From “100 Days of Rejection” to an “I’m Proud of YOU” Board

Wow, isn’t he something?
Naomi’s Photos

For some of my students, it is simply not enough for me to smile and say “Wow, that’s really clever of you, well done!” when they show me a video they made for a friend’s birthday. They need other students to know the teacher knows. More importantly, they need all the other students to see that I respect some things the student does even though everyone knows that in class he’s busy trying to pull girls’ pony tails, hide someone’s cell phone or off looking for his own lost school supplies.

Frankly, I myself need reminding too – we’re talking about 11th grade, did I mention that?!!

Then there are the good students, even the excellent students, who really need to hear  (or see, in my class of Deaf and hard of hearing students) a good word said about them that isn’t related to academic achievements. Some are so quiet that even their academic achievements aren’t well-known.

Word is spreading…
Naomi’s Photos

Duh, you may say (especially if you teach teens). EVERYONE, including we teachers, want to be noticed.

So why am I equally excited and worried about the new I’m Proud of YOU!” board now hanging in our English Room? My plan is to hang up notes, scattered around the board (wall wisher style) mentioning things students did as they happen, taking off old notes when it gets too crowded.

What could go wrong?

For starters – I really recommend watching the TED Talk below. I’m sure the teacher mentioned in the beginning of it had the best of intentions, but her intentions were not what mattered to the poor student. And my students need the board in order to add a tiny extra layer of protection to all the rejection many of them encounter in life.

The names of the students have been blurred.

At least, that’s what I hope.

I don’t want anyone to feel insulted.

I don’t want anyone to be made fun of.

I don’t want anyone to feel forgotten but it would be defeating the purpose if I hung up notes about all of my students on the same day. Everyone would lose interest in the board if it didn’t change. I plan to keep track of the names that go up.

Back to the TED Talk. My take away from it was that I should try.  I won’t be able to improve and make corrections if I don’t start! And I teach these students for three years, so I have time to make amends if needed.

The new board has been up for a few days but I’ve been out sick, so no students have seen it yet. I remain hopeful and concerned.

Updates will follow…

Saturday’s Book: “Three Bags Full” by Swann

Naomi’s Photos

This book goes into the “not for me” pile.

The novelty of the idea of having sheep as detectives who solve the mystery of their murdered shepherd wore off after three chapters.

I DID chuckle when reading the first chapter at the author’s choice of names for the sheep – she was clearly riffing on famous detective characters or other well-known literary figures.

But then the book simply bored me completely.

I didn’t even bother to skip to the end for closure.

I couldn’t care less who murdered the shepherd.

When a Family is Eaten by a Giant Pizza

All tangled up…
Naomi’s photos

Recently, as I was about to begin teaching a pleasantly small group of students, 10 of my deaf and hard of hearing 10th graders walked in and sat down. “The program director said we have to study with you, now” they announced. Obviously another lesson had been cancelled…

So there they were. And I needed something I could do with them and the students who were already in the class. NOW.

Since the 10th graders had a section on the passive form on their upcoming exam, I thought a quick review might be something that would work for everyone, at least for starters.

So I wrote the title “Logical or Ridiculous” and the following sentences on the board, inventing as I wrote (sentence 5 is a flop, I must admit):

The actual board

The students were asked to say which sentences were logical and which were ridiculous and why.

The first sentence was: A family was eaten by a giant pizza. It caused a surprising amount of confusion which really set me thinking. A significant number of the students read it as if the sentence said ” the family ate a giant pizza”, which is a perfectly logical thing to do in their opinion (some students complained that I was making them hungry!). They simply changed the word order in their heads! You might think that they simply don’t know the passive form but in other ways the same students exhibited a good understanding of it. I was surprised and tried to get students to explain their thought process. I even added the red markings to emphasize the passive form.

But what came up was that a few students were actually trying to follow something else I tell them day in and day out in the classroom – you must be flexible with the word order when reading a sentence, so that it will make sense.

In Hebrew adjectives come after the noun, not before it. In Israeli Sign Language word order is a totally different ball game. I constantly remind the students to read the whole sentence and then change what is needed in their heads so it will make sense.

Different Angles (Naomi’s Photos)

Being flexible with word order is an important skill for these students otherwise they can’t make sense of a great deal of what they read in a text. Remember, most of these specific students don’t speak in English, they just read and write. But it is a serious disadvantage when encountering a sentence like this, particularly in the passive form, when they end up distorting the meaning completely.

Of course they also do other things, such as what they did with the sentence: This classroom will be erased by the teacher next week. Almost all the students read it as “The whiteboard will be erased by the teacher”… But that’s another issue.

I have to think about my flexible-word-order message.  How to address issues without over complicating it.



Saturday’s Book: “The Storied Life of AJ Fikry” by Zevin

Naomi’s Photos

I loved it.


The bare bones of the plot line could have easily gone in so many directions that I find boring, corny and unbelievable.  A lonely bookseller, tales of love lost & love found (several characters), the magic of children…

I’m the cold-hearted reader who jumped ship (never to return) shortly after the bookseller in “The Little Paris Bookshop” unmoored his book-boat-shop, remember?

But THIS book, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, is so well written. To paraphrase something said in the book itself – the right words in the right places, and not too many of them. The author trusts the reader to understand.

And so many books are mentioned, discussed and brought up in a context that makes want to read those I haven’t read yet!

Ah, there’s a wonderful world of books waiting to be read out there!