Gratitude

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As the school year comes to a close I want to take a moment and tell you I am grateful for working with you for the last two years. I have grown in my practice thanks to you and your willingness to share your work and reflect with me. I hope our paths will cross again:) In thinking about my own gratitude I was reminded of this story about a school where each day the students end the day with writing 3 things they are grateful for in their gratitude journal. The power of this has led to a strong classroom community and has impacted them beyond the classroom. I have included  a link to the video below:
Today at Munhall I am grateful for:
*the sound of our children, talking and laughing as they enter school in the morning
*a student realizing their growth and sharing it with me
*problem solving with my colleagues to make this day the best possible for students
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What if I….

In thinking about the world today I am wondering about pessimism vs optimism. What if I see the possibilities in the world? What if I see the possibilities in a person, a day, a moment? My thoughts today are inspired by Shel Silverstein’s poem What if….

Whatif by Shel Silverstein

Last night, while I lay thinking here,

some Whatifs crawled inside my ear

and pranced and partied all night long

and sang their same old Whatif song:

Whatif I’m dumb in school?

Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pool?

Whatif I get beat up?

Whatif there’s poison in my cup?

Whatif I start to cry?

Whatif I get sick and die?

Whatif I flunk that test?

Whatif green hair grows on my chest?

Whatif nobody likes me?

Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?

Whatif I don’t grow taller?

Whatif my head starts getting smaller?

Whatif the fish won’t bite?

Whatif the wind tears up my kite?

Whatif they start a war?

Whatif my parents get divorced?

Whatif the bus is late?

Whatif my teeth don’t grow in straight?

Whatif I tear my pants?

Whatif I never learn to dance?

Everything seems well, and then

the nighttime Whatifs strike again! 

–(Shel Silverstein)

If I apply this to thinking about my own teaching I could say: What if I try that lesson? What if I give my students more ownership? What if I pause for more wait time? What if I give more choice in writing? What if I try that text? What if I add one more math task a week? What if I am silent…pausing to observe? What if I hear the learner’s voice? What if I can be the teacher I want to be? Not as poetic but gives me a way to reflect on developing a deep understanding of my current practice and how to continually grow.

Caution: “Writing Workshop Made Easy”

As I was reading some blogs today I ran across this: “Writing Workshop Made Easy”. I followed the links imbedded in the post and sure enough you can buy “units” to make writing workshop “easy” on TPT, sigh. Since when is something worth doing well, easy?

This makes me go back to the writers that have informed my philosophy of teaching writing: Lucy Calkins–The Art of Teaching Writing, Katie Wood Ray–The Writing Workshop: Working Through the Hard Parts (And They’re All Hard Parts) Ralph Fletcher–What A Writer Needs and Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz–Day By Day;Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice. From the titles alone one can feel the importance and depth of teaching writing well, words like “art” ,”hard parts”, “needs” ,”180 days”. Being a writer and teaching is hard work!

This brings me to remembering to CELEBRATE writers and their writing. What can this look like? I am thinking about two teachers in my school who have done this in two different ways. Both teachers have spent time in units of study, one at 4th grade and one at kindergarten. The kindergarten teacher gathered her students and their shared writing on “How to Grow a Pumpkin” and they visited each class in the school to share their work! The 4th grade teacher is sharing a treat and inviting “readers” in to hear the fictional narratives of her writers. Both teachers realize that “mastery” is not the end goal of their unit of study but rather celebrating the hard work of their writers propelling them forward in their writing lives.

Hmmm, now I am thinking about the importance of praising effort and the growth mindset but that can be a post for another day.

Side by Side

I spent time today with our district instructional technology coordinator, Megan Mkrtschjan, https://meganmkrt.wordpress.com/, to learn about how to use Google Classroom as a tool for giving feedback to learners. Not only am I grateful for her time and knowledge but appreciate her use of “side by side” coaching. As with all learners, I learn by doing and find that with technology it is especially helpful.

In our time together we began to discuss blogging. I had just read this blog by Kathy Perret http://kathyperret.net/2015/10/blogging-to-enhance-your-professional-practice/.  I like how she layered in how to enhance your own professional practice through blogging with certain questions in mind. She suggests that when you are blogging think about how it could benefit you or your classroom by considering if you will share, reflect, connect, or collaborate. I feel this will help me in my new practice of blogging. I aim to share and celebrate the learning that is happening each day at our school.

In trying a new piece of technology I am finding it helpful to try blogging  “side by side” with my colleagues as we all begin down this new pathway to enhancing our professional practice.

Transformation

I am attempting to blog more frequently thanks to my colleague Brett Bearrick, https://pianohawk.wordpress.com/. I am joining him on a journey into transforming the use of technology in our classrooms and school.

The word transform can be overwhelming and I am glad to be able to collaborate on this journey. Transformations take time and trial. Consider the well known transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly. “Just when the caterpillar thought it’s life was over it became a beautiful butterfly.” As long as we keep students at the center of our work I believe we can transform our use of technology to improve student learning.

PARCC Math Scratch Paper

I just can not stop thinking about PARCC and the blank paper the students are given. They need to  write their first and last name on each paper given each day. Many of them do not even use the paper. Frustration is key on my mind. Why does the answer the students give have to fit in the box? What if they need more space? They are given pages of scratch paper to “get the answer” but that is not scored.

As a teacher I want to see all of the scratch paper to see evidence of their thinking, misconceptions and all. Many times in looking at the “scratch paper” shows me the path they took in solving the problem and may even show an initial misconception through to solving the problem correctly.

Of bigger concern is seeing students not use any paper at all. I then ran across this post “An Ode to Blank Paper” by Tracey Zager http://blog.stenhouse.com/archives/2015/03/05/a-brief-ode-to-blank-paper/

I am left with a wondering as to why teachers hesitate to give students the space they need to learn and explain their thinking. Why not cut out a problem from the required math workbook and paste it at the top of a spiral notebook and let them have at it? Maybe we should call the scratch/blank paper a “math tool”. This tweak in language could be all we need to express the importance of this to teachers.

Hello world!

This is my very first post!

After attending a workshop on “Writing for ELLs” by Tasha Tropp Laman I decided to give writing  a whirl. Her first directions were simple enough “Write comments from someone in your life, about your writing that linger in your memory (helpful or hurtful)”. 

After sitting and staring at the blank page memories began to come, slowly but vividly. Bottom line is that I did not get much writing feedback in my life apart from the shiny gold star on a published book from my first grade teacher Mrs. Wilson. I am pretty sure this has in part formed my beliefs about teaching young writers. 

I decided that I would attempt (yet again, more on that later) to write about moments of my life and practice being a reflective writer.

So off I go!