Posted in #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, Being a better teacher, Big Questions, Curriculum Ideas, ELA, Exploration, Lesson Ideas

The Words of Warcraft

Over the decade of playing World of Warcraft ™ I’ve run across a few allusions to other works in literature, music, and the arts. For fun (!) I thought I’d do some research into how many allusions appear in Azeroth.

Just the other day, I came across this:


There are also numerous puns:

Get it?

And while there are many literary references in Wow, 10 AWESOME BOOK REFERENCES IN WORLD OF WARCRAFT the pop culture ones are as valuable and endearing: List of Pop Culture References in WoW.

Winne the Pooh reference in Stormsong Valley

In a region called Bastion, which is full of angels and paragons, (it’s a little creepy, quite frankly), one of the NPC dialogues is “clear skies, full hearts, can’t lose” which I immediately recognized as a Friday Night Lights line, though I haven’t seen a single episode. I’m not a football person. How did I know it was from that show? Because popular culture exacts a toll. One of my colleagues used it on T-shirts or something for students. We know things in the moment because it’s collectively shared or shoved. I think of the groundlings in Shakespeare’s audience chatting around the village wells sharing one-liners and bawdy jokes from the plays. It was entertainment. And I realized most stories and series I watch are based on Bible stories. No one can convince me that Better Call Saul isn’t grounded in Cain and Abel. And I’m not even a Christian church person.

And I need to think more about this. Recently, #DisruptTexts was attacked. That aggression will not stand, man. I’m thinking of the disingenuous argument that people won’t know where ideas, references or allusions come from unless we muddle through language that’s over 500 years old. Yes, novels that continue to be taught do provide a cultural reference point. But whose culture? What reference point? Yeah, you know who. Allow me some time to ponder this, and work with some amazing women I know.

Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, Exploration, History, Series: White People Homework

Series: WPH: Juneteenth (19)

From a local Minnesota TV station, June 16, 2020
Go buy this t-shirt:

June 19, 1865: “Juneteenth” Emancipation Day

From Zinn Education Project:


Although news of emancipation came at different times during that Texas summer and autumn 1865, local blacks gradually settled on June 19 (Juneteenth) as their day of celebration.  Beginning in 1866 they held parades, picnics, barbecues, and gave speeches in remembrance of their liberation.  By 1900 the festivities had grown to include baseball games, horse races, street fairs, rodeos, railroad excursions, and formal balls.  Two distinct trends emerged with these early celebrations.  First the oldest of the surviving former slaves were often given a place of  honor.  That place of honor rose direct proportion to the dwindling numbers of survivors with each passing year.   Secondly, black Texans initially used these gatherings to locate missing family members and soon they became staging areas for family reunions.

Teaching Juneteenth

A common mistake among those who teach the history of American slavery is to center the U.S. government’s role in granting freedom while also placing the onus to navigate through a racist society solely on the formerly enslaved.

In other words: The Emancipation Proclamation was signed January 1, 1863. Enslaved peoples did not hear of the news until over two years later. And the white general and military want a medal for that. But at least Al Edwards tried to make it an office Texas state holiday. When I read some articles about it, the levels of critical thinking skills to parse out some of the underlying racism and white supremacy to all my brain power. Our nation did not honor the blood taken during the Reconstruction. We have a chance to make things better, right, and just. If you believe in a higher power, and that higher power speaks to you, listen.

Texas Blazes the Trail

“On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition.  Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth all across America.

If you, white person, don’t know much about Juneteenth it’s never too late. Imagine our nation and its ability to heal, and tap into its more generous and loving side, if Juneteenth had been made into a national day of remembering, asking for forgiveness, and most importantly: reparations.

Posted in Creativity, Exploration, Making Stuff, Technology

Favorite Digital Tools

One of my favorite digital tools and also most frustrating is Favorite because it enriches and uses imagery and media to create an interactive experience; frustrating because I’ve haven’t seem attract many students to its wonders. I am not sure why. Before our building closed, things and digital instructional methods that I was “going to do” came to an abrupt halt.

I’ve determined a few things: for the next seven weeks of school, I’m going to ask only one essential question a week, but leave the last week for a wrap-up.

Six Questions

Each question will have one to two short texts to read, a short film, and a discussion question. My goal today is to curate the short film for each question. For the first one regarding beauty was a simple and clear choice:

Descendants from Goro Fujita on Vimeo.

I’ve been enjoying Google Sites, and learning more about how to use Google Docs, etc., for instruction. Screencast-O-Matic has updated its features and is wonderful, and I am going to dig back into VideoScribe and Prezi, too.

But with all of these gorgeous digital tools, ready and kindly waiting for me to create, one thing that has reached all but one of my students: letters sent in the mail.

I am facing the hard truth that these next seven weeks may be filled with me yelling down the wishing well, and getting few echoes back. I’ll have created six mini units with no clear knowledge if my students used them, learned from them, or helped them. I’m not concerned about their grades–that’s the last thing we’re worried about. I only want them and their families to stay healthy, and bluntly: alive.

Seattle Times

While I sit motionless, working from a keyboard and pen to continue to reach out to students, working on these mini units keeps me busy. I will provide my content curation over this next week. If you have something you think would be appropriate for my units, please pass it along.

I am glad you’re here.

Posted in Exploration, History

Backyard Civil War: Cinematic Blues


Let me flash-forward a bit: today while conferring with a student, we were talking about reading and what makes it interesting, and I confessed that when I was her age I wouldn’t have been that interested in some of the same things I am now. She asked if I really like “this stuff” [history], and I said, yeah, I really do. But that’s how reading and inquiry work: once you start learning about things, the knowledge expands exponentially, and it’s fascinating for me.

And it’s fraught with potential harm. History, when done right, lays out the facts, graphically, painfully, and with an attempt at objectivity. Considering my own woeful and anemic history instruction in high school, and it’s never too late to learn, my time is spent reading as much as I can about key moments in history. Okay, and an occasional Drunk History episode.

But I can’t show Drunk History to middle school kids. (Although one kid told me he had seen the Robert Smalls episode -I just smiled.)

Trying to create a meaningful Civil War unit that’s engaging, informative, and inquiry-based and squeezing it in between wonky testing schedules, end-of-year ennui, etc. has been a prickly challenge. I scoured documentaries, Crash Course videos, etc. and the only things I’ve found are Glory (I know–I know–just wait) and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reconstruction series. (If this link doesn’t work look this up on PBS and make a donation!)

Glory has a lot of issues, primarily the White Savior trope.

And for teachers, it’s also rated R.

Before I go on: please — if you know of any Civil War documentaries or films that are good, not a snooze-fest (I love you, Ken Burns, but remember, these are 13 and 14 year olds), please–tweet @mrskellylove.

Most Civil War era films are incredibly violent, (as were the times), and determining at what age is appropriate to show visual representations of war is my question. I don’t want to inflict harm: reading about a violent past is not the same as a visual/audio one sometimes. Film does do something for students that is part of the comprehensible input piece for students, especially ELL students. When done well, it can help build context. When done poorly it can destroy all relevance and credibility. Anachronisms and gratuitous violence/magical realism (looking at you, Tarantino) abound in poorly made films.

Now perhaps Lincoln@Gettysburg (what the heck, @ symbol?!) might be good. I don’t know. But try to find movies or well-paced documentaries on the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment and I’m coming up short. For real, film makers. You’re blowing it here, big time! Students need well-made movies that show the broader scope of American history versus the current fair of white-centered narratives.

And this is a great historical narrative:

The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was the first military unit consisting of black soldiers to be raised in the North during the Civil War. Prior to 1863, no concerted effort was made to recruit black troops as Union soldiers. The adoption of the Emancipation Proclamation in December of 1862 provided the impetus for the use of free black men as soldiers and, at a time when state governors were responsible for the raising of regiments for federal service, Massachusetts was the first to respond with the formation of the Fifty-fourth Regiment.
The formation of the regiment was a matter of controversy and public attention from its inception. Questions were raised as to the black man’s ability to fight in the “white man’s war.” Although Massachusetts governor John A. Andrew believed that black men were capable of leadership, others felt that commissioning blacks as officers was simply too controversial; Andrew needed all the support he could get. The commissioned officers, then, were white and the enlisted men black. Any black officers up to the rank of lieutenant were non-commissioned and reached their positions by moving up through the ranks. On 28 May 1863, upon the presentation of the unit’s colors by the governor and a parade through the streets of Boston, spectators lined the streets with the hopes of viewing this experimental unit. The regiment then departed Boston on the transport De Molay for the coast of South Carolina.

Adding a curated collection is past and present images helps contextual history. Shared this the other day:

But a big mistake I made was not keeping my admin in the loop. She came in when I was showing a clip of Glory for context, and long story short, it’s a no-go, and she also banned us from showing Unbroken, which is our current novel study. (Going to be a long few weeks.) Oh well.

A request — any thoughts you have about Civil War films and resources would help. What I did in 2015 with 7th grade humanities isn’t working with this group. Monument debates, curated content, films and documentaries — nothing is sparking them. I might read Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulsen or have them listen to Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (one of my favorite all-time Civil War female protagonist zombie books!)

And if your advice is to just stop, let it go, run out the clock of the year…I can’t do that.

Oh, and if you’re looking for a great resource while planning curriculum, CoP has you covered:

Posted in Being a better teacher, Exploration

The Power All Along…

power shoesRemember that Wish List? In fine, faded green marker is a note about high school certification. Every year there are a handful of students who wish that I was moving up to the high school with them. (To be fair, there are a few who wish to never see me again, but that is a story for another day.) I researched as best I could, having this on my perpetual to-do list, and asked those who would know how would I go about this.

Even this particular odyssey is not without bumps in the bricks. I contacted the OSPI (Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction), and they weren’t quite sure if my National Board’s would grant me access. After filling out paperwork, making phone calls, and getting misinformation from my Human Resources department (which took the wind out of my house, so to speak), I finally contacted the genius bureaucrat on Friday afternoon. You heard me. Genius. Someone so sharp, so confidently concrete/sequential, not only in minutes did she find my lost application (that was from a previous phone call), she answered my question clearly and succinctly (yes, you will be granted 5-12 grades ELA, and “…we haven’t put ‘age’ on the certificates since 2011: who told you that?”)

Do you theme or label your year? I do. Of course I do. I’m a language arts teacher, the Queen of Metaphor-topia, and ruling Duchess of Diphthongs. This year’s theme is ‘kink in the hose.’ Everything was running smoothly and clearly, and then it went sideways. I have been marveling at how incredibly hopeful and peaceful I felt for the first months of this year. At year nine, I’m by no means a rookie, and felt that we had weathered enough change that no tornado or twister could possibly spin me out. My PLC is rich with talent and colleagues not only do I admire and seek, but creative, ingenious folk. Sure, administration was mostly new, but what could go wrong? District made decisions to shuffle personnel, and I had always worked collaboratively with administration at every level to support discipline, etc. We have the new teacher evaluation system, but I had received thorough training, and was a teacher-leader with my principal the first year’s roll out, serving in a collegial role to work out the wrinkles in the new and intense system. My plan was to refine, polish, and carry the strengths of instruction and throw away the unworkable.

So what went wrong? Flying monkeys? Buckets of water? Apple-throwing apple trees? Well, it doesn’t really matter. I can point to a few specific incidents, but again, it doesn’t really matter. Once in awhile there’s just that perfect storm of clashing agendas and miscommunications. And until the house lands on that witch, there’s not much that can do about it. A lot of my colleagues are ready to move on. They too, are seeking employment elsewhere, or perhaps pursuing a life goal. I am not in a position financially, nor professionally, where I can go do something…else. Many are crossing thresholds into unchartered lands, or healing wounds, or packing up the difficulties and calling it done. And they are not quiet about it, either.

Things don’t always work out as planned, and the reasons are as varied as the people involved. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if folks came into a new job and had to be honest? What if I went to a new school and told students and colleagues the truth about me? The truth that I love what I do, I am interested in new ideas, but oftentimes I like to craft and refine my own instruction. I have introverted tendencies. I have a lot to offer in terms of vision and collegial support/conversation, but will fight back if attacked. If I think your bias toward my abstract/concrete random personality is overwhelming your good judgment, I might just call you on it (unless you are a genius bureaucrat).

So let me end with this wish, this hope: no matter where we take our talents and expertise, we are more powerful than we sometimes believe. Don’t be bullied by those who would plasticize your dreams. Everyone has a desire, and sometimes just asking, “What do you want?” is enough to calm egos. I’m not sure if I am going anywhere physically, but I do know I’ve moved on emotionally. I am proud of myself for always finding ways to find my way home, of giving myself options. Here are your shoes back, W.W. I can find my way from here.



Posted in Being a better teacher, Big Questions, burning questions, Exploration, Genre Studies, Media and Mischief, New News

Game on.

Get Ready Pac ManGreat conversation the other day: student in my “struggling” reading comprehension group reminded me once again that many kids aren’t necessarily “bad” readers, but not motivatedto read. We had a few moments just to talk about what we were reading, a topic at hand, a bird-walk, so to speak, and he and I discussed a high-level, critical analysis about: games.

We talked about the genres and analyzed the varying classification of the wide variety of video/computer games. (The student sent me this link, by the way: Recently, I had a conversation with my husband about this very same topic, in the context of  deep critical analysis of World of Warcraft. I know – many of you (teachers) are scoffing or rolling your eyes. (By the way, eye rollers – grow up.)

What is fascinating to me is this question: why are we humans participating and practicing in the worlds that yield no results or product?

Or do they?

One Alpha game that has come on the scene in MineCraft.  MineCraft scares the snot out of me, and I’m not sure why. Our Robot Overlords are busy working on enslaving human productivity and time to create Lego-esque worlds and kill zombies. When I can find the link to the article, one enterprising young man went as far as to create a world, a virtual world, that ran on its own “red dust” electrical power. Can you say “Mr. Anderson?”

Another virtual world is obviously Farmville.  Millions of Facebook users work diligently on this (distopian) commune,

We all have burning questions, and it is job 1 for teachers to help students identify and recognize those questions and motivations. We are given low basal readers for checkpoints and reading strategy instruction. I have a certain amount of buy-in and fear. The fear comes from the thought of NOT adhering “with fidelity” to the “system” somehow any failure or lack of progress of my students will be squarely on my shoulders. Which, it would be. If I can honestly report that I kept the program in its inherent and intended form, then perhaps that will shield me from any negative results.

A term my husband has been using recently is “emergent behaviors.”  The context he uses this in is the explained best just by thinking of ways that humans, animals, forms and functions do or create the unexpected.

The words that come to mind when thinking about the activities of these types of games far exceed the simple, violent FPS label:

1. Resource management

2. Professions

3. Product and Productivity

4. “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality: Elitism and bragging rights (talk to anyone who’s flying around on a Onyxian Drake.

But what even scares me more is the next generation of “games,” and this puts the word “generation” in a different context. Both the same student and my husand informed me of this little AI darling, who is programmed to make moral decisions based on squishing, or not, snails: Milo, the Computer Boy.

Think I may be sick.

Now, I must also write this: While we are so busy creating fake boys and girls, and getting fake jobs, and getting fake results, we are neglecting our real boys and girls. Student informed me the other day: “Mrs. L, did you know the band member of KISS are Jewish?” Reponse: Yes, as a matter of fact I did. Follow up: “And did you also know they had to wear that make up to hide from Hitler during the war?”

Posted in Being a better teacher, Big Questions, Connections, Exploration, Language News, Media and Mischief, Science ROCKS!

Summer lament.


"I have never surfed. But my inner surfer always feels this way, like a sad Beach Boys song, in August..."

Every August, for years, I felt that something ritualistic or noteworthy was missing to mark the occasion of summer’s end. The perfumed, yet sulferic combination of back-to-school supplies and popsicles doesn’t buff up the mojo as I would wish. Since becoming a teacher, I straddle both worlds, between anticipating the school year for myself, my students, as well as balancing emotions for my own children. And, yes, even for my own personal expectations.

What did I want to accomplish? Did I “relax” enough? (And in asking, that feels stressful in itself.) 

Fortunately, very timely, two bloggers I thoroughly enjoy recently posted their thoughts on summer’s end. One, Doyle, provides his viewpoint using all the sensory images, and sure enough, there IS a holiday associated with this time of the year! I KNEW it, I just KNEW it! There had to be….this time of year, between the summer solstice and fall equinox, had to be marked by some acknowledgment that the light is waning, and the sun is growing ever more shadowy and elusive. It’s called “Lammas.” “Lament” can be a verb or a noun.

The second writer, John Spencer, writes about how he spends his time in the summer. Or rather, doesn’t spend his time.

When I tally up what I did this summer, some of it will feel less like a harvest, and more like a molting. I chose to do nothing this summer, or at least the bare minimum. No conferences, no workshops, no professional development, no classes, and no thinking, really. I went to one day-long seminar to hear John Medina, author of Brain Rules, speak, at Seattle Pacific University. He had some golden nuggets to relate, but it was just as if not more valuable to catch up with some of my colleagues and talk with teachers and business people from around the state/country.

The only thing I have to do is finish up a unit, including incorporating the new common national standards, and making sure it makes sense to others. Sometimes a work of art makes a lot of sense to the artist, but not to the audience.

My musings take me to wonder, though, does the word “lammas” give us the word “lament?” Lament means to grieve, or a grief. There is always that long shadow cast over me this time of year, the end of summer. Maybe some Halloween candy will do the trick to ease the pain.

intransitive verb : to mourn aloud : wailtransitive verb 1 : to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for often demonstratively : mourn
2 : to regret strongly

Posted in Big Questions, burning questions, changing the world, Exploration, Media and Mischief, New News

Be your own hero.

One of my favorite treats is driving on a Sunday and listening to the Tavis Smiley Show. Yesterday was especially resonating. I caught the tail-end of “Where do we go from here? The prospect of peace in the 21st century,” a discussion with some of the greatest scholars, leaders, and thinkers of our time.

At one juncture, the conversation turned to be about ‘who will our heroes be, who will we look up to?’ and Vincent Harding, with his even, slow-paced voice, reminded us to consider not having a “one” who will “save” us, but in a truly rich, democratic, and free society, we must look within ourselves and to each other for providing the safety and community we can achieve.

In my heart, I know we have always known what to do. Why we turn away from it, I can’t really say. The reasons are as complicated as we are, but it is just as simple, too: we know how to treat each other.

If you have time, it’s worth a listen, at least the last hour or so. Does talking change anything? Or is it only action? I’m contemplating on one thing I can do today to help bring peace. What can I teach, what can I share, what can I create? And I’ll go from there.

Posted in Big Questions, changing the world, Exploration

Art lives.

While we mentally live in a virtual world, there is grit and texture in other dimensions, too. Pay attention.

The other evening, I went to a benefit concert performed by the Seattle School of Rock and other locations at the Vera Project in Seattle.  It was a strange evening. As my son and I were parking, two gentelmen warned me of a hustler in the parking lot. Sure enough, a young man with odd piercings tried to get cash from me in return for “paid parking.” I had to pull out my best “alpha” animal, stare him down, and repeatedly say “No, thank you. No, THANK you. NO THANK YOU!” before he slunk off. Then, walking toward the Vera Project, we saw a homeless person, um, well, being quite public…

Next stop on the rabbit hole voyage was an introduction to the Sanctuary Art Center. According to the brochure, the

“Sanctuary Art Center is a professional quality art studio serving homeless youth ages 13-25 in Seattle’s University District. Our mission is to create a safe, warm, calm environment for youth to experience creativity and success through use of artistic media, such as pottery, stained glass, painting, beading, drawing, drama, musical instruction, and more. We provide street involved youth wiht a place of discovery and support, removed from the noise, danger, and chaos of the street.”

Hey, grown-ups out there: Isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be doing?