Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Time's Appetite: A Reading Struggle #SOL18

Growing up out here in the country taught me things. Taught me that after the first fat flush of life, time eats away at things: it rusts machinery, it matures animals to become hairless and featherless, and it withers plants...since Mama got sick, I learned pain can do that too. Can eat a person until there's nothing but bone and skin and a thin layer of blood left. How it can eat your insides and swell you in wrong ways.  ---Jesmyn Ward Sing, Unburied, Sing

There's a bible verse often used to rationalize inexplicable pain and suffering. 

There hath no temptation taken hold of you but such as is common to man. But God is faithful; He will not suffer you to be tempted beyond that which ye are able to bear, but with the temptation will also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. I Corinthians 10:13

As a child I heard this verse twisted to explain and justify my father's diabetes and the myriad illnesses, including blindness, that accompanied it. So desperate for relief from his physical pain was my father that he attended a tent revival with a so-called faith healer preaching and passing the plate. 

This charlatan placed his palm on my father's head and commanded him to see. He didn't. My father stretched his white, red-tipped cane in front of him like a diviner of water, his faith visibly shattered, and allowed his friend to guide him back to his pew. 

I shared my my father's sorrow. We cried alone in the crowded tent. His anguish seared my heart and gave rise to my own pain. Some blamed my father for his failure to regain his sight. He must not have had faith of a mustard seed. Others chided him to trust God not to give him more than he could handle with God's help. "It must be God's will," they said. 

Time has given way to new pains and deepened old ones. It's not aging, the graying hair, the wrinkling skin, the sagging body parts, or the failing organs that ravages a life. It's pain. Pain associated with time. Pain that heals a little, a healing that offers a false sense of security and relief. Then one day that pain has stripped away the emotional skin to expose and twist a person from the inside out. 

Reading Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing resurrected pain I knew as a child and magnified new  pain. I think that's why I've struggled with this haunting novel. I think that's why I have not yet finished reading it. My own empathetic imagination has made the pain JoJo, Kayla, and River experience unbearable when combined with my own raw feelings.

Sorrow and sadness permeate much of Jesmyn Ward's novel. 

Sorrow is food swallowed too quickly, caught in the throat, making it nearly impossible to breathe. 

Sometimes we struggle not to choke. Sometimes life is that painful. 

The Slice of Life Story Challenge happens each
Tuesday courtesy of the team at Two Writing Teachers. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Why I Write about Literature #SOL18

Saturday I found myself caught up in a Twitter conversation about the merits of literary analysis after reading the transcript from a Heineman Podcast on the book Beyond Literary Analysis by Allison Marchetti and Rebekah O'Dell. 

After reading the transcript, which appeared in my Twitter feed, I responded: 

Reading the transcript, I kept thinking: If English teachers don’t foster a love of literature and writing about it in students, who will? If English teachers don’t broaden student insight into literature’s relevance in the now, who will? Of course that’s not possible w/ formulas

My reference to formulas reflects a comment from the podcast in which the authors reduce prewriting a literary analysis to having students complete a worksheet with thesis and topic sentences, resulting in a pile of essays all the same, all formulaic. While some teachers do this--the writers themselves confess to having used this method--many others build responses to literature through conversations with students and through other methodologies.

During the conversation that ensued on Twitter, I struggled to articulate my argument. No. I struggled to have my argument heard:

Writing about literature helps readers clarify and understand their thoughts about a work, helps readers discover how a work of literature responds to our world, and improves students' deep learning. Although I did not mention it, writing is a tool for learning, whether we're studying literature or some other subject.

Of course, reducing literary analysis to a formula results in a reductive paper that students justifiably loathe writing and teachers hate reading. Even the term literary analysis is problematic. It implies there is a single way to analyze a work of literature.

Of course, this isn't true, and before we can expect students to embrace various literary lenses, we must foster a personal connection to literature, whether classic, YA, dystopian, popular literary fiction, or any of the myriad genres. The beauty of examining literature from various literary lenses is the way these open a text to dialogism.

During my AP Lit and Comp class's recent study of Heart of Darkness, I introduced students to post-colonial criticism and the theories of Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha, and Edward Said. These scholars contributed to and enriched our discussion. One student referenced Spivak as someone he'd like to have dinner with for a scholarship application.

What bothers me most about both the podcast and the Twitter responses are two things:

  1. Many English teachers talk as though the only way students learn analysis is in an English class.
  2. Many English teachers seem to want to avoid teaching students to read and write about complicated literary texts.
Even in high school English classes the conversation about pedagogy has moved far away from teaching literature and composition to literacy. It's as though English teachers have embraced and promoted the CCSS mandate that 70% of reading the senior year is informational texts without considering this percentage in the totality of a student's year.

In the podcast, Marchetti and O'Dell claim they want to broaden the definition of text to include a basketball game, for example:

For us text is anything that has a beginning, middle and end, and can be broken down into smaller pieces, and be closely studied.

This definition of text reflects those found in rhetorical studies. It's grounded in the belief that we live in a rhetorical world with symbolic meaning inherent in pretty much everything. This idea is not new. In the nineties when my hobby was taking classes in rhetoric and communication, I wrote essays in which I analyzed country and western songs, as well as novels. I read analysis of paintings, architecture, gardens, and sewing.

Perhaps the book that influenced me most during these days is Women Speak: The Eloquence of Women's Lives by Karen A. Foss and Sonja K. Foss. Until reading that book I had not thought about domestic tasks as rhetorical and meaningful. In that moment, I regretted not learning to crochet! In that moment, I glimpsed the value of shopping as a rhetorical gesture.

Rhetorical criticism is all about analyzing the kinds of things Marchetti and O'Dell advocate analyzing in English classes. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, but unless an English teacher has studied the theoretical underpinnings of rhetoric, that teacher is no better equipped than the teacher who struggles to teach new criticism.

As both a speech and English teacher, I recognize the value in myriad approaches to analysis, but as English teachers increasingly advocate for pushing writing about literature to the back of the class, they must at some point recognize their argument diminishes the value of literature and English as a class separate from other curricular areas.

As English teachers rail against literary analysis, they diminish the value of English departments and increase the value of departments that support communication studies and rhetoric.

Many of my posts on this blog reflect the value I place in reading great works of literature and writing about them. Frequently I write about politics by examining the president in terms of the literature I'm teaching. I write about teaching and students and pop culture through examining literature.

In his book How Beowulf Can Save America, Professor Robin Bates argues that the epic poem Beowulf offers a way to view the anger and rage that festered during the Obama presidency:

In America today we do not face threats of death and enslavement. We do, however, face a roiling anger that is undermining our governing institutions, setting citizen against citizen, and preventing collective problem-solving. In its account of Beowulf battling and defeating the three monsters, the epic captures our own situation and shows us how to deal with it.
Bates devotes his blog Better Living Through Beowulf: How Great Literature Can Change Your Life to examining the ways literature responds to current events and pop culture. Monday he compared the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl win to a thunderbolt in Tennyson's "The Eagle." This blog has become a go-to source for my own examination of literature in the context of now.
When we allow literature to speak to us about our world, from the world of sports to the White House, we broaden the scope of literary analysis in the ways Marchetti and O'Dell advocate with their examination of an essay in The Atlantic by Anna North in which North discusses her reading of The Odyssey and Odysseus's journey: 
There’s no clear reason why he should to take this long journey Tiresias asks him to go on, and that’s a lot like writing. Writing is this strange impulse, not a very practical impulse, and it doesn’t make sense to everyone. But for some reason—if you have the impulse—you have to do it anyway. You have to go on this long journey and do something that’s really hard, and all of it for no real reason.
I write about literature to
  • Make sense of teaching and insure what I ask students to do is valuable to them as individuals, as citizens, and as learners.
  • Make sense of a scary and confusing and fragile world.
  • Learn from the past and its truths.
  • Make sense of the historical record in terms of human nature and universal truths.
  • Hone my writing skills through close examination of writers I admire.
  • Struggle as I ask students to struggle.
  • Model a life of writing for my students. 
  • Find comfort during difficult personal struggles. 
  • Understand complicated writing.
  • Find my way home.
And so my writing journey continues into the unknown to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. ("Ulysses" by Alfred Lord Tennyson)

Each Tuesday the Slice of Life Story Challenge
is sponsored by the team at Two Writing Teachers.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Hollow at the Core: Kurtz in the White House #SOL18 #APLitChat

Tuesday is Slice of Life Story Challenge
sponsored by the Two Writing Teachers team.
Near the end of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which is the focus of study in my AP Lit and Comp class this month, Marlow describes human heads on poles he finds at the station Kurtz--whom Marlow had been dispatched to retrieve from the interior of the Congo--occupies. After initially thinking the "round knobs" were merely "ornamental," Marlow examines each one closely with a magnifying glass and concludes they are "symbolic." 

I returned deliberately to the first I had seen--and there it was, black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids, a head that seemed to sleep at the top of the pole, and with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling, too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber.

In this context we learn "there was nothing exactly profitable in these heads being there." That is, the heads did nothing to contribute to the station's functioning, did nothing to improve the station's mission to gather ivory. Kurtz, whom Marlow characterizes as exerting a god-like influence on the natives, merely collected the heads because "these heads were the heads of rebels."

Kurtz lusts for power, and by displaying the heads of those whom he considers "rebels," he manages to control the native Congolese. He isn't concerned with his mission but only with fulfilling his own lust for ivory and power, and in his depravity, Kurtz employs methods that "had ruined the district." 

Marlow describes Kurtz as having deficiencies.

Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts, that there was something wanting in him--some small matter, which, when the pressing need arose, could not be found under his magnificent eloquence.

Donald Trump is Kurtz, I thought as I reread HoD, and his followers are Marlow, a man who refuses to learn how Kurtz's ceremonies control the Congolese natives. "There had been enemies, criminals, workers--and these were rebels." Like Kurtz, Trump collects "heads," the latest appears to be that of Andrew McCabe, a twenty year veteran of the FBI with an impeccable record of service. Others include James Comey, and Preet Bharara. 

Kurtz's one defender shouts, "You don't know how such a life tries a man like Kurtz." Trump, too, has his enablers: Devon Nunez, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Sean Hannity, and a host of others who ceremoniously accommodate Trump with little regard for the norms of democracy or the truth. As of Monday, this includes the House Judiciary Committee with its Republican accommodationists. Trump himself uses his favorite bully pulpit, Twitter, to advance falsehoods and articulate ad hominem attacks on his perceived enemies. He rarely misses an opportunity to screech "fake news" when the media doesn't fawn over him; he did it in Davos last week. 

Like Kurtz, Trump's "ascendency was extraordinary. Like Kurtz did in the interior of the Congo, Trump has launched a "fantastic invasion" on our democracy. Like Kurtz, Trump is "hollow at the core." 

Whether or not Trump realizes his deficiencies as Marlow says Kurtz does, I don't know. Perhaps, like Kurtz and Nixon, Trump will in the end experience an epiphany. If it comes, it will likely only appear as it did for Kurtz when he takes "counsel with his great solitude." Given Trump's attempts to silence the Russia investigation, given his silencing of his critics, including the mainstream media, Trump's silence seems a fitting conclusion to these dark days. Yet I fear we are entering a deeper "darkness of that impenetrable night." 

A Note on Teaching Heart of Darkness

Reading Heart of Darkness in the context of an impending national crisis, resonates in ways I hadn't expected. I wasn't sure I wanted to teach Conrad's novella this year. Let's face it, it's a much maligned work of colonialism, and it's often cited as a text teachers dislike and students hate. Many see HoD as racist given Marlow's descriptions of the Congolese, the silencing of what Gayatri Spivak calls "subalteran," and Conrad's personal history as a product of British Colonialism. Needless to say, I approached the book tentatively and decided to temper Conrad's text with poetry from living poets and African American poets from the Harlem Renaissance. 

Additionally, I wanted my students to understand both Leopold II's apologia for colonizing the Congo and George Washington Williams's Open Letter to King Leopold in which he (Williams) challenges Leopold's rationale. I also read The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World by Maya Jasonoff, which takes a biographical approach to examining Conrad's writing life. It's an excellent book, and I played the audiobook introduction for students prior to our reading.

These texts and a video lecture of post-colonial theory further inform the discussions I and my students have engaged in during our study of Heart of Darkness. The students have responded with insightful comments, and all but one appreciate this complicated text. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Reading Half Way #SOL18 #APLitChat

Over on my Goodreads page I have a list of 40 books I'm currently reading. Someone looking at this list might think I don't finish what I start. You might think I'm a half-way reader. 

When I set my reading goals this year, I thought about this list of unfinished books. Some I've abandoned because I lost interest in them, but most are victims of reading circumstances. For example, I began reading Ta-Nehisi Coates's We Were Eight Years in Power shortly before departing for NCTE. I didn't take the book with me and have not returned to it since the trip. Yet it is a book I know I'll finish, and as a collection of essays, the book forgives my sporadic attention to it.

In contrast to the Coates book, I know I'll not return to The Witches: Salem, 1692. I started reading that book as a free audiobook from SYNC, but I found the narrative overly sensationalized, something I don't value in historical accounts.

All the books sitting on my nightstand await my attention, and I've left them next to the bed as welcome companions who greet me each morning and beckon me to read each evening, but they'll have to wait while I reread Heart of Darkness and the Norton Critical Edition of Heart of Darkness, which is what I'm currently teaching in AP Lit and Comp.

Books on My Nightstand, which I purchased for its size!
Sunday evening's #APLitChat posed the question: "What are you currently reading?" That's a tough question for a half-way reader such as myself. Fortunately, I was able to name books I have read recently that I found inspiring. 

I began reading George Saunders's Lincoln in the Bardo as an audiobook after perusing the print version. Soon I realized the book is one I want to explore in print as well as audio. I like the audio for characterization but need the print to analyze the book's postmodern, unique structure. It's another book I know I'll finish, but I need to start over to gain a full reading experience of this brilliant novel. Before returning to that novel, however, I'll finish Sing, Unburied, Sing because it's up for discussion on #APBKChat February 11. 

I'm less sure about whether or not I'll finish the books on the top shelf of one of my bookshelves. If I do get to them, I'll probably need to start over to avoid scratching my head in confusion as I try to recall each one's details.
The top shelf houses books I've begun and not finished.
When I set my yearly reading goad January 1, I intended to finish what I've started before ordering new books, but tomorrow the UPS driver will visit my home with a box in hand, and in that box I'll discover another reading treasure, Matt De La Pena's Love. 

I have other books on pre-order, so when they arrive I'll get a pleasant surprise. Until then, I plan to go all the way with some of the books on my half-way reading list.

Tuesday is the Slice of Life Story Challenge
sponsored by the team at Two Writing Teachers.
I'm grateful to them for this community of readers and writers.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

My "S-Word" Childhood Home #SOL18

Abandoned Superfund site, Pitcher, Oklahoma
When I was five years old, my mother moved my sister and me to Pitcher, Oklahoma. We lived in two separate houses during that time. Both were shacks. One had a front room, a bedroom, a kitchen, and a bathroom. 

The second house had two rooms arranged in shotgun style. The front room occupied half the house. We used it as a bedroom. A bare bedspring peaked out from under the mattress that was too small. I have a scar on my leg from the time I got my knee stuck in the spring. To prevent infection, my mother poured a bottle of rubbing alcohol on the open wound. I howled in pain. 

The kitchen occupied the back part of the house. It had an ice box and a stove. We had no bathroom in the house, so my mom set up a metal tub in the middle of the room for us to bathe in. We used an outhouse down the alley because the house had no toilet. My sister and I often ran the streets in our underwear. 

That shack was a real "S-Word", so was the town.

Even in the 1960s when I lived there, Pitcher was in decline. After the lead and zinc mines peaked in the 1920s, leaving behind the tailings that polluted the town's land and groundwater, Pitcher was designated a superfund site and officially died in 2009 when the city government disbanded. In fact, the Tarheel Mining District, of which Pitcher is a part, is the largest superfund site in the country.

Betty's Drive-In, a place I remember from my childhood.
Over time the process of mining lead and zinc resulted in "mountains" of chat bordering the towns of Pitcher , Oklahoma and Treece, Kansas. I played on these toxic hills. When the mines closed, the abandoned shafts filled with water, contaminating nearby Tar Creek, creating swimming holes that became popular recreational sites for local children. More than a third of the homes were built over mine shafts, and eventually the threat of sink holes drove competing sports teams to refuse to compete with the Pitcher Gorillas, forcing more families to move.

I didn't live in Pitcher long, but I did live there long enough to experience abject poverty and to form memories of life in one of America's most undesirable places. Even though the EPA offered several rounds of buyouts, some remained in Pitcher, knowing each breath consisted of toxins poisoning their bodies. A 2010 expose in Wired chronicles some of their stories, their love of home, a home constructed of fond memories, a home literally labeled a dump by the EPA.

I've come to think of Pitcher, Oklahoma and the "chat-rats" that stayed as a metaphor for life in the Trump era. Many willingly breath in the toxic rhetoric leaching from the White House, refusing to clean up the growing superfund site in Washington D.C. As Senator Lindsay Graham explains, we must send children from the room when the news comes on if we don't want them hearing naughty words.
Chat pile in the  Pitcher, Oklahoma Tarheel Superfund site.
President Trump's recent use of that "S-Word" adjective made headlines and changed the rules for publishing and reporting heretofore taboo words. I thought about Pitcher, Oklahoma when Trump disparaged Haiti and Africa.  I wonder if Pitcher's famous sons Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts and Tim Spencer of Sons of the Pioneers thought of their hometown.

There are places in our own backyards more deserving of a vulgar label than the countries and the continent Trump disparaged. Should Pitcher, Oklahoma be labeled one of them? The town did not create the toxicity that poisoned its children and swallowed its geography. The lead and zinc mining companies did that. Those who called Pitcher home and who stayed with her until they were driven from their homes deserve love and respect, just as Africans and Haitians deserve better than to have their homes denigrated by politicians. 

That is, Trump can't call other places shit-holes without applying the label to the parts of our country damaged by poverty and pollution, places Trump would not think to spend the night in let alone call home. That should tell us all something about what he thinks of poor people in America.

Where, then, does Trump's rhetoric leave us? 

It leaves us mired in the excrement Trump spews. Buried in his racist words and deeds rolling down on us like a river of toxic waste from an abandoned mine.

Tuesday is Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by
the team at Two Writing Teachers.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Something's Happening to Our Students: Opening a Dialogue about Sexual Harassment #SOL18

During the 1985-86 school year I taught half-time in the Urbana Community School District, a small hamlet in central Iowa with a student population of approximately 500 students K-12. I was pregnant with my second son and had moved to Iowa from Yuma, Arizona where I taught at Kofa High School, which had over 2,600 students when I left. 

Memories of my time in Iowa flooded back Monday as I met with the juniors in my student advisory and showed them two short videos I and my colleagues had been asked to share and discuss. The subject of these videos is Sexual Harassment. 

"Something is happening to our kids," a counselor wrote in an email accompanying the videos Friday afternoon. We're seeing an increase in sexual harassment among our students. 

Our counselors sent the videos and a copy of our district's Sexual Harassment policy, as well as copies of Idaho Code dealing with the distribution of Child Pornography and asked us to have a conversation with our students. Sexting is distribution of child pornography, according to Idaho Code.

I read the policy and the legal code first. 

Then I showed the videos. 

When the young woman in the second video hit "send," I heard a gasp in the room. 

At that moment memories from over thirty years ago flooded my mind, for that's the year several seventh and eighth grade students shared a story about abuse they had experienced from a school counselor in our building.

In 1986 Iowa reporting laws mandated reporting to the "building supervisor." I did not trust this authority figure to pass the information on to law enforcement; therefore, I reported the abuse to the Grant Wood Area Education Association school psychologist who was in the building at the time. She, in turn, reported the incidents to law enforcement. 

One of the investigators on the case was married to a colleague, so when Ross Lamansky, the counselor, was arrested, the investigator called me. I lay in bed and sobbed for my students and for the perpetrator, whom I learned had been passed from school district to school district to spare each employer the embarrassment of having a sexual predator on their staff. 

I learned that Mr. Lamansky, whom I'd judge to be a man in his fifties or sixties at the time, had a reputation in both Iowa City and Kirksville, Missouri, where he was known as "the hooded grabber" because he'd stand on street corners with a hoodie covering his head and grab women by various body parts as they passed on the street. 

The Lamansky incident divided the school, with older students remaining loyal to the counselor and junior high students loyal to the abused. High school students wore black arm bands to school one day as a show of solidarity for Lamansky. But I knew he was guilty. My investigator friend shared information with me throughout the investigation, and I traveled through a blizzard from Cedar Rapids to Vinton for the depositions. 

The day of Lamansky's trial, I was walking out the front door when the phone rang. I paused and answered. Lamansky had accepted a plea deal. He admitted guilt to "two counts of indecent contact with a minor." He went to jail. He lost his teaching credentials. Most importantly, Iowa changed its reporting laws. No longer would teachers report to the building supervisor; now they would report to law enforcement. 

I shared my memory with students. I told them, "often we don't realize we have a problem in our schools if it doesn't involve us or if we don't hear about it." I encouraged students to talk to one another and teachers, to support friends in making wise decisions when confronted with inappropriate behavior. 

Our kids are not alright. They each have a digital dossier They each face ongoing pressure to use technology in harmful ways. We all do. But our building administration wants us as a staff to have open discussions with students about what's happening to them and ways they can protect themselves. Even though some of my colleagues see this discussion as an extension of the "nanny state," teachers in my department understand the power of stories and sharing those stories, so we're making guiding students through these struggles a priority because we don't like what's happening to our students, and we'll do what we can to restore them to a place of safety.
The weekly Slice of Life story challenge is
hosted every Tuesday by the team at
Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, TWT, for your faithful
support of writers, teachers, and students.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Hygge: Finding Comfort, Giving Comfort #SOL18 #OLW18

Puck, cozied up on the couch as
he shares my fuzzy blanket.
Danes have the reputation for being the world's happiest people. The secret to the Danish people's happiness is hygge (hoo-guh), a word with no literal translation in English but a concept that has gained popularity in the past two years. Hygge, loosely translated, means comfort, "a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being," states a 2016 New Yorker article.  

Following a tough 2016 that almost daily threatened my comfort level, primarily on a national level, the idea of finding comfort appeals to me, even though I know I can't get too comfortable given the many political battles that lie ahead.

Comfort, however, works as both a noun and verb, making it a unique ONE LITTLE WORD that allows me to focus on myself and others. The etymology of hygee comes from a 16th Century Norwegian word, hugga, which means "to comfort" or "to console."

Books on hygge have become hugely popular in the past year, and I'm considering buying one to help me on my hygge journey. I want to be a hyggelige person, finding comfort in simple things and offering comfort to others., those I know and strangers I encounter. 

In our homes we can create an atmosphere of comfort with fuzzy socks, fluffy throws, warm cider, scented candles, cozy fires, and any other little thing that wraps us in warmth and coziness. For me that includes decluttering. Although I've never been a pack-rat in the sense of a tchotchke collector, I still have too much stuff, so part of my husband's retirement duties will be to declutter his office and garage. My collections tend to be those related to my profession: books and professional publications, as well as crates of student work samples. My comfort increases when I don't see a pile of stuff cluttering my view.
Created w/ Bitmoji

I like the idea of "a practical way of creating sanctuary in the middle of a very real life," as Louisa Thompsen Brits describes hygge. Home should be a sanctuary, but social networking and cable news often seep into my life in ways that disrupt the natural hygge I should experience when curled up on the couch in my fuzzy socks. 

The Danish emphasis on quality of life over possessions echos the teaching of Thoreau: 

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Still, Thoreau deemed leaving the woods a necessity, too, so to simply focus on my own comfort and coziness as embodied in hygge, would miss the mark of what I like about comfort as a OLW. In my classroom I strive to create a comfortable environment, including "flexible seating" long before the term became the classroom setup du jour. I have a couch, love seat, ottoman, and chair in addition to desks for student use in my small room, and I burn a candle melt daily when I don't have students with scent allergies. However, as an ELA teacher, making students feel comfortable also means making them feel safe to experiment in their speaking and writing. It means amplifying their voices and agency, too. 

Hygge embodies contentment, comfort, and connection to the people and things that make the quality of both personal and professional life better, so this year for the first time I'm choosing a OLW and wrapping myself in hygge as I find and offer comfort.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers Team, for sponsoring
the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge.