Saturday, May 31, 2014

#celebratelu The Power Of Words

It's Saturday and time to celebrate life thanks to Ruth and her people who remind and encourage me each week to stop for just and moment and reflect on the small wonderful moments in life. This week I am celebrating the power of words.

Change Maya Angelou quote via Loving Them Quotes on FacebookThis week, we all celebrate, the great wisdom (and words) of Maya Angelou.  Her quips and quotes are far more than fodder for Hallmark cards: they are the wisdom of ages and a beacon of hope during the good, bad, happiest, and saddest moments life has to offer.  The legacy of words she left here on earth is a gift that will keep on giving. Centuries from now, her words will still support, guide and encourage the human soul.

Maya-6This week, I took my Aunt, her special shoes, her caregiver, her wheelchair, and her walker to a podiatrist to see if we could get a nagging toe infection under control. The doctor needed an x-ray, but there was no way my Aunt could get on or stand on the platform without support; thus, there were three of us on the x-ray platform.  The technician politely asked me and the caregiver if there were any chance we were pregnant, and we assured her we were not. As we settled my Aunt back into her wheelchair, she quipped, as if she were insulted, "The nerve of that girl!  She never asked me if there were any chance I was pregnant!  I guess she read the papers and assumed there wasn't much chance at 91. Hmm. It's a good think she doesn't work at 7-11 because I hear you get fired there if you don't 'card' people when they buy beer!"
Inspirational Wallpaper Quote <b>Maya Angelou Words</b>

Finally, last night, a little girl in my life told her mom, "I wish I could read all weekend.  Food would come out of the book and be fed to me when I am hungry so I wouldn't have to stop reading."  I smiled when I read that quote because I know just how it feels.  There is no joy quite like the power of words that guide, inspire, and make us smile even when we know we really should be doing the laundry, starting the coffee, or heading out for a three mile morning power walk! Oops!  

Monday, May 26, 2014

#SOL14 Gold Stars

I started teaching during the days when the scars of the Vietnam War were still raw. Some of my students were "bused in" from nearby Southeast DC due to another socio-political war that raged in our country back then.  Some of my students had family ties to the military base and talked of planes landing late at night and MPs who came knocking at doors. Some of my students came from the nearby affordable-public housing complex, and that is where Zachary (name changed) and his mom lived. 

I can remember the abundant silky curls that framed his face and his eyes, so distant, at times.  I remember his mom, who did not look like him but consistently picked Zachary up, every day.  We were close in age yet far apart in experiences.  I was a young eager teacher trying to learn class management and curriculum while she, a young widow, was figuring out how to continue living after the greatest of losses and how to raise a son who looked like, but would never know his dad.   
I gave out "gold stars" on well done papers back in those days.  There was a lot of paperwork in the teaching-learning process back then, so the stars were reminders that I valued all of the students' work.  I remember that Zachary was particularly drawn to gold stars.  I was too glad the war was over and too busy trying to survive as a new teacher to stop and think about the potential significance of the gold stars.  

Back in those days, following a war many did not agree with, their sacrifice was quiet and never discussed. Back in those days, I didn't even know about the Gold Star Club of mothers, wives and children who gave more than their share in wars long ago, and through today.  Older and wiser, today I pray for Zachary and for his Mom, wherever they might be.  I wish I had acknowledged their sacrifice.  As we stop to acknowledge the sacrifices of so many, I stop to pray for all the many mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and children impacted by the loss of life in conflicts far away or nearby, long ago and on more recent days. 

The Emotional Core

I first saw this image on Pinterest shared by ASCD and the image let me to this article
In this age of CCS, we've been talking less about social-emotional intelligence; however, this image describes Robert Plutchik's research focusing on 8 basic emotions which may be at the CORE (pun intended) of what we do as teachers, learners, and life-long decision makers in families and relationships. There are 10 suggestions in the article and some may surprise you, such a the one where they suggest you create classroom / family stories that become integral to decision making (what would Grandma do now?).

(The article says the figure is reprinted by permission of American Scientist, magazine of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society.  It was pinned by ASCD.  I hope it is OK to share.  It is something we need to put on our classroom walls!)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Stormville's "Storm"y Story

Stormville weather is legendary as ice and snow seem to descend on our mountain even when it goes nowhere else; thus, weather-reporters often assume, erroneously, that the name is weather-based.  It's not.  In fact, back in the 1700s, even before the Revolutionary War, the Storm family settled here. While it was originally named Snarlington by some local silversmiths, the Storm family must have grown enough to vote to rename it in 1826!

For centuries, this was a quiet, farm town with a tiny post office.  In the 20th Century, it gained a single gas station, a few commuters, and a tiny airport (long abandoned) that hosts the "infamous" Stormville Flea Market!

For many years, the popularity of the local 4 per year flea market has waxed and waned; however, the recent interest in shows such as The Pickers and Flea Market Flip seems to have brought our local site for socks and sockets into the 21st Century limelight!

Yes, that is some pretty heavy cloud cover in the background.  It is Stormville!

It's hard to think of our local flea market as a destination location or as a media focus; however, that is what it has become (insert snickers from my own children and those who grew up in sleepy Stormville).  Although we did not see Lara Spencer (ABC Special Events Reporter) this weekend, we did see the stars of the next Flip contestants and lots of really cool junk (I mean antiques) like baby blue dial phones, made in Occupied Japan sewing machines, made in NY Borden (milk) boxes, and the delicious grown in the black earth of Orange County, NY, radishes!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Poppies: Perhaps I Was Wrong

Long before close reading and rigorous texts were made popular by our CCS, schoolchildren memorized poems such as John McCrae's In Flanders Fields.  They knew it honored soldiers lost in war and thought of the poem when they saw veterans offering paper poppies to anyone willing to donate to the VFW.  In the days before "visualizing" texts was popularized, most of us had a clear image of the poppies dancing in the spring breeze between endless rows of crosses.  The poem, which depicts the ravages of war, was written by a doctor whose own life was marred by the loss of life in a WWI (spring 1915) battle.  For me, at least, the poem has forever connected poppies and cemeteries, sadness, and death.

Now I know that poppies are the only flower that will only grow in "rooted up" soil.  The seeds will lie on the ground for years and will not root until the soil is dug up, as it was for graves in the aftermath of the Great War, the one men, in vain, hoped would be the war to end all wars.  Perhaps, I have been wrong about poppies for all these years.  Perhaps they represent the strength to carry on after great tragedy?  Perhaps they represent the strength we need to live in a world where there still, nearly 100 years later are wars?

Friday, May 23, 2014

#celebratelu Connecting, Celebrating, Conjecturing
I'm celebrating the images and memories that have etched my mind this week!
There were some petite fours (not on the diet), that accompanied a few pots of raspberry tea during a memorable High Tea. While I guess I will forget the taste of those delicacies and have already forgotten how many miles I was supposed to walk , I am not as likely to forget the most special of company!  It's HARD to make time to connect when there are little kids and old people clamoring for our attention.  Perhaps, that is why those moments are so special.
There were some tears, many smiles, abundant laughter, and sincere acknowledgements of the lives impacted by my colleagues on Wednesday night. For a moment or two we remembered one of our own, who lost out on the chance to travel to the "state" of retirement.  We cheered for our colleagues who traversed the gauntlet of life and made it to the chapter on serenity! We thought of all the kids these teachers knew and how many hours they had spent planning, cajoling, encouraging, inspiring and disciplining. Teaching is one of those jobs where political considerations impact curriculum, paperwork and salaries; however, teachers make it work every single day, year in and year out, no matter what obstacles come into play! In honor of my colleagues, I stayed out later than I have ever stayed out on a school night before! Somehow, I made it through the next day with a spring in my step!
Finally, there was this Facebook link to a poll on how you might look when you grow old posted by someone who is a long way from being old!
I'm a lot closer to old and so it intrigued me!  I took the poll and came up with this image that probably won't be how I take on old age (I have never been on a quad)!  Yet, I want to grow old, and make it through to the "state" of retirement.  I want to smile and enjoy life, like this lady.  I want to be active, even if it means riding a lawn tractor, so I can only wonder how all those hopes and dreams will play out! I will just have to wait and see if I become a wild-and-crazy-quad-riding-grandma-looking lady in my "old" age!

Assessment-Guided Instruction

I sometimes wonder if our students realize how much we learn through reading and reflecting as we teach! As I finish up the paperwork after a semester immersed in assessment, thanks to "teaching" about it, I really need to document my thoughts.......  
Gareis and Grant on assessment
It's easy to talk the talk and much harder to walk the walk in the area of assessment-guided, differentiated instruction. Knowing a student's strengths and needs is a lot of work, takes time and requires more than one assessment!  Yet, it is essential for effective teaching and supports learning for all students.  For our strongest and for our most struggling students, assessment-guided instruction makes all the difference in the world.  Programs and formats work best when we can use our students' strengths to support their needs.  
Classroom teachers use:
Pretests help us know what a learner can do before we start teaching a specific skill' however, they are rarely diagnostic in their focus and cannot, usually, spot weaknesses or holes that might stand in the way of new learning.  In addition, pretests measure progress at a moment in time rather than as learning occurs.  
Formative assessments is integrated into our teaching, seamlessly. Do-nows and exit tickets are some of my own favorite means of formative assessment; however, running records (the real Marie Clay kind), turn and talks and thumbs up are also pretty much integrated into every day teaching in most classrooms.   Some studies (Stiggins) suggest students gain much more in classrooms where formative assessments guide instruction.
Summative assessments are used at the end of a unit of study to measure student learning.  
Screening assessments help us to know which students might need more support.  They are typically given at the beginning of a year as a measure of which students might need support. They measure prior learning. 
Literacy specialist/special education teachers use all of these plus:
Progress monitoring assessment are used to determine if an intervention or a strategy is making a difference.  
Diagnostic assessments help us understanding how student's learn and identify strengths and needs. For students who struggle, this must be a part of what we do so that we can effectively modify/differentiate instruction.
Here are a few places to start:
Easy CBMs
Intervention Central
A Good Read:
Fountas and Pinnell