Archive for November, 2014

Awareness of Home

November is National Homeless Youth Awareness month. There are more children in Wake County than some might ever suspect are identified as homeless. These children follow the federal definition of homelessness as youth lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence due to lack of a primary residence. These are children that come to school. They come to all of our schools in Wake County. We have a team that surrounds our children and families in these moments in their lives. And I am so thankful for the resources that we can provide. I always wish for more. I am also grateful to live in a community that values community support as well that we can connect our families to.

I appreciate that each November, there is an organized opportunity to educate the community on this social issue. When we talk about this issue at school, what I need to remind myself and our team is the importance of the work we do as teachers. Providing a welcoming home during the day to all of our students is key. We want every child to have a full belly to start their day. We encourage our children to eat their vegetables at lunch. I have been known to  ask if they have finished their milk before they throw their tray away. We will look for a notebook, pencil, coat or extra gloves. Many teachers and staff offer those little comforts of home to quietly put into backpacks for our children in need. And at the end of the day, especially on cold days like today, I fuss at each child as they get on the bus to put their coats on before they walk home from the bus stop.

The important key to our work as well is to teach. I want every child to be provided with access to learning. I want every child to be given the opportunity to learn from our incredible teachers. No matter all the tools we give our children, the education that we can provide will carry them farther.

This month as we give thanks as well, I want to express to the community of Joyner my thanks for helping us to take care of all children. I am grateful to the committed groups that give so much in so many ways. Thank you to the Joyner family who help create a home during the day for all children no matter what home looks like overnight.

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How Well we Know Our Children

I find myself in many meetings about kids. These meetings can be with parents about their kids. Our Professional Learning Teams discuss the different learning styles of our learners. I connect in meetings with teachers and parents with other professionals about particular learning needs. Teachers might come by seeking a collaborative conversation of what strategies to try to support an individual learner in a struggle they need to overcome.

Each time I have these conversations, I am struck by how beautiful the people of Joyner talk about our children. I listen to how a teacher will describe to a parent about the learning style or what seems to be important to that child while they learn at school. Parents sometimes are even surprised when a teacher will mention something very meaningful about a like or dislike that their child has shared. I love how parents share the stories of their children as well. It is important to hear how they process school with their parent, to hear what they found important to share.

Knowing our students allows us to be certain we are meeting the individual needs. I also find that is how we are able to build our family relationships. These relationships and taking the time to get to know kids is why students continue to visit former teachers. Building relationships with teachers of siblings gives younger students an opportunity to not fear moving up in a grade.

I am always so thankful to our families for sharing their children with us. And this is not just in the sense that they send their children to Joyner. But truly sharing the joys of the child. I am happy to hear of the accomplishments outside of school. I am grateful to see pictures of celebrations. I revel in the details that kids will share of a vacation or experience over the weekend.

When we know our children, we connect. We connect with parents over this precious person that we share. Thank you for continuing to share your child’s story with us and we look forward to sharing the story of their school experience with you.

Speaking and Listening

This morning, our staff meeting was filled with sharing of instructional strategies that work for the variety of learners we have in our building. Different teachers stood up to share global ideas, literacy, language, technology and the list goes on and on. A theme I quickly picked up on was something that was displayed as well on the front cover of my latest edition of Education Leadership, Speaking and Listening.

In the strategies we shared and in the newest edition, it is rediscovering the importance of these two communication tools essential in our students’ learning in our current curriculum. Our students are challenged to not only be able to read and write but also communicate through listening and speaking. At Joyner, we often celebrate the loudness of our classrooms. We do this not because we encourage misbehavior, we do this because we love to see learning in an active environment. Students are encouraged to think and speak out. And we teach them how to listen to each other as well.

Some of the strategies we discussed this morning to encourage those two other communication skills are as follows. Did you realize how important it is to teach our children to communicate verbally through complete sentences? Encouraging our students to share ideas in complete thoughts helps them when they have to write it down. We also want our children to listen with intent. When there is a discussion, students shouldn’t be thinking of what they will add but what is being shared. From being stronger listeners, they will then be able to offer to the conversation a deeper thought connected to the last. Communication and conversation! For our students are acquiring a new language, providing these strategies offers them support in how the English language is structured. They have a scaffold from their peers in how to communicate back. For our students who often have the answer before the question is even asked will be encouraged to listen and respond from what they heard. We hope to see these learners begin to build on from each other and create new ideas from those conversations even perhaps seeing the value and power of collaboration.

Many other ideas were shared. We discussed relationship building with the two by ten strategy, two minutes a day for ten days… the power of connection. We talked about the components of literacy and how they are woven together in a fabric that allows our children to truly engage in literacy. We learned new ideas and strategies to create a global lens in the many lessons that we plan each day. Our teacher leaders shared technology tools to help us get there. We learned from each other.

At the end of our meeting, I reminded the staff of how amazing we are as a family of learners and teachers. I encouraged each to take those extra moments to practice the art of listening and speaking with each other. We can all get so busy, it is important to be reminded to connect. So I encourage our families to do the same at home. Practice the art of listening and speaking at the dinner table or in the car or at bed time. Listen to the words that your child shares, learn to ask questions and articulate what you wonder. Allow them to listen to you. Share your thoughts and ideas. You will be so surprised at how the power of your conversations together will strengthen your child as a learner as well as strengthen the connections you have with each other.