Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tutorial: Collaborating with Students Using Google Drive

So I've been raving about Google Drive all week!  I can't get enough of what it has done for me as a teacher and for my students as they are working on their essays!  One of the things that we talked about last night in the #ELAChat (English Language Arts Chat) on Twitter is that so often teachers are not given opportunities for professional development.  We're told to implement this and that technology with no real training.  That being said, I thought I would put together a quick tutorial for how to set up and implement Google Drive in the writing classroom.

Here is a video tutorial on implementing Google Drive:

If you don't have time for the video, here are a few screenshots to get you started:
1.  You and the students NEED a Google Account.  Login to your Gmail account.  Click the "apps" button in the upper right-hand corner and click "drive".  Once you're there, click "create" and "document".

2.  Click Share.  I like to have my students share the document with me.  When they click share, they will be prompted to rename the document.  Once they have, they can enter your email address so that you will have access. This is the most important part!  There are 3 options: can edit, can view, and can comment.  

>"Can edit" means the person they are sharing the document with can edit original content.  

>"Can comment" means the person they are sharing the document with can comment on the document but cannot change any original content from the owner. 

>"Can view" means the person they are sharing the document with can only view the document - meaning they can only read it. Nothing else! 

Depending on the assignment, each of these options are useful.

 3.  Interact with students on their document.  Once given commenting rights, you can comment and chat with students while they are working.  To comment, highlight a section of the essay and right-click on it.  Once you've done that, you can type in a comment that they can see, respond to, or resolve.  You can also chat. To chat, click the chat icon in the top right and write to your students.  A chat conversation will not stay with the document forever but the comments will.  I prefer to use the chat to talk to  students about their work and to send them links to pages that will help them.  The commenting I use to discuss specific sections of the essay.

Below is an example of an interactive document that me and two other students were working on today!  

I have loved using Google Drive in my classroom and would love to hear some more ways that you have implemented it in your classroom.  Please share your ideas down below!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: The Calm Before the Storm

Today I'm linking up with Miss DeCarbo for the Wordless Wednesday Weekly Linky Party!  This picture is the calm before the storm!  Research papers for summer school are due TODAY! 


What are you doing today?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What They Don't Tell You About Grad School

I'm very thankful for the opportunities that have come my way.  Being a full-time graduate student was always a dream of mine.  Even better, I was offered an assistantship to teach while studying.  The best part - tuition remission.  How amazing is it to continue your education for free?!  I'm incredibly grateful and don't want to down play that.

However, there are some things that they don't tell you about being a full-time graduate student.  

Sometimes it feels like you're on pause.  As someone who left a position teaching full-time, it doesn't feel like I'm working.  Don't get me wrong, I AM working.  But when you're taking classes and only teaching 1 or 2, it feels like you're not doing anything.  I'm ready to get my life going again!  I never in a million years would have thought that I didn't want to always be a full-time student. However, I've come to learn that.  My initial plan after my M.A. was to pursue my Ph.D. full-time.  I now know that there is NO WAY! I'm ready to get a job, start working, and begin developing my life.  

Sometimes it feels like you're behind.  You see everything that your Facebook "friends" are doing and it makes you feel incomplete.  Everyone and their mother is now having a baby.  Everyone is now engaged.  Everyone is out and about loving their lives.  Don't get me wrong, I quite enjoy my life.  But, I am now single and still in school.  It sometimes feels like the life marks are way out of reach.  But that's okay, our culture needs to value singleness.  After all, right now is the time when I can do anything I want with no repercussions.

Sometimes it feels like you're ahead.  This obviously isn't bad, but it is true. You realize that you really have accomplished a TON in your life... but what do you have to show for it?  You were up for tenure.  You received numerous scholarships.  You were offered an assistantship.  You presented at conferences. You even worked on a book published by Oxford Journals.  I don't know.  It just seems like all of these accomplishments should work toward something.  In the future they will, but right now nothing is a brewin'.

With all of that aside, I'm 100% confident in my decision to leave my job and pursue my M.A.  If you can swing it financially, do it!  You will definitely dig deeper into your content area.  And hey, you'll probably find out what you like and don't like.  And that's really what every experience is about.

Monday, June 23, 2014


This weekend I attended the graduation ceremony at National Louis University in downtown Chicago.  My uncle was graduating with his Ph.D. so needless to say it was an exciting time!  We were all so proud of him.  This is something that he had wanted for his entire adult life.  To finally reach that point must have been so exhilarating.

For me though I never felt a huge accomplishment when I graduated high school or college.  I don't even think that I'll feel like I've made big strides when I finish my Master's degree next Spring.  At the risk of sounding insensitive, I never truly understood why graduation was such a big deal.  You see everyone in my family has a higher education degree.  I grew up not knowing anything different.

But at this graduation ceremony, the president of the university asked all first generation college students to stand up.  She also included graduates who had reached the highest degree in their family.

At least 75% of the graduates stood up and the crowd went wild.

I felt a sense of pride from the families that was so touching.  My eyes even welled up with tears a little bit.  It was quite exciting to hear the crowds cheering, yelling, clapping, hooting, and hollering.

I don't know if I'll ever feel that way about graduating myself but I should.  I should recognize the amazing feat it is to continue one's education.  I should appreciate the hard work that myself, my family, and my friends have put in in order to get to where they are in life.  I still don't think college is for everyone and that we, as teachers, shouldn't push everyone into thinking that college is the only option. There plenty of successful individuals who don't have college degrees. Some are in the trades, running their own businesses, and much more.  And that's amazing!  

But with that thought aside, I now realize what it means to attend and complete college.

Congratulations, Graduates!  You did it!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Chatting with Students: The New Form of Raising Your Hand

I used to be slightly afraid of technology.  Not of technology itself.  After all, I grew up on technology.  I hardly remember not having a cell phone.  I was afraid of the trouble it could get me into.  There are so many things that can go wrong with technology in the classroom.  The least frightening, it just doesn't work.  The most frightening, students writing something inappropriate online directed at myself or another student.

Recently I stopped giving into the fear and decided to embrace technology.  I'm currently obsessed with using Google Documents in my classroom.  I have the students open up a document, share it with me, and give me commenting rights.  I do this for two reasons:

(1) I can see what they're writing about.  I don't have to constantly walk around the room looking over their shoulders.  Instead, I look over their shoulders from the comfort of my own seat.  I'm not lazy but it is way easier.  Plus there isn't that frantic switching of tabs when I walk around.  Now, I can watch them type like a stream-of-conscience.

(2) The chat feature is amazing.  About 1-2 paragraphs into their writing, I start asking them questions.  I will either write it in the chat box or directly comment on the essay.  However, it's not my questions that I love.  I love that they respond back with their own questions.  I really enjoy seeing the tab of their page blinking.  There's a nice little inquisitive question just waiting for me to unwrap.  

Using the chat feature on Google Docs allows students to ask me question without having to raise their hand and embarrassingly call me over.  Even better, I can put links in the chat box to direct them to webpages that will help them specifically with the problem that they're having.  For example, a student of mine couldn't figure out how to get started.  I let him brainstorm for about 5-10 minutes before I asked him how his progress was going.  He was honest and said not well.  So I sent him a link to a page talking about summaries.  I also created a sentence frame for him and typed it directly in his document.  It was instant differentiation without having to prepare.  I saw the problem and I helped him address it.  Later on, I asked him how he was progressing and he wrote back that he was doing much better.  He never had to raise his hand.  He never had to call me over. 

The fact of the matter is, sometimes students don't ask questions because they're embarrassed or there is too much rig-a-ma-role (is that how you spell it??).  Using the chat feature allows us to help students by eliminating both of those steps.  I implore you to try this in your class.  If you feel the need, set some ground rules.  Your students will love the opportunity to connect with you without... well, connecting with you.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Oops I Did It Again: Reflecting on My Own Sarcasm

I’m sarcastic by nature.  In my family, we call it the “Allen” gene.  It’s a sense of humor that has been passed down from generation to generation.  To be quite honest, I love it.  I love sitting around the living room and hearing quick witted jokes spat back and forth.  It’s the trade mark of my family.

When it comes to teaching, though, I try to keep my sarcasm to a minimum.  Try as I might, sometimes it slips out.  Remember in the movie Mean Girls when Cady had word vomit?  She would tell someone’s secrets before she even realized that they were coming out of her mouth?   That’s what it’s like for me sometimes.  There are occasions when I feel sarcasm bubbling inside of me and it escapes before I have the chance to think it through.

Today was one of those terrible occasions. 

Today, I accidentally made fun of a student.  Luckily the student took it like a pro.  In general, he is always cracking jokes and poking fun in class.  He let it roll off his back simply by making a “if you can dish it, you gotta take it” sort of a comment.

Even though it was completely accidental and the student let it roll off of his back (and we were being let out for the day), I felt horrible.  I couldn’t get the sting of my own comment out of my head.  I never want to make a student feel bad about themselves or be embarrassed in my class.  School should be an environment where the people around lift you up and encourage you.  It should be a safe place where you can feel comfortable to ask questions and grow into yourself.

I once read that sarcasm is a higher order thinking skill.  Who knows if that is actually true, but I prefer to think that it is.  If that’s the case, then it’s easy for me to place blame on others who just “don’t get it”.  In reality, though, it’s just mean.  Sarcasm is only something that works if the two people have a very close relationship or if they are both relatively confident in themselves.  As teachers, we know that these aren’t characteristics that define schools and their students.

As I was driving home from school, still obsessing over my sarcastic and rude comment, I realized something.  More likely than not, that student had probably already forgotten I said anything.  I highly doubt that he was sitting in his own car pining over the comment I made, why I made it, and how it hurt his feelings.  I was making this more about me.  I was letting my ego take over. 

So here’s the decision I’ve made.  I’ll go back to school tomorrow not mentioning it.  I’ll continue to act as I normally do, paying special attention to not say anything sarcastic.  I’ll be sure to be kind and assuring to the student that I was sarcastic toward the day before.  If the student is upset about it, which he probably isn’t, my behavior should set him at ease.  If he wants to talk about it, I’ll be more than happy to apologize for what I said.  The main thing is this: I don’t need to make it a big deal.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, calm down.  We all say things that get us in hot water.  It happens all of the time in our personal lives and in our work lives.  We need to be able to brush it off and move on.  If a conversation happens, own up to it and then let it go.  Relax.  Being a teacher is tough work.  Perhaps with all of the punches that roll our way, we shouldn’t be surprised when a little sarcasm bubbles up and out every once and a while.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Should We Be Teaching Phonetics in K12?

Phonics you say?  Nope.  Not phonics.  I'm pretty sure Hooked on Phonics screwed me over for life.  To this day I read aloud in my head.  I literally cannot read with out hearing my own voice say the words out loud in my head.  It's kinda sad actually.  I know many people who just read, without hearing voices, and understand the information.  It's magical.  I cannot even begin to understand what that would be like.

But we're not talking phonics here.  We're talking phonetics.

What is phonetics you might ask.  Phonetics is the study and classification of speech sounds.  There are two major phonetic alphabets, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and the American Phonetic Alphabet (APA).  The difference between these alphabets and the alphabet we teach in school is that each symbol only represents one sound.  

How is that different you might ask?  Well, for our traditional alphabet, the letter k can represent several sounds.  It might be silent... it be be vocalized. Don't even get me started with the vowels.  The vowel a can be long and short... and I still don't understand the difference.  Depending on what word it is in and where it is placed within that word, it would be pronounced differently.  With the phonetic alphabet, each symbol represents one and only one sound. It's a simpler system to learn.

Even better, the article "Texting Improves Children's Spelling and Grammar" discusses a study that found "Texting may improve children’s spelling and grammar because using abbreviations such as ‘gr8’ makes them think about language phonetically."  While texting itself is not using the phonetic alphabet, it is more centered around sounds.  By using abbreviations in texting, students and adults are thinking more deeply about language and it's patterns.  Isn't that a good thing?

So why not allow text lingo in school?  Why not teach the IPA alongside or even before the traditional English alphabet?  Obviously others argue that it is not as practical.  These people would say that it doesn't prepare them for the Standard American English that they need to use in college and the work place.  True, but is that a legitimate argument against teaching IPA in addition to the traditional English alphabet?  Probably not.  We should encourage deep, critical thinking not just memorization.  When students are learning and using the IPA and/or text lingo, they are examining their knowledge about language and learning the patterns that exist in their language.  More so, it's an equalizer between native English speakers and English Language Learners.  If all the IPA does is focus on sounds and their patterns, native speakers and language learners should be on more of an even playing field.  Both can examine sounds in any language.  After all, that's one way they know the difference between their language and another.

Perhaps we do need to start teaching the IPA in American schools.  It seems as though the cognitive, social, and academic benefits outweigh the cons. Well...we should at least start with allowing text lingo in our classes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Reflections & Collages

I've never been one to use journal entries in class.  I thought it was just a time killer - something the teacher could use to fill time while they took attendance. However, this year I've been using journal entries to prepare students for a final reflection.  Surprisingly, it's been going well! 

It's been sparking a ton of debate in my class!  Today, the journal prompt was "In five years I will be...." and the students got to write about whatever they wanted. 

Afterwards, we discussed the responses.  Sad to say but some of them were a little bit depressing.  One of my students said, "In five years I plan to be paying off student loans..." Another said, "In five years I plan to be working two jobs so that I can pay off my college debt..."  

At least they're being realistic??  It created a real honest conversation about college, finances, and the reality of the world that we live in.  We even got into the inequality between professor pay and administrator pay.  The students, as you would imagine, had quite a lot to say.  Much of it was well founded too!  

Regardless of how outrageous it is that those were their genuine responses, I quite enjoyed utilizing journal prompts.  I'll continue to do so moving forward too! So, I put together a unit of 14 journal prompts and 1 essay prompt - all of which rely on one another.  

Reflective Collage Essay & Journal Prompts

Feel free to go check it out by clicking the image above!  I'd love to hear what kinds of journal prompts you have all used in class.  Which were the most effective?  Least effective?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hot Secrets: What I've Noticed From Teaching Summer School

I'm already half way through teaching my first of two semesters for summer school. I can't believe at how slow and quick it has gone.  Four hours and fifteen minutes is a long time to do anything, let alone sit in a class. 

So here are the 5 things I've learned so far:

1.  Everyone is just biding their time.  We hate to think it as teachers but, yes, they're there because they have to be.  More often than not, they're there because they have failed.  All of this means that they want to get in, get out, and get gone.  That's fine!  Design your summer school curriculum that way.  It doesn't make you a bad teacher! 

2.  Students like the leeway.  Teach only what they need to know and find a way to give students autonomy.  For me, that's pretty easy.  Autonomy is almost synonymous with composition.  Regardless, I let them pick their partners, topics, sources, etc.  If I can give them choice and guide their learning, that's an efficient and effective way to spend my 14 days.

3.  My students respond well to routine schedules.  I have the same schedule every day.  Grammar - Journal - Research - Writing - Revision.  Students know what to expect when they come in.  They get straight to work and are able to become better at each task the more frequently they do it.  By the third or fourth day, you won't have to explain directions on how to do something... such as writing a basic paragraph.  Instead, you can spend time helping individual students at their own level.

4.  Don't give out homework.  Like I said, they're biding their time.  In my opinion, if we can get the work done in class, then that's what we should do.  Instead of having them write an entire research paper outside of class, I have them write it in chunks during class time.  We're already covering an entire semester's worth of content in 14 days.  Don't make this harder than it already is.  

5.  Give extra credit.  I give one extra-credit worksheet each day.  It's only worth 6 points and it ties into what we're working on with each unit.  Not everyone will do it but it's nice to give them the option.  Remember, this is a credit recovery summer school course - they need and want the choice.

These are just 5 of the many things that I've learned in the past 6 days.  Have you ever taught summer school?  If so, what have you learned?  Comment below.

As always, if you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, please like using an icon and follow!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Top 8 for Summer Break Linky

Welcome to the Top 8 for Summer Break Linky!  Here are the only two rules:
1.  Post the Top 8 To-Do's for your summer break
2.  Include the Brownbag Academics logo with a backlink to this blog so your viewers can see everyone else's posts

Summer is here whether we are ready or not.  After a long school year, it's time for some much needed R & R.  This year I'm trying to make the most of it.  Wait, scratch that... I'm GOING to make the most of it.

I have lots on my to-do list:

1.  Lounging Poolside: Normally I like to bring school work and grade some papers (since I'm teaching summer school). This year I plan to bring some books to read to prepare me for my Comprehensive Field Exam in Linguistics.  And... of course snacks. Nothing beats a string cheese wrapped in a little Buddig turkey meat.

2.  Stand-Up Paddleboarding:  If you haven't done it, try it.  Who wouldn't want the opportunity to quite literally walk on water.  The first time I did it, it took me about 45 minutes before I could stand-up.  For those of you who have done this before, don't hate.  I was doing it for the first time of the rough waters of Lake Michigan.  I'm sure there's a lesson here about falling down and learning to get back up again...

3.  Freelance Writing:  Excited about some new freelance writing opportunities that have come my way.  I've never had that opportunity before but I'm looking forward to the challenge!  Among the opportunities, writing a chapter on "Onomastics" for The Year's Work in English for The Oxford Journals.  Don't worry!  A post on this will come soon I'm sure.

4.  Summer School: Yup!  That's right!  I'm taking my summer off to teach some Pre-College Composition Courses.  This summer has been quite a different experience but it has certainly been a growing one!

5.  Vacation:  Who knows when.  Who knows where.  But I AM going on vacation.  It's necessary.  I have the itch to travel and the need to get away.

6.  Strict Money Diet: I'm obsessed with Dave Ramsey.  His book The Total Money Makeover is a God send. I used to follow it strictly.  I used his methods to help get me out of debt!  Now, I have a new job and a vastly different lifestyle.  It's time to be wiser about the way I handle my money.  Envelope system -> here I come!

7.  Run a 5K:  Enough said.

8.  Professional Development:  I plan on reading quite a bit this summer.  While many of the books are academic, I'm currently finishing up BRIEF.  I highly suggest that we as teachers read about what successful business people do.  If it works for them, it will work for us!  It's all about becoming efficient employees and effective service-providers.

That's what's on my agenda for this summer.  I wonder what everyone else will be up to?  

Click the "An InLinkz Link-up" button below to add your link to this linky party :)

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Breakfast Club, The Truman Show & Summer School

This summer I'm teaching a summer school course called Pre-College Composition. I was under the impression that this course was to help students get ahead.  To help them prepare for collegiate writing and the expectations of English departments at major universities.

Turns out... I was wrong.  The majority of the students are credit recovery.  The dreaded credit recovery.  How one can be in a credit recovery course to prepare for collegiate writing is beyond me.  It sounds a little oxymoronic.  I felt like I was walking into The Breakfast Club... 

I haven't taught high school in a year and haven't taught summer school in four years so it has been a bit of an adjustment.

Anyway, I came in with the grand plan to show students what it is like to take a college English course.  They were going to collaborate and explore writing in ways they probably hadn't in high school courses previously.  Needless to say, that didn't happen as planned.  

It took me a little while to wrap my head around the concept of what I needed to do versus what I wanted or hoped to do.

So today I tried something different.  I played a movie.  No, not for the sake of watching a movie (which I secretly wanted to do) but for learning purposes.  You see I was assigning them a critical analysis essay anyway.  Initially they were going to research a few articles and compare/contrast rhetorical devices that the author employed.  I figured, hey let's have just fun learning these skills and do something interesting!

So here's what I did:
1.  We watched The Truman Show but beforehand I had students journal about three important quotes from the film: 
  • We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.
  • For God's sake, Chris!  The whole world is watching.  We can't let him die in front of a live audience!
  • We've become bored with watching actors give us phony emotions.  We are tired of pyrotechnics and special effects.  While the world he inhabits is, in some respects counterfeit, there's nothing fake about Truman himself.  No scripts, no cue cards.  It isn't always Shakespeare, but it's genuine.  It's a life.
2.  Students filled out a worksheet during the film.  The worksheet asked questions that would lead to their essay.  Basically it was a way to jot down information so that they wouldn't forget specifics come essay time.

3.  I had students begin drafting their essay using Google Docs. The essay required them to turn the quote of their choice into a question. For example one of the quotes could be phrased as: "But do we really have to accept the world with which we are presented?". Students then chose two examples from the film that answered the question for Truman.  They followed those two analysis paragraphs up with a conclusion on what they had learned... a "Perhaps Statement."  Since, each student was writing their essay on Google Docs, they shared their essay with me.  While each of them was drafting I would read and write comments on their drafts... simultaneously... yes on all 18 students' essays at once.

So what happened??
Unbelievably it went well!  They really enjoyed it.  I would write comments and questions on their drafts and highlight corresponding areas.  If students had questions, they would reply on the comment.  I ended up having several chats on student essays without them having to actually ask me for help.  Most importantly....

Students felt more comfortable asking me questions online.

None of them called me over to take a look.

Instead, they said, "Hey, Miss.  Can you check mine?".  I would read their question, that particular section of their essay, and type a response.

So should you try it??
Absolutely.  I highly suggest doing this in your classroom.  It's especially good for differentiation.  I have various levels in this course: seniors who are preparing themselves for college, seniors with credit recovery, sophomores preparing themselves for American Literature, and juniors with credit recovery.  I also have quite a few ELL students.  With all of this combined, this synchronous collaboration and discussion on Google Docs allowed me to help each individual student at their own level...and I have an electronic record of what we discussed so I won't forget!

Please give it a try and let me know how it goes.  As always, if you found this post helpful or enlightening, please like and share!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

BLOG HOP: What Teachers and Holden Caulfield have in Common

This blog will be noticeably different today. My name is Matthew and I am the author of the blog The Unpredictable Teacher. I’m joining Mackenzie’s blog today and she’ll be joining my blog! Mackenzie and I are both English instructors. I teach high school English and Student Council. In addition, I’m a wrestling coach, Peer Mentor, husband, and father.
Okay, here we go…

What could an educated, professional teacher possibly have in common with a sixteen-year-old, cynical boy? 

Well, the answer may surprise you. 

If you ask any teacher, “Why did you get into education?” Not a single teacher will say they got into it because they love to work too hard for too little pay. The answer will almost always be, “because I love children.” That’s certainly why I got into education. 

When I was in school, I was terrified and I hated school. I struggled in both reading and writing, but particularly in reading. I remember one day back in 3rd grade (I think), I was pulled out of class and taken to the counselor’s office. They administered all these tests and concluded that I had to be put into something called, “resource.” I was pulled out of my regular classroom and put into a different classroom where I received more support with reading and writing. Years later, I exited out of resource and rejoined my classmates. However, I never really felt comfortable reading out loud in class. Whenever I was called on to read out loud in class, I would die a little inside. “Popcorn-Reading” was the most miserable experience for me. I would literally try to disappear into my seat so that no one would call on me to read. Till this very day, I still have a small panic attack whenever I read in front of people. 

I finally got to the point where I couldn’t take the stress anymore. I was resolved to do something about my reading ability. Toward the end of high school (yes, high school), I went on a reading rampage. I just started reading everything I could get my hands on. Eventually, I grew to like reading. Then, I grew to love reading and learning. Now, I’m an English teacher (an Honors teacher, as a matter of fact).

That’s part of the reason I became a teacher: I didn’t want students to feel the same way I felt while in school. I don’t want students to feel ashamed and scared. I don’t think any kid should feel stupid and defeated, like I did. I love my students too much to allow them to feel that way. 

I know there are many students that feel the same way I felt. And, there are students that are simply not challenged enough by school and so they don’t apply themselves—like Holden Caulfield.  At the beginning of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden has been kicked out of his fourth school because of his refusal to apply himself. In fact, he has just failed four of his five subjects (the only subjected he passed was English). Unfortunately, there are many students just like Holden. They are not challenged by school. They are so bored with the work that they don’t bother doing it. As a result, they fail out. To me, this is heartbreaking. 

The unchallenged student is not a bad kid. Yes, he might be unmotivated and distracted, but that doesn’t make him bad. Often times, the unchallenged kid is very smart, and his failing grade does not represent his ability. Who is to blame for his lack of success? I would say it’s both his teacher and the student. The teacher is responsible to cause the student to learn. If the student is not challenged then the teacher needs to challenge him. The teacher is responsible to motivate the student and remove distractions. This doesn’t mean the student is off the hook. The student is responsible to learn regardless of the teacher. 

Okay, so what does Holden Caulfield have in common with teachers?

Spoiler alert: I’m going to share with you why the book is titled The Catcher in the Rye. If you haven’t read the book by now, I don’t feel bad for you (Shame on you for not reading the book sooner).

In chapter 22, Holden is talking to his little sister about why he hates school. She tells him that he hates everything. When Holden disagrees, she challenges him to name one thing that he likes. He names a few things and then he says this:

“. . . I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around—nobody big, I mean—except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”

Obviously Holden could never be a catcher in the rye when he grows up. But this is what Holden has in common with teachers. As teachers, we are all Catchers in the Rye. Metaphorically speaking, our students are playing around in this big field of tall rye grass. They are so observed in themselves and the distractions all around them that they don’t see the gigantic cliff right next to them. At any time they can make a mistake and fall off the cliff. Everyone knows that kids today are distracted by television, Facebook, Twitter, and all these video games. Not to mention being totally absorbed with friends and the people that like them or don’t like them. If they’re not careful, those distractions could lead them right off of a cliff: they could fail classes, drop out of high school, and totally handicap their future quality of life. 

Sometimes it takes a teacher to come out from somewhere and catch them. It takes a teacher to motivate a student. It takes a teacher to show interest in a child. It takes a teacher to intervene and refuse to let a student fail. As teachers, we are protecting our students to that they don’t fall off the cliff. It certainly takes a tremendous amount of time, energy, and hard work. But, I can’t think of any title with more honor than Catcher in the Rye. 

Question: When have you been a Catcher in the Rye? Comment below or Tweet me @Matt4Newport

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