Ch -Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

You know the David Bowie song, Changes.  This week I found myself singing it (okay, singing the chorus, humming through the words I didn’t know, then singing the chorus again, really loud) as I strolled through the beauty and wonder of Copper Falls Wisconsin State Park where we had parked our family of 4 for a week.

Ask anyone, I love change.  I change my living room around monthly, change up the furniture on the patio, my students and I change the environment in which we learn, work, and play in response to the kind of work we are doing, and, for good measure, I even change up some of the Pandora stations I listen to, just to keep me on my toes.  So when I was offered a new job, in a new district, requiring me to leave my district of almost 20 years, I assumed I would welcome and embrace the change as I do my  new living room arrangement.  Not so much.  You see, there are nice, little changes, which I had gotten comfortable with, and then, there are BIG changes, which I found out, were not so comforting.  I embraced everything about this new position, and it meant leaving everything I had come to know as safe and sound, in my old district, my old home.  It’s funny, I thought, how I coach and require my students to change the way in which they have learned for the bulk of their educational experience, and sometimes forget the emotional impact it has on many students.  The tears may not be from not understanding something, but rather from the way in which I am asking them to understand it in a different way…with no tidy worksheet with simplistic multiple choice, no tidy grade at the top which lets them know whether they got it or not, no bell that rings and signals them to put away their math materials and move onto writing, and no box that lets them know whether they fit in or not.

My tears from navigating this big change came from leaving what felt comfortable behind.  Walking in the woods, embracing the feelings I have, painful and joyous alike, allowed me to come to this conclusion; yup, I can make the small changes pretty easily now, but the BIG changes are the ones that are really going to stretch me, push me to grow, and ultimately, be a small part of changing and revolutionizing education as we know it.

 

So make a BIG change this year, along with all of the small ones, and ride the wave of emotion that will take you to an entirely different place.  Try a flex schedule, a flexible, mobile learning space, invite families in once a month to see exactly what you and their children are doing in the classroom,  step far out, instead of just a little, in just one area, and see where it takes you.  Along with revolutionizing education, you will be warmly rewarded with a better understanding of how it feels to make the BIG changes, which seem to make a deeper impact.

In the words of Ms. Frizzle herself, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.”

And grow.

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Simple Pleasure

I walked out of our learning space today for what I thought would be a quick few minutes to get the book Fever for a student.  This quick few minutes turned into a longer 15 minutes and when I finally made it back to our room to resume my conferring, I was met with a full group of 6th graders, each with his or her head in literature (the genre and type was deep and wide).  Not one student was off task, staring into space, or sleeping and I had the simple pleasure of basking in the glory of what we had created together…a community of literate adolescents who could easily carry on independently in my short absence.  All of that launching sure paid off!

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Alzhiemers and Kids

I spent the day with my 80 year old father who has Alzheimer’s.  As I reflected on the day I realized how fortunate I was to have all of tools and trades of a teacher.  I used them over and over and over again when he…

began playing with the stethoscope

had to go to the bathroom and did not want to walk down the hall alone

didn’t want to take his shirt off for the doctor

asked for the tenth time, “Now where are we going again?”..5 minutes into the car ride.

Being a teacher has its perks, but successfully and patiently dealing with an Alzheimer’s patient for the day was one I did not expect!

 

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Just Show Me!!

So this whole blogging world is new to me.  URL’S, POSTS, COMMENTS, BACKGROUNDS (I get stuck in THAT tab FOREVER!), DASHBOARDS, TAGS.   AHHHHH!   I’m kinda old.  I’m in heaven with a new, colored flair and a fresh, crisp piece of paper (or even  a 2-bit pen and a napkin, in a pinch).  After many frustrated attempts to do what everybody TOLD me to to do to comment, post, paste, sign, seal, deliver (great song), I finally threw my hands up and said to my friend, “Would you please just SHOW me??”  And she did.  I sat at her safe, trusted, left elbow with my orange flair and clean piece of paper and she walked me through it.  Done.  Got it.  Awesome.

I realized something…it wasn’t the actual writing of the blog that stressed me out, it was, rather, the technical process of navigating lands I was new to that sent my heart pumping and my frustration level through the roof!  I thought technology was supposed to make things EASIER.  The writing was the fun part for me, cathartic.  It slowed me down at the end of every day and invited me to reflect. 

What I understood today was this…as a learner, there is a time and place for ALL kinds of learning.  Some days I can get what I need through a tutorial, an email, a conversation, but today I needed my friend to just sit next to me and show me.  She did and I got it.  We need to teach kids that.  That although they have been labeled as a “visual” or “hands-on” or linear, or non-linear learner, different situations require us to seek help in the way in which it makes sense for us based on the task at hand.  Furthermore (love transition words) we have to teach them to find their voices and help us, as teachers, create safe spaces where they can continually ask for what they know they need.

I like blogging!

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Tired

I’m tired.  Does this count as blogging?

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Agency

There was a buzz in our space today.  It started like this…

SIT WITH YOUR LAB GROUPS OF FOUR

1 Smart Notebook page that looks like this…

  •           USING THE BUTCHER BLOCK PAPER AT YOUR WORK STATIONS, USE BOTH VISUAL LITERACY AND WRITTEN TEXT TO INNOVATIVELY AND EFFECTIVELY TEACH YOUR AUDIENCE (MIDDLE SCHOOL AGE AND ADULTS) THE FOLLOWING…
  • WHAT AND WHERE ARE THE PLATES (AND ANY OTHER RELEVANT PLATE  INFORMATION USEFUL TO YOUR AUDIENCE’S UNDERSTANDING)?
  • WHAT AND WHERE ARE PLATE BOUNDRIES AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT (AND ANY OTHER RELEVANT PLATE  INFORMATION USEFUL TO YOUR AUDIENCE’S UNDERSTANDING)?
  • DEFINE AND MEANINGFULLY INTEGRATE THE VOCABULARY WORDS (ON OUR BLACKBOARD 9 SITE).
  • DESIGN, SKETCH, DISCUSS, COLLABORATE, DELEGATE, LISTEN TO OTHERS, FIND YOUR OWN VOICE, LEARN

We set the timer for 45 minutes and off they went.  I sat back this time, because Yetta Goodman and Ted DeMille taught me how to kidwatch, and was glad that I did.  I saw  six pods of 6th graders, (4 to a pod) gathering materials, setting their tables for inquiry, talking, helping, researching, digging in, dipping out, discussing, laughing, helping, encouraging…engaged.  They were critical thinkers and they were honest, they were sometimes frustrated, and many of them compromised…and they were practicing, practicing, practicing the skills and strategies adults use each and every day.  It is this kind of professional (and sometimes recreational) work with my own colleagues that inspires me, causes me to question, pause, think, rethink, and is often transforming.

And so I watched them.  For quite a while actually, and was impassioned by their ability to move through an inquiry process with such agency!  I really began to understand agency today.  More and more lately THEY go home more tired than ME!  I love that!

And by the time I got home tonight there was a roaring fire in the fireplace while the snow piled up thick, wet and elephant-heavy outside.  SOL was a perfect end to a perfect day as a teacher!

 

 

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“I Think I Get Him.”

Conferences tonight.

I looked a mom straight in the eye, and from the deepest part of my heart I said, “Your son is unique.  When I confer with him, I always have to really ponder the way in which to perfectly mix my words, suggestions, praises, and advice.  He is so bright, so guarded, so walled off, yet I KNOW there is an opening somewhere. After letting him settle in on his own terms, he said, ‘Can you revise this with me?’  What followed was the most concise, most poignant, most meaningful conference I have ever had with a student.  I must have looked down as I was talking to the mom in the conference, I know I did because I envisioned this student so clearly in my head that when I looked up, she had a single tear rolling down her face.  She said simply, “You understand him.”  Her tear was her son, and we shared knowing him like only moms and teachers do.

Conferences tonight.

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