Have I had too much to say, or not enough?  Have I been thinking too much, or been far too passive? Have I been allowing "teaching" (as defined by the county and state) to wash over me?  It seems as such.  I haven't prioritized sharing my teaching experiences in the past few years. I would like to think it's because I've been far too busy focusing on my students and learning.  But, to be honest, I think I've been far too preoccupied with what is going wrong and what makes me angry and what is "just not right" in education - namely my school and administration.

In all this time, I have tried to stay focused on the students.  I'd like to think that I was mildly successful in closing my door and creating a learning environment for them - full of inquiry and fun. Teaching, true teaching, is giving students experiences and guiding their thinking.  Free of prejudice or timeframe or script.  Follow the learning.  Guide the understanding.  Show them how the world works, but allow them to truly discover it.

Teaching is not testing.  It is not putting multiple choice questions up on the board and discussing the correct answer.  They said to make it more authentic by removing the answer choices and letting students write about the correct answer.  That THIS was teaching.  Sacrificing one subject in order to fit in another - for a 2nd or 3rd time that day - because we were FAILING.

We were failing. I'll save this for later.

I'm just scratching the surface.  The change in the classroom since I began teaching - less than 10 years ago - is shocking.  The change has been gradual in some ways, while swift in others.

I shied away from blogging, I suppose, to hide the truths - to pretend those changes didn't exist, and in some ways to not hold myself accountable for my thinking about learning in my classroom.

I can't be part of the solution if I remain part of the problem.



From the blog, but not from teaching.

From the blog, but not from learning.

From the blog, but not from reflecting.

I have been struggling this year, struggling to find a balance between my new babies at home and my "old life" here at school.  Merging two worlds is much harder than I anticipated.  I was formerly a stay-later, often leaving long after school was over.  Now I can't do that. I don't want to do that.  So, instead, I come early.  But there's something about the early hours that is not conducive to productivity for me.

So I struggle with finding this new place, this new position as mommy merged with my old position of teacher.

In the meantime, chew on this:  My school has gone through MORE THAN DOUBLE the amount of paper than in previous years. Paper. Perhaps this is directly correlated to the heavy-handed implementation of Professional Learning Community procedures and requirements.


Hug Your Family

I tend to add some comments to my homework to remind my students to share themselves. To acknowledge who is important in their lives and let them know. Show them. You know - before their big fifth graders and don't want to hug their moms and dads anymore.

So yesterday I wrote "Hug your family."

In their agendas the next morning I had a few notes in agendas - most in the form of a smiley face written by mom or a check mark from dad.

Today, one of my students wrote it again on her own.

Then she walked up to me, and said - simply - "Hug your family."

Then she gave me the biggest hug possible from her little fourth grade arms.

My extended family.

Conference Time

This year is flying by. I can't believe it is already the end of the first quarter, and I haven't blogged more than - um - once? It's not for lack of activity, that's for sure. I attribute the lack of blogging to the sudden lack of time. I swear someone stole a few hours a day from me.

The end of the quarter also means - (insert scary music) - CONFERENCE TIME. This is the 2nd year I have offered home visits as a conference option for parents. Why come to me, when I can come to you!??

I have had a handful of these conferences in the past few weeks - but tonight's visit was the most exhausting. I can honestly say I was only able to squeeze in 3 sentences of actual teacher conference dialogue between the two boys chatting - with me - at the same time - about EVERYTHING. Only one of the boys is my actual student - but the other is an older brother that once attended our school. I walked in the door and they greeted me with hugs. AND, oh, the wonderful smells of home cooking. I do not encourage that families feed me - and I try to avoid "dinner time" conferences - but something tells me that no matter what time I chose for the conference, they would have fed me.

So, hugs upon entrance. Then a whirlwind tour of the boys' room, parents room, family room, game room, art work on walls, porcelain figurines that have after-factory marker embellishments. And, of course, the bathroom. It takes everything I have to not say "oh, so this is where you poo..." Instead, I replace it with something about the wonderful light fixture or hand made rugs.

I am seated at the dinner table - the head of the table. I am served delicious food - and dessert - with various beverages laid out in front of me. The boys surround me with family pictures and stories that I'm sure the mama wouldn't necessarily want to be shared on my first visit. Tales of when the chairs used to be covered in plastic and the time they were locked out of their house and did I "want to see the window they had to break into?"

This insight is priceless. The hugs from grandma, the cheek kisses from mom, and the hugs and handshakes from the boys.

Learning. I learn about them and where they are from and their history. And really, only then, am I ready to teach them.


An Octopus in Water

I imagine an octopus in water is constantly moving - all 8 arms flailing around as the body floats through the water. Floppy and awkward.

It reminds me of a new student to our school - who landed in my classroom. Just as a reminder to you, the reader, I will tell you that my classroom is outside. I live in a quad that is adjacent to a local wooded park, our windows facing a back field of the school property. Anyone could walk up to my door and knock. Or, in this case, parents.

On the first day of school, Octopus arrived. Both parents in tow. He looked what I thought was timid and unsure at the moment. Now I know that perhaps he was just stuck in his brain and not accessible. I opened the door and welcomed the student to the room. Both parents bombarded the classroom - cracking the working buzz that was happening for those students already hard at work at an opening activity.


Then the parents took the student to his seat. Then they stood there. Then they pointed and dictated what he would write. On his "All About Me" activity page. Then. Mom took the pencil and filled it in herself.

Twenty minutes of my humming and pacing around them didn't phase these 2. They didn't seem to register my subtle pleas to leave their son with me. They didn't mind when I ignored them. Finally, as I started my first lesson of the day - I somehow broke their spell and they left.

Now I see their little man when he struggles with focusing. When he can only be presented with one basic instruction at a time. In writing. His arms and legs are in constant movement, and he seems to be always locked in his own brain.

Slowly I will find a way to pry his brain open - and I will employ many techniques to help him focus his body energy in positive ways that will help him learn.

I'm going to go Google "how to teach an octopus."



Early in the year I read the book Ish by Peter Reynolds. I read this book many times throughout the year, but this first time is always my favorite. At our school, this book is usually introduced to the students long before I get them in fourth grade, but for some reason they are silent and spellbound when we pick it up for that first time.

Last year, I shared that thought with the students, to which one replied, "It's because every teacher has a different voice, and it gives a different feeling to the book."

Right back at them. Every class shares something different, reflects in a new way, or responds to the book in a manner I haven't yet heard. Some take Ish very literal, as if there is an end goal and they haven't yet reached it in the way they perceive it should be reached or completed. Others take a more general stand and see Ish as a "close enough" to succeed or feel successful. I hope I am explaining this clearly, it is sometimes hard to capture the thoughts and reflections of 9/10 year olds.

This past year was no exception. It wasn't uncommon to hear "-ish" added on to day-to-day conversations throughout the year from my students, sometimes making sense and sometimes not. And, in true form, on the last day of school I had this conversation with one student:

Me: How are you feeling about being a 5th grader?

J: It's complicated.

Me: Explain what you mean by "complicated."

J: Well, I feel like I could do my best. I could do what they ask, but it might not be what I want to happen or what I want to show. Like I will do something that I feel isn't perfectly right, but not really know how to change it.

Me: A little confidence goes a long way. Be proud of doing your best.

J: Then I guess I'm ready.

Me: Ready!?

J: Ready. (pause) ISH.


ISTE Presentation: Take 2

Here is a link to one of my co-presenters. She has provided a link to our resources and projects site that we share with our attendees. I still have not had time to process this presentation, and will dedicate a post to this in the near future. For now, I wanted you all to be able to see what we share at ISTE.

Here for pre-presentation post.

Here for a direct link to delicious site with links - what we share with our attendees. These are things actually done in our school that we talk about during our presentation.