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  • Writer's pictureMelissa

Favorite Books

  • Becoming by Michelle Obama

  • Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown

  • Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnland, and Ola Rosling

  • Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You'll Ever Need by Margot Leitman

  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

  • The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown by Catherine Burns

  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

  • This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life by David Foster Wallace

  • Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses "No, But" Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration--Lessons from The Second City by Kelly Leonard

Favorite Books for Teaching Global Citizenship

  • Empowering All Students At Scale by Fernando M. Reimers

  • Empowering Students to Improve the World in Sixty Lessons Version 1.0 by Fernando M. Reimers

  • Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom by Amy Burvall and Dan Ryder

  • Twelve Lessons to Open Classrooms and Minds to the World by Fernando M. Reimers, Kristen Shannon, and Dr. Robert Adams Jr.

  • White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

Favorite Podcasts

  • 99% Invisible - Roman Mars and the special on Articles of Interest

  • Business Schooled - Synchrony

  • Everything Is Alive - Radiotopia

  • Hidden Brain - NPR

  • How I Built This with Guy Raz - NPR

  • Revisionist History - Malcolm Gladwell/Pushkin

  • WorkLife with Adam Grant - TED

What were your favorites?

  • Writer's pictureMelissa

Updated: Jan 6, 2019

We rescue tripods. Tripod cats. We are currently blessed with four: Jules, Raven, Newman and Mabel. Callie passed almost two years ago. Jules is missing a front leg, the others are each missing a back leg. Jules finds it easier to jump up on furniture, and the rest find it easier to get down. They work as team to wake us for breakfast and remind us about supper when we get home from work.

In thinking about our cats' personalities over the years (AKA feline-alities), we noticed that cats can represent specific types of students.

Mabel is the color of a fluffy, lightly toasted marshmallow. We named her Mabel because when we adopted her she was older and we thought a classic name would be fitting. She's missing a back leg, most of her tail, and two molars. She is set in her ways, yet transitioned easily into our home because things were going to be done her way. She is a nurturer who checks on every new person who walks into the room.

Newman is a juvenile under two years, part Maine Coon. When we greet him, we say, "Hello, Newman..." quoting Seinfeld. He is full of energy and has a playful attitude. He loves to fetch a red, rubber bracelet and bring it back to you. Sometimes, he even plays with it in the toilet before bringing it back. He has been known to stand on top of the food dispenser and rock it back and forth until he hits the jackpot and dispenses a large mass of food.

Raven is a quiet soul. Scared of guest adults, she somehow is at the top of the cat hierarchy in our house. While she would hide under the bed if you came to visit, she quickly puts the other cats in place should they need a reminder to leave her alone. There are no warning signs, one too many strokes while petting and she lets you know with a love bite. Or scratch. Always quit petting her way before you think she is done.

Jules, short for Julian, was named after King Julian from The Penguins of Madagascar. Or Jules from Pulp Fiction, depending on your age range. He was the first tripod in our home, with a beautiful coat or orange and white. We think he has a cognitive impairment. It takes him days longer than the others to learn how to use new toys and food dispensers. He lays in the middle of household traffic and doesn't move when neighborhood children run through the house and charge right at him.

Callie was with us for a short time. She had been shot with a pellet gun in her spine and lost the use of one back leg. A couple years later, that lodged pellet moved enough that she lost the use of her other back leg. She was loving, devoted, and never complained about the pain. She carried on with dignity and grace.

If they were students in the classroom you might describe them in these ways.

Mabel, the class helper

  • She is the oldest child in her family. It is her responsibility to help monitor her younger siblings to make sure they are doing the right thing.

  • She constantly checks on the others in class to make sure they are doing the right thing. If they aren't she tells them what they should be doing. If they don't fix the problem themselves, she reports them to the teacher.

  • She's already had two surgeries and quickly empathizes with peers in pain. Classroom Tips:

  • It's great to help guide others, but ultimately she is only responsible for herself. Give her practice in this, and help her know that she is wonderful just the way she is.

  • Help her feel positive about her own contributions, too.

Newman needs behavior support

  • He might need some time to stop and think about his actions.

  • His mind is active, always curious, always asking questions. Why? How come?

  • He shares his discoveries readily, with excitement Classroom Tips:

  • Give him a chance for movement and brain breaks.

  • Redirects and triaging before beginning activities can be helpful

  • Give him choices in how he completes assignments, both in how he demonstrates learning and in how he works (standing, sitting, lying, using a fidget toy, etc.)

Raven, the introvert

  • Quiet, reserved, she needs time to get to know you before engaging

  • Likes 1:1 conversations and attention Classroom Tips:

  • She needs extra time to process your questions and think through her answers

  • Give her a chance to respond with a partner or by using a backchannel

  • Make your classroom introvert friendly by allowing students to work solo, and in quiet places, as needed

Jules has special needs

  • He needs extra repetitions to learn

  • Jules is a friend to all. Everyone loves him and makes an effort to include him. Classroom Tips:

  • Use multi-sensory and concrete approaches to learning

  • Provide extra time, frequent encouragement, and instruction right at his zone of proximal development

Callie, medically fragile

  • Has powered through extensive medical issues in her short school career

  • Bright outlook and positive, motivational peer to others (this could be a mask that she is wearing)

Classroom Tips:

  • Allow her space, and hold space for her as needed, to deal with the emotional rollercoaster associated with her medical condition

  • Model for students how to make the classroom routine as normal as possible while making modifications to include her with her special medical needs

Personification is a great creative thinking exercise for students. Have them imagine if their pet took on the characteristics of a human. What would they think? How would they act? What would they do? Have your students personify their pets. Give them a blank piece of paper and allow them time to write and draw what they image. Or, try a basic Google Doc template. If you are in a 1:1 environment and your students prefer digital drawing, they can create their pictures in Google Draw and important them into a Google Doc where they can type of voice type to explain what they imagined. Once they create an example of personification themselves, it will be easier for them to spot personification when they read it in literature.

Other things students could personify:

  • a piece of furniture

  • a vehicle

  • a plant

  • insects

  • food

  • a piece of art

  • a piece of clothing

Another lesson my students love involving cats and personifications is the Smart Start Cat and Dog Lesson from Eduprotocols. Designed to help develop classroom procedures of collaboration, communication, and use of the Frayer model, students hear diaries of a cat and dog. They find out what the animals are thinking, compare the unique characteristics of each, and complete a Frayer template for their favorite pet. The kids enjoy working through the process and personifying what their pet is thinking and what the opposing pet is thinking about their pet.

How do you help your students understand personification?

  • Writer's pictureMelissa

Updated: Dec 31, 2018

One of my son's favorite sayings growing up was, "Don't kill the dream." At first thought, you might envision me to be a harsh mother. Let me provide some context. He would be likely to use this line after I would remind him that living in a Crate and Barrel store as an adult probably wasn't a viable option. Or, owning a Ferrari fresh out of college was probably just as unlikely.

We taught him how to dream. How to think creatively. Then we sent him to school. And then, like so many kids, we watched his creativity dwindle. It was third grade when he started to question the purpose of assignments. When he would get caught reading a book instead of completing his worksheets.

When I look back, the same thing happened to me in third grade. It was at the same age that I began to question the education system. When I learned to "play school". And when my son was in third grade, I taught him how to do the same thing, "play school". It broke my heart then, and it breaks my heart today. 

When he would talk about school needing to change, I would ask him "How can we make that happen?" He would say he was just a kid, and really had no power to change it. Perhaps that's my fault. I was a teacher. I taught him how to play the game of school so he could fit the traditional definition of successful. But does playing along to a vision of school that is based on a 100-year-old model make someone successful in the modern age? 

Instead of asking, "How was your day?" like I did when he was younger, I started saying, "Tell me about your day." Instead of a one-word answer, I would hear stories. Stories about who got in a fight, who was disrespectful to a teacher, or what was served for lunch. I now ask, "What went well today?" and "What was challenging?" I hear about baking flan for a cultural food study, learning how to play ping pong in PE, and a special assembly where a guest band played for the entire high school. I comment on the cool things he has been doing. He budges a little and says, "Yea, sometimes we do cool stuff. But they still have lots of things to fix."

And I return to the question I have been asking him for ten years, "How can you help fix the problem?" He still tells me he's just a kid and has no power to fix problems in the school system. I remind him that he has a voice, both now and as a future adult. I tell him that I'm trying to do my part to make the education system a better place. He tells me that one person can't fix anything. I tell him, "Don't kill the dream."He smiles knowingly, and asks about my day.

Check out the story behind the company that made the Dream key in the picture above at The Giving Keys.

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