Friday, March 3, 2017

Slice of Life Story Challenge #3 - Then and Now

It's the March SOLSC at Two Writing Teachers!

     My students are participating in the March Slice of Life Classroom Challenge, and I'm trying to do a better job supporting them this year.  Feedback from previous years included frustration with writer's block.  I also want to do a better job at growing them as writers, routinely studying craft and writers' moves throughout the month from their own Slices of Life.  Yesterday, we took a look at Kenzie's Slice of Life, Oops.  We made an entry in our Writer's Notebooks called "Oops - What I Noticed" and made a bulleted list of all the writer's moves Kenzie made.  Here was the culmination:

- Creative lead - started with onomatopoeia and dialogue  
- Personified the phone
- Stayed focused on one topic
- Divided writing into paragraphs
- Showed expertise with transition phrases at the beginning of paragraphs
- Knew to put commas after transition phrases
- Structured in chronological order/sequence
- Divided piece into THEN and NOW
- Full of feelings
- Almost no mechanics/grammar mistakes (took a quick opportunity to teach it's/its later)
- Included a parenthetical phrase to add voice and a theme 

I told the class that I liked the THEN/NOW structure so much that I'd like to try it out.  They suggested I do a Teaching THEN/NOW post.  I thought that was a great idea! 


     "Would you like to teach 8th grade or 3rd grade?  Those are the openings we have right now."  I was stumped by the question.  I had just finished my interview with the superintendent, which went really well, and I had no idea I would be asked this.  I get a choice?! 

     It was 1991.  I was almost finished with my Masters of Arts in Teaching at Miami University, and this was the place where I wanted to teach.  I had grown up in that district and had graduated from there.  How exciting would it be if I got to return as a teacher?!  It was also the district where my mom taught.

     Since I had my undergraduate degree in English Literature, I decided to answer, "8th!"  The 3rd grade position was either self-contained or partner-taught, and the eight grade position was all content.  I wanted to concentrate on teaching language arts, so I thought that was my best bet.  I also thought I wanted to teach intermediate to middle school kids. I smiled, he nodded, and I left, feeling excited.

     A few days later, I got a call.  A friendly woman's voice greeted me and proclaimed, "Our middle school principal would like to schedule an interview with you."  I was elated!  I got a second interview, and with the grade level I wanted!!  That interview went well, also, and a few weeks later, I was offered the job.  I clearly remember standing in the kitchen of our Oxford, OH apartments when I answered the phone. I was given several sections of language arts, and an advanced level as well. I was ready!

     Oh boy.  I hadn't realized what I had gotten myself into.  Eighth graders were TOUGH.  Essentially, they ate me alive, and the advanced class was the hardest.  Several of them were not nice!!  How can that be?!  They're supposed to be the "good" class!  I had just finished the Ohio Writing Project that summer and was so ready to use all my "expertise".  I knew all the stuff I wanted to teach them, and I was skilled and secure at the knowledge I held and even how I delivered it, but there was just one thing I hadn't completely mastered in my teacher education program....classroom management and confidence.  That took a few years to learn...

     Fortunately, I only taught 8th grade for two years.  Now, I'm not bashing 8th grade, and not everything about it was bad - I loved my colleagues, and there were students who were wonderful.  I learned a ton. I know junior high teachers who LOVE teaching 7th and 8th grade and are brilliant at it.   I know 7th and 8th graders who are AWESOME.  And honestly, if I taught it now, I think I would love it.  And I would be good at it.  But at the time, I didn't, and I wasn't.  When an opportunity to teach 6th grade in the elementary building came up, I jumped at it, and got it.  Whew!  It was an entirely new experience...and I loved it!


     Twenty-six years later, I'm in another district, albeit in the same county. (I've taught in three school districts in this area - the county where I grew up.  It's like a magnet!  We returned here even after we moved to Pittsburgh for 5 years)  I didn't teach for all 26 years.  I took 8 years to stay home with two daughters, and returned to teaching when they were in 3rd and 6th grade.  I've written about my teaching journey before here on my blog.  It's been a somewhat bumpy ride.  Even though I've enjoyed much of it, I never quite found my perfect stride until I landed here as a gifted intervention specialist teaching 5th/6th grade ELA.  Teaching gifted kids is definitely my passion, and I love what I do now.  I've been in this role for 5 years, and now it's going to change a bit.  Change is hard, but it can be exciting.  I'm hoping (and praying) the next phase will continue to be wonderful...


  1. I find the "Then-Now" concept to be very interesting, and might try it myself. 😀 Very nice writing! ~JudyK

  2. Finding your passion is what's important. I love how you wrote this post. The then/now concept is a cook way of presenting it!

  3. I had to chuckle at the classroom management part - the part no one masters in the teacher education programs! It is fun to look back to the past and see how much has changed. I think it would be great to teach gifted kids! I have a then/now post written and waiting for one of those days when I am stuck!

  4. Hmmm. I like the now and then format. I may have to try it.
    And, my opinion, 8th graders--"smart" 8th graders especially, are TOUGH. After 28 years, still not my favorite grade. Thank Heavens for the people who love them.

  5. Love this peek into your professional life. And the then/now format was perfect. I taught sixth grade for 12 of the 17 years I taught. And I loved them! Still do! And subbing in 8th grade always makes me nervous. Now I'm wondering about that change headed your way.

  6. I love the then and now structure! Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love this structure which allowed us to get a glimpse of your journey. I actually made a list of several techniques I wanted to try the s month, but I'm very inspired by your students' list. Might be borrowing some of those ideas!

  8. Then/Now is a great idea. I think I'll try it this month. It's kind of like a flashback with a present day anchor. Thanks for sharing and please, pass along my encouragement to your classroom slicers!