Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Light Goes On -- #ReflectiveTeacher Blog Challenge Day 8

Today's Topic:  Share a memorable moment in the classroom and how it reminded you about why you love what you do.


That's how I've felt in my classroom for the past several years.

I taught what I needed to teach.  I covered the curriculum.  I assessed what students were supposed to learn.

Notice all the"I's" in that last paragraph?

That's what I felt so unsettled about...My classroom was a top-down, teacher-directed, you-must-learn-this place.

Students had very little voice, very little investment in pushing themselves forward as learners, very little control of their learning day.

But that is changing.

Now, we talk a lot about growth mindset, metacognition and learning choices.  These are big words for 4th graders, but they get it.


Because my students are being given the opportunity to take control of their learning in ways they (or I) have never done before.

We now are constantly thinking about our thinking (metacognition) and recognizing when we "get it" and when we don't.  And when we don't get it, we do something about it.  We ask for help, We go back and work the problem out again.

We don't give up.

Yesterday, I gave a math test in my classroom.  We have been studying multiplication for the past four weeks and we were at the point that it was time to take the paper assessment and move on.

I handed out the test.  Forty-five minutes later, many of my students were still working. They were taking their time.  They were checking their work.  They were making sure that they demonstrated their learning in the best way they could on this paper assessment.

Three weeks ago, this probably wouldn't have happened.

Three weeks ago, the students would be answering this test for me, not for themselves.

Three weeks ago, these students would probably look at their test scores, shrug their shoulders if they didn't receive a high grade, and stuff their paper in their desk.

But not now.

Turning the tests back, there was a flood of "YES!es" as they saw their scores.  There was celebration in the demonstration of learning. These cheers ere well deserved because my students had worked hard.  They thought about what they knew, what confused them, what they didn't know...and they did something about it to make sure they understood.  They asked questions. They came to me or a peer for help.

They were interested in their own learning.  They were taking this test for themselves, not for me.

For the few students who did not quite demonstrate mastery, they got their pencils out and began to rework their problems to find their errors.

I did not ask them to do this.

Three weeks ago, this wouldn't have happened.

This is one of the reasons I love teaching.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Let's Write -- #RefectiveTeacher Blog Challenge Day 7

Today's Topic:  What new learning has inspired you in your career?

Two summers ago, I was able to participate in the National Writing Project's Summer Institute at the UW-Milwaukee UWMWP).  Let me just say -- it changed my life!

When I went back to school to earn my teaching certification, there were certain methods courses I had to take -- reading, math, social studies, science, art...but no writing.

So as a result, when I began teaching, I had no clue how to teach writing.

My first year of teaching, we did two writing projects, both around conference time so I could show parents.  That was it.

I thought this was teaching writing.


We write every day.
We publish some writing.
We share our writing with others.
We write for fun.
We write for reflection.
We call ourselves writers.
We read our writing out loud.
We revise, revise, revise.
We read with a writer's eye.
We use mentor texts when we write.

The three weeks I spent with UWMWP turned me into a WRITING teacher.

And I am now a writer myself.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Quotables -- #ReflectiveTeacher Challenge Day 6

Today's Topic:  Share a quote or verse that has inspired you and explain why.

I am a quotation junkie.  My Pinterest board for Inspirations is approaching 900 pins.  Here is one of my favorites.

It was shared with me by one of my favorite professors when I went back to school to get my teaching certification.  I think it is an important message to share with of our students because it reinforces how important a growth mindset can be in determining our success:
(By the way, if you like the papers and clip art I used on this quote and the one at the top of this page, they came from Sweet Shoppe Designs.  The fonts are from KG Fonts.  Visit their sites!  You'll love what you see.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Grateful Strengths -- #ReflectiveTeacher Challenge Day 5

Today's Topic:  What are my strengths?  Which am I most grateful for?

These are two strengths that I am most grateful for:

1.  Management:  This is something I never really struggled with, but I'm not sure why.  In teacher prep courses, I read Harry Wong and a hoard of other management books and those tips and tricks seeped their way into my management plan without me even knowing it. Management is only an issue for the first few days of school until my new group of students and I come together as a cohesive group.

2.  Relationship Building:  I take time to get to know my students.  My students know I care about them as a person and as a student.  (Perhaps this makes the management issue easier.) I also share my life with them.  They enjoy hearing funny stories about my weekend or about something my own children did.  It makes me human to them as well.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

For Me? -- #Reflective Teacher Challenge Day 4

Today's Topic:  What was the nicest gift you have received from a student/parent/colleague?

A few years ago, one of my students came up to me on a Monday morning and handed me a paper plate covered in foil.

"We made these yesterday.  My mom wanted you to have these," he said through broken English.

Peeling back the foil, I saw six corn husk rolls lined up on the plate.

""They are tamales," he added.

I smiled and told my student how much I love tamales, but had never had homemade ones.

"My aunt comes every Sunday to make them with my mom."

As someone who loves to bake, I will often share my goodies with others as a way of saying thank you or to let them know how much I appreciate them.

Looking down, I realized that I was not just holding a plate of tamales.  I was holding a tremendous gift.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Proud Moments -- #ReflectiveTeacher Challenge Day 3

Today’s Topic:  What are you most proud of in your teaching career?

One of my goals as a teacher is to help my students become lifelong learners.  Ironically, when I became a teacher, I turned myself into a lifelong learner.

I am proud of the fact that I earned my master's degree.  That makes me not only the first person in my family to graduate from college, but the first to earn a master's.

I am proud of all the books I have read that help me be a better teacher.

I am proud of the writing that I now do on a {almost} daily basis.

I am proud to be able to use my learning to help others.

I walk the walk AND talk the talk.  

I would have never imagined....

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Small Delights - #ReflectiveTeacher Challenge Day 2

I’m participating in the November Blogging Challenge  -- Attitude of Gratitude -- at @TeachThoughtOnline

Today’s Topic:  What is one small delight in my day that I look forward to?

This one is easy...

Every morning (even weekends), I get up at 4:30 am.  No one else is awake, even the dogs. Many people tell me I am crazy for getting up this early and at a younger age, I would have agreed with them.  Now, I wouldn't give this time up for anything.

I spend the first hour of my day reading.  Sometimes I read my emails, sometimes my Twitter feed, but most often I read a book.  Here are some of my favorite reads as of late:
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When 5:30 am rolls around, it is time to get ready to go.  My hour of peace and quiet is over and I look forward to its return again tomorrow.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Best Aspects of Being a Teacher -- #ReflectiveTeacher Day 1

I’m participating in the November Blogging Challenge  -- Attitude of Gratitude -- at @TeachThoughtOnline

Today’s Topic:  What are the best aspects of being a teacher?

I remember growing up, I had two aunts who were teachers.  They would quickly tell me that the three best things about being a teacher were June, July, and August. 

As a child, I found this pretty funny. 

Now that I am a teacher, I am quick to admit that I do enjoy my summers.  

But here are some other things that I enjoy about teaching:
  • Seeing the "aha" moments in a student's eyes when they "get it".
  • Making a connection with a student who needs an adult to believe in them.
  • Learning and growing from the teachers around me.
  • Being a lifelong learner myself.
  • When a student accidentally calls me "mom".  Some teachers may get offended by this, but I take it as the highest compliment and a sign that I have made a connection with that child.
  • When a kindergartner passes me in the hallway and tells me they want me to be their 4th grade teacher.
  • When former students come back to say hello and share how awesome they are doing in middle and high school.
I could go on and on...

What are some things you enjoy about teaching?  Consider joining the November Attitude of Gratitude Challenge.