Tuesday, August 13, 2013

One Thing - All Year

Ruth and Stacey host this Tuesday Slice of Life on their blog, Two Writing Teachers, creating a terrific community.  Hope you can join us, or at least put up your feet for a while and visit some of those who've written today.  It's good to have an audience!

It's time to begin school again, and I had one conversation today about building community, one priority for preparation for the new school year.  There is so much more to prepare, and I know that all of you teachers are working hard to get ready.  You're in the midst of a flurry of prep, or perhaps you've just started.  I want to bring up one topic today that is important to me as both a teacher of students and a coach of teachers.  


There is one thing that I never changed all the years I taught.  And now I use this one thing in my conversations with teachers.  This one thing was posted in a large banner at the top of one bulletin board.  It was discussed in numerous, sometimes repetitive ways.  My one thing was a HABIT I wished to start in my students, and luckily for me, I often had about half the class returning each year, thus half already had the HABIT!  What is this one thing?  It's asking the questions, "What's working, what is not?" all the time.  

Of course, it's not enough to tell students to ask the questions. I started discussions, both individually and whole group about what it might mean to answer the questions.  If something is working, it's a good thing to ask why it's working.  Becoming aware of choosing good strategies for all kinds of work for school, and what they are and why they work is also part of reflection.  And conversely, if something isn't working, asking the same questions is also important, but one must then ask one more, "how am I going to change so that it does work?"  And "who might help me make changes?"

You may be using different wording that will result in similar outcomes, and I suspect many of you use some of these kinds of questions already.  They empower students to take charge of their own learning, a goal for even the youngest students. And using the strategy helps them learn they are able to do so.  So I ask you, what is your one thing?


           On a side note, what's working for me recently is all the PD I've been able to do this year, spending the day with Peter H. Johnston, attending the All-Write Conference, and now I've made plans to attend the NCTE convention in Boston, rooming with Tara Smith, of A Teaching Life-so, so exciting.  If you're going, let us know so we can meet, or if you're going and presenting, please be sure to let us know so we may attend your session!

33 comments:

  1. You and Tara at NCTE! How wonderful. Sorry I won't be there to meet you, but I know it will be a wonderful time. And I do like your "what's working, what's not" focus. It can be applied to more than just the classroom! xo

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    1. Thanks Irene-so excited about NCTE-I was hoping you would be there!

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  2. I have one week until school starts. Slowly, slowly, I am starting to think of this year, reading what others are doing, getting ideas, reflecting on previous years, sorting in my head, what to keep, and what to get rid of. The habit of a reflection is a vital one to teach from an early age, yet so easily overlooked in the rush to get more things done. Your one thing is a good question that requires to take the time to pause and reflect.
    I hope that the inspiration and excitement that you have gathered over the summer will help you keep your energy flowing.

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    1. Our school is always open, so I've been in & out all summer, but now it's time to start the real conversations! Best to you, too, Terje!

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  3. What's working, what's not working are great questions to keep in mind as we begin to implement the Common Core standards. I will be using these questions this year.
    How fun to room with Tara! I can't wait for your reflections from the conference. It will be an early Christmas gift.

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    1. Is Missouri implementing the CC? I wasn't sure. It seems to be so up in the air with some states. I am looking forward to being at NCTE! Thanks, Elsie!

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  4. I suspect that "reflection" on what is working and what is not what NOT at the top of my list in the early days of my teaching; however, it is now. I try hard to show my grad students that reflection is how I attempt to be the best I can be at any moment! I can't wait to hear YOUR reflections from NCTE!

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    1. Thanks Anita-so right. Wouldn't it be interesting to travel back to see ourselves when we were new teachers-I remember some of it, & mostly I remember good, but had a harder time with parents.

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  5. Great post, Linda. I want to use these questions in my classroom this year. Our theme for the year is change, so the follow-up questions are perfect. I have a former student who is headed to college this year coming to help out in my classroom. I think we'll override the list of tasks I put on the board yesterday so that she can make the banner first thing today!

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    1. I tried to find an old picture of it, but didn't find one-guess I never took one. Happy to hear you'll use the idea! Thanks, Ramona!

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  6. Linda, my question I always ask is "What are you reading?" I am hoping to be at NCTE so maybe we will meet. Here's to the beginning of a school year.

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    1. Thanks Jone-love that question too? It's one I used to start my morning meetings with.

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  7. Linda,
    Great to read this post. I suppose if I had to state questions that I use regularly they are reflection questions:
    --What was something you learned by doing this?
    --What was something that you did well?
    --Is there something that you want to grow better at?
    --What goal do you have for the next piece of writing (or project)?
    These questions are regular parts of my writing classes. I am also developing ways for students to set daily goals as well.

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    1. Terrific, Deb. I imagine it's always good to keep asking, "what's next?" since your questions revolve around that. I'm going to make a list of what's shared & will post it another time. Thanks much for sharing!

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    2. I love this question. I'm going to bring this to my literacy team this Friday. We all have opportunities to coach in our buildings and frankly, this is a very important habit to cultivate. xo

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    3. Good to hear, Nancy. I hope you'll let me know how the conversation goes. It was something helpful for me all the years. Thanks!

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  8. I like the simplicity of What's working? What's not? I can get my head around it. Not too much educational jargon here. Just good solid reflective thinking. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks Margaret, sometimes simple & straightforward is best!

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  9. Perfect question to pose at this time of year, Linda. After this week at TC, I have two weeks to get things sorted out in my classroom- and this question is upper most in my mind. Especially with the new learning that has come about thanks to TC. But, I love this aspect of our profession, each new year is a chance to start anew, to rethink, re imagine.

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    1. I've printed each of your posts about TC. There were 3 teachers there from an independent school here in Denver-was in our local newspaper! Sounds just wonderful. Yes, we start next week, but I'm in some meeting with a few, doing most planning here at home. My last, don't rush out the door mornings! thanks Tara!

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  10. My number one question is "what do you notice?" Sometimes I think it is hard as a teacher NOT to tell them what is there or not there and have them figure it out themselves. But I love to watch them think!

    We just finished our PBIS review so it seems like I have asked "what should be doing" too many times...but I guess that doesn't count!

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    1. Another great question Leigh Anne-maybe I will create a page for my blog with the questions, or post it on Pinterest? Thanks!

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    2. This is a good question, too. Very nice.

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  11. I love your question. Mine, for me, is "What's it for?" Don Graves taught me that question, and I try to ask it every time I do something with teachers or kids. So jealous that you get to go to Boston. I love NCTE! And I love that part of the country! I know you will have fun and learn tons!

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    1. Thanks for your question, Carol! It's terrific that so many have 'their' special question. Makes me feel good about the students learning to answer themselves! I was hoping you were going-I'll definitely still be at CCIRA!

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  12. I like the simplicity and the *usefulness* of your question.

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    1. Thanks for both comments, Tabatha-time to make a list! Hope your week is going well!

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  13. Hi Linda, What a thought-provoking post! I guess my "one thing" or one question I am always asking students and student teachers is "How do you know?" It applies to so many situations.
    I WILL be attending NCTE for the first time! I am looking for a roomie so if you know anyone, give them my name. Hope to get to meet you in person!

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    1. Thanks for "your" question, Gigi--what a good one! You should ask Stacey and Ruth if they know anyone too! I'll look forward to meeting you!

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  14. What a neat idea, Linda! I thought you were going to write about a central goal, but this philosophy is even more powerful because it guides all goals. I'm not sure what a one question for me is... I'll have to think about that... but my "thing" (not in question form) is making my students lifelong readers / writers / learners. So I guess my "one thing" is about asking if what I'm doing is helping them develop something that real readers / writers / learners do outside of school. As usual, a very thought-provoking post!

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    1. Thanks Jennifer. I'm excited to read how your year is going this year. You have so many good plans for the students.

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  15. Love this question - it is perfect. And you are so right - it is just as important to ask when things are working as when they aren't!

    And NCTE, YAY! I will see you there.

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    1. Thanks Katherine-Hope we can spend some time together in Boston!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!