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.

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.

Is That Your Chair? #sol17

desk chair

any resemblance to my actual desk chair is purely fictional

Is That Your Chair?  #sol17

September 26, 2017

We are in the midst of assessment season and my mornings have been filled with benchmark assessment with my team.  It’s a hectic time, but gives me that so-needed dipstick into the reading temperature of the whole school.

In the midst of a busy Monday,  a  confident bean pole of a third grade plopped down in the chair next to me to read a couple of one-minute reading passages.  He looked over to the desk chair I wheeled down from the book room and said, What are you doing with Mr. Jodice’s (our revered music teacher) chair?  I looked around, startled, not understanding what he said at first.  This is my chair from the literacy center,  I said.

The smarty pants gives me a strong stare…Does Mr. Jodice know you have his chair?  With rational words I calmly explain that all of the classrooms have these chairs and Mr. Jodice’s chair was still in his room for him to sail around in.  Given the look I got in return,  I don’t think this intelligent third grader believed me.

I told this story a few times yesterday, even to Mr. Jodice, to smiles and knowing nods about the literal thinking of this young third grader.  On my drive home,  I began to think about just that third grade thinking.

All of us, especially those under four feet tall with a limited (for the time being) world view, have certain expectations and KNOWLEDGE that we know for sure.  My young friend knew for sure that his beloved Mr. Jodice had a chair identical to mine, so it must be his.  Following this logic along,  this third grader (and his friends) have other things that they know for sure.  Things that would startle me or any teacher who might have a different way of thinking. Ideas about how stories go,  ideas about themselves as learners, ideas about … teachers.  Some of those ideas, we should help them change…over time.  We can’t help them change these ideas if we don’t listen to them first.

Thank goodness Mr. Jodice’s chair will be right there in the music room next time my new friend has music.  Some things are the rocks on which we build others.  Maybe that third grader will think Mr. Jodice graciously loaned me his chair.  Maybe he’ll visit the literacy center and spin in the chair himself.  Maybe he’ll notice the chair his teacher sits in at her desk.

Hopefully, what I learned is to perspective take a little better because of that little conversation on a Monday.

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 8.32.28 AMThank you to Two Writing Teachers for inspiring so many of us to write our slices of life weekly.  Thank you to my PLN of amazing writers for encouraging me on Tuesdays and every other day of the week. Enjoy so many more slices here.

So Many Questions #sol17

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 7.57.05 PMSo Many Questions #sol17

August 29, 2017

Yesterday we had our district-wide kick off.  Today we had our ‘kick-off’ staff meeting.   In my thinking, they both centered around questions.  Questions we should ask ourselves to prepare for our year.

Yesterday, our def Poet speaker, Regie Gibson,  rallied us to distill our contribution to society (our students) into one word.  One word to convey all that our essence brings to the proverbial table of our classrooms.  My word came to me quickly.  Many, many individuals say this about me.  Sometimes I suspect it isn’t a compliment… to them.  To me,  it is my core strength.  This thing gets me to rise in the morning, work long through the day, and continue year after year.  The district sent us a wordle of the collective words.  It took me a few minutes to find my word.  It’s not the largest or the next largest.  I wondered if any one out of those other hundreds of educational professionals said the same word.  Then I thought it’s my word.  I know what it means to me.  I have a good idea what it will mean to the teachers,  students and parents that I will cross paths with this year.  I feel good about that.

Today, we watched a video of Dean James Ryan of Harvard University delivering a commencement in May 2016.  He says it much more eloquently that I do. My teacher and parent friends will enjoy especially the first question,  “Wait!  What?”.   Of course, this goes to understanding.  The second questions figures prominently in our current teaching, I wonder why.  This question prompts our curiosity.  The next question helps unstick the stuck,  Couldn’t we at least… Offering a gentle, gentle nudge, a place to begin. The fourth question, How could I help? is the basis of all good relationships.  This one thing is a strength of mine,  the ability to help.  The subtlety of the question is important.  How could I help?  Giving the recipient the opportunity to maintain the control of the situation and your assistance.  The last question is echoing in the blogs I follow,  the books I read,  my reaction to current times, and my own musings.  What truly matters (to me)?  When we understand this one thing, we can share so much.

So there you have it on a Tuesday.  Some questions to ponder as you celebrate a new year.  I hope that they will keep you up in a good way,  light your path,  and spark your conversations.

 

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This slice of life is inspired by many more found here and by Two Writing Teachers who may in fact have changed everything I think about myself as a learner, as a writer, and as a member of a vast community.