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Ms. Sabbagh Posts

And so another chapter ends…

This past weekend I was in Easton, Kansas for the high school graduation of the Pleasant Ridge Class of 2019.

I had these students when they were seventh graders, having left them to return to Michigan in the summer of 2014.

I went to a grad party on Saturday, and walked up to a table of soon to be grads.

There were no spontaneous outbursts of joy, no illuminated faces, no welcoming or reuniting hugs.  My heart broke a little.

Upon the retelling of this story, people were quick to tell me that it has been five years, that they are teenagers, and that even though it was a lovely gesture to return to Kansas for their graduation, ultimately, the weekend was not about me.

So, I shifted my attention and spend a lot of time with my friends – former colleagues, parents of former students, and went down memory lane and enjoyed revisiting some favorite old haunts.

It was a little better when I went to the actual graduation, and former students leapt into my arms and cried a little.  I let the the hopefulness and joy that permeates the air of high school graduations wash over me.

But, by the time the weekend came to a close, I was ready to go home and be back with my (current) students.

This week was our seniors’ last week of school. The week has been filled with hugs, tears, and gratitude.  I love how life is a circle – as a chapter closed in Kansas with the high school graduation of my last group of Pleasant Ridge Rams, a new chapter is beginning with the high school graduation of my first group of Dearborn Pioneers.

Life sure is a bittersweet ride – and I am grateful.

How to Behave for a Guest Teacher

Sometimes I have to be out of my classroom, whether it be for a professional development (to help me become a better teacher), a sick day, or, as is the case for this weekend, to support the last group of students I taught in Kansas at their high school graduation this Sunday.

That’s right – my enthusiastic seventh graders from all those years ago, are graduating high school.  Pleasant Ridge Class of 2019 – Go Rams!

How the years fly!

My excitement is somewhat dampened by the sub report I received yesterday when I was not in class because I was at the ASC for a Restorative Practice PD.  I know my students HATE it when I am gone, exclaiming, “Yours in the only class I hate having a sub in!”

Be that as it may, there is still a sub, and there are certain expectations for your behavior.  It goes without saying, you should have these expectations for yourself, not because I expect them.

Image result for thumbs upWhat expected behavior looks and sounds like when there is a guest teacher.

What “bad” behavior looks and sounds like when there is a guest teacher.

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  • Students are on task.
  • Students are seated.
  • Students can be on their phones, as long as they are working.
  • Students can be talking to each other, as long as they are working.
  • Work is completed independently – with integrity.
  • Students are non-compliant to the guest teacher’s request(s).
  • Students are off task.
  • Students are disruptive.
  • Students are disrespectful.
  • Students are listening to music, but NOT working.
  • Students are talking, but NOT working.
  • Students are belligerent and confrontational with the guest speaker.
  • Students are sleeping or have their heads down.

The last couple of times I was out, I returned to some pretty disappointing notes from the guest teacher.  I was mortified that MY students acted the way they did.  When I would approach them about their behavior, they would protest, “But Miss, that sub!” or “Miss, I was doing my work!”  or “Miss, you know I don’t do good with subs.” And then I would be disappointed all over again, because MY students were not taking any ownership for THEIR behavior.

Here’s the thing – there are things we can’t control, the fact that I am not here, who the sub is, which students are in the class.

There are things we CAN control – our actions, our words, and our behavior.

Please – it is business as usual on Monday – the only thing that is different is I am not going to be here in person.  I will be here in spirit, and I need you to be the students I know you can be – students that I am proud to call mine.

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Examining Author’s Purpose and Craft

For the remainder of the school year, students will be examining author’s purpose and craft, specifically how both of these things impact the reader.

For example,  my friend Christina Greer has a book coming out entitled Everything’s Jake which focuses on mental health in young boys.  Greer states, “Mental health issues affect so many of today’s youth. Everything’s Jake was written for any teen trying to navigate their way, particularly boys, who feel they might be living their life ‘off on the sidelines.'”

Knowing an author’s purpose can impact the reader’s experience with the text.

For example, Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Night, shares that he wrote the memoir for several reasons:  1) to share man’s inhumanity to man and 2) in hopes that such atrocities will never happen again.

I look forward to sharing Wiesel’s memoir with my students as we dive deeper into two of our essential standard for LA4:

  • 10.5: Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
  • 10.6: Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.


Spring Break 2019

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Dear Students,

With Spring Break fast approaching, it means that it will soon be testing time.  I know that no one relishes standardized tests, but here’s what I am asking of you:  take the week of Spring Break to rejuvenate yourselves.  When you come back, be ready to kick the PSAT’s butt!

Happy Spring Break!


Ms. Sabbagh

P.S.  For those of you who want may want to prepare yourselves, you can practice for the SAT on Khan Academy, and always use your strategies while reading your independent novel (we visited the library today to get a new book for SSR).



You Matter

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From the desk of Ms. Rumler, Social Worker:

The AntiBullying Club and Active Minds have paired together for a joint project aimed at building community where all are seen, heard and loved.  Our aim is to share visually what individuals feel makes them matter.

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When I was approached and asked to help my students participate in this endeavor, I had to pause.  On the one hand, it should be obvious that everyone matters – because, well, everyone matters. On the other hand, was I able to articulate why I matter?  And if I couldn’t put it into words, then how could I expect my students to?

To help us out, I enlisted Angela Maiers, an education and technology consultant, by sharing her TED Talk “You Matter‘ with my students.

Maiers said something that really resonated with me.  She shared, “People do not walk around with a sign that says, ‘Do I matter to you?’ They do not have a tattoo that says, ‘Let me know you see me. Let me know you value my presence. Let me know how I can help you because I want to. I want to give you what I have. I am just dying for you to ask me.’

Here’s the thing – human beings are pretty basic people.  For all the thingsmakes us “complicated” we have needs, and aside from having BASIC needs met, we have emotional and psychological needs which need to be met as well.

And when they are not, that’s when the breakdown occurs.

Students spend a lot of time in school.  Students spend a lot of time surrounded by people who have a significant impact on their lives – whether it be their classmates, their friends, their teachers, etc.

Everyone NEEDS to feel like they matter – or else what would be the point? (I can only hope that I am successful in making my students feel like THEY matter.)

Their thoughts, their hopes, their dreams, their fears…. it all matters.

When trying to help my students and myself come up with our “I matter because…” statment, I asked them a simple question.  I asked them – what is it that you offer the world, that no one else does?  Why does it matter that YOU are here?

Of course, with any thought-provoking question, the responses ran the gamut.

Most students were able to share that they matter because:

  • they make their family happy
  • they make their friends laugh
  • they are helpful to those in need

Related imageI was in a colleague’s classroom the other day, and her students had completed this exercise also.  The response which stood out to me the most was this one, “I matter because even though I struggle, I help people to see there is hope that tomorrow will be better.”

Even after a day of completing this exercise, I still struggle with putting into words why I matter.

Of course, my students were quick to exclaim ‘Wallah, I hope you know you matter to us Ms. Sabbagh.’

But why?

And I think that was Maier’s point.  It’s not enough to say YOU MATTER (even though those two words in and of themselves are extremely powerful), it’s the WHY. Why do you matter?

And I think that I could tell you why you matter – but until it comes from you – until YOU know that you matter, you won’t believe it.

So, here it goes: my best I matter because… statement:

I matter because despite the fact that life is hard, I believe we are here for a reason – and I can only hope *fingers crossed* that who I am, as I am, makes a difference (in a positive way) in the lives of those around me.

So, thatś my why.  Whatś yours?

Thanks for reading. ~ Ms. Sabbagh

The Secret to Success Isn’t a Secret Anymore

My second year teaching, I had this student, let’s call him James (after one of his favorite basketball players).  James struggled in school.  No matter how earnestly James tried to understand what he was trying to learn, it was like he was in a rudderless boat, failing to get anywhere.  But, the great thing about James, something that I laud even to this day, is how hard he worked.  James did not allow his learning disability to limit what he was determined to learn.  While there were many people in his corner eager to help him, James’ success was primarily attributed to one person… HIMSELF!

It reminds me of a quote I’ve used earlier this year, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.” Here’s the thing… 

You can do the work, to get it done, and still not make progress. 

It would be the equivalent of me showing up at the gym, and not actually exercising, picking up a musical instrument, but not actually playing, going to basketball practice, but not actually practicing.

And I know it sounds hokey, but you can’t do it for anyone else but for yourself. 

My mom desperately wants me to lose weight.  She is worried about my health, and any long-term effects associated with being morbidly obese.  I could lose weight for my mom, just like you could do your homework for your teacher… but until YOU pick up the baton, both literally and figuratively, you will not be inspired to change. 

This blog post is brought to you by an assignment my AP Lang students recently completed.  They were asked to make connections to the themes presented in Barbara Ehrenreich’s social experiment Nickel and Dimed. Below are two student samples: 

Student Sample #A: 

Barbra had met Pele when working at the nursing home. He mentioned having a lot of money but not being able to stay at home because he would go crazy.this reminded me about the article “Income Inequality” where it talked about the rich having therapy. It mentioned that the rich don’t feel safe about talking about their money to others. That and Barbra suspicions had me thinking he was lying along with Barbra.


Student Sample #B: 

The experiment conducted by Barbara Ehrenreich in Nickel and Dimed was very similar to the experiment conducted by John Howard Griffin in Black Like Me. However, Griffin’s experiment was far more extreme and controversial since his ultimate goal was to show compassion towards, and to provide a microphone to, the black race during a time in which a white man showing any empathy towards blacks was deemed traitorous. Through dying his skin and leaving his family to move deep into the South for months, Griffin did everything possible to simulate the life of a black man in America in the 60’s. From being exposed to the perversion of white men while hitchhiking, to being rendered vulnerable to the violence of – once again – white men while walking alone late at night, there were many things “Black” Griffin experienced that “White” Griffin had never known or worried about. He was constantly threatened by people who looked just like him prior to his transformation. Yet, while Ehrenreich’s experiment may not be nearly as controversial or treacherous, it still encompasses the same goal and is still a great feat. Ultimately, both authors are putting themselves in someone else’s shoes in order to fully empathize and educate themselves to their best ability about another group’s day-to-day struggles. The end goal is to disclose their findings to the public and provide the matches to help spark change for the suppressed group. However, a big flaw in Griffin’s experiment, which he acknowledged in the epilogue, was that he would never be able to fully simulate the decades of racism that blacks have endured. Therefore, he realized he was in no position to lecture blacks on what they should do. Consequently, he concluded that his experiment was pointless. Therefore, I wonder if Ehrenreich will conclude the same thing in her experiment and realize that she could’ve just asked people about their experiences instead of invalidating their voices. This was not an option that Griffin had because black people would never tell a white man about their experiences because at the time there would’ve been a lot of suspicion, and subsequently, fear towards Griffin’s motives. Since simply asking low wage workers about their experiences was an option for Ehrenreich, it makes me question if she will also conclude that her experiment was pointless – just like Griffin’s.

Let me begin by stating that it is not fair to compare these two samples.  The fact of the matter is, no two students have the same education background and/or opportunities provided to them.  The truth is, the inequity which exists in education is staggering. With that having been said, both students received the same instructions – and, as you can see, produced startling different results. And it’s not about the length of their responses, it’s about the depth of thinking which is obviously happening in one post, and glaringly absent in another.

 As long as students’ focus is on the wrong thing, checking a box, they will not get as much out of their educational experience.  To many, school is a holding place for eight hours of their day, a prison of sorts that continues to punish and demean them.  I can’t help but wonder if/how much student ownership plays a role in making learning more meaningful to them. But, at the end of the day,  I can be the “best” teacher ever, if students are still just “checking in” they aren’t getting the maximum they can out of their time in mine, or any other teacher’s classroom. 

I wish I had a solution.  I have often polled other intrinsically motivated students, asking them what their secret is.  But, it’s just like me and my weight.  At the end of the day, the decision NEEDS to come from within, from them.  They can’t do it for you, for me, or any other well-intentioned person in their life.  That’s just how it goes. 

At the end of the day, I will keep doing my best to convince them that this is the CHOICE that will change their lives indelibly. Choose wisely.   

Thank you for reading. – Ms. Sabbagh

Is it Time to Kill the Mockingbird?

Image result for is it time to kill the mockingbirdA 2018 PBS Survey, found To Kill a Mockingbird to be America’s Best Loved Novel.

With that having been said, it’s almost unbelievable that schools across America continue to teach this classic novel in an effort to educate today’s youth about the perils and injustice of racism.  One need only to turn on the news.

The #disrupttexts movement on Twitter takes the time to unpack the fallacies of continuing to hail TKaM as a novel worth teaching.

That is not to say that the novel is without its merits – there are plenty of life lessons and opportunities for critical thinking and learning. However, as an English teacher, and a white woman, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable about lauding a novel (with an unreliable narrator) in order to shed light on the inherent bigotry of the time, prejudice which, unfortunately, continues to rear its ugly head to this day.

But, what is one to do?  One thing is for certain, we need to change the conversations we are having about education and the future of schools.  Arthur Chiaravalli, editor of Teachers Going Gradeless, expounds on this crisis in education in his article, “We’re Having the Wrong Conversations About the Future of Schools“.  After reading the article, I wanted to hug all our disenfranchised students (and teachers).  I couldn’t help but wonder, why should our students even believe us when we say that we are trying to help them when everything that comes down the pipeline chooses to continue to marginalize them?

In the meantime, the show must go on, and I, as your teacher, promise to do better by you.

Thanks for reading. – Ms. Sabbagh


#Metamorphosis – Embracing #Change in 2019

Today I had brunch with some friends (coworkers from my old school).  All three of us are at new schools, having moved on from UPA.  All of a sudden, one of my friends turned to me and said, “Sara, you’ve changed.”  and, as if anticipating my rebuttal, quickly followed up, “and not in a bad way.”  *smiles*

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I have changed – whether the change has been good or bad – it made me happy to hear it, because change is HARD!  Making the kinds of choices which lead to you being happier and healthier – those types of changes do not happen overnight.  At the end of the day, I want to be someone that I am proud to be – and it takes a lot of mindfulness to work towards that goal. 

There’s a quote by Henry Ford which cautions, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.”  I could literally litter this entire blog entry with beautiful and inspiring quotes about embracing change (and I probably will), but the thing is, human beings are hardcore reticent about change – and it does not seem to matter whether it is change for the better, or change for the worse.  

I don’t think we mean to be #antichange, I think it just happens naturally, as a result of being creatures of comfort, or like I like to say, embracing “the devil you know”. 

I remember just getting the hang of the typewriter when the word processing unit came out, being proud of my cassette collection, when CDs were introduced, and cleaning out Blockbuster’s 5 for $20 VHS clearance, when DVDs started taking up room on the shelves. Bitmoji Image

Looking back, I remember that with each change, I resisted.  No better than a toddler throwing a tantrum, I balked at the discomfort, unfamiliarity, and differentness of every new change. 

I remember early in my career as a teacher, I was sitting in my principal’s office, and she said, “Sara, if you’re going to remain in education, you’re going to have to do a better job going with the flow.”  Storming off in a huff, I muttered to myself, ‘We’ll see about that.’ 

But, she was right. The more uptight and unyielding I was, the more resentful and frustrated I became.  It was this really ugly cycle – and I repeated it, over and over and over again, for years, before the light bulb went off. Bitmoji Image

I would LOVE to say since that day, I have embraced change like a BOSS and have helped others to understand and appreciate change – but, alas, I am still human, and can still get bogged down by feelings of vulnerability and discomfort. 

*insert Serenity Prayer here*

For example, almost two weeks ago, I was approached about taking over two sections of AP Language.Bitmoji Image There I was, in second hour, pressed to make a rather big decision quickly.  On the one hand, AP LANG!!! *screams internally and externally with excitement* …. on the other hand, plagued with doubts and uncertainty and regret.

“Do what you’ve always done… get what you’ve always got.” 

So, I accepted the challenge, and unwittingly thrust my students into the same chBitmoji Imageaos of change that I had to go through.  Semester One students were devastated. Semester Two students were elated. It was an emotional tsunami for everyone. I was feeling shame for wanting what I wanted, knowing that my semester one students would be hurt at the fact that I was no longer their teacher, but I had to give myself a break – this was an exciting opportunity and I was going to make the most of it! 

An Instagram account (@anisahamat_) posted a quote by Maya Angelou that made me pause, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”  Sometimes change happens in plain view and everyone can see and appreciate the struggle and sacrifice you went through. But for most of us, change is something that is quiet and under the radar.  The process is no different, but you carry the weight of both the struggle and the change on your own. I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to. 

Chimamanda Adichie, in her TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story” shares that Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize (17:24).  When you’re struggling, shame keeps you quiet – and, as a result, you risk your chances of succeeding. (I recently shared a post about shame on my Instagram account inspired by my reading of Brené Brown‘s book The Gifts of Imperfection. Check it out!) So share your stories of struggle and watch each other flourish!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that in a world where SO much is OUTSIDE your control – focusing on YOU and what you CAN change, is a better use of your time and energy, then allowing the illusion of control to shackle you to a life of bitterness and resentment.  Choose wisely.

Image result for “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi

Thanks for reading.

Ms. Sabbagh

2019 Optimist Oratorical Contest

The Oratorical Contest gives youngsters the chance to speak on their thoughts of the future.  Bitmoji ImageThis year the topic is…

“Is There a Fine Line Between Optimism and Realty?” 

The Optimist Club of Dearborn would like to invite any Dearborn student under the age of 19 as of October 1, 2018 to participate in our Optimist Oratorical contest.  This age limit is changed from prior years.  It used to be 18 years of age.  Cash prizes are awarded to the top three students who participate in the contest.  This year we will be having a combined gender contest.  This is also a change that Optimist International made this year.  In prior years, we selected 3 top males and 3 top females.
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Because we are only awarding 3 students instead of 6, the Dearborn Club has elected to increase the monetary award amounts.  The prize money to be awarded for 1st place will be $700.00, 2nd is $400.00, and 3rd place receives $250.
Students should contact the assigned teachers for the official contest application submission.    The contest is February 20th, 2019 and we will be hosting the event at the Auditorium at the Dearborn Library from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.  All students are required to submit their speech, their birth certificate and a completed contest application.

Studying for the LA 3 Final Exam

Semester One’s Language Art 3 Final Exam is a district-created SAT style test which assesses students on the skills we have been developing throughout the course of the semester.  Students should link their 8/9 PSAT scores, through College Board, to Khan Academy, which will in turn provide them with a tailor-made SAT test prep program. In preparation for their final exams in Language Arts, students are encouraged to practice on Khan Academy.




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