Monday, December 30, 2019

Students, What do you know?

As we continue to engage students in a large number of science-related experiences to teach the standards, system-wide programs, and more, I'm at a point where I want to know what they have learned so far.

Analysis of recent years' science teaching efforts have shown us that while experiences often introduce students to important science concepts and ideas, those experiences don't always spell deep learning and understanding. That kind of deep learning takes a variety of learning endeavor including reflection, response, discussion, presentation, creation, and more.

So today I'll put together a helpful assessment that will give teachers on our team a good idea about what science concepts students have grasped so far and what concepts students still need to explore more.

I'll revisit the many science-related activities students engaged in, create a step-by-step assessment, and then review that assessment with teammates prior to giving students the time to complete the task. Once completed, we'll look carefully at what students understand well, and what we still need to review.

In order to quicken the analysis, I'll likely put the assessment on a Google form which will provide quick results to study. If we want deeper results in specific areas, we can add another assessment to gain that information.

This task will take some time, but it will be an assessment we can use in future years as well so it will be time well spent. Onward.

What is your place in the edusphere?

Yesterday I considered my place in the edusphere. Mostly I am committed to the grade-level students, families, and colleagues I work with daily, however I also share my work and thoughts via social media too.

Long ago I began sharing my educational thinking and work when I was seeking a broader educational group to share with, learn from, and gain support. On many occasions, many from the greater edusphere reached out to support me with good ideas, advice, and connections. That support truly helped me to grow my practice in many, many positive ways. I definitely became a better teacher and advocate for what is right and good in education over time.

I continue to consult the educational landscape as I continue to teach and develop my practice. Though unlike days in the past, I don't have as great a need to reach out beyond the school house these days as I have a strong support team there and a wonderful established PLN online. These support teams lead me to good books, research, conferences, and connections. We have many positive projects in the works and a positive team approach to teaching the students within our charge.

Unlike some in the edusphere, I've chosen to keep the bulk of my work local--to serve and work with the people at my school and in my state teaching/learning community. There have been opportunities to grow my practice outward, but due to my desire to be close to home and to commit to parenting and teaching, I've not embraced those opportunities with as much commitment or dedication. Sometimes, however, I do feel that urge to move beyond the local arena, and that's one reason why I blog, read, research, and write daily.

None of us can be in all places at once. To be a dedicated school teacher demands considerable time and effort. There isn't much left over to grow your practice beyond that environment and love and care for a family too. That's one reason why people have to make choices about where they'll invest their time and energy when it comes to teaching well.

The same is true in most professions--people can't do it all so they have to make choices about where and how they'll invest their energy. Those choices will change from person to person. As we choose, however, we have to be respectful and supportive of all the roles that support the work we do. For example, we could not teach well if we didn't have all the other integral staff in the school, staff such as office personnel, lunchroom workers, teaching assistants, custodians, nurses, and grounds crew. It takes all of us including numerous roles to support a successful school system.

I'm sure that most educators often consider their roles in the edusphere as they continue their careers--it's important to do that. That consideration has to include the respect for all the roles you don't choose, but that you do need--roles that include those who commit to the greater educational environment, educational leaders, researchers/writers, technologists, teaching assistants and so many more. Onward.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Second class citizen

For a long time, I've profited from the intelligence, courage, and great ideas of many educational leaders who share their knowledge, ideas, and questions online. These wonderful educators have greatly increased my capacity to teach well, advocate for promising change, and learn. I am grateful for knowing these educational leaders.

Yet, as I have learned from many of these people, I have felt a bit like a second class citizen. I have noticed that these groups include mainly men and young, beautiful women. Older women are mostly not embraced in these groups. There are a few exceptions here. I have simply accepted this as a fact that I don't fully understand. I have also accepted somewhat harsh responses to my ideas and work also without full understanding.

I know that I don't have the monopoly on knowledge, good speak, and best work, but I do know that I've spent a lifetime learning about teaching and teaching as well as I can. I have committed to continually updating my practice and advocating for research-based, promising change and growth in the field of education locally and beyond whereas many of these ed-leaders spend little time in classrooms or with children--their expertise is somewhat distanced from the challenges we face everyday in schools, and their advice is sometimes not relevant.

On the other hand, their courage and will to research and challenge educational systems, has made me think deeply about what I do and sent me to books, experts, conferences, and learning that I would not have considered before. This has created wonderful opportunity and good work with regard to teaching well. I appreciate this.

I'm not sure what to make of all this. I've thought about it often. This is my first attempt to express this situation. What do you think?

Big think to local action

Big think can leave us with grandiose plans about changing the world, but unless we translate that big think into local action, nothing will happen.

I've been thinking big all morning, and now it's time to translate that big think into local action--what will I do?

  • Focus on our grade-level environmental science curriculum. We are involving the students in lots of standards-based, hands-on environmental education and advocacy. This is positive in so many ways.
  • Focus on teaching a multi-modal, hands-on, standards-based math program that provides students with a strong foundation of mathematical skill, thinking, problem solving, and analyses. 
  • Focus on reading the book, Just Mercy, as I focus on my 2020 one-word, reverence.
  • Make time to welcome and support family members as they celebrate milestone events, persevere in work/school endeavor, connect with and build relations with loved ones, and live good lives.
  • Focus on the kind of self-care that allows me to live well and do well by others.
  • Make time to reflect and plan for the future in ways that match my values and dreams.
  • Speak out and work against hate and injustice via research, reading, writing, and support for political candidates and leaders who promote the best of whom we can be as a people and nation.

How can we counter hate in the classroom?

I grew up in the sixties when there was a considerable emphasis on love, not hate. Martin Luther King, Jr's words were in the news daily, hippies and yippies were protesting the war in Vietnam, leaders were challenging people to serve one another.

My dad would share news articles with us nightly. At the dinner table, we discussed peace, protests, prejudice, religion, and more. Our teachers prompted similar discussions. I grew up hopeful about positive growth and change.

At my junior high, I met students from many religions and cultures. I also had teachers that represented many religions and cultures. Their words further educated me. The books I read and discussed at school provided me with a broader foundation of understanding of people all over the world, and later my friends and family members who traveled and worked abroad provided me with more education about this. After that I had the chance to travel some and learn even more.

I have always been intrigued and interested in the great diversity the world holds, and I have always been struck by the fact that amongst all that diversity, we mainly hold many same values and truths when it comes to family, children, the environment, and justice. While some may strike out against those who are different from them or for their own fame and gain, I still believe that most people around the world want the best for all--most want to build a just, peaceful, and fair world.

Sadly, in the recent past, there has been an uptick in hate crimes, hate speech, and prejudice. The world over has elevated leaders who are self-serving hate mongers rather than peace-loving, just leaders. Unfortunately, we see this in our own country as President Trump and his cronies lead for a few rich folk in hateful ways rather than lead for all Americans with win-win direction, action, and solution. Hopefully this is an overcorrection that will be righted soon. Impeachment is the first step--all Americans must stand up and work for next steps to rid our country of such me-first, hate-spewing leadership.

In the meantime, educators everywhere can work against hate in the following ways:
  • Find ways to represent all voices, lifestyles, cultures, races, and religions in the curriculum. Use video, literature, expert visitors, field studies, and research to broaden students' exposure to the diversity our country and world represents.
  • Look for ways to highlight the contributions good people from all walks of life have brought to our world--don't just share the stories of well-represented groups, but instead make sure you share the good stories from underrepresented groups.
  • When hate shows its ugly face, deal with it right away in educational ways that share the facts, background stories, and related information. 
  • Invite family members to tell their stories and share their cultures with the students--that's a great way for the entire community to learn about the diversity that exists.
Educators play an important role when it comes to promoting peace rather than hate. What ways do you deal with this in your classroom and school environment? What other ideas do you have? 

Spewing Hate

I have followed an individual who challenges my thinking for a long time. The person represents an underrepresented group, and I have used that person's words to grow my understanding, sensitivity, and advocacy with regard to that group and people in general.

Yet, recently that individual's post spewed such hate that I had to block the individual--the post shared felt like getting hit over the head with a hammer. It was hurtful, painful, and offensive. I blocked the individual, an individual who clearly holds great anger and hate for others. I can understand where this hate and anger come from, but I wonder if her hateful posts do more to inflame greater prejudice and hate rather than educate, teach, and grow compassion.

This event has made me think about my own posts and ability to be compassionate to individuals who have struck out at me via words and actions--can I be forgiving and patient enough to accept the fact that they might not understand who I am or where I am coming from--do my posts distance rather than draw people near? I have not experienced the level of prejudice or hate this individual has experienced so I can't fully put myself in that person's shoes and I remain compassionate, but I can no longer accept such hateful, belittling, and painful posts from that person.

We all have to be cautious when it comes to spewing hate toward any individuals or groups. We may not agree with them or see it from their point of view, but we have to be patient and peaceful--hate does no one any good.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Take care of yourself

Early in the fall, in the midst of some professional chaos, I caught a nasty illness. I did go to the doctor who ruled out anything serious and I lived with the sickness for several days. I never really recovered before I caught another illness. In both cases, the sicknesses were being passed around at school and many were sick with coughs, congestion, body aches, and other infections. That's not uncommon in schools where people have such close contact day after day.

Nevertheless, throughout the fall, I lived with some congestion that just didn't go away. I resisted seeing the doctor mostly because when you teach, there's little 9-5 time to see a doctor since that takes hours to get there, be seen, and do the follow-up work so I lived with the congestion. Finally during the holiday break, my family insisted that I go, and I am so glad that I listened to them as I was finally able to meet with the doctor and start a protocol that lifted the congestion, gave me a good night's sleep and put me on the road to recovery. Yes, I should have done this earlier.

I know I'm not alone as a teacher or a mom when it comes to delaying the care I sometimes need. Teachers and moms often put the needs of their students and children ahead of their own needs, and it's very difficult for teachers and moms to find time to get the care they need since they are taking care of others day in and day out, but we have to support one another to make that happen. We have to be willing to use our sick days at work, reach out to friends and family members to watch our children, and make time to see doctors when we need to.

Not only is it difficult to see a doctor, but it is also difficult to find a doctor who is nearby and take patients as well as health plans that are of high quality. Too often, doctors are hard to find, and health plans difficult to manage. I have had to change doctors numerous times due to all kinds of reasons. I have my fingers crossed that the good doctor and office I recently found remains in place for a while--the distance is not too far, the doctor is obviously committed and knowledgeable, the office is run well, and needed labs and hospitals are nearby. This is good.

It may sound silly, but I believe that many of us stay satisfied with subpar conditions, conditions that don't support our best health care, parenting, education, and environment. We don't recognize the power we have if we use our collaboration, time, imagination, and intelligence more to better conditions for excellence as parents, teachers, and community members. In some ways, I think that's why people shy away from candidates for national, state, and local contests who have good ideas about bettering conditions for good living and instead lean towards macho candidates who are manipulative rather than helpful.

Ideas such as quality, accessible health care for all, free high quality  public schools and colleges, optimal environmental protections, a four-day work week, affordable child care, sensible gun laws, and more equitable taxation will elevate living for all people, and in turn, build a stronger country for everyone. We all have to take care of ourselves, and we all have to advocate for the conditions that help us to do that--to live and work in ways that compromise the good parenting or teaching or other services we provide is not god for anyone. We can do better.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Teaching in the New Year 2020

As I prepare to delve into the holiday preparations and events, I want to put school to rest with a focus on where we'll begin on the first day back.

Class Meeting
Students who are clearly approaching Middle School will profit from a class meeting that focuses on expectations. As crushes begin to emerge, it's important to discuss how we are respectful to one another including each other's interests and confidences. It's also important to reiterate the pride I have for students' amazing effort, kindness, collaboration, and care during the first leg of the school year. And, there will be time for students to share ideas about how to make the classroom the best possible space for learning, making friends, and being a strong and caring team.

We'll make time to organize our work spaces, materials, and classroom.

Climate Change Projects
We'll make time to discuss upcoming climate change projects--projects that will focus on preserving the SUASCO watershed area. We'll make teams, talk about project ideas, and begin this effort.

We'll discuss the importance of reading each day, finding just-right books--books that we want to read, and contributing to the kind of classroom that supports positive reading habits.

Students will take an assessment that demonstrates the science they've learned so far this year, an assessment that will help teachers complete upcoming progress reports and plan for science curriculum efforts going forward.

Students will review their efforts on the past unit which focused on multiplication of whole numbers and decimals then move on to a unit focused on division of whole numbers and decimals.

Special Events
There will be many wonderful special events coming up including field studies, expert visitors and more. There's a bit of paperwork to complete to prepare for those events.

Grant Writing
We're hoping to invite an animator to come and talk about his work--students are intrigued by animation, and we all want to learn more.

Boosting the Team
We have an amazing teaching/learning team of teachers, family members, students, and community members--we'll likely communicate an update with this team when we return and look for ways to enrich the work we do together to serve the students.

The plans are made, and now it's time to focus on family, friends, and the holiday prep and events.

Math Program: Conditions for Success

The team has been working on the math program for years. There's been lots of discussion and debate as we translate state standards and system-expectations into a student-centered teaching/learning program. So far we have put into place many structures that work well with regard to supporting every learner.

What have we done?

Team with Families
We communicate what we are doing and how families can help us out weekly. We also place almost all teaching/learning materials online so that interested families can access the materials 24-7. Families have responded favorably by reaching out with clarifying questions and information. They've also helped out by working with their children on home study assignments and enrichment when possible and desirable. Family members are a critical and helpful part of the learning team.

Team with Colleagues
We have a 90-minute period every Friday when all teachers and teaching assistants related to the fifth grade team teach math. Together, we target what we'll do and how we'll do it. We mix and match student-teacher groups depending on need and provide needed accommodations as helpful to students. Further, about every two weeks, the entire team meets to discuss the math program including how we can maximize our individual and collective efforts to help all students.

Multiple, Accessible Practice Opportunities
We provide students with lots and lots of varied practice opportunities including unit paper/pencil study packets, online practice tests, a website resource that includes examples, practice opportunities, explanations, and games, small group teacher help, and more.

Brain-Friendly, Positive Program Teaching/Learning Strategies
The team continues to read and study the many ways to teach math deeply and effectively. We embed new research and strategies regularly into the curriculum program to best support students so essentially while we are teaching math, we are also teaching students how to learn. Some brain-friendly strategies we use include the following:
  • Multi-sensory learning: see it, say it, hear it, touch it, create it.
  • Visual learning: match concepts with visual models including pictures, animations.
  • Rhymes and repetition via math concept songs, poems, stories.
  • Relevancy via math problem solving and activities that relate to today's world in ways that matter.
  • Ready response practice exercises where students can practice on their own and immediately see if they are on target or not.
  • Make it big: when a concept is difficult enlarge the models to make a bigger impression on the brain.
  • Color coding concepts to deepen the learning.
  • Inquiry-based teaching/learning with multi-step performance tasks.
  • Math dances with Go-Noodle and other venues.
  • Current events talks: looking at how knowing math is related to current events issues.
  • Think aloud introductions.
  • Collaborative learning events and practice.
  • Regular varied assessments to inform the teaching/learning program.
  • Student reflection and decision making via showcase portfolios.
The math program includes five sixty-minute periods a week, two RTI periods, and as available extra time during school and after school for student study and practice. Of course it would be great to have even more time for math, but our team teaches many other subjects as well.

We are trying to integrate math into project based learning and other topics of study during the school day, but the foundation focus of the math program and the need to practice to solidify these skills makes this a bit more challenging, but we're still working on this.

Support for Students Who Need More or Different
We continually assess how children are doing and together look for ways to help those who are not meeting expected learning progress or success. So far that has translated to extra one-to-one teacher or teaching assistant support, parent-teacher discussions/strategizing, targeted online supports, coaching meetings, and more personalized approaches to support success.

We have many materials that assist student learning including the following:
  • white boards, markers, erasers
  • one-to-one chromebooks
  • dice, tiles, colored pencils, paper, scissors, tape. . . .
  • presentation board, speakers, document camera
  • math website: Magnificent Math
Our many years of debate and discussion related to the math program is resulting in a solid program with wonderful potential for even more growth and success. The hard work and many times messy collegial work has moved us forward in ways that matter. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Study time

I think that most teachers try to schedule learning in ways that maximize students' opportunity for success. As we roll into the holiday break, we have a few days to solidify learning for the unit three math test--a few days to allow students to think deeply about what it means to study.

How will that work?

Today, I'll review the last concept of the unit left to review, a problem solving focus. Then I'll talk to students about the many ways available to study for the unit including completing the study packet, practicing with online exercises, and completing the online/offline practice test on their own or with friends. Then I'll work to help students with their study by clarifying confusing points, coaching best study routines, and encouraging those who may not be using the time well.

It's a luxury to have these days to focus in on study--a focus, if used well, will result in positive learning.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Teachers have to prioritize

For years I advocated for better structure, routines, and programs at school, and now, for the most part, that advocacy has resulted in a better schedule, routine, and program. The changes are not that visible if you're looking in from the outside, but from the inside, the changes translate to a terrific opportunity to serve every child better.

What has happened?

Shared Teaching Model
The change from one-teacher-one-classroom to a shared teaching model has taken the isolation out of teaching and provided a team approach to teaching all children at the grade-level. This team approach has eliminated the competition that would sometimes occur between classrooms and allow all the grade-level teachers to maximize our strengths to build and carry out the best possible teaching/learning program for children.

Interdisciplinary Projects
Since I started teaching 34 years ago, interdisciplinary projects have been a hallmark of the education system I work within. Our team has continued this focus with a number of interdisciplinary teaching efforts that have made learning rich and meaningful.

Positive Schedule
Thanks to the efforts of many and yearly advocacy to review and better the teaching/learning schedule, we have a good weekly routine that allows us to teach children well.

Wonderful Program Elements
Thanks to local and other grant sources, our team has been able to try out many new learning elements, programs, partnerships, and special events. Some of these trials proved to be not as deep and helpful as we wanted and others have now become wonderful additions to the curriculum program. We continually weed, prune, and add to our grade-level teaching garden to make the program as good as possible.

Sufficient Materials
Similar to program elements, we have also worked to collect the materials we need to teach the program well.

Continued Professional Learning
Our team is always learning. We're connected to many wonderful educators via social media, take advantage of system and state-sponsored learning events, read books, belong to professional organizations, and work together to constantly embed new learning into our teaching/learning program.

Communication and Technology
We use technology to effectively and regularly communicate with all members of the learning team including students, educators, family members, and the greater community. We are fortunate to have a Chromebook for every child, a computer for every teacher, iPads, and other wonderful tech devices.

Teacher Planning Time
We have a good amount of planning time each week, and if we reduced our teaching supervisory duties, that would give us even more planning time which would be helpful.

Essentially we have the teaching/learning environment that gives us the opportunity to teach well every day. Of course, there remains areas for improvement. The greatest need right now is more hands-on-deck. A few more skilled teaching assistants at school would make our programs even stronger since current teacher-student ratios make it difficult to get to every student as often as we would like. We also could use more space and more modern spaces to uplift our teaching in some areas. We'll continue to advocate for those changes in the days to come.

Teachers can't be everyperson, instead we have to prioritize. In the teaching/learning environment where I work, we have many of the criteria we need for deep and meaningful service to children. This is positive and means that my priority now is to best utilize the positive structures, routines, program elements, and materials available to teach well while also advocating for more staffing for direct support of children, a bit more teacher autonomy, more and better spaces for teaching/learning, and continued rich, research-based, student-centered program development. Onward.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Sometimes you don't have the answer

Earlier this week I became upset over an issue. I analyzed the issue afterwards and recognized that should a similar issue arise, I need to call for help rather than get upset. A similar issue occurred today and I did call for help. The help came and there was not upset or error--it was the right choice.

No one teacher can be all things to all people. In classrooms we are met with many challenges as we work to teach all the children. There are many challenges we successfully address day after day, but there are some challenges that are very complex and difficult to solve.

There's been one challenge this year that the team has tried multiple ways to solve, and while there has been some success, we're still challenged to solve the problem in ways the I feel truly spell success. I'm not giving up, but I admit it's a tough problem to solve for many reasons.

By focusing on successful strategies this morning, it was a good day of teaching with lots of learning success. I plan to do the same in the following days, and I also plan to hold off on anything new at this point in the year. There will be time for that after the holidays.  Onward.

Impeachment Impact

I must say that the impeachment process has had an affect on my life--it's devastating to have a President of the United States act in lawless ways as it's potential lost and a threat to our good laws and country.

When you work in an industry that serves people, it's horrible to have a national leader who works against the welfare of so many by leading with cronyism, lawlessness, disrespect, and shady dealings. He works in opposition to almost everything we promote in schools as we reach for civil, respectful, inclusive learning environments.

It's been a challenging week on many fronts, and the impeachment situation has definitely been part of the problem.

What's Working: The Good Work We Do

As I smart from yesterday's upset, I want to focus on the good work we do, the work that makes a difference and hold on to those practices in the days ahead.

Morning Greeting
I've started greeting every child every morning. It's not as easy as it seems since I tend to notice lots of issues that require a discussion or support during these greetings. It's a busy time, but I know that I'm saying each child's name every day and helping them to get a good start.

Morning Routine
Every day we're working to have every child read for at least ten minutes at the start of the day. This is also the time when students collect their supplies to start the day well. This is important to a good day.

Well-Planned Learning Experiences
Our team plans ahead and thinks carefully about each learning experience. We update these experiences as needed and provide plenty of personalization. This is good.

A Good Schedule
It's a tight schedule, but overall a good schedule that includes a varied palette for good learning.

Playful Recess
We have a great playground and students have plenty of time to play.

Students may have their snacks when they are hungry--this generally works well.

Special Events and Field Studies
We have a lot of these experiences which makes learning fun and interesting.

Collegial Planning
We have good time to plan together--this is good.

Regular Communication
We communicate the teaching/learning plans to all in the learning community regularly with detail--this works well.

As I rise from yesterday's fall, I'll focus on the good work we're doing and forego any new ideas for a while. Time to build good energy with tried-and-true practice. Onward.

Pick up the pieces; restart

Yesterday was a tough day. I let typical challenges get to me, and I got upset in the classroom. I hate when this happens and work to reduce events like these as much as possible. The week, in general, has been tough due to a number of issues that have made teaching more difficult than usual.

What can a teacher do when this happens?

First, analyze why it happened. I've been chasing the teaching ball all week due to events both inside and outside of the school house--events that have zapped my good energy. Teachers need good energy to teach well. Therefore, when issues zap our energy, you have to figure out what to do about those issues because you need your energy to teach well.

Next, act on issues sooner or later. When issues fester, they rarely get better. One issue that led to the upset has existed for weeks, yet I haven't been able to arrive at a good solution for the situation. I have to accept the issue as is or strive to find the solution needed. I can't simply let it fester without a decision as that leads to frustration.

And, I have to lower my expectations a bit. No lesson or learning experience will be perfect especially since so many factors affect student learning especially at exciting holiday times. I have to take what I can get and not fret so much about what doesn't happen.

I made amends to the many who witnessed or were affected by the upset--that's not professional and not appropriate. I am truly sorry that it happened.

Today, I'll get back on track. Fortunately the lessons are planned and ready to go. I also eliminated some scheduling challenges to create more energy for good teaching.

It's embarrassing and hurtful to get upset at school. It's one of those "don't go there" actions that good teachers avoid. The times I've reached that point are not too many, but ideally, I'd like it to be a zero count.

Today's a new day.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Big Picture Teaching and Learning in the New Year

This year more than any other, we have a terrific infrastructure for teaching well. We have an awesome team, dedicated learning community including students, families, educators, and community members, a wonderful local union, and significant support. This is very positive. The challenge is to keep up with this infrastructure and meet the promise it holds for good teaching.

As for the day-to-day, what supports our program most are the following:
  • teaching the standards and learning program--good standards and a good program
  • continuing to send a weekly newsletter as one way to strengthen our team approach to teaching all students
  • continuing to update our teaching/learning plans and shared information memo
  • planning for and executing the many special programs and events we have planned
  • reviewing student work regularly and responding with the supports and learning events students need to progress
Sticking to this daily/weekly effort is critical to teaching well, and to do that we have to make sure we continue to do the good work possible each week.

As for the big picture, my job has a lot to do with finesse now--how can I teach this good program better with a good demeanor and serious, but positive, attitude. This depends a lot on a healthy schedule that leaves time to do the good work possible--a weekly routine that includes healthy food, plenty of sleep, and the time I need to do the good work required.

I can tighten up the routine a bit more with the following structures:
  • newsletter sent out once a week - mostly Fridays or Mondays
  • teaching schedule and materials shared and prepared at least one week ahead of scheduled programming
  • professional learning events planned for and shared ahead of time typically at PLCs
  • Making more time to institute and support a positive morning routine that includes at least ten minutes of silent reading every morning--this makes time for dealing with the many small issues that typically arise at the start of the school day. 
A good routine matters. 

With regard to professional learning, I plan to do the following:
  • Complete the DESE evaluation pilot I've started with a team of teachers at school
  • Continue to read about and forward our grade-level environmental science unit
  • Continue to read about and forward our grade-level math program
  • Read the books I've set aside this summer to further develop the teaching/learning program
  • Re-organize classroom materials to update classroom to meet program changes and development.
  • Attending the METCO conference next year--a conference I've heard good things about, but have not attended. 
As far as the collegial efforts, I want to be more supportive of the creativity and new ideas that many colleagues are forwarding to uplift the teaching/learning program.

Now it's time to focus in on the program and children at this busy holiday time. Onward. 

Math concepts; jump right in

Yesterday's math lesson was a bit abrupt. We just jumped right into a new concept. If I had the luxury of lots and lots of time, I may have started the concept with a slower pace, but time is an issue when it comes to teaching all the concepts students are expected to learn, and I know that while jumping in makes a few nervous, does accelerate the learning of the concept for most students. I'll back track to make sure those who were a bit frustrated by the quick introduction get the attention they need for a more sensitive review.

Sometimes there's value to jumping right in, especially if it is a concept that you know most will be able to master without too much trouble, and a concept that children will understand more via practice than teacher talk. Today we'll continue to look at this concept with greater depth and focus. Let's see what happens.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Wrong turns

Oh my, it's been one wrong turn after another the last few weeks. What's the reason? I think it is mainly because it's time to think anew about what was once familiar territory. The changes to life's landscape have been considerable, and now it is time to update the way I travel the road.

What needs to change?

Greater Sensitivity
I'm not sure if I'm more attuned or people are more sensitive, but greater sensitivity is required in all aspects of life. The movie, Late Night, is a good exaggeration of this point as Emma Thompson realizes she has to retire some of her old, harsh ways to empathize and show greater sensitivity. This is a point of life when it's often better to wait until people come to you with questions than to be forthright with your observations or opinions. It's time to teach and communicate more by action than words.

Less Busy Schedule
I'm finding that I desire a narrower, but deeper scope with regard to the work I do and life I lead. In order to go deeper, you have to do less. Skimming the surface of issues and endeavors does not lend itself to depth.

Listen More
I'm surrounded by many bright people who are living life with wonderful intelligence, drive, creativity, and spirit. Rather than lead in many situations, I am best to be led by these amazing colleagues, friends, and family members.

It is a time for greater creativity in multiple modalities. For example it's a good time to get creative with cooking, travel, entertaining, and making things.

To learn more about this relatively renewed place in life, it's essential to explore.

Wrong turns generally lead us to new directions if we are open minded to the twists and turns this direction takes us, and that is generally not a problem. Onward.

Back on Track: Teaching Well

It was a wonderful holiday weekend until I came home and listened to the news which made me fall down the Trump hole--a hole that catches you unaware and leaves you trapped for a long time until you figure out what to do with respect to this errant President and his seemingly uninformed and errant or robotic followers.

The truth is that the Trump team does not in any way support educators, moms, and community members like me--their exclusive and bigoted hopes and dreams for the country do not match my inclusive vision of good living and voice and choice for all.

But, to fall down the deadly trump hole is a purely negative experience that zaps your energy and leaves you lifeless--it's a depressing fall. So, now that above the dank dungeon, it's time to focus on the positive week of teaching and family life ahead. What matters?

First, as always, a healthy routine is imperative to teaching well--good sleep, good food, and good active work sets the stage for positive teaching.

Next, what I'm teaching this week is not simple and I'll relay that fact to the students--the study of traditional multiplication will take students' good concentration and repetition. It won't take time if students give it their good energy. After that we'll backtrack to the more interesting and meaningful parts of the multiplication unit.

As for science, students will take a thoughtful assessment on Friday to review all the science we've taught so far this year and to get ready for their upcoming work on the climate change projects. Prepping the assessment will take some deep, energized work this week.

We also have a professional meeting to review our project assessment pilot--we have a few details to shore up before we move forward with that. There will be a joyful school concert too and we'll continue watching Miracle at Moreaux, a great movie that builds empathy and understanding of life with both historical, social, and psychological lens.

It's the holidays too, and soon my house will be filled with friends and relatives day after day. That means I've got some cooking and cleaning to do in order to make our home the warm, welcoming place I'd like it to be.

I'll lift myself from any falls down the Trump hole in the next few weeks with the following actions:

  • Stay far away from any pro-Trump talk or action--clearly this President is an errant leader who leads for his own survival, fame, and gain, and not the interests of most Americans. 
  • Listen and read the news to stay abreast of his errant actions, words, and direction.
  • Work to do positive work that opposes his team's lawless, wasteful efforts.
I've worked with errant leaders before. I know what their self-serving weight can do to your pysche, energy, and efforts. You can only take them in small doses or else they become a bulldozer to your spirit and potential. Keep it positive. Celebrate the good all around, and work for betterment. That's my mantra this season. Onward. 

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Teaching ahead; December 2019

Overall students have been ready and eager to learn this week. That's good!

Operations with Whole Numbers and Decimals
In math, we're focusing in on math operations with decimals and whole numbers. There's lots of model making, problem solving, and calculation as students strengthen these skills.

Climate Fair: We Love the Earth
For science, students are gaining a deeper understanding of what it means to steward our local SUASCO watershed. In the next few weeks, small teams will decide on an advocacy project that will help students and families in our community to better care for and protect the watershed. This small team advocacy will provide students with the opportunity to work together to research, create, and forward a positive effort that will culminate in a February 14th climate fair at school.

Reading, Reading, and More Reading
The changes in staffing and focus for RTI have really helped with regard to student reading. We'll continue to work at this.

Students will work with the writing teacher to complete their informative writing and then write their "Trapped in a Snow Globe" stories.

Science Assessment
We'll give students a science assessment in January to determine what information they gained as we taught to several of the science standards this fall.

Class Films
The class films bring the team together with good discussion and curiosity. Right now we're watching "Miracle of Moreaux" which depicts a both troubling and positive situation that occurs during World War II over the holidays in a small village in France. Later we'll watch "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" to see an example of tenacity, ingenuity, and STEAMwork to inspires students abilities in those areas.

As a professional team, we'll discuss a few areas of school life which could profit from finesse. Specifically we'll look at adding a bit more coaching for students who will profit from that. We'll also strategize around the needs of a few students who are not succeeding with the standards as well as we would expect--we need to change how we are teaching these students in some ways. We'll also zero in on the climate fair and upcoming field studies.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Snow Day Opportunity

I was so glad that it was a snow day. That meant that I could tackle a large pile of student papers with good energy and a cup of coffee. I was able to analyze the math program so far as I reviewed students' work. It gave me a great idea about how students were moving along with the learning including who is getting what they need and who needs more or different.

The snow day gave me a chance to reach out to families too with regard to learning opportunities and expectations. Many families responded with questions and comments--that also helped me to think about the program overall and with regard to individual students. There was some time to catch up with personal affairs too. Everyone needs a snow day now and then.

Of course when I was a young mom, a snow day meant time caring for my children, not time to catch up on work or personal affairs. Which leaves me to wonder how we might change the school schedule a bit so teachers have the time they need to do the good work possible. Too often our minute-to-minute time-on-task responsibilities prevent us from the deep, good work possible. I think there's opportunity to change that, but I haven't given it enough thought to provide answers at this moment.

In summary, I don't think that systems or any work places should fret the snow day--a good snow day often keeps people safe, provides a bit of a respite, and gives children time to play. There's nothing wrong with that.