"Art Wins! Art Wins!"

This is a post about teaching. . .

but the post title borrowed from Kanye West's blog. . . he kind of sums up exactly how I feel about him and his work in his own words: "you gotta love it, though, somebody still speak from his soul." Not long ago, in fact, I used some lyrics from Kanye for my students to practice this new, crazy NJASK task where they have to read & interpret a quote. I figure, let's keep it familiar at least some of the time for them. They'll have plenty of Confucius to work with later.

We've had an interesting couple weeks in the Land O' Plenty. The kids are getting pretty dramatic and pretty antsy and pretty. . . ugh, hormonal. They are SUCH 8th graders right now. Which is at times amusing and at times an instructional feat. We're all ready for a break--5 days and counting!

Small victories in which art is definitely winning:

-My students are pumped about submitting their "This I Believe" essays to National Public Radio's website for this segment, thisibelieve.org. NPR chooses essays to publish online and sometimes records writers reading them for the radio segment. I am just glowing with pride for them--while I have a dozen or so "I believe that if I put my mind to something, I can do it" carbon-copy essays, there are some essays that are filled with such emotional honesty that I'm blown away. And some of my most struggling writers produced the most articulate work, some of them finding their writer's voices for the first time in a while. I had two students write about what they believe as a result of losing a parent--the language was stark and powerful. One student wrote about coping with a learning disability and how overcoming it informed her beliefs, while another framed his belief by discussing how hard his mother fought to help him overcome severe handicaps as a young child--the doctors did not believe he would ever walk or talk and now he's perfectly typical.

We held a publishing celebration for our essays and the students did a fair job of crafting genuine praise and positive feedback for the work of their peers.

The website for This I Believe was helpful and I employed a couple of their curricular ideas for this unit, adding in some resources from a cooperating teacher I worked with a couple years ago. I'm looking forward to making this unit even stronger next year.

Hooray for authentic audiences. Whether my students get published by NPR or not, we're all feeling like winners already.

-One of my girls told me last week how she never thought she was a good reader or writer, or "good at English" but now she does and she's taking Honors English next year. This is a girl who I had to pull aside a couple months ago and talk with--she was getting a little obsessed with climbing the social ladder and in the process was really changing into a person she was not. I was impressed with her reaction to my thoughts, which were that she was way too smart and cool to be changing who she really is for others. I saw her gradually return to the kind, caring girl she was to start with and--perhaps to her surprise--her social status didn't suffer a bit.

-My differentiated independent study project on tolerance--including a whole host of issues from race in America to the Holocaust--is working marvelously. The students are gaining a unique understanding of various issues that they have chosen to explore. Resources included in the options range from Obama's speech on race to the MLK obituary all the way to issues of immigration and schooling. It's based on a tiered-point system that matches up with Bloom's Taxonomy. Thanks, Mom, for the wonderful template!

pics npr.org; kanyeuniversitycity.com/blog

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