Censorship Causes Blindness: READ!

There are many celebrated weeks of recognition throughout the year. Teacher appreciation week is acknowledged in May. Breast cancer awareness is remembered throughout October. National fishing week captivates us in June. Yet, there is one that is often overlooked; the last week in September is set aside to evaluate the merit of banned books.

The general public may not be aware of the book censorship plaguing our libraries and classrooms, but “book burning” is very much alive in America today. Censorship of literature is born out of basic fear. Citizens recognize the use of certain buzz words or uncomfortable themes, and they throw the baby out with the bath water by condemning literature based on out of context issues. Controversy stems from the fact that we as a nation are comprised of individuals with very diverse in experiences, ethics, and cultural standards. Together our goal is to educate children and encourage them to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to become industrious, autonomous citizens.

When we start telling people what they are not allowed to read, personal learning opportunities are impeded. Renowned author Ray Bradbury said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” This horrific phenomenon is bread out of the best of intentions in sheltering our children. Many of our most loved authors find their works on the 100 Most Banned Books List due to fear and control issues.

My challenge to you, as a now informed citizen, is to do your own research concerning the validity of these claims and start an honest dialogue with the youth in your life. Let’s retain the enthusiasm for reading that kindergarteners exhibit, upon the realization that they have the ability to read, by cultivating a fertile soil in which all books are given equal opportunity to nourish future readers. Celebrate the freedom to read as granted by the wisdom of our forefathers in the constitution. Stand up for intellectual freedom and partner with me in developing lifelong leaders in our community.

A Novel Challenge

A Novel Challenge (Challenge Template)

byline: Christy Clay, English Teacher

Building life long readers is my number on professional challenge this year. Donalyn Miller’s renowned book, The Book Whisperer, released a great awakening within my reader’s soul this summer. The jolt was so consuming that I have reevaluated my entire classroom approach to reading. I honestly believe that the more a person reads, the more they will comprehend and build vocabulary. This in turn will lead students to mimic what they have read into their writings. Following through on this concept would effectively meet my Language Arts classroom objectives of reading comprehension, vocabulary expansion, and effective writing.

Anyone who claims the title of master reader knows that it begins by encountering inspirational books, genuine peer recommendations, and a community of readers who corporately express their reading enthusiasm. “A trail of worksheets from a teacher to their students does not build a connection with readers; only books do (Miller, 2009).” Based on these conjectures, I have challenged my students to read forty chapter books across various genres this school year. Their reward for accomplishing this ostentatious goal is not having to take my English semester tests which are all inclusive and ten percent of their final grade. There have been a few grumbles, but most have taken up this challenge with conviction and determination. I have stressed to the students that it is not the final number which should motivate you, but instead it should be the journey of discovery which will occur as a result of reading various genres.

I would like to extend this challenge to the Keya Paha community with a slight twist. Read one author/book for each letter of the alphabet within this school year. This is a great way to locate different authors which you might not otherwise read, and it will spark a conversation with your children who are encountering a similar challenge in their English classrooms. You can start with any letter of the alphabet, use first or last names to distinguish selections, or use key book title words. However you want to challenge yourself! Be creative!

Anyone can join in at anytime. For accountability purposes, create a post on my blog or print my template with your alphabetical list when you are ready to begin. Then update that post as you journey through the alphabet! You can see mine as an example online at https://christyclay.wordpress.com/ or by seeing me in the English classroom at the high school. Add books as you go, upon completion, or make a list based on what you want to read and check them off as you go.

Keep me your reading loop through online posts, emails, or by dropping into my English classroom at the high school. Good luck to all!

A Novel Challenge CSC (My Challenge List/Example)

Welcome to a New School Year KPHS Students!

What can you expect from Mrs. Clay’s Language Arts classroom? New and improved activities, novels, writing assignments, and presentations.

Welcome back to school for all returning and new students. I am anticipating wonderfully creative times in and outside the classroom this year. There are two expectations for all students at KPCS: that they demonstrate respect and responsibility at all times. Each class period of mine will discuss what this is going to look like in our classroom. The one thing you need to know about Mrs. Clay’s Language Arts classes is as long as you don’t do something to interfere with anyone’s learning—meaning you, your classmates, the students in other classrooms, or me—you’re fine.

What if a student does something to interfere with learning? I will do whatever I can to make sure students are learning. Depending on the situation, this could mean a short meeting between just a student and me, a phone call home, meetings with our counselor, superintendent, your parents/guardians… or anything else that will help get students back on track.

What if students do well? Rewards! Praise, praise and more praise; positive notes home; homework passes; eligibility for special Theatre events and trips, to name a few.

Tardiness is not accepted behavior from our students, and it is being monitored by the State of Nebraska. In Mrs. Clay’s Language Arts classroom being tardy is constituted as:

A. Being physically late for a class without a pass

B. Not coming prepared to class (Includes having: paper, pencil, texts, and other specifically required materials)

Each class session has a Preparedness Grade of 20 points = 100 points at the end of each week.

A failing grade is the student’s responsibility to remedy with my assistance. Some assignments will offer extra credit. If a student scores below a 70% on an exam, they have the chance to retest within 7 class days. The highest grade a student can earn is a 75%. I only offer ONE retest for each major assessment, and a student can only take it after he or she has shown me that he or she has worked to learn what is needed.

Students are responsible for making up work they miss when they are absent for any reason. Any work not turned in will result in an automatic zero. I will not hunt students down to rectify this situation; it is their sole responsibility. Students need to check Mrs. Clay’s Monthly Class Calendar first, and then check with me about other assignments that might have been missed.

I am here to help students. I do not do things for you that you can do for yourself. BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU!

No credit will be given for work not completed or not made up in the allotted time. It is the student’s responsibility to get assignments missed due to absences. Late assignments result in 10 points off the earned score for each day they are late. An assignment is late if it is not turned in when requested. By the end of the period, is not acceptable for full credit when it is due at the beginning of class. Remember that something valuable is covered everyday in class and students need to be on top of finding out what that was. I do not GIVE grades; you EARN grades.

Cheating is defined as copying homework, outlines, reports, being observed looking at another’s test/quiz, or talking during a test/quiz. Doing such will result in a zero for all willingly involved parties, disciplinary action may also occur.

Extra Credit is available with most assignments by doing additional questions/projects from stories or writing articles for the Springview Herald.

Materials needed for all of Mrs. Clay’s Language Arts classes are:

Current Textbook

Current Study Guide

Personal Reading Book & Response Journal

Writing Utensil

Writing Notebook

Whiteout or Eraser (scribbling is not acceptable)

USB Drive

Sticky Notes

Highlighters

Folder

*Certain items are checked daily for your preparedness grade which equal 100 points at the end of each week.

Language Arts is hard. What if a student needs help? One thing you will learn about me very quickly is that I will do anything I can to help you succeed inside and outside of this class. I am here early before school, available during my lunch, and am here late after school. I offer many chances to get extra credit for helping your grades. If things outside of this classroom are affecting student performance, I want to help work through those problems as well. In the end, there are no excuses for failure—each student can pass Language Arts, each student can DO Language Arts, and maybe by the end of the year some students might even LIKE Language Arts!

As the guardian, you are the expert on your child. There are many ways you can support your child’s academic progress at home:

Ask your child what they learned in school every day.

Encourage your child to ask questions in class and come in for extra help when they need it.  I am available before school (7:15am), during lunch, after school (till 5:15pm) and even weekends.

Visit our classroom or participate in class as a guest speaker.

Make sure you receive your child’s progress reports. Failing lists are mailed out weekly throughout the semester from the Guidance department.

Please contact me with any concerns or questions you have at any time. You do not have to wait until parent/teacher conferences to get in touch with me; I am always willing to talk to you. I look forward to frequent communication with you as we work together to ensure your child’s success.

 

Sincerely,

Mrs. Christy Clay

cclay@esu17.org

Heralds of Past Education

There is so much to say, not just today but always. With the early morning madness behind me, and the magic in the making slowly fading, there is a still reassurance that I have taught pupils new ways to dream. My first year as a teacher has presently concluded. As I sit here listening to Norma belt out As If We Never Said Goodbye, I read over student essays, marveling at how far they have come. I too cannot ignore the thrilling atmosphere which is always here in my classroom.  I recline in my seat reflecting upon the teachers who inspired me most along my journey to this point. My elementary music teacher Mrs. Woeppel, my high school English teacher Miss Gray, and my student teaching mentor Mrs. Belt have challenged me to succeed in the ever changing world of education.

Mrs. Nancy Woeppel was the first teacher in my short yet highly disturbed life to really see me and my unique talent. She looked past the messy haired, academically inept “foster” child to see a blooming passionate actress. She stretched all of her students. Her standards were high, and we simply didn’t question them; we only achieved them. She opened our eyes to the missed fairy tale adventures of childhood and ever spinning playground of theatre.

If we complained, I don’t remember it. If her enthusiastic passion ever waned, I failed to see it. If I feared breaking free, I overcame it. I was blessed to have had Nancy as my teacher from elementary music till eleventh grade speech and drama. Under her careful benevolent guidance, I found my true calling in life and refused to give into those sipping haterade around me. Her coaching more than inspired me; it catapulted me into aspiring to coach speech students for generations to come.

Miss Karen Gray is the no nonsense English savant whom I am propelled to become. Teaching exudes from her every move. Discipline is the backbone of her well oiled grammar surging machine. All students stood equal in her classroom. All were required to think and write within her regimented house of literature. There were no excuses. There were no games for classroom power. There were no idioms left undiscovered.

Karen cut the Gordian knot around my constrained heart and let flow that which is now my blood life, my creative writing. For her, there was only excellence. For me, I only wish to learn half of the command for the English language that she has forgotten. She has physically overcome so many life altering circumstances. And not only survived, she has been victorious!

Mrs. Peggy Belt has been my colleague and friend. Her encouragement and compassionate understanding solidified my path to becoming an emerging English teacher and speech coach. Through her example of humor and diligent student molding, I have culminated my current teaching philosophy. She fortified my organization silks as being indispensable well as my love for working conscientiously and efficiently. Her endless energy excited me to increase my endurance and talents.

Peggy’s speech team members knew what was expected from them at all times, and she never took advantage of their adulation. Above all else, she taught me integrity at all turns, even the uncomfortable ones. She holds her head high because she has paid her dues time and again. The thing I admire most about Peggy is the fact that she is constantly on the outlook for a new challenge, a new dream worth pursuing.

The three most influential teachers of my education training are Mrs. Woeppel, Miss Gray, and Mrs. Belt. Each one has exemplified passionate integrity in the face of insurmountable odds. I owe them more than I could ever repay. I continue to look up to each of them as heroic angels sent from God to sculpt my character and future. I sit here breathing in the essence of my first completed school year. If you listen closely, you too can hear their whispered conversations surging through my conscious. Upon opening my eyes, I smile at the classroom in front of me. In each of the recently vacated desks, I see alternate faces of students who have sat there this year. The overcrowded hallways of my memory are rearranging to make room for the journey to come which will be bigger and brighter then we currently experience.

Mrs. Christy Clay

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

 

As If We Never Said Goodbye

(SUNSET BOULEVARD)

Norma~

I don’t know why I’m frightened

I know my way around here

The cardboard trees, the painted seas, the sound here…

Yes, a world to rediscover

But I’m not in any hurry

And I need a moment

 

The whispered conversations in overcrowded hallways

The atmosphere as thrilling here as always

Feel the early morning madness

Feel the magic in the making

Why, everything’s as if we never said goodbye

 

I’ve spent so many mornings just trying to resist you

I’m trembling now, you can’t know how I’ve missed you

Missed the fairy tale adventures

In this ever spinning playground

We were young together

 

I’m coming out of make-up

The lights already burning

Not long until the cameras will start turning…

And the early morning madness

And the magic in the making

Yes, everything’s as if we never said goodbye

 

I don’t want to be alone

That’s all in the past

This world’s waited long enough

I’ve come home at last!

 

And this time will be bigger

And brighter than we knew it

So watch me fly, we all know I can do it…

Could I stop my hand from shaking?

Has there ever been a moment

With so much to live for?

 

The whispered conversations in overcrowded hallways

So much to say, not just today, but always…

We’ll have early morning madness

We’ll have magic in the making

Yes, everything’s as if we never said goodbye

Yes, everything’s as if we never said goodbye

We taught the world new ways to dream!