Friday, August 2, 2013

Thank you for the two Liebster Award nominations

Tales of Teaching in Heels button
A short time ago, Stephanie at Tales of Teaching in Heels ( and  Dava Smith at Dava Smith English Teacher
( each nominated me for a Liebster Award. This award is presented to new bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. As of today, I have 66. Hopefully these awards will bring more Followers to
Thank you ladies, for your support.
Dava Smith

After receiving this honor, the recipient has to:
  1. Answer the questions the nominator asks you
  2. Link back to their site
  3. Nominate five bloggers with under 200 followers, and
  4. Create 11 questions for them  and an 11 Random Facts Facts About Me category.
Here are my responses for Stephanie's questions: 
1. How long have you been teaching?
In 2011, I retired from teaching.   For 30+ years, I taught English 7-12, creative writing and journalism.
2. What's your favorite teaching/coaching moment?
When I was teaching at a correctional institution for adolescent delinquents, I was directing a play that consisted of a series of monologues written by inner city youth.  One of my students,with the street name of Cool, was 16, but couldn’t read. He had his cottage peers teach him his monologue which began, “For what reason was I born? To speak words no one listens to no matter how hard I try?” (from The Me Nobody Knows, edited by Stephen M. Joseph). When he sat on the stage apron and recited his lines with the passion of someone whom lived the meaning of these words, I cried.  Stunningly poignant.
This is one of oh so many classroom memories that will remain showcased in my mind.
3. What's your favorite blogging site? (it doesn't have to be related to teaching)  authored by Catherine Killingsworth
4. Which store is your favorite place to buy things for your classroom?
Office Depot
5. What advice do you wish you got as a new teacher?

This abbreviated excerpt from my post What College Never Taught Me summarizes a teacher’s basic needs:
  1. Administrative Assistants run the school. A friendly, “Good morning,” and an occasional chat about their families will garner me that last ream of copy paper, get me a meeting with the principal about the mouthy kid when everyone else thinks he is,  “Lunching with the superintendent,” and ensure a heads up on Monday morning when the principal plans, “… a few drop-in observations to check out the teaching that is going on,” and I had scheduled Reading Time so I could wake up sleep-deprived brain.
  2. Custodians can make life heaven or hell.   Choose heaven by picking up the day’s detritus left by students, by making sure the  trash cans aren’t the result of a “How Can we Pile the Junk before it Spills” contest, and by cleaning my own white boards. This guarantees:  a bottle of white board cleaner when everyone else is told to, “Buy your own; more desks from the custodians’ secret stash when the counselors have blessed me with five more students than I have seats for in my class, and a sweet cushioned before they send out an All Staff email to, “Come and get one.”
  3. Technology savvy students are to be showered with smiles. They have saved my sanity more times than I can count by fixing the connection between my computer and television so I can show that PowerPoint I spent a gazillion hours designing, by finding the Editorial pages that magically disappeared twenty minutes before the school newspaper has to be sent to the printer to make deadline, and by showing me how to add external links to professional documents.
6. What three things are always in your teaching bag?
I am not in the classroom trenches anymore, but when I was, my tote always had: green or purple pens for grading papers, waterless hand cleaner and a stash of chocolate.
7. What teacher inspired you as a student?
Ms. Gertrude Handler, my English teacher for both my junior and senior years of high school earned my Favorite Teacher award, but not until years later, after I unlocked the door to my first classroom.  She was one tough, tough, tough teacher.  Knowing that I wanted to be a writer, she would fill the margins of my papers with her often caustic comments.  My favorite was, “What do you have against the English language that you torture it so.”  Her criticisms motivated me to think, “Ha! Just wait until my next paper, Ms. H.  I’ll show you!” She inspired me to think more deeply, to dredge my mind for better ways to focus and clarify my thoughts, and to try to hook readers with my vocabulary and sentence structure choices.
8. What do you love most/worst about teaching?
The students will always be the raison d’etre of teaching. The “AHA” light in their eyes made the days when they were acting like impacted wisdom teeth worthwhile. Also, they kept me real and made me remember to laugh as often as possible.
9. What's your favorite piece of technology to use in the classroom? How do you use it?
Computers rule, especially those loaded with the InDesign (I’m sure a better publishing program exists now-two years after my retirement) program. Together, they made publishing both the school newspaper and literary magazine much less stressful.
10. How do you plan to incorporate the new Common Core Standards this next year?
Each and every activity that I create comes with a Teacher Notes page that shows what Common Core Standards and verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy will be addressed in the lesson. See my blog, Common Core Standards are a tool, not a complete toolbox ( for my thoughts on the CCS.
11. What do you love to do when you aren't teaching?
As I am not teaching anymore, I have plenty of time to indulge myself with a plethora of soul-satisfying activities. I love creating curriculum, promoting my recently published teacher resource, The House of Comprehension, reading books, researching recipes on, Food Network, and Big Oven, traveling with my husband (we’re going to the Encore in Vegas in two weeks-can’t wait),  spending time with my granddaughters, playing with my cats and dog, and trying to beat Solitaire on my Kindle Fire way too often.
11 Random Facts About Me:
·         I am an unrecovering readaholic
·         I published a YA novel about teen dating abuse, A Fine Line, in 1993.
·         I love, love, love Downton Abbey
·        Between the ages of 12 and 16, I had 4 concussions (one due to roller skating and the others because of bicycle wrecks). Wheels (and blades i.e. ice skates and roller blades) and I do not get along.
·         I love blondies much more than brownies, which leave me feeling, “Meh”.
·         I love Vegas- the 5-star restaurants, the shows, and, of course, the slots
·         Dr. Zhivago is my favorite movie
·         Before public school assignments, I taught in a boys reform school, a residential facility for ED adolescents and an alternative school for kids sent from the county courts and who came from substance abuse recovery programs.
·         I would love to live somewhere with a vista of the mountains from my backyard, or in a place with an ocean or lake view.
·         I’ve seen Les Miz 6 times, Phantom of the Opera 3 times, Miss Saigon twice and Jersey Boys 3 times.
·         The Prince of Tides is my favorite book.

Here are my responses to Dava:

1. What is your favorite professional development book for teaching reading, writing, or grammar?  If these aren't your areas of expertise, pick any PD book that you love.

My favorite teacher resource is The House of Comprehension, the teaching resource
that I wrote and that Compass Publishing released in March. I love these classroom -tested and tweaked lessons, not only because I created them, but because they reach the whole learner by focusing on comprehension, writing and higher level thinking skills. 
2.  What thought inspires you to continue through the tough days?
I always loved seeing the "AHA" look in a student's eyes after a sometimes long struggle of urging him/her to step off the curb onto the Learning Path with me. That light in the student's eyes, usually accompanied with a smile, made all the hard days worthwhile.
3.  What is your hobby (i.e. what do you do when you aren't teaching, planning, grading, etc.)?
Even though my teaching days have ended, I am still immersed in my passion: teaching b/c I create and develop curriculum...but on my own terms and time. When I am not working on creating curriculum and marketing my products, I can be found reading pretty much anything, traveling with my husband, spending time with our kids and grand daughters and surfing the net for recipes.
4.  What is your favorite book to teach and why?  If you don't teach books, pick your favorite topic.
Oh goodness, how do I pick just one,? If I had to, it would  be Into the Wild (Jon Krakauer). The students become so involved with the story because they can identify with Chris McCandless and his issues with his family and society on so many levels (intellectual, personal, emotional and spiritual, to name four). This makes discussions exciting, thought-provoking, and meaningful. I also love I Am The Messenger (Markus Zusak) for the same reasons as I mentioned, and because Zusak's word pictures are totally absorbing and often take my breath away. Night (Elie Wiesel), The Crucible (Arthur Miller), and The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka) round out my Top Five.
5.  Explain aspects your classroom organization system that help your classroom run smoothly.
My four basic rules that my students and I must follow: Be Responsible, Reliable, Respectful and offer No Excuses form the basic foundation. I also have a number of forms (Hall passes, bathroom passes, Tardy sign-in Sheets, etc) that build on this foundation. Knowing that a focused classroom management plan will thwart negative behavior, I developed twelve classroom management forms. Download this product from:
Twelve Classroom Management Forms
6.  What is something new that you are going to try next year in your classroom?
As I mentioned, I am retired, but if I were still in the classroom, I would make The House of Comprehension my planning home (
7.  What is your favorite store and why?
Any store?  I would have to say, Chicos.  For teaching supplies, I love Office Depot.
8.  What type of technology do you use most in your classroom?
I loved InDesign because it was so user-friendly and helped my students issue a monthly newspaper and a yearly literary magazine.
9.  What's your favorite teaching moment?
I will use the same answer that I gave Stephanie:

When I was teaching at a correctional institution for adolescent delinquents, I was directing a play that consisted of a series of monologues written by inner city youth.  One of my students, with the street name of Cool, was 16, but couldn’t read. He had his cottage mates teach him his monologue which began, “For what reason was I born? To speak words no one listens to no matter how hard I try?” (from The Me Nobody Knows, edited by Stephen M. Joseph). When he sat on the stage apron and recited his lines with the passion of someone whom lived the meaning of these words, I cried.  Stunningly poignant.

That is one of oh so many that will remain showcased in my mind.
10. What advice would you give to new teachers?
Befriend Administrative Assistants, custodians and the technology teams.  They basically make the school run smoothly. See Stephanie's #5 above for a more detailed explanation.
11. What is your teaching style?
As I explain in The House of Comprehension, my approach is three-pronged:
Show Me:
The teacher presents lessons about the elements of literature and models how
those elements create the story’s structure.
Help Me:
The activities give students the chance to practice and exhibit what they are
Let Me:
The discussions, projects, and assignments in the program allow students to
synthesize their knowledge and understanding with their personal experiences
and feelings.
Eleven questions for my Liebster Award Nominees:
  1. What aspect(s) of teaching make you smile?
  2. What aspects of teaching make you frown?
  3. What is your dream schedule-courses(s) and grade level(s).
  4. What are the qualities of fantasy your principal?
  5. What course(s) do you wish your college had offered to better prepare you for the realities of the classroom?
  6. What are your three most important classroom rules?
  7. If you could give any advice to your students, what would it be?
  8. Summarize the lesson you love best to teach?
  9. What is your most important piece of advice to parents on Back to School Night?
  10. What do you wish you could teach that is not in your school's course of study for your academic area?
  11. What is the best advice someone (say who this person was) gave you regarding teaching?
  12. What was your happiest classroom moment so far?
    Liebster Award

My Liebster Award nominees:
Learning to Teach in the Rain:
Making it as a Middle School Teacher:
Middle School Teacher to Literacy Coach:
Weird is Cool in Middle School:
Simple Steps to Sentence Sense: 

Because I am responding to two Leibster nominations on one post, I have included ten, yes, TEN blogs for you all to follow. So sit back and enjoy a Blog Hop around these terrific sites.

Happy Travels,



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