Celebrate: Breaks and Colleagues

 

celebrate link up

It’s Saturday! A day to find moments in our week worth celebrating. Join Ruth Ayers and others  here.

One. Spring Break!  I always think breaks are when I will catch up.
This never happens.
I may finish up and clean up a few things, but I tend to start things too:  projects and thinking that can leave me feeling like I actually got behind!
Strange as this may seem, I celebrate the opportunity breaks give me to find more.

Two. Teachers. One day this week I visited Tim Bedley’s 5th grade classroom.
I follow him on twitter and was intrigued with his work.
I knew he was geographically close, so I contacted him asking if I might observe his class.  He generously opened his room to me.
That act of trust shows so much.
I walked out of his classroom with ideas to process, but more importantly uplifted by his willingness to welcome me into his world.
I celebrate the spirit of educators who share, show, and teach by doing.

Three. Social Media. The other day one of my colleagues mentioned how I seemed more at peace with my teaching, and he wondered might have caused this.
I knew what he meant.
Twitter and blogs I told him. He just looked at me, completely blank.
He has no idea. How could he?
Not being a participant in this world he just can’t understand.
Before social media, the only voices I heard were in my school and mostly at my grade level. Now the voices are from many places and my thinking is pushed, yet at the same time supported. I don’t feel alone anymore.
I celebrate all of you out there who have opened my world of teaching, writing and reading.

Four. My colleague Amy. I am the one at my grade level who tends to push for something more or different. This could be a real pain. But my colleague Amy not only goes with it, she makes it better. Just yesterday (a day off), we met to talk about our next challenge.
I asked her:
Is this the best use of our time?
Is is the best thing for kids?
Should we change it?
Eliminate it?
Difficult to think this way when you only have seven weeks left in the school year.
But we sat down and for the next few hours we wrestled with possibilities. I love this about my colleague Amy.
I celebrate her energy and openness.

Five. #TeacherPoets. This is the first year I’ve really embraced poetry.
Today’s Teacher Poet Google hangout with Chris Lehman was inspirational.
Check out the link, view the videos, and join in on the next two sessions.
My hat’s off to Michelle Haseltine and Betsy Hubbard.
To hear them read and workshop their poems in this virtual writing world was brave and beautiful.
I am honored to be a part of this process and I secretly hope to have a poem workshopped–some day.
I celebrate all of us who work at poetry leaving our emotions on the page, looking closely, living in specifics, and describing things as best as we possibly can.

 

 

Slice of Life Day 19: The Power of Social Media

For the month of March, I am blogging daily with Two Writing Teachers. Find more posts from other SOL writers here.11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI fell into the rabbit hole of twitter last summer. I was starving for new perspectives and innovation in my teaching.  I was primed for social media and all it has to offer.

The unending supply of teaching knowledge has me constantly pursuing things I find on twitter and on blogs. I buy books, share blogs, go to conferences, start to do crazy things like schedule my life around twitter chats and respond to crazy challenges like blogging daily for 31 days. Crazy.

The knowledge and depth of the PLN I’ve found makes my head spin. Processing all there is available and then passing on the knowledge I get as a teacher to my students is invigorating and at times confusing and exhausting. I am a learner, so bottom line I thrive in the world of twitter and blogging. Honestly that is all I ever want to do. Call me an expert and I get nervous. I’m much more comfortable being one who is learning and sharing that knowledge.

Word of my passion for social media has travelled far enough to attract the attention of Dr. Robert Bravo, (@robertbravo) Instructional Area Superintendent for my area in the exceedingly large school district I work in. Tomorrow, Dr. Bravo is coming to my school to tape a podcast with me and a few of my students who are avid writers and bloggers. My students are excited. It is exciting. But I’m nervous. Not really for what I might say but for something might I leave out. I hope I can communicate the incredible value of all that exists in the world of social media for educators and their students. I’m a learner and a teacher so for the sake of those like me, I’m more than willing to give it a shot.

Not all love social media, and that is ok. You can’t force it. My hope is, if we open up the door and let people take a look inside, the peak might be enticing enough for some folks to venture in, read a few tweets or posts and who knows, return for more.

Interestingly, word of my social media pursuits has reached beyond my professional life and has creeped into my personal life. Most people worry about the reverse happening.

Conversation with my daughter a few weeks ago-

Mom, my friend told me you have more followers than he does. 

Ha!
What, is he following me?

No, he just looked you up.

Guess I’m just more popular. What can I say?

Conversation last night.

Change your twitter picture Mom I hate it.

Seriously are you are looking at my twitter?

No, I just don’t like your picture. Let me change it. 

Leave it alone.

I’m changing it.  

Grab. Click. Click. Click.

It’s done, don’t change it back.

Funny. I checked my computer. It didn’t take. Ha! Next she’ll be reading my blog.

Celebrating Randomness

Every Saturday Ruth Ayers hosts bloggers who look back on their week with an eye for moments to celebrate. It is a wonderful way to honor, to notice and celebrate all the good things that happen. Click here and find out how you can start this practice. 
celebrate link up

This week’s list seems random. No real theme here. Just life. Kinda nice.

1. Parent Conferences are almost over and, in my opinion, overwhelmingly successful. Students led their conference by talking about their progress and their work to date. Students worked in front of their parents, evaluating their work right there on the spot. Goals were stated relative to Common Core expectations and in most cases the next steps involved in meeting the goal was discussed in a “how do you think you could achieve this goal” and “what can we do on Monday to start reaching this goal”  manner.

This was a one-on-one conference my students with parents listening intently. Data was gathered for teaching, parents attentiveness was clear and if nothing else this spotlight on their child was appreciated by both parents and students. The level of anxiety was apparent with some of the students, but most parents felt it was important for them to be able to talk about their work.

Only a few parents asked what grade their child would be receiving.  The focus was on the work and the process of learning. What could be a better thing to celebrate in education.

So much of this work was aided by a questionnaire the student’s filled out prior to the conference. It got them thinking and was used by some to talk from during the conference. I developed my conference  forms from the forms provided by Pernille Ripp in her post on how to do parent conferences. Thanks again Pernille and Leigh Ann for pointing me in the right direction.

2. Teachers College Reading and Writing Project released their Summer Institute Brochure  and videos of their work aligned with the Charlotte Danielson framework for teaching. Wow on both counts. Here’s to celebrating the continuing work of TCRWP and Lucy Calkins. Always challenging themselves and reaching for more. Now the tough work of choosing which institute.

3. My colleague Cathy started a blog. I’m so proud of her for jumping in and doing something for herself and the education community. I celebrate Cathy who is now a creator not just a consumer of media. Check out her blog here. Hopefully she’ll join us at #celebratelu soon.

4. Rain came to Southern California. I heard it the other night. It sounded strange, foreign. I thought, rain… but no, couldn’t be. I looked out and sure enough the ground is wet. Yeah! Our record low rainfall has those who keep track of these things all in a tizzy. While this short burst won’t fix the drought, it was nice to have a little winter-like weather.

5. My daughter’s brace is off and she’s in the pool. Thankfully she’s healing nicely. The surgeon is pleased. While she’s still in physical therapy and has limitations, the first part of this recovery is over. Her  return to the pool was exhausting. I came home to find her in bed at 6:30. She says she’s slow and it’s hard. Hopefully her desire to return to her former swimming self will be rekindled. No matter what she pursues, I’m grateful she is becoming whole again.

6. Next week will be normal, at least in terms of school hours. While conferences were good, teaching time was limited. I celebrate our return to normal school hours and predictability for our students.

Here’s to random celebrations, a wonderful weekend and more for the week ahead.

#Nerdlution Two — Week One

If you’ve heard of Nerdlution and want to know more, read this post from Chris Lehman to get some perspective. Join in if you are so inspired. There is no expiration date and no invitation  is needed. Post your journey on Michelle Haseltine’s blog on Thursdays or tweet #nerdlution.

So far, week one is on track.

Goal #1  Check!  My  Slice of Life post this week brought some wonderful feedback. The Slicers are an amazing group o storyteller teachers. Read some of these posts if you want a boost!  The support I received in comments this week filled me with the energy to meet my student writers right where they were on Wednesday.

Good news: the reluctant writer of my post had two meaningful stories he was planning on Wednesday. Both were memories of moments that have shaped his “inside and outside smarts.” A huge leap from his I-hate-writing-stance last week. His success gave me strength and patience for another struggler with a deer-in-the headlights look and nothing on the page. Tomorrow is another day. Thank you Stacey Shubitz for sharing your reluctant writer story. You’re my inspiration.

Goal 2: Tweeting as a class is rolling. While the beginning was a little shaky, we got off several tweets about The One and Only Ivan. Yeah us.2014-01-17 19.09.15

If I had Ivan as a friend I would make sure he had a lot of other animal friends & make sure he had a good owner who cared for him.-Michael

Ivan grew up as human baby..why was he treated that way but now he’s in a domain? -Lydia

I learned from the One and Only Ivan that mack and his wife took care of ivan when he was a baby.Why didn’t they keep him -Jill

Goal 3: The getting to bed on time…not yet. BUT the week isn’t over, and I remain ever hopeful. This is one of those I should because it’s good for me, but something always gets in the way things. Maybe that’s how some of my reluctant readers feel about reading at home. They know it’s good for them, but something gets in the way.  Hmm. Even something to learn from my inactions.

Happy rest of the week!nerdlution-button-tiny-01-1

A Little Sunshine for My Students

I had so much fun doing my Sunshine post. I thought about things I hadn’t considered in years. As I was working on it, I couldn’t help but think, this would be great for my students.

With this in mind, my colleague and I worked on some kid-friendly questions. We decided only 10, being the average age of our fifth graders.

Ten Questions

  1. If you had superpowers, what power would you pick?
  2. What lessons have you learned from a parent (mom or dad)?
  3. Tell something about an adult (other than your parents) who meant a lot to you.
  4. If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead, who would you choose?
  5. If you could take anything to a desert island, what would it be?
  6. What song has lyrics (words) that speak to your heart?
  7. What do you do when you’re bored?
  8. What frustrates you the most?
  9. What are you afraid of?
  10. If you could go back and change one thing in the past, what would it be?

Random Facts: I think the “random facts” section is the most intriguing part of the Sunshine post process. What you pick says something in itself. So of course, students get to choose 10 random facts about themselves.

Passing on the Sunshine: Why not have students pass on the process? Students can create their own questions and  “nominate” other people in their lives. No numbers here, as many as they want.

I’m hoping to get a few things out of this process:

  1. Student self reflection — Everyone struggles with this. The more we do the better we get at it.
  2. Teacher information — I learned so much about bloggers reading their posts; I can’t wait to see what students will share.
  3. Seeds for memoir — Students, just like us, think they have nothing to say. But they do, it’s just buried in the day-to-day doings, just like us. Perhaps this process will help them find a few things that trigger an important moment that has shaped them.
  4. Seeds for future posts — I want students to use their blogs in a more reflective manner. Perhaps these lists will be a go-to tool for that purpose.
  5. Enhancing relationships — I’m wondering who they will pass the sunshine to? Friends, family, teachers, the principal.

So here’s to sharing the Sunshine with my students.

My One Little Word…And Where It Might Take Me

After much thought about all the possible words to be my one little word I’ve finally found one.  It needed to…

  • be actionable and visible
  • promote collaboration, questioning and creation
  • foster a love of reading and writing
  • strengthen the classroom community
  • ignite passionate and meaningful work

I choose wonder to be my one little word.

  •  because that’s what readers really do
  •  because it leads to exploration and learning
  •  because it can be seen as amazement or engagement
  •  because it gives permission to go places we otherwise might not go
  •  because that is the name of a book we love

2014 — WONDERINGS  

Inquiry Work in Reading – I’ve just begun to look at how students process read aloud. I wonder can students identify their thinking processes during read aloud and then transfer some of that thinking towards independent work. I’m wondering what could bring the read aloud’s high level of engagement and deep level of thinking to their individual reading lives.

Poetry Connections –  Inspired by Mary Lee Hahn, Steve Peterson, and Vicki Vinton’s call for poetry, I am pushed to a place I’ve avoided. I wonder why I have overlooked poetry, particularly when I think about all of the potential it offerers in terms of language, craft and engagement.

But I’m working on it.  I’m looking for the those poems that resonate in my heart. Peeking at Poetry Friday posts and commenting on a few. My antennae are up. While I’m embarrassed to discover this hole in my literary world, I’m excited to learn alongside my students.

Deepening Student Blogging – I have learned so much from blogging and  I want my students to experience that same growth.  I’m wondering if we could connect student blogs out there for a student Tuesday slice in preparation for the March monthly challenge. Any takers for January and February?

Students Blog, Why Not Teachers – I’m wondering about blogging with my colleagues. Just to start, perhaps one day a week teachers could investigate one blog. We could gather around our laptops in room 5 and read a few blogs. Talk a bit and maybe a post a comment. I wonder if they’d catch the bug.

Wonder Across Grade Levels — As the new year starts, I wonder what is going on in other classrooms at my school. I wonder if my colleagues would want to enter my classroom and observe with wondering hearts and find at least one little thing to help to help me grow and one little thing that could help them grow. I’m wondering if I open up my classroom, inviting wonder, will others do the same.

Here’s to a year of wonder.

 

 

The Game Changers

I started out doing a best of 2013 post, but that didn’t work. The whole year was a best of! This year the game changed..

THE GAME CHANGERS – IN THE CLASSROOM

Student Blogging – Blogging has changed the way students see writing. In fact they don’t think blogging is writing. Which in and of it itself is worth inquiry. Blogging is visible and social. The visible part is great for accountability, but the social part makes the difference. It allows for conversation.  One student, who loves to talk, said it made him feel like he was talking to someone else. I’m thinking that is a wonderful way to view writing.

Global Read Aloud –  The connections  made with other classrooms opened student  eyes beyond the small world of their school yard. Sharing one book was just the beginning. Reaching out to kids in different places led to unexpected understandings: timezones, weather, and the powers of technology that can bring us together. Thank you Erin Varley for being a wonderful partner in this work and Pernille Ripp for bringing it all together.

Genius Hour – Every Thursday, for one hour, students can research, learn, and create something that matters to them. This has provided a time for those who are not traditional learners to thrive in a place of their own making. It has pushed those who wait for the teacher to tell them what to do, to step up and push their own thinking. It is a reason for some to come to school. It is something they don’t need to be reminded of. It provides clues as to what their passions really are. Which leads to what book might interest them, what they might want to research or write about,  Read here for more about why this has been a game changer.

I love this  student’s perspective on blogging, Global Read Aloud and Genius Hour. It was my favorite present this year and shows how his game has changed.

No Reading Logs – This was my first and in the end simplest change to reading work. I always hated logs. I knew it worked only for a few, and those students were the ones who would read anyway. The majority either faked it or lost it. Now we record when books are finished. We keep track of our reading by logging finished books and making goals. So far this year my students have read on average 17 books. Some have more books read, some less, but all are reaching for their own personal goals. All are reading more, and without logs. Thank you Katherine Sokolowski for your post on Josh. That gave me permission and the courage to let go of daily logs and let reading not logging create readers.

Making Read Aloud Visible – This was a simple move that has changed the way read aloud goes. I simply purchased my read aloud as a kindle e-book and projected it on the Smart Board. Now students see the words as I read them. Now students see grammar, spelling, punctuation, even font changes and spacing that indicate meaning. Now they hear the text and see it. I love this. Thank you Paul Solarz for this tip and for making so much of your thinking and student work visible.

Making Writing Goals VisibleTCRWP writing checklists and Units of Study have been a big game changer. Students can can pinpoint areas to work on. Through self evaluation students know what they need to work on. The checklists have made this possible.

A Teacher Who Listens More Than Talks – I started the year wanting to let my students guide their learning. This required me to listen more and lean in with questions that spurred not shaped thinking. Keeping my mouth shut and my thinking undisclosed was goal solidified in the #WRRD(What Readers Really Do) chat.   These posts  Student Generated Questions, Read Aloud Inquiry , and  Celebrating the Process of Learning all point to listening more and learning alongside my students.

THE GAME CHANGERS — FOR THE TEACHER

Twitter – It has been said so many times already, but twitter has been the source of so many tangible and intangible things. To list everything would be impossible. I’m just thankful for it.

Blogs and Blogging- Blogs show me ways of thinking, teaching and being. Blogs have connected me to people, like minded souls who revive my teaching heart and purpose, who introduce me to new ways of doing things, who support me when I feel lost, who accept and welcome me as part of a community of thinkers and writers. I feel honored and blessed.

Here’s to more growth in 2014 and thank you to all who have helped change the game for my students and me in 2013.

The Best Kind of Gift

celebrate link up

 

Thank you Ruth Ayres for providing a place to celebrate. Today I celebrate the last few days of school and the gift I got.

Thursday, families brought in home-cooked traditional meals for a school pot luck. It was wonderful. Food was plentiful, and most of us ate too much! The holidays should be getting together, sharing, eating and celebrating our future.

Friday, students came carrying red and green bags with colorful ribbons and handed them to their teachers. It happened all over campus. It is our school culture. This is what you do.

When a student gives a gift, I am touched, but to be quite honest also uncomfortable. Did they spent too much? Do feel they have to do this? Do they feel bad if they can’t?

This year one gift stands out. It was a letter. One of those family letters you get in the mail about how your year was. This is an excerpt of his portion of the letter:

I am 10 years old now. I am in 5th grade and I like school. We get to blog on iPads and computers. Teachers from different states let their students blog to each other. It is fun because I have never talked to someone on the computer in a different state. I wrote one story about a kid named Christian and he was annoying. I think I got 5 comments. We do Genius Hour every Thursday afternoon. You create something that nobody else created before. I made a game called “box basketball” where you shoot a paper ball. I write stores about kids and their challenges. Another story is about a raccoon who is a spy. Another story is about a superhero named Wind Runner and he can control the wind. 

We have this thing called Breakfast in the Classroom. We eat at our desk. I like the coffee cake and waffles. I don’t like how they changed the school lunch. They’re trying to make kids skinner by giving them protein and nutrients. They don’t have burgers and pizza and chocolate milk anymore. I don’t like that because I don’t eat a lot of junky stuff. Now they have brown rice and beans or veggie burgers. I started making my own lunch.

Today, I am celebrating this gift of reflection..

This letter showed what mattered — to him.

He likes school. He had me there, but he went on to mention so many things that I hoped would matter to students: blogging, connecting, comments, his game and his stories. The food reflection I think is quite interesting. While he doesn’t like the meals, he has made changes on his own to make his life better.

I will treasure this letter not only for what it said, but for the inspiration it has given me for future gift giving. If a student chooses to give a gift, let it be only one that they can create. A card, a letter, a drawing, an origami yoda.  Give a gift from the heart, not your parent’s pocket book, and that will make a great celebration for all.

Happy Holidays!