Dare to Care

create, communicate, collaborate, and think critically

by Denise Krebs

Creative and Authentic – That’s What Parents Save

I’m moving soon. We are on the countdown, and it’s now 12 days to moving day.

This is a move of prodigious proportions. We have sold our house and furniture. We are going through all our additional belongings and saving only the most important. We have digitized VHS tapes, micro tapes, and even home movies on DVDs.

Today I went through all the saved school work from grades K-8 of Daughter #1.

More worksheets

AR certificates, math worksheets, spelling tests

So much of what I looked through was easy to decide what to do with. Into the trash can went high stakes test results, report cards, Accelerated Reader certificates, and worksheets.

It doesn’t matter if a student is a high achiever or a low achiever, no parent wants to have years worth of test scores and reports cards that give little information about who their child really is. Most of the report cards had meaningless letter grades with few heartfelt comments. Year after year of high stakes test results don’t show anything worth knowing about my daughter or her education.

Those A.R. certificates remind me of how teachers over the years required my children to read on their tested level. That’s one way to squelch the love of reading–telling a sixth grader she has to read books on a high school level. Really? What is the purpose of Accelerated Reader anyway? It doesn’t promote a love of lifelong reading.

Worksheets. We have stored hundreds of our daughter’s worksheets over the last two decades. Really, no child has ever been deeply invested in a worksheet, have they? Twenty years later and that is even more evident. These were easy to throw away. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for all the hours my daughter wasted on some of these activities.

This looked hopeful…


What was in the proud papers folder? More worksheets.

Ironically, I didn’t save one piece of paper from the Proud Papers Folder.  This teacher didn’t understand that what makes a child proud is not papers marked with 100% or “Great Job.”  Children are proud when they invest in authentic work and do an excellent job because they are passionately involved.

To be sure, there were many items to save. I now have half a tub of  letters, science fair reports, artwork, proposals, (my favorite is a “professionally” written proposal to her dad and me for turning our pool house into a club house for her and her friends). Today, while looking through her things, I had fun reading her beautiful poetry and the personal experience narratives that made me laugh and remember.

Some she did all on her own, outside of class. Some were assigned by teachers, like this Pandora’s box made during a unit on ancient Greece.

But all are authentic and creative.  That’s what I saved.

Horrible things in Pandora’s Box, like spinach and Brussels sprouts

by Denise Krebs

New Chapter


I am a lifelong learner. I’m always saying, “I learn something new every day.”

This summer has been no exception.  However, I only wrote one blog post here this summer. That’s unusual. Typically in June and July I’m busy learning professionally–blogging, vlogging, participating in moocs, attending webinars, tweeting resources on Twitter, posting Flickr pictures and more. This summer I really didn’t. I was sad I didn’t participate in the 20TimeAcademy mooc, Google+ Maker Camp or #clmooc, or submit a proposal for the 2013 K-12 Online Conference. I have totally neglected my #bookaday goal and my friends in the Open Spokes Fellowship.

This summer my learning has been different.

For the past few months, I have been learning DIFFERENT new things every day. I’ve begun a brand new chapter, a major-life-changing chapter.

My husband and I will be moving to Bahrain.  He will be a chaplain in a hospital and a pastor at an English language congregation. After I settle in and when there is an opening, I will be able to teach there too.

We have little international experience. (OK, actually, make that LITTLE.) We’ve never left our continent.  I have traveled to Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana in Mexico and Thunder Bay, Mississauga, Surrey, and Vancouver in Canada. In other words, I’ve driven to Mexican and Canadian border towns.

In February, my husband and I secured our first-ever passports so we could go to Surrey, British Columbia. At the time I thought, Hmmm, now that we have passports, maybe we’ll get to use them again before they expire.

Little did we know, God had a plan for us to use them. You can read more about our story on our new blog, KrebsFollow.org.

by Denise Krebs
Comments Off on Before and After Research

Before and After Research

Because we were going to see him speak, seventh graders researched Philip Gans, Holocaust and concentration camp survivor.

These two pictures tell the story of my small group of seventh graders. I tease them sometimes and tell them they are one organism. They are a collaborative, learn-together group. And when an “organism” is studying the Holocaust, sometimes it’s better to do it together.

Being in a connected world of collaborative learning together is a good thing.

by Denise Krebs
Comments Off on Blurring the Lines Between Author and Audience

Blurring the Lines Between Author and Audience

When I first started teaching, I typed my students’ stories on an Apple IIE computer and printed them on a dot-matrix printer. I used the book-binding machine in the office to make books for our classroom library. We wrote letters to authors and delighted in their return replies. We had young authors’ days, where parents came in and read to us, and we to them (from our very own writings.) I talked to my students about my favorite authors and poets, and some of my students made my short lists. My goal was always to tell my students, in as many ways as possible, that they were writers.

These were a few ways I tried to blur the lines between authors and student writers, professionally-published books and pieces my students and I wrote. I wanted my students to not just learn English, but to know they were writers.

Fast forward (and it was fast) twenty-five years, and there are myriad ways to accomplish the goal of having my students know they are writers. I still do some of the things above. Except, now we write more blog posts and less hard-copy books in our classroom library. Instead of sending letters on chart paper to authors, we tweet them and share links to blog posts we write about them.

In the 21st century, however, there are clearly brand new ways to blur the line between teachers and students, authors and readers, producers and consumers, professionals and amateurs. As a result of social learning and the Internet, here are some of the new things we’re trying and the sweet results.


NaNoWriMo for young writers was a delightful find. (More about it here.) Eighth grade students in November come to English class and know just what to do. They write novels. Right now, they are furiously trying to reach their word-count goals by November 30.

Usually all I hear in the classroom that period of the day is light clicking on the keyboard and a tiny bit of music coming from the earbuds of some students. (Writing fiction is the perfect time to listen to music!)

However, a couple Fridays ago, the students seemed restless and talkative. Usually they are fully engaged in writing — anxious to reach their goal. However, this time they were chatting away, but strangely novel-related. I stopped for a bit to listen to the following charming conversation.

“My character has been kidnapped, and I don’t know how to get her saved,” someone said.

“I have a kidnapped character too.”

“Hey, me too.”

“What’s going on? Do we all have kidnappings in our novels?”

I was ecstatic. There were more conversations going on, as well — pockets of authors talking about their craft, not about the coming weekend. They were talking about plots and characters and other novelly-type delights. — It reminded me of the write-ins I go to with a group of adult NaNoWriMo writers. We are all writers.

21st Century Readers

I teach English, which includes both reading and writing for the junior highers. We are not reading group novels, but each student is making reading choices ala Donalyn Miller (the Book Whisperer) and Nancie Atwell. We are keeping track of our readings, but we’re not keeping long reading logs with summaries and responses like we used to. We no longer take A.R. tests.

Now we share books with friends just like real life. We encourage each other to find books we love, so we can make progress toward the 40-book challenge. Some students keep track on GoodReads, and some prefer to write a list in their English handbook. Some listen to audio books. Some read on Nooks and Kindles. Every opportunity to shape learners into life-long readers does not go unexplored.

Connected Authors

The most interesting way that the line has been blurred is through online connections and interactions with “real” authors. These connections have certainly made me feel more like an author. When we connect with them online, somehow authors seem more like us.

Kenneth C. Davis
From a summertime tweet by Don’t Know Much About series author, Kenneth C. Davis, I set up a Skype session for my history class, and my class and Mr. Davis followed each other on Twitter. It reminded me of the Cisco “Welcome to the Human Network” commercial: ”…where the team [author] you follow, now follows you.”

R.J. Palacio
Author of Wonder, the wonderful and wildly popular book, which is on the fast track to becoming an anti-bullying classic. R.J. took part in a Good Reads book club. Funny, the concept is still so new to me that when I left the following comment, I really didn’t expect her to answer back. (Welcome to the Human Network! Remember, Denise?)

Kate Messner
The #TeachersWrite Summer Writing Camp, hosted by Kate, was an amazing experience.  We were a group that included professionally-published authors, wannabe authors, and teachers just wanting to be better ‘writing’ teachers. The lines were blurred and we were all members of the same club.

Joanne Levy
Joanne was a member of the #TeachersWrite Summer Writing Camp. She donated a copy of her book Small Medium at Large for a door prize. I just happened to be the winner. I was so excited to receive the autographed copy with a large set of book marks.

Later when I saw Kate’s and Joanne’s books sitting side-by-side on the shelf in our public library, I couldn’t help but think I was looking at books written by my friends.

Sharon Creech
All authors don’t respond back personally. However, even when they don’t, connected authors like Sharon Creech share a new side of themselves and add to their body of work on blogs and through tweeting. Authors’ work is no longer limited to the hard- and paperback books found in the library and book stores.

Those are just four authors that I’ve met on Twitter. Thank you to Joy Kirr for this whole list of other authors on Twitter you can connect with.

What a joy to be a teacher, learner and writer in the 21st century!

What are more ways you see the line blurred between professional and student writers?

by Denise Krebs

My Brother

In Loving Memory

Richard B. Reed

June 16, 1943 – November 13, 2012

On Tuesday evening this week, my healthy, exuberant, funny, life-loving brother died unexpectedly of a heart attack. It was a surprise and shock for all of his family and friends.

Of course, I’ve been thinking of him all week and the hole his absence has left.

I wanted to share some of my memories to let you get to know this brother I love.

One of my earliest memories was when he came home from college one day, and he and Paula were going to go to Disneyland for the afternoon. I was the luckiest four-year-old in the world, when they took me with them! With four other siblings in school and a baby brother at home, he chose me!

His entire career was devoted to law enforcement — starting as a military policeman for the U.S. army, and retiring as a captain in the California Highway Patrol. When he was in the service, in Germany, he sent home gifts, like this stein and little wooden scene, which came for my 7th birthday. At the time, I wondered why he sent it, asking, “I thought he was in Germany. Did he go visit France? This has an F on it.”

“No, that’s a 7 for your birthday”

I just thought they were wrong and quit arguing, but I always treasured this gift from my big brother. (It wasn’t until many years later that I finally got it — some people really did make their 7’s like that.)

When I was about eight, my mom must have asked him to teach us to swim. Perhaps she just asked him to make sure her youngest three kids wouldn’t drown if we fell in the water. He taught us to swim, not American-Red-Cross-swimming-lesson-style. This was pure Rick-style — throwing us into the pool at his apartment and helping us make it to the edge. I guess it worked; we’re still here.

Rick owned the only motorcycles I have ever ridden on. I always felt proud when he came over and took me for a ride.

When I was an adult and getting ready to move to Michigan to be closer to my future husband, he took me aside and gave me a fatherly talk. (My own father had died when I was seven, so he was a faithful fill-in.) His little talk with me included an offer to buy a plane ticket back home, just in case I needed it.

Later when I asked him to walk me down the aisle and give me away at my wedding, he said yes and wrote a three-page letter in response. In part…

My Dear “Lil” Sister,

I received your letter today. This is undoubtedly the first time I ever sent a letter back by return mail!

He gave me good wishes and guidance for my upcoming marriage, along with plenty of his signature sarcasm and ribbing, but poignant passages, like this one, have made me keep this letter for the past thirty years:

I love you so much and I would be so very proud to share June 11th with you and Keith by ‘escorting you down the aisle.’ Or, any other way you choose (excepting parking cars).

As for your other questions and comments,

  1. Fine.
  2. No.
  3. No, not quite as much.
  4. I’m glad for you, if you’re happy.
  5. Yes, I will.
  6. Thanx.
  7. See you then.

And here’s a note from Rick from my daughter’s baby book. (I really didn’t order him to write in her book!)

My own daughters have wonderful stories about him too. When they were very young, they didn’t get to see Rick and Barbara very often. However, they did know that Uncle Rick and Aunt Barbara were the ones who got them the teddy bear necklaces with a “100% genuine diamond” embedded in the tummy.

On one of their trips to Arizona, when Katie was four, they took us out to Olive Garden. We stayed late, enjoying conversation and a leisurely dinner. Someone ordered tiramisu for dessert, and Katie sampled a bite and loved it. She kept eating it until it was gone. Rick ordered her another piece.

Katie laughs about the time Rick threatened her high school boyfriend that if he didn’t take good care of her, he would come back to take care of him.

Last summer I got this birthday card from him. Look at the inside (and back, where he answers his own question) to get to know more about this warm, fun-loving man.


Back of the card, and the answer to Rick’s question.

The last time I saw Rick, we were together saying goodbye to our mother who died two years ago. As one of my sisters said, that is not enough time between generations.

We will all miss him terribly.

“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

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