Saturday, November 29, 2014

NCTE Celebrations

Celebration Saturday has been on my mind during my busy week, I continually tried to remember every little moment. I found myself taking a photo or jotting down notes on my phone. My week started crazy busy but not unlike any other teacher preparing to leave their classroom to attend NCTE. But add on progress reports into the mix, and it felt like a ball of yarn all twisted until I sat down on the plane early Thursday morning.

#CentralOhio strong + Mary Lee and Franki
who had NCTE meetings to attend.
            My first celebration was time to talk with friends and colleagues from all over the United States. Instant conversations started as I rode to the airport with Mandy, and we saw Gretchen and Julie sitting at our gate. I was off and running. Time to talk early in the morning when I received a text from Tara asking do I have some time? The answer is always “Yes!”  Late night talks with the best roommates not just about school, but life. Afternoon conversations with friends who I only see once a year. Such a privilege to have the time to talk.

    Supportive colleagues around every corner at NCTE. As I figured out which sessions I wanted to attend, I always use the index to search out friend’s names.  I always learn something new or this year I felt reinforced as I listened to several of the presentations. And it’s even better when you’re presenting and all your friends are sitting at the first two round tables.  Collaboration was around every corner. Eating meals, sitting next to the beautiful Christmas tree, walking around town and yes even drying my hair in the morning.  Perfect time for friends to share.

Presenting with my NCFL family and sharing an amazing meal as we continue our conversations both personal and professionally. I celebrate that Chris Lehman has joined our WONDER GROUND team as we launch our next initiative for Wonderopolis Educators. Every time I listen to him speak he is always focused on similar areas: family, students and the importance of strong instruction in the classroom.  As I reflect on the overall sessions, these three areas along with the importance of sharing your story will be a part of my take away moments.

    There are so many more stories to share, which was the theme of NCTE 2014. My stories the past several months have been living in my thoughts and typically not reaching the keyboard. I am choosing (OLW) to slow down and reflect on my take away moments. But I am energized and excited as the calendar turns to December on Monday. Thank you for celebrating with me this week.  And thanks to Ruth for being one of my first inspirations in writing about my story.  Here is the roundup link for this week.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Celebrating Firsts

It’s time to celebrate and I had two firsts in my world of education this week. One involved a new student in my class and the other our new interim assistant principal, Gabe. He constantly wanders into my classroom right when I’m ready to throw in the towel. He asks, “How’s it going?” and I start with my thoughts…..continue talking….and finally stop.  He is a great listener and has an encouraging smile even when I can’t find a smile. He always follows up with how can I help?  Having time to talk, and sometimes not even knowing the answer, is ok. Sometimes there may not be an answer or at least at that particular moment. Gabe has taught me an important lesson that I never learned in 26 years of teaching. Thank you Gabe, you’re making a huge difference at BES.  

The second "first" absolutely stopped me in my tracks.  Choosing (OLW) to allow those little moments the chance to flourish was exactly what I chose Thursday afternoon at 2:30. We were in the middle of math class, and it started snowing for the first time this year.  My students rush to the window. I of course said, "You've all seen snow before."  My new student from Bangladesh says "I haven't." He stands there staring out the window. To heck with math, I tell my class to get their coats on, and we're going outside to catch snowflakes.  He had a bright red sweater on and the flakes fell gently on it.  He looked at them with huge bright eyes and responded,  "They're beautiful." That is why I became a teacher.

Saturday is my day to take a moment and celebrate. I am thankful to Ruth for encouraging all of us to focus on our own special moments of celebration.  Click HERE for the roundup

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Creating Those Moments

Good night Jim Bob.
Good night Mary Ellen
Good night Elizabeth

Waltons was my favorite television show growing up. Being an only child I always wondered what it would have been like to be in their family or in the Brady Bunch? Life seemed so simple and uncomplicated.

Now life is busy and families are overscheduled.  Classrooms are busy and overscheduled.  I often wonder how to put the brakes on in my class?  I search for those moments that my students will remember from fifth grade. What will be their defining memory?  Will I know it before hand? Will that moment even be in my lesson plans? Probably not.

One third of our school year is complete.  I continue to unwind the State Standards while reflecting on the practices that will support the lesson. I desperately try not to lose the chance to create that elite moment.  I’m constantly weaving in opportunities to share a new picture book in my mini lessons. During math, we discuss multiplication and connect to a real life example even asking them to collect menus as they go out to eat. “How much would 3 pieces of chocolate pie cost?” Their writer’s notebooks hold treasured thinking, and I inquire about what they choose to write about each day. We share little snippets that might create that special moment for them. 

Life is busy. Life is complicated. Within the walls of my classroom, my wish is that there will be a certain moment that will resonate with my students, and someday they will recall their Walton’s memory. An extra thanks to Sarah for being my cheerleader this week and encouraging me to step forward on this post.  I had closed the door, and you helped me open it.  You're an amazing friend!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Knock me Over Please

It's Saturday afternoon, cold and gloomy, typical Ohio weather first week of November. Winter is knocking on our door and letting me know it's right around the corner. Grocery shopping is done. Laundry is started. Dinner is almost ready for the oven, and I'm anxiously awaiting The Ohio State game tonight.  It's time to delve head first into grading the first round of persuassive essays.  There are 23 of them in a pile stapled together with their rubric, rough draft, peer editing, revisions and parent signature as the final editor.

First I read through them all quickly to get a feeling about the final paper. I have conferenced with every student at least once and most of them twice on this piece of writing.  It is considered a short piece with a strong lead and a strong paragraph with research to support their claim. We have already focused on research earlier in the year and created a persuasive poster with several different types of research. The lead was the focus for this piece and for most students their leads were excellent. Their research not so much.

Knock me over please (with a feather) I have preached and sermoned and explained and restated and what ever else I could say that research is NEW learning.  The focus word NEW. Not something you already knew. Research involves NEW facts that support your claim or can support what you thought you knew about your topic.  Stating the source is important.  As I finished grading, I realize where I need to begin next...with their own essays as their own mentor text. Giving them back their own writing and start with the same focus question: What is your NEW research? What didn't you know prior to writing this topic?  Hopefully they will knock me over with new insight about what research really means?  Any suggestions - I would love to know how you help your students with this issue.