A Preview of March Madness Book Edition #sol20

A Preview of March Madness Book Edition #sol20

March 2, 2020 #sol20

Our new principal brought along with him an enthusiasm for a March Picture Book bracket. He showed me a video of his former school’s reading specialist introducing books in front of a exciting, balloon filled assembly. I was reluctant… mostly to trying to duplicate what he clearly thought was a special moment.

So I said…

I’ll figure out the books, but the assembly is all you.

“Figuring out the books” became the challenge so far. I reviewed some suggested list uninspired about flooding our classrooms with these titles. Having spent this year reading, reviewing, and reading other’s reviews of so many own voice, fresh books, I dreamed of giving our classrooms a mentor text set that would benefit our literacy work long past March.

So I sought out my local expert …

Our librarian

First we talked it out. We looked at the lists available, read many of those books. We agreed to try and make a balanced, fresh list that reflected our students and would be meaningful for most to read and discuss.

So for a week or so we read books…

Many, many books

I wish I had kept track of the number of books I read, reread, and considered. On the appointed afternoon, Barb and I wheeled our suggestions into the conference room with the goal of sixteen books balanced in genre, difficulty, windows, mirrors, and doors.

This was a bigger job than I thought.

We read… and discussed and read some more.

We narrowed it down to around twenty books. Laying them out on the table, we took another look, reading hem to each other, talking more about possible classroom response.

Ready to show our principal.

Am I a little nervous?

The book selection was our contribution. Our principal took up the fundraising. Sixteen hardcover picture books per class was not a small monetary outlay. Sure that these books would be used and loved, we urged him on. Spurred by a vision of a body of mentor text talk that could follow students through our five grades, I was hopeful.

Our principal remained enthusiastic and convincing.

For a while, the prospect was far less that certain.

I made a shopping list for a nearby bookstore… and hoped for the best. Then finally approval!

Flash forward a week, one of our book selection, Hair Love by Matthew Cherry won an Oscar for his screen adaptation. I widely circulated the video through the school with my personal copy of the book and the promise that the book would be in their hands soon.

The books began to trickle in. I posted photos of the covers outside my room. I read one here and there to groups of students. On the day that the books arrived, our students were celebrating Valentines, the afternoon prior to February vacation. Our principal set up the books in our conference room with neat stacks and one front facing display books. Parents in the building drifted in. They had questions.

What will happen to the books afterwards?

My heart fills with the possibilities of these books becoming cherished mentors read over and over.

We gathered up a student from each grade… and then gathered a couple more when the first friends did not want to be photographed. So there in our last moment before vacation, we snapped this photo of promise.

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol20) 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.  This is day 2.

Team Challenge #sol18

downloadTeam Challenge #sol18

July 3, 2018

Recently our district embarked upon a curriculum change for literacy.  Through lots of groundwork, planning, consulting, and collaboration we are moving slowly forward.  That forward movement reminded me of a team challenge in my younger days.

The leadership group that I was a part of at the time escapes me, however plans were made for the group to complete this leadership building training at a newly constructed outdoor team building obstacle course.

When we arrived we were divided into teams, men and women, all young and relatively sure of themselves.  There were many challenges,  high rope walking, log rolling, and others that escape me.  One challenge stands out.  There was a wall.  I am sure you’ve seen them in the recent mud challenges or on television physical challenge shows.  We had to scale up one side and down the other.  The object was to get your whole team across.

Initially,  the tallest and strongest scaled the wall,  leaving the shortest and weaker on the other side. While I know this wasn’t the case, in my memory, it’s just me left on the other side. Since that wasn’t a successful completion of the challenge, the team regrouped to strategized.  First,  they coached me.  This is how you do it.  Give it a try.  It isn’t hard. No luck.  My weak arms and short legs didn’t have the strategy.  Frustration followed.  For a moment, everyone stood still, looking at each other, looking at the ground, looking at the wall.  Then slowly, a breakthrough occurred.  If two went over and one stood on the other shoulders,  they would almost reach the top,  one scaled the front side and straddled the top, and two remained on the front side to get me over.  I was embarrassed and devastated to be the object of all this work and the center of attention.

But then serendipity…No one seemed to mind that I had held them back.  They talked, they planned.  They encouraged.  They strategized.  I was all concentration.  Self-talking my way using one person’s hand as a step and another’s shoulder.  Then the top, a momentary rest and a shaky look down before a shoulder, a hand step, and finally,  the ground.  THE GROUND.  Success.  Cheering.  General high-fiving.

I remember this all these years later not because I couldn’t, but because we could. That team is long gone, the members blurs to me today, but that feeling of everyone getting to the finish, the success,  that stays with me.

So as I think about our new curricular challenges,  I think that we could get some educators to the success quickly.  They are ready,  they are eager, and they are prepared. We could do that.  Then those others,  the ones for which this seems like a unsurmountable challenge, a challenge they don’t quite want to participate in,  will be all the harder,  perhaps impossible.  If we share the leadership, if we plan and strategize, we can get everyone over the wall, whatever that wall might be to them.  I know.  I know the success will be sweeter because I remember that wall so long ago.

 

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I slice with my writing partners at twowritingteachers.org each Tuesday.  Today’s slice inspired by the dedicated work of our district literacy team and the encouragement of Jennifer Serravallo to dig deep for stories.

Rock in my Shoe #sol18

Rock in My Shoe #sol18

March 17, 2018

I click off the television via the remote between us. The house is silent then. I can hear the clock in the kitchen’s rhythmic ticking. It’s so dark. Potential blog post run across my consciousness like oranges on a conveyor belt. That might work, what would come next, too personal, possibly. A cold nose touches my face. It’s not time yet. I look at the clock. 5:00am. I put my feet on the cold floor. Every part of me protests. The two of us head out into the dark. In the predawn, we know the route. It’s a good thing because my mind is stuck in yesterday, replaying and replaying. I shake my head. Think of blog posts, think of recipes, think of grocery lists. No, that doesn’t work, it’s still there. My grandmother used to say you’ve got something stuck in your craw. I do. It’s lodged in there tight like a rock in my shoe. She senses the shift as if I am actually limping. I consider all the would, should, coulds. Why? They aren’t going to do anything now. Next time… I think. Next time. But next time, I’ll still lead with my heart and my enthusiasm. I will still think, you’re with me, right? I’ll be fully me. It would be easier if everyone else spoke fluent Susan. However, that is not the case. We turn around and head home. Gentle brown eyes look up at me as if to say. Just keep moving forward. That rock twinges, but we press on.

Path Change #sol17

Path Change

November 21, 2017AlcoveSprngsWagonSwales DIles

They say there are nine places in the United States where you can still see the marks of the Conestoga wagons.  As you may predict,  most of them are in rural areas of the western edge of the midwest to western states of Kansas and Nebraska.  These ruts represent so many, many families and individuals that followed the exact same path out to what they hoped was fortune.

In education,  we rarely have the luxury of a known path.  We often have our path changed for us or realize because of situational phenomena,  it’s time to change ourselves.  The good news is that disequilibrium strengthens your core.  It’s true or so I hear.  The school building is full of yoga balls to strengthen our cores and heighten our engagement.  So a little change is good.

A little change is good, but often change isn’t little.  Several curriculums change at once,  your class changes,  your room changes,  your colleagues change. A lot changes.  So what do we do when change is hard?

They say that an unexamined life isn’t worth living and so perhaps is our attitude toward change.  We are all positive about teaching our students flexibility and positive mindset and ‘not yet’,  but when it comes to our own little patch in the sun,  we struggle sometimes.  I say, that’s ok.

Growth is a messy, imperfect process.  If we weren’t out there experimenting with change and new and a little scary,  what kind of example for our future innovators would we be setting?

So just for today, this week,  this month,  this school year, let’s take some teaching risks.  Let’s move away from the ruts of the paths of the past.  Let’s try some new things.

It’s a good time to think of that kindergarten book we used to love.

13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.  

Robert Fulghum

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 9.10.00 PM Thank you to Two Writing Teachers and my fellow slicers for the forum and the  encouragement.  Read more slices here.

 

A Lesson Learned in Time #sol17

testSo make the best of this test, and don’t ask why
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time   Green Day

April 4, 2017

This is state testing week in fourth grade.  I have had my own little bunch to proctor, so it’s given me a little bit of technology free time to think as I watch the students work through the ELA assessment.  This all led me to contemplate scaffolds vs. rescuing,  student agency and the like at 11:30 or later last night.  I’m the one with test anxiety.  So in my fitful near sleep I hear Green Day do this.

Green Day  singing Camp Town Races to the tune of Good Riddance.  

The actual words to Good Riddance are these:

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time
It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right
I hope you had the time of your life

Green Day was singing Camp Town Races,  I was hearing Good Riddance.  Green Day has probably sang Good Riddance more than 1,000 times so adapting the Camp Town Races lyrics to the Good Riddance score might not have been difficult for them.  Our students daily have to adapt what has previously been taught to new experiences.  And they do.  With or without us,  they continue to learn.  Some of what they learn is adaptive behaviors.

So when presented with the challenge of a generic grade level assessment taken on a computer, can they remember the tune and adapt it to new lyrics.  It seems easier than it might be.  Memory might make this task more difficult.

As I watch them working through the test questions, I think about the opportunities that we have given them during this year to ‘wallow in it’.  To get down into a problem and think their way out.  I begin to ask myself questions about my instruction.  Do I let them sit in it?  Do we work for their questions instead of answers to mine? During this year,  I’ve read many books and articles about scaffolding and rescuing.  Who is creating the space for students to think?

So here’s the question for us.  What do we do every day to prepare students for ‘the test’?  The test of new situations, problems to solve, new learning.