Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Letter Q

Tomorrow leaves us with just 13 days to go and the letter countdown continues with the letter Q -
Quiet day for John-Pio's class, and a day of Quotes for mine.  It shouldn't be so rare to draw upon the bank of fun, smart students I've had in the past - Madison's a small city and it's easy to stay in touch these days.  Somehow though, it's a lottery won by serendipity, not by design that re-connections occur.

Last week I ran into EB aka Speedy Amara while I was attending a girls basketball game, and there was no doubt in my mind that he should come and talk to my students.  Focusing on the theme of leadership and life, he discussed his path from middle school to present and left a deep impression on my students - so much that they were quoting him all day!  Poised, confident, strong and articulate, EB talked real to my students citing who he was as a middle schooler and breaking it down to who he's becoming now. Here's a sample of their takeaways . . . 

Diversity and pride; We are the east side. 

The most important thing is education. 

It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

It's hard, but possible. Very possible.

Work hard for the things you want. 

The NBA isn't going anywhere, it will always be there. Your education might not so get it NOW.

Respect education. 

If you want something you have to have an education.


And my favorite: 

The teacher doesn't 'give' you a grade, they just point out what you earned. You give yourself your own grade based on proof that you made the effort and did the hard work.


Tomorrow we'll use EB's quotes to launch a collaborative writing exercise that will explore the passion of athletes, artists, poets, dancers, and musicians.  Thanks to EB for adding some mileage to the end of the year!

#powerful #proud #represent #respect education

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Letter P

It's fitting that tomorrow is P day and that it coincides with Poetry - not pajama day, which is what P means to John-Pio tomorrow.  I would feel so strange if I didn't honor the remarkable poet Maya Angelou.  I'm here to do it through music - songs that show respect to Maya Angelou as a poet and lyricist.


Caged Bird by Alicia Keys
Phenomenal Woman by Olivia Newton-John
I'll Rise by Ben Harper
Still I Rise by 2Pac + Outlawz

I've read so many wonderful posts and tributes to Maya Angelou today prompting me to make a new playlist with songs by artists that have saluted her.  Here's just four of them.  I hope you'll also get a chance to read this awesome article posted in Slate Magazine on Maya Angelou and Hip Hop!

#poetlegacy #lyricist

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Letter O

Tomorrow is Outside Time for John-Pio.  I'm guessing that means integrated academics with hopefully a whole bunch of extra recess minutes.  I'd let my O day be that too if I could count on myself to actually teach - my fear is that teaching outside would be so novel I would end up playing around hopelessly distracted from any learning target or agenda.  Plus, this came across my desk today . . . 

And I felt it was a sign that day 15, countdown to 11 days, is for Olaf.  As silly as it seems, I will admit that this little drawing reminded me of the innocence in adolescent boys.  This kid - smart and social with uber dedication to soccer, not to mention the kid who posted the fastest mile time in the entire school - handed Olaf to me and said, 

I drew Olaf for you Ms. Naputi cause sometimes you remind me of him.  

Okaaaay.  Well.  I got that going for me. If  you have a moment longer, check out this link to find out if you fit one of these 19 characteristics that make Olaf distinct!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Letter N

This weekend was a taste of what is to come when we hit the letter Z.  Tomorrow John-Pio and his class are having lunch together in their classroom because N is for No Lunch in the Cafeteria tomorrow.  I'm constantly kicking my students out of my classroom so I'll be damned if I'm going to apply that one.  Instead, tomorrow is for No Doubts.

No doubts that what we do next, like in the next minute, or tomorrow or the day after next, is based on choices we make.  Misa and I sort of pride ourselves on the fact that we don't have weird habits.  This came up because she noticed she'd chew on her hand when she was concentrating and since it bothered her, she made a decision to quit.  A few days later she said, "Habits are a choice, I've decided not to start weird habits."  There's just no doubt in my mind that she's right. 

No doubts that the next 13 days are going to be hard.  Not because of the kids and learning, or because I'm anxious for it to end, but because it's going to be HOT.  And there is nothing worse than a room of 50 adolescents in a non-air-conditioned space.  I have no doubt that the fans will fail (one already has) and that kids will forget to take daily showers. 

No doubts that connections are a choice.  I'm learning that reciprocity is an amazing way to keep it real.  I can read fake, and I repel subtle nuances from the effects of apathy or passive behavior.  I have no doubt that the people I choose today are ones I have connections with in spite of it all.  My family for one - there's no doubt that my mom, dad, sister, brother, nephews, and niece are mandatory connections - not because I'm obligated, but because no matter what, I can't help it - it's a conscious choice to be connected.

No doubts that playing basketball yesterday brought back some nostalgia, contentment, and desire.  Nostalgia for my Jr. high and high school basketball coaches who taught me the gain from the pain of running lines, doing drills over and over again, and the consequences of complaining.  Contentment for feeling connected to a rocky but undeniably lucky past.  And desire for wanting to play street ball in the park every week just for fun!

No doubts  that I am madly in love with my life - as a teacher, a mom, a runner and climber.  Seriously.  I mean, I stress and feel burdened and pained for some of the time, but who doesn't?  Perspective is so powerful.  Last Friday I ran into two former students from the year 2007-08 on State Street, and to see them still hanging out together, to witness their styles - upgraded, and to hear them say, "Really Ms. Naputi.  We were just talking about you, like 45 minutes ago . . .  And here you are."  That was super dope to be a part of their timing especially because I have not seen those two since middle school.  And as a mom and wife, I just feel like I'm living a life that is way beyond bearable or even satisfactory - I am in my element with Misa and John-Pio.  To date I've been up and down with running and climbing, but lately, I've had the ebb of climbing and the flow of running so I'm just going with it knowing that next week there is no doubt that that will switch on me. 

My final No doubts goes to Brad.  Lots of traveling and seemingly parallel lives but every time we connect I'm reminded that Love is a choice and I have no doubts about that choice. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Letter M

John-Pio's M day is Musical and that's my M for tomorrow too.  In response to the realities of race and Wisconsin's recent report on the racial disparities that interfere with opportunities for children of color, I'm devoting this post to hip hop.  I love using hip hop as a way to inform and challenge my students to become anti-racist.  I've recently been to several events discussing racial inequities and one missing piece that is so important in the discussion of race and equity is relevant and critical inquiry into hip hop and politics.  For my white privileged friends out there who want to do something other than drop off groceries, drop into schools, invite folks of color into their homes . . . and for those who think they experience more racism these days than Black people do, consider hip hop - it's music that tells the story all of us need to know.

Write on it.  Talk about it.  Think.

Nas - Illmatic
We're Already Royal -
Malcolm X -
Nikki Giovanni -
MCLyte -
Kendrick Lamar -

And just for kicks, here's a list of some fun duets:

Method Man and Mary Jane Blige:  All I Need
Nas and Lauryn Hill: If I Ruled the World
The Notorious B.I.G. and Faith Evans: One More Chance
The Roots with Erykah Badu: You Got Me
Jay-Z and Mary J Blige: Can't Knock the Hustle

Note:  There is no Macklemore on this list.  For good reason.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Letter L

If you want kids to be independent thinkers who gradually demonstrate their learning, you have to Let 'em be.  Sometimes you have to be hard and it'll seem like you're being mean but take a breath in and don't give in to ...

A raised hand within 30 seconds of handing out a test or assignment - it's so annoying.  Make the rule that no student can raise their hand until after 10 min has passed. 

Restating directions over and over - somehow you have to make it accessible so everything is explicit and crystal clear. 

Power struggles - all the kid is doing is throwing you bait and if you bite, it's over.

Those are just the top three things on my mind when it comes to student growing their independence.  


The hard part about Letting 'em be is having your own self-confidence.  It's relinquishing your ego and accepting the fact that there are times when you're just not needed as much as you think you are.  And anyway, once you realize that it's terribly disempowering to always need help, Lettin 'em be seems like the right thing to do.

After making dinner I had to call my mom so I asked the kids to start eating on their own - I had no idea they would initiate their own blessing over their food - a sweet surprise from just Lettin' em be.  I was on the phone in the same room and captured this ...

Followed by "You opened your eyes!" 

It was a mark of independence, that Misa and John-Pio would bless their food independent of me leading or assuming that role always.  Anyway, tomorrow John-Pio gets to play with Legos for his L day and I'm going to continue my practice of Lettin 'em be

#justbelieve #anti-disempowerment

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Letter K

Our duty free lunches are never duty free, and our planning time is never sacred.  Cause we always have students hanging out.  Today a few former ones reminded me of some of our quotes and remarks over the years. But it's not just what we said, it's the fact that we repeated the same things over and over again. 

One thing they both remembered was: "We have high expectations and we will hold you accountable for everything you do and everything you don't do." 

#apparently #theygotthemessage

So John-Pio gets to play kickball for his K day, while my K is for Kill 'em with high expectations.  Man when expectations are met, you just feel like celebrating.  It seems strange sometimes - that I'd celebrate 70% work completion, or that of the 51 students I see every day, 6 moved into being proficient in reading.  I think to the public it seems naive and not enough cause for a celebration.  But here's the deal:

The work is HARD.  And I'm not talking about just the work of a teacher. 

My students span a huge range academically, many behind their same-age peers who struggle to draw from background knowledge, to apply basic skills to new situations, or to produce sophisticated final products.  It's tougher for them to commit with stamina and determination than their peers living in middle or upper middle class neighborhoods work through easily.

It's frustrating.  For them and for us. 
So I figure that if I stay the course and kill 'em with high expectations there's a chance that my students in poverty will meet expectations; and if I slather on the strange mix of teacher, cop, social worker, counselor, and parent, it's probable that they can even exceed expectations.  

Tomorrow, while John-Pio is out playing kickball, I'll be playing the hybrid role I find myself in every day and I'll be drillin' and killin' em with high expectations. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Letter J

In John-Pio's world, J is for jelly beans.  I'm not sure what he'll be doing with jelly beans but I know I'll be wearing jeans, cause my J is for Jeans.  I don't have many pairs - in fact, because I've devoted the rest of the school year to jeans, I hit up St. Vinny's last week and bought 5 comfortable pairs.

#score #stretchy

If certain people in the public want to know exactly what educators do, here's how one student responded to a prompt about what not to wear to school:

Students and teachers should be comfortable in school. It's not like we're "people watching" every day noting this and that about what people wear.  In school all any of us want to do is change everything.  Improve something.  Change something from being boring to being important.  The dress code is kind of a boring thing to change but if it's the dress code that's getting to you, then stop spending a lot of time complaining about it and think about it in a different way.  Then go and change it.  

Thank goodness the J day finally came.  I'm changing everything I don't normally do . . . by doing something as mundane as wearing jeans for the next 17 days.

#peoplewatching #jeansrule

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Letter "I"

I'm not going to lie about the mixed feelings I have as the end of the school year comes to a close.  I feel a little angst about the time off, a little worried about how some students spend their summer in isolation, coupled with anticipation of August knowing full well I'll have forgotten all about these mixed feelings.  Sheesh.

#getoverit  #summerwillfly

John-Pio's class is doing a 26 day alphabet countdown until the end of the year and tomorrow is "I" day which means "Ice Treat Day" for all 3rd graders.  For me though, I'm going to let "I" stand for "Influence" in order to recognize certain people for having a profound influence on me as an educator.

Rosemary Baron - You were my first principal in my first job as a teacher, not to mention the only other non-Mormon in our building.  We had a unique bond from the get-go and you ingrained in me the philosophy of inclusion which I believe is a core part of who I am as a teacher.

Winn Egan - It was so long ago that you advised me through my graduate work not to mention, the work we did to develop and implement the "These Kids Are Driving Me Nuts!" curriculum which I believe has reached thousands of parents and teachers throughout the west and midwest.  You were the enthusiast in my early young adult life and I feel I carry that same torch of enthusiasm now.

Litler Matson - It's not just who you are to me but who you helped me become as an educator and person.  Thank you for filling the voids and for making me - seriously you made me - look at my practices and relationships with kids in a whole new way.  There's more to it but lets just say that you get me.  These days I hear your voice whenever something is hard, confusing, or just plain 'ol wrong.

Kate Jorgensen - You question the status quo and always put the craziness in its place.  Thanks for pushing me to create dynamic curriculum and for looking at my work as a true professional - our bonus of course, is in our friendship and the fact that we get to work side-by-side every day.

There are many other Influencers like Lois Bell, Erica Gottschalk, Barb Brodhagen, Ann Yehle, Nancy Casillas, Susan Wrathall, William Purkey, Chris Emdin, Dr. Def . . . the list is actually a finite one, because people who influence are just that special.  And I would never ever in a million years forget to mention my husband Brad who tops the list for his support, flexibility, and love.

#influencers  #oneofakind