Monday, April 20, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday and I'm joining It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
This weekly blog meme is hosted by Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.  Here's what I've been reading...

For class this week I read...

I really think these two publish a new book each week- there are so many! They're always packed with great information.  This one has been a fantastic resource as the literacy coaches I work with and I have been wrapping our brains around Language Workshop.

I'm reading a lot of books to find the perfect Language Workshop mentor texts for a unit of study on Relationships I'm working on.  Here are some highlights from what I've read this week!
Pete and Pickles by Berkeley Breathed
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
Fox by Margaret Wild
The Raft by Jim LaMarche

And for a bit of pleasure reading...

I'd love to hear what you've been reading this week in the comments!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Brave Teachers- Conferring Fishbowl!

In a professional development session on conferring I led today, I asked teachers to take a risk.  I asked them to activate their growth mindsets, put themselves out there, and open themselves up to feedback.  Because they were willing to take this risk, the power of the professional development was magnified. 

Since the professional development was during the school day, we decided to put our refined conferring skills into action and fishbowl confer!  Six brave teachers volunteered to confer live in front of the teachers from their grade band.  The observers used a protocol to record their thinking.  After the students returned to the classroom the teachers debriefed with one another.

I put them at ease, I shared my story of teaching live for Linda Dorn a few weeks ago.  I told them how even though I am a strong believer in growth mindset and I strive to embody it, it was still really hard to be that vulnerable.  However, once I really embraced it as a learning opportunity, it was incredibly powerful.

Teachers are passionate about what we do for kids.  We do the very best we can.  We tend to expect ourselves to be perfect, right away, every time. Teaching is such a personal craft, it is hard to put yourself out there in front of your colleagues.

But it is so very important!  This is how we will grow.  This is how we will strengthen our teams.  This is how we will continue to learn.  Too often professional development is disconnected from the classroom.  At best, there is time embedded to plan for application or a follow up coaching cycle.  While these are vital pieces, I've really been thinking about the power of watching each other teach and getting feedback from one another.  Imagine the way your conferring would change if every member of your team shared a video of one of their conferences with a reader that was puzzling them.  Imagine the power in the collective problem solving you could do.

I've always made sure to engage teachers critiquing videos of the teachers demonstrating what we're talking about.  I always include time to discuss and plan for application in the classroom.  Today felt different though.  They weren't watching an unknown teacher with students that may not reflect the students in their classrooms.  They were watching teachers they knew and students they knew.

After today I'm puzzling around how I can replicate this authenticity whenever possible.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Next Challenge: Quieting My Mind!

To continue my mini challenges in 2015, this weekend I decided to try my hand at Oprah's 21 Day Meditation Experience.  I've tried meditating a few times before and I know many people who rave about the power of meditation.  As I watched the introduction video yesterday I was pondering when I'd have time to do this each day.  Just then the woman they were interview said, "If you don't think you have time to meditate, you need to meditate even more."  So...I decided to jump right in.  My slice is from my experience meditating this morning and my consistent attempts to quiet my brain.

"Today's Sanskrit Mantra is Har Haray Haree.  Creative forces flow through me.  Silently repeat the manta to yourself and breath deeply."

Har Haray Haree

Har Haray Haree

Har Haray Haree

Am I doing this right?  Oops, I probably was doing it right, but now I'm thinking about other things.

Har Haray Haree

I wonder if the neighbors can see me through the front window.  They're probably wondering what I'm doing.

Har Haray Haree

Oh!  I need lemons and limes too.  I should add that to the grocery list.

Har Haray Haree

Har Haray Haree

Do I feel more centered?  What does feeling centered even mean or feel like?  

Har Haray Haree

Hmm...I should blog about this.  It'd make a good slice.  Look at me, living like a writer!  Unfortunately, I'm supposed to be living like a centered meditator right now.  Darn it. 

Har Haray Haree

I can't wait for the Badger game tonight.  What do I need to make sure I get done ahead of time?  Laundry, finishing touches on tomorrow's PD, grocery- oops- you're wandering again.

Har Haray Haree

Har Haray Haree

I'm trusting the process and hoping that in 20 days I am able to report back that I've experienced feeling centered and learned to quiet my mind!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Turn Your Thinking Into Teaching

This post has been in my drafts for awhile.  I've dipped in and out of it, adding thinking here and there.  I've been part of many conversations lately that revolve around this I'm attempting to jump fully in and synthesize my thinking.

Teachers are experts of their content.  You're an expert reader or writer, mathematician or historian, scientist or musician.  More likely than not, you teach what you teach because you love it, you're passionate about it, and you'd love to pass that fascination on to your students.

If you teach science, chances are, thinking like a scientist, comes much more naturally to you than it does for me.  Or for your students.  The same is true for all content areas (ELA included!). The way a scientist reads an article about genetics is different than the way you read a novel to prepare for a book club, and it's different than the way a historian reads a primary source.

The challenge for experts is to realize the thinking they are doing, even though it is second nature to them.  As teachers, we must first notice our thinking processes when we are accessing text so that we can turn our THINKING into TEACHING.

Too often we put a historical document in front of kids and TELL them to annotate it.  Or we hand students a science text book and TELL them to take notes.  Instead, imagine the power in SHOWING them how to do it.  And not only showing, but making your thinking visible to students as you are doing it.  Let students in on what you are thinking about as you are annotating.  Let them see how you puzzle around pieces of the text, how you struggle at times to make meaning, and let them see how you problem solve these issues.

Too often we just assign a task to students or we show them an exemplar.  The problem with only showing an exemplar is that it doesn't show the PROCESS.  Without showing the process we can unintentionally give students the impression that their work should automatically be the quality of the exemplar, without the puzzling, struggling, revising, etc.

Modeling is different than assigning.  Thinking aloud is different than telling.  Modeling and thinking aloud turn your thinking into teaching and make the process accessible for students.  And isn't the process really what it's all about?  The process is what will enable them to continue to become passionate and fascinated by your subject area, long after they leave your classroom.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lit Nerd Heaven

I'm a proud lit nerd.  When I get to see literacy "celebrities" at conferences, I am overjoyed.  When Lucy Calkins asked to skip me in the lunch line and then Carl Anderson stepped on my foot at NCTE, I was beside myself with excitement.  Today I was in lit nerd heaven.

I got to spend the day with Stephanie Harvey!!!

Not just spend the day listening to her at a conference, but I got to spend the day walking through classrooms in our district with her.  I got to spend the day reflecting on practices, picking her brain, and attempting to soak in every word she said.

Unfortunately, my only picture with Steph Harvey
and I just barely squeezed in the edge of it!
It was almost too much for this lit nerd to handle!

Monday, March 16, 2015

I'm a Reader....But am I Reading Enough?

I'm a reader.  I read everyday, as much as possible.  And still I don't feel like I am reading enough.

I read to grow professionally...
...books for my training, Twitter, writing by my favorite teacher bloggers, books by my favorite educational writers.

Art of Changing the Brain- Connects brain research and learning, read for our Comprehensive Literacy training.
Nurturing Independent Learners- Great read on scaffolding theory, another read from our CLM training.
Pernille Ripp's fantastic blog.
I can't wait to read Kelly Gallagher's newest book!
My Twitter feed is always full of fantastic thinking and resources.

I (try) read for pleasure...
...books for my book club, the latest recommendations from friends, and my ever growing Good Reads To Read list.

Just finished Me Before You and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry for book club.
The Girl on the Train is up next for book club.
My Good Reads To Read list grows much more rapidly than my Read list!

I want to also be an avid reader of the books the students in the classrooms I work with are reading.  I work in classrooms kindergarten through 8th grade and I want to be that person who has the perfect book for every reader I talk to.  I try to stay on top of Nerdy Book Club posts and follow #TitleTalk and @MrSchuReads.

Just a sampling of the wonderful children's books I've read lately or am hoping to read soon!

I have more books waiting to be read than I have time to read.  I'd love to curl up for a week straight and lose myself in the adventures tucked into these texts.

How do you balance your professional growth reading, your reading for pleasure, and your reading for students?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I Am Not // I Am

Today's post inspired by this piece I Am Not (I Am) which was inspired by This Is Me.

I am NOT....

I am not simply defined.

I am not hard to make laugh.

I am not quick to take a risk.

I am not easily angered.

I am not the person I used to be.

I AM...

I am complex, tangled and layered.

I am a caretaker, genuine, and kind.

I am curious.

I am a learner.

I am an extreme rule follower.

I am easily overwhelmed.

I am quick to forgive.

I am closer than ever to my authentic self.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Amazing and Insightful Women

Read this book immediately
 if you haven't yet!
Tonight, I hosted my first book club.  For one of my classes, I had to facilitate a book club for adults around a young adult book.  I chose the book Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, recruited my literacy team, straightened up my kitchen and living room, and bought some wine.
My literacy team is a group of six other women that coach in our elementary and middle schools.  We are participating in intense and amazing literacy training this year.  I have been amazed as I reflect on the collaborative team we have become.  We are able to process our learning, push on one another's thinking, disagree, and question each other.  We also laugh.  A lot.  Becoming a collaborative team was pretty effortless for this group.  

This afternoon, as their laughter bounced off the walls of my kitchen, I was reminded of how amazing they all are. So kind and genuine, witty and hilarious. So dedicated to learning, teaching, and making life better for all of the students and teachers who learn in their buildings.  
When we moved into my living room to begin our conversation, I was reminded of how insightful they are. Such strong women, all in different places in their lives, constantly contributing to our collective wisdom (inside and outside of school!). Their days and weeks are overflowing and still they made time to be in my book club.  That's the kind of people they are.

Presenting at the WI State Reading Convention
Ready for book club!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

One of those days...

Today was one of those days...

One of those days that feels stacked,
One thing on top of the other,
A few minutes here
and there to get ready
for the rest of a stacked week.

One of those days,
Where you're never quite present,
because you're thinking about what
is coming up next.
And trying to remember if you're ready.

One of those days,
Where you're leaving work
At seven pm
Loaded down,
One bag for PD tomorrow,
One for the PD on Friday,
One for curriculum writing on Saturday.

One of those days,
Where the overwhelm
Get the best of you.
And you forget for a second
How much you love what you do.

One of those days,
Where a small thing,
Melts away the overwhelm
And reminds you why
You do what you do.

An email from a teacher that I just met in a PD I'm doing at work.  I needed to hear this today.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Serendipitous Sunshine

Days like today I suspect I'm part plant.  
I could have stood in the sunshine all day long.
Letting it soak into my soul.
My mood automatically lifted, 
My smile wider, 
The promise of spring 
Breathing life back into 
the gray neighborhood.

Windows down

 Sunroof open

Patio is almost snow free

Kitchen windows open
(and in desperate need of washing)

Sunshine and sunglasses

Walking to the grocery store, instead of driving

A few plants trying to believe it is spring as well, 
Already showing their green

Evening walks with friends


Small things, 
Taken for granted 
Not that long ago, 
Now feel 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Random Monday Thoughts

Today was such a busy day.  I don't think I have the capacity for cohesion right now.  A bunch of random thoughts seems to be all I can manage right now.

  • I went to a conference today about speaking and listening.  There was a lot of great information and conversation around teaching speaking and listening to support critical literacy.  The conference was two hours away, which made for a lot of driving.
  • I had night class tonight so I had to leave the conference a little early, hurry back to work, and race up to my office to log in for my night class.  Luckily I made it in time.
  • I have so much reading to this week!  Reading that I have to do for school, reading that I want to do for work, and reading that I want to do for pleasure.  There isn't enough time in the day!
  • I held off on listening to the podcast Serial when everyone was listening to it.  A few weeks ago I started listening to it while on the treadmill at the gym.  I got sucked in right away...only a few months behind on the obsession!  I really liked listening to podcasts at the I'm in search of the next one to entertain me.
  • It was a BEAUTIFUL day!  Sunshine and warmth!  Hope that spring is around the corner!
  • It's one of those days where so much has happened it is hard to believe it is only Monday!
Fingers crossed for cohesion and creativity for my slice tomorrow!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Excuse me....Inspector?

I miss having my own classroom and being in front of first graders each and everyday.  I miss working in one building and getting to know the kids who are learn there daily.  I miss being the first witness to an aha moment that was weeks in the making, the cheery greetings and waves in the hallway, the genuine joy on student faces when you return from being out a conference.

In my current job, I get to work in all of the elementary and middle school building in my district.  This means I get to work with a lot of amazing teachers, coaches, and principals and see a lot of learning in action.  I love this work.  But I miss the daily interactions with kids that you know and who know you.  I spend as much time in buildings and classrooms as possible to stay connected, but it's not the same.

Luckily, kids are so friendly and excited to talk about what they are learning, I don't feel like an anonymous adult for long.  It's been entertaining to hear students interpretation of who I am or what my job is.  

Earlier in the year I was in a classroom during independent reading when I heard, "Excuse me...inspector?" It took me a second to realize that I was the "inspector" the first grader behind me was talking to.  He was requesting my help in figuring out what the picture was showing in his informational book about wolves.  We had a great conversation about the text.

A few weeks later, at a different school, I entered a cozy and bright classroom during their community circle at the beginning of the day.  The students looked over at me and the coach I as we entered and their teacher told the class that we were there to see their learning.  She explained that they were going to do their jobs in the classroom and we were going to do our job, which was to watch them.  One student suddenly posed a question with a small giggle, "So you mean they're stalkers?"  The teacher calmly responded by asking the student to leave the circle for a few minutes and think about being more respectful.  As he headed to his table he said, "What?  That's what stalkers do...just watch you."

While I don't see myself as a stalker or an inspector, it is an interesting interpretation of what I am doing in their classroom.  It always feels good to see a familiar face from the last time I visited a classroom.  The best feeling is when I'm in one of our middle schools or high schools and run into a past student who knows me and who I knew when they were a first grader.  And I once again, I get a glimpse at that genuine joy from a student I haven't seen in years.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lucky Me, Working on a Saturday

Lucky me, I had to work today.  On a Saturday.  I worked last Saturday too.  Not exactly my most favorite way to spend a weekend. Especially a weekend like today when the sun came out and the temperature climbed above 40 degrees for the first time in a LONG TIME.

I AM lucky though.  Today and last week Saturday, I got to spend my days creating curriculum, building continuums, developing enduring understandings, and puzzling around the ideal essential questions.  I got to engage in these projects with a group of talented and deep thinking teachers and literacy coaches, spanning from kindergarten through seventh grade.  It was incredibly powerful to have elementary teachers and middle school teachers side by side for this big work.  

To illustrate the way that learning builds and grows year after year, we looked at the development of one standard from kindergarten through seventh grade.  The oohs and ahhs that filled the room as each piece was reveled would only happen in a room full of teachers.  It was inspiring for the first grade teacher see just how the learning her students do with her will grow and evolve long after they leave her.  It was powerful for the middle school teachers to see the how the learning had grown and developed before the students came into their classrooms.

The power of collaboration.  So many revelations and epiphanies. So much to learn from one another...all on a Saturday morning.  Lucky me.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Missing You

Join the Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge!

Kids become readers on the lap of their parents, right?  That was true for me.  I don't remember this exact moment, captured in a newspaper photograph, it was just a few months before my first birthday.  But I do have clear memories of my mom as a reader and of her reading to me.  Beginning with books like Spot, The Pokey Little Puppy and The Three Little Pigs up through A Wrinkle in Time, when my brother and I were a bit older.

My mom taught me so many things in the short 13 years I got with her.  Along with a love of reading, she taught me how to love and take care of people, to be helpful and kind, and how to find the humor and joy in almost any situation.  I know there's a lot more I'd have learned from her in the years since she died.

People like to say that things get easier as time goes on.  I'm not sure that is true.  It has never gotten easier to be without my mom.  I have had to figure out how to live my life though.  There really never has feel like much of a choice.  Life keeps on going.  Everyone else's life went back to normal, except for mine.  I had to figure out my new "normal."

I still think of her everyday.  Sometimes in short, quick thoughts, like when I hear her favorite song or drive by our old house.  Sometimes in long, sad moments, when I truly feel her absence.  Like birthdays and graduations, holidays and today, the 19th anniversary of her passing away.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

On a Reading Mission

Inspiring journeys
into a great story
favorite characters
Sharing the words of an author
They'll love forever.

I'm the person who gives books 
for birthdays
and Christmas
and just because.

Fiona does not talk yet
But when I walk in
She toddles to her bookshelf
pulls a book
carries it to me
and climbs in my lap.

I introduced Chloe to 
Piggie and Gerald
a few years ago.
Together we grown to 
love those two.
Imagine her surprise 
When she discovered
The library has more
Than both of us 

Not exactly pumped 
for a book with no pictures.
We bribed them 
with M&M's 
for a reading break.
Imagine their surprise 
When they were laughing 
At a book
with no pictures.
Imagine my delight
When they yelled
Read it again!
as soon as I turned
The last page.

The only thing I love more than a great book
Is giving books to others.
I'm on a mission
To turn all of the children
In my life
Into readers

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My Own Genius Hour

Those who work with me or know me well might find this hard to believe, but there are things that I want to do and learn about outside of the realm of education.  Shocking, I know.

While visiting a classroom this week I saw an anchor chart for their Genius Hour and I was inspired to pursue Genius Hour inquiries in my own life.  I have many things that I say I will do when I have more time.  Guess what?  More time is not coming.  I have to intentionally create that space for myself.  

My Genius Hour Possibilities

Learn Calligraphy
(I got this amazing kit about a year ago when I first decided I was going to lean calligraphy....I've yet to really dig in... )

Design/build/create a backyard patio area
I have a backyard patio with a table and chairs.  I imagine a fun place to entertain, hang out, and relax.  I see fancy DIY things on Pinterest and I pin a bunch of things that I'll build someday.  I'd like to take time before this summer to create this space.

Art Journaling

(A year and a half ago my wonderful friend Courtney taught me how to knit.  I even made this dishcloth and an infinity scarf.  Then I fell off the knitting bandwagon.  Yesterday she told me she had read my blog about my 30 day challenges and thinks April should be dedicated to knitting again).

I'm hoping that giving that space in my life an official name like Genius Hour, challenging a few friends to do it with me, and blogging about it will make it magically happen.  There is only one rule-  it cannot be a school-related project or inquiry.  I'll keep you posted on my progress!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Reflecting on Reflecting

"Adults do not learn from experience, they learn from processing experience"  
(Arline-Krupp, 1997)

As a coach, my job is to support teachers in processing their experiences.  Coaching must be more than talking in generalizations and big ideas, finding resources, and being "helpful."

I must be an active listener,
a keen observer,
intentional with my language,
a powerful question asker.

If I can do these things, a teacher may process their experience in a different way.  In a way that makes them think differently about their instruction.

Today I got to spend the morning in the classroom of two wonderful teachers who were kind enough to allow me to reflect with them.  Their classroom is bustling with energy, excitement, and deep thinkers. It's an inspiring a bright and inspiring space to be in.

After observing the morning, the three of us sat down to reflect.  We were able to process the experiences of the morning together.  I think I was an active listener and a keen observer.  I could have been more intentional with my language and I wish my questions were more powerful.  However, I know there was power in us taking the time to intentionally reflect and process together.

Writing this post tonight is my attempt at reflecting on the reflection from earlier today.  It is important that I take the time to reflect that I am encouraging everyone to take. Processing my experiences is what will help me become a more active listener, a keener observer, more intentional with my language, and a more powerful question asker.