Chattin' with Chapin is a blog focused on writing and the writing process both from the perspective of an aspiring fiction writer and a teacher who teaches it every day to middle school students. The blog also includes updates on author Andrew Chapin's nonfiction book From Tragedy to Triumph and teasers to the coming-of-age fiction novel Knowing When You're Too Young to Grow Up.
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Originally posted on April 6, 2018, “Gun Violence: A Teen’s Voice is Heard” offers the perspective of Editor-in-Chief of Thornton-Donovan School’s student newspaper Overlook Journal on the Parkland tragedy, as well as the gun violence epidemic currently ravaging our country. Since I was hired at Thornton-Donovan, in my position as Middle School English teacher and Overlook Journal moderator, I have […] The post ICYMI: Gun Violence: A Teen’s Voice is...
Originally posted on April 6, 2018, “Gun Violence: A Teen’s Voice is Heard” offers the perspective of Editor-in-Chief of Thornton-Donovan School’s student newspaper Overlook Journal on the Parkland tragedy, as well as the gun violence epidemic currently ravaging our country.
Since I was hired at Thornton-Donovan, in my position as Middle School English teacher and Overlook Journal moderator, I have sought to build a culture that seeks truth and promotes impartiality. The recent series on gun control and school safety that began with this introductory piece highlights this civic consciousness.
I want my students to be agents of positive change; unfortunately, though, it appears as if support for change has faded three months after Parkland, according a recent Reuters poll. My hope is that moderate thought prevails and compromise on such a polarizing issue can be achieved for the sake of the children.
Throwback Thursday: Your Deeds Are Your Monuments, originally posted on October 6, 2017, expresses how proud I am of a student who has endured and overcome more than most. Since his birthday is tomorrow, I figured this would be a fitting throwback for him. Happy birthday, young man. I’ve always told my students I’m not […] The post Throwback Thursday: Your Deeds Are Your Monuments appeared first on Andrew...
Throwback Thursday: Your Deeds Are Your Monuments, originally posted on October 6, 2017, expresses how proud I am of a student who has endured and overcome more than most.
Since his birthday is tomorrow, I figured this would be a fitting throwback for him.
Happy birthday, young man.
I’ve always told my students I’m not their friend or buddy, so do not confuse me with someone they can pal around with. And I’m not interested in their social lives or weekend plans or who’s dating whom so long as it doesn’t affect their academic lives or physical/mental health. That’s the stuff of high school gossip some educators definitely whisper about – those people need to get a life.
Anyway, there is a line that exists between teachers and students for a reason, a distinction that further separates child from adult. However, kids eventually grow up. Then, what do you do?
They move on, you continue to do your job with a new set of kids and a new one after them and so on. And as a teacher you hope they make the right decisions and see future success; that’s it, right? Well, yes and no. In my position as the middle [and sometimes high] school English teacher at Thornton-Donovan School in New Rochelle, I occasionally have the unique opportunity to watch a child progress from 6th grade all the way through 12th grade. That tidbit provides some context for the work I did with a young man originally from the Bronx whom I started working with when he was in eighth grade. He became the first member of his family to graduate from high school last June (see “The Make Good Son” for more on him).
In short, I became this boy’s mentor and executive function coach (see “A Mentor or Just a Nightmare” for my reservations about that role) and I always told him that my happiest day as an educator would be when he fired me. If he no longer needed my services, then my work was done. And while that didn’t necessarily happen, his graduating and consequent attending of college was enough for him to make good on the promise I knew he had all along.
So, I saw him this past weekend on my way back from Boston. Now a freshman for American International College in Springfield, MA, where he plays rugby on scholarship, he appears to get it (or at least what he says leads me to believe this). He’s going to class and getting his work done; he’s even seeing teachers on office hours as I always implored him to do. Even more surprising is that he hasn’t gotten consumed in some of the allures (or pitfalls, depending on your perspective) of college – the parties, the late nights, maybe even the drugs. Let’s be honest, in his time as my student/protege, he did not always make the right decisions and he learned some hard and valuable lessons because of them.
I’ve come to realize over the years that every kid learns at his/her own pace. Unfortunately, there is not a set number of screw-ups that guarantees learning. Kids also screw up at their own pace. I certainly know this from my tumultuous teenage years – just get a look at my license picture to figure that out. Now, I can look back and think, How many times can one get caught underage and blasted before he either figures out how to spend the night at someone’s house or change his ways?
Anyway, those missteps prepared me not to repeat them in college when so many kids were expressing their newfound freedom by cracking their teeth on toilet bowls, blowing off classes and assignments due to mystery stomach ailments and migraines, or waking up in a hospital bed with a catheter and and a whole lot of regret. Does that mean my former student is a saint? No, definitely not, but that’s the point. Perfect is Utopian and naive and ultimately unattainable. Perfect doesn’t progress or grow. I’m not interested in perfect. I’m interested in maturation.
What this all boils down to is a quote I’m working on with my sixth graders from RJ Palachio’s Wonder: “Your deeds are your monuments,” which apparently is an inscription on an Egyptian tomb.
You can screw up in the pursuit of learning, but eventually you and everyone else has to realize that actions matter, for they reflect on your character.
It’s a lesson I’ve been trying to teach my protege for a number of years, one he fought me on for as long as I can remember, one he’s finally starting to understand.
I really, really want to believe that.
Throwback Sunday: Mother’s Day is, originally posted on May 14, 2017, wishes all the mothers out there a happy and healthy Mother’s Day. You gave us life, you took care of us, and you made us into the people we are today. And for that, we should be thankful. Mother’s Day is breakfast at the […] The post Throwback Sunday: Mother’s Day Is appeared first on Andrew...
Throwback Sunday: Mother’s Day is, originally posted on May 14, 2017, wishes all the mothers out there a happy and healthy Mother’s Day. You gave us life, you took care of us, and you made us into the people we are today.
And for that, we should be thankful.
Mother’s Day is breakfast at the diner at 8:30 in the morning (like everyone else). Except it doesn’t matter you’re following the herd in this instance.
Because as cliche as Mother’s Day brunch is, it’s equally and appropriately perfect (and the perfect excuse for eggs benedict).
You’re catching up, not rushing through it on the way to work or some miscellaneous social function/obligation. You have time, the most precious commodity, and you can take a breath for a second.
It’s as simple as that.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who give their time, their vitality, their love, and most importantly their values to their children; all those women who sacrificed and still do for their children; and all those mothers women no longer with us that children miss today.
Put your feet up, enjoy your family, and remember what and who’s important.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you want to improve your vocabulary, expose yourself to varied syntax, and hear different voices and perspectives and tones, and feel different moods, GET TO READING! Reading what? Anything at first, whether it be a magazine, a comic book, a novel, a contemporary text, a […] The post Get To Reading appeared first on Andrew...
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you want to improve your vocabulary, expose yourself to varied syntax, and hear different voices and perspectives and tones, and feel different moods, GET TO READING!
Anything at first, whether it be a magazine, a comic book, a novel, a contemporary text, a canonical text – fiction or nonfiction, does not matter – as long as you read something. That’s the first step; keeping it going is the next step.
It should be simple: cut an hour of television or video game time out – I know, a crazy concept that for some is harder than kicking smoking rock. And it’ll make your studying for the SATs that much easier too because you’ll have a context for the words your learning as opposed to memorizing “hot” lists of words you won’t remember anyway. You know, because memorization is the LOWEST form of understanding (knowing without meaning or even the means to apply).
If you were in my classroom, I would say go over to the bookshelf that’s regularly stocked with new and old texts that reflect diverse student interests. My aim in maintaining such a representative bookshelf is I want my students to develop the love for reading and learning that I discovered far too late. I didn’t have a teacher who inspired this in me, but I wish I did.
Anyway, since we’re not in my classroom, here’s a place to start: What’s Andrew Reading? From YA, to thrillers, to nonfiction, to some oldies, there’s something for everyone there. I just finished The Hate U Give, which I would recommend to ALL who want a fresh, authentic, eye-opening perspective.
But, seriously, GET TO READING.
I want to thank my grad school educational philosophy professor, Bill Evans, from way back in the day for teaching me that philosophy is not nearly as antiquated as I initially thought. However, I will not give any plaudits to my undergrad educational philosophy instructor who spent more time talking about breast pumps and why […] The post My Philosophy of Education Simplified appeared first on Andrew...
I want to thank my grad school educational philosophy professor, Bill Evans, from way back in the day for teaching me that philosophy is not nearly as antiquated as I initially thought.
However, I will not give any plaudits to my undergrad educational philosophy instructor who spent more time talking about breast pumps and why a student afflicted with Alopecia wore a wig than discussing Vygotsky v. Piaget – absolute nutbar.
Anyway, the below updates and clarifies Andrew’s Philosophy of Education:
I aim to provide my students with an eternal desire to explore, uncover, learn and relate across disciplines to discover their style, work ethic, passion, and personality. This starts with working with my students to forge a social contract that establishes a classroom culture founded on respect, accountability and pride.
Believing that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, I build a rapport with my students by treating them as such and expecting the same from them. In this pursuit I seek to laud their accomplishments and create an environment where learning is celebrated – one that instills confidence and conveys to them that their opinions are valued in our classroom. This is why I urge them to demand an answer to the question of why they learn what they learn. In my mind, if they ask, they care, so I provide my rationale for why the course material is meaningful to them throughout each unit. Furthermore, I clearly communicate my expectations and disappointments to create a standard they are expected to meet.
Essential questions give structure to units as the lessons provide opportunities for students to examine these questions through textual analysis and their own experiences as a means to interpret, critically assess, and ultimately understand. Group and personal shares, free-writes, creative writing exercises and examination of shorter, related pieces set the tone for a lesson and excite the students for the more complex tasks ahead. A majority of the lessons end with a whip that gives students a chance to reflect and exhibit understanding, which also informs my teaching practices. In the student-centered discussions my lessons promote, I serve as a proctor to steer discussion. For this reason, the ideal classroom set up is a horseshoe where students face one another. With the SMART Board in front of the classroom but my computer in the back, I can sit among the students or walk the aisle, being a part of the classroom community and not the figurative head of it.
I utilize informal assessment measures – free-writes, for example – in addition to formative assessments like contextual sentence component identification quizzes to engage students, monitor their progress, and build their skills for application to the summative assessment. Critical response exercises, including outlining and drafting, further develop competency in essay writing, for example. To support students throughout the writing process, I employ both student and teacher writing workshops, along with myriad graphic organizers, student samples and checklists for drafting, editing and revising.
Finally, I seek to instill a sense of social awareness in my students, so there is a justice component found in my units that requires students to confront complex social issues, such as bigotry. In the 7th grade’s study of To Kill a Mockingbird, the class examines justice for Mayella Ewell, Tom Robinson, and Bob Ewell. Students then assess bigotry in society today – how it is present in their lives and what must be done to deconstruct entrenched beliefs and reimagine a more inclusive and empathetic future. This change, my students come to see, starts with them – the next generation of leaders I seek to prepare for the rigors of tomorrow.
Very uncharacteristic of myself, I have not been actively updating the blog. Why? Am I quitting blogging? Am I folding the website? No. And no. My wife and I endured a trying closing process on our purchasing of an apartment in Long Island City. Our loan officer quit four days before our closing date – […] The post Sorry for the Inactivity appeared first on Andrew...
Very uncharacteristic of myself, I have not been actively updating the blog.
Am I quitting blogging?
Am I folding the website?
My wife and I endured a trying closing process on our purchasing of an apartment in Long Island City. Our loan officer quit four days before our closing date – thanks a lot, Ami Rosen (scumbag). That, and the co-op operates on its own time and at its own pace, which is quite slower than the real world.
But we did close.
And I did get to see my wife’s office for the first time.
Oh, hey, WE’RE OWNERS NOW!
Celebrating, we absconded to San Francisco and Sonoma for a full week to get away from it all.
So all is well in the world of Chapin – until I return to work, at least – I’ve just been too damn busy (story of my life).
Check back next week for new content!
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