Tuesday, March 31, 2009

one more word

In rereading my previous post, it occurred to me that it might not be obvious to the average joe that my students can't sign their contributions on oneword.com with anything that would be a clear indication of their identity. Well, let's just say that they could, but then I'd be at fault for allowing it. And then I'd be hitting the pavement again, looking for another job. Not a scenario I'm looking to carve out for myself any time soon. Let's remember: I like my job.

Contact between those that are in and those that are out is closely controlled here. Certain websites are blocked within the system for security purposes. Local news in print, video, audio and web format, is a no-no. The kids would be all over the police log and latest A&B stories, reading about the goings on of their fellow friends and gang members, as well as those of rival factions. Those aren't conditions we want to invite into the hallowed halls of DYS. These kids are here for treatment, which includes not just learning how to improve their academic skills, but also their life skills, their coping skills, their emotional intelligence. Careful steps are taken to minimize the distractions.

Note that I didn't say eliminate. I didn't say "eliminate the distractions." Wonder why?

Monday, March 30, 2009


Okay, I have something of a microfantasy/pseudo-obsession happening. No, no, nothing to do with having the winning powerball ticket, limitless shoe shopping, bathing in chocolate, etc. It's all about this ridiculously simple website: http://oneword.com/. Click 'go' and on the next page you see a word, and you've got 60 seconds to write about it. Anything. Everything. Whatever part of that word's meaning your brain wants to latch onto, just write. I've been using this with the kids as a warm-up or close to a lesson. At first, it was hard for them to wrap their heads around the fact that there were no rules, no directions. They really dig it now. It gives them a voice to an outside world with which they're allowed very little contact. Naturally, they sign their posts with initials only, and I give them a generic (fake) e-mail address. Check it out, you'll see what I mean.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Swan Dive

I've had blogging on my mind for a while now. It's a rainy Sunday afternoon and I'm moving in super slow-mo (thanks to my late night watching March Madness on DVR delay). I've got plenty on my to-do list, so I didn't actually need to add "set up new blog" to my already unmanageable docket. I guess I just got to the point where my thoughts, musings and metacognition piled up enough inside my head that it all needed a place to go. So, here before you is some of the spilloff!

A bit of background on me: I am a Reading Specialist, working currently with committed teenage males in a secure treatment facililty in Massachusetts. Yep, jail. Lockup. Juvie. The clink. It's my first go at teaching reading; prior to this I've worn other hats: health teacher, zit zapper (I worked in the skin care field for a bit), soccer/basketball/softball coach, educational publishing grunt, seasonal fishmonger...would you believe licensed nail technician? (story for another post). I've pushed piles of paper and been closed into countless cubicles. I figured out a while back, though, that teaching is where it's at for me (forgive the improperly placed preposition). Kids are as real as real gets. Lots of teachers say the same thing about this profession. And "real" is part of the reason why I had chosen to teach Health. What could be more relevant? I'd thought. But when Health teaching jobs started to wane post-big tobacco settlements, I knew I needed to find another field. And reading was it.

Think about it. You can't be literate without having health. And you can't have health without being literate. It was a perfectly sensible move. And now I see very clearly, day in and day out, how important health is to literacy, and vice versa. I've been made aware how a dearth of health and literacy is affecting kids, families, communities, regions. My students have had tough lives. They've managed to survive some very challenging circumstances. But they've also made some big mistakes. They have been committed to the state's system for secure treatment. ("Committed" means that the kids have been charged, tried and sentenced, as opposed to "detained," which refers to kids who have simply been charged and are awaiting trial.) Committed is a word that has always meant to me something having to do with determination...a solid work ethic...a promise. My students are committed. Alright then. So am I.