Wednesday, February 27, 2008
After the demo and debrief we turned our attention to the task of a common form to direct our mid-term conferences with parents. Each teacher shared the form she is currently using and we discussed the pros and cons of each. We discussed what we really need parents to know and take away from these conferences. Next we divided into small groups and charted parent-friendly home activities for Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Comprehension, Fluency, Writing and Math. These are activities that we can suggest to parents when their child is struggling in a particular area. The compiled lists were taken by Haley Alvarado who volunteered to write the activities in parent friendly language. They will come back to the grade level for edits and revision before they are finalized to be used with parent conferences next year.
The grade level enjoyed lunch out which is a pleasure but also provides a time for the grade level to get to know each other in a more personal way. With 14 kindergarten teachers, it is always a challenge to really get to know your peers!
After lunch it was time to share our work around the Author Study of Eric Carle. As always, teachers are encouraged to think outside of the box and to do what their students REALLY need. Although everyone is using Eric Carle as the basis for Readers' Workshop, the Timmonte group has decided to make a radical departure and write pattern books during Writers’ Workshop since so many of Eric Carle’s books are “question and answer” and “repeating line” patterns. This work is based on First Grade Writers. To enhance Readers' Workshop Maria Mallon has really concentrated on ways to retell some of the books using kid-drawn pictures. Sanchez, the Mackarado intern shared an art project, a mobile that she is using as a way of retelling. Several teachers shared charts of a variety of reading responses taught in mini-lessons and student examples of Readers' Response Notebooks. Teachers shared charts about Eric Carle’s life, attribute charts, etc. Others shared rubrics they are using for their genre work in Response to Literature during Writers’ Workshop. You could see the wheels turning as teachers pushed their peers’ thinking. Hopefully everyone walked away from the day with an added depth to their Author Study. Finally Team Leader Debbie Harbour shared her organization of an Eric Carle Culmination Day to include the entire Team.
We ended our day thinking about “the power of our dreams.” Before dreams can come true, you have to have dreams. Each teacher was asked to share her professional dreams for the next five years. Teachers shared their dreams to complete Masters degrees and National Board Certification (there are 5 Nationally Board Certified Teachers on this team!) Many talked about their dreams of sharing their work with visitors, beginning teachers and interns. Most still see themselves at Chets Creek in five years in this learning community, some with a short interim to have children or raise families. All in all, my dreams have already come true… I have been given the opportunity to share my time with this group of talented, caring, dynamic teachers… and that's why I believe in the power of the dream…
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Disney had 4 simple steps: 1) Dream beyond the boundaries of today. 2) Believe in sound values. 3) Dare to make a difference. 4) And then go out and just do it: Dream, Believe, Dare, Do. I hope these are the same things I believe and act upon in my own professional life. I certainly hope that I still dream of possibilities and then dare to go for it! When I no longer believe that my dreams can come true, then it'll be time to retire!
- In so many ways I think we have developed a culture at Chets that defines Walt's vision of a culture of innovation, mutual respect, and trust.
- You can wait for something to happen or you can take control of your own dream and work to see it through.
- Creative power can languish within a school simply because no one ever bothers to tap it. Give every member a chance to dream. I think of each of the teachers that I coach and wonder if I really give each of them a chance to live their dream. I certainly am living mine!
- There is a difference between adequate and excellent and we must not compromise. It matters to the children that we teach! Superlative work sets the bar. Mediocrity is not an option.
- Stand firm on your beliefs and principles. Follow your instincts.
- Train extensively and reinforce the school's culture with new employees. This is one of the things I think we do well with our induction of new employees and our strong mentoring and coaching program.
- Pay close attention to details. This is something we used to do well, but have to keep reminding ourselves of now. It's so easy to just accept the status quo and we have to constantly remind each other that details are so important.
- Your most unhappy parents are your greatest source of learning. I'm not sure everyone agreed with this philosophy, but these are the ones telling you how you can improve if you can put your defenses down long enough to listen.
- Go the extra mile yourself. When those you coach know you are counting on them and see your example, they will rise to levels beyond their own expectations of themselves.
- Support, reward and empower employees. Encourage teachers to voice opinions and make suggestions. In fact, solicit their advice. We probably think we are better at this than we are!
- Have fun! This is one that we do very well! We work hard but we also play hard!
Each of these ideas has been discussed at length at the Leadership table. Diversity of opinion has sometimes been strong but it is those that disagree with you that challenge you to raise the level of your thinking. When we lack this tension of diverse opinions in our Leadership meetings, I think we leave dissatisfied, wondering if we are wasting our time. We cannot surround ourselves with people that all think like we do and think we will move forward. We are at our best when we can disagree - stating our opinions in a trusting professional atmosphere and then coming to a consensus that we can all agree with. That is when we stand strongest and realize our collective dream!
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Happy Valentines Day! I am glad you are coming to my house. We are going to play Bingo and we are going to watch a movie and we are going to eat popcorn. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!
Students did many of the traditional holiday activities this week such as making a Valentine holder, writing names on Valentines and placing them in the holders of their friends. They made hats, ate sweets, but also participated in many special centers and activities to extend the Writers’ Workshop such as writing poetry and cards to friends and family. They reinforced Skills Block by finding sight words around the room, by using copies of Valentine poems instead of morning messages, and using song charts to practice fluency. They reinforced math by playing Number Bingo, making necklaces of Valentine colored beads with patterns, and graphing a box of Valentine conversation hearts. They reinforced fine motor skills by cutting, gluing and using stamps and stickers to make holiday hats and cards and by playing with Valentine colored play doh and theme-shaped cookie cutters. They enjoyed decorating Valentine cupcakes and cookies. Each classroom had their on twist on the activites today but all classes used the enthusiam of the holiday to reinforce skills. Enjoy a snapshot of the day below.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Do you have a passion for your work?
Monday, February 11, 2008
- Teachers in Duval County are reading professionally! I can remember when we were afraid to ask a question about a teacher's professional reading, because we thought the question might embarass teachers! This group is different and is a sign that teachers are living their lives as readers! Some of the books that teachers mentioned include The Starbucks Experience, Schools of Fish! Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire, No Quick Fix, Professional Learning Communities at Work, Entertaining an Elephant, Whale Done, What Really Matters in Fluency, The Fluent Reader, Still Learning to Read, Helping Teachers Teach , Ban Those Bird Units, Framework for Understanding Poverty, and First Class Teachers!
- Another thing that came through loud and clear is that relationships are the key to results. Teacher after teacher talked about reaching individual children - especially those hard to reach, challenging students - by getting to know them on a deeper level. Teachers talked about eating lunch with their students to get to know them better, attending soccer games and dance recitals, making home visits, keeping in touch over the summer by dropping books by the home, having after-school clubs such as a Puzzle Clubs to give students a place to come and talk, taking kids to parks and the beach, out to dinner, out for ice cream, shopping, to the movies and to church. All of this, of course, is "over and above" the teaching day but in each case teachers talked about how this extra effort to connect with a child transferred into positive academic results. These "off the clock" experiences made a difference in the lives of children, but as the tears often flowed, you could tell that they also made a difference in the lives of the teachers.
- Teachers also understand that they are in partnership with parents and many offer activities after hours to pull parents into the education of their children including weekly nights at the public library, parent workshops, "Bring Your Parents to School" days, and giving parents access to personal phone numbers and e-mails so that parents can call and write for "anytime" conversation. They understand that parents are the most important teachers and they are often willing to step into the parental role if that parental influence is missing.
Most of all I realize that we have so many teachers who care so deeply and who are giving so much to making a difference in the lives of our children on the First Coast. The words passion, commitment and dedication came up over and over. I was awed and humbled to listen to their intensity. One semi-finalist called teachers " our heroes." I think she is right!
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
- Maria Mallon and Haley Alvarado videoed a live kindergarten lesson as it was happening from the East Coast in Jacksonville, FL to the West Coast of Hollywood, CA! Wow! Not only was the technology amazing but Maria's kindergartners were working on deciding when a narrative piece is good enough by using a class-written rubric! How much I admire these teachers who were willing to take a risk and teach a lesson for the very people that wrote the Design!
- Debbie Harbour presented our kindergarten work with vocabulary. She explained the professional learning community that had formed around the need to deepen our vocabulary work. She explained how we studied the work of Beck and McKeown and then wrote a vocabulary unit around 12 well known kindergarten read alouds (the unit can be downloaded from the widget to the left or from Debbie's blog). She showed some of the data results as we prepare to revisit and edit this "work-in-progress" over the summer.
- Debbie Cothern and Michelle Ellis, looping K-1 teachers, shared our journey as we have raised the level of our standard-based bulletin board work.
- As a Special Education teacher I revisted the intensity of my interventions as I was reminded of the small window of opportunity that we have with our young at-risk learners to make the most difference. This continues to noodle around in my head as I try to figure out how to make the most of the rest of this year with the childen that I teach.
Most of all I was reminded of the incredible people that I work with every day - people who were willing to blog this conference live - even though none of us had ever done it before - people who were willing to come together and discuss new ideas over dinner - people who believe in and embrace the possibilities! I have always believed that I have the best job in the whole world, so this was just a reminder that it really is true! This is the place where dreams really do come true!