No Need for Perfect #sol20

UnknownNo Need for Perfect

January 20, 2020

No need for perfect, just a little bit better.  Oprah January 2020

Thursday in my notebook (#100DaysofNotebooking) I outlined the benefits of child study.  It isn’t coincidence that I decided that child study was a real benefit to our school community that day in particular.  That morning, the pieces of child study came together again. There it was, the sweet spot.

I’m a firm believer in the child study process. A group of educators get together and discuss a difficulty and work together to suggest solutions.  We use a strict(ish) protocol.  The classroom based teacher presents the difficulty,  the team asked clarifying questions,  the classroom based teacher listens as we generate possible solutions, the classroom based teacher shares what ideas he/she might try, we set goals and a check-in date for six weeks later.  The entire process takes about forty minutes.

We have these meetings two mornings a week.  The team consists of the school counselor, the assistant principal/EL coordinator, the literacy specialist, the principal, and others rotate in.  Sometimes we have another classroom teacher, sometimes the psychologist, a special education coordinator or teacher, and others.  The protocol works well, the participants balance each other out, and its helpful to the teacher…until it isn’t.

While the process is still right and generally we’ve been helpful, over the last few months, it’s been… uneven.  Why?  Connections.  The principal and the school counselor are in their first year.  They come to the table with their experiences, their knowledge, their hopes.  What they didn’t have was a shared history. What we didn’t have was a shared history.

To be honest, a shared history can be a burden.  Fresh ideas are good and often very, very helpful.  In that room, in that situation, with those time constraints, attention is key, discussion has to be tight, almost each word matters.  It is painfully easy to get off track.  When we get off track, we cannot, we do not generate a round of positive, easily implemented, fresh ideas to try.  Everyone leaves frustrated.

We’ve sat here for the past four months, never having a post-mortem on the meeting.  Never discussing our protocol together. Just hammering it out.  Most of the time, it worked ok.  Rarely was it amazing.  I remember amazing… I missed that.

On Thursday, a teacher came to the room.  She presented her student to us.  We understood her concerns.  We asked questions that gave us all clarity.  She carefully articulated what she thought might be a next step.

I felt the shared exhale in the room as we thought for what seemed like minutes, but was only seconds.  The talk started between us.  No tripping over each others words. No confusion shown on faces.  Gentle easy purposeful productive talk. Like the tumblers on a lock, I felt the team fall into place.  Just then in the moment, we were a team.  We felt the connection. We hit the sweet spot.

We are going to be a team moving forward.  We will smile.  We will wait.  We will laugh. We will reach out.  We made the connection.  We felt the pieces fall into place and we will be working for that every time we enter the room. Once you feel it, it comes more naturally.  That’s what they say about everything that takes practice. It wasn’t quite 10,000 hours, but it was 50… give or take.

Connection #sol20

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There are actually two types of fungi here: lichen, fungi and algae, and hen-in-the-woods.

Connection #sol20

January 14, 2020

When I chose connect as my one little word, I was thinking about the connections between individuals and grade levels, types of writing and units of study,  I wasn’t thinking about how a book or books can connect so many of those things.  I also wasn’t thinking about books and how they can connect across lessons and ideas either.  Since I started with this lovely photo of a hen-in-the-woods fungus, perhaps I should start closer to the beginning.

As part of another blog team I write with, I chose a year’s worth of books to review.  (My last review, Fungus is Among Us by Joy Keller)  Another writer had recommended this book as it was published in early fall and I preordered it.  I had chosen to review it in January as many grades as starting or leaving nonfiction reading and writing and also fitting in poetry during these winter months.  This book has a lot!  It’s a picture book and also contains loads of facts.  It has an easy story line and also a biography insert.  It has a bibliography and it RHYMES!  Just the perfect mentor text to showcase many ways of writing nonfiction.

This story isn’t actually a book review.  It’s what happened next.  As is my habit, a few weeks before my review date,  I send out an email asking who would like to hear a new book.  I don’t offer much additional information.  Usually I have a few takers and in this round two classrooms of third graders invited me to read.  As I was planning my lesson,  I was thinking about poetry writing and the aspects of good nonfiction writing.  I read through the book several times, enjoy more each time.  Then it occurred to me that I have photos of fungus in my phone…  How many photos of fungus do I have?  I wondered.  Quickly before I visited my first class,  I created a quick album of fungi in my phone, a half-a-dozen pictures or so.  I read the book to a third grade, telling them that I was reviewing it.  Asking them to think like nonfiction readers and writers. What did they learn from this nonfiction teacher?  What might they try in their own writing?  

The class was immediately taken with the fungi.  They had lots of ideas in their pre-reading moments thinking about where they had seen fungi and what they knew.  Surprisingly, many of them had some ideas.  Definitely plenty to think about as we read.  We read this brilliant book noting the author’s craft in the beginning, her incorporating of text features, the parallel structure, the author’s notes. At the end,  I gave the students an opportunity to respond to my initial questions.  Their responses were very enthusiastic.

Planning on reading the book to another third grade later in the week and bolstered by their response,  I went back through my phone and discovered I had nearly twenty five photos of different types of fungi. A little odd, I know.  Putting them into an album I noticed that you can make a slideshow in your phone, so I did.   I returned to my first read aloud class and during their snack showed them the slideshow.   They were thrilled.

In another class,  I was gifted the opportunity to teach a few lessons in the beginning of the third grade nonfiction writing unit.  In the first lesson, the teaching point is that we are all as nonfiction writers essentially teachers.  Instead of the unit’s example of cockroaches,  I used my old interest and new-found knowledge of fungi to organize my oral teaching example.

This fungi things got legs… . The next lesson I taught was about using your flash draft to organize several table of contents ideas to plan for your nonfiction chapter book.  Again,  I wrote quickly about fungi and used that writing to demonstrate several possible ‘table of contents’.

So this little book,  Fungus is Among Us, has been quite helpful.  One book, so many uses.  It’s interesting.

 

 

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.

 

Trees #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.

Trees #sol19

March 29, 2019

I have loved many trees in my life.

One tree stood, a towering pine next to my growing-up house.  My father strung lights around and around each Christmas.

One tree stood in my husband’s aunt’s yard, a century oak.  Tall and majestic,  it dropped so many acorns, the squirrels came from miles and stayed for days.  We raked so many acorns.

IMG_1316One tiny dogwood  was nurtured under the towering canopy of our yard, blooming delicately in the spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those amazing redwoods stand like sentinels in Muir Woods.  They are my favorite things on earth in my favorite place on earth.  If there is a heaven to me it looks just like there. IMG_3815

 

 

 

 

Two beautiful crabapple trees my husband bought me bloomed their hearts out by my patio at our first house.  We called them the waiting rooms for they held all the little birds waiting to get onto my bird feeder.

One flaming red maple tree grew from a small tree over those thirteen years to a view outside my bedroom window.

One adopted old crabapple, gnarly and full of holes became a home to many outside our front window.  We lost it three years ago.  IMG_3814 (1)

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The crazy little tree  is covered with dog photos and dog tags, memories of dogs passed in our favorite local park.

 

 

Beautiful blooming late spring trees outside Teacher’s College in New York spill fragrant petals like rice at a wedding. IMG_5908

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maple trees were filled with a riot of orange greeting me on my way into school on fall mornings.IMG_5067

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tree in the courtyard outside the literacy center spread its branches like arms protecting all underneath.IMG_0227

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smooth sleek palms  create a beautiful pattern on the sidewalks under the tropical Florida sun always bring a smile to my face. IMG_1042 (1)

Yes,  I have loved many trees.

 

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Alice Nine’s post,  The Old Pear Tree,  reminded me of all the trees I’ve loved and some I’ve lost. 

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

 

 

 

Reflection: The Fuel #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.

Reflection:  The Fuel #sol19

March 27, 2019

Screen Shot 2019-03-26 at 8.59.58 PMFeeling a little tired after facilitating a curriculum meeting yesterday after school yesterday, reflecting on my retired colleagues’ happiness displayed over dinner last night, and three  problem solving meetings before ten,  I am definitely out of sorts.  Not an acceptable way to be in an elementary school.

Heading down the hall after missing a few groups this morning,  I stop by the door to pick up my 10:20 appointment.  His whole face lights up with a smile.

Here I am, he says.

After sending him back to fetch the book we are discussing together, we head off down the hall.  I haven’t noticed yet but my mood is already starting to lift.  We sit down head to head to catch up with Sugar and her chicken squad.

Chapter 6?  I say.

Chapter 7! my companion says assuredly.

I flip through the book pages, reading our thoughts from the preceding days. Sugar is the kind of chicken who likes to make plans that help herself.  Sugar is the kind of children who takes charge.  Sugar is the kind of chicken who has lots of ideas.  I remind him that we are the kind of readers who want to solve the mystery, but know our work for this book is to think about the character and how she changes.  We read another chapter together, whispering when the character whispers, being loud when she is loud.  Soon it is time for our final thoughts and back to class.

See you tomorrow, he says.

Can’t wait, I say.

Off then to another third grade where they are comparing two books,  Nerdy Birdy and A Bike Like Sergio’s.  One of our writers exclaims that he can’t possible write or remember all of our thinking…  Give it a try, says his teacher.  Practice with Mrs. Kennedy.  Soon my time with them is up,  then on to the next class, where we are tackling a story mountain considering Peter’s motivation for running away from home and returning.

By the time I return to the literacy center,  there is a spring in my step, happy thoughts fill my head and a smile graces my face.  The intervention teacher working in the center turns to me and smiles back.  Oh, I sign,  I need to remind myself that the cure for everything is a little while with the students.

Yes, she says, you do need to remember that.

Change: Will it Do Us Good? #sol19

Change:  Will it Do Us Good?  #sol18

March 26, 2019

IMG_5340Our Massachusetts’ house sits at the edge of a wood.  There weren’t many woods in the midwest so we were thrilled to have these trees for neighbors.  For eight years,  Lily has pulled me through the paths in these woods stopping to sniff while I stop to notice.  Sometimes we notice bright green moss.  There are so many different types growing in the woods.  Sometimes Lily stops to sniff inside a hole near the base of the tree.  I hold my breath for a moment hoping that nothing sniffs back.  Sometimes we notice buds or leaves, saplings or the occasional flowers.  There are three big granite monuments in the woods.  I always pause and wonder about them.  A row of boulders marks something that is no longer there as well.  Remnants of a past time.

The woods are changing.  Tall hardwood trees are breaking.  Their noble remains litter the forest floor.  How old were they?  Once my aunt had a century tree in her yard… One hundred years old.  Were these trees fifty?  I wonder.  Soft pines are springing up knee high among the broken remains, just like that book How the Forest Grew.   Changing.

In the seven years we’ve lived here, change has happened.  In the forest and other places too.

The woods remind me of the cycle of change.

I grieve some for I have known loss.