It’s All About Approximation #sol18

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It’s All About Approximation #sol18

Our district is in the midst of an overhaul… in a good and also messy way.  We have an interim superintendent, an interim assistant superintendent for curriculum & innovation, a new reading curriculum, a new writing curriculum, a new reading assessment and at my school, we have a interim principal…  That’s a lot of new(ish) stuff.

The absolute truth is that new can be really, really messy.  It can be full of starts and stops, trial and error, and especially misunderstandings and enlightenment.  Messy can be beautiful and a marvelous learning experience if you fully embrace it with a clear vision of the why.  It can also be exhausting… sometimes not in a good way.

Like many in my PLN, I spent the day on Saturday at Teachers’ College.  I look forward to it for half a year,  drive through part of the night and the dawn to get there,  absorb like a sponge all day and then process all I have heard for months afterward.  For years, when I went to the Reunions,  I was catching up…  I didn’t quite understand the visions, the nomenclature, and the rhythm of the talk.  But somewhere along, I began to keep up.  The talk makes sense.   I see the connections between things.  I’m actually in stride.

So… how do these things go together.  You just have to suck at something for a while.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s tiring. It is definitely not the easy path.  In the fray, it’s hard to see the route.  Our district was high functioning.  Students were making adequate progress for the most part.  The need for a new curriculum wasn’t mandated or even needs-based.  It was about innovation.  Thinking about a future we don’t quite see for a generation that’s on their way there.  Changing the narrative and the practice from teacher directed to student led.

Unfortunately,  the vision setting,  the dream-casting,  the history of change is frequently communicated in short hand and at the wrong frequency.  Someone compared our work once to rebuilding the car while driving down the road.  The image of that is truly terrifying, but yet we coach teachers into that in a room full of elementary students every single day of the week.  Unpredictably, uncontrollably, sometimes unmanageably every solitary day of the year.

It took me five solid years to have a vertical vision of the Calkins’ reading and writing curriculum.  Every day I learned additional components, interpretations, and resources.  I’ve breathed, discussed, and attempted these ideas most days over the course of those years and still… I’m back in the books, reading more, going to more reunions.  Learning, questioning, adapting more all the time.

Where does that leave us right now?  In a glorious place!  If we are growers, learners, and innovators every day, it leaves us open to encouraging growing, learning, and innovating in our students.  If we struggle, we are closer to their struggle.  If we have to work things out, try and try again, we exhibit growth mindset in the realest, most authentic way.

I never was that good as an educator, administrator, interventionist, or coach to make things really look easy or perfect, but I know many who can.  I always admire that perfect looking space, those creative bulletin boards, that neat writing in student portfolios, but now I admire a narrative that sound more like approximation.  We’re so close… My students are nearly there.  We tried this today and it bombed, but tomorrow we’re going to…  I noticed… I wonder… Man, today was HARD… 

So here’s to the disequilibrium that comes from change and attempts and deep, deep learning.  I have to go to bed earlier, but I’m very excited to get up in the morning.


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thank you to all of the writers who encourage me to say I don’t really suck at this anymore including all of the voices behind Two Writing Teachers.  Read some amazing thoughts here.

Surprise Endings: toolkit part 2 #sol18

Surprise Endings: toolkit part 2 #sol18

March 24, 2018

It’s the things we don’t anticipate that are the trickiest to negotiate. Often occurring, we plan and anticipate a certain response from students and colleagues. Occasionally these surprise leave us reeling, struggling to recover. Scaredy Squirrel thinks he has prevented these through preparation and avoidance, but that doesn’t quite work out for him. Sometimes it doesn’t for us. Here are some ideas for our surprise endings toolkit.

10 Ways to Prepare for Surprise Endings

or What I learned from Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt or commercials

  1.  “Real People,  Not Actors”     every person brings their own perception, this is a good hint but unpredictable
  2.  Please Give Yourself Extra Time       we can take a moment to process or regroup
  3.  Items in mirror may appear closer       as Ferris Bueller says. Things come up fast and we have to be ready.
  4. Make a Chart,  “Ways to Prepare for Tricky Things”     a anchor chart is good, things are tricky for kids and for us.
  5. The struggle is real.      It’s just ok, no matter what.
  6. If we aren’t sightseeing, we are driving. (Colleen Cruz).     Get in there and mess about. Don’t you love those Jeep ads where they are 8 inches from out of control.
  7. Disequilibrium strengthens our core.     Just that. That’s where the learning is, read more Path Change #sol17
  8. Hope is not a tactic (Deepwater Horizon).      Read more Hope is Not a Tactic.
  9. If we want people to take risks, they have to know that we are there to catch them. (Innovator’s Mindset )       this is a great book to motivate innovative educators
  10. . There is such a thing as adjacent possible.

Day 24 of the 31 day Slice of Life Story Challenge. Slicing along with some amazingly generous and talented writers. Check them out at