Yielding control

The influence I have on one little life is insurmountable. However, I cannot control it. Currently, I am reading a wonderful book by Elizabeth George, Raising a Daughter After God’s Own Heart.

It is abundantly clear that the choices that I make, the tone I set, and the modeling I do will affect her for the rest of her life. I can only do so much, but what I can do cannot be stressed enough.

Often I will just stare it her and wonder what she will be like? Will she be the class clown? Will she be the one with the sunny disposition? Will she be the one everyone respects? Will she be the athletic jock type? Will she be a girly girl? It really does not matter. What I care about goes so much deeper and for that, I can have a positive influence. 

First, she needs my prayers. It is not a chore, as George puts it, it is my mission. “Evil” will come my daughter’s way; that is inevitable. However, I can shield her with prayer. Here is a list of prayers I diligently lift up to God:

  • That she would come to believe in the Christ and His lovingkindness
  • That she would desire to follow Jesus (her OWN desire)
  • That she would grow spiritually
  • That she would reflect Jesus in character.  (This is my favorite)
  • That she would choose wisely her associations
  • That she would marry wisely who is also a lover of Jesus

These prayers are my biggest weapon for her to have a clean heart. I will beg God to help me and do battle in prayer. He and ONLY He can grow and transform. I am just a vessel to be used. Tatum, you are adored and loved beyond belief. God is your daddy, and He wants the best for YOU because you are HIS.

She can STAND on all of these words.


Talking to the book; noticing and noting one signpost at at time

Becoming a close reader is the first step in interacting with a text critically. The next piece involves pulling out and citing evidence to support a paragraph dealing with character, plot, conflict etc. The annotation process makes this so much easier if evidence is found while one reads.

Trying to teach students what to mark and how to mark has been a career-long battle. It is easy for me to say, “Just talk to your book and read with your pencil.” For me, it is intuitive. Often, I have to read the book as if I was a 7th or 8th grader with this lens trying to figure out what to mark.

This summer it all became clear when I picked up Notice and Note by Probst and Beers. The reader can now pay close attention to the text with a purpose. The six signposts lessons are designed to encourage close reading.

Since close reading is subjective, the rigor lies in the transaction between the reader and the text. In other words, “The essence of rigor is engagement and commitment.” (23) This eases my fears of students not working at their given level because I know now that I can differentiate instruction by using perhaps a simpler text. Furthermore, I can have higher expectations of interaction from the higher reader to question deeper and more critically. Also, when the reader is asking the questions, the power lies in the student. This empowers the students to be the owner of the thoughts and not me; I am merely their facilitator. When I ask the questions, I know the answers. When students ask questions, they almost never already know the answer but will have to think about how to answer their thoughtful question.

I began the year with the lesson “Contrasts and Contradictions” using their scripted “Thank You Ma’am” lesson. The students understood this lesson and then practiced by taking home “The Lamb and the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl to read and annotate with C and Cs. The next day, we discussed their annotations as a class. The theory behind this is that the reader will come to a point in a text where a character’s actions or thoughts clearly contradict previous patterns or contrast with the patterns the reader would normally expect. This gives the reader new insights into the character or in other words, the reader might say, “This surprised me.” At this time, the reader should STOP (NOTICE) and then mark (NOTE) this in the margin. I have the students put “C & C” and then the anchor question, “Why is the character doing that?” They may abbreviate this question, but they must write this in the margin along with a prediction or two. This habit of writing the anchor question must be established because it will eventually become innate. They will soon start to just be able to mark it with C & C and move on, knowing that this passage will be a key in the character’s development. When they are asked to write a paragraph (I use the Jane Schaffer method) about the character changing in some way, the student will be able to cite this passage in MLA language and interpret it with a strong topic sentence and conclusion. Now we have a complete package of annotation and literary response.

Instead of teaching the six signposts up front, I decided to teach them as we proceed through the first quarter. It made more sense to dive into their class novels (Uprising by Haddix and Ashes of Roses by Mary Auch) and have them start to annotate for C & C and AHA (which I taught next). Then we can cumulatively add them as they become more comfortable marking for each. Having an anchor question on their bookmark helps simplify this immensely.

side1 side2Every other week, we write a response paragraph. Then at the end, they will write a larger essay. Mastering the response paragraph with a topic sentence, concrete details or examples, explanations or commentary and a strong concluding sentence is my initial goal before worrying about perfecting the essay format.

The students came to class with books filled with marks of multiple C & C recognitions. They felt so enlightened and confident by having a specific anchor question that it helped them understand the book and began rich discussions. We do a weekly Lit Circle called Book Buds. With that, students come to the group with their annotated book and a completed Reading Notebook assignment. In their Book Buds, they are asked to write down two examples of C & Cs they found in their reading on two separate post it notes. (And AHA’s which I also covered) As a group, they discuss their post-it note findings then vote on three to post on the large post-it paper on the board. They then come up to present them to the class. This helped the slower kids see what they could have marked, and this gave a chance for the higher kids to develop some rich discussions with each other.

IMG_0158 IMG_0157

I foresee this building through the year with each signpost. Moreover, this will enable the students to see themes, conflicts, character changes and plot developments more clearly. I cannot wait for the year to unfold and students to become closer more involved readers.

At this point, they look forward to NOTICING and NOTING in their book.


Does God Laugh?

This was the first question out of Hugh Hewitt’s mouth at the  “Ask A Jew” event last night, September 22nd, at Scottsdale Bible Church. Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt, two of my favorite talk radio hosts, shared the stage with Dr. Wayne Grudem to discuss Christian values and the Jewish take on how we can be alike and different.

The main discovery I had last night was how much we actually do share in common in terms of our love and desire to follow God. However, what grieves me a bit, is the fact that Dennis has to go through rituals in order to follow God, whereas the Christian believes Jesus has made it possible to grow into His likeness and actually desires to please God out of His heart. We are born with sin and dirty hearts, and it does not matter HOW much you do, nothing can reunite us with God in relationship except purity. This is impossible in our own strength. Not 2 or 2000 laws can force someone to love. God wants to be obeyed because we want to obey…out of a love for Him; not out of duty. We also have so much hope for a future with Him where the evil will be judged.This gives us peace on this broken earth. One day, the earth will NOT be so broken.

The evening was a great reminder of the beauty of our country; we can all come together and discuss our differences in peace! We don’t have to worry about persecution.

This is actually the FOURTH time I have seen Dennis live. His wit, his intelligence, and his ability to clarify difficult issues make me absolutely adore him.

Dennis and me
Dennis and me
Dennis (left), Hugh (right)
Dennis (left), Hugh (right)

Mom and I attended the VIP event beforehand to meet and greet the panel. What a treat!

By the way, Dennis believes that God does more weeping than laughing due to the amount of rebellion his creation has performed. God was so pleased (saying it was “very good”) when He created man and woman, yet within minutes, they fell into sin. Since then, man continues to fall, and for that, God is grieved. Dr. Grudem, on the other hand, believes we serve a loving, joyful God who has a plan for His people and will redeem them with Jesus’ second coming. Jesus will bring in a new heaven and new earth. Jesus also provides a way of forgiveness, so we can be in fellowship with God again. So for that, God has joy.

10 months and steadfast

“Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me” (Psalm 131: 21). This verse is a stark reminder that God never gives up on His people. Steadfast means resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering. Another way to say it is committed and constant. As a mother, I now get how God loves me because this is how much I love Tatum. My love for her grows daily, but it is unwavering and never ending. The fact that He can have this much love for me blows my mind, and I often feel so undeserving. However, it is committed and constant; nothing I can do will change that even when I blow it in every way (and often I do).
The last verse of this Psalm says, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.” My strength and might comes from this infused love; this unearned love; this grace-filled love which is bestowed upon me. I pray that Tatum can understand this power of love which comes from her mom and from Him. Nothing she can do or say will ever change the amount of love she has surrounding her.

Entering the double digit of 10 months, IMG_3172

she is a bundle of joy and verve. Her smile is infections and she often makes everyone in the room laugh.

Bless you my little one. May angels surround your life and protect you. May you be filled with kindness and love.

Pub Club Passion

This Friday, my little group of Pubbers met. Not only was it well attended, but they truly embraced reading poetry, writing, and the idea of germinating their minds with creativity. Even one of my former students attended to show her passion and to share her insights. IMG_3154

We read “Litany” by Billy Collins, and then they penned their own versions of metaphor poems.

It is not about the club, but more about being real and enthusiastic. Students this year seem to be more engaged and excited to learn. Perhaps it is due to me being different in that I’m filled to capacity with love (for my family/Tatum). Whatever the reason, teaching has become more about life-sharing, contagious enthusiasm for what they are to know, and setting purposeful intentions to everything I do with them.

Basically, when I am at work, I am 100% there. I have to be now that I have Tatum. This has forced me to be more organized, efficient, yet effective in the moment.

I hope to inspire these students (and my others) to follow their dreams, to work hard persevering, and to become life-long lovers of learning.


Ma ma ma ma..

La la has become ma ma. The wish of every mom is that her child would call her by her calling…Mama!


As she babbles away, I dream of being there for her in every way. When she soon begins to walk, I’ll be there for her when she falls. I know I she is about to bypass this crawling thing; for her, this is just too elementary. She wants to stand.

IMG_3150 IMG_3149See mom? I can hold myself up with my tot feet.