by Meredith Johnson, #BookCampPD moderator
Since I joined Twitter in March of 2012, almost six years ago, my understanding of its “ripple effect” is still growing. Years ago, when I would try to encourage my colleagues to join as my enthusiasm was like going outside on a beautiful, spring day, after months of a cold Minnesota winter, I was met with resistance. Some would say, “Oh, Twitter … yeah … that’s where teachers send each other tweets about how wonderful they are.” Or, very often, “I would like to try it, but I just don’t have the time.” These comments didn’t dissuade me but made me feel sorry that they wouldn’t enjoy the tremendous professional learning that was taking place there each day.
Fast forward six years, and I certainly see the daily influence passionate educators have for one another. What is so interesting is that you may not even ever realize your impact on others. During a chat, you quickly post a tweet, sharing your thoughts, and overtime, hundreds might read and connect with it. This happened to me recently when Bridget Gengler @BridgetGengler shared a blog posting she had written. Extraordinary things can happen, as she shared in her blog, from one idea, shared during a chat. What is most important is the impact and change that occurred with her students from this graphic by William Arthur Ward. I was thrilled when she agreed to share her blog post on our https://bookcamppd.com/blog-posts/ site. What an amazing person she is!
After moderating the #BookCampPD chat for almost two years, I also lean back and reflect on observing the shifts that take place, overtime, as educators continue their use of Twitter. A person might start out with the tremendously helpful chat, #NT2T on Saturday mornings at 9:00 EST, and move to be a guest moderator, leading their own chat, diving into writing blog posts, creating a podcast or writing a book. What amazing lead learners they are!
As I have always loved being an innovator, pushing the comfort zone of those in education, I wonder how Twitter will evolve over time. When I began in education, we didn’t have computers, certainly, Twitter didn’t exist, there weren’t any blog posts, podcasts and very few books were being written by those who are daily involved with educating children. What will come next? How can we help each other grow, be supportive of “failing forward,” and jump into new ideas, such as @Flipgrid, that will shift learning? One thing I am sure of …. we are #StrongerTogether. Many thanks to all those who share their passion for helping others each day on Twitter.
Back in the beginning of October I joined the #BeKindEDU chat. That particular evening the chat’s focus was gratitude. Meredith Johnson from #BookCampPD posted the following quote from William Arthur Ward – “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving , turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” I decided to begin my gratitude movement in my class with this quote during our morning meetings that week.
On Monday morning as we sat down for our morning meeting, I introduced the whole concept of gratitude. I asked my students what gratitude meant to them. We had to begin the discussion with the meaning of gratitude as many did not know. I shared with them my daily routine of gratitude and how I always send a message to someone different each morning and express my gratitude towards them. I wanted them to understand how important it is to express how thankful you are for what you have and also how giving and expressing gratitude can also create joy in you, the giver.
Then I asked them to share what they thought the quote by Ward meant. This is what one girl said- “Gratitude changes an ordinary day into a great day and then it makes you feel happy because you can make someone’s day.” My hope was that they would start to understand the intrinsic feeling one gets from expressing goodness and thankfulness to others. With those thoughts in mind, I had them share something or someone they were grateful for and why. I had them write it down. I collected all the notes of gratitude and every morning meeting for the rest of the week I read some of the notes. Every morning the students looked forward to hearing what their classmates were thankful for. They looked forward to this new routine of gratitude notes. We continued this practice for the next couple of weeks. Gradually the notes turned into letters. I asked them to write letters to anyone with whom they felt compelled to share their gratitude. I also had them write a letter of gratitude to a Veteran for Veterans Day. All of those letters were handed out to Veterans.
Finally came the week before Thanksgiving. At the beginning of the week I told them that we were going to have a gratitude celebration on Friday with pumpkin pie and a gratitude circle. Each student randomly picked a name of another student in the class. Once they had the name of that person, I told them that their challenge and task was to spread gratitude to this person by making them a gift and card or letter. The next morning I put out a whole bunch of supplies and gave them time to make their gifts and cards. I stressed how much more rewarding it would be to try to keep it a secret until Friday and also really create something from the heart. As I walked around, observed and listened to them talk I could feel the excitement and genuine care that each student was taking in creating something for their classmate. They wanted to make something special and they showed that in their actions and words. The pride I felt on that day was like no other. When I thought about this activity I was not sure how serious that they would take it. But as I watched, they did not let me down. As they finished their creations, they kept them hidden in decorated gift bags that we put away until Friday. The rest of the week was a buzz of enthusiasm in anticipation for our Gratitude Circle on Friday.
When Friday afternoon came the students sat in the same circle that we sit in for morning meeting but this time it was our Gratitude Circle. I started the circle by placing a an empty wreath in the middle. I told them we were going to fill this wreath with leaves of gratitude. We went around the circle and I had everyone share one thing with which they were grateful. We wrote it down and they each got a chance to add their leaf to the wreath. They loved listening to all the things that everyone was grateful for.
After that, I passed out the bags that they were going to give out. Excitement filled the room! I told them that they would share who they picked and as they give the gift to that person share one reason why they are grateful for him/her. Everyone was instructed to hold off on opening their bags until the end so we could give hear and see everyone share their gratitude. I started with a volunteer and he stood up, shared who he picked, walked over to that person and as he gave the bag to her, he told her why he was grateful for her. This routine was followed until all children had a bag. You could have heard a pin drop as each child shared. They all listened intently to each other and enjoyed what everyone had to share. There was genuine gratitude and joy shown to each other. Each student loved being appreciated and each student enjoyed expressing gratitude.
My heart was exploding with joy as I observed with a huge smile on my face and tears in my eyes. They got it! All the time and talk about gratitude was worth it! They understood! They understood the joy and the blessing that gratitude brings.
They saw my happiness and even questioned why I was happy.
I told them ” because now you all see what I have been talking about. All the times I share how I am so thankful and how important it is to verbalize it. Once we do that, not only does it brings joy to others, but it ignites the fire inside of us – it leads to smiles, joy and positivity.
It did not end there- after they were done, I told them that I had something for them. I gave them each a card with a short personalized letter. I realized that some of them had never received a card before- they did not even know how to open it. With the help of each other, they found their letter inside the card and they all began to read their letters.
I could hear some of the conversations- ” I am going to hang this in my room.”
“What does your letter say?” “Mine says this.”
One little girl who tends to be difficult to reach sometimes and doesn’t always express herself, said to her friend, ” I love mine!” Then she looked at me and said ” Thank you, Mrs. G. Thanks for being a great teacher.”
I do not need affirmation but it is great to feel the gratitude. Exactly what I had been teaching them and trying to get them to understand came back to me. Oh, how my heart was full that day!
This day was by far one of the best days in my 23 years of teaching. There was so many times in previous years when I wanted to do this but didn’t know if I should take the time. YES! Take the time!
The year has started out difficult for me with a grade change and all the demands for academics and testing .
But as educators we can not forget that we are teaching children. They need to feel the love. They need to feel the gratitude. They need to know that others care. They also need to learn how to give the gratitude, care and love. We have to take the time to allow these moments to happen. These are the moments that they will remember and carry with them.
On this day each child was honored. Each child felt important. Each child knew that he or she mattered. That is what is important!!!
What is there about Twitter that draws educators from all over the globe to return day after day? Certainly, at the end of a day, many are exhausted emotionally and mentally from rising to each occasion in meeting the needs of students, staff, and families; but they return. Have you ever reflected about why you return and share your passion for education with others?
As moderator of #BookCampPD I read books that are our focus, so I can model for others my love of learning, create questions or guide others. I am currently reading Lead With Culture by Jay Billy and I keep running into examples that reflect the educational journey I was on. I think to myself, “What??! You also were greatly influenced by Richard Allington, when you realized you needed to increase your understanding about literacy, in order to help guide others? You greet students each morning too?” and the list goes on and on as I read page after page. My love of learning continues and aides in my passion to help others.
I retired after forty years in education, twenty–six of them in administration, in June of 2017. Why did I stop going to school every day after four decades? It certainly wasn’t because I had lost my passion for helping others. Unfortunately, it was feeling so discouraged when I wanted to hear what a soft-spoken kindergartner child was telling me but I couldn’t. I would ask another educator to help me understand what the student said but, from a loss of hearing, it was a constant struggle. My knee and hip would cause me to fall to the floor walking down the hallway and you can imagine how frightened this made the students feel. I also worked so very hard to remember the thousands of details a principal juggles each day and would be tremendously discouraged when I dropped one of the “plates” as I felt I was letting someone down. Yet, in retirement, I found that Twitter allowed me to continue my passion for helping others. Where my physical body had failed me, my mind and emotional connection to education continued.
I spent months trying to decide which aspect or area of education I would place my energy and motivation. Should it be STEAM, or technology, perhaps turning around an at-risk school, or family and community engagement? Which of these topics could I focus on that would provide the most help for others? Finally, I selected books and professional learning, as I felt there was the most room for positive change and it would be a never-ending concentration. I am thankful every day for the educators who are involved in our #BookCampPD #PLN.
September 27, 2018
Stacey Dallas Johnston is a veteran educator, a blogger, and the person in the meeting who always has a question. After 18 years in the classroom teaching HS English, Johnston is working on Special Assignment with the Nevada Dept. of Education on Teacher Leader Initiatives for the 2018-2019 school year.
This Teacher’s Journey
I launched a blog this year to not just share my experiences as a 18-year educator, but to open up a space where other educators: new ones, veterans, retired, K-12 and beyond can share theirs. Teaching is hard. The narrative around our career is often negative, but there are so many wonderful stories to share.
My journey has been one of triumph, learning, tears, evolution, and reflections. My blog is a step toward not only reflecting on my journey, but to contribute to the narrative surrounding educators and education in a positive way. With 3.5 million educators in the U.S. , there are unfortunately not 3.5 positive stories shared daily. This Teacher’s Journey is a small step in changing that.
As a veteran educator, my experiences have run the gamut. Professionally, I have earned accolades and awards, taken hours and hours of coursework and professional development, attended and presented at conferences. I’ve taught grades 6,9,10,11,12. I’ve taught remediation classes all the way to AP. I’ve taught over 3,000 students: wonderfully creative kids, kind human beings, those who struggle to learn, those who needed school and my classroom for normalcy and escape. My students have suffered experiences that most adults will never have to. I have bought shoes and food for students, paid for bus passes and field trips, been a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. I’ve been privileged to be their mentor, their cheerleader, the one who introduces them to a new book, the one who helps them discover their voices.
By giving my students a multi-faceted education, and by continuing to be a life-long learner and advocate, I have had the pleasure of seeing them bloom into leaders, confident adults, human beings who can overcome even the darkest of circumstances. The extra hours, the extra dollars, and the extra work have all been worth it because my journey has given me the extraordinary opportunity to help young people take journeys of their own.
I am honored and humbled to be one of the adults in the lives of over 3,000 students who helped carve out a path to education, career, and happiness. The stories are many and by sharing them, I hope to let others know how special my students and colleagues are and how important teaching truly is.
I invite you, fellow educators, to share your journey with me. Help me make This Teacher’s Journey the place where anyone who wants to can read about our daily lives, our struggles and celebrations, our professional and personal evolution.
Teachers are people too–people with stories to tell. Let me help you tell yours.
By: Meredith Johnson – mjjohnson1216
Professional Learning – BookCamp Bounce Back
Remember the feeling of standing at the edge of the ocean, your toes in the sand, at the point where the crashing waves just barely reach your feet? You look out in the distance at a turquoise wave that will soon tumble at your feet. Excitement builds as you wonder if the next wave will come closer and extend the water up to your legs. As each wave pulls back out into the ocean, you can feel your feet sinking down into the sand. You quickly realize that you want to take a few steps further out into the ocean to increase this feeling of exhilaration. Many of you will quickly look around and call out to a friend or family member to join you as happiness was born a twin. A ‘Kodak moment’ has been created in your mind’s eye that you will long remember.
A new professional learning book can fill a learner with many of these same sensations. Observation of the book, excitement at experiencing the learning of something new, curling up and letting the words and ideas rush over you and the desire to implement many of the concepts being covered by delving in deeper. As the words and new ideas are incorporated into your working memory, you feel enthusiastic at the thought of sharing this with others. At some point, the responsibilities of life knock at your door and the book must be set aside. Perhaps you find the time to pick back up where you left off or, sadly, items placed on top of it hide the book for months into the future.
Connie Hamilton @conniehamilton recently tweeted, “Without an opportunity to process educational events, real learning is less likely.” This also holds true for the professional learning book you are reading. During each of the ‘BookCamp Bounce Back’ sessions, that are planned during #BookCampPD’s Fall Focus, you have the opportunity to share and reflect. What steps would you like to take in implementing some of the ideas you read in any of the thirty-three books we have highlighted? What has already been implemented and worked very well or still needs to be “tweaked?” Do you have photos to share with others in our #PLN chat that would add clarity? In Jarod Bormann’s @Jbormann3 book, that we reviewed during our summer, FAR – Friends and Reading, the final two steps are ‘reflection’ and ‘share.’ Our ‘BookCamp Bounce Back’ will assist you in these professional learning steps.
The first step in experiencing the ocean, is to get in your car and drive, bicycle or walk there. Similarly, reading a professional learning book is only the first step in expanding your knowledge. ‘Bouncing Back’ to books we have previously read provides the opportunity for reflection and planning next steps. I hope you will join these chats on September and December 30th. Learning together, with all of you, is something I continually look forward to!
Contact email – email@example.com
Website creator and chat moderator – @mjjohnson1216
Join the #BookCampPD chat on Sunday evenings at 7:30 PM EST
Like many educators, I’ve been spending time this summer on my own professional development through reading, participating in book studies, and preparing a PD presentation for when we return to school.
One of the book studies I participated in was through #BookCampPD on Twitter, where the book, “Professionally Driven” by Jarod Bormann was featured. This book reframed how I look at professional development, and even evaluations (both my own and those I conduct with students). In the book, Jarod Bormann describes the four steps to his ProDriven PD model, which include: Research, Integrate, Reflect, and Share. This model has made me reflect on several of my personal PD endeavors.
A few years ago, I noticed a significant increase in our Spanish-speaking population within our district. Approximately 25% of our families speak Spanish in their homes. Each year, we receive new students who have not yet been exposed to the English language. This touched my heart as I saw kindergarten students beginning their first ever school experiences, surrounded by people who they weren’t yet able to communicate with. I thought back to my own experience in kindergarten. It was scary at first, even without a language barrier. I tried to imagine how I might have felt, had I entered my first classroom surrounded by people speaking a language that was new to me.
I began using my limited high school Spanish skills, but it was still so hard for me to communicate effectively. Inspired by our wonderful ELL aide, affectionately known as “Miss Claudia,” I decided to start taking Spanish classes. This was two years ago. Miss Claudia encouraged me to put my learning to use, assuring me that it was ok to make mistakes. Spanish is Miss Claudia’s first language. She told me that it is good for our students to see their teachers trying to use their language. It shows them that we care to learn their language, that it’s ok to make mistakes, and that that we’re all lifelong learners.
I consider my Spanish classes part of a long term personal professional development journey. It is an essential skill that I need in order to be better at what I do and to be able to make connections with more students and families.
Finding the right class and teacher for me, along with my coursework, has been an ongoing research phase of my PD journey.
This year, with the support of our wonderful kindergarten team, I was able to begin to integrate my new skills in the classroom setting. It was later in the school year, and we had a brand new student come to our school. She was not speaking English (yet!). As the school psychologist, I come to our K-1 classrooms weekly during centers for SEL instruction. I asked one of our amazing kindergarten teachers if she would be willing to change her center groups, so all of her bilingual students were grouped together. This way, I could conduct the SEL lesson in Spanish with this group, and do the same lesson in English with the other groups. The teacher excitedly replied, “Yes! Let’s do it this coming week!”
The connections and reciprocal learning that took place during that lesson were beyond what I ever could have imagined. Our new student hugged me after the lesson, and again when I returned to the classroom the following week. The other children asked me if I could do their lesson in Spanish again. They loved helping me when I stumbled or forgot a word, I loved learning new words from them, they loved when I told them they were being teachers too. They beamed when I thanked them for their help, and told them that I hoped I could someday speak two languages as well as they do. They told me they liked speaking Spanish with me.
Shortly after my first Spanish lesson, another kindergarten teacher invited me to do the same with her students too! Then I used Spanish in my lessons with the first grade students. I made new types of connections with all of the students, and the children who did not speak Spanish started asking their peers and myself how to say things in Spanish. As more lessons followed, our new student started using more English during our time together. It truly was a win all around.
Upon further reflection, this has been such an important lesson and learning experience for me. I now have better understanding of what a student might be feeling as they acquire a new language. I think differently when I’m in a meeting with a parent who speaks English as a second or even third language. I can understand how difficult it can be to learn a new language as an adult, and how long it takes. I am more thoughtful about the words I’m using in meetings, as I try to explain things in a clear and user-friendly way.
I’ve discovered that with long term types of PD projects the four steps may not always proceed in an orderly way. Rather, they may revert back and forth and may even overlap slightly at times. I am by no means finished with this journey. I want and need to continue to build my skills. I need to go back and do more research, and integrate what I learn to fulfill needs that arise. I will take more time to reflect and determine additional needs and areas of further research. I will take time to share progress at various stages in this journey, and then do more reflecting, researching, and integration.
I am so thankful that I have such a supportive staff to allow me to take the risk of putting my new language skills to use in their classrooms. I treasure my time with our amazing students and am so grateful that they have enjoyed learning and helping their new friend learn English while helping me learn more Spanish. I am also extremely fortunate to have an amazing PLN to share this new learning with. Thank you for taking time to read about this professional development journey that is so dear to my heart.
I hope you find joy in your professional learning journeys!
From the time I was a young child, in the early 1960’s, I always wanted to be in education. Instead of playing with dolls, I tried to check out books from my parents’ extensive library to my brothers. To my dismay, they weren’t interested. My best friend and I would write long class lists with all of our students’ names. I would beg the teachers to let me have to mimeograph worksheets (I can still remember that distinctive smell), to pass out to my make-believe students. Interesting to note, that I thought class lists and worksheets were the key elements in being a teacher!
In high school, we were to write a research paper and I didn’t have a clue what topic I could spend hours learning more about. The teacher suggested that it should be something I was passionate about. Ohhhhhh – education! I was very interested in making a difference by teaching Native American children so that was the topic. My grandfather began that passion by taking me to Sioux Falls, South Dakota when I was about five or six to the reservation near there. Writing that research paper started my teaching journey that would take several twists and turns along the way.
In high school, 1972, I began by volunteering in an elementary school for a couple of hours every afternoon and continued the following year by spending half a day, in a high school organized, early childhood setting. In 1975 and 1976 I was completing my college student teaching work in elementary schools in special education and a fifth grade classroom. In 1977 I began teaching in an intermediate school, a 4th – 6th grade resource room in a university town. It wasn’t until 1997, twenty years later, when I was being interviewed for an elementary principal position, that my passion for working with Native American students came to fruition. The Superintendent mentioned the reservation that was within the District’s boundaries and my long-ago dream was awakened!
I loved the nine years, in northwestern Wisconsin, I spent working with a community of educators who were the closest, tight-knit, caring individuals that I had the pleasure of working with. I was fortunate to learn from them so much about the culture and beliefs of their tribe. Many hours I spent listening to the stories and knowledge the Chief and members of the tribe shared with me, so I could try to learn more about Native American students.
Fast forward another twenty years and although I am not walking the hallways and classrooms of a school each day, I am trying to provide learning opportunities for current educators using Twitter and Facebook. I have the wonderful opportunity to stay connected, through social media, with the current Native American coordinator, Cherokee Rivers, from the school in northwestern Wisconsin. When our paths crossed during the past summer, I encouraged her to continue to share her tremendous knowledge about the Native American culture using Facebook.
Earlier today on Facebook, she shared amazing resources about books for children.
I responded with the following posting on Facebook to her:
On Twitter, I have shared the story of my good intentions, 20 years ago, to purchase leveled reading material for the students that focused on the Native American culture. I was so excited to show Anabelle the books when she returned to school in the fall. Man, oh man, did I ever make a mistake. I share the story with others so that they too can learn from the error I made. She enlightened me and shared lists of books from Native American authors. I am thrilled to read that you will provide the same resources for those who ask. It’s a perfect example of not knowing what I didn’t know.
She responded: Meredith, your humility speaks volumes to your intent and treasured drive to support Native American students (by going directly to Anabelle) and in your continued quest to remain educated and to advocate for accurate representations and the use of authentic resources.
I had a “light bulb” moment when I connected the resources she was sharing with the amazing book, Being the Change by Sara K. Ahmend that #BookCampPD is currently highlighting. I quickly shared her resources with others on Facebook and Twitter. My Facebook posting:
#BookCampPD has a two-week focus w/ Questions of the Day about the book “Being the Change – Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension” by Sara K. Ahmed. I highly recommend it! This Facebook post below speaks volumes to the lessons in the chapter, “Being Better Informed” and several others within the book.
Do you have Native American students in your school? Perhaps you’re not as fortunate as some schools to also have a Native American Coordinator to help guide your actions and decisions or increase your awareness? Fortunately, my connection with Cherokee Rivers and her willingness to communicate with you, could make a huge difference in the life of a child. Thank you for considering this.
I realized I wanted to share more of my connection with social comprehension and Native Americans but felt the 140 characters on Twitter certainly wouldn’t be enough. Ah, but a blog posting would do the trick! Sara K. Ahmed’s book and Cherokee Rivers’ Facebook posting are resources that can impact the lives of children. Please take a moment to investigate them further.
Thank you for your passion to educate our youth!
BreAnn Fennell is an elementary school teacher from Ohio. She has published two children’s books “Play? Yay!” and “Choose Your Cheer.” She is a defender of play and advocate for children!
Twitter has been a fantastic avenue for me to connect with other educators. Being a teacher, wife, and a mom of two very spirited boys I don’t have a lot of time to sit down. When I saw “From Striving to Thriving” was going to be the focus of my Saturday Morning Chat #bookcamppd I knew I had to pick it up (or put in my cart on Amazon Prime). I loved “From Striving to Thriving” because it was precise, it gave lots of great ideas that you could use right away in the classroom, and it was full of color and celebrated other educators!
The part of the book I most connected to was Chapter 5: Book-Match Relentlessly. This was the part that made me say, “ WOW, I am doing something right and I can’t wait to do it better! “
When I was in sixth grade, I had a fantastic teacher. She had a lovely personality, her room smelled like home, and she had a giant blue elephant on the counter. What I remember most about this teacher is when I came to her as a sixth grader and told her I wanted to read “Little Women” for my book project, she didn’t tell me no, she didn’t tell me that book was going to be too hard for me or I would never be able to read it in a months time. She didn’t even give me the mini -made for kids version. She knew me as a reader and that the book would be a great match for me. “Little Women” is still a favorite of mine, I feel like this quote sums us up as teachers of reading:
“I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle, something heroic or
wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the
watch for it, and mean to astonish you all some day.”
― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Is there anything more heroic than opening up the world to a person by helping them love to read?
My most favorite thing as a teacher is getting to know my kids as readers so that I can book match with them. I like to challenge, engage, teach strategies, but when I get the right books into the hands of a kid that has been craving a connection to text, it is magic to me. I’ve been known to go the library after a long day of school and pick out the next book in a series for a child who is begging for it. I have had beads of sweat dripping from my forehead as I scoured the library books sales and lugged bags of 25 cent books to my car. I’ve spent nights, summers, and weekends writing projects on DonorsChoose and sharing them with everyone so that I can keep my library full of exciting books chosen by my class. I can tell you what books each student connects with because I have made it the most important part of our reading instruction. Book matching is worth it because they deserve a life that is rich with reading.
Poverty. It’s a word that can impact our readers. I myself came from poverty, however, I didn’t realize it until I noticed not everyone had a little blue lunch ticket indicating that I had free lunches. We can’t assume that our kids have books at home to read or see others reading at home. We can send books home. When I read this quote in From Striving to Thriving it impacted me so much, “Even when books are damaged or lost, the money spent on the replacements pales in comparison to money spent on reading interventions.” We need to communicate the importance of reading to parents without making them sign a sheet everyday saying they read with their kids.
In the fall, we take our first graders to the library and send home applications for library cards. Teachers, if you aren’t BFFs with your local librarian you need to take a trip and buy him or her a coffee and sit and talk about how to connect. There are so many opportunities for collaboration because they have ALL the BOOKS!! Our library has free little libraries around town, a summer reading program, and a great children’s area. Send information about library events to your families throughout the school year, trust me, it will help with the volume of books your kids are reading!
How I set up an area for library books in my room:
Get four Heavy Duty bins and number them.
Teach the kids that the books with the barcodes on the back stay in those bins.
Get books from the library.
Rotate the books each week for four weeks.
Learn more about your kids.
Get books they love and put in the bins.
Pay a fine for a lost books.
Have kids write down books they’d like you to get this month.
Kids read books and smile.
Kids bring books to you and say, “LOOK it’s the new *insert series name* book!”
Kids ask you to renew their favorites.
Kids read more.
Repeat the next school year because it WORKS!
Connect with me on Twitter @PlayYay
Date: July 2018
Author of Post: Kym Harjes-Velez @KymHarjes
Title of Post: Giving & Receiving…My Journey in Teaching
The actions of giving and receiving are ones that were modeled for me early in life. I was blessed with a family who understood the importance of these traits and was given opportunities to both give and receive during the course of my childhood. Whether it happened during the holidays through gift exchange, or in church as I placed my coins in the basket being passed from person to person, I grew up thinking I knew all there was to know about what it meant to be both a giver and a receiver. Naturally, I was wrong…there was a deeper meaning waiting just around the corner.
In 1995, as a senior at the University of Delaware, I was welcomed into the first of two student teaching placements. The second graders in the classroom I joined were from a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. One little boy caught my eye and attention quickly. For the sake of this retelling, I’ll refer to him as Adam. In stature and weight, Adam was small for second grade. His personality, however, was anything but small. He was a mover and shaker, exuded enthusiasm and was a striving reader who longed to pick up a book and read it like the classmates around him. He was often pulled from the classroom and provided with instruction in the area of reading by well-meaning and well-trained teachers, but I could see his discomfort and wanted to get to know him and offer supports in other ways. Whenever there was a moment, I’d strike up conversations, find out his interests and hoped to discover a bit more about his curiosities and strengths. During this time I found out that Adam lived with his grandparents. He had several siblings, many of whom were younger. He often went to bed without a full meal in his belly and depended on the free breakfast and lunch provided by the school. He didn’t have access to a phone at home. He didn’t have access to books.
On the last day of my six-week placement, I struggled to find the right words to say to Adam. With the support of my cooperating teacher and several college friends, I’d helped set up a food & book closet at the school, but this didn’t feel like enough. I wanted to give Adam something more. I wanted to give him words of wisdom. I wanted to give him more chances to see himself as a reader. As it turned out, Adam had his own plans about giving that day.
As I packed my bag and began collecting the odds and ends of my time in the classroom, I felt a little tug on my arm. I turned around to find Adam standing before me with his hands behind his back. I saw the usual light in his eyes and an enormous grin on his face. “What is it Adam? What do you have behind your back?” I inquired. His smile grew as he said, “I have something for you.” “Something for me?” I asked in surprise. Adam took his hands from behind his back and revealed what had been held tightly in his palms just moments before. I found myself looking at a small toy dump truck. It was no more than an inch in length, was missing a wheel or two and had a good portion of its yellow paint scratched off. There was a small wind up crank on its side which Adam quickly let me know was broken. He grinned at me as he offered me the truck. “Oh Adam,” I said, “This is so kind, but I can’t take this from you.” Without a moment’s breath in between and with his same sweet grin, Adam’s next words taught me a lesson I still to this day carry in my heart. “Oh Miss Fischer,” he said, “You’re not taking it from me. I’m giving it to you.” In that moment with open ears and a humbled heart I learned a deeper lesson about the connection between students and teachers and giving and receiving than I’d ever known before. I opened my hand and Adam dropped the toy dump truck into it, gave me a quick hug and ran off to be with friends as I whispered a shaky but heartfelt thank you.
Nearly twenty three years have passed since that experience with Adam, but I can bring to mind the details of it in a moment’s notice. Recently, while participating in a Book Camp PD discussion, around Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward’s book From Striving to Thriving, I was reminded again of its early impact on me. Part I of the book encourages teachers to trust their striving readers and “have kids teach [us] something.” Adam, a long-ago striving reader, certainly taught me an incredible lesson that day.
As teachers we have the complex task of knowing our students and believing that each, whether striving or thriving, has the innate ability to learn, grow and achieve. As Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward so thoughtfully tell us in From Striving to Thriving, we must work to “table the labels, cultivate curiosity, ensure access to and choice of quality books, book-match relentlessly, teach thinking-intensive reading, assess readers in the round and advocate tirelessly.” Teaching is no small task and certainly not for the faint of heart. It takes grit, determination, intelligence, flexibility, empathy and joy. Mixed into all of that is the need to be open to what each student has the power to give and teach us. Donald H. Graves, a long time educator, researcher and author was known to say, “Teachers are the chief learners in the classroom.” Thanks to Adam, I know this is true.
In September I’ll be starting my twenty-third year of teaching in an elementary school. It is the very same elementary school I was hired in when I graduated from the University of Delaware in the spring of 1996. I currently teach second grade and am amazed and hopeful to consider that Adam is now a thriving thirty-year-old man. Although I am unsure of his whereabouts, I am sure of the lesson on giving and receiving he taught me so many years ago. The toy dump truck, still broken and scratched, is a daily reminder of that lesson. It sits proudly in my top desk drawer and has remained a constant for me in every classroom I’ve taught in. Much like Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward’s book From Striving to Thriving, I know the significance of giving and receiving in the classroom and am grateful to be on both sides of it. Thank you Adam.