Wednesday, April 16, 2014

We Need A Variety of Connections So We Can Thrive

       I'm happy to have a spot on the blog tour to celebrate Meenoo Rami's new book, Thrive. When you read this book, you'll find more than one part that speaks directly to you, wherever you are in your teaching career. You may be a first year teacher or a veteran contemplating retirement in a few years. You may be teaching pre-school or the fifth graders, preparing them both for transitions, or you might be in a high school setting, focusing on one subject. Where you are doesn't matter, but finding voices of like-minded educators is what keeps the fire of teaching, and that means connecting and collaboration. Whether it's in your own hometown or somewhere across the world, Meeno's words will help you find a way. I would add that the words are not just for teachers, but also for teacher-leaders, principals, and coaches.

        Thrive was just published in March. There is that time in the school year when one recognizes the summer slide, that time where teachers become anxious, knowing all the things still remaining on the "lists". However, I wanted to share that it’s also the time when teachers begin wondering about their next class, their next “START”. Part of the look forward is exciting, yet sometimes it can be daunting. You might know what you dream, but are not sure how to get there. You need ideas, you need a new spark, you need a "network". In Thrive, Meeno shares numerous ideas for collaboration. She shares ideas about finding the right mentor, and ways to assess what is the right one. Also shared is the overview of the kinds of helpful networks available, in school, within communities like Edcamps, online like Twitter and #Edchat, or national networks like the National Writing Project along with professional organizations like NCTE.  One can get stuck in chapter Two just contemplating the possibilities.

        I won't summarize each chapter, but share that each not only hold excellent and specific pieces of advice, but personal stories highlighted from teachers that connect to the chapter topic. They are terrific examples of 'show, don't tell' where Meeno has explained and given examples of why and how, but also found those in the field telling their own stories of success. In Chapter Three, Daniel Pink's advice about maintaining motivations is illuminating: "when dealing with work that is complex and that requires creativity--basically work like ours--people need three things to feel motivated: autonomy, mastery, and purpose." The chapter continues to break down these three factors into specific ways to be sure the needs are met. 
         There is much more to dig in to after Chapter Three, being sure that one's personal feelings and thoughts are listened to, and finally, learning ways to empower students, the way the earlier parts of the book strives to empower professionals.  The end, coming round to application in work with students, is satisfying, because that's why we're all in this profession, isn't it? One idea I read that felt very good was the idea that, according to Ron Brandt, teachers are characterized as "managers of complexity", and Meeno says further, "if we reflect on our daily work of delivering and differentiating a lesson to our students, it seems like an apt label." Often teachers' work is thought to be easy, working with students, lots of power, home by four, off in the summers. We in the profession know that isn't true, but it's great to see these words showing our jobs as complex. Meeno's support of the profession is both helpful and inspiring.

I am happy to share Meeno's answers to two questions I had after reading Thrive:

 These questions feel important to me, trying to apply to my very different school in ways that will be helpful to the staff. Because I am the literacy coach, a teacher-leader, it has been challenging to meet the varying needs of teachers who are all in such different places in their careers. 

My question: On page 44 you describe a slam performance that you did that helped students to begin to know each other, to begin to trust. I’ve done some things like this at the beginning of the year, and throughout the year to help with community building in my classes. I’ve heard of teacher leaders using the “seven stories” invitation for community building among staff. Have you ever done the slam project or something similar with a staff?

Thanks again for checking out Thrive and reviewing it on your blog. I have not done anything like  StorySlam with staff members but that is a great idea! This past weekend, I spoke to the Philadelphia Writing Project and the theme of the day at #writeoutloud. I tried to convey the idea that while there is a robust dialogue around education and education reform these days, not enough teacher voices are included in this conversation. What would it look like if more teachers went public and shared what the experienced in the classroom? Would the conversation around education look different if that was possible? I think a local StorySlam around the country filled with teachers’ stories would be a powerful event.  Thanks for thinking on this with me. 

My Question: I’ve enjoyed your book that includes so many ‘starting points’ in which teachers might gain a personally inspiring community. Sharing more than one idea is helpful for personal choice, what a big part of empowerment is. Has there been another book, professional or otherwise, that you would recommend that has become your ‘go to’ source of inspiration?

I try to read widely as I am always working towards helping my students find their love of reading. I think my goodreads account s a good place to check out if you’re curious about what I am reading. I tend to read a lot of classics, YA titles, many nonfiction books that will catch my attention as well. Ultimately, I want a book to change me or the way I see the world, I love it when that happens. 

                 Readers can order THRIVE through Amazon or the Heinemann website.

Meenoo Rami is a National Board Certified Teacher who teaches her students English at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA. Mixing moments of joy, laughter, risk and encouragement, Meenoo pushes her students to think critically about their connection to the word and the world. Meenoo did her undergraduate work at Bradley University in Illinois in areas of Philosophy and English and completed her Master’s degree in Secondary Education at Temple University.  

Meenoo also contributes to the work of school-wide events and professional learning communities at SLA. Meenoo works as a teacher-consultant for the Philadelphia Writing Project. She has shared her classroom practice at various conferences  such as: NCTE, ISTE, ASCD, EduCon, Urban Sites Conference for National Writing Project, and #140edu. Meenoo also runs a weekly twitter chat for English teachers called #engchat which brings together teachers from around the country to discuss ideas related to teaching of English. Her first book, THRIVE  from Heinemann will be out in March 2014. In her free time, Meenoo can be found on her bike, on her yoga mat or in her kitchen tinkering with a vegetarian recipe.  

To connect with Meenoo, you can find her on these social media networks:

         Others are writing about this new wonderful PD book, so hope you also find and enjoy another stop on the Thrive blog tour!
YesterdayBeth Shaum Use Your Outside Voice
TomorrowTroy Hicks at Hickstro

        Thanks to Heinemann Publishing for a review copy of Thrive.


  1. Thanks for sharing Meenoo's book with us, Linda. There are so many great ideas about connecting and empowering ourselves in this book. I love your idea of trying StorySlam with staff - something to think about!

    1. I know some might be reluctant, but maybe if they pair up too? It's a thought to do something fun and different! Thanks Tara! I really enjoyed the book!


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