My Forum, My Voice

I have lead a pretty sheltered life, not without grief, but never without family and friends who were there for me.

I’ve wanted to blog about the last few days of my subbing this year. I’ve want to blog about what I’ve learned from the children, faculty, and staff who’ve welcomed me so graciously. I’ve wanted to share how happy I was to sub this first week of kindercamp and the EC summer program. I’ve wanted to say how watching the toddlers who I met in my first year of subbing are now going into kindergarten. I’ve wanted to tell you how amazing they are and how one little boy thanked me for helping out on their field trip and to say, “I love you.” I’ve wanted to say so much in a post on my blog, but I’ve been waylaid by the news; watching the pain and sorrow inflicted on so many young children, as their parents try to do what’s best for them. I’m not going to touch upon global issues that overwhelm as well. There is much hatred of “the other” in this world. A child of “the other” I am all to familiar about the past that almost annihilated a “people.”

Wherever you may be in the political minefield, kids can’t be the pawn! Kids aren’t a commodity, a bargaining chip. Look around, see what the children you interact with are doing, then think of those who are used as a deterrent to immigration. This is not who we are. This is the wrong turn in the road. There are other ways.

Yesterday we took our rising kinders on a walk to the park. I couldn’t do it justice in this picture. They were joyful, energetic and inquisitive. After climbing, running and jumping around with their friends, we headed back. Their question, “How much longer till we get back to school? Will it be lunch time then?” Those are the questions kids need to ask. NOT “Where is my mama!”

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“It’s The People I’ll Remember Most”

A whirlwind few days in Dallas where I went to my grandkids piano recital, their sports banquet and the 8th grade graduation of my oldest granddaughter. I posted some pictures of these events on Facebook, including a video clip of her speech. I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize the significance of her speech, given that I often write and read blog posts of the importance of relationships: between teachers and students, teachers and parents, teachers and faculty and staff. But somehow one of the most important relationships was off my radar (not that I wasn’t aware of it but haven’t addressed it in a post in awhile) until it was brought home by my granddaughter’s graduation speech. She talked about what her school meant to her; giving praise to the educators, education and her parents. And then the rest of her speech was devoted to talking about her friends and the relationships she will always cherish. In this bittersweet reflection (her family will be moving away for a year or two on sabbatical), Sydney reminds us all what relationships mean from the students’ perspective. I am so proud of her, claiming what was most valuable to her. As Sydney said, “What I’ll remember most are the relationships, it’s the people I’ll remember most. They stood by me during my hardest times.”

We often talk about peer relationships and the importance of our students’ social emotional development.  However when they can articulate that for themselves, what a powerful reminder on the impact of  school culture and what it means to them, in order to thrive.

I hope we all have time to look back and reflect on how the year went and the impact it’s had on our students.

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Am I Being Obstinate?

Obstinate, is that me? Am I being obstinate ? Not a rhetorical question, I’m just trying to figure it out.

When we do running record and the students says, “Am I reading at a higher level? What’s my level? Am I doing good?” Then we’re not doing our job. What message are we sending our kids with these assessments? I cringe at the thought that we’ve made a huge error in judgement with all this “level” business. Yes our goals are to create readers who want to read, who understand and can discuss books with passion and interest; not just because comprehension is part of the assessment. Yes conferring gives us information in guiding our readers. And all of this can be done in many ways when we add more components to those running records! Yes we’ve gained so much insight about the methodology in teaching students reading and writing. Now we also need to show our students there is “life” beyond their reading level. We need to engage our students in reading throughout the day; not just with a pencil and a sheet of paper recording every nuance, every error or success. We need to have them see that the read aloud and the subsequent discussions gives teachers another layer of information to understand the readers in front of them. We need to honor their choice of books, those that call out to them.  I understand the expediency of running records. Oh I know they take time, that’s not the expediency I’m addressing. It’s the expediency of the “program” already designed, which makes grading easier or if you will more efficient. As I write this post I recall a previous rant  when I was still teaching kindergarten. Much has changed for me. Now I sub. With all my responsibilities as a substitute teacher, running records is not part of the job description. I see the one on one work involved in running records. I see the dedication, love and interest teachers have in their students as they work with them as “readers”. I see the students who love that time with their teachers! I also see the students who hesitate, who are unsure, who wonder if they’ll ever get “it” right?

So I’m still in a quandary. I have more questions then answers. I know some will scoff and call be obstinate or stubborn. I know some will wonder why I don’t let it go (especially since I’m retired). I’m not sure why this has me riled up. I’ve seen students feel empowered when they recognize how much they’ve grown in their reading and writing abilities. I’ve also seen students say, “is this good enough”. That’s when my heartaches. Can we say they are good and way more then enough?

As I reflect from where I sit, I wonder how this year has been for you and the students you teach? Do you have questions that remain unanswered? Have you been supported in concerns you may have? Are changes a possibility, if you feel it will make a difference for the students you teach?

I subbed in 2nd grade and it was a day they met with their 3 year old  Reading Buddies. Reading together and sharing their love of books!

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What Kids Tell Us As The Year Closes

I’ve written before on my blog about speaking to the choir on Twitter, when we share our reflections, our hopes and dreams and our concerns. And this post is no different. However I still think that if one person likes the post or RTs it, maybe, somewhere in our Twitterverse, a new believer will appear. Or at least someone who might be more reflective in his or her practice.

I had a busy sub week, spending most of my days in first grade. I was awed by what I saw from these almost second graders!

We always wonder if they’re learning, if we’re doing a good job, if were covering the curriculum and if they’ll be ready for the next grade? We test, we do running records, we talk, we ask questions and we write report cards. But I have another idea!  How about we also watch the kids, we listen to them as they’re doing the learning. We see how they incorporate what we’ve taught in their authentic application of the learning as they write graphic novels; how they laugh gleefully reading to each other, discovering something in the story that was new to them; how they figure out how to cut paper to make pop ups (there’s math there folks,) and how eager they are to share with their teachers all that and more!

We don’t need to limit our focus to running records, prescribed writing assignments and tests to discover what they can or cannot do. We need to be that teacher that looks beyond that limited understanding, to see the kids who have been here on this year’s learning journey with us.

It may be a leap of faith, it may be seem risky, it may be a new mindset, and a new way to look at learning for us. Are we ready to make that change.

These students were self-motivated, self directed to read, write and explore what they could create from books, to pop-ups, to paper nails; their own idea of Geniushour. We’re way beyond tests!

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Still Time For Change

Wow, the year is winding down. It’s gone so fast. Does it seem to you, as you grow older, the years just fly by? It does to me! I have a feeling that to our students it might feel different; endless days, comes to mind. I subbed in three different age/grade levels this week. For many children (especially the younger ones) it was business as usual. They came to school and did their thing. For the older students, spring was definitely in the air and to them that meant summer was just around the corner. The energy in all the classes was noticeable, but for different reasons. Our interactions, our play, our learning reminded me that the work wasn’t done, but maybe, just maybe our approach needed some tweaking; less sitting, more movement; less sage on the stage, more guide on the side; less text books/paper work, more student centered/choice activities; less hurry and more time to smell the roses.

Which brings me to what’s been percolating in my mind. I have a very old, scraggly rose bush that still has the most beautiful fragrant flowers when it blooms. When not in bloom it’s really nothing to look at, thorns aplenty, bent over branches and a sorry sight. And every once in awhile I think I should just pull it out. So do I discard it because it’s not what I expect? But then I remember the memories connected to it; I remember the fragrance when it blooms and how happy that makes me feel. And with certainty I understand that there is value, there is worth and merit in keeping it. I look at the potential beyond what I see. I look at what can be done to bring out its beauty. 

And so I come to our kids, our school, our education. It’s not perfect. We all know that and perfect is not the expectation, but stepping in and making change is what we can do. The potential to bloom is in each of us in this continuum we call life. In the time we have till school ends, what’s our course of action? Can we be risk takers so they can take risks? Can we let go and give sail to the wind, so to speak, as we let our students have some time to steer their ships? What memories will they have of their year with us. Will it have value, will it have worth, will it have merit and will there have been joy? Our actions in these last few week will answer these questions.


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Giddy With Excitement

Continue reading

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The Five W’s And Sometimes How

The Funicular in Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai Province, Thailand. (Otherwise an uphill climb to get to the temple. Prophetic, no? Our uphill battle.)

WHO would embrace a program, an idea, a curriculum full throttle and then say WHOA? WHAT happens when you embrace a program, an idea, a curriculum full throttle and then say WHOA? WHEN do you embrace a program, an idea, a curriculum full throttle and then say WHOA? WHERE would you embrace a program, an idea, a curriculum full throttle and then say WHOA? WHY would you embrace a program, an idea, a curriculum full throttle and then say WHOA?

HOW does this happen that we embrace a program, an idea, a curriculum full throttle before we consider the Five W’s and say WHOA? Before us, sit our students, looking wide-eyed, wondering what is wanted or needed from them? Do we know them? Do we know who they are in and out of school? Do we know their strengths, their challenges, their uncertainty, their interests and their passions? Or does our school culture usurp what we know we want to know? Is it now that we say enough is enough? Whoa, slow down, hold your horses.

It’s never to late to make the change, the leap of faith, that we do make a difference. “Hello, my name is Faige and I am so happy to meet you.”

A short reflection after reading so much about testing; the pressure on our students and on teachers. How have these pressures influenced what you do in your classrooms?


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