That’s it for 2018

When I really think about what was good about 2018, everything is kind of grayed out, overtaken by the fact that most of 2018 was the first year I had to exist without my grandma, who was, indisputably, the best person I got lucky enough to be so close to. This was followed closely by other thoughts of loss. It took a lot of thinking, and going through iPhone memories to remember that other things happened, that my year existed outside of that.

Here are some of the higher points:

Albums that were released in 2018:

5. Living Proof – State Champs
4. LM5 – Little Mix
3. M A N I A – Fall Out Boy
2. Love and Loathing – With Confidence
1. Youngblood – 5 Seconds of Summer

Honorable Mentions:
Shawn Mendes
Panic Vertigo (EP) – The Wrecks
Trench – twenty one pilots
Camila – Camila Cabello
Dark Horse – Devin Dawson

Albums not released in 2018 that were still important

2. Dear Evan Hansen
1. Red Pill Blues – Maroon 5

Top 5 Songs Released in 2018

Intentionally not choosing songs from the previously mentioned top albums because those albums were chosen due to how much I listened to THE WHOLE THING.

5. I Hope You’re Happy – Blue October
4. Back to You – Selena Gomez
3. Sangria Wine – Pharrell Williams and Camila Cabello
2. Birthday – All Time Low
1. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – Backstreet Boys

Honorable Mentions:
Fall in Line – Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato
Capital Letters – Hailee Steinfeld
This is America – Childish Gambino
New Light – John Mayer
Chances – Backstreet Boys (coming in hot for 2019)

Top 5 Songs Not Released in 2018

5. You Should See Me in a Crown – Billie Eilish
4. Coal Makes Diamonds – Blue October
3. Delicate – Taylor Swift
2. Smoke & Mirrors – Demi Lovato
1. End Game – Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift

Top Cover Songs of 2017

5. congratulations – Lewis Watson
4. You Should See Me in a Crown – The Wrecks
3. No Roots – 5 Seconds of Summer
2. Back to You – Our Last Night
1. Stay – 5 Seconds of Summer

2017 Concerts

5. 5 Seconds of Summer – House of Blues, Chicago
4. Harry Styles – United Center, Chicago
3. Warped Tour (The Maine, With Confidence, State Champs
2. Haunted Holidays (The Wrecks, The Maine, All Time Low) – The Rave, Milwaukee
1. 5 Seconds of Summer – Aragon Ballroom, Chicago

Honorable Mention:
Blue October – Westfair Ampitheater, Council Bluffs
Pink – Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln
5 Seconds of Summer- The Armory, Minneapolis (because every sauce show can’t be in the top 5)

On to non-music things!

Top 8 Books (because it’s 2018)

8. Chemistry – Weike Wang
7. The Poet X – Elizabeth Acevedo
6. Long Way Down – Jason Reynolds
5. Truly Devious – Maureen Johnson
4. Girl Made of Stars – Ashley Herring Blake
3. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Hank Green
2. All the Crooked Saints – Maggie Stiefvater
1. The Astonishing Color of After – Emily X.R. Pan

Honorable Mentions:
9 Days and 9 Nights – Katie Cotugno (man, I just love Cotugno)
On the Come Up – Angie Thomas (this book isn’t out until February, but
If You Come Softly – Jacqueline Woodson (this was a reread for me, but it’s a good one)

Top 5 of Life

I wrote this as moments last year, but what stood out to me about this year wasn’t specific moments but moreso themes or concepts.

Friendship: Through this year, I have solidified some adult friendships that mean a lot to me and make my life better in general. I am thankful for good friendships that have developed, and golden friendships that have continued and I hope always will.

Career: I am incredibly lucky to have a job that I love with coworkers that are supportive, generous, and intelligent and tiny humans that continue to surprise me without thoughtful, and hardworking, and kind they can be.

Babies: Two of my best friends have brought their own incredible, small humans into the world and has been so much fun watching them grow up and watching people I love get to be mothers.

Books: Sarah discovered Project Lit this year and we embarked on a journey of creating a chapter at our school and attempting to work with students toward better understanding and the checking of privilege, an it has been a great experience. Also NCTE.

Concerts: I continue to believe that concerts are one of the great unifying forces in the world and a fantastic reminder of humanity and the power of connections. Also included here is any Green Brothers book tour because they continue to be some of the best experiences I have.


A different kind of vertical alignment

Taken 9/7/2017

Nothing about this photo seems remarkable. It’s a typical scene at a Friday night football game.

But for me, it captures something I haven’t been able to stop thinking about all school year: a boy who finally found somewhere to belong, a place that will push him to become the person he has always been capable of becoming.

Teachers don’t have favorites. At least not in the way that the world-at-large uses the word. That kind of favorite results in allowing certain kids to get away with things they shouldn’t get away with, directs the best instruction and all of the desirable attention toward them. Teacher favorites don’t come in that form.

We’re told, practically from day 1 of teacher education, about the importance of building relationships with students. There are countless articles, and books, and videos on the subject. Like this article from the Association for Middle Level Educators, or the well-known Ted Talk from Rita Pierson, during which she boldly claims “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” Every educator everywhere knows the impact that building relationships with every student in our classroom can have on the learning that takes place there.

But there’s always that handful of kids each year. The ones you make strong connections with. The ones you see something in that other people don’t seem to notice. It’s not about favorites so much as its about one person not being able to give themselves to every student. So we take responsibility for a handful that we feel we truly understand. In my district we often refer to this as a “back pocket kid”, students that you watch a little bit more closely. (I don’t believe this terminology is unique to our district but I can’t seem to find any other sources referencing this).

One of the students in the picture above was that for me. From the second he came into my classroom, joining about a month into school, there was something about him that just clicked. I could see beyond his awkward and quiet 11-year-old self. Other teachers told me he wouldn’t do work for them, that he was naughty, that he got in trouble a lot, and I just wasn’t seeing any of that. I saw a kid that would do anything I asked of him once he knew I cared about him.

And it wasn’t just me. It takes a village, as the saying goes. In 7th grade he made connections with another teacher. In 8th, yet another.

When it came time for him to go to the high school, I worried. There was no way to keep an eye on him. His original passions for football and baseball seemed to have faded and the only time I saw him the entire year, he was wandering around the high school building just before school got out, very clearly not in the class he was meant to be in.

I had no part in his decision to join the co-ed cheer team. But his Instagram post from the first football game, captioned “best decision I ever made” was enough to make me teary. He has found a direction. A team that makes him feel valuable, that capitalizes on his talents, that gives him a purpose. It is the change in his life I’ve been hoping for since he was the goofy, quiet kid that didn’t seem to fit in my 6th grade classroom, wondering if I had any more books about football.

He is the perfect example of the kind of vertical alignment we strive for in academics, a perfect sequence of adults in a kid’s corner until something finally works. It is what we want for every student. When it happens, it’s nothing short of magic.

I cannot wait to see what he’s going to do next.


What labeling students as “my kids” implies

In the grad school class I’m currently taking, we read an article about the metaphors applied to teaching as a profession and the harm it does to both teachers and the world of Education as a whole. The primary focus of the article was “teacher as saint” and all of the implications of that, including the idea that teachers do their job out of love and therefore do not need to be monetarily compensated, and that there is no actual expertise required.

However, a slightly less explored topic in the article was the idea of “teacher as mother”. This metaphor follows the same vein as “teacher as saint” due to the cultural expectations of sacrifice in motherhood. It even went so far as to quote Virginia Woolf’s “Killing the Angel in the House” about the societal expectations that place pressures on women to be certain kinds of mothers. In response, a fellow classmate brought up the idea of calling her students her “kids” and whether or not this behavior was a result of the pervasive metaphor.

It has given me some things to think about.

Why do I refer to my students as “my kids”? They are certainly not my children. I did not give birth to them and do not wish at this time in my life to have any children of my own. The closest I get to wanting children is truly enjoying parenting stories, especially those that involve children doing completely asinine things. So why am I claiming 85-some children as my own?

Even my colleagues who have multiple children refer to students as their kids, or as “my Lily” or “our Brianna”. It’s a somewhat strange phenomena if you really think about it. These children have, most of them, parents at home that are loving them. We do not need to claim them. We are not adopting them.

And the only thing I can come up with is that it’s a term that is claiming responsibility and showing affection. By calling them “my kids”, I am committing to them for the year that they are with me, or perhaps longer. I am committing to riding their emotional waves, celebrating their personal triumphs, and doing everything I know how to do to encourage their growth. I am investing in them.

I especially find this true with students who I continue to be invested in after they have left my class. I have several students that continue to stop by my room after school to talk and I will always consider them “my kids”. I still consider myself responsible for them, invested in them, and devoted to helping them navigate their lives.

So, while I don’t agree with the sacrificial and demeaning implications of the metaphors for teaching that are pervasive in our society, the side-effect, I suppose, of referring to students as “my kids” is one I don’t mind at all. I’ll definitely continue using the term, as the commitment to the students is one of the most important aspects of teaching and it’s one passion I refuse to surrender.