Monday, Monday #sol19

imagesMonday, Monday #sol19

May 14, 2019

I know it’s Tuesday, however I want to talk about Monday or maybe just Mondays in general.  Yesterday was May 13.  Not a Friday.  The first day of benchmark assessments which I usually look forward too.  Here in New England, it seems we have had a endless rainy spring.  All these things converged.

I didn’t think much about it until I was talking over results with a teacher while strolling down the hall.  He said, this is because it’s Monday.  

Monday?  Monday… Can our teaching and their learning be so fragile that a weekend can change the outcome? What will the summer do?  Well we know what summer can do.

I went on yesterday to do a reading assessment on an intervention student.  She struggled to decode many words in a story that I presumed would be simple for her.  She was hesitant, nervous, and generally anxious throughout.  Monday?

Later in the day,  I had a district wide meeting.  We hosted in our conference room.  It has a broad table and a dozen comfortable chairs.  Airplay and a large screen.  We had a very productive meeting and at the end one of the principals said we should meet in this room every time.  It raised our productivity.  

It makes me pause.  Perhaps the message is that it really is not so much big picture, but all in the details.  Perhaps all the magic we put together for success is the true secret sauce.  Every single careful decision adds up to the mix that works.

As we finish up this year,  I consider how we create the alchemy that makes that magic in a bottle.  Do we avoid tests on Mondays?   Do we bring cookies?  Have comfortable chairs when we meet as adults?  What conscious decisions can we make that might in fact change everything?

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Reflection #sol19

May 7, 2019

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It’s that time again.  The sweeping rush to the end of the school year and yet as endless activities swirl around me,  I feel like one of those photos where I am still and everything else is moving.  I don’t think I realized when I took on that one little word, reflection, how deeply it was the word for the time.

At the end of the year, we naturally reflect.  We reflect on success and missed opportunities.  We reflect on goals and accomplishments along with missteps.  The balance is… delicate.

I have the opportunity to make a fair number of decisions,  offer even more advice, have endless planned and unplanned conversation, and a little time to reflect.  Our careers and daily work is based on change.  Change for student may equal growth.  That’s an equation that makes sense.  Change for us as educators sometimes doesn’t make that much sense as we stand in the fray.

I have written about change many times.  This isn’t a reflection of change, but I don’t think we can have a reflection without considering how change effects a system and the individuals that populate that system.  When things are difficult for the adults or the children, does that make them wrong?  Does struggle equal inappropriate?  I am trying to reduce struggle or move everyone forward?  What does moving forward mean?  Reflection, right?

As a people we are not so reflection driven.  We are more solutions driven.  We have problem A,  so let’s try solution B.  We notice deficit C,  so the solution must be decision F and so on and so on.  What if solution isn’t the next step after problem?  What if the next step after problem is inquiry?  Observation?  Discussion?  What if in our rush to solve, we have stepped all over our evidence?

So this year,  I am going to do what I usually do in May and June with an enhancement.  I’m going to go to the data and encourage others to go to the data.  I am going to reflection on difficulties and ponder them deeper wondering about their makeup.  I am not going to drive headlong into solutions as tempting as that always is. 

This year I’m going to take a hard look at my practice, at the systems I promote and the ones I don’t, at the ideas I was so sure of and reflect on that certainty.  I hope to listen and contemplate, and reflect.  Not always looking backward, but not leaving those experiences in the rearview until I have truly thought about them.

My plan of action:

Collect data of all kinds.  Student driven data.  Teacher driven data.  My own numbers.

Ask myself and others some big questions:  How did we grow?  Where we didn’t, why didn’t we?

Ask other people for their reflections about our shared work.

Mull it over.  Mix it with a few more discussions and readings and distance.

Then begin again.

Test Day #sol19

Test Day #sol19

April 23, 2019

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Today is state test day for the third graders.  I would like to say that it’s just one piece of data.  I would like to say that it’s insignificant to my work, our work.  I would like to say that I haven’t been thinking about how the students will do.  I cannot.

I’ve been thinking about test day for over a month.  Every literary essay we craft with the students makes me consider if we’ve helped them own the narrative tasks.  Every time they misstep in character work or parts of speech or planning for writing makes me consider every way I’ve coached teachers and students in literacy.

If you asked me outright,  I would say that what I see in student writing, in independent thinking, in character analysis by NINE YEAR OLDS has been nothing short of amazing. Yet, on the practice test, they asked the students to write a story from the perspective of a rat instead of a snake and they were thrown.  I understand the test creators may ask point of view questions for students to show how they understand character development in relationship to stories.  Perhaps the students are thrown because the stories are not as complicated as the ones they read every day.

As I arrived at school, I realized that we worry about the state tests a few days coming up to them, on the day as student ( and their parents) react to them, and on the day that the scores arrive.  These tests are our currently reality.  We should think about how questions are asked of students and how students respond to them.  We also should continue to teach literacy in the context of life skills and citizenship, connections and inferences,  deep thought and collaborative talk.

I hope that all we as a staff have facilitated for our students will shine in these assessments.  However,  if it doesn’t, perhaps we should consider not just our presentation, but the test design. Allowing ourself time to teach students how they will be tested now and throughout life.  Contemplating how to respond to tests and how to succeed.

For now,  I wish all of us a peaceful, productive day.

 

 

 

Paint Chip Poetry #playingwithpoetrynpm

A paint chip poem inspired by Elisabeth Ellington who was inspired by an I am exercise in Susan Goldsmith Woodbridge’s book, Poemcrazy, Freeing Your Life with Words.

Paint chips are amazing. Go on over to the hardware store and load up. I want a second set right now. Devoid of verbs, paint chip names abound with adjectives and nouns. To complete this exercise like the mentor, I transposed one title and added articles, prepositions and the sentence stems from the exercise. This was fun.

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Poemcrazy exercise

Just pile on words. Don’t think. See images. Daydream with words. Wander. Go crazy defining yourself…

 

 

 

 

What I Am

I am seasoned salt,

the pencil sketch of early September.

The clear vista of my heart

is a stargazer on a September morning.

I am every growing season

keeping promises of a new day on

a distant shore.

I don’t know soft secrets or solemn silence.

I’m a blazing bonfire in the

Chicago fog,

a summer dragonfly at a lawn party.

I want to be a rolling pebble,

A sand pearl, a hush in beach grass.

Nail Polish Name Poetry #playingwithpoetrynpm

Playing with poetry further, I took Elisabeth Ellington’s nail polish name poem as a mentor. I have a box of nail polish, apparently ripe with racy innuendo. This wouldn’t be an elementary school project. Here it is. Each line of poetry is a nail polish name in my collection.

Nail Polish Poetry #playingwithpoetrynpm

April 7, 2019

bahama mama

aruba blue

haute in the heat

berry naughty

bikini so teeny

The girls are out

Breaking curfew!

wicked wild (nude)

no more film

e-nuf is e-nuf!

From My Notebook: Planning #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.

Notebook Saturdays

Through my work as a literacy coach,  I have teachers that I meet and collaborate with throughout the week.  Usually these meetings are at 7:30 a.m. on a scheduled day of the week. I  meet with each teacher or team for 1/2 hour keeping notes of what we are working on.  Our school is an UOS of Study school following the work of Lucy Calkins and colleagues in this our first year of full implementation.  Most of our meetings are in their classrooms. Some teachers will come with questions, sometimes we plan out what we will work on the next week, sometimes I have a teaching technique or skill  I’ve noticed or a suggestion. I keep a journal entry of each meeting to keep me thinking. I am thankful to Tammy Mulligan, Teachers for Teachers, for assisting me in working on offering a menu of ideas during this coaching time.  This is still after years a work in progress.

From My Notebook:  Planning #sol19

IMG_3832I’m torn this week from my notebook to the work we’ve noticed in the classroom.  In the second bend of baby literary essay, we noticed that the students are adopting the language and structure of the essay.  Their evidence is grounded in text and they are growing a small theory.  The place we see them struggle a little is matching their evidence to their theory.  Letting them sail off on Thursday, choosing their own picture book, their own theory, making their own plans,  let us notice what’s up with their independent writing.

We meet to hash it out.  She has the writing notebooks piled on her table, but when she speaks first it’s about the state test.

I went through the last five years of questions for the test, she says.  We haven’t done character comparisons,  journal entries, and… there’s poetry.  They also have perspective, cross text synthesis, and predictions.  

I pause letting her words settle around us.  I’m working on that… the pause.  It is a lot and time is short.

Their work is better than we thought, she says.  As we sift through, we notice bright spots.  This one has strong evidence.  This one is getting the idea of connection story.  This one had a plan.  This one has the language down.  On we go.  I reflect that as a team, we’ve gotten so much better at the quick glance, read, determine teaching points.  Only a few were struggling that day.

She brings out a scrap of paper from her teacher notebook.  We have a box for students to put concerns she says.  This one was in it yesterday.  I don’t like how the teachers never call on me when I have a good idea,  it begins.  We pause and discuss.  Using the turn and talk gives students all a chance to say their ideas in the air, but clearly this friends still is craving the teacher’s attention or the spotlight.  We reflect on our own balance.  Who are we asking to share?  We think we are equitable.  We vow to keep an eye on it next week.

Back to the work we met to do.  We work through the next week, weaving in books and techniques.  His name remains on the top of the page.

 

Just Wondering #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.

Just Wondering #sol19

March 28. 2019

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 9.33.30 PMWondering as you are checking your phone deliberately while I am talking

if my words

sting as they bounce off your armor or do they

buzz circling your head like tiny gnats

as you

mentally swat them away,

I wonder if the stray word slips in and rattles around irritating all it touches until

you can expel it

I wonder if you notice how those ricocheting words are flying everywhere and

your friends, your colleagues are watching to see if any of them enter a crack in

that parched land

hoping that the enthusiasm you shower on so many other things will distill

into a tiny drop

on this parched land

I wonder if you have known the success of words taken in when they don’t fit but

nurtured and tended until they bloom unexpectedly into

the success of a miraculous new idea

I wonder about the others who won’t be presented with

the budding growth of those unheard words

who won’t witness the struggle and the miracle of new understandings,

the seeds tended with love into something so unexpected

forever unexposed to those ideas you wouldn’t hear