Some Final Words (Blog #20)

Taking special methods has had a profound impact on my career as an undergraduate student. This is my fifth semester of college (seventh if you count summer courses). I have learned so much during my time as a secondary language arts major. However, this is the first semester that I have actually been provided with the information and given the tools that helped me to visualize how my future classroom will be run. Like an abstract painting that coalesced before my eyes, it suddenly clicked. Best of all this course will work to have a profound impact on my future students thanks to the knowledge I have acquired. So, here is an open thank-you note to all of the people who helped make this transfer of knowledge possible.

Thank you for writing workshops.

Thank you for reading workshops.

Thank you for exposing me to the likes of Penny Kittle, Linda Christensen, and Tom Romano.

Thank you for challenging me to re-think grading procedures.

Thank you for the experience of my first ever NCTE conference.

Thank you for dozens of book recommendations, even if my wallet will be a little lighter for it.

Thank you for encouraging comments and supportive feedback on my writing, teaching, and thinking.

Thank you for endorsing so many helpful blogs, Twitter accounts, and podcasts that will help me learn more each and every week.

Thank you for the opportunity to be creative.

Thank you for the laughs.

Thank you for the stories.

All I can really say is thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

This has been an unforgettable semester for many reasons, but I speak with the utmost certainty when I say that I will never forget this class and what it has taught me. The knowledge I have been equipped with each Tuesday and Thursday will last far beyond my college graduation day.


Growth Through Graphic Novels and Children’s Books (Blog #19)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, until this semester I had never, ever, ever read a graphic novel. My books were strictly of the text variety, hold the pictures Now I feel like when I read something without some sort of visual accompaniment I go !?!?!?!? There’s noooo picturessss (since I need to get at least one SpongeBob quote in a week, say that last line to the tune of Bubble Bass complaining about his Krabby Patty’s lack of pickles). Okay, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But still.

It isn’t only graphic novels, however. It’s also children’s books. When I was a senior in high school my English teacher gifted me with a copy of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce. It was the first children’s book I had read in a very long time, and the last one I interacted with until this semester. What I love so much about that book is even though it is illustrated, it is geared toward an audience of all ages. In fact, what I have discovered is many perceived children’s books are. The visuals tend to be incredible, but as we have learned multiple times throughout the semester the stories also make wonderful mentor texts.

A part from potential lesson plans, one thing I have discovered personally is how illustrated pieces have helped bring me out of my reading slump. For any number of reasons, I have been struggling to leisure read for over a year now. Whenever I would pick a book up, it seemed as though I would no longer be able to lose myself within the pages like I so easily could in high school. Imagine my delight when I read Saga Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan (and each subsequent volume) in less than an hour. Or finishing a picture book in mere minutes that still managed to leave me with a profound sense of loss because it is already felt like an old friend.

Long story short (ha… see what I did there), books that contain illustrations are a valuable tool in the language arts classroom. After my own experience with using graphic novels to re-tap into my love of reading, I can’t wait to see how they will help my own students access and then develop their reading identities. Next up— audio books.

Purposeful Writing and Reading (Blog #18)

For other courses I have been doing quite a bit of research this week. Oh, the joy of finals. This means that I have been sifting through article after article, trying to find something worthwhile (or at the very least relevant). Sometimes there are diamonds in the rough that beautifully fit the exact topic I am searching for. Other times, the pieces leave me scratching my head. This can be for a variety of reasons. An example of this came in the form of a pedagogical article, written by a fellow English teacher. I do not want to get too detailed, but there was one sentence that caught my eye within the text. This is not a word for word quotation, but it said something to the effect of Occasionally, writing should be incorporated in a lesson. Occasionally?

The words were not facetious, nor were they written in anger. As far as I could tell, they were earnest. I stared at the screen. It didn’t make sense… Quite frankly, it still doesn’t. But the more I got to thinking the more I realized how much this class has affected me. I’ve always loved to read and write, but as silly as it sounds this is the first semester that I have become aware that reading, writing, and speaking need to be incorporated into every language arts class every day. It may seem like common sense (because it is) but it still surprises me to consider how often these activities are mishandled.

I suppose the conclusion I have arrived at after reading such a shocking statement is this—as teachers, we need to be purposeful about what we do and do not include in our classrooms. It starts off innocent enough. “Oh, there is a big assignment I want to introduce today so we are going to skip independent reading” or “This unit is running over time, looks like I’m going to have to nix that writing project.” From there I imagine it is a slippery slope.

Let’s never get to that point. “Occasionally” should not be in our writing or reading vocabularies. Day in and day out students need to be practicing literacy skills, and it is up to us to facilitate this in the classroom.  Write, write, and write some more! Don’t let the random journal articles get you down.

Clearing the Way: Working with Teenage Writers by Tom Romano, A Review (Professional Development Book #2, Blog #17)

Romano Book

With this book, I am one happy camper! Picture is my own.

It is no secret that I admire the teachings of Tom Romano. It all started when we were handed an excerpt from Clearing the Way: Working with Teenage Writers that chronicled Romano’s work with a student by the name of Dwayne. As Romano worked with him, Dwayne wrote and then continually revised three separate pieces of writing. At one point, Dwayne earned an A- on his story. The thing is, Dwayne struggled with writing. However, it was not necessarily Dwayne that drew me in. It was the way Romano assessed Dwayne. With a short paragraph of narrative feedback, Romano would praise the writerly techniques that Dwayne was implementing in his work. At the end of each paragraph, Romano would write one or two concepts that Dwayne needed to work on. Only at the end would he assign a letter grade. This inspired me because I read it at a time that I was struggling to reconcile encouraging budding student writers with fulfilling the accountability requirements imposed upon me. From then on out I was hooked.

Now, I have had the opportunity to read the whole book! Like with Tom’s session at NCTE, it was everything I wanted it to be and more. Clearing the Way: Working with Teenage Writers is similar to The Greatest Catch: A Life in Teaching by Penny Kittle in the sense that each chapter of Tom’s chronicles experiences he has had as a teacher—many of which also involve inspiring anecdotes about his students—yet within each story there is a larger purpose. Like my last professional development blog post, I’m going to write about one of my favorite chapters (aside from the one I already talked about in the introduction!) that I also feel is extremely applicable to this class.

It is entitled “Please Write.”  He begins this section by describing an experience he had with a fellow colleague. An editorial was published in a journal that urged teachers to write. Tom’s co-worker was outraged. Tom thoughtfully engaged the man, wondering aloud that perhaps the author of the editorial simply thought that teachers will better understand what student writers go through if they take part in the craft themselves. The man’s reply? “I know what students go through,” he said. “I was once a student” (Romano 37). And therein lies the problem. In his reflection of the situation, Tom said “He no longer saw himself as a student, as a curious learner. Comfortable and static in his ‘wisdoom,’ he studied neither his students nor his profession” (Romano 37). I love that phrase—wisdoom—but its true. If we are not engaged with what we are teaching, how relevant is our wisdom? Answer: it isn’t. It is doomed.

Yet there is a solution, just as the author of the editorial suggested. Teachers need to write. Tom takes it a step further, and states that teachers need to write with their students. However, his idea of writing with students isn’t simply scribbling in a notebook alongside them during a quick write exercise (although this is important too!). No, after almost a decade of teaching high school English Tom finally realized that teachers need to share all stages of their writing with students. Showing students journal entries, brainstorms, rough drafts, and polished pieces helps them to see the writing process as it lives and breathes within us. When Tom started to do this, “Truth replaced hocus-pocus. It is human beings who create those first words, false starts, scratched-out lines, and messy pages that eventually become polished writings published in books and magazines. And those human beings are not so unlike the freshmen in your final class of the day” (Romano 41).

Though at times we like to pretend that we are (sometimes out of self-preservation), teachers are not perfect. 99.99% of the time we do not pop out a piece of writing that is “ready to go.” Rather it takes time and effort, just like we are asking our students to devote. By allowing them to see that our pieces go through 3, 4, 7 drafts it will help them be more willing to do the same thing. As the old adage goes, practice what you preach.

However, Tom goes on to make a distinction that I think is important for us to heed. He explains, “For a portion of the silent writing time I give my students I need to complete part of my teaching work . . . [And] I also need a large chunk of time to circulate through the classroom, conferencing with students about their writing. Anyone who chides teachers for attending to other matters while their students write needs to spend an entire year teaching a full load in a secondary school” (Romano 48). My personal opinion on this is that there needs to be a balance between time management and prioritization. It is an undisputed fact that there are simply not enough hours in a teacher’s day. As a result, it is necessary to complete work whenever possible in order for us to get it all done. What is crucial is that we do not let this load make writing seem unimportant. Though we will need to work, we also need to let our students know that writing and reading are priorities. If they see how much we care, it will help them care too.

Okay… this post is almost a thousand words long. Though I am running out of space, I recommend this book to all English teachers—aspiring and current! What I have shared here is only one segment of a text that holds profound truths on every page. You don’t have to enjoy Tom Romano’s writing as much as me to learn from this. Even if you don’t read this particular book, I encourage each of you to read, and then write. We should not be like the teacher who no longer seeks knowledge within his profession. Instead we need to learn from others as much and as often as we can. Turn “wisdoom” into a “wisboon” of hope. 😊


Works Cited

Romano, Tom. Clearing the Way: Working with Teenage Writers. Heinemann, 1987.

Rising Up to the Challenge (Blog #16)

For a different course today, I had the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane. I ended up visiting an online keyboarding website that helps students learn how to type. I couldn’t help but smile. When I was growing up my dad was a business teacher, and he made it a priority to teach me how to type at a young age. We had Mavis Beacon software installed on our home computer, and I would play those games for hours. One of my favorite was a racecar simulator. Every time you made a mistake, a bug would splat on the windshield. When you could no longer see the words you were supposed to be typing the race was over. In junior high school, the competitive typing continued. The only game we were allowed to play was TypeRacer. I loved it. As a thirteen-year-old, I once got on the top ten leader board with 128 WPM. You can bet I let my classmates know.


Yeah, I’m a megaracer. *Casually blows finger nails and then polishes them on shirt front.* Lol. Picture is my own. 

This reminiscing got me thinking about the role of competition in the classroom. Too much is unhealthy, but too little isn’t productive. Where do we draw the line? One of my favorite stories my professor told us during special methods class was that of Donalyn Miller book talking books she hated. I can tell you right now Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger or The Regulators by Stephen King would be at the top of my list. Why would she take such a negative approach, you might ask? Good question. She did this as a challenge to get her students to read the books, and then tell her why she was wrong. I think everyone should take a moment of silence to revel in the brilliancy of this plot. I mean, hello reverse psychology! But in all seriousness it worked. Her students were clambering to check out these books she bashed, and they couldn’t wait to hash it out with her in class.

Though it was subtle, she clearly set the bar in her classroom. The level of the book didn’t matter, only her conviction that all students had the capability to read them and then competently debate them with her. What this is an example of is a teacher believing in her students, and showing them this through her expectations. More importantly, she used her belief to encourage students that they can believe in themselves.

Based off of my return to the world of competitive typing today, my average now sits somewhere around 116 WPM. It’s been almost 8 years since I was introduced to TypeRacer in the classroom, yet here it is still impacting me today. All thanks to some healthy competition. And just think! My competitive nature was directed toward Internet strangers, not my teacher. In the nature of my topic, I’m going to issue a challenge—for all of us current or future teachers, let’s not be afraid to set the bar high. After all, a little expectation never hurt nobody. 😉 Just remember to support students every step of the way. Be it in the classroom or on the keyboard.

Positive Communication (Blog #15)

When I was a student, my mom would go to every parent teacher conference. I don’t believe I ever went with her. In junior high and high school, there really was not much of a reason for her to go. I held a 4.0 GPA, I was not a trouble maker, there were no suspected issues that involved me. However, she went anyway. Actually, as a high schooler I even insisted she go on multiple occasions. Why? Because of the positive comments. Each time she came home I would eagerly ask her to report back what my teachers told her. “Tell me exactly what they said!” I’d insist. I loved the feeling of knowing that I was appreciated by my teachers; I thrived under their compliments.

My professor said something this week that caught my attention. “The only communication we need to have with parents” she said, “is positive.” This is truth. And I would take it a step further. It is not only parents who need to hear the positives, but students too. This is one reason why I have loved this class so much. It has completely changed my mindset in regard to my educational approach.

If someone had given me a student paper to grade my freshman year of college, I am confident that I would not have slashed the paper in red ink, searching for grammar mistakes. However, I am also confident that I would not have had the awareness to start with a simple positive comment. Actually, what I probably would have done was read the piece, marked a few places that looked questionable, and then assigned an arbitrary number. 97% for you, well done!

Arguably, this is positive. The student received an A and an encouraging comment. But how encouraging is this? Would it not be more effective to compliment their strong use of imagery, with an example? Would it not be more effective to let them know how impressed I am that they have read two books in two weeks? Would it not be more effective to tell the student who is a constant disruption that their energy brings such life to the classroom? I know what I believe. Now think how much it would affect a student if I told them that they have written one of the best persuasive arguments I have ever seen, and then called their parents to say the same.

This is what we should be doing as teachers. Whether students are over-achievers like I was, or are average, or have behavioral problems each and every one deserves to hear praise. After all, as teachers we are also nurturers. In order to help students believe that they are good… Don’t we need to acknowledge that good first? And I’ll add, we should be making these acknowledgements far more often than twice a year during parent teacher conferences. I’ll end with another quote from my professor— “You put positive in, you get positive out.”

NCTE17 Creating Responsive and Responsible Readers Session Review (Blog #14)

My last 2017 NCTE conference session was a complete accident. Let me explain. It was Saturday afternoon and I was exhausted. Not only were the past two days a complete whirlwind of new experiences, but I had been staying up late each night trying to hammer out a mountain of homework. After all, despite adopting the title “pre-service teacher” at the conference it still translated to “student.” The kicker is, I had also been waking up early each morning. As a result, I was sleep deprived. Extremely.

So I wandered throughout the convention center, trying to convince myself that once I found a decent spot I’d do some homework. Yet every step I took I could feel my eye lids become heavier and heavier. My back pack seemed to weigh a million pounds. Why didn’t I bring comfier shoes to walk in? With a sigh (and in increasing desperation to find a place to park) I took the escalator up to the second floor. I remembered that there were large, comfy seats that I had seen people sleeping on the day before. I took off down a hallway with newfound purpose and… all of the large, comfy seats were taken. Shoot. Resigned, I back tracked and found a quiet little space of wall. I sunk down to the floor. I let my eyes close for a moment, but then I felt someone walk in front of me. I peaked and saw them open a door a few feet away from me. They entered and were gone. That caught my attention. I knew where that door went. It’s the same room that Nancie Atwell, Penny Kittle, and Kelly Gallagher presented in on Friday! I didn’t know who was presenting in there now, but I immediately gathered my stuff. There were padded chairs waiting for me within.

Little did I know the session I had unintentionally stumbled into consisted of a panel that included Kylene Beers, Robert Probst, Penny Kittle, and Linda Rief. What? Jackpot! I pulled out my notebook and started taking notes. Although I did accidentally doze off a few times, it was a great learning experience.

Due to my late arrival, Linda Rief was in the middle of her presentation when I walked in. Similar to Tom Romano, she encouraged the audience to participate in a collective quick write. She went on to provide a brief reasoning on why students need to be both readers and writers. Bob Probst was next. I loved his easy-going style. He equipped us with three characteristics that readers in our classroom should be: responsive, responsible, and compassionate. Last, but not least, was Penny Kittle. Her speech was concentrated on student conferences. Of course, it was enlightening. Moderating the show was Kylene Beers. I’d estimate that I’ve followed 25 to 50 people on Twitter this semester alone, and she was one that I added to my professional learning network. As a result, I knew that shortly before NCTE she had shared a blog post that announced her cancer had returned. If I wouldn’t have read it with my own eyes before attending the conference, I would have never guessed. Her stage presence was a force to be reckoned with. She asked probing questions throughout the presentation that resulted in thought provoking quotations. Here are a few that I collected:

“A person can read without writing, but she cannot write without reading.” –Don Murray

“Write first with a pen. It’s too easy to change a word on the computer and then forget what it was.” –Mary Oliver (I love this one!)

“Language matters.” –Bob Probst

“[Writing and reading conferences] are opportunities for students to be heard.” –Penny Kittle

“Until you have heard what the writer has to say, you [the teacher] do not have permission to speak” –Don Graves

“Writing floats on a sea of talk.” –James Britten

“If we raise test scores, but not compassionate, kind, ethical students then we have failed.” –Kylene Beers

What more is there to say? I wish I would have had some coffee in my system before I found myself in the presence of these teaching greats, but no worries. I’m simply glad my need for sleep drove me to such a wonderful surprise.

I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to experience NCTE.

NCTE17 Stop Grading, Start Reflecting: Empower Your Students to Evaluate Their Own Learning Session Review (Blog #13)

The penultimate (one of my all-time favorite words) session I attended at NCTE was good. Perhaps not outstanding, but good. The presenting team consisted of three teachers who all taught English in Boulder, Colorado. My family has ties to CSU so maybe I’m a little biased… just kidding. 😊 This group started their demonstration off with three quotes:

  1. “Teach the writer, not the writing.”
  2. “Teach the reader, not the book.”
  3. “Emphasize the process, not the final product.”

I saw these statements and I thought, right on! I agree 100%. Then they moved into a concept that I remember tilting my head and squinting my eyes at initially. In big letters on their PowerPoint slide read the words, “Be a mirror.” What does that even mean? They went on to explain with the following statement, “Take student work in, then reflect it back.” Okay… I suppose that makes sense. Where I agree to disagree is in the examples. Their idea of being a mirror consisted of reflecting student work back to them in the online gradebook. In other words, if a student wrote an informative paper on this history of basketball but struggled to include appropriate paragraph breaks (I couldn’t help but giggle; they pulled multiple examples from one student, and in each one there was a comment about needing to include paragraph breaks), then in the gradebook the teachers would write, “Wrote an informative paper on the history of basketball, but struggled to include paragraph breaks.”

When I envision myself being a mirror for my future students, things look a bit different. To start, at the high school level students should already know what they have written. Instead of wasting space in the gradebook naming the topic, I would rather dedicate that space to letting students know what they did well. In a twist on the example above I might write, “There is rich research in this paper! I loved your comparison of James Naismith to George Washington. Also, way to consistently use quote sandwiches. As you revise, be sure to keep an eye out for including appropriate paragraph breaks.” To me, there is a big difference even though I’m using a similar amount of space. With this method students receive positive feedback in a manner that lets them know I actually read their paper, instead of just skimming for issues they may need to work on. It’s a more personal approach, and that can go a long way.

Taking it further, if I do choose to reflect the topic back to students it is going to be in a more subtle manner—conferences. As Penny Kittle so masterfully does, when I am meeting with students one-on-one I will use my teacher superpower of turning any question into a question in order to help students get to the heart of their writing. For example, if the student who wrote the hypothetical paper mentioned above starts thinking aloud about a potential writing piece I might use the details they unknowingly provide me with like puzzle pieces. As I collect each piece they share with me, I can start to fit it together into a picture. Once I have the four corners established, I might say something to the effect of “I notice that your ideas so far contain a lot of details on both basketball and its history. Perhaps you could combine these two topics together?” The goal is to offer reflective comments that simultaneously help me understand what the student is saying, and help them to understand too.

At this point in time, I don’t think I’ll be setting a mirror up next to my grade book just yet. But that’s okay. The ultimate message in this presentation is that grades aren’t everything, and it is possible to go much of the school year without issuing them. This is an interesting idea, even if my idea of feedback that is provided in the meantime is different than theirs. In the end, though they may have lost me at times, one thing I can say about this session is that the presenters were all about adapting grading in order to best meet the needs of students. Isn’t that what we all should do?

NCTE17 The Magic of Multigenre: Voice, Passion, Empowerment Session Review (Blog #12)

Weeks before we attended the NCTE convention, I was on the NCTE website scouring the speaker line-ups. It was exciting— the sheer amount of knowledge that was contained on that web page is mind boggling. Even so, I did not let myself get overwhelmed. I had a purpose. There was one name that I was searching for above all others. Tom Romano. Aha! Suddenly, my eyes lit upon his name on the screen. I made a mental note. Still giddy with excitement, as soon as I received my invitation to join the NCTE app his session was the first I added to my personal agenda. “The Magic of Multigenre: Voice, Passion, Empowerment” was everything I hoped it would be and more.

But I mustn’t get ahead of myself. Before Tom Romano spoke there was a presentation by his co-panelist, Jennifer Connolly. She was fabulous. Knowledgeable and quick witted, I hung on her every word as she explained the ways she implemented multi-genre writing in her dual-credit senior English class. As some may remember, this was the session I chose to present on in special methods class. I loved sharing about the student examples Connolly showed us during her demonstration. A picture of a katana for killing zombies, a list of every pair of running shoes and the miles they accumulated while a cross country star wore them, and a math word problem were just a handful of the AMAZING work students included in their multi-genre papers. When given the chance, kids will surprise you. This assignment embodies that.

Yet one thing I didn’t get the chance to share was the timeline Connolly included in her handout. If anyone decides to implement a multi-genre project when they get into the classroom (I know I absolutely will!) having the layout is useful. The segments she split the work into were as follows:

Week one: Introduction and idea exploration

Week two: Research design

Week three: Working with sources, four-page mark

Week four: Group work, ten-page mark

Week five: Conferencing, full draft

Week six: Final multigenre paper, presentations

I like this format because it is evenly spaced out, but it still encourages students to hit the ground running to meet challenging yet attainable goals each week. Before hearing Connolly speak, if someone would have asked me about the concept of multi-genre writing I would have automatically been overwhelmed. It seems like such a daunting task. In many ways it is. But boy, is the pay off worth it. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of what using this incredible tool actually looks like in the classroom.

And then came the headliner—Tom Romano himself. Though Tom did not speak on the actual implementation of multi-genre writing as much as Connolly did, I still learned a ton. I touched on this moment in class, but I feel it is worth sharing again here. The first thing Tom did when he stepped in front of the podium was ask each of to pull out a piece of paper. We’re going to free write, he said. He clicked the PowerPoint to show us our prompts, turned on a phone alarm, and then he did something so mundane it was magical. He pulled his personal journal out of his coat pocket. With a final smile at us, he then dipped his head down and began to write as intently as anyone in the audience.

Wow. This struck a deep chord with me. All semester long we have been preaching the value of leading literate lives as teachers, and here was a living example in front of me. He did not pull out his journal after a long-winded explanation nor did he draw attention to the fact that he was writing too; instead, he simply… wrote. That is what I want to become. A literate adult where reading and writing are second nature, as opposed to a chore that needs to be completed. It’s been almost a month since this took place and I am just as inspired now as I was then.

In conclusion, here are my three key takeaways:

  1. When you give students the opportunity to be creative, they most certainly will.
  2. Multi-genre writing takes knowledge, planning, and structure but the results are worth all the minutes teachers and students pour in.
  3. Tom Romano is every bit the embodiment of what English teachers should be! Just like his writing led me to believe. 😊

NCTE17 Hey Young Adults! There’s a World Out There! Session Review (Blog #11)

I’m going to state flat out that this blog post isn’t going to be as much about the session, as the reason why I wanted to attend the session. As a further disclaimer, I am not near ready to open-up about what I am about to write… so this blog post is going to be brief.

When I saw Neal Shusterman’s name on the list of authors that were going to present at the panel “Hey Young Adults! There’s a World Out There!” I immediately knew I wanted to attend. This may seem odd considering I have only ever read one of his books, Unwind. This novel was taught to me during sophomore English, and it was the first time I had experienced a piece of young adult fiction as a whole class novel. I loved it. I still remember one of my final projects for the unit; I traced my hand on a sheet of paper to look like the cover of the book, and then in stark red marker I created a word cloud around it. I was so proud when I turned it in, and it ended up stapled to my teacher’s classroom wall where she hung exemplary student work for all to see.

My high school English teacher passed away this summer at a young age. It hurt. It still hurts. I wish I could tell her that I got to hear Neal Shusterman speak, that afterward I got to explain to him (with only a few stutters as I made consistent eye contact with my shoes) how his novel was the first to let me know that there was more to English class than Shakespeare and textbooks. How I got to take a picture with him! When I was waiting in the hall to get into the session, Neal Shusterman walked right past us. I could have reached my hand out and touched him. I immediately pulled my phone out of my pocket, and for one moment I forgot—ready to message my teacher the incredible experience I was about to have. But it passed, and instead I sent a text to a friend.

I learned in this session. It was interesting to hear the other authors. Brendan Kiely, Suzanne Young, and Sharon Draper (who I remembered reading November Blues by after pulling it off the shelf in my high school library) discuss why their texts resonated with young adult readers. But most of all, I’m glad I attended this panel because it made me happy to meet the man who had such a small yet significant impact on my life through his work. As I captioned my Instagram photo, sophomore year me was so excited! And I know that my teacher would have been excited too.