When Dads Walk Away…. {Slice of Life}


Slice of Life hosted at Two Writing Teachers. Join in and share a slice of your life.

What happens when dads walk away?

As a ‘dad-less’ daughter, I know kids are left behind to wonder why. Why did he go? Why didn’t he want me? What did I do wrong? Why didn’t he want to be around? What could I have done differently to make him stay?

Or, worse yet, kids left behind think mom pushed dad away, and surely, if mom had done things differently, then dad would’ve stayed. It’s her fault.

As a teacher, I see the fall-out, too. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes blatant. Always painful.

Last month, I asked my juniors and seniors to develop a written piece for National Day On Writing (#NDOW).  I provided three photos and asked students to choose one (or more) and write about it/them. The piece could be fiction or nonfiction, personal or not, metaphorical or literal.  As always, my kiddos did not disappoint!  Heads dropped. Pens and pencils began moving. The room was silent. The feeling, intense.

They wrote with focused purpose until the bell rang. They came back the next day and insisted we continue without interruption. We revised and edited (this was tougher to get them to do, but required).

By day three, we shared at our own comfort level. If a piece was too personal, a student did not have to share the content, but everyone had to discuss the process with his/her partners.  What an amazing three days!

Students DiscussingNDOW_Discussions2

During the writing process, emotions were raw for several students.

One young man, an accomplished football player and struggling student, was stuck during the first day of writing. When I asked him how I could help, he was speechless. I ventured carefully, asking which photo he chose. The dark, stormy one. I wasn’t surprised, based on his expression. Then I suggested he create a bubble map to organize his thoughts. Several students were creating their own that day:


Graphic Organizer


Tears began to fill his dark eyes. He hastily brushed them away. I backed off.

A few minutes later, when I came back around, I noticed a few words on his paper:  dad, confused, success, failure. He looked up, met my eyes, and said nothing. I quietly moved on and left him to reflect and write.

By the third day (sharing day), my student had written a brief piece and discussed the process with his partners. His content was his.  His process, he was ready to discuss … mostly.

Fast-forward a month, to this past week. 

My students have been honing their ability to identify and interpret figurative language and author’s tone in print and non-print text, and assess the impact of each on a reader/viewer.   As I worked with small groups, various students had interesting, funny, and thoughtful ideas, examples, and questions to share. Then came the group with the young writer.

As we finished our small-group discussion and began to clean up before the bell, my young football player-turned-writer said, “Mrs. Kyle, I want to show you something,” as he took out his phone. I get a kick out of this line from students, because I never know what I’m about to see! 😉

As he swiped through his phone and found what he wanted to share with me, he mentioned Will Smith, and said, “I have this video clip that you just reminded me of, when we were talking about tone.  Watch all of the emotions Will Smith goes through and how his tone changes.”  With that, he hit play. The video clip was in his SAVED YouTube list.

As we watched the clip together, leaned in over his phone at the conference table in our classroom – his back to his classmates – I could feel other students looking on, but no one interrupted. My young writer watched my face for reaction as we watched the clip together. Tears filled my eyes. I looked up and saw they filled his, too.


As the clip ended, he said softly, “This makes me cry every time I watch it.”

I replied quietly, “It made me cry, too. My dad left when I was very little. I always wondered why. Thank you for sharing it with me.”

He nodded and the bell rang.

Week in the Rear View1

Week in the Rear View1Earlier this weekend, I read Tara’s weekly Week in Review over at The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh! and got to thinking about ways to share some of the events that make up my own ‘life process’ in a week’s time. There are always so many things happening in our lives that influence everything else, and sometimes – at least for me – slowing down to reflect on how they’re related, takes a backseat to the effects they cause.  When I asked if she minded if I borrow her format, I’m sure it seemed like a newbie question to Tara, but it was more to say, “Hey, I like the style you’ve created.”  She was not only gracious in her response, “Borrow away!” but also suggested I link to other bloggers as well – to show off more styles.  This lady is a true connector and I’ve got some blog homework to do. It’s been a few years since I participated in a weekly link-up, but looking forward to joining the Caffeinated Book Reviewer’s here very soon! Tara’s weekly feature got me thinking about what I might want to share. Last week I did a Friday Five post, but realized I don’t want to get locked into five every week. What if I only have one event to share?  Or ten things?  I’m kind of stuck with a Five in my title, right?  So as I was commenting on Tara’s Week in Review post this week, two things struck me:  I take a lot of pictures, and, in my life as a high school teacher, there’s always something going on!  Thankfully, the rest of my life is fairly quiet. After that intro, you’re ready, right? Last week had a lot going on – some good, some not so much.

Here goes….

I finished the resignation process from my adjunct position. This felt really good to be done with! While I enjoy teaching, especially online, I desperately wanted to recapture the hours I was losing each week and get back to my writing projects. Done!  Last week, I logged 20+ writing hours, the most in a week since last summer.  Finally!

I also found and interacted with many fellow writers on Twitter – some published, some not – all #writing.  It’s a great way to help me focus my time and goals while learning from others, and hopefully, offering something of value in return.

In addition to productivity, I also found tragedy impacting my week.  A student, just a few weeks shy of her 18th birthday, was killed a week ago today, as she returned home from a day at the beach.  Clipped by another car on a local highway, the car Brandie was riding in flipped numerous times, I’m told. I’m also told she was not wearing a seat belt.  In the twenty years I’ve been teaching, there have been countless students in whichever school I was teaching, to die. This time it was one of my own, current students. I took the news very hard and we collectively struggled through the week.  This came just a month after we lost two other students.  It’s been a tough year at our high school.

blackout_poetry_book_tAs March gave way to April this past week, we began National Poetry Month and the final days ’til my students sit for FCAT, the mandated state test here in Florida. Poetry lends itself to lots of language learning, particularly the figurative and descriptive kinds.  Remember these from high school:    similes, metaphors, allusions, alliteration, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, and idioms?  To get my kiddos’ creative thinking cooking and to do final test preparation, I introduced Newspaper Blackout Poetry to my juniors and seniors, via Mr. Austin Kleon, one of my favorite writers.  He doesn’t know it yet, but his books have inspired my own, in progress:  compact size, large, cool font, and immediately-applicable ideas – love it all! Blackout Poetry in progress2  April 2014

After sharing some of our first attempts at blackout poetry on Edmodo and getting lots of replies from fellow ELA teachers – of all grade levels – who said their students love it, too, I discovered more ideas from the National Writing Project, through their tweet:


Overall, it was a week filled with new things to learn, new questions to ask, and tragedy to keep us grounded. I hope that I offered a few things in return… Looking forward to the week ahead!

P.S. ~ Plenty of web design (learning) happening, too. You might have noticed some design changes to the blog already… Saving that for another post. 😉

The Art of Saying Much…with Little {Great Reads}

Backstory:  I first shared this post in April 2010, a fact reflected in certain (outdated) references – Borders and BlackBerry – and behaviors (tweeting, still new to me at the time).  Times have changed and so has my writing. I’m pleased to share a much-abbreviated post, shortened by 200+ words, with the same goal:  a Great Read recommendation!

Original Post, remixed: 

Do you tweet? You know. That thing people do online and on their phones, sending frivolous messages to one another about ‘absolutely nothing’ in 140 or fewer characters.  Only kids tweet, right?  Not really. It’s a fad, right? I’m rethinking my viewpoint on that, too.

I began tweeting last summer, having little idea of what I was doing, but engaged in it nonetheless.  Then, a new school year began and I got sidetracked.  Not a chirp for months. Until recently.  For no known reason, I began making noise again.  And thinking about that noise. Who was hearing me?  Who wasn’t hearing me? Who did I want to hear me?  Why did I want them to hear me?  And…. how could I make my messages more creative? 

While thinking about all of this tweeting, a visit to the bookstore enlightened me further….

How to write short 140 Dom SI discovered 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form by Dom Sagolla, one of the co-creators of Twitter.  Topic?  How to write short and sweet for the Information Age”

Verdict? Fascinating read! Thought-provoking. Historical. Practical.

Did you know the first short form message recorded in U.S. history was a telegraph message?

What hath God wrought?  ~ Samuel Morse

21 characters. 1 powerful message.

Can you say a lot by saying very little ~ in writing?  E-mail. Blog posts. Tweets. Status Updates.  A note to a loved one.  A note to a stranger.  A note to one’s self.

Brevity.  Practicing.



Social Media: Are You Creating or Cringing?

Technology continues to advance.

Students’ learning continues to evolve with technology.

Social Media Icons
Source: http://www.edudemic.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/social-media-icons.png

 Is your instruction evolving, too?  

 What do you think when you read the phrase Social Media?  Does it spark your creativity or serve up a hefty helping of uncertainty?

Social media wasn’t what it is today when I was still in the classroom full-time.  We weren’t tweeting and updating our status by the millions…. yet.  I often think about how much fun it would have been to have all the social media tools when I was still working with high school students in the classroom every day.

Now, I try to incorporate social media  into training and coaching sessions, building communities of  learners online and  in  person, but before I knew much about it, I was a bit nervous about using social media…..

  • What about privacy?
  • How do I learn the technical stuff?
  • Who’s reading what I write?
  • How do you communicate with students?
  • How do you engage them?
  • What are other highly effective educators doing?
  • How do/could I use Social Media?

These are questions I often ask myself ~ to stay current and learn new things from like-minded colleagues.

I recently saw a tweet from @edudemic about social media, and of course, jumped over to read more.  I found not only a post about a new social media resource for teachers but also  a great site chock full of 411 for educators.   Score! 

 Are you creating or cringing? 

 You decide.  Then, check out this site [here] to add to your instructional toolbox.