Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Teaching Gift

I’ve been humbled, flabbergasted, delighted, amazed, a bit mortified, blown away and left speechless.

First: I love teaching. I love teaching histry. I love watching students get riled up when we talk about the grievances in the Declaration of Independence and the Quartering Act (easy for teenagers to get when strangers invade their space). I love painting the picture of our great American hero Benedict Arnold and watch them fume when he turns his back on all he swore with all fidelity to protect. (I think the Revolution and then the Constitution are my favorite things to teach).

Each year, students come to me and I work as hard as I can to turn them on to history. To help them become better writers, researchers, citizens. 

It’s tough, often exhausting work. With all the discussion on the news about the terrible state of education, it’s possible to ask—is it worth it—do I make any kind of a difference?

Well: This week, four students gave me a gift, I will never forget.

I often use images to bring deeper understanding to my students. We will analyze and interpret these images to learn more of the period and to gain insight to circumstances. Sometimes, it’s just to make things more accessible to my 8th graders and to keep it interesting.

We talked about Valley Forge last week and I showed my students the Friberg painting of George Washington at Valley Forge. My students knew how much I love that painting.

This week, four students had me come into my classroom before school. I was ordered to close my eyes, walk in further under their direction and then open my eyes.  I was expecting some funny song or something—they were so wriggly and obviously pleased with themselves. It’s the holidays and a little sweet something wouldn’t have surprised me.

When I opened my eyes those four 13 year old young men stood holding a beautifully framed copy of that very painting with a gorgeous bow on it! Tears filled my eyes and I felt like the floor was going to open up and swallow me whole.

I shudder to think how much they must have spent on it.

The sensitivity and overwhelming generosity of these young men is incredible.

Am I making a difference? Is all the effort worth it?

I think, for a very long time, I need to not ask myself that. When in doubt, all I need to do is look to the back of my classroom and try not to choke up.
Thank you, you sweet, amazing, surprising, shocking, funny, thoughtful guys.
PS...I hope you studied for the American Revolution Test. It's a bear.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Peek Into "All She Wants for Christmas!"

Thanks to -- they inspired me to share a fun insight into All She Wants for Christmas!

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the land
The greedy and selfish had taken a stand.
The stockings ‘cross town had been hung everywhere
With expectations and demands that St. Nick would come there.

Now handsome Ben Herod, Ebenezer by name,
Knew that his not-so-good family had a part in that game.
He had a good heart and loved one and loved all,
And he may have been rich but his heart wasn’t small.

He knew that his family had been trying for years—
And destroying this Christmas and would bring them great cheers.
But as the hero of this tale he knew that won’t do,
And to overcome evil would be quite a coup.
(Okay now you have to say that word right “coo” or rhyme won’t work—just saying.)

So he’s determined and tough and will have no distraction.
But he’s met a young lady and they have quite an attraction.
What he does not know yet, which could change everything—
Is that George, yes it’s George, has her own secret to bring.

She’s the daughter of Santa Claus, oh what a surprise!
And she can do magic right before Ben’s blue eyes.
But she’s had enough of the holiday to last a lifetime
And she’s sure that the Herod’s are nothing but slime.

So can their love blossom and solve problems too?
Will they rescue the holiday or do something new?
You’ll just have read it and find out for yourself.
Or wait for the next visit from that Jolly Old Elf.

Well, I don’t mean to cheat and steal this fine rhyme,
But I will tell you one thing that might give you some time.
I’ve heard that he said ‘ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all and George bid them goodnight!”

Want to win a copy?
Check out my contest!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I Will NEVER Ceased to be Amazed by Students

Okay....totally bizarre thing.  Today we were learning about the Revolution.  The American Revolution. All right--let's be precise.  The War for American Independence.

We've been laying the foundation for days now. People, events, places. Well, today's the day. The battles start with the spark! Lexington and Concord...

Problem: We're on assembly schedule and 10 minutes were cut from my class.  AND...we needed to talk about thesis statements for an upcoming project they're working on.  (Yeah, I know...boring at any time...for 8th graders???)

So the bell rings. They're being excused for lunch. Second lunch. Last lunch. We're all starving. 

You could have blown me over with a feather....

"Please, Mrs. Olds, please! Don't stop!"

I laugh. "It's lunch, you guys. We're all starving."

"I know," one young man shouted. "Let's all get our lunches and come back here. You can keep teaching us.  Please?"

I laughed again.

Then I was bombarded with pleading and "ah, come on!" and "We'll do it! Really!"

Ah...I shoulda done it. But I didn't want even one student to feel pressured into staying, so I said no. 

Silly me. Stopping learning?  Heaven forbid.

And what a compliment.  And what a massive responsibility to my incredible students!

Next time, if there is a next time...I'll do without lunch.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Facing the birth of a New Novel--Yep, It's Out! All She Wants for Christmas

Today my latest book, "All She Wants for Christmas" comes out.

It's exciting because it's my first attempt at self-publishing.  And yet, to be honest, this book wasn't self-published.  I could not have done it without my team. ali cross and her folks at Novel Ninjutsu were AMAZING!

They made a map for the project with deadlines and suggestions and questions. Things I never knew I didn't even know. Like branding, and formatting in several different ebook formats and just life in general.

Elana Johnson was my editor. She was honest. Helpful. Insightful. Sometimes, she drove me crazy--especially when she was right and I didn't want to change, but I knew I should.

Steven Novak did my cover. I wanted something fun. Something that said, come hither you friendly reader. And something that made me giggle. Ben does that. PS...don't open romance covers in a Junior High classroom.  I think I went every shade of red after my first giggle. And thank heavens for people with artist eyes because I don't know colors and shapes, but I do like my cover.

So, while I made the decision to move it into publication, I did not publish it. And I would like to thank all those that helped me get All She Wants for Christmas out because it never would have made it without you.

Now, I give it to my readers. Some who know me. Hopefully many who haven't met my writing yet.

A beautifully organized blog tour starts on the 3rd. Stick around and find out more about George, Ben and their story. 

Here's hoping you sit back. Enjoy. And have a wonderful, magical holiday escape.

It's all okay.