I have never been the kind of teacher who…

I have never been the kind of teacher who makes kids sit in rows.

But I have been the kind of teacher who has assigned seating in the classroom. Now, I use flexible seating arrangements.

I have never been the kind of teacher who insists on using writing prompts to get students to write. I know better than that.

But I have been the kind of teacher who has sometimes said, no when a kid asks: “Is it OK if I…” I don’t do that anymore.

I have never been the kind of teacher who has a silent classroom all the time.

But, I have been the kind of teacher who insists on silent writing or reading for some part of the day.

I have never been the kind of teacher who requires kids to walk through the halls in silence.

But I have been the kind of teacher who expects kids to talk in soft voices unless they’re on the playground.

I have never been the kind of teacher who worries more about having a Pinterest classroom than a learning classroom.

But I have been the kind of teacher who sometimes worries that my classroom doesn’t measure up.

I have never been the kind of teacher who doesn’t want parents in her classroom.

But I have been the kind of teacher who has wondered how to improve and enhance the home-school partnership.

I have never been the kind of teacher that chose education because you can get summers off.

But I am the kind of teacher who uses every available moment to become a better teacher…even in the summer.

I have never been the kind of teacher who complains about everything we have to do.

I am the kind of teacher who is getting better at finding a work-life balance.

What kind of teacher are you?

 

A Sitting Kind of Day

Today was a sitting kind of day.

The snow returned.

It blew in whiffs through the playground leaving a thin, white blanket over everything.

The temperature dropped a bit.

The building of the forts continued. There was a tiff between two groups about whose fort-is-this-anyway?

And, then we sat.

We sat while one girl shared about a trip to Victoria to cheer on her sister who competed in the Junior Pan Am Games as a diver.

We sat while another student presented her PPT about bobcats. She was inspired by a bobcat family sighting in her neighborhood; this family seems to have taken shelter for the winter in my student’s neighborhood. This isn’t that rare since shortly after school started a family of bobcats was sighted in our school playground early in the evening. Could it be the same family?

We sat during writing workshop. Students were working on their #NaNoWriMo novel. Some had to reset their goals as they hit their word count mark already! Great problem to have.

We sat during independent reading. And, again, to jot down the three or four most important events in our book. We put the sticky notes in our notebooks and wrote our thinking so far about our book.

We sat during the #classroombookaday read aloud and the subsequent conversation. This is always a challenge with 28 students and a too-small space. We read Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie. The kids loved this book and we had a lively conversation about what were the important events in this book, not as easy as it seems.

Thunderboy Jr.We sat while another student shared about a four-year old neighbor who has facial deformities just like Auggie in Wonder. The little boy’s family is having a fundraiser at a local movie theatre this weekend. Tomorrow my student will share the presentation she prepared about him.

We sat through a conversation of what’s the same/what’s different in two images of dividing fractions here.

Although we sat a lot, we also talked a lot and when we needed to stretch we did. But tomorrow will be an opposite kind of day – more one-on-one student-to-student and teacher-to-student conversations and less whole group. Though I like whole group because it helps build community, it’s also good when we break up to pursue our own interests.

So, tomorrow will be a pursue-your-own-learning kind of day.

I am looking forward to tomorrow. That’s a great way to end the day.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday.

Reflection on a Monday Night

The new school year is well underway.

My students and I have had about six weeks to learn about and understand each other pretty well by now.

We survived the so-called honeymoon phase.

We’ve gotten past the “who-the-heck-are-you-and-why-are-you-acting-this-way phase”.

We have had our share of ups and downs.

Many, if not most, of our routines are now in place. We have done them for at least 21 times and counting.

The days of changing up this or that routine or trying to set a schedule that doesn’t change are behind us.

I have let go of some things I struggled against, like the noise level. It’s hard for 28 grade 4 students to be actively engaged in learning without there being a bit of noise. As long as the buzz is about the learning, then I’m OK with that.

I do love independent reading time. Right after lunch, because they argued that it would calm them down for whatever learning events were planned for the afternoon, they come running in from the playground, without running, eager to find a comfy spot – the couch is a favorite – and get into their book. It’s silent then. It’s a good sound.

Like all kids, my students are eager to learn. They want to be successful.

We have embarked on a wonderful journey and we’re only at the beginning of a still-to-come amazing voyage.

#classroombookaday

#GRA17 – we’re still reading The Wild Robot.

#NaNoWriMo

#mathstations

#IDR – independent reading

And, now it’s the season of snow forts and winter holidays.

I love being a teacher. There is nothing I would rather be doing. And, there are no students I would rather have in my classroom than the ones I have right now.

I am humbled and privileged to be teaching this particular group of students at this moment in their lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Single, Working Parents

I have a new found respect for single, working parents. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always known that being a single parent is not easy. But knowing something and living it are two different things altogether.

Recently, I spent 2 1/2 weeks as the only adult at home. So, I was glad when my husband returned from his trip; there is now someone else to help with chores and to make decisions. I have someone to talk to about how difficult my day was. I can count on him to take over when I need 15 minutes to regroup. When it’s just you, you can’t take a moment to rest or do anything that will derail your very carefully structured schedule. If just one thing gets out of place, everything falls apart.

While my husband went back to South America to rent our house, sell our car and basically pack up our things to be shipped to Canada, my 13-year-old son and I had to fend for ourselves. Right at about this time, you’re probably thinking: ‘So, what? What’s the big deal? Your son is a teenager. He should be able to help around the house.’ So, I guess I should tell you that my husband is the one who cooks our meals, so when he’s away it’s my turn. If you know me personally, you will know what a huge learning curve that is for me. I. Don’t. Like. To. Cook. There. I said it! So, my son and I teamed up in the mornings and evenings so that we could have healthy meals and time to rest before bedtime. I think we did well during those 2 1/2 weeks, but when I think about doing this all the time, my heart sinks. I feel for those parents who are going it alone and are doing their very best every day.

The children of these parents are sitting in our classrooms right now. Whether or not we know that this is their situation is beside the point. In fact, what’s important to remember is that we are all trying to keep our days intact so that chores don’t consume our every waking moment. Although, some of us are fortunate to have more supports in place, others of us are hanging on by a very thin thread.  Either way, one- and two-parent homes are busier than ever before. We fill up every waking moment with commitments and appointments; our calendars are a criss-cross of play dates, school activities, and other events. While some of these may be obligations, others are time fillers. It’s as if we don’t know what to do with ourselves unless we’re busy. (But, I digress; that’s a post for another day.)

When the family lives of our students pose a challenge (like mine temporarily did for a few weeks), we need to remember that children absorb their family’s energy and bring that to class, whether or not they know this is happening. It’s particularly true for young children. That’s another reason why it’s important to connect with the child in front of us even if we’re having a bad day ourselves. Even if we’re feeling less than effective as educators and are tempted to put the responsibility somewhere else.

Take a deep breath. Step back. Clear your mind of preconceived notions and prejudices. (Yes, we all have them.) Start with a clean slate. It’s a meditative moment. Look around at your students. Imagine your own child, niece, nephew, or neighbor’s kid, who may be having a difficult time, and take another deep breath. Smile. Make a connection. It could make the difference for your student today and always. But, don’t take it from me. Try it out and leave a comment about how it went.

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!

#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

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.