Monday, July 31, 2017

#SOL17 The Question

"You love your daughter more than your work, right, Mommy?" she asks me out of the blue, peering at me through the open bathroom door as I get ready one morning. 

Knife to the gut.

"Of course I do, honey," I say, reassuringly, but wonder where that came from and why she would even question my love.

Her question has been on my mind since she asked it.

There are a lot of articles about the struggle of being a teacher and a mom simultaneously. There's "I cannot be a good mother and a good teacher" by Marissa Cooper. Dominicca Washington writes, "As a teacher-mother, I often feel a sense of guilt and question my effectiveness in both roles. If I give too much to one, it often feels like the other will inevitably suffer" ("I'm a Teacher and a Mom and Sometimes I Can't Be Both"). One post that especially touched my heart was "A Letter to My Children: What It Means To Be a Teacher" by Sarah Brown Wessling. Wessling writes, "What I want you to know is that there are things in this world that you will choose, and there are things in this world that will choose you. That little girl was meant to be a teacher. Although it would take her years to recognize it, that meant you would, by default, know the life of a teacher."

I'm like Sarah Brown Wessling, except it didn't take me years to know I was meant to be a teacher. From the earliest age, it was all I wanted to be. I think of being a teacher as who I am: not a job I have, but a vocation. I can't turn it off, even in the summer. My mind is always spinning with ideas about teaching. Before I was a mom, I was a teacher. 

And it must be good, for my children to see me love my job, to see me have a passion to help others, right? 

Writing is thinking and writing helps me think through swirling thoughts but this piece is still unformed, developing. I love teaching. I love my children. I am a teacher and I am a mom. All parts of me. All roles that make up my identity. 

But that little face peering in the door, looking for assurance that she is more important to me than the work I do- I just can't get it out of my head. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

#cyberPD Chapters 7 and 8

This summer, I am reading Vicki Vinton's brilliant book, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading with my #cyberPD friends. This is one of the best books I have ever read regarding the teaching of reading. 

Chapter 7: Creating Opportunities for Readers to Interpret

One thing I have really appreciated in this book is the examples of literature. In this chapter, Vicki mentions several books I know well: Julius, Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes, One Green Apple by Eve Buntings, and The Old Woman Who Names Things by Cynthia Rylant. I never thought about these books from the perspective of patterns that change but Vicki's explanation makes so much sense and I can see myself teaching students to think along those lines. 
I love the idea of a "first draft understanding." 

Other thoughts that stood out in this chapter:
-Readers must be tentative before they are certain.
-Asking students to analyze before interpreting is like putting the cart before the horse. 
-"So, if we believe, as these authors do, that reading is a transactional act, with a text's words only coming to life as they interact with a reader's mind and heart, and that the students who leave our schools will need to know how to interpret many things, not just analyze them, we need to bring interpretation- and feelings- back into our classrooms" (133).

Chapter 8: Creating Opportunities for Readers to Consider the Implications of Facts

This chapter was full of "aha's" for me. I realized I'm the type of reader who sometimes reads past things I don't understand in informational text. To deeply understand, I would need to do some problem solving as well! I was struck by the idea that nonfiction writers don't always explain everything and assume that the reader might already know information. The difference between knowing and understanding also made me wonder if I am doing enough work to help kids understand the informational text we read. I found the section on preteaching vocabulary (or not) to be refreshing and new from what I've been taught about giving students all the words ahead of time. 

I love the part where Vicki said to students, "I think we're confused because this is one of those places where the writer hasn't come out and directly told us something. Instead he expects us to figure it out and nonfiction readers often do that by thinking about how a word of fact connects to other parts of the text" (148)." 

The section about the lungless frog was fascinating (and challenging to understand). The idea of planning and preparation was also something that got my attention- the idea you need to plan but also be prepared for when the play goes awry. 

I'm eager to read the rest of the book and participate in the Twitter chat this week! This book has really pushed my thinking about what it means to teach readers to be problem solvers. 

#SOL17 This is the Summer

This is the summer he lost a tooth.

This is the summer she (mostly) learned how to dress herself.

This is the summer he jumped off the diving board, treading water 11 feet deep.

This is the summer she stopped holding onto me in the pool and dipped her head under water, coming up spitting out water, blinking, but proud.

This is the summer he started holding doors open for people.

This is the summer she wanted to paint rocks.

This is the summer he flings his camp bag over his shoulder and walks in by himself.

This is the summer I still need to bring her stroller when she's tired.

This is the summer he is tall enough for the water slide at the pool.

This is the summer she wants me to braid all her dollies hair. 

This is the summer he pours his own bowl of Cheerios.

This is the summer she plays school and is the teacher. 

This is the summer I've caught a glimpse of how fast it all goes, 
how they need me less each day,
yet still need me after all.
This is the summer I'm making time to snuggle while watching movies,
to (mostly) put my work aside,
to notice their eyelashes resting on their cheeks as they sleep,
to hug whenever they will let me. 


Saturday, July 15, 2017

#cyberPD Week 2- Reflections

I am so happy to be participating in #cyberPD for my third summer! This community always pushes my thinking and encourages me to dream and plan for the new school year.

This year's selection, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton has led to so many thoughts and ideas about how to teach children to think deeply and be problem solvers when it comes to reading. 

Last week, I pulled together my thoughts on Chapters 1-4 in a padlet you can view here. 

This week, I created a Top Ten List of Quotes for both Chapters 5 and Chapters 6. There were so many important lines that spoke to me, so this was easy to do!

Chapter 5: Creating Opportunities for Readers to Figure Out the Basics

Top Ten Quotes

1. page 60: "In addition to reading books they had chosen themselves at their assessed level, all of these students had received instruction- sometimes over years- on comprehension strategies such as monitoring comprehension and envisioning. Yet none of them could consider the deeper layers of meaning in their chosen books because they hadn't figured out the basic who, what, when, and where of the story line. And none had any idea that they were, in fact, completely lost."

2. page 61: "Many writers, in effect, hit the ground running, tossing names and information at readers like balls in a batting cage, alluding to events that have already happened and relationships that may come with baggage, trusting their readers to field those balls and somehow make sense of it all."

3. page 62: "The thing, though, is this. Readers have to know they're confused or don't know something, and students who continue reading without actively connecting details or being aware of what they don't know often wind up lost in books that are supposedly just right for them."

4. page 65: "Sometimes writers don't come right out and tell us exactly what's happening, so readers need to be aware of what they don't know and then try to figure out what hasn't been said by paying close attention to the details the writer gives them."

5. page 76: "But once again, if we want students to take risks and become flexible thinkers, we must be flexible risk-takers too."

6. page 77: "But by asking students not only what they think but how they arrived there, you open the door wide enough for them to show you both what they're able to do and what they still may need to learn."

7. page 77: "Thus, the more opportunities students have to talk about their thinking, the more likely they are to transfer that thinking from one text to the next- and isn't that just what we are after?"

8. page 78: "A problem-based approach acknowledges that readers need to time to think creatively before they critically assert- especially if we want them to see reading as a complex act of understanding, rather than of staking out and defending claims like prospectors during the gold rush."

9. page 79: "I (mostly) am able to keep my mouth shut because I choose to trust that when we slow the process down, students can put the pieces of a text together in ways that allow them to see connections, relationships, and patterns of interaction."

10. page 80: "The important thing about a problem is not it solution, but the strength we gain in finding the solution."

Chapter 6: Creating Opportunities for Readers to Experience Deeper Meaning 

Top Ten Quotes

1. page 88: "...this suggests that readers need to attend to and fit together the threads and patterns the writer has woven into the story."

2. page 100: "Why questions can help us dig deeper into characters' motivations and feelings..."

3. page 103: "And this is the contagion of thinking, where you can almost see synapses firing in students' brains, is precisely what can happen when give students the time and space to think without evaluating through collaborative talk and low-stakes writing."

4. page 104: "Making students more aware there's a writer behind the scenes calling all the shots- and that their job, as readers, is to consider why she made the choices she did- helps students understand and internalize the concept that writers choose details purposefully to convey whatever aspect of people and life they're exploring through the story."

5. page 104- "When students share their thinking with you, a small group, or a whole class, it's important to respond in a way that doesn't communicate judgment."

6. page 105- "...studies have found they retain even more when they get to teach others, which is exactly what students  are doing when they share how they figured something out."

7. page 105- " want to create a culture of thinking where multiple ideas can exist side by side, without needing to find consensus."

8. page 106- "That's because curiosity needs to come from inside, which is why it's seen as an intrinsic motivation, unlike grades, fancy stickers or a threat to call parents, all of which come from us. But through your responses and the environment you create in your rooms, you can nurture the very conditions curiosity needs to thrive."

9. page 106- "And that steady decline in students questions is matched with a drop in their engagement and their ability to think creatively as they move through the grades."

10. page 107- " that students can experience what it means to read closely in more authentic and meaningful ways, using the exact same thinking processes they'll need for college, careers, and citizenship." 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

#SOL17 Purple Flower Moment

She turns over the painted rocks, little hands picking up one, putting it down, choosing another. 

"This one, with the bow and arrow," she decides. The stick-on design was a heart with an arrow through it. This is the rock she will give away.

Onto her tricycle she climbs, placing the rock in the white wicker basket that hangs between the streamer laden handles. 

Humming as she pedals, she rides her bike next door, up the driveway, up the walkway, stopping at the front steps. When our neighbor opens the door, she bubbles with excitement.

"Norma, we have this rock for you!" she bounces up and down, her smile like sunshine. 

Norma lives alone now that her husband Al has passed away. We used to see them sitting on their front lawn in chairs, Al with a beer, Norma with a glass of wine. They loved the warm breeze and the comings and goings that happen when you live across the street from an elementary school. 

We sat with Norma for a while, chatting and Megan asking her questions about all the things in her house and her backyard. She looked up at wind chimes and said, "That looks like what babies have over their cribs!" She was right- it did look like a mobile. I marvel at the connections her four year old brain already makes. 

We decide to go back outside, so Megan can ride her bike some more before evening sets in. Norma looks wistfully across the street, saying how she remembers letting her kids run across to greet their dad as he walked home from the train station.

"They get old so fast," she said as Megan climbs on her tricycle and pedals away. 

The title of this piece refers to a "purple flower moment"- a moment you become mindful and remember. I read about it in Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Textbook, which is a book I cannot put out of my mind. Highly recommend it! 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Stand on the Other Side of the Gallery #SOL17

Oh, the endless task of putting away laundry. One thing that makes laundry-putting-away more bearable is it offers the opportunity to listen to podcasts. During the school year, I could check in on podcasts during my commute to and from work. Now that it is summer, I am in the car far less and when I am, I usually have my children with me. Thus, when I am alone putting away laundry, I can check in on podcasts I enjoy.

Today I listened to the Heinemann Podcast from May 19th with Cornelius Minor. You can listen to it here:

The episode was about "the over-engaged student." It was fascinating to hear Cornelius talk about a student who was given the nickname "Prez" because he acted like the President of the class. There were many interesting points in the discussion, but one idea really captured my attention. Cornelius shared how he loves art and often goes to the art galleries in New York City. He said that sometimes he walks across the gallery to look at a famous piece of art because it looks different from a different vantage point or perspective. He employs this "stand on the other side of the gallery" idea with students as well. When your first instinct is to feel annoyed that a student is calling out and perhaps challenging you as a teacher, if you take a minute to "walk across the gallery" in your mind and look at the student in a new way, you might see that the student is eager to contribute and is showing signs of critical thinking. He said critical thinking is a tool that can be used as a weapon and we have to teach students how to use it correctly. 

Years ago, a staff developer who worked with teachers at my school, talked about "going up the ladder of inference." It reminds me of Cornelius' idea bout walking across the gallery. The ladder of inference was that your first thought led you to other ideas and you would race to a conclusion that could be faulty because your first thought might not have been true. You then made other snap judgments based on the first thought, leading to a faulty judgement. Walking across the gallery and not racing up the ladder of inference are both about pausing and considering that there could be another perspective. Holding space for the notion that another idea or way of handling a situation could be valid. 

In all situations, in the classroom and out, I want to follow this advice and take more walks to the other side of the gallery.