Category Archives: #CompelledTribe

First Day of Spring Break

Today is the first day of Spring Break.
I woke up early anyway.
I made myself coffee.
I sat down at my desk.
I set a timer to check my personal and school emails – 30 minutes.
I did OK for a little while.
The timer buzzed.
I turned it off.
But, I kept checking my email.
I forgot my resolve –
to check for a set amount of time – and then move on to something more important.

Fortunately, I didn’t forget about #TheEdCollabGathering day of workshops.

This was my first time participating.
I couldn’t stay online for the entire day.
But, that was OK because the sessions are viewable on YouTube, 24/7.
I have this week to do that.
In fact, there are two sessions I am going to view in the next couple of days.

Still, I participated in the opening and closing keynotes,
and in a session about creating a classroom literacy community.

Here are three key ideas that have stayed with me from the opening keynote, Celebrating Student Voice, with Phil Bildner, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovitch.

  • We must celebrate and amplify student voice
  • Your story is precious. Your story is valuable. Your story matters.
  • If a student asks, “Can I…” about their writing, say, “Yes!”

So, maybe I should have stayed in bed.
Maybe I shouldn’t have participated in #TheEdCollabGathering.
Maybe I shouldn’t have thought about teaching.
Maybe I shouldn’t have sent an email to one of my students to share a webpage that I thought he’d be interested in.

Maybe…but I’m so glad I did!

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Filed under #CompelledTribe, #springbreak, #TheEdCollabGathering

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.  






         

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Filed under #CompelledTribe, collaboration, competition

Thank You

Source:
http://www.planwallpaper.com/static/images/thank-you-clothesline-752×483.jpg


I had a hard time writing this post. In fact, I kept putting it off all week and now, a week and a day later, I am forced to write something. I feel like I should have a big, inspiring story about a former student who contacted me years later to thank me for being his or her teacher. 

But, sadly, I don’t have a story like that though after 30 years of teaching, it seems like I should. At least, I don’t have one big story. I have small moments. 
It seems like those should count, too. They’re important. Aren’t they?
I can excuse myself by saying that of the 30 years I’ve been in education, I spent seven out of the classroom, and so I lost contact with a lot of kids and their families. But, that sounds lame. What is true (read: less lame) is that I have never stayed more than six years in one school site and I’ve moved from North to South America and back again twice. It’s easy to sever ties when that happens. 
Nevertheless, I do have one small moment from this past year to share. In January one of my students moved away and for a few months after that, we were in touch via email. My student would write about how much she missed our class, what she was doing and, in one memorable email, thanked me for being a strict teacher. 
Bye miss I will never forget you, from all the teachers I had you’ve been the funniest, hilarious, and the one who most teached (sic) me. I like you most…because your’e strict. Take it as a good thing because you are preparing us for the other grades. THANK YOU. You’ve also been very funny. Never forget me because I never will.
This was from a student who spent the entire time she was in my class trying to undermine or poke fun at everything we did. I could never call her out on it, but I knew she was doing things behind my back. The fact that everyone found her charming, and I found her sneaky, made my suspicions that much harder to handle. 
Social media has facilitated staying in touch with families of former students. Facebook, LinkedIn, email, and Twitter make it easy to track down just about anybody you want to find who wants to be found. 
I know that my students from my first few years of teaching are out there somewhere. They’re in their early 30’s. I sometimes wonder where they are, what they’re doing. How they turned out. Do they remember our year together? 
It took me over 20 years to connect with a teacher who was my mentor in high school. I don’t know if I’ve ever told him how much he meant to me at the time. Even after reuniting face-to-face a few years ago in NY, I never got up the courage to thank him for his support, encouragement and unconditional faith in my potential to become whatever I set my mind on becoming. I wonder how often that really happens. There are definitely stories out there, but how often do students contact their former teachers to thank them? I wish I’d told Mr. G how grateful I was that he was my teacher. But, I still haven’t done that. Does that mean I care any less? Does that make him less effective?
I’d like to think it doesn’t. But, taking the time to reach out makes us feel appreciated and loved. 
As I move into my 31st year in education, although I have no regrets there are many things I wish I had done differently. I hope my hundreds of former students out there know that I love them and wish them well. 
And, I hope it’s mutual. 
I learned so much more from my students than they could have ever learned from me. 

Thank you for being my teachers. 

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Filed under #CompelledTribe, #SOL, appreciation

Searching for Balance

I have been doing a lot of soul searching over the last couple of days. 
And, I’ve come to the conclusion that I must change my attitude – shift my stance – so I can assume a new perspective. So that I am more aligned with what’s important and may add value to my life.  
Focusing on the negative is not making me stronger or healthier. In fact, I am often stressed because I worry a lot about unimportant things. I obsess over situations out of my control. I dismiss positive experiences that would help lift my spirits and align my focus towards what’s important. 
I need a distraction from my own thoughts.  
I need balance in my life. Not because I work hard to prepare my classes. Not because I read a lot of professional literature. Not because I wrote a lot this summer and will continue to do so now that school has started. But because I have been obsessing on the wrong things. Mostly, I obsess about what someone said or did and what it says about me as a teacher. I obsess about my worth as a professional. And, I have to stop. I am not a new teacher. I have been doing this for a long time. I love what I do. All of it. But, my lack of balance is hurting me. 
So, this school year I will find balance in small and big ways by taking better care of myself both physically and emotionally. 
I will drink more water on a daily basis. I know this may sound insignificant and obvious. But since I haven’t been practicing this simple habit, it is not an insignificant change for me. 
I will stay focused on the positive, especially what happens in my classroom. My students are always a source of joy for me as a teacher. 
I will not imbue a casual comment with anything beyond its face value. It’s not always about me! 
I will exercise on a regular basis. 
I will eat well. 
I will write down positive events that happen throughout the day in a small notebook and refer to it when I’m feeling down. Hopefully, this will help feed my soul. 
I will stop worrying about what others think of me. My opinion of myself is much more important.
What will you do to find balance during this new school year?

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Filed under #CompelledTribe, balance

Back-to-School Ruminations

I would be lying if I said I didn’t have mixed feelings about admitting that I’m looking forward to the start of school in a couple of weeks.

Mixed feelings about admitting that I’m looking forward to returning to school in a couple of weeks?

Wait.

I am looking forward to returning to school in a couple of weeks!

There. I said it…at least in this blog…because saying this out loud in some circles may sound nerdy.

After all, who wants to return to work after a vacation? Who wouldn’t want to extend their vacation if they could do so?

Admittedly, summer vacations are my favorite time off from school. But, what teacher doesn’t look forward to summer vacations? They are stress free and rejuvenating. They provide a time to refuel, relax and reinvigorate for the new school year. They allow for extended travel time, reading – novels (adult and middle grades books for me!) and professional books – and for spending more quality time with family and friends. They are also a time to connect with other teachers through book studies, courses, and conferences – nerdy or otherwise.

First day of summer in June!
Best buds! 

So, yes, I’ve loved being on vacation, especially this summer vacation, which has been particularly memorable; my oldest daughter recently celebrated her wedding at the end of July and we hosted many out of country guests for about two weeks. The feelings generated from the wedding linger on and I hang onto them as summer officially winds down.
The day before the wedding.
Breakfast with my son-in-law’s family!

My daughter throwing the bridal bouquet at La Casa del Árbol,Baños, Ecuador.


Yet, I contain my excitement about checking out my new room, getting a hold of my class list (have to wait a little bit longer for this) when I try to imagine the person behind the name, gathering new school supplies, and figuring out how to incorporate all of the (free and online) professional learning I have done this summer.

Some of the new books I got this summer!

Source: http://ourelementarylives.blogspot.com/search/label/primary

I contain my excitement about the unveiling of the new furniture I requested that will make for a flexible learning environment for my students.

I contain my excitement about a new teacher in my division who is also interested in flexible seating and may make for a new partner in crime this year. Shout out to Nicole!

My first read aloud of the year!
Source:Wonder by R. J. Palacio

I contain my excitement about the first day of school when I get to greet my new class of 5th graders who are probably equal parts eager and apprehensive, as I am.

I contain my excitement as I anticipate getting past the formalities and awkwardness of that first day as we adjust to learning and living together.

I contain my excitement about my son moving to middle school because I know how fast that goes.

I contain my excitement about finally starting my field research for my doctorate. Since my research is happening at my own school, I look forward to making an impact in my school’s collaborative and professional learning environment.

I contain my excitement about the new middle grades and professional books I ordered at the end of last year.

I contain my excitement about organizing my classroom library so that it’s pleasing and accessible for my students.

These are some of the books my students read last year and
that I am eager to introduce my new students to this year.

I contain my excitement about getting back to the teaching I know how to do and weaving in new learning ideas from this summer. Think DIY Literacy, Who’s Doing the Work, The First Six Weeks of School and other mentor books that I will be leaning on this school year.

I contain my excitement about the possibility of sponsoring the newly minted Student Leadership group that was formed last year with the passion and hard work of some of my former students.

I contain my excitement about #GRA16 and reading Pax, a book one of my students recommended I read aloud to the class last year; it was a huge success. Thanks, Willa!

And, finally, I can’t contain my excitement any longer! Bring it on!

So, don’t contain your excitement any longer! What are you looking forward to this school year?

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Filed under #CompelledTribe, back-to-school