Seventh grade…again

Yesterday I had the chance to go back to junior high, only now they call it a middle school, and next year they change it again to a K-8 configuration.

Levy. On Fellows Avenue in Syracuse.

This was not as traumatic as revisiting my high school was. For one thing, I went to Levy with a bunch of kids I grew up with, and we hadn’t moved or gone through all the other trauma that made 8th-9th grade so ouchy for me. For another, I was an incredibly clueless kid in seventh grade. I’m sure there was all kinds of middle school drama going on around me, but it did not register. I remember feeling tall and awkward, I remember my art class, the gospel choir, and, vaguely, Social Studies. I remember being in a couple of fights and burning my arm on the radiator in the cafeteria. And I remember the long walk there in the winter darkness. Nothing horrible, nothing earth-shattering.

But yesterday was fun. I got to speak to a group of teachers (including one that I went to school with) and a larger group of students.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic They were neither clueless nor awkward, though a couple of them were tall. Two of the girls were daughters of women I had grown up with, which was very cool. Syracuse really is a small town. I like that.

I’ve spent today deep, deep into pages. More tomorrow. We might sneak out for some of the local holiday festivities on Saturday. If you don’t want to drive north to Mexico, drive to Syracuse instead to watch my almost-mater, Nottingham High School perform SPEAK on stage this weekend.

QUESTION: What is your strongest memory from seventh grade?

Words to write by

Today is the birthday of two of my favorite authors: Louisa May Alcott and Madeline L’Engle.

Madeline said many interesting and important things, but one of my favorite quotes is this one: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

I will try to write today, but I am scheduled to spend most of it speaking. Details tomorrow.

Proud to be nominated!

The Cybil nominations are complete!

I am very proud and happy that TWISTED is one of the 123 books nominated in the robust and rowdy YA Fiction category.

“What are the Cybils?” you ask.

The Cybils were created to be “a literary competition that combined the freewheeling democracy of the Internet with the thoughtfulness of a book club. Cybils lets the public nominate books here on our Cybils blog, but then bloggers team up to pick the finalists and winners. The winning books must combine quality and “kid appeal.”” (quote taken from the Cybil FAQ). They have an easy-to-read statement of purpose, too.

Nominees are chose for these categories: Picture Books; Non-fiction Picture Books; Middle Grade fiction; Poetry; Young Adult fiction; Non-fiction (YA/MG); and Graphic Novels

The Cybil organizers have been gathering the nominations since October. Now a panel of judges will read the nominated books and come up with the finalists, to be announced January 1st. Then there is another round of reading and voting, with the winners announced on February 14th.

Teachers – this might be a fun outside reading activity. Some schools and libraries have Mock Printz and Mock Newbery clubs. The Cybils have many more categories and their discussion is more open to the public. Have your students come up with what they consider to be a fair number of titles to read, then discuss the books they care about. In February, you can compare their tastes to what the judges picked. The ALA announcements will be made by then, too.

Some people are uncomfortable with awards and discussions of “the best book.” The truth is, there is not one best book. There are many amazing books written each year. The value of awards like these is that they stimulate discussions about books. When books are being talked about, people seek them out to read. That increases the likelihood that each reader will find the book that is best for her or best for him.

When readers are connecting with books that speak to their hearts, we all win.

Hot Topic – Push Button With Care

Wow – yesterday’s post generated 76 LJ comments overnight. I think that may be a record. They are fascinating to read through. Thank you everyone for sharing your opinion about this.

After dinner last night, I wrote back to her. I decided that this was indeed a “teachable moment” and if I was going to complain about emails like this, I should reach out and try to help. MySpace said Courtney was online when I sent it.

“Dear Courtney,

Are you sure that you want to write a “different” paper? Because I have a very interesting idea if you do.

Laurie Halse Anderson

PS – When you write back, please don’t use the abbreviations you use when texting your friends. I really love English, punctuation and all. Yes, I know it’s a pain, but that’s what you have to deal with if you write to an author.”

So far, she hasn’t written back. I suspect she won’t because I am certain the paper was due yesterday.

I think I need a new page on the web site. I could title it: “kan i rite 2 u?” The page will explain the no-homework policy and give kids the basic facts they want for papers as well as links to more information. And it will gently point out the differences between formal and informal writing styles.

As to ‘s post about language evolution, I am tempted to agree, but I think it is too soon to tell. The technology that is fueling these abbreviations and linguistic short-cuts is itself rapidly evolving. I don’t think the teenagers in ten years will be using the same kinds of phones or IMing to communicate, so I don’t think this language will stick around.

I predict that in ten years, the FaceBook equivalent will have groups called “u gru up in teh 00s if u rite lik dis.” And people will chuckle fondly.

Have any of you shared this with your students? What did they say?
Any last thoughts?

How not to write an author

Teachers – here is an email that came into my MySpace account on Sunday afternoon. I have not altered it one bit except to put quotations around it.

“hi my names courtney. and 1st i would like to say thanks so much for aprovin me. :] i have this english report and we had to pick an author to write about and i chose u. do u have anything interestin bout u that i could put in there any cool facts or anything. i really want my paper to be different. if u could message me back today that would be great thanks so much bye”

This is very typical of the email I get. Sadly. (edited to add: Courtney claims to be a high school freshman on her page.)

My inclination is to hit the delete key. My strong-worded “I won’t do your homework” policy is everywhere. With just the tiniest amount of effort, the student can find all kinds of information about me – like on my website.

And for the record – the use of “u” for “you” and the total disregard for capitalization and punctuation (fine for texting friends, but not fine in this context), not to mention the other grammar errors – make my teeth hurt.

What do you think about this? Am I being appallingly old-fashioned and cranky? If this were your student, how would you want me to respond? I am not looking to make Courtney feel stupid or ignorant, but I want to be the village auntie and tell her it is time to raise her standards.

Or I could just hit the delete key.

What do you think?