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Showing posts from April, 2017

Advocacy

Some late night ramblings about advocating for our students. Thanks to @margaretsmn for provoking us on #DigiLitSunday.

Advocacy - 
to speak out for those who may not be able to do so for themselves
because they're afraid,
they don't know how or
they can't.

To be the voice of our students.

To speak out means to
risk being labeled a troublemaker,
not a team player,
insubordinate
just because we advocate for students.

There's something wrong with that.

There's something wrong when 
decisions are made for the benefit 
of adults in a school.
When we take the easy way out
because...well...it's the easy way out.
No confrontation.
No risk involved.
Staying in the safe zone.

Comfort level.

But, our students deserve more than that.
To have their backs.
To be their advocate.
Because if not us,
then who?


Daily Writing Habit

So, as some of you who have read my recent ruminations may know,
I have decided to blog every day.
Not because I have so much to say that I need to publish something every day,
but because by making my writing public every day,
I have made a commitment to a daily writing habit.
So, barring any unusual circumstances like no WiFi,
family commitments or
sheer exhaustion,
I am blogging every day.

Sometimes I am stuck for a topic to write about.
Sometimes I want to write about topics
that could get me into trouble if I made them public.
Sometimes I forego my instinct and do it anyway.
At other times, I walk along a long and narrow path.

All this is to say that I am pledging
to write at least 100 words a day.
Furthermore, I will add 10 or more words to my total goal every day.
If I'm going strong, why not keep the momentum going and up the ante?
My objective is to eventually write 1,000 words on a daily basis.
But, that would now become more than just a blog post.

To round out this idea…

What Needs to Change...

The concerns addressed in this post have been brewing in my head for a while.
I just hadn't sat down to articulate them...until now.
Any resemblance to recent or future contexts is purely coincidental.
What is depicted here is a generic portrait of institutionalized thinking around professional development..

This post is written as an interrogation between an imaginary reporter (IR) and a teacher (T).


IR: What do you learn in school wide teacher workshops?
T: What the administration deems important.
It's a one size fits all arrangement.
Whether or not it is a good fit for teachers
is not the point.
If everyone did something different,
how would the school keep track of that?
It would be too messy.
Besides, how would a school make sure
that there is consistency from grade to grade?
You see, differentiation and choice
are not meant for teachers.

IR: Who is doing the learning at school wide teacher workshops?
Some teachers, I'm sure,
but not everyone.
Take a teacher who already know this stuff.
I…

Earth Day

Earth Day is designated    

as the one day during the year to focus 
on the environment.
A day to honor 
Mother Earth.
A day to renew our commitment 
to the environment
by changing
habits and activities
detrimental to a healthy Earth.

The first Earth Day took place 
more than 40 years ago.
A lifetime for some,
but a second of time 
in the history of the Earth.

It's ironic, 
given the short sojourn 
of humans on Earth,
that we have done so much
to make the Earth vulnerable 
in order to make our lives easier.
We never considered 
what we might lose 
in the process.
Until it was too late.

Earth Day was born as a reminder
that we are on this beautiful planet
for only a short while.
So, we must be stewards of our home.
We must take care of it.
It's really as simple as that. 
Every day
and not just on April 22nd
of any given year.

Not only have humans 
accelerated climate change
caused changes in the ozone layer
accelerated pollution of all forms
negatively impacting animal and human life,
but we have lost a critical con…

Celebrating Wonderings

Celebrating Wonderings
Warning: this post is full of questions. No definitive answers, yet. Maybe never. This is an ongoing process. The answers change. The questions may stay the same. Either way, I'm on a constant search for improvement.




I'm currently wondering:

How to teach all that I know is important for the students I have this year. And, how to include my students in these decisions.How to make sure I spend just the right amount of time conferring. How to listen more and talk less.How to better honor student thinking. To understand without judging so all ideas are respected.Whether or not I'm making a difference in my students' learning. How can I know for sure?About the myriad ways that literacy and numeracy are connected, and can support and enrich each other.How to be more patient with myself and my students. Less rushed. More in the moment.How to be more efficient and effective with mini lessons. Conferring. Planning.Why I'm still pondering these same issue…

Waiting

Waiting is hard for me to do.

I've written about this before.
If not, I've thought about this before.
A lot.

I try to talk myself out of thinking about what I'm waiting for,
but I can't.

I try to be reasonable.
I say things like, "Let go. Let the universe take care of things."
But, I can't.

I take lots of deep breaths.
In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.
But, I can't.

I try not to check my email every 5 minutes,
but I can't.

I try to do something else.
Anything else.
I read a book.
I watch a movie.

Then, I check my email.

Nothing.

And, the cycle starts all over again.

If I could truly let go of what I want,
then maybe it would come to me
when I'm ready to receive it.

Easier said than done.

Waiting is hard for me to do.


Electrical Storm

This afternoon there was an electrical storm.
Apparently, we'll be experiencing these more often this month
at the same time that the bad weather starts to diminish.
Hopefully, May will be a better month, for the weather
and for changes I am hoping for.

Winter here has never been like this before.
In fact, we've never had an actual weather report before.
The weather here is generally constant in the winter.
Sunny skies, rain in the afternoon, sunny skies after that.
Temperatures hovering between 15 and 20 degrees
with a strong sun in the middle of the day.

But, this winter all we've had is
rain, rain, and more rain.
Cold temperatures that linger and linger and linger.

Fortunately, today I worked late as I waited for my son
who was practicing for the school play.
So, I didn't experience the electrical storms
though I heard the noise but didn't see the lightning,
if that makes sense.

My husband was at home
and that was a different story.

There was a power surge.
The…

Reflections for Student Led Conferences

Today we spent most of the morning getting ready for student led conferences.

Rather than describe how hard students worked and how much they got done, which they did, I decided to let their words about reading and writing grace this post. What follows are a sprinkling of comments about their learning this year.

In response to the prompt, the most important things I have learned about being a writer this year are...students wrote the following:

To keep going on the topic and to hook the reader.Using more details is better so the reader understands the writing better.You have to research your topic before you write about it.When you are going to write something you have to do a lot of drafts before you publish it.If I read, I'm going to get better at writing
In response to the prompt, the most important things I have learned about being a reader this year are...students wrote the following:To always notice what the main character does so you can predict what is going to happen or what …

Sunday Night

Sunday night.
6:20 p.m.
Starting to get anxious,
antsy,
fidgety.

It's a familiar feeling
as I head back to school tomorrow
after a week off for Spring Break.

Most of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
will be spent getting ready for student led conferences.

Thursday, the kids host their parents
to celebrate their learning.

Friday will be my only real teaching day.

There is so much I want to do with my students,
but I have to wait until Friday
and then the following week to try out some routines
and activities I've been spending this week reading about.

But, I'm sure (don't want to check my calendar to confirm this)
that next week there will be other interruptions to our routines.

Ah, yes! I remember. (I checked my calendar.)
We have a consultant coming for a week,
though each grade level will take turns working with her.

The week after that is a four-day week.

The week after that...wait!
I can't think that far ahead right now.

But, whatever the week after that holds for…

My Birthday - A Celebration

Today is my birthday.
Another year.
Another milestone.
A promise of changes to come -
transformational changes.
I can feel it in my bones.

My husband threw me a surprise lunch party.    
He invited some friends.
Friends he knew would count.
Would matter to me.

The food was delicious.
There was a lot of it.
And, it was gone in a flash!

Then, my daughters called
to tell me about my birthday present.
Drum roll, please: they will be coming for a visit!!!
I am beside myself!

What else could I want or need?
I have
good friends,
good food,
great conversation,
laughter,
love,
anticipation of great things to come,
a surprise visit from my daughters,
health,
peace.

This is what I'm celebrating today.








A Confession

I have a confession to make.

I want to write a book. 
A professional book. 
I think I have a lot to say. 
I think others could benefit from my experience.
After all, I have been an educator for over 30 years.

But, what could I possibly say that hasn't been said before?
What new knowledge could I add to the table?
Who would even bother to read what I have to say?

These are questions borne of fear.
Fear of not being good enough.
Fear of not being able to complete such a daunting project. 
(At least, that's what it feels like to me right now.)
Fear that I won't make time.
Fear that I'll run out of time.

But, over the last couple of days, I've gotten some encouraging words of support from the Innovative Teaching Academy - 
#ITA17 Facebook group. 

You can do it!Write for yourself.
But the message that is propelling me forward is this one: 
It doesn't matter how many times something has been said...each time someone else says it, new people hear it...and that's where you make the d…

Small Moments

The small moments in our classroom are so important!
They may not be part of our lesson plans or the curriculum guides. They are made up of what students bring to the table.
To ignore them would be to do students a disservice.

When we return to school on Monday after Spring Break, my students will have three days to prepare for student led conferences. A very short turn around time, to be sure! But, at this time of the year, when we've reached a comfortable rhythm of learning in our class, this is doable. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'm not wrong!


But, back to the point of this blog post - honoring the small moments in our classrooms.

A few days ago I asked my students to start thinking about what they might share with parents. One girl said that she was going to share a book she had read at the beginning of the year - When You Reach Me - and compare it to The One and Only Ivan, which she has just finished that day.



My first thought, and I'm not thrilled that…

Goals - Private or Public?

Disclosure: I am enrolled in the Innovative Teaching Academy. Although enrollment for this first round is closed, you might be interested in going to the link above to get detailed information about the Academy; it might entice you to join when it opens up again in six months! This post is about something I've been thinking about today as a result of required reading for the Academy.

In one of the #ITA17 lectures, A.J. Juliani talked about the importance of setting goals, which I agree with, but then he said something that completely threw me into left field. He said that recent research has uncovered that we do better at accomplishing our goals if we keep them private. Boom!

In the classroom, allow kids to set goals and keep them private. Apparently, when we make individual goals public, we are less likely to achieve them. Not so with classroom goals. These should be made public and shared among all members of the classroom community.

OK. I need to pause for a moment in order to …

Grateful?

"I am grateful."

"Oh, no! Not another poem about being grateful?"
"Yes, what's wrong with that?"
"Well, what's wrong with that is that everyone writes a poem or a blog about being grateful when they have nothing else to write."
"So what?"
"Well, you must have more important topics to blog about."
"Uh. Yeah, I do. But..."
"But, what?"

"Well, it's Sunday and I can't think of anything to write about at the moment. It's my second day of Spring Break."
"Hmmm. Then, maybe you could write about that. What did you do today?"

"Not much, I stayed home all day. It has been raining again. We got up late because we went to a birthday party last night."

"OK. And, how was the party?"
"It was OK. At first I was kind of sad actually."
"Why?"
"Because I hardly knew anybody there. I felt a little isolated. But, then..."

"Then, what?"
"Th…

First Day of Spring Break

Today is the first day of Spring Break.
I woke up early anyway.
I made myself coffee.
I sat down at my desk.
I set a timer to check my personal and school emails - 30 minutes.
I did OK for a little while.
The timer buzzed.
I turned it off.
But, I kept checking my email.
I forgot my resolve -
to check for a set amount of time - and then move on to something more important.

Fortunately, I didn't forget about #TheEdCollabGathering day of workshops.

This was my first time participating.
I couldn't stay online for the entire day.
But, that was OK because the sessions are viewable on YouTube, 24/7.
I have this week to do that.
In fact, there are two sessions I am going to view in the next couple of days.

Still, I participated in the opening and closing keynotes,
and in a session about creating a classroom literacy community.

Here are three key ideas that have stayed with me from the opening keynote, Celebrating Student Voice, with Phil Bildner, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Olugbemisola R…

Discouraged

I have been feeling discouraged,disappointed undone disjointed disheartened demoralized dispirited depressed confused troubled unnerved bothered dismayed.
Note: This post was inspired by similar lists of words in Sharon Creech's book, Hearbeat.

"You mean, we don't get to read today?"

"You mean, we don't get to read today?" Wow! I wasn't expecting that response!

Every year, I set four major goals for my work with students that guide everything I do in the classroom. These goals are: (1) that my students love to read. (2) That they love to write. (3) That they develop a mathematician's mindset. And, (4) that they be curious about the world. If I can accomplish any of all of these to some degree, I feel I will have been successful.

"You mean, we don't get to read today?"
Most years I have a range of kids in my classroom. Some do school very well. These are the kids who watch me carefully, almost surreptitiously, so they can determine how I want things done in the classroom. But, they get thrown off when they realize that I'm more likely to let then figure things out for themselves than to tell them what to do.

Then, there those kids who've had negative experiences with reading, writing, and/or math. It takes them almost all y…

The Reading Strategies Book - Chapter 12, Supporting Students’ Conversations – Speaking, Listening, and Deepening Comprehension

The strategy lessons highlighted in Chapter 12, Supporting Students’ Conversations – Speaking, Listening, and Deepening Comprehension, in The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo are critical to students’ engagement and comprehension, as well as their ability to write literary essays, or even book reviews, summaries and reflective pieces about books. If students aren’t able to talk about books in a way that is invigorating and joyful, they will be less likely to develop an interest in growing ideas for writing about books.
In her introduction to this chapter, Jennifer Serravallo, reminds us that when conversations go well, children are inspired by what they read and are motivated to keep reading. However, when conversations fall flat, then kids get bored and tune out. How do we avoid this situation and teach kids to have focused conversations about books? The answer is easy: teach kids strategies to help them develop effective conversational skills. 

As in other blog posts a…

Accreditation Visit - a Celebration

It's Tuesday Slice of Life at the Two Writing Teachers!
I am so happy to be here!

Today is the second day of our Accreditation Visit and, if you've ever participated in this process, you may remember how stressful the time leading up to the visit can be.

We've spent about a year, or more, doing a self-study. We've looked deeply into our school, extrapolating beyond our particular grade level, to come up with an "average" score for the whole school in a wide range of categories from teaching and learning to staff culture to human resources and more. It has been an interesting process for sure! This week our visiting team is here to verify the findings of our self-study, including our recommendations for improvement. They are meeting with groups of teachers, staff, students, parents and other school members.

They are also visiting classrooms.

Today two team members came into my classroom during writing workshop and reading workshop, respectively. One of them sta…

Why are We Doing This?

I love the topic that @MargaretGSimon from Reflections on the Teche has teased us with for today's #DigiLitSunday blog post.
Why are we doing this?
Why are we doing this, indeed! 
Sometimes asking this question can be risky.  It didn't used to be that way.  At least I don't remember it being this bad.  When I was a new teacher, "why are we doing this?", was expected and taken seriously.  It demonstrated that the teacher was thinking about her or his practice and the needs of students. 
Now, I don't want to give the impression that everything back then was peachy keen!  Not by a long shot! There were schools where this question wasn't encouraged at all.  However, at the time, smart administrators recognized that asking this question, and similar questions, was likely to lead to great conversations. In the current educational climate, it seems that asking, "Why are we doing this?", immediately shuts down any further discussions and the asker is se…

Showing Up to Find Out

Today is the first day after the last day of  #SOL17.
I'm missing it already.
Writing every day.
Making sure I linked my blog to the Two Writing Teachers website before the midnight deadline on the East Coast.

So, about three-fourths of the way through slicing in March, I promised myself that I would continue to write every day.
That I would blog every day.
No.
Matter.
What.

Well, here I am.
Even I can't believe I made it!
Writing. Blogging. Thinking. Relishing every moment.

But, this is my weekend for writing progress reports.
Shouldn't I be doing that instead of writing rambling thoughts?

And, as I think about writing every day, how will I come up with a fresh new writing idea for each day of the year? That's 365 days of ideas! More to the point, where will I find the time and energy to keep writing every single day? I have a full-time job.

But, this is the old me speaking. I feel different. I am different.

Normally, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I need to d…