Archived Posts from this Category
Archived Posts from this Category
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!
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.
THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN in June 2012. Posting in now because some (many?) parts still seem relevant.
Sometimes, even the most mild-mannered people (which I am, clearly, not!) need to let off steam to express strong opinions and to seek feedback on opinions. Here are three things that have been simmering in the back of my mind for quite some time now, but they really seemed to “gel” on the drive home this afternoon. I’ll start with the short one:
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.
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!
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.
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!
a day late
a dollar short
teachers have many choices
and schools have services
but not much influence
when a child enters late
naps through social studies
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
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 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
I learned because
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.
As adults, we often forget what it is like to have regular opportunities to start anew. We become used to having made enough mistakes that from here on out we can reliably predict what will happen as a result of our actions or inaction. And so, we float along secure in the knowledge that we are “done” learning and can simply work hard to get ahead.
But children, and adults who are trying new occupations, walk on shifting, uneven ground. The familiar terrain of the people who have “been there, done that” is off beyond the horizon. Rather, each step, each turn, each moment and day provide the unknown — situations where the outcome is unclear; disappointments from which recovery is not certain; words that are unfamiliar; even the roadmaps of directions and examples are so new as to be unintelligible.
This year (2014) I am going to do something “completely” new. I am going back to third grade. Now, truth be told, third grade was probably not my finest year as a child. I butted heads with my teacher (I am sorry, Mrs. Russell!) on many occasions, based probably more on factors outside of school than inside her classroom. I remember pronouncing a word in one way, to be told that it was incorrect (it was an alternate pronunciation, not incorrect!). I remember staring out the classroom window at the old, abandoned house outside, in a snowstorm and wondering about the people who used to live there — and whether that house felt sad like The Little House (story by Virginia Lee Burton).
I don’t remember what I learned, but I do remember “my” spot on the bench outside the principal’s office… and if Mrs. Wright ever reads this, thank you for being so patient!
I have taught in middle school classrooms mostly; even as a substitute my calls were mostly for middle schools once they knew I liked that age. I have volunteered in grades K, 1 and 2, and 4… and student taught in grade 5. But no prior contact with the missing year other than three sub assignments (I went back and looked). So going to third grade? Shifting terrain, for sure!
Add in to this learning I had the job only ten days before the school year. Today is the day after —
And I can tell that already, before the school year starts, I am “behinder” than I have ever been. I will try to pick up copies of the teacher manuals tomorrow, and read over them in the evenings.
I am researching (this is one of my strengths) and, having subbed for many teachers in many places, I know that kids are resilient and any beginner’s mistakes I make this year the students will be fine. I can figure out what they need to learn — and teach it — and they will learn a lot, and grow.
I am fortunate that, in this new territory, I have the most amazing guides. Publicly, I want to already say think you to my colleagues Marilynn, Kim, Cindy, Liz, Cathy and Jeff who have already offered to help me with everything from setting up the room to figuring out the first days and beyond.
And yet, still, persistently, I feel unsure. I am uncertain whether my decisions from day to day are the “right” ones, if the outcomes will be what I hope. I will need to learn new vocabulary — from having taught primarily Language Arts at the middle school and upper intermediate level, I now move into teaching “everything” (except music and PE and computers) with much younger students. Will my vocabulary be appropriate? Will my demeanor?
I am in a new land. With strange and wonderful creatures, landscapes and denizens. Everywhere I turn there are (and will continue to be) amazing sights, wonderful vistas, and occasional frights.
The advantages of starting anew are not inconsequential. Old ways that didn’t work can be left behind. Ideas that weren’t useful can be forgotten. The gait of the walk, the rigidity or fluidity of responses, the optimism that things might be somehow more magical here and now… those are precious gifts, and unusual in adulthood even if the accompanying growing pains are not much fun.
This is my second time in two years to feel this way. Excited about new beginnings, unsure (and a little anxious) about the unknown.
My students are feeling this way for the third time in three years (more, if they move often!). I hope to remember this as we get to know each other and develop our class into a community. When they are unsure, I will be patient with them. When I am unsure, I will be patient with myself. And I will step out confidently knowing that my guides can keep me on the right path!
We may be on different journeys, but for this segment at least we travel together.