#change · #endings · Uncategorized

Grade 5 Moving On Ceremony – June 2017

I wrote the following letter to my students at the grade 5 Moving On Ceremony this year.

Dear Fabulous Fifth Graders,

You know who you are!
We have had an amazing year. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve always taken care of each other. Reluctantly, we’ve said our goodbyes to Layla, Cata, and Santi. We’ve read some amazing books as a class, and each one of you read many more on your own. Some of you, you know who you are, read books that then made the rounds in our class.
Some of you, you know who you are, came into 5th grade not liking to read or write, and some of you were afraid to make mistakes in math. Throughout our year together, sometimes without you realizing it, you became readers, writers and mathematicians, not because your reading, writing or your math work was perfect and you learned everything there was to learn in a year of school, but because all of you developed an appreciation for reading, writing, math and deep thinking. In fact, you found joy in books and stories. Sometimes, you shed a tear or two.
Some of you, you know who you are, came in with a very beginning level of English and now you are able to defend your ideas and opinions with confidence, orally and in writing.
Some of you, and you know who you are, made me laugh every day at least once, and usually more than that.
But all of you taught me more than I probably taught you. Sometimes I failed miserably, but because teaching is really about learning, I had to learn. So, I dusted myself off and moved on. The learning curve for me was steep sometimes. But, in spite of my shortcomings, you taught me to be patient; to laugh; to be prepared for all kinds of questions; to apologize when it was necessary; to realize when I was wrong and fix it; to make changes in my lessons so that you would hopefully learn better and more. After all, how many times did I ask you to be patient as I tried, for the umpteenth time, to make our math stations work for all of us?
You matured, solved problems and came up with some amazing actions in your PYP Exhibition of Learning groups. I hope you’re proud of yourselves for that and for so much more.
So, here is some final advice as you move on to 6th grade:
Never give up when things get a little bit challenging. Remember: if your brain doesn’t hurt, you’re not learning.
Always tell the truth. You’ll feel better about yourself and you will be respected for being honest no matter how difficult the situation.
Read, write, and be curious about the world. Take on the difficult problems in your community with confidence and passion. You are our hope for the future.
And, last, but not least, laugh and be silly. I will always say yes to that.
I love you. Congratulations!
Uncategorized

#cyberpd #TeachersWrite #ITA17 #EdD

Just as the year begins to wind down, I am thinking ahead to the flexibility of the summer months. Not only am I looking forward to a 3-week family vacation to the US, but I’m also anticipating the slew of summer learning opportunities available to me and the choices I’ve made from among these.

I plan to participate in this summer’s  #cyberpd book study. I am hoping to be more consistent in my follow through this year than in the past. I can’t wait for the unveiling of the professional book that will be selected. I’m always hopeful it’s a book I own and that I don’t have to go out and buy a new one.

I’ll also take part in #teacherswrite again like I have for the last few years. And, again I am planning to be more diligent than in the past. I often do well for the first week and then I taper off my participation for the remaining weeks of the summer.

I will also continue my participation in #ITA17 – the Innovative Teacher Academy headed by A.J. Juliani – comprised of a series of events, activities, and conversations to help educators create and implement innovative practices in their classrooms and beyond. Although I’m a bit behind at this point, I plan to catch up and stay caught up to finish strong in September.

And, of course, I will be working on my doctoral work this summer. Reading. Writing. Rewriting. Reading some more and the cycle continues. As I recommit to ramping up this work during the summer months, I feel myself getting excited in anticipation of the joy of learning. Nerdy? Perhaps. Do I care? Nope! Bring it on!

Follow through – that is going to be my #OLP (one little phrase) for the summer.

#DigiLitSunday

#SOL · family · Uncategorized

My Daughters are Home

Posted to Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge

The house is full.
My daughters are home.

I still say “home” even though it’s not really home to them anymore.

It’s not the home they grew up in,
not where they lived for 4 years and
10 years when they were little
and before my oldest went off to college.

It’s the home we built after they graduated from college
and they were no longer living with us.

It’s the “home” they come to when they come home.

It’s home because we’re all together,
and together we make it home.

My daughters are home.
They fill up the house.
Every corner is taken with their belongings.
Every table top is cluttered
with books, cameras, and electronic devices.
All the bedrooms are occupied.
The bathrooms look used.

Evidence is everywhere.
It screams, “We’ve been here.
We’re here still.”

They mark the territory.
It becomes theirs.
We welcome them.
And there is balance in the world.
All is right after all.

Until they leave again.

Then, my husband, my son and I readjust,
find our center because it has shifted.
It takes a few days for our routines
to make themselves present again
even as we fight the change
because it means
we’re on our own again.

My daughters are home.

#DigiLitSunday · advocacy

Advocacy

Some late night ramblings about advocating for our students. Thanks to @margaretsmn for provoking us on #DigiLitSunday.

Advocacy – 
to speak out for those who may not be able to do so for themselves
because they’re afraid,
they don’t know how or
they can’t.

To be the voice of our students.

To speak out means to
risk being labeled a troublemaker,
not a team player,
insubordinate
just because we advocate for students.

There’s something wrong with that.

There’s something wrong when 
decisions are made for the benefit 
of adults in a school.
When we take the easy way out
because…well…it’s the easy way out.
No confrontation.
No risk involved.
Staying in the safe zone.

Comfort level.

But, our students deserve more than that.
To have their backs.
To be their advocate.
Because if not us,
then who?

daily writing habit

Daily Writing Habit

So, as some of you who have read my recent ruminations may know,
I have decided to blog every day.
Not because I have so much to say that I need to publish something every day,
but because by making my writing public every day,
I have made a commitment to a daily writing habit.
So, barring any unusual circumstances like no WiFi,
family commitments or
sheer exhaustion,
I am blogging every day.

Sometimes I am stuck for a topic to write about.
Sometimes I want to write about topics
that could get me into trouble if I made them public.
Sometimes I forego my instinct and do it anyway.
At other times, I walk along a long and narrow path.

All this is to say that I am pledging
to write at least 100 words a day.
Furthermore, I will add 10 or more words to my total goal every day.
If I’m going strong, why not keep the momentum going and up the ante?
My objective is to eventually write 1,000 words on a daily basis.
But, that would now become more than just a blog post.

To round out this idea even further,
I am going to invite some students to spend 10 minutes writing
at home every day, too.
 I can’t wait for this journey to begin!

And, just for the record, before I started writing  I had already written 187 words. So, maybe I need to move my goal to 250 or 300 words. Every. Single. Day.

professional development

What Needs to Change…

The concerns addressed in this post have been brewing in my head for a while.
I just hadn’t sat down to articulate them…until now.
Any resemblance to recent or future contexts is purely coincidental.
What is depicted here is a generic portrait of institutionalized thinking around professional development..

This post is written as an interrogation between an imaginary reporter (IR) and a teacher (T).

IR: What do you learn in school wide teacher workshops?
T: What the administration deems important.
It’s a one size fits all arrangement.
Whether or not it is a good fit for teachers
is not the point.
If everyone did something different,
how would the school keep track of that?
It would be too messy.
Besides, how would a school make sure
that there is consistency from grade to grade?
You see, differentiation and choice
are not meant for teachers.

IR: Who is doing the learning at school wide teacher workshops?
Some teachers, I’m sure,
but not everyone.
Take a teacher who already know this stuff.
It’s too basic for her.
However, if she focused on something 
that was more relevant to her students’ needs,
then her classroom practice could improve.
Unfortunately, if there is a school wide PD focus, 
then there is no one available to support her.
So, does she take a risk 
in order to do something new and different in her classroom,
or does she simply do the same ‘ole, same ‘ole?
Stick with the status quo?
Travel the safe path?
Well, it depends
on how brave she’s feeling in any given year.

IR: Who decides what topics are addressed at school wide teacher workshops?
T: It’s usually the administrators.
Somebody has to approve it, right?
If not, teachers would do silly things

like take up knitting for their PD
or practice yoga to center themselves
after a long day of teaching.
(Not that I have anything against knitting or yoga.)
And, even when teachers can choose their PD activity,
they have to prove they’ve done it.
It’s the same thing teachers do when they control students’ reading
by having them fill out endless reading logs.
It’s a little about trust,
another bit about faith,
and a lot about respect.

IR: What needs to change?
T: Finally! You asked the million dollar question!
What needs to change is for teachers to be trusted
to figure out what they need to learn next
and how to best do that.
What needs to change is for schools to stop
one-time PD events that may be nice in the moment,
but that don’t make a difference in teaching or learning
in the long run.
What needs to change is for teachers to be the last asked
about their professional development needs.
What needs to change is for collaboration to be forced
on teachers. Sometimes, it’s OK to learn alone.
What needs to change is for the “professional”
in professional development to be taken seriously.
Then, and only then, will teachers experience learning 
that makes sense to them.


#DigiLitSunday · Earth Day

Earth Day

Earth Day is designated    

as the one day during the year to focus 
on the environment.
A day to honor 
Mother Earth.
A day to renew our commitment 
to the environment
by changing
habits and activities
detrimental to a healthy Earth.

The first Earth Day took place 
more than 40 years ago.
A lifetime for some,
but a second of time 
in the history of the Earth.

It’s ironic, 
given the short sojourn 
of humans on Earth,
that we have done so much 
to make the Earth vulnerable  
in order to make our lives easier.
We never considered 
what we might lose 
in the process.
Until it was too late.

Earth Day was born as a reminder
that we are on this beautiful planet
for only a short while.
So, we must be stewards of our home.
We must take care of it.
It’s really as simple as that. 
Every day
and not just on April 22nd
of any given year.

Not only have humans 
accelerated climate change
caused changes in the ozone layer
accelerated pollution of all forms
negatively impacting animal and human life,
but we have lost a critical connection
to the place we call home – 
Earth
The Pacha Mama.
And, we have lost a vital connection 
with each other.
And,
now,
we try to reconnect
with nature
with ourselves
with the Pacha Mama
by making changes to plant
a seed, 
literally and figuratively,
to make Earth healthy again.

Happy Earth Day.