Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wordless Wednesday


The End Is Near


In the world of many a teacher, student, and parent, it's nearly here. (I really don't want to think about those for which it is already here, so right now I am creating my own reality.) Yes, summer vacation is nearly upon us.

For my students that means one more day of 'normal' and then their promotion ceremony. Normal has been absolutely normal, at least for the students, up through today. (I have had the extra craziness of report cards and slide shows, etc.) We have still been doing lots of learning, on task to keep us distracted while the end sneaks up on us.

Once the calendar turned to June the count down seemed to be in full swing throughout our building. In my room it was outlawed. If they had time to be counting down they weren't on task, we still had so much to do! The amazing thing is, it has worked. Not once have I had a student (at least within my hearing) state how many days are left in their elementary career. Students have been reading and writing, solving math equations and trying to decipher what word problems are asking of them. Students have been wrapped up in a multi-layered culminating project that incorporates writing, social studies, and technology. We have still had morning meeting and homework.

Today the end became nearer as I had them clean out almost everything from their cubbies. We went through their folders in my filing cabinet and they took home all the work that doesn't need to stay in their file. There is no math homework tonight. I closed the classroom library and went through their 40 Book Reading Challenges with them. We finished our final read aloud chapter book. They learned how to receive a certificate while shaking hands (after climbing up the stairs to the stage without tripping or stomping).

Tomorrow we have a few learning tasks ahead of us, but also some ways to wrap up our time as a community. We will also have a full run-through of the promotion ceremony, as Thursday they arrive for some class photos (looking posh) and then it is down to sit in front of their parents and special family guests before leaving the elementary for the last time. The end of their elementary journey is near.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Leaving Well

As we prepare to leave Beirut I am working to have us leave well. By leaving well I don't simply mean using up what is in the cupboard and freezer, sorting through boxes and closets, and getting our school checkouts complete. I mean taking time to spend time with the people that have made living here home and doing the things we either have always wanted to or the things we have done, but need to do 'one more time'.

It means making sure there at least a bit on intentional time carved out for each of us with those that have mattered the most. For the little one that means playdates or a last chance with a babysitter. For J there is a poker party planned. I have some individual or small group gatherings happening. For our family we have time with other families. Some of these times have happened and some are yet to come, but I think we have the most important ones on the calendar with some flexibility for a bit of spontaneity.

The cupboards are getting cleaned out, the rest of the menus have been planned (and the shopping list is VERY short!) Stuff is being sorted; things to ship, things to take with us, things to sell, things to donate, and things to put in the dumpster. The end of the school year is happening and all that comes with it. While all of those things are important, taking the time to truly leave well is more important in the long run. We have to acknowledge that our time here was important, that people and memories matter. Those of us that live this life know how small the planet is and there are people we know we will see again, we just can't tell you where or when.

I am not a person big on good-byes. Knowing this it is even more important for me to be sure to carve out the bits of time for people, rather than just skip out of town in the middle of the night. (Though we will do that too!) I am thankful that others are willing to make time with us in the midst of their own crazy lives. I hope those friends that we won't be a regular part of our lives (at least for the near future) know that they have touched us, are valued, and will be remembered.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for the writers my students have become this year. Today was our final Post On Demand, (which is a good thing since report cards are due in a couple of days!)

Without exception they were able to delve into the writing task in front of them and stick with it. I only had two students try to tell me they were 'done' before the time was up. (And in both cases I asked if there was anything else they could do to make their writing any better. When that didn't seem to spark anything in them I asked, "Are you ready for me to grade this piece of writing?" They both asked if they could have a few more minutes to look it over again.)

Now I am reading their information pieces and rubricing each one to look at their areas of strength and next steps. As I read, even seeing the flaws and thinking, "I explicitly conference with this child about this aspect of writing. What happened?!" I then turn to their Pre On Demands and instantly see how far they have come.

I am thankful, to be honest, both for how far they have come and that we are nearly there. (Come on summer!)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Perfect" Behavior?


At dinner someone mentioned their daughter had just come home with an award for "Perfect Behavior" from their school. First of all, they go to a school that I don't know anything about, nor have I ever met this child. The particulars of the child and the school have nothing to do with why I can't shake this idea. What I wonder is this - what is considered 'perfect' behavior?

My guess is that 'perfect' behavior looks like the child who stays in their seat, keeps to themselves, and does what is asked of them. My guess is that 'perfect' behavior sounds like the child who only speaks when is called upon, often saying what they think the teacher wants to hear, usually agreeing with what is being said or repeating things previously read or heard.

Perhaps I am wrong, but if there is an award for it, perhaps I am right. Either way, it isn't what I strive for my students to look or sound like. (Though it might be easier to have a room full of students like this, but it wouldn't be nearly as challenging nor rewarding as what I encounter every day.)

I want students who move about the classroom, getting what they need when they need it. Perhaps it is a tissue or an iPad or a dictionary or a stapler or help from a classmate. I want students who stand up when it is what is best for them, realizing that they have the ability to increase their attention and focus for the task at hand by stretching or getting their wiggles out. I want students to walk out of the room when they can't respond respectfully to what is being said (usually because a fit of giggles has overcome them). I want students to respect themselves and one another, choosing a place to sit that empowers their own learning without distracting others.

I want students who collaborate with those around them. I want my room to be a buzz of students learning from one another, coming to a deeper understanding of their own learning by explaining it to other. I want students to look to one another and the resources in the room before they come to me with their questions. I want students to enter into deep discussions, realizing that we don't need to agree, but our greatest learning may come from understanding another way of thinking.

I doubt my room would be seen as a model of 'perfect' behavior, but I love the community of learners we have built and I wouldn't change it for rows of students quietly in their seats doing their work independently.

What about you? Any thoughts on 'perfect' behavior?

Monday, June 1, 2015

What Are You Reading?

“It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” started by Sheila at Book Journey as a chance for book lovers to share their reading accomplishments as well as what is on the proverbial nightstand. Her life changed beyond my imagination, but was still my inspiration. Subsequently Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts added an opportunity for those reading kidlit to join the fun. Check them out, join the conversations, and discover more great books.

Books marked with an '*' I would put in my classroom library.
Books marked with a '#' would be in a middle or high school library.
Books marked with a 
‘@’ would be good for adult book clubs.

Image result for Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Rosenthal Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Rosenthal

Image result for All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls

Image result for Every Day by David Levithan Every Day by David Levithan

Image result for Season of Secrets Season of Secrets by Sally Nicholls

Image result for Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner