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I am a middle school teacher who put making art into the backseat as I developed and grew in the profession. Now, I am studying making comics; my most significant influences in this respect are Tom Hart and the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW), the work of many artists creating diary comics such as Summer Pierre, John Porcellino, and Keiler Roberts. New mentors emerge daily. I continue to try to learn and improve through reading and practice.

Creating comics, sketching, illustration is morphing from a personal interest into a personal or passion project. Making time to sketch and share a story through sequential art remains a developing habit.

As a middle school teacher, my most recent publications include a contribution in A Closer Look: Learning More About Formative Assessment, K-6 by Lynne Dorfman and Diane Dougherty and an article in the July 2017 issue of English Journal called "Towards a Readership of "Real" People: A Case for Authentic Writing Opportunities."

To connect with me, you could send a nice note to P.O. Box 193, Kemblesville, PA 19347 or use bjk925 [at] gmail [dot] com.

You can also follow me on Twitter, & Instagram.

Lessons and Reflections from the Classroom

Looking back, I cringe at my inability to offer constructive feedback.

published in A Closer Look, by Lynn Dorfman and Diane Dougherty

I have a confession. I like trying new ideas in the classroom. I can’t help it.

Maybe the idea that is new to me is not new to others, but that is ok. There is so much being shared “out there” (for free) that one can’t help but grow and evolve as a teacher...

This article draws from a qualitative study investigating five English teachers’ experiences participating online (via blogs, microblogs, and social network sites) in exploration of issues related to teaching, learning, and literacy

Since its inception, the Book Love Foundation has funded over 330 K-12 classroom libraries across North America.

This piece documents one teacher's efforts to provide students with an authentic writing opportunity: the collaborative writing and publication of a middle-grade novel.

Encouragement moves writers. Students can learn how to talk about writing (beyond correcting errors) in a supportive and helpful manner. They actually already have an instinct for it – of how it works and when it does not work.

It isn’t the mode of writing per se that matters the most, but the growth of the writer as a thinker.

Fortunately, a response to literature can take many forms, many scaffolds, many paths. It can answer an explicit question and it can address a more personal experience–what the text means to the writer.

I asked the students to create a bumper sticker of the selected line of text written by Anne Frank.  With this, use imagery to help the reader see the line through your eyes.  Avoid imagery that is decoration or window dressing--find a way through imagery, color, text manipulation, to show the reader how you feel, interpret, think about the line...

...they seemed to enjoy that they worked with people who were different than they were. Teacher A wasn't trying to be like Teacher B. Teaching wasn't standardized even though the content was. It was ok to teach to your strengths...

Reading these specific words with a group of 8th grade students for the seventeenth year in a row stopped me in my tracks this year... 

Offering concrete examples of what writers do, and constantly returning to examples helps students focus on the moves made by writers.

Cass told me a teacher in elementary school rescued a piece of her writing from the recycling bin. Then, the teacher encouraged her to continue with it and to share it with others. That act made Cass believe she was a writer. I wish you could have seen her smile as shared that memory with me.

A current cycle I am challenging my class to break is their habit of writing outside of class...and their habit of only writing for school. That is a huge cycle. If I can help students rebuild that habit and belief, it will be a victory.

Why do we (sometimes) behave as if we own their reading lives?  Why did I? I think the answer is because I believed we were supposed to.

When teachers are encouraged to look at other classrooms, to look at students in a variety of situations, to look at observable behaviors, then we can open up conversation with colleagues about teaching.

And I thought...why couldn't students learn to use a device to help them leave tracks of their thinking as they read? Of course, they could. But back to the brilliant book...

These memories make me wonder today--as a teacher and writer--in what ways do we move students away from being writers? In spite of all of our good intentions, what conditions make our kids feel less like writers? So many of my young writers tell me stories about how much they used to love writing...before school entered their lives.

The use of video to discuss informational writing becomes another access point for the students. Too often, we tend to see writing as something we just do for school, or worse...something done just for English class.

Truth & Generosity

The grace of connecting with students can sometimes last over a lifetime.

...long before our students reach us, they have a history of teachers who taught them a lot about being good students and good people.

Don Graves wrote quite a bit about teachers drawing their energy from students. I would like to add that the more we get to know our students, the greater the exchange of energy. 

Her writing was significant--not because it was a wish to go back and do it over--but because it was an affirmation that she changed. She learned. And by sharing her humanity, she hoped others might learn too.

In a year where I experienced my fair share of questions and challenges, the affirmation that I may have done something right for at least one kid is refreshing and uplifting.

Whether we believe middle school kids need homework and can just be whiners, or they procrastinate and create their own problems, or sincerely work on schedule and handle it beautifully, I am beginning to doubt--or at the very least question--that middle school kids take home the same amounts work per night.

The pass system worked once again. We haven't lost one child yet by writing passes.