Framing School As An Adventure

Who would have thought I’d be spending the first week after “Winter Break” subbing. Well here I was, the substitute in first grade, Monday through Thursday and then in kindergarten on Friday! To say it was tiring, exhilarating, filled with joy and wonder doesn’t explain how much I couldn’t wait for each day to begin. So much to think about as I reflect on the week. Because reflecting I did. Being welcomed into the lives of kids is a privilege, I don’t take for granted. Being welcomed into the lives of colleagues, is a privilege, I don’t take for granted. Knowing in some way I add to their lives, as they add to mine, is a privilege, I don’t take for granted. I look, listen and learn. These 3Ls that have guided me, not only when I was a full time teacher, but now, as well, as the substitute. To me this speaks about relationships; built on trust, caring and acknowledging we’re here for our students and for each other. As I continue to read #oneword2019 posts and blogs on Twitter, I wondered what would it be like if I were a kid and my #oneword2019 might be Adventure. If I saw school as an Adventure…

Everyday adventure awaits

Open my eyes, ready for the day.

Everyday adventure awaits,

Head to school, walk, carpool or bus,

Everyday adventure awaits,      

High 5 my friends, greet my teachers, smile with delight.

Everyday adventure awaits,

Run and play, it’s what I do. 

Everyday adventure awaits,

I open my books, explore the world.

Everyday adventure awaits, 

Time to explore on my own or with you. 

Everyday adventure awaits, I only need to be ready, set and go. 

If kids could see school as an adventure, if we could frame it as an adventure, if could open it up to giving them agency to discover what their adventure would look like. If we believed it was possible to teach the curriculum where the adventure of learning guides their reality. The interest is there, the successes in many places, the challenges not to be diminished as we remember the power in YET.

The wonder and curiosity I saw while the kids worked on Geniushour, tried out their math skills, read books, listened to read alouds, wrote when sharing an idea, asked questions, asked questions and then more questions. How could this not be a wonderful #oneword2019Adventure for them if we frame learning as their adventure at this time, in this place and for now! An adventure we’re taking together. 

          

Have you wondered how your students look at learning? What they think of school? What is it they strive to accomplish this year? I wonder what adventure they might have in the next five or six months with you?

 

 

 

 

 

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I Know I’ll Never Walk Alone

Worried, but for naught. First “winter break” holiday season, without my munchkins (grandkids). My heart palpitated, so quickly, no breath, what would I do? What would it be like? First winter break without my munchkins.

Silly me, angst was real, but there I stood, not alone. Guided by my resolve, my resilience and my cadre of friends.

Daily walks, explored my neighborhood, saw I could do errands without my car. Daily walks, at times with friends who were game, each fitting in to the rhythm of the day, time, and pace. Daily walks, thinking times, planning times, remembering times, smiles to my face, at times tears fill my eyes.

The ten year old in me remembers January 3, 1957. Such a long time ago. A time to say good by to a father who had so little time to guide his daughter into womanhood. Who missed all the milestones a father and daughter deserve. A daughter turning ten on January 10, 1957. That two digit birthday milestone kids look forward to with pride and glee. On that day one of my milestones a road, a journey without a father began. Time passes, memories fade but the knowledge of being loved remains.

Winter break a time to share stories, talk about world politics over coffee, lunch and dinner. Winter break filled with family and friends who never let me stand alone. My job to open up my heart and let them in.

The memorial candle that I’ll light in a few days.

As I reminisce this song came to mind You’ll Never Walk Alone

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OLW2019 Connecting/Connect/Connections

It’s December 29, 2018. My nephews’ birthday. One is 21 today. The other is 22 years old today. Both born on the same day. A wonderful family story we use to tease them. It is one of our many family stories. Similar to stories you may share with your families. It’s a different birthday celebration. In the past we’ve had early morning birthday treats with my nephews and my grandkids. Today it’s different, but we connect to let “the boys” (as I usually refer to them), know how much they mean to us. No crazy birthday sweets, but many sweet birthday wishes.

OLW Blog Posts: OLW2015 Fortitude OLW2016 (Looking Ahead – love/hope) OLW2017Compassion/Caring/Hope) OLW2018 BeingPresent

And how quickly I segue into my #onelittleword2019 ! Connecting/connect/connections that’s my focus this coming year. I retired in June 2015 and wasn’t ready to “leave” quite yet, so subbing was the perfect fit for me. How fortunate to be able to work with teachers that continue to inspire me, open my eyes and ears to what’s happening in their classrooms, connecting to how their practices play out in their rooms. I connect with many teachers on Twitter, as they share their learning with us in their PLN. The connections I’ve made with teachers, administrators, authors and blog writers have made me more cognizant of the greater world of teaching: teachers, students, and the many school systems in the different parts of the world. Their visions and real life challenges have given me more insight as I reflect on the diverse challenges teachers’ face. More than the challenges, I am moved by their commitment to their students as they make the best out of the obstacles they may encounter. Before retiring I would have written this post from the “we” perspective. Not wanting to assume that my position is the same as those who work with children/students from EC programs to high schools and beyond, on a daily basis, I reflect from this perspective.

As so I find that because of you, the colleagues I work with when I sub, and you my PLN, who are more than willing to share your expertise with me, I embrace the importance generated by connecting, to do what I have loved for so many years: teaching and learning. And I hope to pay it forward when I work in a classroom as I connect with all those I meet. These connections are ones that I look forward to maintaining, to better serve the teachers, students, administrators and families in any way I can. Here I continue looking forward to 2019 as we Connect!

A trip to my local library and the incredible view reminded me of the many voices I have connected with who support reading and libraries. Find your passion and connect with those who can support and encourage your journey. Happy New Year 2019!

From the West Hollywood Library: The Pacific Design Center

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A Running Gag

A holiday post (sort of). A bit of humor. (If we can’t  laugh at ourselves, we take ourselves too seriously and then forget to laugh with others. Joy!)  A retiree shares.

There is a running gag about my subbing days at school, that is the days I choose to say, yes. (Retirees get to choose, you know!) After a 38 year tenure, retiring wasn’t an easy decision, but one made for many reasons. What kept me strong was knowing that subbing was a wonderful, viable option, to keep me doing what is still my calling, my passion.

At times teachers ask me directly if I’m available for a certain date (planned ahead or a text if it is for that day). The school also has a call out “sub alert” program. When that comes through it can be for a planned time or for that same day. And I have the choice to accept or ignore. (Retirees get to choose, you know!)

So as it turns out, it seems I’m often available to sub on Fridays. What’s so special about that you might ask? Well Friday’s are breakfasts that are hosted by the teachers in the different grades and staff members, before the school day starts. It’s a wonderful tradition that gives the adults a chance to mingle, kibbutz and catch up. Friday is also pizza lunch – so no food planning. Food needs me!

Or then there’s Wednesday’s. Once a month, usually the 3rd Wednesday of the month there is lunch hosted by the parents in the different grade levels. The food is plentiful, different cuisines, delicious desserts and beverages (no alcohol, remember school is in session!). And as chance would have it, I have subbed on those Wednesday’s.

Did I connect enough dots for you to get the “running gag?” Give up? Well I’ll tell you; “Where there’s food there’s Faige.” Shared by many of my colleagues, and truth be told, even before retiring, I always seemed to know when parties and food were part of the teachers’ and kids’ days.

Before many get ready for Winter Break, teachers, students and families celebrate in their classrooms in ways that support their school communities. A wish what I’ve shared for many, many years, is the hope that we find ways to see the good in this world, share what we can and pay it forward when we can.

We have a Families program at the school where kids from kinder to 6th meet in their Family group (This is the same grouping all the way through their years at the school; new students added in kinder and 6th graders move on to various middle schools.). The 6th graders usually lead the meeting. At one of their Community/Family meetings the topic was “Caring in the world looks like…Caring at CEE looks like… It’s all about caring.

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A Week Of Subbing: A Week Of Learning

Two days back in kinder.

Two days back in my old room.

Two days of morning circle, math, literacy rotations.

Two days of building, playing with friends.

Two days so familiar, and yet so new!

Two days of watching and learning.

Three days with fours.

Three days in a space I know.

Three days of morning circle, manipulatives, books, art.

Three days of exploration, running, climbing, playing with friends.

Three days so familiar, and yet so new.

Three days of watching and learning.

As I sit and reflect on my week of subbing, the juxtaposition of fours and kinder at this time of year reminds me of where they’ve been and how far they’ve come. Independence builds, slowly but surely, from self-care to self-regulation to self-sufficient to agency in designing and meeting their needs. Not in isolation, but with some guidance, support and nurturing. Each little step becomes the leaps and bounds when we remark, “Oh look, they’re growing by leaps and bounds!” I look at kinders and then remember those students in fours. Their curiosity: ✅, their social skills: ✅, their playfulness: ✅, their interest in learning: ✅, their big emotions: ✅. So much the same, so much growth, that’s the continuum; that’s how it goes. I see the fours uncertainty, the cry of “I can’t do it.” I see the kinders more self-confidence, some bravado, some doubt, some reluctance in trying. Lots of growth but the hesitation is palpable. So we talk about “I can’t do it YET!”

What a powerful reminder to them and to us that Yet, maybe for now, and maybe tomorrow brings them closer to their goal. I see it in their counting, in their writing, in their reading. I see it in their play, in their language to describe, share and ask questions. I see it in their resolve, in that broad incredible beautiful smile that says I DID IT!

I’ve come to understand the power of looking as a tool to learning and teaching. I’ve made that commitment to take that time and I’ve learned so much. My hope is that we all can give ourselves that gift of time as well.

     

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On Being Grateful

I spent two days subbing in second grade and one day with the three year olds. It filled me with awe, amazement and such a sense of “we can do it!” I’ve known most of these second graders since their days in Toddlers. Subbing in a wide range of grade and age levels is an incredible privilege. I have seen these children grow, watch them learn and navigate their social-emotional learning and their math, reading and writing/academic skills. These experiences are a microcosm of life’s journey. School is not about getting “ready,” school is about their life now. As  many who read my blog know, I am an observer. I learn by watching, waiting to see where I’m needed and ask “why” before jumping in. The road to not fixing things hasn’t been easy, nor at times successful for me. From the heart that is ready to help, comes the slow understanding that, taking over, making it better, means I problem solve, not the person who needs to build the resilience to figure things out. And so I continue to learn.

I can’t say it enough times, how important I feel it is to build trusting relationships with our students (and with their parents). The sense that we care is inherent in this foundation. Implicit is the joy we have in teaching (if not, maybe time for another career choice).

Now how I see this played out in the classroom; a vignette or two. Morning meeting, responsive classroom games, some new, some I know. Kids kindly explain the game, I succeed, they applaud, cheer me on. I’m the guest, kids ask questions to learn about me. Answers surprise them, some do the “I’m the same or I relate” motion. I smile from ear to ear. Time to let then know who I am, time to build that trust.

Settling down at their desks, 2nd graders get books. It’s time to read. They choose, no leveled books. From graphic novels, to chapter books to Mo Willem books to non fiction, they read.  Daily 5 Rotations: RAZ kids on the iPad, small groups, Read To Someone, Word Work, they’re all busy. They now how this routine works.

Now it’s writing. Expanding on a letter they’re writing about a book they like and why someone should read it. New rubric to check their work. They’re good at sharing their work with me as they look at their checklist. Some start right away. I look around and wait to see what they need to get started. Again I reflect on how much they know and how at ease they are, even when unsure. It’s a safe learning space for them. How I wish it were so for everyone!

It’s math time and I get to play a game as part of the math rotation. They’ve played this before. Reinforcing regrouping. I ask if they can show me how they play this with ones, tens, and hundred units and dice. Excitedly, they tell me they’ll show me. When needed we used a wipe board to add another layer to the work. They helped each other. A safe place when mistakes are made and we figure it out together.

Base Ten 

Wednesday with the 3s. A different experience. Some of these children I met last year when they were in Toddlers. Some remember me from subbing in the class next door. Some know me because I taught their siblings. Some are comfortable asking me to read a story. Some stay away till a friend comes over and they join in. It’s all good. We’re learning about each other. It’s all good.  We have time.

It’s getting close to Thanksgiving. A very different one for me this year. But for now my constant is working with kids. I’m grateful. I always have been, when I’m at school.

And now my questions to you? It’s been a few months into the school year and how do you feel your students have settled into their routines? For some, Parent Teacher Conferences are in full swing. Are you comfortable with the relationships you’ve built with your students and families? Were you able to share with the parents all the positives about their children?

Grateful and gratitude. Life never taken for granted. Family, friends, colleagues, far or close by wishing you a great Thanksgiving.

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Teaching In The Time Of Chaos

Don’t know where to start. Hope this post won’t be a disjointed ramble of thoughts waiting to get out, but please indulge…

Since coming home from a wonderful trip spending time in Israel with family, friends and my sweet, incredible grandchildren, I’ve hardly had time to unpack and certainly not the thoughts about my trip. And I don’t even now;  from the horrific killing of Jews in Pittsburgh, in their house of worship to the carnage today in Thousand Oaks, California at the Borderline Bar & Grill, an event for college kids: College Night. Midterm elections done. Cheerleaders out there, some so happy, others not so and then, the uncertainty.

The hate is big, the anger is palpable, the uncertainty like a dagger never seems to ease up. Dramatic language you might say, but maybe not enough. Who to lay blame, who to admonish, we all have our opinions, our certainty that points the finger at the “other.”

I remember writing a post right after the Orlando Pulse shooting here   And here we are again, “teaching in the time of chaos.” We take a deep breath, enter our room, check out the daily schedule and get ready to greet our students each day. We smile, but the hurt is raw. What do we say when our students ask what’s going on? Why does this happen over and over again? Why do bad things happen to good people? That question that haunts us all with no satisfactory answer. How do we change the culture of hate, of vilifying the other? The us and them that tortures our world. I’ve always had more questions then answers. But this I do know, “teaching in the time of chaos,” is what we do. It’s what we cling to; to open up safe spaces to question, share and learn. We are sensitive and respectful to the students, their families and to the many points of view that come across our classrooms, not to lay blame, but start the dialogue, to find a way to heal.

TEACHING IN THE TIME OF CHAOS means being there. Be the voice that understands sometimes we just need time; time to worry, time to question, time to grieve and time to learn what we can do. It can’t be business as usual, it can’t be ignored as if it didn’t happen, and it can’t be that the curriculum has to be covered. The kids we teach need to be respected and listened to. “Teaching in the time of chaos” means that caring is what our students, parents, faculty, staff and administrators need from each other.

I hope this makes sense. My teaching experience for 38 years has been in early childhood programs and kindergarten. And now as a substitute teacher also in Lower Elementary. I realize for the most part they and I have been shielded from many of these discussions, always keeping in mind developmentally appropriate information shared; but the hugs are always ready just in case they are needed. A page in a math or language arts book is secondary, when “teaching in the time of chaos.”

Subbing for the librarian. 

 

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