Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Independent Reading

This 3rd grade darling will steal your heart as she explains
the importance of independent reading.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Welcome, Fall!

Cheers! Happy Fall!
One of my favorite things about teaching is that learning comes in all kinds of places, opportunities, shapes, sizes, and times.

Today, as a welcome to fall, learning came in the shape of a cup as my kids each tried apple cider for the very first time! Sure, there were lots of things we could have included, and turned the experience into a full-fledged lesson, but not this time. They simply sipped and enjoyed their cider during our read aloud.

(Don't get me wrong--we definitely learned a few facts about cider! For example, did you know it takes an average of 52 apples to make a single gallon of cider! Wow!)

Judging by the smiles on their faces, and excitement while they tried something new, I have a feeling they'll remember more than just the folktale this time around.

We'd love to know how you welcomed fall in 2013! Please comment below!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Gem of a Learning Cycle

Fellow peeps. And I mean EVERYbody.  As in, fellow people of the community, of the world, even.
Yes, you.
If you’re feeling frustrated and wondering and bemoaning how education has gotten to “this point” (whatever “this” may be; I’m simply paraphrasing conversations and media proclamations), take heart. You’ve got the power to make a positive difference!

Who? Me?
Yes, you.

Case in point.
Kevin is a guide and my son’s new friend from this summer. We met him at Sandy Bottom Trail Rides in the mountains of NC not long ago. Unassuming, quiet, and I doubt he would ever consider himself a teacher. But teach he does, and did, with absolute aplomb.
Kevin and Ian, bonding over mutual interests within minutes.
My normally super shy 7 year old blossomed and became a little question/ conversation machine around Kevin, as I watched with amazement. Ian was enthralled, focused, and mesmerized during our trail ride and gem mining experience, thanks to Kevin, who produced a gem of a learning cycle.

He forged a relationship with my son (which earns “community” with me, by default), by talking to him as a young man, by being genuine and not pushing too hard. He was quiet and soft-spoken, but obviously kind, patient and knowledgeable.
Riding close, chatting, and soaking in some glorious NC mountain views.
He conducted frequent check-ins with Ian by asking if he was ok, and pointing out interesting things along the trail. Ian rode as close as possible to Kevin, and after some built-in “wait-time”, letting the experience and scenery process, he began firing questions at him—How long have you been doing this job? Do you enjoy it? What do you like most about it?
This was a very comfortable 7 year old, one that I had never witnessed.
We arrived at our gem-mining spot—did you know that North Carolina is one of the few places in the world for garnet mining?

And so the learning ramped up. Kevin and Ian got right to business—first with a demonstration of how to find the rocks with the garnets, 
then how to chisel/ hammer them out,
giving Ian the first one (and subsequent others) he found that day.

Guiding work.
Releasing for independent work.
Nourishing community.
Experiencing "flow" and losing track of time.
Collaborating when needed.
Taking the time to patiently answer questions.
Finding success. 
Sharing joy and passion.
(and hey, no bubbling or formal testing!)

When it was time to hit the trail again, Kevin went to untie the horses, while Ian washed his gems in the stream.

We saw two women coming down our way with a girl slightly younger than Ian and overheard them wondering where to go to find the gems. Ian—infused with confidence—showed them where we had been digging. Led them there, actually, and showed them what he had learned. A mini-lesson of golden (gem-like) proportions.
As we got ready to go, they thanked him, and he reached into his pocket, pulled out one of his largest garnets then passed it to the little girl. 

Much like Kevin had done an hour earlier.

And thus, a learning cycle began its spiral, having gone around once, it had already begun anew.

Never underestimate what the power of your passion can do for others, fellow peeps. The world is watching, and oh-so-many are learning. You have gifts to give, with learning embedded in the most wondrous ways. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Make A Ruckus (they told me to!)

Leadership Lessons from Social Media is an article I read today that got me thinking about this new school year, and where it's headed--at least in my little circle of influence. Politics and personal issues the past couple of months have resulted in some pretty solid soul-searching. This list of 10 lessons from social media was just the little boost I needed to prepare for classes after a long weekend, and I thought I'd share!
Using social media to try something new, something
different, and sharing our work and ideas with others in
the world. 

Have a quick read and let me know which ones of the 10 are your favorites. Are there any you can add?

#7 is my favorite. I like to think I'm a bit different--in a good way--but I loved the challenge to make a ruckus. Bingo. Instant rethink on bringing my game.

#8 and #10? Yes and yes. Share and spread ideas of others. Teachers can focus on that ultimate goal of student learning, and remember we're all in this together. So much easier said than done, though, which is why I added it here. I want to work on this one because it's so important. The article says it best with: "Give without expectation."

Hmm. Pure reminder of the goodness that exists. If we're thinking it, then it must be possible, right? As Angela Maiers loves to say "You Matter"! That "...what you do and who you are [has] a profound impact on the world....The world would be a very different place – a lesser place – without you."

How incredible that foundational message will be in my classroom this year!!! Imagine making that explicitly known to your students--how would they respond? Imagine how they can ramp up their own game realizing that?

Thanks to social media, I keep learning and being inspired by other teachers, leaders, and thinkers, like Angela and countless others. There are think-labs like the CTQ Collaboratory which keep me motivated, (even when I lack the time I 'd prefer!); Twitter--keepin' things short and simple, but relevant to me and my classroom; and various global connections to keep my own views in perspective while expanding them. There are so many other sites to explore and use--ask friends, share, collaborate, and hey, you saw it in the article--"MAKE A RUCKUS", and let your fun be contagious!