Ever thought about how quickly times are changing?
This morning I was looking at the weather forecast on my phone and noticed that they shared a “Watson Insight” brought to me by CVS Pharmacy. It mentions that the flu alert remains high and provides a map outlining where this is happening in my area. Whether it’s actually high or not remains to be seen but I was thinking about how many senior citizens are affected by catching the flu. South West Florida is certainly filled with senior citizens everywhere you turn. So, perhaps, they might see this and decide to stay home? This is where the changing times are really kicking in! They could order their groceries online and have them delivered or also many restaurants have menus available with several services that will deliver to choose from. If they’re not leaving their homes, less chance of catching one of those nasty viruses! Times are changing.
I don’t know about you, but when I had small babies, I was calling my mother frequently for advice. She was the expert I trusted to learn more about fevers, cute ‘ittle rashes or sleeping habits (lack thereof). Daughters/sons today can quickly grab their phones, Google their question and find a variety of solutions/responses. Have telephone calls to mom been greatly reduced? Times are changing.
Surely, you have been up to your elbows in computer challenges that stretched your patience to the limits. I think how quickly seeking answers to technology problems has changed. This story begins with purchasing my two older sons their first computer. I can honestly share I think doing so was a disaster as they were too young. The eldest torn into it in a similar fashion that he did putting together or pulling apart his Legos. I had no idea how to help him put it back together again. Fast forward another decade and I remember helping one of my sons begin using social media. Another decade later, I was calling one of them for assistance with some aspect of using technology on a variety of devices when they failed to work. I enjoyed this shift from being the mom who was supposed to know the answers to their questions to seek out their wisdom. Now, here we are in 2020. I have to admit it took about a dozen phone calls until the message of “Google it mom” finally sunk in. No matter what device it was, the chances that the answer was right there on my phone was pretty likely.
So, each of these shares our changing times and I bet you’ve noticed one similar thread that runs true in each example? Much less human interaction. Will society adjust, reach for new and different ways to have social contacts? Isn’t communicating a societal need?
Is feedback important to you? Are you searching for feedback to improve? When do we give our students feedback on their understanding?
Feedback is such a personal moment for individuals. It is the moment that one opens themselves to be judged and to receive feedback on their skills or thoughts. It allows us to gain insight into ourselves that we may otherwise be blind to. Feedback is helpful information communicated from one learner to another to give the best opportunity of growth. This information can be used to direct our learning journey and to improve our understanding.
This is why feedback needs to be consistent, concise and in language that is understood to the individual. Being so personal, it is crucial that feedback is authentic and tied to those individuals learning goals. Feedback can look different for all learners including, providing recommendations for development, corrections and different directions they might take their learning.
Building a Learning Culture
For feedback to be truly effective, a relationship must be built on trust. It must be given with a growth mindset on wanting them to genuinely improve. Teaching our students to give constructive feedback helps build a healthy and safe environment for students to try new things without the fear of failing. An example of how I start teaching students to give constructive feedback is below. This was our first attempt and it was rather successful when students realized specific feedback was much more helpful than “It was good.”
It can help in building a positive relationship between students and teachers. Building an environment for student to teacher and student to student feedback. Boosting engagement and productivity for accomplishing better outcomes with clear strategies to improve upon. Constructive feedback improves student’s self-awareness of their learning by drawing attention to things they could possibly improve upon.
Improves Our Learning Journey
With the help of feedback, all learners can be more successful. By emphasizing the journey and not the product we will be modeling that the process is more important than the product. By giving consistent feedback from self, peer, and teacher, we are showing that our learning process is more important than the end product. Feedback will be viewed as an opportunity to grow and not the end of our learning journey. We all have a room full of experts in various skills and tools. Giving room for those experts to give constructive feedback not only develops their understanding but also helps our students build healthy connections with one another.
I have done this recently in my class by having a Self-Reflection, Peer Feedback and Teacher Feedback done through a Seesaw activity shown below. This was such a success due to our previous work on giving constructive feedback that my students were able to speak specifically about others’ work knowing they would receive a new perspective as well.
Promotes Lifelong Learning
Getting feedback is important in being a lifelong learner. One way I have worked towards being a lifelong learner is by following the #ObserveMe hashtag on Twitter. One day on Twitter, I saw a post about a teacher wanting feedback on their teaching and they created a flyer that was on their door at all times. I knew this is what I wanted to do! I created my flyer on my door that invited people in and asking for feedback on things I was wanting to work on that year. The survey was tied to a QR code that my visitors could scan leaving observations, questions, ideas, and thoughts. It is up for all visitors, teachers, students, and parents alike because everyone might see something different that is important to them.
Mine is shown below and if you would like your own, click here, to get a blank template to start your own #ObserveME journey.
Helps Us Grow
Thanks to the feedback from my students, I was able to take their feelings and ideas into account. This enabled me to make positive changes in my classroom to allow them to be more successful. It made me more aware of the challenges my students were facing and gave me a chance to adjust where needed.
When we hear the perspective of our students, we challenge ourselves to learn, overcome, and grow as teachers and leaders in our schools.
Therefore, feedback is imperative for the success of all learners. Consistent and constructive feedback done with a growth mindset builds a learning culture and after all, isn’t that what we all want is learners eager to continue their learning? What do you look for when receiving feedback? How do you give feedback? Let me know down below!
By Meredith Johnson @mjjohnson1216 – Moderator of #BookCampPD
Is Twitter the “be all to end all” in terms of professional learning? Of course not. Can it provide tremendous insight into the experiences of others, resources, a sounding board for new ideas and a sense of “team?” You bet it can!
I have learned with others on Twitter for the past seven years. After forty-years in education, one might wonder how much I can learn while exchanging short tweets with other educators? TONS! Their vision and ideas have inspired me to remain involved and help others.
I realized that by “following” others I could expand my circle – my personal learning network, #PLN, even further. With this in mind, there are times when I read an article looking at the author’s name, check out those who are leaders for a publication’s board of directors/trustees or guiding a national conference in leadership positions and I quickly cut and paste their name into a Twitter search so I can also “follow” them. Granted, searching for specific people on Twitter is a bit of an art but over seven years I have become better at it.
Imagine my surprise, time after time, when I found only about 50% of those that are active Twitter users? This is when I tilt my head to the side and ask myself, “Really??!?!” How did they gain these leadership positions without frequently learning with others from across the globe? Surely, they have half an hour once a week to learn using this format so the decisions they make will reflect the thoughts of many. Just this morning, during #LeadUpChat and #LeadLAP, there were over ten educators new to using Twitter starting their learning journey with others. What can we do to encourage/ inspire/enlighten others about the tremendous benefits of this social networking? The college professors who encourage their students to jump into a chat as part of their coursework, I would like to scream from the rooftops, “KUDOS to you!”
Yes, you can make a difference by sharing a consistent message – over and over and over as some people can challenge us and be a ‘ittle stubborn – come learn with us on Twitter!
A book for new teachers just hit the bookshelves
near you: EduMagic Shine On: A Guide for New
Teachers which was co-written by me and three
former students, now friends: Hannah Sansom, Katy
Gibson, and Hannah Turk. It was written to
encourage and support the new educator, to show them that they are not alone on this journey.
EduMagic Shine On is separated into eight parts,
let’s check them out:
● E – Expectations – During this section, we give you a little dose of reality about expectations for yourself, your learners, and your classroom. We begin with a prompt for readers to reflect upon about how college shaped their expectations as a teacher, leader, and learner. Then we dive into each of those expectations and reflect on how we can make them a reality.
● D – Dealing with disappointments – Maybe that’s a word you don’t want to think about
as you are starting the “honeymoon” phase of a new job. But we want to be real and
honest and, like with anything, disappointments will come. This chapter is simply a “survival guide” per se, not something that we intend to intimidate you or cause worry.
Throughout this chapter, we discuss some pit stops that you may encounter along the
journey of your first year of teaching. Remember, these are pit stops; we don’t stay; we
just make a quick stop and keep moving forward.
● U – Unstoppable – There will be days in teaching that bring you such tremendous joy
that your face will hurt from smiling so much. Days when a child “gets it,” and you can
see that lightbulb moment happen. Days where you get a hand-drawn picture, card, or gift for no other reason than just because. This chapter was the most difficult to write and work through and deals with some heavy topics, but we want to be able to share our
experiences with you even when they are hard so that you can know that you are not
● M – Making it work – We’ve done some thoughtful reflection of some hard truths of
teaching. There is a lot to think about leading up to and living out that first year:
expectations, planning, routines, management, and having a life outside of school. Time
to think about all those components of teaching and how they come together. We will do
a crash course on making it all work: from classroom management to your own sanity.
● A – All in This Together – Building Collaboration – Our students come to school with
so many needs and goals. It is up to us to work with our colleagues towards the main goal of educating students the best that we can, keeping students at the forefront.
Collaboration is key in order to provide the best student-centered education. This can
happen through partnerships, co-teachers, administration, and families.
● G – Getting ready – One of the biggest ideas new teachers look forward to completing
is…drum roll please…setting up your OWN classroom! You finally have that set of keys and space to make your own. This section has checklists upon checklists to help you get
ready for that first day of school and beyond!
● I – inspiration – We know that teaching can be hard — no one said it would be easy. It
has been a long road to even get to your own classroom, and now it’s not exactly a walk in the park either. But keeping your inspiration, your “why” in the front of your mind will help you get through the days that feel long. Inspiration is like a fountain; while you are there and you are drinking from it, it seems like you will never be thirsty again! We share ways to inspire yourself, inspiring students, and drawing inspiration from others.
● C – Check yo’self – We leave you with a few more tips, specifically on how to be the
best possible version of yourself. Living and learning the teaching experience is very
rewarding, but will also sometimes come with unfilled expectations, disappointments,
and a long to-do list. Friends, those are all part of life.
This book is laid with places to reflect and journal. It shares real accounts and stories from first-year teachers in their own words. All accounts and stories from first-year teachers in their own words. These teachers share advice, tangible tips, and resources that you can get your hands on right away and implement them into your classroom today. In addition, throughout the book, we have little sections for making the magic happen, where we share a quick tip for each section of EduMagic. You can purchase this book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. There you have it! I hope that this article inspired, encouraged, and supported you. Teachers, you got this; you have the EduMagic in you!
Do you ever sense one of your favorite books calling to you from the bookshelf where you placed it? It is like suddenly thinking about an old, cherished friend and quickly dashing off a text message to that person or calling them to be sure they knew you were thinking of them. The same warm, treasured emotions rise to the forefront. Can a book be like an old friend? Many of the professional books I have read seemed to “take my hand” and slowly guide me through new learning experiences that would be rolled out time and again to help children. So, to me, it appeared to be a friendship between myself and the author.
This morning, I read a blog post by Jeff Zoul. https://jeffreyzoul.blogspot.com/2019/09/sometimes-things-happen.html In the posting he referred to a book he had written with Anthony McConnell The Principled Principal: 10 Principles for Leading Exceptional Schools. When I saw the graphic of the book, a smile came across my face – as if I was seeing an old friend who had helped guide me at one point in my life. There is so much wisdom in that book!
The experience of running across that book shifted the rocks around in my head and I suddenly came up with an idea. The chat #BookCampPD has focused on over fifty amazing professional learning books like the one Jeff and Anthony wrote. Many of the authors, like these two, Pam Moran, Rachelle Dene Poth, and others have continued to support the weekly chat #BookCampPD and the members of our #PLN. The website contains all these books and most of them, resources and a link to purchase. Since nearly all the books we have reviewed were selected by educators like you, they must be like your “old friends.” So, my idea is to have each book spotlighted for one day at our hashtag #BookCampPD. Of course, you could always jump over to the page on our website that contains all of them https://bookcamppd.com/books-to-read/ along with resources and a link to purchase. Or, as the tweet with a graphic of a book slides across your screen perhaps it will be like hearing it call to you from your bookshelf?
To all the authors and educators who continue to support #BookCampPD, please know how very much you are appreciated! ♥ Follow the hashtag each day and show your support for all of the authors whose books will again be in the spotlight!
Reflections About Twitter Chats by Meredith Johnson
What is all this noise about Twitter chats for educators? This past week I briefly scrolled through over 200 education hashtags to review the content they were posting. One after another, my cursor flew across all those tweets. It was an interesting task and I wanted to write a blog post to share with you what I learned. Is Twitter transforming before our eyes?
Are there repetitions from one hashtag to another? You bet there are! A great deal of what is shared between chats could be considered advertising. People reach out to others to sell a product, encourage them to go to a conference, participate in their chat, read an article or blog they wrote, and keep them up to date with books that have been written. At times, moderators post tweets between chats sharing who the next guest/topic would be or the name of some amazing educator who agrees to be a guest moderator. There could be a graphic sharing the change in a date/time/occurrence of a chat. All this information shared for about 150 education chats that are on Twitter! Amazing!
What are some of the interesting pieces of chat information I noticed? I have been active on Twitter since March, 2012 – seven years and it has been very interesting to watch Twitter evolve. After searching out a hashtag that I hadn’t seen before from a list of Twitter chats, and scrolling through the most recent tweets, I noticed others seemed to “grab” that hashtag title, glop it with about half a dozen more, and tweet out information they believe is important in hopes of reaching the largest amount of people in one message. This could certainly be an effective way to communicate but there is one huge problem – no one ever goes to that hashtag as the chat stopped occurring years ago. Perhaps, another person notices this tweet, and they also cut and paste the hashtag into a message they want to share – the ineffective sharing of information continues! Now, if they thought about what target audience might be interested, searched out that chat hashtag and used it to share a message, this sure would increase effectiveness!
There are countless reasons why chats drop to the wayside in Twitter Land hallways. Often people begin a hashtag, start a chat, promote whatever mission they’re on and then move to the next project in their lives and forget about it. It will be interesting to see if this process increases during the next year.
How I would love to do a study on the number of teachers using Twitter from each State! I mention this as I have noticed the tweets being shared by specific State hashtags such as #OhioEdChat or #TxEd different greatly from West Virginia or Alabama. What factors play a role in one State in our country having teachers so active in Twitter chat participation and another not? Is it their overall focus on professional learning of educators? Are teachers in only a few states granted professional development credit toward certification renewal for participation in Twitter chats? Are the chat moderators from those States different in some way? I bet you could make a few guesses yourself as to why this happens.
I wonder about several things ….
Where is the higher education voice in Twitter chats?
Why are topics of chats/questions so similar?
Use of conference hashtags has increased tremendously – what direction will this trend take?
How important is it to focus on tweeting high-quality, valuable content or are “feel good” tweets just as important?
How are teachers making decisions about which chats to join? What might cause them to return week after week?
What aspect of Twitter chats do you wonder about?
How will this social media platform adjust over the next year to better meet the needs of those who use it?
I hope you will find the database of education Twitter chats I created helpful and share it out in tweets you create with others.
I worked with hundreds of teachers who retired – why did I so rarely wonder what they did with their lives once they were finished teaching? School administration can be all-encompassing, so my thoughts were usually focused on the next challenge rather than retiring co-workers. I remember being so thrilled when a retired teacher would appear in the school’s office area and I could inquire, “Is there really life after working in education?” They would smile and share with me that indeed there was. I would probe deeper and ask, “What do you do with your time?” Many times, they weren’t specific, which would puzzle me, and simply share that they were plenty busy each day. I remember sitting in administration meetings where details about our pending contract negotiations talks would include statistics about possible retirement benefits. I would wave my hands through the air and ask the men present if we couldn’t talk about something related to students as this discussion was boring. They would laugh and ask me if I wasn’t concerned about my own retirement benefits. “Oh, for goodness sakes, no, I am not. That won’t arrive until decades from now. Let’s talk about something interesting!” The years zoomed by at lightning speed and suddenly I was standing at the edge of beginning my own retirement.
When I was fortunate to have two weeks away from being at a school, I would quickly become bored and want to return. I thought this was what being retired would feel like, so I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. This month marks two years of retirement for me and I am content with how I am daily involved in education with a caring group of individuals on Twitter. Yesterday, one of the educators I had met on Twitter sent me soaring into space with a message she tweeted out.
From Cathleen Beachboard @CathleenBeachBd
Just wanted you to know I am dedicating my upcoming book to you. We are now in production to print. If it was not for you and allowing me to guest blog, I would not have had the courage. You didn’t know you made such a difference, but you did. Thank you, Meredith
It’s about student empowerment. I know you don’t know me very well Meredith but within the past 5 years, I’ve completely changed my practice in teaching. At one point in time, I was 285 lb and a student asked me to lose weight because he didn’t want me to die. So, my students help me to lose a ton of weight and through that journey, I discovered ways to empower students through service learning. The book will be coming out with Routledge publishing. It’s entitled 10 keys to student empowerment. However, I would never have had the guts to do it if I did not have the opportunity to do that guest blog post that I did for you. Even though it was a little thing you did for me it inspired me. It gave me the confidence to tell my story. I wanted to acknowledge you and even though it’s a small thing it’s my way of appreciating you. I just submitted the entire manuscript for publication today. Today I start the book publication process. However, as I go through it, I will keep you updated. Thank you for being awesome.
Can you imagine how thrilled I was? Then today, I receive the following tweet from Bridget Gengler @BridgetGengler
The exchange begins with me asking the question, “Who do you think believes in you each day?” Bridget responded, “Oh! So many people .. my husband, first and foremost. My family and close friends push me each day, Just as I believe in my students, they believe in me. They cheer me on every day. We need those people in our lives just like our students do.” Then I continued the conversation by adding Adam Welcome’s graphic. Bridget closes out the exchange by sharing that she considers me one of her “pushers!” What an absolute honor!
These are the discussions that make my day! I may not walk the hallways of school buildings any longer, but I am thankful to have found a way to continue in helping others.
Dreams of Summer by Meredith Johnson and #PLN friends
Can you hear the soft summer breeze just outside your window? The songs of the birds flitting from branch to branch welcoming the change in seasons and often, a shift in your life. I asked several educators to share their dreams of summer so I could add them to this blog post. It is a wonderful time of year when different thoughts run rampant in an educator’s imagination and call out to them to alter the daily habits they have grown so accustomed to following. I hope you enjoy reading the thoughts they have shared. Perhaps, once the cool winds of autumn blow, they will again share and write their memories of a summer past?
By Tosh McGaughy @ToshMcGaughy
Two weeks ago, our family became whole again as my husband fetched our college freshman daughter home from Norman for the summer. Her metal straws, her vegan cheese, and her ethically sourced toiletries are back with a vengeance, and we are all delighted to have her home, even for just a couple months. My husband and I actually are fighting for opportunities to drive her to her job in Dallas (she won’t drive or own a car because of her carbon footprint), just so we can have the drive time to talk with her and catch up on everything we have missed over the last nine months. As proud as we are of her launch into adulthood, we have all missed her terribly. Thankfully, my summer hours at work give me Fridays off so we will have long weekends to visit museums, explore new vegan restaurants, and go to plays and concerts. Catching up on Grey’s Anatomy episodes and a July trip to NYC is also part of our Charlotte-is-home-for-the-summer plans. Having our family under one roof seems like a gift; a gift that I took for granted for eighteen years but that I won’t this summer. Hooray for family time and daughters who return home!
A Couple of Reasons Why I Love Summer
By Rachelle Dene Poth @Rdene915
When people find out that I am a teacher, one of the first things they say is “it must be nice to have your summers off.” Yes, it is, but in all honesty, I would be totally fine if my school switched to year-round schooling. I enjoy being in the classroom and look forward to each day and what it brings, even the challenges that might pop up. More than anything, I love working with students and learning from them. My reason for loving the summer is not because I don’t have to go to work; it’s because it is an opportunity to have more time with family and friends and to take part in professional development and reflection.
Time for Reconnecting
Life gets so busy sometimes that before you know it, weeks and months pass by and you might find that you haven’t had a lot of time to spend with family and friends. Of course, technology helps us to stay connected, whether we use text messaging, different apps, FaceTime or even a hangout to see our family and friends, it’s not the same as time together in person. More days at home means more time for family and friends.
I’m also excited for conference season to be here and to have time to spend with some of my closest friends learning together and relaxing. I will be presenting at Summer Spark and ISTE 2019, fantastic conferences that bring so many educators from around the world together. I’m looking forward to being a part of the EdWriteNow Volume 3 group of authors in July and spending time with my good friend Jennifer Casa Todd and a writing retreat later this summer. Knowing that I will spend time with my core groups, the 53s and the #4OCFPLN, plus meet other members of my PLN for the first time, in real life, is one of my favorite things about the summer.
Time for Recharging
Summer is a time for a lot of things, one of the most important is self-care and recharging. So, doing some normal summer things like sleeping in late, catching up with friends and family, going on vacations, ditching our devices and not worrying about setting the alarm are important for our self-care. Summer is also a valuable time for teachers to do even more on a personal and professional basis like think about their practice and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there for personal and professional development and growth.
Time for Learning
A more flexible schedule for the summer means more time for attending conferences or webinars, joining in book studies or Voxer groups, or connecting within different learning communities. It might be easier to get involved in a Twitter chat, whatever it is during the school year that just doesn’t seem to fit as part of your routine, make it part of your summer routine.
There are lots of opportunities out there and my advice is to decide what is best for you. Do you want to be in one Voxer group or join one book study? Then make that your focus. Or maybe you want to start a blog or create a new website. It’s up to you because it is your time to decide how to spend your summer break. I’m thrilled to be part of the summer BookcampPD book study with my book In Other Words. Looking forward to discussing the six books included in the study and of course, the two weeks in July (July 15-28), when we get to talk about my book and share ideas and takeaways from it.
Each summer gets better and better, and it’s not because I traveled and spent hours on beaches, or to the contrary, kept idle. It is because I have used the time to learn more, to read, to connect, to reflect and to prepare for the next year. My summer goal is to work so I can start stronger and be better than I was the year before. Whatever you do this summer, make time to recharge, connect and learn. And don’t set the alarm 🙂
Kellie Bahri @kbahri5
Awesome! Summer for me is bittersweet. Saying goodbye to the school year is very difficult for me. I’m a work workaholic, so shutting my brain off takes serious commitment, but it’s my gift to myself. My dreams for summer always take me to Michigan’s lakes. Whether I’m paddle boarding in the lily pads, kayaking Lake Superior, or just dangling my feet off a dock into the water, I am home. Being in nature refuels my soul. I am a much better teacher for it.
Hedreich Nichols @Hedreich
As a tech/design teacher in an IB middle school, I spend most of my day connected to some device. Google Classroom, PowerSchool, music, emails, my personal kid’s grades, etc. I also read, shop, tweet and binge watch all online, so I dream of being unplugged with the ocean reflected in my aviators. I want to sit under an azure sky with a latte, or something icy with an umbrella in it, letting a gentle breeze caress me, while salsa music- band, not playlist– soothes my soul.
Lainie Levin @mrslevin11
This summer, I dream of doing more. More “less.”
Let me explain.
Throughout the school year, I pack all of the “more” I can into my days. Between planning, grading, kid logistics, managing a household and trying to maintain some semblance of self-care, I find myself crammed in with little room to breathe.
I used to feel obligated to be productive with my summers so that when people asked me what my plans were, I would have an answer that sounded important and busy: graduate work, professional development, curriculum planning.
Don’t get me wrong, I still continue much of that over the summer. I don’t think it’s ever possible to completely shut off my teacher’s brain. But I’m also realizing that I don’t have to feel guilty for having times where I am unproductive. Simply put, I need to come up for air. And summer is the time to do it.
And if that means I do less? So be it. I’m owning it.
This summer, I dream of doing less of my “more,” and more of my “less.”
More hiking and walking.
More working out.
More catching up with friends.
And when I come back to school in the fall, there will once again be more of me to go around.
BreAnn Fennell @PlayYay
I dream of some time on the beach with my boys.
Helping children learn to journal during writing camp.
Holding hands and taking walks.
Boosting creativity by speaking at a conference.
Meeting with my looping students to build relationships even during the summer months.
Finding a balance between parenting and teaching.
Bridget Gengler @BridgetGengler
When I think of summer I think of rejuvenation, reflection, and relaxation. I love my job as an educator, but during the school year there is so much going on. My mind is in a million different places and the stress and being overwhelmed takes over. I always must remember to slow down and find ways to de-stress. When summer comes, it is the time to work on myself and it allows me to find myself again. It is a time for family and friends, a time for fun and adventure and a time for quietness and peace.
This summer I plan on starting my mornings outside on my new patio with a cup of coffee and a good book. There are so many books that I want to read- some professional and some for pleasure. I plan to get lost in many books and enjoy the solitude that it brings to my soul.
I look forward to spending time with my family and creating new memories. With my son, I want to spend time enjoying our baseball. Our love for Yankees baseball is one of our bonds and I can’t wait to connect in that way. My daughter is off to college at ASU this August, so I hope to spend time with her, not only getting ready for this new chapter in her life but also just enjoying each other before she begins this new journey. With my husband, I plan to take short trips to some of our favorite places on the Central Coast of California and enjoy the beauty of nature and our state.
My #oneword2019 is gratitude and my mission this year is to write letters to all who have impacted my life and inspired me. Over the past couple of months, the busyness of the school year has taken over, so I have had to put those letters on hold. Each morning I hope to spend part of my quiet time reflecting and expressing my gratitude to those special people.
Summer is a time to take care of myself and my relationships. It is a time to enjoy who and what is around me. I look forward to the relaxation, rejuvenation, and reflection that this summer will bring.
Sometimes a poem strikes me, and I’m able to write it in the moment. I get an idea for an image, a phrase or a metaphor, and I just can’t help myself.
Other poems are more coy. They want me to write them, but maybe I have too much to say and don’t know how to squish it all down. Or maybe I feel too strongly and the words haven’t quite yet translated.
I’ve been trying to write this poem for about three years now. It surfaces each time I ask my fourth graders to personify an attribute or emotion. I keep wanting to write this poem, but it’s eluded me. It doesn’t help that this assignment comes around the same time of year I lost my brother, and writing about grief while I’m feeling it is…well…messy.
This year, for whatever reason, this incredibly patient poem decided it was time. Enough with the nonsense. Just write already. So I wrote. Here goes:
I am Grief.
We may not
But we will,
When we first meet, I am
Awaiting you in moments
Large and small.
I hold you tight enough
To steal your breath.
Or hide behind a corner
Waiting to spring you
In the off-chance you have forgotten me.
People know me by
That tell-tale dimple on the cheek
That one song that comes on the radio
The telephone call you go to make before realizing
People never consider
How attached I am
But there we are,
As best friends are.
People never consider
I am not one to be escaped
I am not one who should be escaped.
I want to whisper,
Sit with me.
Let me surround you,
I am here, yes.
And so is Love.
As you sit,
And as you sink,
You might just fall.
I just finished reading What School Could Be (2018) by Ted Dintersmith @Dintersmith and almost every page contains examples of schools who are jumping into innovative practices. Ted shares that we roll out, “Yet another round of teaching all students standardized material, in standardized ways, to a new battery of standardized tests.” He shares six variables that stand out which educators can use to capitalize on an innovative change model that empowers teachers and students (pg. 189 – 190). The hundreds of educators I worked with during my forty-year career would certainly agree that I adored innovation. I also stood solidly behind the new standards when they were released. I fully embraced them as a motivational tool to cease educators spending two months on a unit about dinosaurs and a student who endured this only to have a different teacher, two years later, spend three months on the same topic. When I began in education students took standardized tests, but the data went into three-ring binders that collected dust on the shelves. Teachers rarely, if ever, saw the results. As the assessment corporations increased their data reports to include sheets that both teachers and parents could easily understand, the amount of money school districts were spending increased ten-fold. We grabbed hold of those data sheets, pouring over the results, to locate gaps that, once filled, would help our students’ achievement continue to increase. What has happened in the decades that have followed (No Child Left Behind, 2001 and Race to the Top, 2009) with both standards and standardized assessments, haven’t led us down a path to innovate.
All this standardization lead to developing “good little soldiers” who could learn the standardized curriculum and spit out lower level responses to standardized assessments. This leads me to the question, “What if …..” as I don’t believe most of us have the desire to settle for “What is ..” “Standardized-testing regimens cost states some $1.7 billion a year overall, or a quarter of 1 percent of total K-12 spending in the United States, according to a new report on assessment finances. If the money for standardized assessments was instead put toward teacher raises, the report estimates that each teacher in the country would receive, on average, a rise of $550, or 1 percent, based on data about teacher salaries and other factors from the 2012 Digest of Education Statistics” (Education Week, 2012).
I wonder what will be the impetus that will move our country toward innovative practices that will prepare students for the future that lies ahead? Perhaps, carefully studying history will provide answers to this question. What has previously occurred that provided the motivation for systemic shifts in our education system? The initial idea of No Child Left Behind began somewhere. Since a great deal of the power to shift our current system has now been given to the States, policymakers at the State level rarely stay in office the necessary three to five years to positively affect a change, where does this leave us? Does it feel to you as if we have shifted into an automatic “cruise” mode?
What if …. news associations like CNN and Fox News reported daily on innovative practices that are happening in schools across our country? Families adore hearing about how the places they send their children each day are in the spotlight for something terrific. If the news capitalizes on innovation as a stellar approach, on a consistent basis, I imagine many will sit up and take notice. Ted Dintersmith’s book certainly has enough schools mentioned to last for almost a year of daily coverage. Is it true that Americans only tune in and watch the news to hear the latest and greatest tragedy, negative comment, problem, disaster, or politician arguing with each other? As a child, I sat and listened, year after year, to Walter Cronkite sharing the number of youths who were returning home each day in body bags from the Vietnam War. You bet that made an impact then and on the adult I am today. Could news reports, flashed across your screen, about innovative practices impact others in a positive way? What will occur that will shift current practices, in most schools across the United States, in order to prepare children for the future ahead of them?