Archive for September, 2012

The strength of the Small

I spent a few minutes Tuesday in Ms. Orr’s third grade classroom. They were wrapping up floor time focused on writing and she asked the students if they remembered the Thought of the Week. “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” -Mother Theresa Students whispered to each other and then one student read it aloud to everyone. Ms. Orr questioned the students, what does this mean? Different students reflected and shared. And I sat and reflected as well. One student stated that it is even in small things, we can feel successful. Spot on!

I have found as I continue to learn to navigate the ropes of Joyner, I need to feel good about the small moments. I love when I take my daily opportunity to witness the learning in the building. I also love the moments that come unplanned when a student stops to show me their poster they created for Kindergarten class and they have hand drawn their entire family in that wonderful kindergarten caricature or a fifth grader telling me about a book I MUST read. I LOVE those moments. I sat with a fourth grader as she attempted a math problem. “It’s too hard,” she cried to me. So we focused in that little piece she did know and slowly we made it through. It wasn’t pretty, but she got to the answer. What wonderful small moments that make my day!

On Friday, our staff went BIG for the early release professional development. We were exploring what the new Common Core curriculum means to our instruction. We explored downtown Raleigh through the lens of creating rigorous real world experiences. And what we found as we designed ideas was that we did our best thinking when we focused in on the little things. Staff members found details (oak leaf designs) on the streets that helped draw meaning of Raleigh. One of our Spanish teachers talked about sitting with her eyes closed and tuning on the the small things she heard to help her build a better sense of where she was. Quotes on monuments were read with more intent. Visual cues and connections were everywhere. And through paying attention to the small details, we began building a better understanding of what links us to our learning and what we can do to link our students.

As we continue in our journey of learning at Joyner, we look for those small moments that we gain our strength in. As a parent, I know I try to slow down and realize when my own child has that small moment of success. I want to be sure I am acknowledging it and celebrating with them. Because truly, our small ones (our children) are our greatest strength at Joyner!



“Reading is what I was born to do. Whenever I read it is like I have been set off to some ultra universe.” Yes, this is what a fifth grader from Ms. Lewis’ class wrote and shared with me this week. Unbelievable, right? The passion this student put into her writing about this subject blew me away. You will hear me talk about reading a lot. I love to read myself and am disappointed lately that I am so exhausted at night that the book keeps falling on my face because I have fallen asleep. My family is full of readers as well. Both my husband and I have tried to share our passion for books with our own children. And often when I see students walking in and out of the media center, I stop them to talk about books. I am hungry for new books to know and share. Reading this reflection by a fifth grader is beautiful.

I wanted to hear from my other students. So I walked down the hall to first grade. First grade is THE YEAR for reading. Teaching first grade I remember seeing my students grow from beginning readers to confident readers. Can a first grader talk about reading with as much passion?  I asked a student from Ms. Lyon’s class to tell me about reading. Immediately, she lit up. “I LOVE to read! The best thing about reading is that my brother taught me. I get sucked in to it. It’s like daydreaming.” How beautifully captured!

Reading is something to share. Reading is something to talk about. Both of these students talk about how reading captivates their creative selves. And I believe finding a way to engage all of our students in books that can captivate them is powerful. Not every child needs a fantasy to discover. Some students LOVE to read about things. I talked with two students in Ms. Wallace’s class as they read about rocks and minerals. They both clamored to see what else they could learn.

At my first meeting with the staff this year, I talked about my love of reading. I encouraged the staff to discover books and talk about books even more to students. Sharing our passion about our own reading models for our students.

I encourage parents to help find what captivates your child and look for books to put in their hands to match. Talk about books. Talk about what you love about reading. Maybe you love to read about the weekend sports. Talk about it! Talk with your kids about reading. Sharing the passion ignites our students.

And what I believe is most amazing is when students share their passion with us just as that fifth grader who shared her reflection with me. Thank you students for sharing your joy about reading!

Open House

Growing up, my mom and dad would have annual open houses. Family and friends would come over, people from dad’s work. There was always food. The kids would take off and play in the yard. We were free to be without the usual adult careful eye. And we truly felt that freedom but also responsibility that we were hosting our friends at our house. It was always fun to watch my friends discover different parts of my backyard with their new eyes that I hadn’t seen before because it was just my backyard to me. I loved the feeling after everyone left and using my new eyes to go back and discover my backyard all over again for myself.

Last night was our Open House. And I had some of those similar feelings. Parents were walking through the buildings discovering for themselves this place that our students call home for so many hours during the day. The children were playing together on the playground from many different grade levels, discovering their own backyard with new eyes. Some of our students proudly showed their artwork with their parents that hang in the hallway. Things they just pass by during the day were more enriching in the evening light. And parents connected with each other and the teachers. It was a warm feeling and again reminded me of the special place that I work.

I enjoyed talking with parents over and over again, listening to how happy they are. I want to hear the details of why they find such happiness here. Tapping this magic to ensure we keep it. It is like when I was a kid discovering my own backyard with new eyes. Parents input and ideas allowed me to reflect even more deeply what it is that makes Joyner so special. After everyone went home, I walked the halls seeing my school with even more perspective.

Thank you to everyone who shared. We grow with your feedback and thoughts. And together, we can continue to create the learning environment that makes Joyner so special.

As the day ends

Walking around campus during that last half hour of the day is fun. Usually there is a buzz. Teachers are busily giving directions and helping students to complete tasks. Often I see and hear science or social studies. The energy level is high with anticipation that the day is coming to a close soon.

And then I walked into Ms. Thompson’s first grade class. Music was quietly playing and students were writing in earnest. Both Ms. Thompson and Ms. Davis were moving around the room talking with students about their writing. What a focused and quiet instructional time. Then I drifted into Ms. Kaswarra’s class. Again, students were curled up around the room quietly reading. Ms. Kaswarra was moving around monitoring. I stopped to talk with different students about the books they had chosen. Again, quiet instructional time!

I find that it is only in the world of teaching and learning that we see how every moment can count. I have often said that only teachers seem to be the type that will see three minutes on the clock and can think of learning that can be done. That learning might be quiet and focused with the individual learner or it might be loud and energetic and shared with each other.The end of the day has the same focus on learning as the beginning. How important our whole day is at school!