#TeachersWrite Experience

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I am loving my experience with #TeachersWrite so far. After my first week, I actually have a piece of writing. Yay! I know if I want to be a better writing teacher, I need to write. The #TeachersWrite blog is just I need for guidance to overcome the fear I’ve always had about writing. If you are interested in checking it out, click here. It links to author Kate Messner and her blog. (By the way, if you have not read THE SEVENTH WISH, by Kate Messner, you must.)

Now, for the brave, getting over the fear, part of this process. My work in progress is below. Feel free to comment and share what works for you, what does not, and any suggestions for improvement.

 

He just does not understand! I do not want a dog, I need a dog. When I am terrified after waking up from a nightmare, a dog will be there to comfort me. When grief takes over my body like a disease, a dog will love me.

“Dad, I will pay the adoption fee, pick up the poop, feed him. I swear I will!”

“Rrr,” Dad grunted, shutting the office door behind him.

Defeat washed over me like a wave. I’m drowning. I slowly trudge up the stairs and plop down on my bed.

“Rrr,” I grunt.

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Through the Eyes of a Student

 

Photo Credit: Sky Druffel

As I spend the first official day of Spring Break planning for the rest of the year, I reflect on the survey my students kindly filled out about our classroom and my teaching. I noticed a lot of trends and commonalities, but also many differences. 

Many wrote they love when I use humor and suggested I use it more. My goal is to plan at least one humor related item a day. Some of my ideas include jokes, stories, silly movements, and role-playing.

Students also wrote they needed more practice with math concepts. I plan on using a workshop model this spring to provide more practice time and small group instruction.

Using the single point rubric to provide feedback instead of giving a grade on formative assessments was a huge success with students this winter. Students wrote they want to keep doing this and feel it helps them succeed.

Finally, I noticed many individual differences which reminded me of the unique needs of each student. A strategy that works for one may not work for another. I am reminded of the importance of differentiation to meet as many needs of each student as possible. 

In my process of reflection, I asked my daughter today to tell me her favorite part of school (she is a first grader). Library was her response. I asked her to tell me why. She talked about books, the teacher read alouds and bringing rocks to her librarian. Rocks? Her librarian has a different theme each year, this year’s theme is rocks. She allows them to being in rocks they have found. I asked if she is funny. My daughter responded no, but said she is nice.

Nice. My daughter’s last statement brought me back to the most important word in education, relationships. If a child can see that you truly care (there is no faking it) amazing things can and will happen. We have the privilege to work with children everyday. Our relationship with each one of them makes the most impact. Notice them, listen to them, celebrate with them, love them.

5 Ways to Recognize Student Talent





I just have to get this off my chest. I have the most amazing, unique students this year in fifth grade. They are a mashed-up, crazy mix of the most unique personalities and I love them dearly. My class reminds me of the movie, “Little Miss Sunshine.” So many quirks, but we stick together and make it work through trial and error.

I love my class this year! They are an amazing set of individuals who have lived and gone through more than any of us could imagine. They are opening up to each other and supporting each other in so many ways.

It is important that each child know they are unique AND special. This class alone reminds me how important it is. How to recognize the talent in your class:

  1. Morning compliments: Have students meet in a circle and state a compliment to someone in their life. This helps to build a positive culture and recognize individual talents.
  2. Genius Hour: Let students have time to learn about and share their passions. This builds a sense of community and recognizes individual strengths.
  3. Time to Read-Foster the love of reading: Give students time to read books of their choice daily. Students learn so much about themselves through reading. They discover who they are as readers: what kinds of books they enjoy, recommending books to each other. Give them time to talk about books. We do class book-talks once a week to add books to our someday lists.
  4. Give Students a Voice: Survey your class on anything from how they feel about grades to what they would love to learn about. It is amazing what you learn about your students when you ask them intentional questions.
  5. Nobody is Perfect: Discuss this often. Model this often. Sometimes it is hard to be a person. Sometimes we deserve a high five for getting out of bed! Recognize struggles and celebrate diligence. Focus on learning as a journey. The process is the important part, not the product.

The inspiration for this post came from my own reflection as to where I am this year as an educator, and as a mentor, to all of my students. They each share their own unique individual needs and are the most amazing, inspiring group of students. 

All Things Smart-Insight from my Students

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Image from kizoomlabs.com

After participating in another Twitter chat on Saturday, #satchatwc, I knew I had to survey my students again. This time I gathered their thoughts on the word smart. Most of the educators participating in the chat believed there are many forms and definitions of the word smart. All of us have a talent/gift to contribute. All of us can be smart. But I wondered, does it really matter how we, adults, view smart, if the message is not getting across to our students? Here is what my fifth grade students had to say.

What do you think the word smart means?

“Someone who knows a lot of things.”

“You are good at all subjects. Intelligent.”

“Make wise decisions.”

“You get everything in Math, Reading, everything!”

What do you think makes a person smart?

“Learning, research, and also reading.”

“Practice. Lots of training the brain.”

“They know lots of things.”

“Learning.”

“Trying hard. Not giving up. Practice.”

“Mistakes.”

Do you think there are different types of being smart? Explain.

“Yes. There is street-smart and smart-smart.”

“Everyone is smart already in their own personal way.”

“Yes. You can be techy smart or life smart and that means you can manage your money.”

“I do not know really but if there is I did not know.”

Do you see yourself as a smart person? Explain.

“Ummm, no. I really don’t get math and science and stuff and it makes me really mad.”

“I’m in the middle because I don’t always get everything right.”

“No, but I have street smarts.”

“Yes, I know many things. I know a lot of math but especially technology.”

“Yes, I can build.”

Any other comments on the word smart? Thank you for being honest and open with your comments!

“I don’t like the word smart.”

“Why is it called smart?”

“Everybody is smart.”

“Would you consider me smart? Please be honest too. Thank you! (I promise not to cry. I just want to know what you think.)

My Reflection/Take-Away

As I sat down tonight reading over the surveys, I was pleasantly surprised at how many students understood there could be different types of smart. Many spoke of effort and practice to help get “smarter.” One even said mistakes make you smarter! I do not know if this message was gleamed from me, previous teachers, or parents, but I was excited to read their thoughts.

On the other hand, even if students viewed and accepted different types of being smart, some did not view themselves as being smart. They could not identify something they were smart, gifted, or talented in. This troubles me tremendously! I try to notice and recognize the successes in all my students, yet some do not see this in themselves.

I intentionally set those surveys aside. I’m making it my top priority to help those students discover, recognize, their own unique gift(s) they bring to our classroom and the world. If I can do that, I have succeeded as a teacher. Just maybe, I can help foster a life-long learner. A passion for learning. Hoping to plant the seed!