Chasing Brooklyn

I just finished reading Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder, and I’m emotionally spent. It was such an incredibly sad story.  One of the most touching poems is the following:


Dear Lucca,

I miss you.
I miss your beautiful blue eyes and the love I saw in
them for me.
I miss your hand that held mine.
I miss your arms around me.
I miss your lips on mine
I miss your laughter.
I miss the way you called me Brooker the Looker
I miss your voice and the sweet everythings you
whispered in my ear.
I miss the drawings you showed me before anyone else.
I miss our midnight conversations for no other reason
than to say, “I love you.”
I miss how I felt safe when I was with you.
I miss you, Lucca.
For my whole life, I will miss you.

Love always,

Although the resolution seems to come too easily, this book is so powerful. It tells a tale of lost love, and yet, it offers so much hope.

Brooklyn and Nico are complex characters depicted through the simplistic language of Lisa Schroeder. It was hard to put this book down. I'm so glad one of my students recommended it for me.


A Long Awaited Break

It seems like last week could not end fast enough. Every day, I would wake up thinking it was the next day.


An Allegory

There are many similes and metaphors teachers can use to describe what it’s like to be a teacher these days, running on a treadmill, a mountain being capped by snow, etc.

This morning, I woke with that sentence on my mind, and had to add but to it. Because those comparisons are old and trite in my mind, I’d much prefer to use an allegory at this moment…


No Gimmicks Required

This school year, I ventured onto a new endeavor with my students—get them to read and write. This transformation has been in the making for quite some time, I just didn’t know how to let go. Really, all it takes is what I like to call grassroots teaching.


NJWP-Week One

Today marks the end of week one of the New Jersey Writing Institute. We have two left, and I already feel a pang of sadness that it will be over soon.

Some people would ask why. They would claim that I’m giving up a lot of my summer. Time to sit by a pool or on the beach. Movie time I won’t get back. Sunny afternoons clacking away at Barnes and Noble keeping a slightly sweetened black iced tea and outrageous oatmeal cookie close by.

The truth, it’s all worth it. In just this first week, I have learned so much, been validated in regard to my teaching and writing, and inspired on so many levels.

I want to shrink Mona and Janice to tuck them away in my pen/pencil pouch so that I can pull them out in the middle. The period of time “that defines what kind of teachers we really are.”

Sure, I have my notes to go back to and the textbook is mine, but it just isn’t the same. It’s the comradery and voice of reason from the people who teach the process that makes this Institute what it is.

I wish I could require all of our teachers to attend. I know that this would change some of their mentality and in turn, provide our kids with the education they deserve. 


Los Mojaditos: A Portrait

I love this photograph because it is probably the only one with all of my siblings. On the left in the white undershirt and jeans is my brother Filly. Next to him in the white jeans is Silvia, the oldest of our sisters. Next to her is Richy, the oldest of our brothers. On the bottom from left to right are Jorge, me, and Gabi.

I can’t remember if this photograph was taken at our house on Rita street or the previous house. All I know is that we’d been in the country a couple of years and we were all still illegal.

Thinking back at how things were, I wonder how we did it. How did my mom do it to feed all of us, clothe us, and keep a roof over our head. I didn’t know how hard it was for my oldest sister who had been forced to move when she had already started her own life in Juarez. I didn’t know how bad school was for Gabi and Jorge.

There are a few memories in there of fights between my parents and the fear of perhaps my mom not coming home one day because she’s been deported. However, for the most part, I was a really happy kid. I had some books, a record player, a Tatiana LP recording of Osito Panda, a Cri-Cri LP, and playing outside with our neighbors or my siblings was the best thing ever, especially if we took a trip to the park. 



This year, our principal assigned us some summer reading. People groaned when they heard that they’d have to read the student summer reading as well as a teacher book. I didn’t say much because I’m a nerd and I usually read that kind of stuff.

The book we were assigned is Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word by Barbara R. Blackburn. She will be presenting during one of our start of year in-services, too.

It’s an interesting book thus far (I’m only two chapters in). Blackburn tries to be interactive by posing questions and allowing space to write out your answer, kind of like a worksheet. I don’t think the books are ours to keep, so I’ve been making my notes elsewhere. One of the “assignments” was to:

Write a letter to a friend or colleague. Project yourself in the future; date it one year from today. Now, explain what happened in your classroom over the last year as you increased rigor. What did you do? How did your students respond over time? What was your biggest success? Even though you are writing what you hope will happen, write it in past tense, as though it has already occurred. (18)

Seeing as how I’ve been ignoring this here blog, I thought I’d post the letter here.

June 9, 2011

Dear Blogueros,

My 6th year of teaching has come to a close and I can’t believe how awesome it was. If you had asked me at the end of last year if any year could be better, I’d have been doubtful.

Armed with experience and more knowledge, my students grew by leaps and bounds. My lessons were not only engaging, but challenging as well. Can you believe that the Shakespeare unit was an even bigger hit? The kids had so much fun doing the research about Shakespeare’s life. They actually did research. RESEARCH!!!

Not only that, my kids read, A LOT. All of the changes that I started implementing at the end of my 5th year were a great way to start (reader’s response journals, keeping a list of books that were and weren’t read, me reading more), and I think it made a huge difference with my students. It was also pretty cool that I had more support when it came to students having reading material at all times since this was a requirement across the board.

Their writing was also way better than any other kids I’ve taught. I know it was me, too because I really used all the cool strategies I learned this summer in my staff development. Can you believe that we got more 3’s and 4’s than ever on the state exam?

What I’m most proud of though has to be the growth in student vocabulary. It’s amazing. In the past, it was always a big dark cloud over my head because I didn’t know how to get them to learn the words. I mean, I could get them to memorize the definitions, but I couldn’t get them to keep them long term or relate them to other words that were similar.

I know that at first my students thought I was crazy, which is not unusual in my case, but at the end of the year, they really got it. They saw that together, we demolished all of those fences people like to build around them. I know it increased their confidence and for many of them, that was the missing factor.

I am so glad I changed my ways. I really think I’m on the right track now. I can’t wait for school to start, so I can start on my new crop of kids.




Petite Rocollections of Jorge

We’re in the toy section at Winn’s next to the Diary Queen on Alameda Ave. Jorge is 13 and I’d just turned 5.

“¿CĂșal quieres?”

I look at my options. Rainbow Bright is cool, but Lurky is just so cool. He’s brown and furry and would probably make an awesome pillow. After some thought, I decide on Lurky.

I watch him shell out the $17 for it and feel somewhat embarrassed that he would spend so much money on me, but at the same time so special.


Catching Up-A Long One

So much has gone on lately, but I haven’t had the will to sit and type about it. Sometimes I wish I could get back into the blogging groove and write an entry at least once a week. Other times, I sort of forget about my blog altogether.

It’s just weird, you know? How much do you tell? How much do I want to tell?

I do think that I should start updating once a week. Work it into my schedule like I do with my grading—I hang out on Friday afternoon to get all caught up.

So in an effort to get this all up to date, I offer to you a bulleted list:


Babies, babies, babies

It seems like everyone is having a baby these days. It's kind of exciting to welcome all these new little people to the world.

I don't have much else. I just thought I'd post something since I came on here to change my profile pic. That's the longest I've had my hair in years. Locks of Love, here I come!


THESE Kids...

All of last year, I heard about the kids I would be getting this year. I heard all about how horrible they were, how they would not follow the rules, how they could get away with murder, how difficult they were to teach.
Although it was in the back of my mind, I kept my mind open. The first time I met them was at summer reading camp and they were good for the most part. I was also able to meet some during orientation. Still, there weren’t any major problems.
Despite all the complaints people have about our current kids, I got lucky with the kids I got. They are pretty good. Sure, I have a handful of super chatty ones and some supremely aloof ones, but for the most part, they are pretty good.
Many kids have turned me into a character in their fractured fairytales. Today, when I got a mean edge in my voice when my last class would not stop talking, they looked at me with deer in the headlight eyes and got super quiet. When school was over and the kids were leaving, one of my super chatty, hyper active kid shouted out my name and gave me a big wave and huge grin as he walked out the doors.
As I sat at my desk grading away the afternoon, I realized that these kids are working for me because I am finally ready for them. I am a much better teacher. I still have my lapses, but overall, I am becoming the teacher these kids deserve.