Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Resolutions- Create, Learn, & Encourage

I make a collection of resolutions each year, and last year some friends and I grouped them: health, personal, and professional goals. I'm going to attempt to track the professional goals here this year.

I'm going to leverage my strengths to improve upon my areas of weakness.
  1. Create- Increase my professional social media presence. Blog at least once a month. Tweet at least once a week.
  2. Learn- Keep track of time spent on professional commitments in my calendar, and analyze how I'm spending my time to budget time better. In an effort to avoid over-committing or stretching myself too thin, I need to both plan forward and log endeavors honestly. I'll log to the best of my ability and reflect at the end of each month to make more specific and measurable goals for the next month.
  3. Encourage- Really see the people (all kinds of colleagues) I interact with and offer specific praise. As an introvert, I spend a lot of my time observing and listening to others, speaking up about things when an original idea comes to me or I notice something problematic. I want to purposefully work on regularly praising some of the good work others are doing around me. This comes from wanting to not just steer clear of the negativity that seems to cloud education lately, but to work against it. (Inspired by shared by a moderator on
Here's to 2016! #teacherresolutions

Thursday, July 16, 2015

WIP Decision

I think I've made a decision on what Work In Progress I want to stick with for the next month, I'm going to refer to it as MiraMira for now. I've often said to students that I wish I had more novels, short stories, and poems written by Latino/a authors, starring Latino/a protagonists to share with them. I've encouraged them, when they express the same sentiment of wanting to see themselves in a book, to write it!

Well, I've struggled to find the idea to use to follow my own advice into a good story.... until Monday's Teacher Writing Group. We wrote to a prompt from last week, Thursday from Kate Messner's Teachers Write! blog.

What was thinking---
My protagonist- Amira, nicknamed Mira, Mexican-American, loves Madrid
Diverse friends with diverse views in school- what brings them together? They want to travel, but as they are of low socio-economic status they've resigned themselves to just dream of traveling someday, hopefully together.
-Emma- @EmNew, African-American, positive outlook, incredibly friendly, except w/ppl who suck, loves NYC
-Daniel- @LonDan, Polish, Jewish, loves London
- ?? -He's Puerto Rican, loves Paris

There's a "bully" at school, Mabel, also Mexican-American, second generation, who thinks this group of friends is too lofty and uppity in their ambitions... she's jealous of the group for many reasons, and she's got a secret she's keeping hidden from everyone.

The usual everyday workings of the school are interrupted when a new student arrives a month into the school year- still brainstorming on her name- and she's the first white student to join their middle school class. Nobody knows how to react, and everyone seems to react the wrong way.

That's what I'm thinking so far... I'm not sure if I want to keep this so realistic fiction. I'm not sure what complications I want to add to the plot. Is the ideas of friendships, betrayal, jealousy, and home juxtapositioned with the intensity of race, gender roles and identity, and gentrification issues too much or not enough?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Summer 2015 #WriteAway with us!

I'm trying Kate Messner's Teacher Write! Camp on her blog again this summer. Today: Teachers Write! Minilesson Monday.

The Zapata Teacher Writing Group will be writing together every week in a different coffeeshop in Chicago all summer. I'm so grateful for the chance to sit and write with other teachers! We'll be trying to recruit more teachers to join us this summer. Know anyone who is interested? Please let me know! We'll be at CC Ferns Coffee Bar & Spirits 2806 W Augusta Blvd, Chicago, IL on Monday, July 13th. #WriteAway with us this summer!

Here's my work from sitting with a couple of teacher colleagues today at Jackalope. I found the courage to post on the blog today for the kick-off... but it wouldn't let me post the hashtag about #2 in the blog. This is the unedited version below.
I'm a middle school teacher in Chicago Public Schools and this is my second summer attempting to do Teachers Write! Loved it last year, and hope I can overcome any nerves in order to post regularly!

I wonder...
1. how do people overcome the influence of controlling parents? (can you tell I work with adolescents?)
2. about female scientists' contributions and challenges throughout the years (especially in light of recent comments about #distractinglysexy women in the lab- if you haven't looked up the hashtag, please do!).
3. about my neighborhood-- the history, the people now and in my childhood, and gentrification
4. how people turn a disability into an advantage?
5. about the path of the margarita... how did it get to be what it is today? How has it evolved?
I have many more on my list but these were the ones I'm still wondering about hours later! Quite the range :-)
Thanks for reading,

Monday, July 14, 2014

Permission for Writing Projects

Here's my writing in response to today's Teachers Write virtual camp! I replied to both blogs :-D

Mini-Lesson Monday 

Great prompt to start out the week. Check out guest author Donna Gephart's inspiration for the day: and check out her blog as well:

My Writing Projects: 

  1. Non-Fiction, Memoirish. A collection of short stories about my mom and dad. Their stories interspersed w/my experiences w/them. Juxtaposition time, countries, gender, age...
  2. Latina girl. Realistic fiction told in poems. Trio of main characters- Catholic Latina girl, gay Jewish Republic, and African-American communist vegetarian. Considering switching btwn the POVs-- which would require some help or at least intense research w/friends! Navigating identity in different worlds. Cultural clashes. Friendship.
  3. Latina girl. Sci-Fi. Space/Time Travel. Travel. Art. Starts w/trip to NYC, steal a painting in journal writing
  4. Dark humor, picture book/illustrated poem, about the ways a teacher might die in her classroom... (this sounds much more morbid than it is... stems from an ongoing joke with one class who kept witnessing classroom accidents!) describing the dangers that lurk in pencils, printers, and paper!
  5. More to come when I look over my past Writer's Notebooks... 
Dedication for #4---
To the Zapata Academy Class of 2014 Homeroom 210: Your willingness to take risks, laughter and sarcasm, pain and hope inspired me every day you shared your worldly words with me.

Monday Morning Warm Up: "But Underneath That..."

Prompt thanks to Jo Knowles, check it out:
All these explanations correspond to the writing projects above:

1.  This is a story about a girl who wants to go to school and do well, please her friends/teachers/family- which requires her to navigate the sometimes conflicting wishes of her mother, father, and friends. But underneath that, it's about a girl who really wants to understand where she comes from to figure out who she is.

2. This is a story about an introverted, slightly sheltered girl who feels out of place and wants to make friends. But underneath that, it's about a girl who really wants to be understood.(<--- this still needs a lot of work!)
3. This is a story about a boy/girl who wants to see the world and have beautiful things. But underneath that, it's about a boy/girl who really wants to be seen for who she is, a beautiful person. (<-- not sure how much this one make sense)

4.  This is a story about a teacher who is afraid of the dangers of her classroom: the accidents and mishaps possible in her classroom.  But underneath that, it's about a teacher who is really afraid of not being able to stop the pain her students share.
This is a story about a teacher who wants to stop the accident and mishaps in her classroom.
OR But underneath that, it's about a teacher who really wants to create a safe and inviting classroom for all her students.

SuperShort Reflection: Today was fun! But it took me all day, thinking and jotting. Jo Knowles uses a 25 minute revision goal. I may want to consider a time limit... it's what I recommend to students when they're having trouble...

Better late than never?

Teachers Write! Weekly Reflections #1 & #2

I'm late on the suggested reflection questions for the Teachers Write! virtual camp, so I'm just posting them here, and not on Jen Vincent's blog- which should be checked out: I didn't realize there was a first one until the middle of the week, but have decided I should figure out my goals for participating in Teachers Write! camp so I can get the most out of the experience. I have my students set, reflect, and revise goals regularly, so why wouldn't I?
These questions were meant to kick off the Teachers Write Camp: 
Why are you writing?
  1. To become a better teacher of writers.
  2. To get a better handle on what kind of writer I am, to improve my writing, and to determine how interested I am-and how invested I should be- in sharing my writing with others.
What is your goal(s) for Teachers Write this summer?
  1. To write: To write to at least two-thirds of the posts and to publicly post my writing, both on the Teachers Write blogs' comments and my blog, at least one-third of the posts.
  2. To learn about me as a writer: To learn about my own writing process, get a rough idea of what my own strengths & needs are in writing, improve my writing, and decide what I want to do as a writer going forward.
  3. To steal: To learn about a ton of strategies, prompts, mentor texts, and teaching points I can bring back to my classroom this school year.
How do you track your progress? What kind of goal works for you?
 Via reflection on this blog. Some goals I set are easier to "track" than others. Though tracking minutes spent or words written sound appealing, I'm going for how many days of the week I did some writing. The other goals of learning about myself as a writer and stealing ideas are less quantitative; I think I'll add a quantity to them once I've made progress on the first writing goal.

How do you celebrate your progress?
 Celebrate by sharing the writing & progress! :-) 

How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
  1. I didn't meet this goal. I wrote to two posts this week, and very writing besides those. So, new goal: Write to three posts this week, and spend 30 minutes on any further writing.
  2. I am learning (Tracking this is tougher, it's not a "SMART" goal) about my process... see the pit & peak of my week below.
  3. I'm finding plenty to steal. Ex: Word hoards.
What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the non-fun part?)
Getting to writing is hard. Actually sitting down to do it. Once the pen is down to paper, it gets easier. I'm going to pay close attention to what I'm thinking when I finally get to writing... what worked to get that pen to paper? Need to have some serious discussions about this with my students. 
What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-fun part?)
Reading others' comments on my writing is the peak this week. After the struggle to sit to write, there is a huge pay-off in the actual writing, and even more so when you have other people- strangers even!- who take the time to read what you wrote and write something in response to it... I have to remember that as I motivate myself to sit down to write this week! And I'll remember with my students how much the authentic audience matters!
What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?
I'm looking forward to meeting my revised goals!