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.

Shared Worry. #sol18

download-4Shared Worry. #sol18

March 15, 2018

In the dim light of my desk lamp,  I scan over my notes from the last time we met.  I consider what’s happened so far this week and since we last met.  I think about the unit their on. I wonder about things that have gone wrong and glimpses of what has gone really well.  I think about the sandwich.*

The clock above my desk clicks onto 7:30.  I gather up my conferring notebook, my phone, my pencil, and my coffee and scurry down the hall toward her room.  She’s waiting.

I can see her notebook open on her desk, writers’ notebooks, books, the units of study.  I scan the empty desks on my way over, glancing up to smile at her and say good morning.   I put down my coffee,  my notebooks, my phone.  I get down a stool from her counter and sit down.

We look at each other and exhale simultaneously.  We want to start with the trouble. The Trouble.  I inhale and exhale again.  I scan my mind wondering if I can find some amazing words of wisdom that will make me seem like I know what I’m talking about, make her feel like she knows what she’s doing, and FIX. THE. PROBLEM.

I was thinking that I would go back to Fran McVeigh’s posts from last week and tell her about them,  how Fran was working toward a solutions.  I was thinking I noticed Monday and Tuesday that when she was explicit about her active engagement and link,  that the students were more productive in the release.  But then,  I started to think about what the small group said to me on Tuesday, that I had yelled at him.  Yelled at him.  Yelled at him.  I was definitely forceful,  definitely running thin on patience… 

Now it’s been nearly a minute and I haven’t said anything.   I look up at her.  I wait.  I’ve been working on that, waiting.  She says I’ve been thinking

And that’s the start.  We share our noticings and wonderings.  We share our feelings.  We share our ideas.  We share our worries.

Just like that, we have a new plan.  A new idea.  We fill the tank.  We move forward.  Together.

Every weekday morning,  I share a 1/2 hour with one teacher.  These times are scheduled and mostly standing appointments.  I always go to the teacher’s home turf  if I can.  That gives her power in our relationship. The teachers are in all different places in their teaching careers and have varying needs/wants.  I have had these standing appointments for years, shifting teachers as collaboration needs change.  I offer them up at the beginning of the school year and sometimes it takes a semester before the slots are full up.  Preparing for these varied meetings keeps me grounded in the curriculum,  the day to day struggles, our resources, and practice.  Most of these teachers and I will work together in their literacy block daily, but some just have this time to talk over big ideas, resources, worries, and whatnot.  It is the second most effective part of my practice, eclipsed only by the in class practice.  It keeps me grounded,  learning, and listening.  

*the sandwich- the idea that you share a compliment or a good thing, sandwich in the criticism or bad news, and then end with a positive comment. A sandwich.

The Other Person in the Room #sol18o

Image-1 (4).jpgThe Other Person in the Room #sol18

March 6, 2018

Dear Teacher,

I’m always the other person in your room.  I wish I was a small unnoticeable sprite… but I’m not.  I wish you always felt comfortable with me hanging around… but you don’t.

I made this list of what I wanted you to think.  It went like this…

I girl scout promise I’m just here for the kiddos.

Don’t notice me!

I don’t notice you.

Just between us,  in total disclosure,  none of those things are true.  I’m a literacy coach.  Sometimes I am there for you.  Sometimes you probably should notice what I’m doing with your students, what I brought with me,  what I wrote down.

Sometimes I do notice you.  Occasionally,  you make me think of something I want to bring you next time.  Sometimes I think about what I might bring your students or a particular student.  Sometimes I think about what resources I might suggest for you or your grade.  Lots of the time I think about how I can be more helpful, more genuine, less intrusive.  Lots of time I think about how I can mirror your talk when I talk to your students.

All of this being the other person in the room is a little like a dance between me and you and the students.  The more you and I communicate,  the better we get at the dance, the more collaborative we are.  It is lots better if we do most of that talk when we aren’t doing the work.  I’m pretty good on the fly, but it’s not the best way to think or react.  Quite honestly,  if we try and communicate during our teaching time,  we are not getting accomplished what we really want which I think is,  two people working with students all the time.

Two super important things I want to say, but don’t always bring myself to say.  I really, really don’t want to tell you what to do.  Often you ask me,  what should I do differently or what do you think I should do or tell me what I should change.  I don’t want to do any of those things.  I especially don’t want you to think I’m all that or for you to think that I think that I’m all that.  I know that I’ve been doing this thing since dinosaurs roamed the earth.  I know that often I could be your mom or at least your aunt.  That does not in fact mean that I’m anything but a fellow traveler.  Most of the time when I have an insight, it’s just because I can have perspective based on my travels.

What I wished you believed about me is what I believe about myself to the very core.

I’m still learning too.

I want to experiment and fail and succeed and try with you.

I believe that messing up is good for us and the students

I thrive on collaboration. I want to know what you’re thinking.

So I know sometimes I feel like a houseguests that has stayed too long or worse a spy… but try and get past that with me.

I’ll see you tomorrow.  I’ll be the one that feels like their on a first date in someone else’s house and I’m not sure what to order…

Sincerely,

your partner, your friend,  your coach

Thank you Two Writing Teachers and the Slice of Life community.

Introductions #sol18

IMG_9597Introductions #sol18

March 2, 2018

Just like me to skip over introductions the first slice and dive right into whatever fleeting idea comes through my head.

So…  by way of introduction… and backtrack…

Here I am in my capacity as one of the literacy coaches for my Massachusetts school district.  One of my favorite activities,  the yearly new teacher literacy induction annual selfie.  One of these years I’ll buy myself a selfie stick and this will be much better looking but perhaps not nearly as fun.

I refer to myself as a literacy coach these days, though others might use reading, specialist, or intervention in my descriptive title.  I answer to all, but my heart is in coaching.  I want to be a coach.  Coaches are funny, inspiring, tough with a soft heart, and mostly successful.  Coaches get right in there and inspire others to their best selves.  I don’t wear a whistle, but I have been known to sneak some sneakers into my daily look.

I’m in transition.  My principal says I can’t say I’m in transition anymore as I have been in this position in Massachusetts for eight years. However,  I left at least a good portion of my heart in the Chicago suburbs.  My wagon wheels still long for the ruts that were comfortable there including some trails to amazing pizza and frozen custard and hot dogs… and people.  I left behind our family including my man-child oldest and so many educators that formed by beliefs and watched my back.

I’ve been an administrator, but my passion is kids.  I am energized by them.  I adore their talk, their thinking, and their honesty.  I have a desk in our literacy center, but you’d be hard pressed to find me there during the school day unless it’s to find you a book.

I consider myself a reader first and never until recently ever entertained the idea I could be any type of writer.  I’m not sure what scarred me in my youth, but I’m guessing it was the five paragraph essay.  I remember in my undergrad and several rounds of graduate school laboring over writing anything.  I wanted to write like I talk and thank goodness this seems to give me an outlet and a forgiving audience to do that.

Technology is my partner.  I don’t know what I did before IPads and mobile phones and laptops brought me amazing things like word press and instagram and TWITTER.   I was experimenting with text-speech this morning in my car because there is so MUCH wasted time between that commute and when I’m in the shower WHEN I THINK OF SOME REALLY good ideas.  It’s frustrating.  My handbag and book bag and desk are full of notebooks for blogging, conferring, conferring with students, planning, scheming, and generally keeping track of my day.

So that’s me in a large nutshell.  Looking forward to a month of writing with you.

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-9-10-00-pm

Day 2 of 31 day writing challenge. Thank you to my fellow bloggers for inspiration and encouragement and to TWO WRITING TEACHERS for creating this opportunity.  Read more amazing blogs and join the writing here.