Archive for November, 2015

Reading the Books our Children Read

This afternoon I took advantage of taking Mr. Jones’ fourth grade class to the library. We were on the search for biographies and of course perhaps to pick up some new other reads. I enjoyed talking books with different students and helping them find new stories to read. When we returned to the classroom, I felt the eagerness to crack open their new finds. I encouraged them to take a few minutes to dig in. How wonderful a sound it was for so many little minds to shift into reading at the end of the day!

The last couple of months I have found myself reading several middle grade novels. I am so impressed with the depth that writers create in the material they are handing over to our children to read. The content has held my attention and encouraged me to book talk with my colleagues. There are tough issues that authors are willing to bring forward in simple ways for our middle readers to follow or identify with.

I am surrounded at home with readers. With two children, books are everywhere in my house. With a husband who is a middle school teacher and runs several books clubs at his school, book talks are often a part of our every day conversation. I am usually the one who isn’t walking around with some kid literature in my hand. But having been shared several of these recent novels, I am on board.

It makes me wonder how many of us as parents are reading what our children are reading. Are we able to engage in conversation about the characters that our children are connecting to? Do we understand the story lines that they are following? I encourage parents to take opportunities to pick up a book your child has read and take a look. Find a moment to sit and understand what they are selecting to read. A new picture book might be just the conversation starter with your new reader. Talking about books allows you a chance to see how they are growing as a reader. It also allows our children to see us as readers, honoring what they read.

Building Citizenship

In reflecting on this Veterans Day of how public schools began in building citizenship in this country, I consider the ways that I have been witness to this work by our students and teachers.

It was only a few weeks ago when a second grade class Skype’d with a soldier overseas. Everyone stood together to recite the Pledge of Allegiance together. Our Kindergarten students learned the power of their vote on Election Day. Third graders invited city leaders to talk about the work it takes to keep running this community we live in. First graders visit our senior citizen center neighbors and listen to the stories of this community from over time. Our fourth graders discuss the impact of the first Europeans to inhabited Americas. They dig deeper to inquire how both cultures were changed.

I think of our fifth graders that I traveled to Washington DC last spring with. These students engaged with the guides at the Capitol with more questions and conversation that I think the guide was prepared for. The questions came with a depth of knowledge of our country’s history. I also enjoyed watching them recite words that so many of us memorized when we were young in our US History class on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Other visitors stopped and were moved by this recitation. And I am excited to see that work happening in learning with our current fifth graders.

Today is a moment that we pause to consider the historical impact of those who serve our country have made. We say thank you for the service. And the work we do at schools show continued gratitude as we grow and learn. We build our understandings of the community, state and country we live in as well its connections to our world. Working as an IB school, this global perspective is built. We begin with our work as citizens of this school and on it grows.

Numerous to Individual

This morning our staff joined together to review and reflect on our first quarter data. The incredible discussion that these vertical teams had at such an early hour was powerful and real. Whenever we sit as a school to talk data, we remind ourselves and each other that behind the numbers are the individual children that we teach each day.

Today we had that big picture view of Joyner in learning. Then the bell rang, we all scattered into classrooms and spaces around the school. And our individual work began. I consider my day today. How many individual moments did I have with students? Our teachers take these moments all day long. There are conversations, re-teaching moments, intervention talks, parent conferences, phone calls, etc.

We balance each day our whole school and the needs and the decisions that impact it while still remembering each child as an individual with a unique story that they bring to the classroom and day.

As I came home tonight, I reflected on that jump and dance that we take as a school. Today was the example of looking at both big picture and single snapshots.

I am thankful to work in a place that navigates both. We hold ourselves accountable while still continuing to be driven by each individual child.