Slice of Life Tuesday: Summertime!

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Summertime!

Reading and writing, replaced with writing and reading.

Planning time at school, replaced with planning time at home.

“30 Minute” lunch, replaced by never-ending fun.

Ah, it’s summertime!

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: Way Behind on Writing!/Reflections on this School Year

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I looked back on my first year as a school librarian (21st year of teaching middle school), and I have to say—no matter what happens to me next year or beyond—I was successful THIS year. NOTHING to do with TEST SCORES, but I built up readers and spread the book love.

On April 7th, Kwame Alexander surprised a child reader (and his teachers) from my soon-to-be-closed school. He and Hafeez and Randy drove the REBOUND bus to this 5th grader’s house and allowed this child to see firsthand what meeting an author and being a reader means. Reading saves lives. Reading is fun. Reading can and will lead you to a successful future.

Even though I couldn’t be there, these awesome teachers and a Newbery-winning author made this child’s day! THANK YOU, Kwame and Hafeez, for all the coordinating and all the bugging you had to put up with (from me) to make that day happen. THANK YOU for coming to South Bend, IN! THANK YOU for supporting students and reading.

LOVE LOVE LOVE from this school librarian.

Slice of Life Tuesdays: Good Things

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I pondered these paragraphs from Henry David Thoreau’s essay, “Walking,” today:

      “I can easily walk ten, fifteen, twenty, any number of miles, commencing at my own door, without going by any house, without crossing a road except where the fox and the mink do: first along by the river, and then the brook, and then the meadow and the woodside. There are square miles in my vicinity which have no inhabitant. From many a hill I can see civilization and the abodes of man afar. The farmers and their works are scarcely more obvious than woodchucks and their burrows. Man and his affairs, church and state and school, trade and commerce, and manufactures and agriculture even politics, the most alarming of them all—I am pleased to see how little space they occupy in the landscape. Politics is but a narrow field, and that still narrower highway yonder leads to it. I sometimes direct the traveler thither. If you would go to the political world, follow the great road—follow that market-man, keep his dust in your eyes, and it will lead you straight to it; for it, too, has its place merely, and does not occupy all space. I pass from it as from a bean field into the forest, and it is forgotten. In one half-hour I can walk off to some portion of the earth’s surface where a man does not stand from one year’s end to another, and there, consequently, politics are not, for they are but as the cigar-smoke of a man..
      In literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is but another name for tameness. It is the uncivilized free and wild thinking in Hamlet and the Iliad, in all the scriptures and mythologies, not learned in the schools, that delights us. As the wild duck is more swift and beautiful than the tame, so is the wild—the mallard—thought, which ‘mid falling dews wings its way above the fens. A truly good book is something as natural, and as unexpectedly and unaccountably fair and perfect, as a wild-flower discovered on the prairies of the West or in the jungles of the East. Genius is a light which makes the darkness visible, like the lightning’s flash, which perchance shatters the temple of knowledge itself—and not a taper lighted at the hearthstone of the race, which pales before the light of common day…
      In short, all good things are wild and free. There is something in a strain of music, whether produced by an instrument or by the human voice—take the sound of a bugle in a summer night, for instance—which by its wildness, to speak without satire, reminds me of the cries emitted by wild beasts in their native forests. It is so much of their wildness as I can understand. Give me for my friends and neighbors wild men, not tame ones… 

      While almost all men feel an attraction drawing them to society, few are attracted strongly to Nature. In their reaction to Nature men appear to me for the most part, notwithstanding their arts, lower than the animals. It is not often a beautiful relation, as in the case of the animals. How little appreciation of the beauty of the land-scape there is among us! We have to be told that the Greeks called the world Beauty, or Order, but we do not see clearly why they did so, and we esteem it at best only a curious philological fact…”

 

I’ve been seeking nature lately; I’m not sure why, but it may be because the world seems overwhelming right now. However, the sun shined today right as I left school, after a grey, snowy 24 hours. And the moon is most mysterious and beautiful this winter, making me mindful of nature again and again. I walked around the driveway tonight in the freezing cold, looking…allowing Thoreau’s words to sink in. Getting back to nature — ah! Life! Love! Bliss!

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: Purposeful PD is Powerful

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Purposeful PD is Powerful. I’m all about getting together — whether it’s eating lunch, traveling to an interesting new place, or meeting with fellow staff at a team meeting, I like socializing with others. But when that meeting happens because everyone wants to learn something new and improve their teaching…Wow!

Our professional development this month is based on helping our students improve writing skills. Many teachers are looking for ways to improve test scores, but we really want our students to think of themselves as writers and write well because they are sending a message to an audience. Thank goodness we have many mentor authors (and illustrators!) to guide us, and we have Jeff Anderson and Whitney LaRocca’s new book, Patterns of Power, to push us towards our goal. Jeff and Whitney are excellent teachers; I was the PD facilitator today at each grade-level team meeting. We had engaging conversations around this “powerful” professional title and learned a great deal about how to teach writing conventions using “invitations” (created by Jeff Anderson).

What do we notice about our students’ writing (in general), and how can we help them to write better sentences/paragraphs/texts? We followed Jeff’s “invitation to notice” a mentor sentence. We noticed that pauses came with commas, names had capital letters, and that “when” and “if” are “comma-causer” words, indicating that the sentence was not complete. Then came the “invitation to imitate.” This time was used to thoughtfully create sentences like the mentors. We discussed how students might do this in classrooms. We finished today by talking about “focus phrases,” a term coined first by Terry Thompson in The Construction Zone (another fabulous professional book).

Staff members are looking forward to next week, when we continue discussing the Invitational Process, and trying Patterns of Power lessons with students.

Thank you Jeff and Whitney! We appreciate your guidance!

(Patterns of Power book image from Stenhouse.com)

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: Reflecting on My OLW for 2017

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Progress. My One Little Word for 2017 served me well. My goals to get the house in order, to present more professional development at school, and to travel to my favorite places all got the “Check” off the list.  As I said in January, “That’s me this year — ‘in progress.'”

Highlights included clearing clutter and completing maintenance in the house. Each month gave me a different task and celebration.We had 3 successful garage/yard sales and kept up with the yard using our new sprinkler system. Because the driveway took away part the hill from our side yard, mowing the grass was easier. I even organized the storage closet in November while looking for Christmas decorations.

I gained confidence as a presenter at my school with some interesting literacy professional development, and I even booked my first “gig” out-of-town as a presenter for reading workshop. I love sharing my learning with others. I hope to present much more in the coming year and beyond. My sixth grade students engaged in a Mock Caldecott unit of study, and we read a lot of books and wrote for many purposes. I wrote much more (well, not recently) and I was proud of my book reviews and guest blog posts (I’ll have another guest post tomorrow, in fact. Check out www.teachmentortexts.com). And…I landed my dream job as a librarian! That was the best part of 2017.

I ran around nearby cities to promote Kwame Alexander’s book, SOLO (he wrote with Mary Rand Hess).  I was selected to be on his Solo Launch Team, which was Absolutely Amazing! Although I missed the big party in New York City, I had a great time, and the book is awesome. Read it! (By the way, REBOUND — a companion to THE CROSSOVER —  will be out next year. Put that book on your list, too.)

My husband and I enjoyed a relaxing spring break in Florida, and I also traveled to Warsaw for All Write Institute, Chicago for the Scholastic Reading Summit, Michigan for NerdCampMI, and St. Louis for NCTE’s Annual Convention (where I reunited with my #G2great friends). Wow! What a year. I will keep up that same travel schedule in 2018, and hopefully add some more states to my “visited” list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a year of progress! I wonder…what should my One Little Word be for 2018?

 

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: “With Fidelity”

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I’m upset about the word FIDELITY in education. This word has given me headaches for at least 2 years now, as I attend meeting after meeting, session after session, on how, if teachers would just use “the program” or “the strategy” or “the textbook” “with fidelity,” that students will be successful in school. Teachers are evaluated, schools are graded, and the one thing that is reported about education is if we could all just make this one change — fidelity — then we could all succeed in life. I looked up “fidelity in education.” Here’s what Google showed in the first pop-up screen (a Google definition of “fidelity in education”):

“Fidelity of implementation occurs when teachers use the instructional strategies and deliver the content of the curriculum(s) in the same way that they were designed to be used and delivered.” (Yep. It said, “curriculums.”) Does that ever happen? (A question for another time)

The second intriguing link (from the Center on Instruction’s RTI CTRL:http://www.rtictrl.org/files/Fidelity%20Checklist%20A.pdf showed a Fidelity Checklist — a checklist/worksheet that an observer can use to collect data on if a teacher is using curriculum “with fidelity.” The sheet includes Instruction/Presentation, such as “teacher and student materials ready,” “follows steps and wording in lessons,” “provides students many opportunities to respond,” and “completes all parts of teacher-directed lesson.” The checklist also has a category for General Observations of the Group, including “student engagement in lesson,” “student success at completing activities,” and “teacher familiarity with lesson formats and progression through activities.”

Well…

Oh, wait! There’s more! A third link at www.rtinetwork.org/getstarted/evaluate/treatment-integrity-protocols says this about Fidelity Checklists:

“These protocols have been developed by a variety of sources (publishers, graduate students, practitioners) and no claim is made for their sufficiency or thoroughness. They are posted as an aid to practitioners and researchers and should generally be considered as experimental products that require research as to their psychometric characteristics.”

What does this mean to me? Well…

  1.  This means that “fidelity” to anything in education, especially a curriculum (program, what have you), is following the program to the letter — even “following steps and wording…” — which makes me so angry that I spent thousands of dollars receiving my license to teach! What this says to me is that as long as I can read a script, and “provide students many opportunities to respond,” I can be a successful teacher. This is WRONG! According to the checklist above, teachers should also be “familiar with lesson formats and progression through activities.” Many teachers are not trained in this way. Teachers do not know WHY they are reading this script, doing this lesson, following this instruction. They just do it. They are observed as working “with fidelity.” This is MADDENING, as outcomes for “success” are shown as minutes using the program, NOT how well a child learns the material (or if the child even uses the material once the program is over).
  2. This also means that “fidelity” includes students themselves — “student engagement in lesson” and “student success at completing activities.” Have you ever seen a group of students use a program with fidelity? Really? I haven’t. A whole group of students mindlessly completing activities is NOT LEARNING, and I’m sorry (not sorry), but one or two members of any group at any one time are NOT fully engaged, nor are they successful at completing activities. Students (or teachers, or politicians, or whoever) completing activities does not equal success. Can you say a group of people — let’s say teachers, for instance, are teaching with fidelity when they watch their students (proctor – that’s the word) take a standardized test? NO! Those same students don’t pass the test, and then everyone is up in arms about the lack of “quality education.”

Let’s all take a hard look at “FIDELITY” in education. Please. Let’s go back to the question of “WHY.”  WHY do my students need to work with this program? WHY will they gain more if they complete this task, rather than that task? WHY does minutes with a program mean more than an intelligent conversation (I’m thinking here, a conversation around a book’s theme, for example.)?

WHEN will society change?

(Just my evening of rambling. Please take this post with a grain of salt, or respond intelligently, as you wish. Thank you for reading.)

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: Mixed Feelings

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Low point = Staff meeting called to tell us that our school is closing in June 2018

High point = NCTE Annual Conference and reunion with all my PLNs from afar

I’m exhausted tonight. Mentally and physically exhausted. I think the past 7 days have given me that full gamut of emotion that makes me want to just get under the covers and sleep.

Sleep to escape.

Sleep to dream new dreams.

Sleep to re-adjust, renew, and rekindle the fire.

Sleep.

 

Image: http://www.clipartmasters.com/clip-arts/sleeping-clip-art-65739.png

 

 

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