ground, we also have ice hiding under the snow. Talk about an exciting and surprising walk.

I think my love affair with snow is already over for this year. Maybe because I know that it most likely won't melt before I leave for the summer, or maybe because it's switched my brain into Christmas mode (which is going to make these next two months seem extra long).

I'm not ready for the never-ending winter to start.

October 05, 2012

Best Surprise Ever!


Salt and Vinegar Chips, Life-Saver mints, and our remote!
Thanks Debbie!