Monday, January 14, 2013

Slicing is like going to school every week!


Two Writing Teachers hosts slice of life each Tuesday.  Come share!  And this time, find out about the March Slice of Life Challenge!
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            MORNING COFFEE AND CONVERSATION

Among all the other individuals and groups I work with, sometimes I have conversations with our school’s assistants.  There are 13 core classrooms in my school and each teacher has a full time assistant.  Some of these are schooled as teachers but have never had a classroom yet.  Others have experience with children in other ways and bring different passions to the classes, like science or art backgrounds.  Collectively they are not experienced teachers but learn as the days go by, from the core teacher with whom they work, and from observing children, conversations with others and reading professional texts.  Some decide they might want to be licensed and work with us while attending an alternative-licensing program. 

I have the challenge next week to facilitate the assistant meeting that happens every few weeks.  The topic is explained when I say the word EXPO!  Our largest event of the year happens in early February.  We call it Expo and I have written about it before.  Since each student studies a different self-chosen topic, at this time each shows the learning he or she has completed so far this year.  It is somewhat like a science fair.  Because we believe in the journey as much or more than the destination, this is challenging to both teachers and students.  Everyone has the same deadline, one evening in February.  And the nervousness and stress are discussed each year.  How to alleviate it?  How to make the excitement grow at the same time as lessen the pressure to do well?  It’s exciting, but…


My Internet search was not very successful.  Many articles contained long lists of things we actually do, and there are no direct fixes, only long-term building of communities, which is important, but we do that too.  I’ll use a cliché to explain:  it’s like the perfect storm!  Instead of “things” proceeding at everyone’s personal pace (teachers too), everything has to be finished and beautifully presented, AT THE SAME TIME! So I looked to see if there was one magical article I could share.    I couldn’t find one, until I searched Ruth and Stacey’s Two Writing Teachers Blog.  And there I found one that I’m going to lead with.

The article is Ruth’s post from Sept., 2011 titled How Do You Know?   The essential part of her post comprises questions like how do you know what to do, how to do, when to do, etc.?   One sentence particularly touched me, and I suspect will speak to all of you too: 
No wonder we’re overwhelmed. And stressed. And tired. We put so much pressure on ourselves to get every single thing right. But what if this is impossible?  Ruth continues on to say that here is when there is a choice, to keep on, dragging the students along, or to slow down, and lead by listening to the students, responding to their needs. 

So, it always does go back to listening, doesn’t it?  And I thank Ruth for an answer I know that these assistants can use, that we must pay attention to what we notice about each student and respond accordingly.  That is what I’ll discuss with these new teachers. 

However, if you have wonderful actions that you find positive with students and would like to share, please do, and I’ll use the comments too!

THANKS RUTH, AND STACEY TOO, FOR YOUR BLOG, A MARVELOUS RESOURCE!!      



photo credit: Professor Bop via photopin cc

26 comments:

  1. Wow, I love that you found what you were looking for at Two Writing Teachers. And what smart words! Good luck as you being EXPO!

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    1. Thanks Katherine. These weeks in January are interesting leading up to our big evening!

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  2. I love the concept of your school and this was my first take away. ' Because we believe in the journey as much or more than the destination, this is challenging to both teachers and students.' I wish oh wish that we could cultivate that our school and district. Thanks for the reference to Ruth's post. I'm going to go back and read it again. Listen...think what could happen in our families and our world if we did ! Thank you so much. XO nanc

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    1. Thank you. I too wish that others would look at the process more closely, at least as much as they can with time constraints. Yes, Ruth's post is worth another look.

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  3. Linda,
    I posted a comment earlier to you and a couple of others. I see they got lost in cyber space.

    I think your Expo idea is great. Do you have a checklist or handout for your new people? Perhaps asking them to write a reflection piece to share next year might be fun.

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    1. Each teacher has a different expectation for students, so the assistants will need to depend on that to guide the students. Sorry the comments were lost. I don't think you would have gone to my spam because you've been here before. Thanks Ruth!

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  4. I remember your post about EXPO last year. Can't wait to read and see more about it this year. This is a very interesting aspect of the teaching profession that we do not necessarily see the results as soon as we teach. Learning process takes time. Yet results are expected by parents and public. How the different factors influence the learning process is not always visible for those outside the school. Even for new-comers the inquiry learning that your school does may take time to truly understand. I had a co-worker who honestly said that for three years she did not get what inquiry was and the teaching in our school seemed like play and chaos. Then suddenly it clicked. I think that that since you have the culture and structures in place and you are focusing on who matters the most (the students), the assistants will be empowered to help to create the perfect storm..
    Like usual my mind just goes off in different directions when I read your post. I have Ruth's and Stacy's book. I look forward to reading your book. I hope that you are writing one.

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    1. Thank you Terje, your comments continue to make me think, too. Yes, we have 'things' to explain often about the school. The oddest part is that rarely do we need to explain to a child. They are so willing to give new ideas a try, and to ask questions if they are confused. The focus on the students definitely is the key, always! Now if I can just get these young teachers to believe that.

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  5. I love that you are so focused on helping the assistants. Too often they are left out of the big picture and really they are an essential part of the school day.

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    1. We do know that our assistants are an important part of the school. Thanks for noticing!

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    2. I love that too and that you speak so often of coaching, mentoring and support. I've been thinking of planning an EdCamp and your post got me to wondering about different strands for different types of educators in our community. Thank you, Linda.

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    3. Wow, Lee Ann, I'd love to know more about what you're planning. It sounds so interesting. I can just imagine groups of teachers signing up to work on different goals, like improving response, etc. Thank you!

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  6. I remember your post of Expo from last year too and I remember LOVING the whole project and now that teachers as so generally under the gun they can't really enjoy this pressure because there's so much there already... my word for this year is BREATHE... I'm sharing it with you.
    The PD I've been working on the last two years gives me the luxury of keeping our teams small and offers us time to breathe together.
    Breathing... I love it....
    Enjoy some :)

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    1. Bonnie, perhaps I should 'give' them this OLW just for a month! It might work wonders. It is a terrific word that is supportive. I can just see the title now, "remember--breathe"!

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  7. It sounds like an incredibly amazing event in February! I love how every student presents their own individual work. Love that you found just the right bit of insight from Two Writing Teachers! I believe I read the blog entry that you posted, but, today, I am soothed by the words you emphasized: lead by listening to the students, responding to their needs. Fabulous!

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    1. Thank you Maureen. The words are valuable, I agree. I'll be sharing more as the weeks move on.

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  8. Excellent advice! Doing things the way the students need to do them instead of when/how my careful plans say is something that I work on continually. (As I think many of us do!) I remember hearing about your EXPO last year and it sounds like such an exciting celebration! Maybe it helps to remember that it's supposed to present what the students have learned up until that point -- everybody's project/presentation (I don't remember exactly how it works) doesn't have to be "finished" in the same way. If some students are smack in the middle of wrestling with a concept, that's something they can show too. Learning is messy, and students may still be able to present and reflect on something that's not yet "finished"! Perhaps you could have an area devoted to "work in progress" showcases, where people can see students who are in the midst of their learning and discuss the process with them?

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    1. That's a wonderful idea, Jennifer. I will certainly share with the staff about it. Some years I had students explain their process along with showing the end product. That was wonderful to see, but intense. I liked that you reminded that 'learning is messy' & presenting & reflecting on the path, where they've been & where they're going would be really interesting. Thank you!

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  9. Linda- EXPO sounds like an absolutely amazing event and yet I'm sure it takes a Herculean effort on the part of teachers to pull it off. I've just spent the last week helping with science fair. Quite an undertaking! I think breathe is the perfect word.

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    1. It is very like a science fair, which I've done a few times with students. Whew, that's another challenge, isn't it? Bonnie's advice was good!

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  10. The right words at the right time, what a great find. I hope it goes well and helps with the stress of what is likely a very exciting time for everyone as well.

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    1. Thanks, Betsy. It does seem like the right thing.

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  11. Sounds wonderful! I think another good thing to remember is "enough" - remember that wherever they are at that point in time, it is "enough" (and we can only do what we can do - as can they!)

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    1. Oh, so happy you replied Maria. Terrific advice to tell them. One does finally have to stop, & say enough, you've done well, now let's celebrate. Thanks!

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  12. Isn't it the case that Ruth and Stacey so often have just the right words we are looking for? I know that is how I discovered them in the first place. Your post is a great reminder to take time to visit the Ruth and Stacey archives every now and then!

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    1. In addition to the post I found, I did get caught up in reading others, Christy. You are right, we should not forget to look back! Thanks.

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Having a conversation is a good thing!