Saturday, June 25, 2016

Celebrate: Joy in Friendships


Celebrating this week is so easy.  I'm celebrating joy!  I've spent the last two days in Warsaw Indiana at the All Write Conference.  There was 48 hours of complete joy.  Actually 54 hours including the #carPD which solved all my life and school problems.  All Write always inspires me and each year I walk away with several different concepts to ponder for the rest of the summer.  One of my favorite parts are the vocabulary I think about differently.  
  • Tell you own story.  Look around your story is everywhere.
  • If something hasn't happened for you add the word YET to the end of the sentence
  • Find JOY in everything. As Kristine Mraz told us, "I found joy that when I checked on my kindergarten class that no one had used scissors inappropriately." 
I know there will be several posts coming this summer from my learning at the conference, but I want to celebrate the joy of friendships.  I have found the most supportive group of colleagues through twitter. My virtual PLN is a blessing to me. 
  • When we walked in the Wyndam Hotel, the first thing I hear is "Hi Maria so glad you're able to come." thanks Ruth for always encouraging celebrations and joy
  • Conversations with my teammate from 6:15 AM - 11:30 PM changed who I am and will make me a better person.  
  • JoEllen McCarthy, our cheerleader, always inspires me not only to think differently but also more positively.  Her passion for picture books and knowledge always costs me money and warms my heart.  
  • Listening to Terry Thompson speak for the first time was complete JOY.  He shared uplifting stories from his classroom especially about his second grade boys who help him start everyday perfectly after breakfast duty.
  • Jeff Anderson made my Friday!  We shook hands and he told me thank you for all the tweets of support.  And I of course thanked him for totally turning around my writing workshop with the power of sentence observation and this year learning about breaking down an author's sentence to smaller ones and putting it back together. 
Sitting on our porch, drinking my tea, reflecting on my days and knowing that today is going to be marvelous, I am celebrating how blessed and thankful 
I am. Here is the link up this week for Celebrating.

Couldn't agree more!!!
  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Slice of Life: I Wanted then I Realized

It's still early on Tuesday morning for summer.  I feel a sense of pride when I accomplish all my goals for the day by 9:02 and the only one left is to write my slice.  But I have been gathering my thoughts for awhile. Starting last week on vacation, as we journeyed around the East coast. I was sharing one of my favorite cities, Boston, with my husband, and I realized once again that I'm always a teacher.  Being his travel guide with tons of sentence starters like

  • Did you know?
  • At this location...
  • Back in 1700's 
  • This is one of my favorite locations
  • Let's use the map
  • Let's ask someone
I wonder if it's hard to live with a teacher.  I think I already know that answer.  I've been to Boston 10 times prior to this visit, and he'd never been there.  I wanted him to love the city just like I do.  

Isn't that what happens in my classroom sometime? I spend all my energy preparing lessons. I read several professional books, take notes, participate in twitter talks, Voxer a friend, and finally write the plan.  I want the lesson to be strong. By this time in my teaching career I know not perfect is almost not possible. I am beginning to realize I have more invested in the lesson than my students.  That is what I'm thinking about this summer.  What I want....then I realize.  I've been saying to my colleagues for a few years now that my students aren't as invested.  This year I made shifts with my classroom set up, organization, and lessons. I saw several moments when I knew they were invested. Those moments came when they were the decision makers, and I was not the leader of group. 

Every moment of summer is a lesson for me both personally and professionally. Our day in Boston taught me several lessons that I will take back to the classroom in August. I always enjoy joining Two Writing Teachers for Slicing on Tuesday. 

Checking off our Eastern Coast bucket list trip.

You have to visit Make Way for Ducklings in the Boston Commons


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Slice of Life: When the Lights Go Out

Another year comes to a close, yesterday was our final day of school. This year presented several different challenges. My group of learners challenged my thinking (how to handle different types of behavior) I am still thinking about that blog post. There were moments when I thought I had the most thoughtful planned out lessons and as I opened the lesson I knew quickly it was a dud! There use to be moments in my teaching  career when I would fight though a bad lesson forcing it to work. One part of teaching that I am thankful for are the years of experience, I now have the courage to stop at that specific "dud" moment. Hit the breaks - take a huge right turn and change directions. I was honest with my class and if you could have been a fly on the wall, you would have heard this conversation.

  • Me "I notice that not everyone is engaged during the opening of the mini lesson."  "Can someone tell me why you appear to be bored?"
  • Student "It feels like the same thing as yesterday - we've done character traits with evidence sooooo many times."
  • Me  "How could we change this lesson so it doesn't feel sooooo similar?
  • Student: "We could choose a character from our read aloud."
  • Student:  "We could break into small groups and use our read aloud."
  • Student:  "Could we write a script and choose two favorite characters?"
After these conversations, my response was Yes, Yes, and Yes.  There was a different type of buzz and especially their the attitudes and looks on their faces. The lights are out in my classroom but the reflection time of summer is one of most valuable times that I find as an educator.  

Thanks to The Two Writing Teachers for encouraging me to reflect and share my Slices on Tuesday even though I'm a little late to the party.   

I'm extremely thankful to the learners in Room 234 for helping
me continue to grow as a teacher.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Slice of Life: Summer Learning on a Quest

It's Tuesday and time to reflect on my Slice of Life.  It's the last day of May and it's time to reflect on my OLW: quest.  There are only five days of school left.  I will have completed my 28 year of teaching. With all of these wrapped into a little package, it's time to launch into my summer quest. 
This summer is going to be different for me.  It's not all going to be all about professional learning. I am anxious to be on a quest for reflection time.  I enjoy taking the time for thinking about what went well during the school year although I don't spend a lot of time on that to be honest. Last summer everything centered around math workshop. What did the standards mean? How can workshop become a standard and not an isolation? I focused on these concepts throughout the year and I am pleased at the shifts I made in math. I am typically thinking about the glitches during the school year or looking back in my notebook to read some comments that I have left for myself so I don't forget what I need to focus on.  This summer I want to focus on 
  • talk in my classroom - What does it look like? Sound like? Most importantly how can I not be in charge of talk?  How do I shift ownership of talk?
  • inquiry:  How can I build more inquiry into every subject?  I've always had a sense of wonder in my classroom; however, I am thinking more deeply about how can questioning be an integral part of all subject areas? 
I'm excited to slice, reflect and celebrate the last day of the month.  I appreciate all the Slicers and their comments.  The blogging community is an integral part of my learning, and I'm excited to continue this summer.  

Friday, May 13, 2016

Celebration: Creating Lifetime Memories

Only 15 days of school are left and as the year comes to an end, I am celebrating the moments that my students might remember.  It's not the moments that were on my lesson plans most of the time.  Or the "must do" check off list that all of us are faced with in the classroom.  Finally this year the life memories are the ones that I stepped back and allowed my class to lead me.  I will be completing year 28, and I have never pushed the pause button as much as I have this year. Pause on on  interrupting conversations to add my thoughts. Pause on what I believe book clubs should look like the last weeks of school.  Pause on creating the rubric for the three types of government.  Pause on our lemonade stand.  


Completing a busy two days, they were exhausted, but a great kind of exhaustion.

  • reading the book to the preschool units
  • answering questions from the kindergarten
  • serving over 500 students
  • counting numerous coins into $20 piles
  • cleaning up the floor after spills 
  • most students gave up recess for their shift
  • wearing yellow shirts so as a class we would stand out (thanks to my husband for a last minute shopping trip to purchase mine)
  • setting up and tearing down our stand 
We raised $700 in two days and although they were overjoyed with the total most of them relished in the learning experience.  Thanks to Ruth for encouraging us to celebrate.  I appreciate all the support of friends and colleagues it was an amazing learning celebration for all of us. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Celebration: Lemonade is a Quest

II’ve been writing this post for the past week. Each day as my students prepare to open for business. I am so proud of each student as they step up to create posters, commercials, announcements along with counting raffle tickets.  To be honest, I rarely needed to step in and use my "teacher talk."  Realizing it's the end of the month again, I've been thinking about my OLW: quest. I appreciate the reminder to focus on the positive throughout the week in both my personal and school life.  Thanks to Ruth for the reminders to celebrate weekly.  


Our lemonade stand is my celebration. OMG (is that allowed in the blogging world?) it has been an amazing journey. Thursday we had our last meeting with principal.  I couldn’t have been prouder as every student shook his hand and thanked him for coming in today. The schedule is set after a zillion revisions including selling to our preschool unit to the supplies; which are loaded on the table. With this past week being state testing there was a rainbow in the afternoon as they finalized the plans for our stand which is opening this Tuesday and Thursday.

It’s been a “quest” for me although one without a road map.  I wasn’t sure several times what the class vote would be when making huge decisions. Sitting back and listening not adding my voice to the conversation wasn’t easy; however I am thankful that I did.  I have received several parent emails expressing how much their child is enjoying the process.  It’s so much fun when students enter the classroom saying, “Only four more days until we open for business.”  It’s been an amazing 




Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wednesday Words: Continue the Conversations


Compliments of Google Images

It's Wednesday and I continue to think about the conversations in our classroom again. Who's leading them?  Who's waiting for approval which could be a head nod or even the proverbial "Good job."  I already know the answers to all of the questions above and the visual that I think of is Charlie Brown's teacher. 

Shifting the conversations has to start with me.  The definition of conversation is "information interchange of thoughts, information, etc. by spoken words; oral communication between persons." I like the word interchange - I am drawn to the interchange on highways.  Several cars going slow, too fast and just right.  Similar to learning in my classroom.  It helps me when I am making a shift in my teaching to have a visual.  Charlie's Brown's teacher has been at the forefront of my thinking for several weeks.  I am ready to shift gears to the analogy of the interchange. 

I feel like I have adjusted to the differentiation of learners by using the cheat sheets that I mentioned last week.  I have questions/statements for all my learners.  Where I haven't transitioned is the need for teacher approval. I know I always give verbal reinforcements; however, I never considered the message I was sending.  


  • The teacher is correct when she says or writes, "Good job."  
  • Some (most) students wait for that approval.
  • What message am I sending when students wait for my approval?
  • I am going to continue thinking about the the language of conversations in my classroom.  Any thoughts?