Saturday, October 26, 2013

Celebrate This Week: Skyping and Perseverance

Discover. Play. Build.

This past week was a crazy whirlwind of events.  However, I have several awesome celebrations to share!  

1.  On Wednesday, our 7th grade students had the opportunity to Skype with author Chris Grabenstein.   This is the first author Skype visit I have ever attended or coordinated, so I was nervous to say the least.  There were about 300 seventh graders in attendance for the session, and only half of them had the opportunity to read The Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library.  All of the students had the chance to research him before the Skype, but I was still nervous that the students who had not read the book would not take the Skype session seriously.  All of the students were AMAZING!!  The questions that the students asked Chris Grabenstein were well thought out, and led to some very interesting and creative answers.  He was entertaining and provided a wonderful first author Skype experience for the staff and students.  I am so thankful that I work with a group of people who helped support this opportunity for the students.  I am also celebrating the fact that I have my first Skype visit under my belt! 

2.  One of the 7th grade social studies teachers that I work with is in the process of teaching his students how to create a digital textbook.  The students will be creating digital learning objects and putting them into the textbook for other students, current and future, to use to master understanding of content knowledge. In order to provide this opportunity to as many students as possible, on an individual basis, he is trying to get more iPads for his classroom.   Therefore, he created a Donors Choose grant project to help with this goal.  The funding for this project started on Wednesday (around $1,000) and he text me yesterday morning to let me know that the project was already fully funded.  His determination and perseverance to do whatever needs to be done to help students learn, in a way that is beneficial for them, needs to be celebrated.  I also want to celebrate those people who donated to this project.  I am so impressed with people's willingness to help children learn and helping to provide them with a positive education experience by donating to classroom projects.  

I have no doubt that this upcoming week will be full of more reasons to celebrate amazing things that are happening around me!  

Monday, October 21, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


These memes were started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journeys, to inspire readers to share books they have read and will be reading. I have found many of my current reads by following bloggers participating in It’s Monday! What are you reading? Be sure to check out their sites for more information on what they are reading, and learn how to participate. 


Books Read Last Week:

Title:  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author:  Ransom Riggs

Title:  A Long Walk to Water
Author:  Linda Sue Park

Currently Reading:

Title:  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author:  Benjamin Alire Sanez

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Celebrating a Wonderful Teacher

Every Saturday share a celebration.   It can be anything (or several things). A photo, a page from your writer's notebook, a favorite lesson, a success story, student writing, a recipe, a new book for your classroom library -- just find something to celebrate.  

Discover. Play. Build.

My oldest son is a kindergartener this year, and what a learning experience it has been.  Not for him because he absolutely LOVES school.  For me, because I have learned how to trust.  His teacher is helping me learn how to trust.  First, let me give a little background and share that she is a first year teacher.  I remember my first year of teaching, and it's a year I would like to erase from my memory.  When I found out that this was her first year of teaching, I panicked and could only think of my first year.  I tried to quickly think positive and trust, but that was easier said than done.  After some advice from other teacher friends I decided to make the best of this year (thank goodness!!).  Here is a quick list of some things I love about Miss Achauer:

1.  She emails the parents daily with a quick recap of the day, so that we can have meaningful conversations with our children about their day in school. (Her words)

2.  She truly understands my son, and I couldn't ask for anything more.  She understands that he is a hands-on learner and that paper/pencil tasks do not reveal his true potential.  She also understands that he is caring and sensitive.  

3.  She differentiates based on student needs and abilities.  When I think of teaching kindergarten, I picture trying to herd cats.  There is such a wide variety of needs in a kindergarten classroom, and many  kiddos still struggle to work independently.  I am in awe when I see how successful she is at accomplishing this!

4.  She puts my mind at ease.  It is obvious that she has listened to my concerns about my sons communication and frustration issues.  The information that she shares with me about him is beyond positive.  This puts my mind at ease as a parent, more than she will ever know!

5.  She CELEBRATES learning.  One thing that she shared with me at parent/teacher conferences was that the class celebrates each other's writing through all parts of the writing process.  I seriously wanted to jump across the table and hug her!  

Miss Achauer needs to be celebrated, not because she has helped me learn how to trust, but because she is delicately nurturing my son's love of learning.  She is a natural teacher who truly understands that teaching is more than standardized tests, OTES and Resident Educator requirements, but it is about children.  I am so thankful that my son has the opportunity of  learning and growing with Miss Achauer during her first year of teaching.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Reading Aloud: A Few of My Favorite Things

There is nothing I love more than reading aloud to a group of students.  My co-teachers are always offering to take over some of the reading, but my response is always NO (said with love, of course).  Seeing the look of excitement and pure interest/focus on student's faces makes my day.  Currently, we are reading The Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein.  I knew the students would enjoy this story, so I was excited to be able to share it with them.  Here are just some of my favorite things that have happened during or because of the story, which make me genuinely make me happy:

1.  Talking while I am reading - this is on-task, interactive conversation about the story.  Students are constantly trying to predict the next event, sharing their emotions about certain characters or commenting in agreement with decisions that are being made throughout the story.  These are not disruptive comments for the entire class to hear, but soft chatter similar to what would be heard in a movie theater at exciting parts of a movie.

2.  One student shared that she loved this book so much (we are only about 19 chapters into it) that she went out and bought her own copy.  She is using the copy to read to a group of 4th and 5th graders at a neighboring elementary school during a reading group that she helps to host.  

3.  There are just some words that I struggle to pronounce correctly.  Indubitably just happens to be one of those words, and it also happens to appear in the story.  As I stumbled over the word, one of the students grabbed a dictionary to look up the word because he was curious about its meaning.   He also taught me how to correctly pronounce indubitably.  

4.  There was second student who couldn't wait for the ending, so he bought a copy for himself.  He was so excited after he finished that he couldn't wait to ask me 1,000 questions about the story.  He shared that as I am reading the book (re-reading it to him) he is having all kinds of a-ha moments about important information the author shared, which he didn't realize was important the first time he read the story.  

5.  Yesterday morning, a student stopped me in the hallways and asked if I would be reading Lemoncello again.  He was thrilled to find I that I would be, and he said to me, "I love when you read aloud.  I feel like the book comes to life and that I'm living in an actual movie."  This comment made my day, if not my entire year!  

I have had the dreaded head cold that has been going around, and my one motivation for coming to school has been so that I can see the student's reactions to Mr. Lemoncello!  Reading aloud has always been something I love doing, but this book and these students have increased that love more than I ever imagined possible.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Writing Changed My Life

Writing has changed my life.  I'm just going to put it out there and say that these past few months have been difficult for me.  I am working on making ME better, and I honestly don't think I could have done it without writing.  My writer's notebook has been a source of therapy and stress relief.  It's funny how when I am sad I just can't seem to find the verbal words to explain my thoughts and feelings, but my pen is always able to find just the right words to put on paper.   Someone, during the past year, told me to, "write like my fingers were on fire".  This statement has truly changed me.  I'm not sure who originally said that line, but I want to personally thank them someday.  Since hearing that, I write in my writer's notebook like my fingers are on finger.  I write fast and free, and I write EVERYDAY.  

As I am reflecting on my past few months, I can't help but think about my students.  How many students are silently struggling?  How many students have no positive way to express their feelings?  How many students are afraid to write because the mechanics and process will be judged, and not the heartfelt emotion of the piece?  

I remember going through school and my goal was to always make my writing technically perfect the first time.  I was petrified of teacher corrections.  Once (and only once) did I find the courage to pour my heart out into a piece of writing; only to have it passed back with red (actually purple) correction marks about my grammar and mechanics.  There were no comments (aside from "very nice") about my emotions, fears, thoughts and feelings that were delicately scattered within the piece.  What I learned from this was that I'm a terrible writer, and that's when I stopped writing for ME.  

I know my teacher (who is a WONDERFUL person) did not mean to kill my love of writing.  I know she meant well, and had the best of intentions in mind at that point and time.  I also have a strong suspicion that she wasn't a writer.  Since I've started writing, it has changed me as a teacher.  I know I still struggle with the mechanics and grammar, but at this point I am more concerned with the art of the writing.  How do the words make me feel?  As I am working with students, I strive to give purposeful and heartfelt feedback to each and every writer.  I want to celebrate what they are doing great as writers, and nudge them gently in areas in which they could continue to expand.  I want each and everyone of my students to know that writing can be a safe outlet for those silent struggles. 

I can confidently say, since I have started writing for ME, my views on teaching writing have completed changed for the better.  My views on myself as a person have also started to change for the better.