Is It Lunch, Yet?

 

Hurray it’s my time for lunch. For many, many years I ate lunch in the classroom with my kinder team mates. We laughed, shared personal and professional stories and planned for unexpected lessons. Then one year a kinder team mate (from next door) said she’d really like to join other faculty in the lunchroom. She went and the three of us (each kinder room had two lead teachers) stayed. Then over the next few weeks she would come back sharing funny incidents that were happening in other classrooms. So while we isolated ourselves, she reached out to her peers. A perfect example of “we’ve always done it that way” was about to be shattered and a growthmindset, before the term was popular, set in!

Here is my take away about the “lunch room.” I have read people writing about the toxicity that occurs in the teacher lounge, the negativity, dissing students, parents, administrators and other teachers and to “stay away!” Is this a place to rejuvenate or regurgitate? Is it sacrosanct: a place to vent, let your hair down? Is this a place to laugh and enjoy the cameradrie of fellow teachers? Do we talk and solve world problems (wish that could be because we had great ideas!)? Or is this a place a teacher brings a concern, a problem and we all put our heads together coming up with ideas and learning from each other?

Through the years of lunch room chatter I learned and shared what was important to me as an educator, a parent and a friend. Nothing was ever cut and dry, nor did we all agree all the time. But we were respectful, loving and caring. As I shared before, this school was my extended family, they had my back and I theirs. You don’t work at one place for 39 years and not recognize that! And I am not naive to say the underside of lunch room chatter did not occur. However for the most part we didn’t feed it. My take away with this is somewhat true about many learning experiences  “What you put in, you get out!” 

I wonder how many enjoy the “lunch room” or stay away because of unfortunate experiences or exposures! How many teachers have that choice or place? How do you deal with being uncomfortable around some conversations that might occur in the lunch room?

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Mentors and Coaches Are Out There

I had been thinking about writing a post on “mentor/mentorship/coaching when I came across this post from @DianeKashin1 She writes about mentors and leadership in Early Childhood Education and I found it so insightful. Understanding mentors and coaching can be a little confusing, however I look at both roles as “helping me become the best I can be in my field.” Wherever we are in our learning, others have paved the way and have much to offer us. When we’re open to listening, asking questions, observing and “trying out” our theories & hypothesis, we can use our classroom as a canvas. Looking at a canvas as a metaphor resonates with me, as I look back at artists over time, reworking their canvas numerous times. In my mind’s eye I see them lean back and observe, reflect where light serves best as they put the finishing touches on their work. And I look back at my classrooms and students throughout the years and reflect on those who’ve guided my academic journey. I don’t remember using the term “mentors” or “coaches” in the 1970’s or 1980’s when I first started teaching and getting my degree in education. But I remember all the wonderful educators who had such faith in me and went that extra mile to observe, comment and give me time and space to find my footing as I wrote here  

That one on one connection built on a trusting relationship can never be replaced; bouncing off ideas and questions. And there is your mentor or coach to help you look at you and your practices. Sitting and chatting openly to understand where you are and where you want to go, is right there!

However not every educator or school has mentors or coaches. Nor is everyone comfortable sharing their vulnerability. In a world of online learning, social media outlets that are available day and night, we can start to look at mentors and coaches a bit differently. You build a PLN at your finger tips, you ask questions, you read blogs, you join webinars, Twitter chats and book club chats, and Facebook groups and in a short time you have resources and guidance. New ideas spring up, new questions and your classroom canvas becomes a place to reach for the stars.

 Starry Night Vincent van Gogh 

Do you have mentors or coaches at your school? How do you work with them? How are they assigned? How do you utilize social media to help you with your learning?

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You’re Invited

Feeling blue about my daughter and grandkids going back home. It was a wonderful six weeks with them and now it’s over.  I’ll see them soon, not sure when, but soon. I envy people with big families! Those family gatherings that seem unruly to them, bring tears to my eyes. I remember those times as a little girl growing up in Montreal. Family from my mother’s and father’s side gathering together for holidays, weddings, bar mitzvahs and hockey games! Delicious food, chatter and joyous reminiscing.  Extended families in the 50s were the norm where I grew up. And now with family spread all over we rely on Skype, video apps, phone calls and visits planned months in advance. When families are small everyone that’s not near you makes it so much harder to say good bye.

Every once in awhile I come upon a blog post that is more personal then professional, some linking the two together (as I often do) and then not. This is a quick post linking my “good bye” to my family to families, kids and school.

I joined a FB kindergarten group recently and someone asked about parent involvement as volunteers in their schools. Some of the responses reminded me of the parents at my school and the commitment they make. Parents are valued members who contribute in ways that are comfortable for them and meet the needs the school has for volunteers. Every family has many opportunities to meet their obligations.

And then I thought of events (holiday sing, art fair, Grandparents’ Day, 100s day, Halloween Parade, Olympics etc., you get the picture) throughout the year that invite parents to attend and what it means to the child (and the parents) when they can’t; whether work or other obligations.  I know for me as a grandparent (living far away) how sad I am when I can’t be there to participate with my family for special school days.

I bring this up, putting it out there, as the school calendar gets filled for this coming year. Being sensitive to our students’ and  families’ reality and making our rooms open for them to visit when they can; even when it’s not an “event.” I know how difficult this can be, I’ve been there, and all that needs to be done in our daily routine, that is part and parcel of our jobs. But I’ve grown to be a firm believer (learning from on line colleagues and others) in slowing down, smell the roses and prioritize.

Do you have parent volunteers in your class? Do parents volunteer for school events other then classroom work? How does this work for your students and families?

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Summer Down Time, Maybe?

 

Apparently this will be my 200th post!  A relatively new comer to this blogging world; but a place I am becoming more and more confident in holding my own!

In a busy summer with my family, enjoying time with my daughter and grandkids, who live in another state, I am still drawn to reading blogs and learning with my incredible PLN. I continue to participate in chats (though limited) and I joined a FB Kindergarten group (a first for me) to share questions, concerns and ideas these educators mull over even on summer break!

As I read blogs and posts related to education. I sit back and realize that although I am now retired (but I sub), I am still so interested in what’s happening in a field that filled my life for so many years. I reflect about how I did this  or I wish I knew more about this .

I have lived vicariously through some great vacations my friends have posted on FB, serving as great reminders of places I’ve been and those on my bucket list. I have listened to the angst and concerns of both sides on the divided aisle of our government, and to the turmoil in many places in our world. I have made comments, asked questions and wonder;  not for me, but for my grandkids, “What is it that we want for them and how do we get there?” I’m not sure, but silence leads to acquiescence and I come back to this quote from

Eli Wiesel. 

I recently read this post from @donalynbooks education/politics and it brings the challenge to share the broader picture of what we do as educators. We look at voice/choice for our students and we need to embrace that too, for us!

My musings today. Hope that summer re-energizes. Think we’re in for a bumpy ride. Wondering about your summer as we’re half way done?

Outside my front door, twilight skies remind me to absorb the goodness around me. 

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That Road

I often come back to this theme as I reflect back (to where I’ve been) and look forward (to yet unknowns  Robert Frost )


  

For a long time

That known road

That safe road

That familiar road

Taken.

Childhood roads unknown,

Cautious travel.

Adulthood roads become familiar ones,

Stay on course.

When and who challenges me,

To find that road not taken, yet?

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Milestones and Right Of Passage

Dallas Clayton Poem 

Driving home from doing an errand (beginning to see a pattern here, a place where my posts take form) I thought of the connections of milestones and right of passage (Wikipedia). I’ve written about traditions and milestones before, although in a different context. Not every milestone is a right of passage, but I wonder how they influence who we are as we find our way in this world!  And so I began to think about bar/bat mitzvahs, quinceaneras, first communions, graduations, marriage, births; the cycle of life. Many religious practices have important rituals that are bestowed on their members as an entry-way to becoming a part of that community. As members their commitment may vary, but how and why is their decision. These milestones can then become rights of passage, the road, so to speak, that leads to membership.

So I look at the first five years of life, the tremendous milestones from infancy to the school age child (kindergarten). For many children these trajectories follow a pattern and soon that sweet baby goes off to school, tearful, maybe, but ready. (Parents’ tears last longer.) Somewhere along the way certain school milestones do become a right of passage; the reader has the world opened to her/him and the writer let’s us know their thoughts.  (I only look at these two milestones, not diminishing math, science and other curriculum in any way.) These two milestones carry a heavy weight in our school culture and look like a right of passage, from heavy reliance on the teacher (their crutch) to growing independence in traversing school life. And then there are those children who need more time to become readers and writers often looking around, seeing peers chatter away, discussing the books they’ve read! They see the writers, with amazing ideas, quickly put pencil to paper, eagerly sit with their buddies, sharing their prose. For those students who are not there yet, how do we as teachers find ways to include them? That has to be in our “toolbox!” We build relationships, make connections, share some of our own travails and explore other outlets to help them find their voice. We find their strengths, better still we help them embrace their strength and together we work from there. I reflect about this (even as a substitute teacher) as I look at the students I may teach; not just the accelerated learners, but the students who need more scaffolding to get there. I have found in my many years in the classroom, that these are the students that have so much to teach us: from patience, to resilience, to compassion we get there together.

How do you see milestones shape the life of your students? Have you looked at these as rights of passage? What happens to the student who is not there yet?

 

 

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Outlier Mindset

 

 

I was driving home from an errand and had one of those “Oh I have a thought and I might develop it into a quick blog.”

So… thinking that one of our teacher mindsets has been to follow rules. We ask kids to follow the rules, because that’s what we as teachers do. We might not like to admit that some of what we do is part of the recipe of schools; schedules, routines, classroom design, classroom rules, administrative directives and so on and so forth. Think about how we implement our curriculum. We read those teacher guidelines and follow verbatim, using the language provided, step by step, teaching our students. Now not an absoulute, not all the time and not everyone, but some of us and sometimes, especially when we start teaching new academic programs. Look back at how we approached teaching the math, reading and writing curriculum so we could do it correctly. So much depended on “getting it right” or how will our students succeed. The pressure on us and the kids was palpable. I saw it; did you? And then there are so many incredible “thinkers” writing about the foibles of these expectations for ourselves and our students. Differentiate they say, think out of the box, include student choice and voice (they’re the true classroom experts); each child learns at a different pace with different skills, teach to their strengths; and we understand that there are also many outside variables in a child’s life, that influences learning.

Most of us have moved away from cookie cutter projects, isn’t it time to rethink what we as teachers need to do? Thinking that it’s time for the outlier mindset. Time to do what feels right for our students. Time to challenge conventional thought and actions. Build that relationship with your students (and their parents) that shows you care and they matter! Encourage all school members to look at their mindset and maybe, just maybe, develop that outlier mindset as well!

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