#celebratelu · dreams

Dreams



Thanks Ruth Ayres for providing a space to make celebration a part of our weekly routines.


I celebrate dreams.

I don’t have a long term dream that recently came true to talk about here like in Ruth’s Dreaming Big post. (Congratulations, Ruth!). Instead, today I celebrate a multitude of dreams, past and present. My dreams have given me hope and kept me going even when they didn’t come true or didn’t turn out exactly the way I had envisioned them. To give up would have been the beginning of despair and the end of hope. I know this because I’ve been down that path before. Fortunately, I had the sense to turn around and start again. And again. And again.  

Without dreams, I wouldn’t have moved my family from the US to Ecuador then to Canada and back to Ecuador again. Or be thinking of doing it again!

Without dreams, I wouldn’t be pursuing my EdD, despite wanting to throw in the towel on more than one occasion. (Shoutout to my daughters, son and husband for believing in me and encouraging me not to give up.)

Without dreams, I wouldn’t be contemplating a change in the direction of my professional career. What that will be has not yet been revealed.

Without dreams, my husband and I wouldn’t have built our dream house. (Truly it is!) 

Without dreams, I wouldn’t be able to walk into my classroom, on those days when I feel like the worst teacher on the planet, to give it another go. (My mantra: it’s all about my students. Love them and enjoy them. It’s the best balm for a weary heart!)

Without dreams, I wouldn’t be able to set an example for my three children about what it means to live life with integrity and passion. (I am so proud of you!)

So, I am grateful for the having of dreams. 

Dreams that make life worth living. 

Dreams that may start out one way, but instead get us to places unforeseen and unimagined. 

I celebrate dreams, lots of them. Some accomplished and some still a little out of reach. 
I celebrate dreams. 

#CompelledTribe · collaboration · competition

Competition vs. Collaboration

As soon as I read that the common topic for our #CompelledTribe blog posts this week would be competition vs. collaboration
I was on high alert. 
I flinched. 
I bit my tongue. 
I was on the defensive.

Collaboration, yes. Competition, no. This has been my mantra.

Nevertheless, I decided to set aside my gut reaction long enough to really think about this. 

So, here’s the monologue I carried out with myself:

Me: Is there such a thing as healthy competition? 
Me: Yes, I think so. For example, team sports are competitive because you’re competing against another team. At the same, it’s an example of healthy competition because there’s a lot of teamwork and collaboration involved in order to win. 
Me: So, I can imagine how collaboration can work to make an institution, organization or workplace competitive in its field. 

(Pregnant pause right about now.)

Me: And, what about toxic collaboration? Does that exist? 
Me: Absolutely! Collaboration that is mandated with little to no planning or inclusion of participants’ voices and expertise is likely to fail. Human beings crave voice and choice. When we don’t get it, we don’t do our best work.  

So, now that we’ve established that both healthy competition and toxic collaboration are possible, we can suggest the opposite to be true: toxic competition and healthy collaboration are also possible. Can we then further argue that competition and collaboration can co-exist, perhaps even thrive, so that we can get the best of both worlds?

Perhaps.

What if we consider (healthy) competition, but against ourselves? What if the truth of the matter is that we are always competing against ourselves, even if we’re not aware that we are? What if the purpose of competing against ourselves is to make ourselves over? To create the next iteration of who we are? A better us?

Now, that idea reminded me that competing against others is never fair. Why? Because we are all different. We have different perspectives and experiences. For example, some of our students know how to do school, while others do not. Is it fair, in the sense of effective student learning, to have students compete against their peers for the highest grade or the best score on an assignment? I don’t think so. 

Should we therefore eliminate all forms of competition? I’m not sure that’s desirable or even possible. However, we can promote instances of healthy competition whenever possible.  

This is the kind of classroom and school culture that many of us strive to create – (healthy) collaborative spaces where students can safely explore learning and make themselves over again and again (healthy competition) into better and better versions of themselves.

So, what do you think? Am I just confusing the issues here? What is your thinking on competition vs. collaboration? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.  






         

#SOL

Grateful

Today I’ve been thinking of that saying, “when one door closes, another one opens“. You know the one I’m talking about.

Sometimes a door closes and it’s not a surprise. Although you’re hopeful, deep down inside you know what the outcome is going to be even before you go down that path. But, even though you hesitate at first, you open that door and go through it. Otherwise you’ll always regret not trying. 

So, now I am looking for another door. Or, as my daughter says, another window. A door or a window to slip through and find what I’m looking for. 

Sitting outside in my porch, overlooking some pretty majestic mountains, I am humbled. I am healing. 

Things happen for a reason, don’t they? Although my reason is yet to be revealed and my next steps are still tentative, I am grateful. 

I am grateful for my family. 
They’ve always got my back.

I am grateful for these mountains. 
They help to clear my mind.

I am grateful for the quiet breeze that plays with my hair. 
It reminds me of life all around.

I am grateful for a community of educators that nurture, encourage, support and celebrate each other. 
It sustains me.

I can just see that door open up a crack. 
The window is big and transparent.

I am ready.

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for this weekly space to write in a community of other writers.







#DigiLitSunday

Vocabulary Instruction

Vocabulary, like anything else, is best learned by reading a lot. It’s a simple truth that the more we read, the more words we encounter, and the more words we will learn as they appear in different contexts. 

Yet, sometimes this doesn’t seem to be enough. We sense that we need to do more for a student who is struggling. Or, maybe we feel internal or external pressure to demonstrate that we are doing more, even if that more does not really help. 

In my school, this conversation surfaces when we have students in the middle grades, or later, who have not had a rich experiences with books or who are learning English as another language. This is compounded if these students do not have a strong literacy background in their native language. They may have few strategies for figuring out new words. They may get stuck on a word they don’t know or can’t pronounce. They don’t understand that reading on is a viable strategy because it places due emphasis on constructing meaning.

This issue takes on a new urgency as we increase our reliance on metrics. More and more, we are using scores on standardized tests to determine next steps for students who may not be “typically developing” with their peers. We are going back to a time where we gave undue attention to deficits rather than strengths and growth. 


Nevertheless, ignoring the importance of vocabulary development is not the solution. I don’t have quick fixes, but I have a few ideas that while not new, may be under utilized in the classroom. 

  • Teach students about cognates, when appropriate.
  • Help students identify prefixes and suffixes. Discuss how they change the meaning of a familiar word. 
  • Help students to recognize root words. 
  • Anticipate when unfamiliar and important vocabulary may prevent students from learning, and help students use familiar parts of complex words to learn new words. 
  • Use the new vocabulary in the classroom and encourage students to do so as well.
  • Encourage students to use precise vocabulary in their speech and writing.
This is just a start, of course, but making our vocabulary instruction intentional will go a long way.

What are your thoughts about effective vocabulary instruction?

Thanks to Reflections on the Teche for this space to share our posts on weekly topics of interest.



#celebratelu · #change · #time

Time

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of time.

How fast it goes.
How there’s never enough of it.
How little reverence we have for time.
How we take time for granted.

And, I’ve been thinking about this because my oldest daughter just got married this summer. It seems like just yesterday when she was still a little girl, then an adolescent and, before too long, a freshman in college. So, every day now, I ask myself: where did the time go? Did I take advantage of time when my three children were little? Did I pay attention to what was important? Do I pay attention now?

It’s time to make a change. It’s never too late, right? We’re never too old to take the reins of time (life) in our own hands and steer our own course.

That’s what I’m doing when I search for other outlets to grow as an educator and a professional.

That’s what I’m doing when I push away my fears and commit myself to writing every day and to making it public.

That’s what I’m doing when I sit down with my children – online or in person – to truly listen to them without the myriad distractions that vie for my attention every day.

That’s what I’m doing when I turn towards my partner to talk about anything, rather than away from him to finish the week’s lesson plans, which are never finished anyway; they are always co-constructed in the classroom with my students. 

That’s what I’m doing when I admit to myself that time is an illusion we create to avoid facing ourselves.

That’s what I’m doing when I remember, again and for the last time, that what’s important are my students and not the next lesson in the writing unit. No one knows my students like I do. No one. 

That’s what I’m doing when I practice responsive teaching, rather than using metrics to determine next steps in my classroom.

That’s what I’m doing by writing this post, making it public, holding myself accountable to my own goals.

As for me, I celebrate change – a small movement forward – on a weekend morning.

Thanks Ruth Ayres for providing a space to make celebration a part of our weekly routines.