We've come to the end of "school road" in these parts. Parents have been asking for workbooks. sites, remedial programs to support reading. I get emails, phone messages, and notes to please send home "stuff" for them to do.
I say again and again, "Just read to them and with them, every day."
Then, on tonight's Twitter feed, I see the note above from "Think Different." I know the message of teaching by your examples extends far beyond summer reading. We show our children how to solve problems, overcome obstacles, and find peace by our actions, not our words.
They are watching even when we think they are not. So, this is some good advice, for me today, too. Try to live, always, the way you want your kids to live. When they are in a similar tough spot of life, they will likely follow your example.
Certainly, I have too many clothes. I can be a few different sizes, depending on the stress in my life and how often I am "hitting the gym." I could get rid of some of the really small things I will never wear again, like that size 6 suit. Who am I kidding? I could also get rid of a few TJ Maxx super-bargains that I never worn outside of the dressing room and a few party dresses never to be worn again. I could hold up each and ask, Kondo style, "Does this bring me joy?" I could take control of my closet even if the sock folding project would NOT be sustained. (I can hardly match the socks up!)
Certainly, I have too much fabric. Now that the "kids" aren't around, a closet is filled with my fabric stash. I could/should/would do some pruning....and then, I remembered the feel of some of those fabric treasures awaiting me. The potential for quilts, skirts, pillows, pieced place mats....all those project awaiting a slow spot in my life...or perhaps retirement...and I stopped knowing I could part with some....but certainly not all as some will not give me joy until they are part of something bigger. I might be able to prune, but I did not think I could take control of it my fabric stash.
Then, I looked up from my Kindle, and my heart began to beat faster and I thought of my office..... "Too many books," I said aloud as I fingered the classics that changed my thinking about teaching. Conversations, read first on the beach in Ocean City. Transitions, read over the winter recess long ago. Marie Clay, Marilyn Adams, Lucy Calkins, Debbie Miller, Ardis Cole, Carl Anderson, Grant Wiggins, Ralph Fletcher, Donald Graves, and all the old and new voices that have shaped me over the years. These are not clutter, I assured myself as I looked lovingly at my books. It's going to be very hard to do much pruning in this corner, I thought aloud. I tried to assure myself, they "fit perfectly into the space that I have for them."
I'll keep you posted; however, I am not sure I will be a Kondo-success story. I will try to prune and try to get organized; however, as long as I have a corner like this in a cozy office, I'm keeping Clay, Adams, Calkins, Miller, Cole, Anderson, Wiggins, Fletcher, Graves, and the rest, nearby.
Grant Wiggins spoke to teachers in my district about Understanding by Design a week before he passed away this spring.
More than once, that day, he used his baseball/soccer/sports analogy when talking about teaching. It was a powerful image and a powerful reminder about teaching/learning and release of control. We must allow our students to "play" the game of readers, writers, learners. We coach and let them do read, write, and learn. Wiggins reminded us that what is important is NOT the drill; rather it is "knowing what the bottom-line long-term purpose is, knowing ways of achieving the purpose, and knowing how to self-assess and self-adjust to achieve a purpose."
More than once, that day, he mentioned reading comprehension. He wrote about this subject many times including his last two blog posts. I guess it was on his mind. It's been lingering on my mind ever since.
Grant Wiggins (February 2015) suggested, "Maybe we don’t yet understand reading comprehension and how it develops over time." He suggested it's hard to teach and even harder to assess because, "we cannot see inside the mind." He did a review of the research (May 2015), and concluded, our teaching of reading strategies is flawed. "Just because “good readers” do certain things, doesn’t mean we understand how to improve “weak” readers. The strategies – e.g. visualize, predict, connect, re-read, infer, etc. – may only be correlated, not causal."
In May, he concluded, "We are not teaching people to read effectively....The research could not be more consistent on one basic theme: comprehension and self-regulation CAN be improved in ALL learners of ALL backgrounds. That reading results haven’t improved much beyond decoding says clearly, however, that we have not designed ‘backward’ from in-depth comprehension, using what research tells us will work."
As a reader and as a teacher of reading, I want to know how we can help students understand what they read. How can we assure our students can "play the game" as readers, writers, and learners? Fortunately, he did a lot of research on this topic in the past few months. While, we will miss his wisdom and insight, he left us with his thoughts and ideas. I think he also left us with an assignment.
Even when the obstacles of life seem overwhelming, Ruth encourages us to document and celebrate the good in our week. There are tough parts to everyone's life and this week, I am celebrating the support systems that keep us going when things are hard!
This week, I had "caregiver" issues that threatened to bring my fragile system of elder care (and me) to my knees. Like so many, I depend on people to "keep the home fires burning" for my elderly mom and my aunt. Without support, they could not be living at home. Without support, I could not go to work. Without support, I do not know where we would be. It's when things go awry that I stop and realize home much I need-depend-on-rely-on those who are doing often thankless work caring for those who get weaker-more-needy-more-dependent-more-grumpy each day. So today I am celebrating caregivers, who spend long (and often lonely) days (and nights) with sometimes grumpy and often demanding clients. Unlike those who care for young children, elder caregivers cannot just pop their clients in a stroller and go for a walk!
This week, I noticed Beary, more than once, encourage/support reluctant readers as they read/reread books. He certainly must be hot and miserable in this hot-humid weather; yet, he never complains and is always available for a hug or to listen when a reader needs a bit of encouragement. His friend, Little Beary even joined him on Friday morning as we worked our way through a stack of books. As Beary says, "There is only one way to become a reader! You have to read!" I celebrate my alter-ego-Costco-impulse-purchase and all the support he has provided reluctant readers this year. I was also wondering if I should pop him into the washer or send him to the dry cleaner?
This week, I also stopped for a few moments and noticed the clouds, sunset and peace on the horizon. Perhaps it's seeing what you want to see in the clouds and on the horizon, but it did look like the grey skies were starting to break up. I'm going to keep looking up because those clouds are a mighty-powerful support system that are certainly capable of bringing some better "weather-times" this-a-way!
As teachers we "give" lots of tests. We "assume" students know how to study.
Yet, as I watched (and listened) as my grad students (a heartbeat from being certified teachers) review for a big test, I noticed similar study styles and techniques. I asked them how they found their own "way" of studying. They really didn't know. I thought about my own studying.....like for those tricky, even though they are "open book" Google Educator tests I am taking. It got me thinking about studying....and study skills...and how we teach them!
Why not a Breakfast Study Club? http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/profdev064.shtml Some resources from Michigan State http://fod.msu.edu/oir/teaching-students-study-skillshow-learn For creative ideas, go to Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/explore/teaching-study-skills/ Some great models from Teachnology http://www.teach-nology.com/themes/lang_arts/studyskills/
Back to my grad students. They asked if they could use a page of notes for the final which included some formula and lots of details about assessment in Special Education. I agreed thinking that at least they were reviewing and the time spent creating such a document would be valuable study time.
They results were impressive and TINY fonts each student's page. While I haven't published a scientific study to "prove" this hypothesis, my action research (based on students' grades on their final) suggests that the act of creating a study guide is a good way to master content and facts.
As for me and my own studying for that pending Google Test, I've got the study guides ready this time. I know (from experinece) that in spite of the open Google world format, no amount of internet searching will get me a passing grade without some preparation. .
We don't give A+s or even As these days. In this age of CC Standards and APP Reviews, we've abandoned those "old school" ideas for number ratings (1-4) that correspond to rubrics that refer to standards for students, teachers, and even administrators.
Thus, it was both exciting and a bit disconcerting, as well as major league "old school," to find out that based on some formula that I am not quite sure is an objective analysis, my school earned an A+ as an Overall Niche Grade! Yet, crazy as it seems, it got MY HEART pumping and I was proud as punch to share the good news about our GREAT GRADE with all my friends and colleagues on social media (even though I really can't figure out the formula they used for this rating!).
Then, I came back down to earth with a realistic bang! While we'll take the accolade, whatever it means and however it was determined, there are many, many, many wonderful schools, just like mine, staffed by many, many. many wonderful teachers, just like those in my hallway, who also work tirelessly with students and parents, just like we do and are also deserving of a top 30 ranking. We're all in the trenches trying to effectively balance curricula demands and timeless values, like helping our students want to be life-long readers, writers, and learners.
There is a message in all this excitement! We all need/deserve/ want praise and recognition for our efforts. Our students need/deserve/ want to have feedback on how they are doing. Teachers also need/deserve/want feedback on how they are doing. It may be "old school," but an A+ still puts a smile on your face.
As I walked along the edge of the pond in the gentle rain, I was thinking I had nothing to celebrate. "Some weeks are like that," I said as if to assure myself this was OK
Then, I noticed two mama turtles quietly, assuredly delivering eggs into a soft nest on the edge of the road. "Instinctively, they knew what to do," I thought as my mind skipped to a Friday afternoon student-teacher interaction.
"Where's everybody?" he asked as he plopped into his seat.
"It's just us today," I said, "and it's your turn to show off your reading." I put the assessment text in front of him. "This book is about instincts," I read, "Instincts are behaviors we are born with......"
"This looks interesting," he noted as he began reading about animals and how their instincts continue even if they do not need them for survival. He slowed as he came to an unfamiliar word. "An-kes-tors, an-kest-ros," he attempted. "What's this word?" he appealed. However, before I could even begin to utter a response, he responded to his own question. "Oh, like your family," he said and then continued reading. My hand continued to "tic" away in a manner that would make Marie Clay proud' yet my sidebar note was most important. "Student is using the meaning of the passage to determine unfamiliar words, such as ancestors."
Before I asked him probing questions to assess his comprehension, he asked me a question that connected our reading earlier in the week (about droughts) with this text. "Is rain instinctive for nature?"
"That's a good question, buddy," I assured him and we deviated from the script to talk about whether non-living things could have instincts.
Before I had finished my walk around the pond and before I had finished my "day-dream" reflection on my Friday afternoon assessment, I had witnessed (7) mama turtles delivering eggs in the soft dirt.
"I guess I really do have something to celebrate," I assured myself as I headed home deep in thought about whether or not the book that was reverberating in my head, "Instincts and Learned Behaviors" would be a best seller!
So this morning I am celebrating instincts, but also learned behaviors including writing, questioning, reflecting, and determining the meaning of unfamiliar words in context.
All day long, we alternated between downpours and drizzle creating a gray, waterswept landscape for my drive home. At more than one point in my journey, the roadway filled with water providing a format for water-pluming and hydro-planing cars. It was a slow, arduous trip home, providing white knuckle moments. At other moments, my car and I were idle, providing quiet, reflection until we were redirected.
At one point, I turned off the car and listened to the pounding rain on the roof. Just 2 weeks ago, after looking at the needs of my students and attempting to "dovetail" on their classroom learning experiences, I planned a mini-3-4-session-thematic-teaching learning unit around drought. They had read a Scholastic News article on drought in their classrooms and had some background knowledge. I could use that background to support reading more in-depth text on droughts! I THOUGHT about adding a short article on flooding; then, I decided to stay focused on too little water. In my plans, however, I wrote my "goal" as "use details from the texts to explain the socio-economic power of water."
When I started the unit, last Thursday, I had to acknowledge the flooding in Texas. We watched a news clip flooding followed with a clip about droughts as our "launch." Then we started to become "experts" on droughts. And now, while our excess water is NOTHING like the devastation in Texas, we have way too much water right here on the East Coast as well And, it is supposed to rain all day tomorrow, too.