My New Writing Journey

 

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#teacherswrite 2016 Monday June 27th

I am not a writer. I have never been. I try to say things on paper, but when I read it, the message is not there. No formal training on writing, but I am expected to teach my intermediate students the art of writing. This is why I am here. I want to learn. I desire to learn. I am scared. I worry someone will read what I have to say and think, “Who do they think they are?? Really, you are a teacher?” The fear is there like a wall. Do I climb over it? Do I let others see me in my vulnerable state? Or do I just keep doing what I have always done?
One thing I do know, once I became a reader, I was a better, much better, reading teacher. My passion rubbed off in the classroom. I had a book recommendation for every type of student/taste. If only I can accomplish this with writing. If I become a writer, will I be a better, much better, writing teacher? I hope so.

Now…what do I write about???

Questioning, I Need Your Help

  

 How do we go from toddlers and preschoolers asking questions about everything around them, to school-agers who hardly ask questions at all? What is the message being sent to students in the way we view and deliver teaching and learning in the standard classroom?

Our staff is reading articles about questioning and student engagement. When is a child truly engaged? What is our definition of student engagement?

With these question running through my head during Winter Break, I feel torn by what is expected of me as a teacher, and what I believe is best for the whole child in my classroom. Where is the balance? What is best for one child is not necessarily best for another. How do we get children to be engaged for true learning instead of pleasing the teacher and finding the right answer. 

Some of the things I have implemented this year is the focus on effort vs. getting the right answer. The focus on learning vs. the right answer. The focus on effort vs. correct spelling. I have to say this again and again in my classroom. I find students slowly taking more risks and less fix-mindset, negative thinking. But I cannot do this alone. 

How do we change the culture of school? How do we change a classroom into a learning/wonder/investigation studio? 

I do not have the answers. I cannot begin to pretend to know how to make this change. But I know what I believe in my heart, and I am torn. 

I am turning to my PLN, Twitter community to help me begin to find the answers to these questions. Please help me start the conversation. Please help me find the courage to move forward.

Five Ways to Bring the Joy Back

As I read educator blogs, Twitter feeds, and professional books this summer, I cannot help but think about how stressful our job as an educator can be. We care so much about our students and being the best teacher we can be, sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves first. Yes, I said first.

How do we take care of ourselves and still be an excellent educator? I have a few ideas on this topic I’d like to share.

First of all, enjoy your summer. Even if you are not going on an official vacation, do something for yourself you normally cannot to during the school year. For example, I went on a private wine tasting event where we were able to compare wines straight out of the barrel. We are also traveling to Lake Chelan this week to relax with my family and my new nephew. Take advantage of this precious time we have during the summer!

 

Barrel Tasting!
 
During the school year, here are a few thing you can do to keep the joy in your teacher life, and the stress out.

  • Do something with your class that you are passionate about and enjoy. I happen to love technology and teaching my students how to use new tools. I introduce them to blogging, storyboards, google drive. I get so excited when students discover how powerful these tools can be, how motivating they can be, and the students can see this excitement in me too. Together we are truly enjoying the experience.
  • Change it up. Students and teachers can get bogged down by the same routines. We naturally need something fresh, different, to help not only students be engaged, but teachers too.
  • Have fun! At least once a week, plan a fun activity with your class. It could be a simple team-building activity or game. Make sure it is something you will enjoy.
  • Read aloud books you enjoy. I happen to love children and young adult novels. I read up a ton during the summer and choose my read alouds for the school year that I am passionate about and know I will love reading again.

How do you keep the stress at bay? Please add to the list of ways we can take care of ourselves so we can be better teachers for our students.

Planning for Next School Year


This is the time of year I reflect on what went well, what I want to improve, and set goals for the next school year.

What Went Well

  • Independent Reading Time: I made the commitment after reading The Book Whisperer and The Reading Zone to set aside 30 minutes of choice reading time for students. The results were amazing. Students became readers and learned what kind of books they enjoyed, how to pick out books, and how to get lost in a book. I wrote more about this change in a previous post, Devouring Books.
  • Genius Hour: I learned more about my students’ strengths and talents through this hour a week commitment. I was really scared to try this out, worried the freedom would be too much for some students. Instead, students learned how to self-manage time, self-manage research, plan presentations, and learned from each other. Did we have some struggles, yes. But students learned more about themselves as a learner through these struggles.
  • Blogging: This is the second year I have used Kidblog with my class. Students now know how to write for an audience instead of just for the teacher. When they write, they sound like they are actually talking to someone. The authentic audience blogging provides cannot be replaced. My students are better writers because of it and it has transferred to their writing in other areas.

Areas to Improve/Goals

  • Growth Mindset: I had many students this year, especially in math, get discouraged and down on themselves. They thought it is all about having the right answer, or not being good at math. Some gave up during math time. I did not do enough to address this. I plan on using Making Number Talks Matter next year to address the sense-making some students lack in math. If anyone has an awesome resource for helping  students establish a growth-mindset, please recommend in the comment section below!
  • Kindness/Repect: Many students had a lot of baggage they brought to school with them. Because of this, some would lash out at others. You know how we tend to take it out in the ones we love the most? Yep, that is our classroom this year. We are a small school and most students have been together since kindergarten. How do you establish, despite the fact you might be boiling inside, to still treat others around you with the kindness and respect they deserve. Please advise in the comments below!

There are many things I hope to keep doing well and many things I want to do better next year. Blogging about these issues helps me digest and reflect. It also allows me to document my thinking to refer back to as I plan for next year. I would love to here from you. How do you plan for the next year? What process works for you?