How about a poetry contest? This is more than just an opportunity to submit your best poems, however. In the Vision+Voice writing contest, students from all over Austin ISD submit original poetry, and then one poem per grade-level is selected to be paired with beautiful, original art created by Austin Community College students.
This can be any of your poems, so why not try submitting one to the OHWP for feedback before the submission deadline? We'll be kind, constructive, and you'll end up being a better write. Hurry, though!
Submit poems HERE. Deadline is Monday, February 19, 2018.
Our school is currently running the "Read-A-Thon" fundraiser.The NJHS president and I had the opportunity to speak to three second-graders who were from Casis Elementary School and part of a boy-scout troop in Austin, Texas. They had an amazing idea to do something similar to the Read-A-Thon. They would place boxes around our school, mostly the library, and students at O. Henry, who have grown out of their books, can donate them to this boy-scout troop. This would last for the first two weeks of February. The boy-scout's parents would collect the books, put them into their SUVs (for once I like SUVs) and drive them over to BookSpring. This will be continued into next week, and our principal, the NJHS president, and I will work on putting up posters and emails to parents about this. We will also find a suitable reward for the grade that donates the most books. Again, this will be an ongoing story in Executive Time.
As the president of O. Henry Middle School, I feel that it is my duty, as the year enters its 2nd half, and student council's mere ideas are surfacing, that I give a weekly address, luckily not through twitter, through Mr. Scho's OHWP website. I will discuss the issues that are going on at our school, from locked doors to racial profiling.
Our schedule provides 5th period with 15 extra minutes to accommodate for lunch, which lasts for 30 minutes. After fourth period on a regular day, 8th grade goes to lunch while 6th and 7th grade go to 5th period. After 8th grade lunch, 7th grade goes to lunch, and 6th grade remains in 5th period, and 8th grade goes to 5th period. After 7th grade lunch, 6th grade goes to lunch, 8th grade remains in 5th period, and 7th grade goes back to 5th period. I think that 8th grade, after A lunch, should spend 15 minutes outside. 6th grade should spend 15 minutes outside before C lunch. 7th grade should spend 15 minutes outside after B lunch. Students would still get 45 minutes in their 5th period class, which is the same for
every other class, and students do better, according to studies that have proven that students do better in school when they go outside. Also, students will be happier because they will get to go outside.
I hated middle school.
That may seem ironic given my job--in case you're just joining us, I am a middle school English teacher--but it's true. I used to say that there was no amount of money you could pay me to get me to go back to middle school. Turns out, there is an amount, and it's not very much.
One of the main reasons I hated middle school is that, at times, I was picked on mercilessly. There were days I would fake being sick to keep from having to face my tormentors. Yes, there were two or three of the stereotypical bullies that would terrorize me in the locker room, or even the kid who punched me in my 6th grade ELA class without the teacher noticing. The teacher never addressed it, even after a girl told her what had happened.
But I was also picked on by my 'friends'. I wasn't great at making friends back then, so I would gravitate to anyone who would hang out with me. And as boys tend to do, we would make fun of each other. I always felt, however, that I was getting it far worse than I was dishing it out.
You know what, though? I survived. I made it through middle school because of amazing parents and some really kind people who mentored me and made me feel welcome at the school. I know others aren't so lucky.
Bullying clearly is not going way; I don't need to work in a middle school to see that. Recently, I gave my students the opportunity to write a letter to their bully. I was so inspired by what one student wrote that I asked her permission to share it here. I am withholding her name, for obvious reasons.
You may think the things you do and the words you say mean nothing. But they hurt a lot. You have been constantly bringing me down to build yourself up. You have never been in this situation before. But let me tell you, it sucks. I know you think being popular, having lots of friends, and being pretty are the top priorities in life, but since I lost my top spot of popularity, I feel great. There is no worrying about what people think of me. Also, trust me, having three true friends is a lot better than 20 friends that use you to be popular. If I were you, I would stop talking about people and making fun of others. I have been your friend, so I know your way of life. So please stop. What you are doing to me really is terrible."
After reading this, I asked this student how it made her feel. "I feel really good," she replied, and I have no doubt that she meant it. So what would you say to your bully? If you have bullied, what would you say to your victims? I encourage you to write your ideas down and send them to the O. Henry Writing Project or share them on social media with the hashtag #lettertomybully. I will post some of those messages here and on my class instagram @mr.scho.class.
Or just write it down on a piece of paper and then crumple it up and throw it into the recycling bin. I bet you'll feel pretty good after, too.
Every new year, I find myself making lofty resolutions about what I want to accomplish during this lap around the sun. Exercise, diet, and other standards often make their way onto my list. I've made goals to spend more time with certain people, to end bad habits, and to spend my time on more meaningful activities (looking at you, Instagram). Invariably, though, by the time I have stopped writing the previous year when writing the date, I've also abandoned all or most of my resolutions. One year I even made the resolution to simply stick to my goals. That was one of the worst ones.
I know I'm not the only one. It seems there are ads everywhere promising help with fitness, diet and other goals. But those ads wouldn't exist if resolutions were easy to keep. Every year, countless people are left feeling defeated when they don't accomplish their goals or give up after a few weeks. So why do we torture ourselves so?
We are all on a constant path of self-discovery, I think. Few have diluted themselves to the point of thinking they have nothing to improve in their life. My students, for example, although only 12 or so years old, listed resolution after resolution they hope to keep this year. They ranged from the serious (improve grades) to the lofty (don't procrastinate) to the funny (“Get more hype beastery,” which I think translates to improve my fashion). Even at their young ages, they know that they can get better. My hope, as their teacher, is to help them accomplish these goals. That's why we talked today about making a plan for your goals, making sure their attainable, measurable, and realistic (isn't there a SMART acronym for making goals?). We also talked about accountability, telling others about those goals so they can encourage us to accomplish them.
That brings me to my resolution. For years, I've harbored the private goal of writing more. Why private? I guess I was afraid of failing. Making the goal of writing more is also not very specific (that's the S in SMART goals!), and it also forces me to admit that, as a writing teacher, I don't write nearly enough.
So--gulp--here is my resolution: I am going to post on the O. Henry Writing Project every week, something original and that, hopefully, is a model for my students. I am going to write at least 4 times a week outside of that, for at least 30 minutes, in a way that will help me build my own writing portfolio. Because that is my biggest dream. I want to be a writer for middle school age audiences. I have to start somewhere, and this is my first step. Week 1 mission: accomplished. It feels good.
You should try it.