Education Professional

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Not-quite-summer vacation

Posted by on 17 Jun 2017 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, caring, education, Education Professional, Vacations

It’s not-quite summer in our part of the world.

My students finished their last day of the year this past Wednesday. Like all endings, it was a bittersweet day for me. I handed out their report cards, we talked about how they can keep up with all the progress they made — and how if they spend their vacation NOT reading and NOT thinking about math the entrance to fourth grade won’t be as easy as it could be; and how if they just read for an hour a day and keep practicing their math facts they will find fourth grade a lot more manageable. I sent them home with worksheets, and a little toy, a rainbow crayon and fancy pencil and a little journal for writing and drawing in. We played some games…

Then they were dismissed, and I walked the few who weren’t being picked up by doting families to the buses, and waited with the other teachers for the signal for the buses to leave. One fifth grader (from my first crop of third graders) was in tears as her bus left the lot and we waved them on.

And then back to the room to pick up the pieces of my heart that the kids left all strewn about.

Yes, their summer vacation has started, but it’s still not-quite summer.

I am moving rooms this vacation — the new teacher in our grade will have my old room, a nice, secure location right in the middle of all the other third grade teachers. I get a room that has some advantages over the other but also some potential pitfalls. We are working to figure out ways to minimize some of the potential disruptions to my class’s learning environment. I spent several hours Thursday and Friday working in the two rooms — emptying out one and filling the other. Thankfully, I have help from unexpected places, but it’s still a gargantuan task.

So, for me, it’s not-quite summer.

I am getting some lovely new tables for the students to sit at, smaller than normal school tables but I am going to provide something called “flexible seating” where the kids get to decide the best locations to work (after some training!). I will have a smaller class, and this is the year to try a change. If it doesn’t work, we can go back to the old desks in nice, neat rows… I don’t think the kids would prefer that! We’ll have some open space to sit on the floor when I am doing whole-group teaching, and there will be space for some tables at the sides and back for group work. I have a couple of very small “teacher desks” that this year will be side-by-side because that’s the best layout for the room. I don’t really believe in carving out a large slice of the room just for my use, so I try to find ways that I can move among the children and teach from several spots.

It’s not-quite summer.

On the first day of summer, I am playing in a concert with the local orchestra. Then it will be summer — a concert with only three actual rehearsals. I would have been panicked at the thought only two years ago, but here I am — able to pretend to know what I am doing at least part of the time…

And so, as it’s not-quite summer I am sitting here with a blanket on my lap and a dog on my feet relaxing in the evening and not-quite planning lessons for the class that I don’t have quite yet…

Just dreaming. Dreaming of summer.

An End, and a Beginning

Posted by on 03 Sep 2016 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, education, Education Professional, good things, teaching, Uncategorized

The summer was not “as advertised” this year. I remained ill for another few weeks, though we had a lovely visit with my grandfather in Ashland at the end of July and saw several plays (LOVED LOVED LOVED Richard II!!!). Was too exhausted, though, to try for the second silk painting session. Hoping for at least one this autumn, though!

August arrived, and my heart and brain went quickly into teaching mode. Tom took an extra week off that second week of August to help around the house and the classroom. By the end of the third week of August, the classroom was mostly in shape, and in the fourth week it was official training and a couple extra days… so that by the time the kids and parents arrived at 5:30 August 30 the room looked ready enough.

Kids in seats on August 31. By 2:43 on September 2, the room was already showing evidence of engagement and learning. I have a WONDERFUL paraeducator who comes in for 45 minutes in the afternoon to help with literacy and reading, and while we haven’t yet met to decide which few students need intensive pull-out instruction, with the in-class help every day, very few of them will have to leave. I am so happy in my teacher-heart that I will have most of them all the time!

Proof? Check out below!

A look toward the door to the restrooms.  The number chart goes up when needed, but will be stored flat for a few weeks.

A look toward the door to the restrooms. The number chart goes up when needed, but will be stored flat for a few weeks.

The reading table on Friday-- materials to sort, collate, cut, copy, and use next week!

The reading table on Friday– materials to sort, collate, cut, copy, and use next week!

All ready for Tuesday!

All ready for Tuesday!

The students use these to show something about themselves as we are learning about the new year.  Three pictures, and one word!

The students use these to show something about themselves as we are learning about the new year. Three pictures, and one word!

The purple "windsock" was a gift from a student on the second day of school!  The empty paper panels on a pulley system! will hold student work and anchor charts.

The purple “windsock” was a gift from a student on the second day of school! The empty paper panels on a pulley system! will hold student work and anchor charts.

The I-charts are a suggestion from the "Two Sisters" framework for Daily 5 and CAFE instruction.  They allow students to consider behaviors and purposes for studying in specific situations.  These are our first two.

The I-charts are a suggestion from the “Two Sisters” framework for Daily 5 and CAFE instruction. They allow students to consider behaviors and purposes for studying in specific situations. These are our first two.

Schools of Thought

Posted by on 24 Jun 2016 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, Uncategorized

Another unfinished post from 2012…


I just watched a very interesting TED talk by Diana Laufenberg, a teacher from Pennsylvania. She highlighted the shifting purpose of “school” away from a repository of restricted knowledge (in the days before the internet, when most homes had little more than a few books, and fewer homes owned encyclopedias) toward an environment that asks students to use the knowledge that exists in their environment to develop their own questions and answers. Although not all homes have reliable internet access, the truth is that information is more readily available to more people now than at any other time in history. From telephones to cell phones to wireless hot spots,


We have to directly and systematically teach children to make connections between different information sources; and model how to synthesize and innovate. When we do this successfully, everyone wins.

Random Musings on my Day

Posted by on 03 May 2016 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, 3rd grade, children, education, Education Professional, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, musings, seasons, Uncategorized

Living
is hard work.
It is better than the alternative?
The answer is: Yes, when you are there.


That curious moment in the day when the gray skies pick up the bright green of new life and suffuse creation with an immortal glow.


Success! The fledgling
finds his wings
and starts to fly.


What is better than a happy third grader?
TWENTY happy third graders!
It was a very good day for learning.

Practice

Posted by on 02 Jun 2015 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, fun, Gardens and Life, good things, percussion, Uncategorized

I am working to show my students that you should perservere with difficult tasks.  Practice more than once, take a break but return.  

I am just learning the drums, but…  Here is the most difficult piece I am playing tomorrow.  I took a video of my practice session to show the kids how many mistakes a new learner makes, and that it is OK to be less than perfect!

Not certain who said it first, but both my sons exited the Griffin-Capital band tradition with this mantra:  Practice Makes Better.  (note: link will open in a new window, with a youtube video)
 
Hope it is true for me, too!

NaPoWriMo 2015.27

Posted by on 28 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: 3rd grade, Education Professional, Gardens and Life, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, Uncategorized

It’s down to the wire
and down for the count
ice pack on offended parts
and pride hitting the showers
— early.

Sometimes the only choice
is standing up again
staying in the ring
and making it through to the bell.

—By way of explanation, I twisted my ankle and went down in front of my students on Monday (not a true workplace injury, but an artifact of bad body mechanics). So this post comes late… Pride was hurt, and the ankle isn’t happy, but life goes on. And learning never ends. Perhaps the lesson my students needed wasn’t the best way to calculate sums, but the best way to get hurt and not pitch a fit. Asking for help from the students (carry this, ask the nurse for an ice pack) and from my colleagues (walking my students to the bus with theirs at the end of the day…) was a life lesson the kids can take with them, I think. I kept doing my job while letting other help me. Crutches, a bandage, and I am back in the game today!

Standing up for Students

Posted by on 25 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, Making a Difference, parenting, Uncategorized

This is what I did Saturday morning, rallying for full funding for schools: smaller class sizes, basic cost of living increases to keep pace with inflation, more support overall for the teachers who care for our children.

IMG_0006

Set an example for your children and students. Take part in your democracy. Peaceably assemble and petition your government to make it better.

Our children are our hearts, our future. They depend on us to stand up for them.

[Late edit to include a newslink]

It’s not much, and no one seems to care to really cover this issue, but the AP did release a short story that was picked up by local outlets: Teachers Rally in Olympia. Thanks to Derrick Nunnally for writing about this attempt to help people understand that our nation’s children are important to all of us!

NaPoWriMo 2015.16

Posted by on 17 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: caring, education, Education Professional, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, Uncategorized

a day late
a dollar short

teachers have many choices
and schools have services
but not much influence

when a child enters late
departs early
naps through social studies
or math
or science-reading-all
day after day

who watches the children after school
who nurtures them at night
who wakes them lovingly (but insistently)
in time for them to eat
before they catch the bus

who cares for them
as a parent
when the parent
does not care

the teacher appears in a child’s life
a day late
and resources abound for education
but a dollar cannot make up for love

NaPoWriMo 2015.13

Posted by on 13 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, good things, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, Uncategorized

Monday the thirteenth I
went to school
and learned some things.

In third grade you have to listen carefully
and stay on task
or the work speeds by too fast.

I learned to speak clearly
to enunciate
to express my thoughts.

I learned to write carefully
and take care with
letter formation and punctuation.

I learned to add, and subtract
to explain my reasons and to
share.

I learned because
I taught.

Long silence but not low effort

Posted by on 29 Nov 2014 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, 3rd grade, education, Education Professional, teaching, Uncategorized

This school year has, predictably, been a time of extreme effort on my part. I rarely have time to just sit and enjoy fun things, when I do sit I am usually working on a small present or reading the news.

I feel inadequate most days, knowing that there are so many more strategies I could be using, so many more data points I could be tracking, so many other things I could be teaching. I keep telling myself, “next year,” as if that means that this year’s inadequacies are somehow understandable and therefore I should stop worrying. Each day I go in, I teach the best I know, I learn more about these particular students and this grade level’s expectations and abilities, and I fit more pieces into the teaching puzzle.

“Next year” has a reassuring ring to it — I work so hard to try to meet the needs of all the children (24 at the moment, but up to 25 again soon I expect), and I am seeing progress. But I don’t see as much progress as I would like, I don’t know how many missed opportunities I have, and about once a week I have a moment when one student or another clearly doesn’t get what he or she needs. Next year I think that I will be able to predict many things and spot many things, and prepare in advance for many things (truth be told, a lot of the preparations from this year will serve for next year).

In the moment, I respond appropriately and catch many misconceptions, I predict what kids will need in advance most of the time, and my explanations are making sense to my students. We have a couple of long-term projects underway, and I am feeling comfortable modifying those as needed. Usually I overestimate their readiness and understanding of concepts and have to go back and fill in. But I am getting better at figuring things out quickly so we don’t waste too much time!

And one last niggling teaching issue I have been struggling with is balancing the good of the whole class with the excursions of individual students to specialists, not at the same time or for the same purposes. I cannot fill in the gaps for all of them, so have finally made the decision to stop trying. I will provide some students with less instruction in the “exploratory” instruction for this grade level, such as science and social studies. This saddens me because I think all students need to learn in a wholistic manner — but I have a responsibility to make sure that the most essential learning is taught. Perhaps next year I can figure out a way to incorporate everything.

Next year. Always next year. Next year I will be more knowledgeable. Next year I will be more organized. Next year I will be more prepared. Next year…

It’s good to think about a “next year” and so I will continue to give this year my all, knowing that these children are teaching me far more than I am teaching them.

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