Archive for October, 2015

Innovation in Teaching

Tomorrow is one of my favorite field trips our students take. Our 2nd graders take their trip to the NC Farmers Market. Depending on the units of study students are completing or currently working on, the students have different activities to engage in with the Farmers Market landscape. In the past, the students finish their economics unit. This year, they will focus on their weather unit. What an incredible opportunity to engage in learning through multiple curriculums in the experience they will have! One of the activities students will do is interview farmers. They have talked about impact of weather. They will ask farmers to draw conclusions and share experiences of their produce and the impact the lack of rain and then the two full weeks of rain had on their crops. The opportunity to talk with these primary sources of information are invaluable. Students must practice communication skills in both speaking and listening. They listen with purpose and connect their learning. How fun to live this innovative teaching and learning.

Back at school, some of our fifth graders will showcase their Might Memoirs. Students have written from different perspectives on themselves in these collection of short narratives. They will express their favorites to an audience of families ready to listen and engage. Also our fifth graders continue to build their documentaries on weather and its impact on a historical event. Our technology teacher works collaboratively with the fifth grade team of teachers to provide the tools for these documentaries to be creative. Students are receiving innovative teaching and learning through this integrated unit of study.

In our Leadership meeting yesterday, our 4th grade team lead and our Kindergarten team lead began to discuss their different units of study and how to meld the two engaging learning opportunities together. While our 4th graders are becoming Kid camouflaged, our Kindergarten students map their world at Joyner and geocache. Sitting back and listening to these two teams discover links was incredible and engaging for all of the members of the team to consider.

Living and breathing our work at Joyner as an IB school is amazing each day. It is exciting to hear our District’s Strategic Plan that encourages this innovative teaching and learning experience as one that will help up support our learners in their goal of being creative and collaborative members of our community. I am excited to see this integration celebrated and honored even further. We have believed at Joyner for a long time that empowering our teachers to create and design meaningful learning experiences will encourage our students to learn in a deeper way. We constantly focus on making the “must” learning also include the integration of innovation.

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Everyday Moments

Our days are so busy. As we end this quarter, we are finishing projects, updating our assessments, and capturing last-minute data. Conferences are happening. And through it, our students are busy with school life.

I love finding the important moments of my day in the hallways and classrooms. I enjoy capturing learning in the moment. I walked into our fifth grade reading classrooms today. I am so impressed in how our students are putting themselves deeper into text. They are willing to take the time to ask more thoughtful questions with each other and share their ideas with the class. In one particular classroom, the teacher and I held our breath as one of our quieter students expressed his ideas in his literature group. So courageous!

On the other side of the hallways, our science and math classes were engaged in work that I can only describe as truly IB. I love when I see so many subjects rolled together into the project on the floor that the group of students are huddled around. The buzz in learning is so unique and special with these fifth graders putting inquiry in action.

Our magnet tour time has begun. On Fridays we have groups of parents curious to learn about Joyner. It is always fun to catch up with the families as they gather in the hallway with our magnet coordinator. We take a very organic approach to these visits. As an IB school, it is important to invite the interested families into our hallways and classrooms. An IB school is more about a feel of the learning happening throughout the building. We absolutely love to have our families see the Spanish in action. But we also are able to showcase the IB magnet theme throughout the classrooms. PE, art and music align their work with the IB planners.

Our Fridays with magnet tours don’t look any different from our Mondays through Thursdays. Because everyday there are amazing moments of learning happening.

And They Do Grow Up

Today was a magical day for me. Our fifth graders had the opportunity to be visited by the talented artists from East Millbrook Magnet Middle School. Our IB pathway school presented the learner profile through acting, singing, strings, band and visual arts. Our students participated in activities together with these middle school students to take a hands on approach to what it is to be an IB learner.

The performances were beautiful. I was so impressed with the respect and focus that those middle school students gave to their peers while either waiting to perform or after they were completed. Scattered through these faces were former Joyner students. It might be a little more difficult to recognize them as they have grown and matured. But in all of these faces, I saw where our students will be going.

Our fifth graders were thrilled to have the opportunity to talk and engage with the middle schoolers. Their questions were real and thoughtful. I could hear in their tone and words the curiosity of what it will be like when they too join the middle school world. I am so proud of how well they reacted and responded to the talent that was shared with them.

At one point, I was standing by the back door with one of the staff from East Millbrook. We turned around to notice several first grade students peering in from outside. It was their recess and their curiosity got the better of them. Standing so sweetly peering in, I saw the smile on the staff member’s face. Again I have that feeling of being so glad to work in an elementary school where I see our children’s lives grow so many years. It is our joy and journey to travel with students from those early moments in learning as five-year olds through to their steps away from us after fifth grade.

Right before this performance I met with third grade parents to discuss the Read to Achieve requirements. Here are the parents of our students in the middle of their elementary career. There are concerns for the expectations. There are questions about their growth. I listen to the concerns and understand the worries. But I also know that our staff takes seriously this journey we are on with our students. We see the end result that we all want for our students. And we are committed to that work.

Someday all of our students will grow up and move on. I look forward to seeing them grow on into middle school and beyond. I want to welcome them back to perform and show to their JYJ family how much they are making a difference as these East Millbrook students did today.

And while they are in our care, we will continue to nurture them to grow!

Look Up

I was given the wonderful experience of hearing Kevin Carroll recently. One thing he shared in his talk about play was having a Look Up day. I sat in a room of many people outside of the school world that I live. He encouraged people to look up rather than at a screen for one day. See the world around. Notice life in a three-dimensional way.

As I sat there, I thought how lucky I am to work in a place that is full of the many dimensions. The learning and teaching that keeps our school buzzing is amazing. The richness of relationships and community is incredible. And I would say that every time I am able to move throughout the building, I take that time to “Look Up”. I am intentional in what I am seeing happening in the building.

It is important to not just see the happening in the classrooms but I also enjoy stopping a student in the hallway to talk. I find our Joyner students are very open to share what is happening in their worlds. They offer the book title they just checked out. They talk about the scratch they earned on the playground. They mention the conflict they might be having with a friend. They tell me about the project they are working on at home. These moments are just as important in understanding what we do at school each day.

Absolutely, our children are here to learn. Our job is to keep them safe and teach them. But I am grateful when I see the ‘so-much-more’ coming from staff. I have a team of adults that make sure children are met each morning with a positive greeting. I have a team that listens to the funny stories from the weekend. I have a team that wants to know why green is their favorite color. The little stories that our children share and connect with the adults in this building with are vast and far-reaching and all important.

I am also thankful for our families that “look up” everyday as well. We have so many parents who connect with so many children as they bring their own in the mornings. Some are committed to volunteer weekly and building relationships and sharing their love of learning.

I encourage our community to continue to notice how we all look up and jump into this fun world of school each day.

Reading

I just finished reading the first two chapters of the first book of a favorite family classic to my youngest this evening. The whole family has been anxiously waiting for him to get to first grade so he can begin the journey into this first book in the series. What a magic evening I have had just sitting together with him sharing the beginnings of a great adventure. His excitement and anticipation was catching. Yes, a very good moment tonight!

As I reflect about my day at Joyner, I realize that I have seen that celebration of reading all day. I walked into our PreK classroom to see two boys sitting together on the rocking chair. Between them, they were holding a book containing Letterland characters. Together they were singing about each letter on the page.

In Ms. Thompson’s first grade during recess, I loved the relaxed nature of a student having a snack while consumed in her book. A student who usually will stop everything to greet was so involved in her book she didn’t even look up. Another student was captivating as she read her story she was creating through a combination of words, letters and pictures. Her vivid imagination shined through her story as she read to me.

Again, I continued to walk down that same first grade hallway to discover our fifth graders partnered in the hallway reading together an article. Both were huddled into what they were reading and discussing the content without even looking up. When I walked into Ms. Arch’s room, she was making every effort to ask students to wrap up their independent reading time. I loved watching her students try to finish up a last page before closing up the book.

Back into the main entry of our building, Mr. Zimmerman’s class spread out onto the different benches and seating. All of the students had their noses deep into their books. It was such a relaxed atmosphere that the younger grade level of students passing by quietly watched what those big kids were doing.

School is a wonderful place to work and be each day. There are so many reasons of course. But there is truly a magical gift in seeing the written word so celebrated. Students in every grade level work hard to conquer the task of learning to read. Each level has a different frame to view what letters and pictures and words do on a page. Teachers from each grade take the students to the next level of depth in what print has to offer.

I know the task isn’t always easy. I know our students have to work hard to figure out what reading is all about. But I am so thankful in the moments like today when I see students doing it. I celebrate all of our readers on their journey!