Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Gatekeepers


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Check out the name of the author on this book. Yeah, that's me! I wrote a book, and I wrote it for you. I wrote it for teachers who want to talk about teaching - who want to be gatekeepers. (If you're curious about being a gatekeeper, you'll have to get yourself a copy.)

Lucky for you, it's finally published and ready for the world. You can either buy it on Amazon or wait a few weeks until I have copies to sell and buy it directly from me. (It's actually a better deal for me if you buy it from me, but seriously I'm just excited to share and won't be offended if you buy it now.)

It feels weird, but I'm thrilled to finally say, "I'm an author." Enjoy!



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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Embracing a Culture of Joy

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I felt the joy when the staff at my school created a human tunnel for students to walk through as they were leaving on the last day of school. (Read more about that experience here.) I believe this moment reflects the essence of Shareski's book, and I'm asking myself how can my school replicate more joyful moments like that in the future? How about in my own classroom? How can we embrace a culture of joy?

William Ferriter, in the foreword, says, "Can I ask you a tough question? How many students in your classrooms are fully satisfied with the learning spaces you have created for them? If your students reflect the national average, the answer is bound to be discouraging." The numbers he goes on to share are quite discouraging. We can do better. 

I'd love to share my favorite quotes from this book, and there are many, but I'd rather let you discover them yourself. So go buy the book. It won't consume your summer. In fact, you could read it in a day if you wanted to. Even though it's short, it's powerful and will most likely challenge you to consider how you are embracing a culture of joy in your classroom and in your school. According to Shareski, "Real learning always includes joy." 



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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Joy Write

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I just finished this book a few minutes ago. The fact that I'm ignoring my hungry belly to write this post and tell you all about it speaks to how much you need to read it too. 

Ralph Fletcher asks his readers to consider whether today's writing instruction is downloading into our writers a writing identity. 


  • Do they see themselves as writers? 
  • Do they write for their own purposes? 
  • Is it a joy and a privilege to pick up a pen and write to communicate, to think, to problem solve, to simply play?


When Fletcher describes the typical reluctant writer, I have to admit that I know this child, and he's in my classroom every year. He's likely in yours too.

So what do we do about this huge dilemma (because that's truly what it is). Fletcher challenges teachers to consider the benefits of low-stakes, informal writing. He refers to it as "greenbelt writing." (Buy his book and you'll find out why.) He's not asking us to abandon writing workshop, although in his ideal world, he'd challenge us to rethink what writing workshop looks like, but he is asking teachers to offer our students time throughout the day to simply play with writing, to make all the choices, with no strings attached.

Engagement, stamina, joy...these are just a few of the benefits Fletcher says our writers will receive from this kind of writing. Isn't this what we've been wanting for our writers all along? 

Buy this book and read it before the new year begins. Your writers will be glad you did!


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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Saturday Sayings: The Human Tunnel



I can't stop thinking about their eyes, wide, bright, and full of "I'm so special," as they walked under our uplifted arms, surrounded by our farewell cheers. The smiles, spread across their faces, were unforgettable, followed by generous hugs from random children. I chuckle at the thought of the boy who hugged his way through our human tunnel, one staff member after the other, zigzagging his way back and forth across the sidewalk. But really, the highlight of the whole experience came from a third grader who was in my class two years ago. Though withdrawn and quiet then, he's hardly made eye contact with me since. Yet as he walked through our staff-made human tunnel on the last day of school on his way to the bus, he stopped when he got to me and gave me a hug.

This moment left me thinking about the power of an emotional experience. All it took was a human tunnel on the last day of school to unlock an atypical response from this young boy, not to mention a slew of other rewarding reactions from every child who walked through our tunnel. It also unlocked new life within me, with my arms in the air and my heart overflowing. "This is the kind of school I want to be at."

How can our schools and classrooms create more moments like this? Our students will remember them. Our staff members will want to be part of them. We all need more of them. These memorable moments connect teachers and students in unique and powerful ways that will keep kids coming back for more, and some of our learners need all the reasons they can climb on to that bus every morning and show up for another day.


I feel challenged to create more emotional experiences for students that leave them believing they're part of something special and more importantly, thinking, "I'm so special."



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Saturday, May 27, 2017

My Big News

Today was my last day of year 23. Like many teachers, I'm appreciative of a chance to breathe, while at the same time, I'm looking ahead to where I want and need to be in my profession. 

My very near future is an exciting one, and I've been quietly anticipating it for nearly four years. In fact, it's kind of a big deal. I'm publishing a book for teachers, and I hope to have it in my hands by mid-July at the latest. I've never given birth, but I feel like an expectant mother. I have high hopes for this book and yet wonder if it will live up to my expectations. Even though I haven't seen it yet, I know it inside and out but hope that the final product feels as exciting and fresh as it did when I first started this journey.

If you're interested in reading an excerpt, check out this link where my superintendent shares a portion of my book in the local paper. 



Keep an eye out for my book release blog post. I'm looking forward to sharing it with you all.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Kindness Mantra


This has been on my board for the last few months. Obviously it needs no explanation. It's one of the smarter sentences I've created, and it's certainly one of the most repeated in my classroom, as any first grade teacher can imagine. 

I understand this phrase requires a lot from little people. Let's be honest. It requires a lot from adults, me included. That's all the more reason to provide our youngest citizens the opportunities to regard kindness as a crucial, even more important than their own way.

It doesn't matter if you only have a few days left with your students. I invite you to write this on your board now and repeat it often. 



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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Saturday Sayings: With Urgency



My kids take an end-of-year state reading test in April. I was recently reminded how easy it would be for a teacher to think her job is finished once students take that test -- to finally breathe deeply and fill up the remaining weeks of school with fluff. This kind of thinking is erroneous. Teaching with a sense of urgency means I will give them my best teaching up until the very last day.

All the countless hours of effort, time, and energy I've dedicated to this year do not culminate in the ten minutes a student spends attempting to prove himself proficient for the state. What a waste of time if that were true. The past seven months of my life do not hinge on a test, and the same can be said for my students. So why would I use a test as an indicator that my job is done? 

Secondly, the end of an official testing period is not the end of my influence. Minus the last few days of school when I wrap things up, I plan to use every last minute to joyfully teach every student. I'm not finished messing with their hearts and minds until they walk out my door on the last day of school,  Then, and only then, will I breathe deeply. 


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