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Author: Mx. Sara M. Sabbagh

12th year teacher
English Language Arts
Master's Degree in Education
Secondary Education Certification
College Board Trained in AP Language and AP Literature
ESL endorsed
Wayne State University

Teacher Appreciation Week

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week this year, I will be sending a thank you note to one of my college professors, Dr. Michael Rex, at Wayne State University.

My Amazon Wish List In case You want to show your gratitude

Letter Template here.

After I crushed my father’s dream of me going into pharmacy, I worked quickly to earn my credits towards an English degree (my passion). I took the course English Literature After 1700 first, thinking that it would be a better fit for me based on the kind of books I had experienced with. I was wrong. I was miserable – it was a big lecture hall with a professor who spoke in a dry, monotone voice. With great trepidation, I signed up for English Literature before 1700.

From the start, I could tell that Dr. Michael Rex was unlike any professor I had ever had before. With his wild, flaming red hair, tinted glasses, flamboyant style, and his fingers studded with rings – I was equal parts skeptical and eager to see how I would be learning about Beowulf and early British literature from my new teacher. To say that I was blown away, would be a wild understatement. In the midst of all my angst centered around my father’s disappointment and the uncertainty surrounding my future, I found solace in Dr. Rex’s classes. I was so enamored, that I voluntarily signed up for a Shakespeare class, simply because it was taught by this brilliant teacher (I had a terrible experience with Shakespeare in high school – so, this was a BIG deal). One of my favorite essays I ever wrote in college was for his class, and it analyzed the portrayal of women in Shakespearean plays. When that semester concluded, I looked, in vain, for another course taught by Dr. Rex – but alas, there were none. Years later, I took my sister to sit in on a class taught by Dr. Rex. To this day, my sister and I quote his witticism with zeal.

Thanks for Reading. – SMS

Official Teacher Next Door Blog

LA 4 – Remote Learning (W7)

Read the questions on the assignment posted in Google Classroom first, and then read/listen to the short story The Interlopers by Saki. Links to the story and the audio can be found in the assignment. Remember, it is suggested that you spend 30 minutes/day in each content area. DUE: Friday, May 8th @ 10am

Remote Learning and Grades

Been getting some emails about grades in Student Connect. I can’t speak for ALL teachers – but below is some information that may help you make sense of what’s going on with your grades for Language Arts 4.

As of right now, the letter grade you see in Student Connect reflects mastery of the essential standards as of Thursday, March 12th.

Starting April 20th, you WILL be responsible for TWO TASKS PER week: Engagement (Did you check in?) and Participation (Did you complete the work to the best of your ability?).


For each class, if a student participates in the learning, he/she will receive credit.  The following will apply:

A: Students who do the following will earn the grade of A recorded:

  • Engage in at least 75% of the remote lessons and check-ins.
  • Submit and earn a passing grade on at least 75% of the assignments.

G: Students who do the following will earn the grade of G which awards credit:

  • Engage in 60-74% of the remote lessons and check-ins.
  • Submit and earn a passing grade on at least 60-74% of the assignments.

N: Students who do the following will earn the grade of N which is no credit given:

  • Engage in less than 60%  of the remote lessons and check-ins.
  • Submit and earn a passing grade on less than 60% of the assignments.

WHAT THAT MEANS: If I were you, I would stop checking Student Connect- what you see there is meaningless right now.  The 4 in the grade-book just indicates you “completed” the TASK. That’s how Principal Martin wanted us to note you checked in (engagement) and “did” the assignment (participation).  It does NOT denote your mastery of that standard or how you did on the assignment!

***** TL;DR: Your grade in Student Connect won’t change until the end of the semester. Do your work if you want credit. ***** 

Feedback for The Glass Castle Assignment

Growing up, I was a book worm. I remember my dad reading Sesame Street and making voices for Count Dracula and Cookie Monster. My mom, so fiercely proud of her culture, would read nursery rhymes in French.

Sesame Street | The Count Meets Cookie Monster - YouTube

I graduated to reading Babysitter’s Club and Nancy Drew. In middle school, my favorite authors were Joan Lowrey Nixon, Caroline B. Cooney, and Lois Lowry. I read The Giver more times than I can count. Much to my mother’s horror, I delved into the fantastical worlds created by R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike, when she desperately wanted me to read classic novels by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. I discovered author L.J. Smith (of the famed Vampire Diaries) and inhaled every book she wrote. My favorite English teachers, Mr. Schusterbauer and Mr. Gruber, introduced me to Alice Hoffman and Wuthering Heights respectively. In college, I discovered romance novels and may have failed a couple of science courses because I was reading Nora Roberts or Linda Howard, instead of studying for physics and microbiology. I finally tolerated Shakespeare due to my eccentric teacher Mr. Michael Rex.

I have books in every room of my house. And I will confess – I would rather pick up a familiar favorite, then try a new book. I will be the first to share that I like what I like – and that my closed-mindset is definitely prohibitive of me being as knowledgeable as I’d like to be about works of literature.

Bestselling Books of the Decade | Reader's Digest

As a teacher, I have the privilege/responsibility of sharing different texts with my students. If I could change anything about the Language Arts curriculum, it would be to return to reading. However, it is what it is, and I do the best I can.

When our continued remote learning plan was approved, we had eight weeks remaining of the 2019-2020 school year. I pushed to share Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust memoir Night with my students – but was advised against it due to the topic and emotional labor of reading such a heavy text. (Needless to say, I was disappointed.) The Language Arts department instead decided to offer students a different short story every week. The reader in me was thrilled – because finally we had an opportunity to expose our kids to worthy texts. (But you should still read Night one day soon!)

The Front Cover of Elie Wiesel's “Night” | Guided History
The cover of Wiesel’s memoir of Night

Our first short story was an excerpt from Jeanette Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle. I don’t typically read memoirs – but read this entire memoir last summer. Walls’ superior use of pathos to emotionally manipulate her readers is alarmingly effective. As a writer, I was excited to share Walls’ writing with our students.

I mean, look at the first line, “I was on fire. It’s my earliest memory.” Immediately the reader has questions. How old was she? Why was she on fire?

Of course, as teachers, we have to ask students questions to engage their thinking with the story. Below I will breakdown some of the biggest gaps from the work submitted last week.

#6: The word “singed” most nearly means: I could tell many students did not go back to the text to read the question. One of the most common responses for this question was “Singed most likely means to sing lyrics” First of all, the past tense of sing, is sung. And here is the line from the text, “I screamed. I smelled the burning and heard a horrible crackling as the fire singed my hair and eyelashes.” Had they gone back to the text they could have used context clues to figure out that singed means to burn slightly.

#10: ” Afterward, a nurse asked me if I was okay. “Of course,” I said. I told here I didn’t care if I had some silly old scar. That was good, she said, because from the look of it, I had other things to worry about.” A lot of students missed where the nurse was coming from with her statement. This was a really good example of reading, or implicit understanding of the text. A lot of students didn’t understand that Walls’ perception of her reality is very different from the medical professionals taking care of her. Remembering that the incident was being retold from the perspective of a child helps in explaining the unawareness of said child.

Even the way Walls’ chooses to end this chapter, “‘You don’t have to worry anymore, baby,’ Dad said. ‘You’re safe now.'” How do we define “safety”? Everyone reading this excerpt can’t help but worry about the three year old.

If you enjoyed the excerpt, you can access the whole novel here. Between you and me, I enjoyed Walls’ true-life novel about her mother’s upbringing Two Broke Horses immensely!! I literally could not put that novel down! Thanks for reading. – SMS

LA 4 – Remote Learning (W6)

Read the questions on the assignment posted in Google Classroom first, and then read/listen to the short story “They’re Made Out of Meat” by Terry Bisson. Links to the story and the audio can be found in the assignment. Remember, it is suggested that you spend 30 minutes/day in each content area. DUE: Friday, May 1st @ 10am

LA 4: Remote Learning 04/20

LA 4 Students- You will be reading an excerpt from the memoir The Glass Castle.

Link to the TEXT and AUDIO can be found on the actual assignment posted on Google Classroom. Assignment is DUE: Friday, April 27th @ 10am

Instructions for the Check-In will accompany the code on Google Classroom. Please be sure to have read/listened to the story and looked over the assignment before checking-in. Excited to see your faces!

You will EARN two grades for this week:
1) for checking in
2) for completing the assignment to the BEST of your ability.

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