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Sunday, October 9, 2016

This is a risk.

I don't yet if this will be a good thing, but I'm hopeful.

Next week, I will be absent Monday and Tuesday.

On purpose.

I will be presenting at the annual MOREnet conference at TanTarA in the Ozarks.

My presentation delves into the intricacies of using the G suite and other electronic tools to collaborate efficiently and effectively.

It is basically the same presentation I gave last week at the local Google Summit.

While I am gone, I will have a guest teacher.

This is a terrifying thought.

No matter what, this is always a terrifying thought.

I have only missed one other day year.

It was an unmitigated disaster.

Every class was rude, badly behaved, and unproductive.

My fourth hour included three referrals, two walkouts, and a lot of shouting.

After some investigating, I more or less figured out why it went so sideways.
One reason is that my fourth hour is just that class.

Another was my choice of activity.

I planned something they had never done before.

It was too complicated, too ambitious.

The final reason was the guest teacher I requested has a more assertive tone.

And my freshmen respond poorly to any fierceness or perceived negativity.

She is an amazing guest teacher.

This just happened to be a poor fit.

So, you can imagine that I have been feeling significant trepidation about this absence.

In preparation, I made some very different strategic choices.

First, this is a scheduled absence, where the last was not.

Because of that I had the chance to talk to my classes.

I was really honest.

I am going to go present to other teachers which is scary and hard.

I am going to keep tabs on you and will know what you are doing.

I need to be able to concentrate and not be distracted by poor reports or worried about your behavior.

I recruited a guest teacher who was an ELA teacher for 35 years.

We talked about what they would be working on and why.

We reviewed the basic protocols and expectations of the course.

At the end of the hour, I asked for a promise to make me proud.

They agreed to be on their best behavior.

Maybe this conversation will make a difference, maybe not.

It felt positive, so at least I won't worry so much.

Second, I really did select my guest teacher carefully.

The guest teacher who will be in my room is an experienced teacher.

She has recently been in for a colleague of mine and I had a chance to discuss pedagogy with her.

She has a very gentle touch.

I watched her enforce the rules with a smile and a kindness that mirrors what I strive for every day.

This is a risk.

She hasn't been in a classroom in recent years due to some health concerns.

I can tell she is nervous.

But we are kindred souls and my hope is our similarities will carry the day.

Finally, the plans I have left are both engaging and stoopid simple.

NaNoWriMo is looming closer and closer.

We are just beginning to start thinking about planning.

But the students have ideas.

Lots and lots of ideas.

Last week, I played the cruel trick of getting them started writing a story...and cutting them off before they could really finish.

Now, they are clamoring for time to write.

A beautiful thing indeed.

Anyway, I have spend hours scouring the internet for planning activities.

Many are awesome.

But many are also complicated, cumbersome even.

Initially, I started trying to meld together bits and pieces of exercises I liked into one.

It wasn't working.

It was too muddled and too complex.

After a couple of hours, I scraped it completely and started over.

What I settled on is incredibly simple.

I made a list of 25 lists.

Students are tasked with selecting at least five of the lists and write them in their journals.

The goal is for them to start to develop a body of ideas to pull from for their novels.

My list includes everything from places you want to visit, to pet peeves, to conversations you never want to have, to ways to die.

I tried to include a little something for everyone.

I made sure to include a little something for every major element: character, conflict, plot, and setting.

Incentives for overkill are also part of the lesson plan.

See, simple and engaging.

I still don't know if this will be a good thing.

But I have high hopes.

Technically, my hopes for this exercise and these days I am gone, is a good thing in and of itself.

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