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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Accountability or Excuse?

I don't know. Am I?

I'm still learning a lot. If I ever felt as though I knew everything, I hope I would recognize this and remind myself that I function best when in a learning state. I also, don't need to be a finger pointer. However, I know looking in the mirror is a good idea.

I think most people recognize and follow the understanding of, people do their best with what they know at the time. We can all appreciate that our beliefs might change with new information. For instance, practices in education often vary and evolve. We learn more; we change, we grow and get better as educators.

Now comes the part I don't understand. Come with me to a hypothetical scenario.

So here we have a teacher who works hard, knows and understands students to the best of one's ability, and learns that a practice, which has become ritual-like in the classroom is, in fact, damaging to students. Research has come out, the method is not only detrimental to a child's self-image as a learner in most cases, but it also gives false positive results when practiced. Meaning, an immediate result might be positive but a month or even just weeks later, the skill is non-existent, and the student is unable to build on top of the skill.
The teacher is relieved, it never felt right, to begin with. This means trying something new is appropriate. The teacher tries out some different practices and ideas. The results are mixed, and there is no immediate fix, solution, or replacement. The old practice, remember, that one found to be incompatible with the education of students, didn't get great results, but it got results that were easy to report. The teacher has mixed feelings about it but doesn't have a better idea. The students weren't showing any new understandings with the new practices, and the teacher feels as though at the very least, the old ritual practice held students accountable. The teacher wonders for a moment what other teachers might be doing to solve this problem but decides to go back to the old method. When asked why, the response is, "My students weren't being held accountable, so I went back to what I was doing before, and they are once again doing the work I need for reporting. I see growth."

I don't paint this picture to cause angst or humiliation. I do wonder though, why? Don't we know so much now? Why would we continue practices that not only make us as teachers squirm but that are unsupported? Why would we convince ourselves that something proven to be damaging is worth the risk because we haven't found something better? Can't we add YET to this statement? Why would we stop looking for the best practice out there? I realize that there are transition periods within change. So? Let's acknowledge the transition phase and keep moving toward the better alternative. Don't give up. Don't use accountability as a crutch. Don't wait for permission to try something new. Challenge yourself. Ask for help. Amazing things happen when we show our vulnerability and that we haven't got it all figured out. This opens ourselves up to new learning. It's quite exciting actually.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

My Top 9 Teaching Tips

I saw on social media a call for teaching tips. There are so many, but I started to think, what would be my top tips for a new teacher, or a new to district teacher, or someone just needing a tip?

I have more, but nine seemed like a good number. Not a top ten, nine leave room for more. Ten seems like an ending number, nine is open.
So here are my top nine tips in no particular order.

  1. Don't be afraid to fail.
  2. Set high expectations but not any higher than you would expect of yourself. Evaluate this often.
  3. Little people are just smaller people. Treat them like human beings.
  4. READ-A LOT and write down your thinking. 
  5. Reach out to global education communities through Twitter and blogging. The spaces for learning are limitless and authentic research-driven instruction is waiting for you. Find it.
  6. If you realize you were doing something just because it was what was always done and you want to change...don't wait, change.
  7. Smile and laugh a lot with your students.
  8. Don't let adult problems dictate decisions for your students. They don't belong in the same column or conversation.
  9. Always be an advocate for yourself/students and what you believe in most but be ready to support your beliefs with real and practiced practices. You can't be an expert if you only talk about good ideas. You have to be a practitioner of those ideas.

Good luck.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Two Drafts Sit Waiting

It's funny. Well, maybe it's not funny. Maybe it's cowardice. Maybe it's fear. I'm not really sure. Maybe it's that when I put a message into the world I want to be sure it matches with my beliefs as they currently reside in my brain. Maybe that's it.
A week or two ago I wrote a politically charged slice of life story. Then I decided it wasn't a good idea. Today, all day, I've been writing and re-writing this message about educators and the role of passion in our practice. I may have gotten it right, but I don't think so. Then I begin to think, does it matter if I got it right? What would I tell my students?
I'm one of those people who really likes having face to face conversations, debates, and respectful arguments that challenge my thinking and the people I'm faced with. I like this kind of engagement. I don't like reading messages that seem emotionally charged and off base, misinformed, or shared merely as bait. I don't comment on these. I don't get myself wrapped up in arguments that feel one-sided.
Then I think, in terms of posting heavy opinions here, maybe this is me over-analyzing things. For one, very few people will likely read it, and since when do I care what people think? That's just it though. I might be unsure of my role at this moment. Am I a voice or am I a listener? Am I an activist or am I a coordinator? Well...I'm neither really of those second two. Maybe I need to venture out of my comfort a bit more. Little has stopped me in the past. Not sure why I find it so hard now.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Otherwise Never Told

I've been bouncing around this evening reading different slicers reflect on their month of writing. It is always wonderful to read how the challenge positively impacts so many people. The March SOLSC was certainly a life changer for me, and I'm always so happy to hear that it is an experience that replicates for so many others. 
There is something magical about writing every day. On those days when it seems difficult, finding an image or moment to write about always surprises me. They become words I never would have written. A story I'd never have told, yet I've told it. I think that is what I enjoy the most, writing and collecting stories and ideas I never would have otherwise. Writing every day and having the routine of collecting creates a treasure of ideas and is such a reward. 
Thanks again to this wonderful community who has fueled me for so many years and never disappoints. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Ghost Notes

Looking through
a sliver view
of opened window.
Sun touched leaves
embraced by the setting day
jitter outside
through the pixelated screen.
A bud-less branch
tickles and interrupts
the rays with sway.
And I sit
in this ghostly corner
where notes would flutter
up and out a different window
with the same name.
Keys, black and white
emoting a song,
now reduced
to a speaker
across the room.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Hitting Reset

It was a good couple days for a poetry break!

I had these big plans of some final flash drafts before spring break to review a few things from our information writing unit. Then all the disruptions hit. They were all good disruptions, just poor planning on my part.
I realized on Tuesday morning there was no way we were going to be able to carry out the reading and writing plans I had. So, we wrote color poems. I love the classic poetry book, Hailstones and halibut bones, by Mary O'Neill. There are so many examples of figurative language and kids usually get inspired by a color. Using O'Neill's book as a mentor is one of those very approachable yet still open for choices kind of prompts to get them going.
As always, when I do a poetry mini unit (two days this time) I always think, "I must be crazy. There is no way kids will get this. I am teaching way over their heads." Yet, I do it anyway and I am always surprised by their creativity and all that they take away.
Kids were making beautiful comparisons in their writing and even my most reluctant kids on the last day before break were pumped and motivated to make it all the way through the writing process and get a published piece before they left. Kids who don't normally share were running up to me at the close of our workshop to ask if they could read a line. It was a nice way to finish out a short week.
The afternoon came and we had our board game celebration during our math block to celebrate spring break's arrival.
Fist bumps, high fives, and hugs were delivered as kids shuffled out to the buses.
I am so grateful we all get a break. A reset is needed. And, better yet, I have several days planned already for when we get back because nothing I had thought I'd do this week happened! Win! Win!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

80’s Day

For an end of the month celebration, our school decided to have a dance party to celebrate March is Reading month. As a school, we read over 2,300 books and my third graders read well over 100 as a class, which was our goal as a group. In a fun twist, one of my third-grade colleagues offered up the idea of dressing like the 80's for our dance party.

Let's just say, the party started at lunch as a few of us "blasted" (you know as high as our phone would go), some of our fondest song memories from childhood. I REALLY wish I had videotaped my teaching partner's amazing renditions of several of her favorite hair band melodies. It was a sight to be seen and needless to say, I didn't eat much because I was laughing most of the time.
This we a nice change of pace from our usually quiet lunchtime conversations.
Many of my students reminded me of a nine-year-old version of myself today with pink leg warmers, ribbon clips, and side ponytails. When I told them this, they could not believe I would have ever dressed like that ON PURPOSE! 
Fun was had by all!