If last year’s election and subsequent results have taught me anything, it’s to speak up and speak out.  When you’re looking into the Twitter feed of an atrocity or when, in your third eye, you can see the future of girls that are coming after you, it’s important to make sure they will hear their cause celebrated.

screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-9-00-11-amLast night, I unleashed a series of tweets due to the news that the GOP wants to defund Planned Parenthood.  In response, a group of strong women stood outside Paul Ryan’s office to serve him a petition with over 87k signatures of people (not just women) who think defunding Planned Parenthood would be a disastrous act.  He sent security which prompted the hashtag #PaulRyansoscared.

I didn’t really realize it until I was tweet storming my feelings that I have a deep connection to Planned Parenthood.   When I was in fifth grade, the Girl Scout group that I was a part of (Troop #388 if I’m not mistaken) took a trip to Planned Parenthood to learn about our bodies.  This trip was before any notion in my mind of abortion and I went thinking this would be like Charlotte’s Discovery Place Museum. I don’t remember much except snapshot images, that’s the way my memory works, but I do remember this wall of interactive body organisms.  There were intestines that we could pull out to see how long they would be in certain body sizes.  There were pumping hearts with beats that we could count. Thanks, Planned Parenthood, for helping teach me a little bit of math to save me the utter humiliation of counting my heartbeat wrong in high school gym class.

screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-9-51-07-amBut most importantly for me, a Catholic girl raised in the South, they taught us about parts of our bodies that schools and parents had left dark.  In this trip, I was allowed to feel the sand bags of what would become breasts for me.  They even had a sandbag with what breast cancer might feel like, lumps and all.  Now, every time I’m in the shower and I lift my arm monthly to feel for lumps, I am taken back to that moment at Planned Parenthood, a moment that could protect me for the rest of my life.  Finally, they taught us about our uterus, what a period was like, how to use a tampon or a pad.  My Mom was a good one, she had taught me all of this with deep instruction, but for girls who were limited by modesty, religion, or had parents who were uncomfortable or unwilling to talk about these things, this moment might have taught them all they learned outside of the fiction circulating in middle and high school hallways.

Planned Parenthood was my first education into my own body.   was the only organization (or just people) in my young world to openly discuss who I was on a basic biological level.  In a State that sits directly in the buckle of the Bible Belt that believes firmly in abstinence only education, I needed Planned Parenthood.  I don’t think we’ve come far enough to disregard this education I received at age eleven.

61w6r0fl1wl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Reading You Don’t Have to Like Me: Essays On Growing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding Feminism by Alida Nugent, Nugent discusses how she came to feminism and the real feelings of being a woman in today’s world.  My favorite essay so far is called “Girl in Control” and it’s about the fragility of feelings women face on any decision about their body, but even more any decision they make about childbirth. While Nugent turns out not to be pregnant in this chapter, she goes through the phases almost every sexually active girl goes through when she discovers her period is late.  She says, “… a part of me worried that if I went through with the procedure, I would carry guilt with me for the rest of my life.  I know because I already felt guilty just thinking about it.  I feel a great pain for women who have to through this.”  She talks about making the decision to have a child as a giant “Would You Rather?” Where men almost never have to weigh this decision because they can choose to just walk away (which is a decision in itself), this is a fundamental, biological and life changing decision for all women, of all ages, genders, races, upbringings, and beliefs.

At the end of this chapter, Nugent says, “In all the shame a woman experiences, in all the matters in which her body is supposed to be controlled, in all the ways society tries to tell her what she is doing wrong, she will always have feelings about it.  But the important thing to remember is that no matter what the feeling is, it is your feeling and it is your decision.”  Regardless of what men, political parties, or religions think, women will always have feelings.  They may be shame, humiliation, regret, or they may very well be the opposite. None of these feelings should ever be seen as wrong.

This is what Planned Parenthood gives women.  Not only a place to learn and make decisions about OUR bodies, but a place to be exactly what we are, women. Doesn’t matter what we’re made of there, what we believe to be true about the world there, what can or can’t happen to our body there, or the feelings associated with those happenings.


I’m Catholic as I said above and I’ve been taught from jump that a baby is formed at conception.  My church has NEVER been one to deny anyone, treat anyone maliciously, or destroy anyone’s character, I’ve been lucky for that. As I’ve studied, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is completely and utterly a woman’s right to choose.  This goes against my religious doctrine, but I would never tell another woman how to act with her own body (unless I felt like she was abusing the system and there was a better way).  I don’t think I could have ever have an abortion, but I’ve never been in a situation to make that sort of decision.  I can’t fathom women who judge other women for the decisions they make.

If you’re deeply religious, I get that, but does your religion really tell you to judge? Does your religion tell you to stand outside of Planned Parenthood and smear and humiliate the women who walk in to have a discussion with their personal doctrine? For Christianity, I’m pretty sure Jesus says over and over again, “love one another.” He says this regardless of choices, circumstances, decisions, moments of stupidity or heinousness.  For instance, “Romans 12:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”  This is how the families of the Charleston shooting can say and live forgiveness for Dylan Roof’s action in court.  If those people, who lost loved ones and pieces of their heart can forgive, why is it that you feel supported in shaming others?

screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-9-33-36-amIn my tweet storm I also discussed the availability for birth control at Planned Parenthood. At the top of her class, acing math classes like a original gangsta, my Mom had my brother at fifteen. She had had one boyfriend ever (and that’s all it really takes, right?)  When she tells the story of how it happened, she talks about her lack of education about sex.  This isn’t because of my grandmother’s failures, but because my Mom grew up in a society where no one talked about that stuff.  On the back end, my Mother moved into a house with my brother, walked back and forth to work all year in Buffalo, NY (yep, that’s the blizzard capital of the US) and relied for a year or two on Food Stamps. She did not “abuse the system,” and continued to work her ass off so that she didn’t.  My Mom is one of the girls who made it.  I’m a little bias because she’s my Mom, but she’s the STRONGEST woman I’ve ever met in my life and I think my friends in high school could see that and anyone who meets my Mom or is lucky enough to learn her story would agree as well.  When the boyfriend who knocked my Mom up left, my Mom took care of my brother until she married my Dad.

screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-9-36-25-amI don’t think my Mom would have ever made the decision to have an abortion.  When she talks about going back she says she wouldn’t have me or my brother if she made that decision.  My brother is a lawyer now, with his own child and for the record, he’s also the best Dad I know. While I never saw that struggle that my Mom faced because it was before my time, I’ve seen the looks on the faces of my former students who in confidence ask me what to do about a missing period, or how to get birth control so they’re not pregnant, or other really serious conversations that they only feel comfortable asking a teacher they’ve had for just a semester. Their option is a year of a birth control without consent from the guardians in their life.  For girls who’s parents won’t understand, won’t accept, or just can’t see their little girl has become sexually active (maybe because of their own parenting shame), Planned Parenthood is there.

If the GOP wants to support all the babies born of women who didn’t have options, or chose an option that they weren’t financially ready for, but want to stand up for, then they can’t defund Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood is the organization that supports these girls on the front end.  They aren’t lying about the knowledge they also give for free to women, the education, the help.  This isn’t an abortion machine.  This is a safety net for women everywhere.


If you’ve watched a bias video that shows Planned Parenthood is just a baby killing machine then you are ill informed because this girl, writing this blog, learned what her body was capable of through Planned Parenthood when very few other people would.


Paper Chat: A Discovery Ed SOS

I’m sure teachers have been using this for years, but I find this tool so, so awesome for collaboration. (Never thought you’d see “so, so awesome” from an English teacher, did ya?)

I’m lucky enough to get training every month in Discover Education, which I think has gotten a lot better of the past few years in providing educators which classroom specific and useful tools and strategies.  One of my favorite tools on their website for educators is the SOS – Spotlight on Strategies.  For ELA, these strategies are organized by standards and come with a pretty PDF that you can print out and keep handy in a planning binder for when you’re just not sure what you want your students to do with a source.

Screen Shot 2015-12-26 at 2.00.53 PMOne of my favorite strategies (SHOUT OUT TIME) is the Paper Chat Strategy.  I use this all the time in my classroom and adapt it to work for whatever they’re doing.  With Paperchat, you place butcher paper at tables all around the room and the students have to collaborate in order to do something on each piece of butch paper.  Once students have written on each sheet of butcher paper, they go back and comment on someone else’s response on each sheet. They can comment on as many as they like (I usually require 2-3 on each sheet for my high schoolers) and then they can continue the “silent paper discussion” for as long as needed.

A Student Group's Taxonomy
A Student Group’s Taxonomy

I’ve used this in multiple ways.  The first time I ever used it was with my tenth graders when they studied creativity and originality.  In this unit I did some of the following things, I had them create their own Bloom’s Taxonomy in this unit after analyzing their own multiple intelligences quizzes, and studying the old Bloom’s and some quotes on creativity, we also had a debate “Everything is Original” and “Nothing is Original.”  One of the videos that enhances their discussion was Sir Ken Robinson’s, Do Schools Kill Creativity? Shout out to a GREAT English Teacher, Nat, for creating AWESOME lesson plans with me.

“Ladder of Logic” A Student Group’s Bloom’s.

While my students watched the Ted Talk, they took notes in a graphic organizer.  (Made by Nat). The graphic organizer was meant to focus on informational text standards, RL.1, and RL.2 (citing textual evidence through inferencing and deliberate quotes and central idea analysis).  After they were through watching the Ted Talk, I had a Paper Chat set up around the room with seven different questions, one on each paper.

  1. Why is education important to society?
  2. At what age did you become “frightened of being worn?” How and why?
  3. Should subjects in school be ranked by importance?
  4. Robinson says, “we have to reshape the fundamental principles on which we’re educating children.”  Bullet list changed (thoughtful changes) you would make to education.
  5. Define creativity and explain your definition and the reasons behind it.
  6. What type of intelligence are you strongest in, explain how it’s helped and hurt you in school.
  7. Respond to the Jonas Salk quote, “If all insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on Earth would end.  If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.”

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I think it brought us to a really strong discussion of where creativity fits in school and why school today doesn’t foster creativity maybe as much as we think it does.

A student group's Taxonomy
A student group’s Taxonomy

I also used Paper Chat with my juniors in American Literature recently.  After the Paris attacks, and the San Bernadino shooting, I thought that we needed to have a discussion on where America stands currently.  We were in the middle of an American War Unit and this was pertinent to the discussion, I thought.  Before the Paper Chat my students completed a text analysis sheet for the following two texts, President Obama’s “Address to the Nation” on December 7th, and the ISIS letter claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks.  Since this is closer to the end of our semester, my students were able to review a lot of the standards for reading informational text in their text analysis sheet.  After they completed the text analysis sheet, they completed a paper chat for a discussion comparing the two documents.  Rather than focusing on the clear differences in the documents, I wanted my students to have a discussion on how both sides are formatting, voicing, and structuring their arguments within the documents.  While one text is a speech, and one is a letter, I also wanted them to analyze the difference in the two.  Their Paper Chat questions were as follows:

  1. How are the messages similar? How are the messages different?
  2. How is the tone similar and different in each, and why?
  3. What is the most important word/phrase in each and why? How do the words or phrases compare?
  4. What patterns exist in each text (structurally)?
  5. Which text is more aware of its audience, and why?
  6. What does it say about each text that one was spoken and one was sent online?
  7. What are your final thoughts on each speech? Explain in detail.

After this Paper Chat discussion they were able to collect their thoughts along through a quick write (AXES paragraph) from two choices:

  1. How do both of these texts address both the needs of the author and the needs of their audience? Explain with evidence from each.
  2. What are the STYLE (word choice, structure of argument, voice, details, figurative language, repetition) differences between the letter sent by ISIS and the speech by President Obama? Explain using evidence from both.

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I found the Paper Chat SOS worked really well in this discussion.  Sometimes in discussion, students are afraid to say thinks aloud that they would want to for fear of rejection, confrontation, or being wrong.  With Paper Chat, I find that students can either anonymously say exactly how they’re feeling, or they can put their name next to something they believe without the fear of being yelled out.  While they might face argument on the paper for their stance, I think it comes off less heated.  This was a pretty argumentative paper chat because students felt like it was their duty as Americans to defend Obama even when they were discussing the style of the speeches rather than the actual content.  I found it really interesting when we discussed the biases that we held as Americans, (and humans), and what questions they have about everything going on in their current world.

A mug, my dear friend Ashley made me for Christmas of my classroom motto.
A mug, my dear friend Ashley made me for Christmas of my classroom motto.

I really like the Paper Chat SOS for several reasons.  Here is a running list:

  1. It is less confrontational than a typical argument (if you choose to ask argumentative questions).
  2. It leads to out loud discussion, from the page to the mouth.
  3. It gives students who need more think time to collect their thoughts in discussion or think*pair*share, that time they need to really understand what they’re thinking and format it in a way that they’re proud of.
  4. My students have clear expectations (particularly when I tell them how much they must write and how I want them to respond to each other).
  5. After students have completed this SOS a few times, they’re able to not have as many boundaries on their discussion and they really get into talking it out on the paper.
  6. Everyone is collaborating with everyone.
  7. This can be done just as easily in a Google Doc or an online platform for that added technology piece of our evaluation and for students to really be prepared in a 21st century way.
  8. It feels a bit like texting one of my students said.  Anytime I can connect their everyday life to their learning is a good day.
  9. It leads to discussion passed the activity.
  10. Every student is involved with every question.  There are never outliers when I do this in my classroom.
  11. Every student feels like they are being heard.
  12. Students get to know one another better through their views and create relationships.

I think I’m going to use this as one of my first day of the semester (or first week) activities for student just to do a “get to know you.”  I might ask simple questions or make it a bit harder and ask questions from the Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire to get them thinking and responding to one another.  This would also be a good way for me to get to know them as students.  I don’t know if I would have them do this anonymously as I don’t really know their handwriting yet at this new point.