Archive for April, 2016

Egg Moment

I walked into Ms. Kaswarra’s third grade classroom yesterday. They were comparing salt water and fresh water by watching what happens to an egg. The room was filled with questions, conversations and salt. I started listening to the discussions and debates. One student would pipe up that their egg was floating. Some students would rush over and ask how they did it. Explanations, conversations and more questions.

I asked Ms. Kaswarra if the eggs were hard boiled or not. She shared that they had to be raw. We then started asking each other why was that. Pretty soon we were engaged in inquiry as well.

I enjoy being at a school that I get to wonder and ask questions. It is so interesting to walk into a room where the teacher has just placed a question out into the class and is watching what happens.

Questions can be hard. But it is fun to push back and ask the next question to get deeper into thinking.

When was the last time you asked a wondering question? Not just a question asking how the day went but a question about the content your student is learning. Practicing to wonder taps a part of our mind that we used more often as kids I think. I encourage everyone to engage in inquiry. You never know where you will go with it.


10,000 Steps

Many of our staff have joined the enthusiasts of counting our steps in a day. We find it is a fun way to encourage each other in living healthier. I am always surprised when I feel that buzz during my day that celebrates hitting my 10,000 steps.

Today was one of those busy days. Before school actually begins can be an active time to connect with teachers, check on facilities and maybe even look at email. Once the day begins I love being at the front of the building welcoming families and our students into a new day of learning. Even during this first thirty minutes, I might be called to some place in the building. I try to move quickly to the call and then get back to the front. Sometimes I end up walking around to finish conversations, drop an idea off with someone or connect a conversation I had at the front door to the rightful ear.

I love then hitting the hallways and classrooms to continue to say good morning and see how the day will begin. I don’t have a usual path that I follow but I do my best to trace my steps down the hallways, stairwells and campus outside. There are meetings that come up and stops I make through my day. Watching my steps, I love walking to answer an email in person rather than write back.

Moving through the building is a great way to interact with the learning as so many of our teachers use the space outside of their rooms for students to partner to collaborate. The students are always eager to share the discussion with me, perhaps ask an opinion and often expect my questions. Today it was a debate about a particular fourth grade text and if I should read it or not.

Lunch time today was funny as one student compared steps with me. We discussed how we get our steps in each day. He laughed that I get more stairs.

The rest of the day moves. I like transitioning outside at recess time as I get to stop and perhaps kick a ball or block a shot. Yesterday a group asked for me to watch their Joyner cheer they just created.  I also heard about the imaginary world others were building with the rocks.

The end of the day excitement seems to make me hop as well. My usual duty spot might be buses that often entails running in and out of the building, looking for students, encouraging slow feet that don’t want to leave, or distracted kids enjoying one last chat with the other teachers’ on duty.

I have never experienced the same day twice at Joyner. And I enjoy earning each step every day here, pedometer or not.


Who We Learn From

This morning I walked into our Spanish classrooms while our fifth graders were learning. In one classroom, they were preparing to sing a song in Spanish about the IB Learner Profile. The students were circled together as they discussed what each different term meant to them.

As I listened to these students who many have spent nearly six years learning at Joyner, I began to hear the voices of their teachers. Different students gave examples of different ideas that immediately reminded me of the voices I have heard in classrooms by teachers. One student suggests that being a risk-taker is having the mind set to dare to not just follow others but be willing to try something new. Another student remembered a story about being principled.

I don’t think our students realize the voices they now carry are those of the teachers at Joyner that have made a difference in their learning. Sitting in that room this morning, I felt a celebration of learning of these concepts. I also felt a celebration of the voices that have been heard and learned. What a great way to honor the teachers who have worked with each of our students to navigate their world using this profile! The stories of the learning came alive in the examples they used and expressed to each other in this simple conversation.

We are so proud of how our children grow. Meeting with fifth grade parents recently and talking with them in hallways about middle school, we begin to see the end of elementary school. We also see the continuing of the journey for their children, our children.

I remind our fifth graders of the time we still have. As I mentioned to another teacher who talked with me about fourth quarter, we still have a fourth of the year. And we must engage in every moment. We need every day to build each learner at Joyner! Teachers have stories to teach and students have places to grow!

Performance Moments

I stare into the eyes of Amelia Earhart. She hears the click of the coin into her cup, and she comes to life beginning to share her life story. I accidentally interrupt her with clarification of a word I obviously misunderstood. This makes “Amelia” begin to giggle. She looks me in the eye with such an intense look that tells me that I shouldn’t make her laugh. But we can’t help it. We both begin to giggle together. After the ripple of laughter fades, “Amelia” gets back on track and continues to share her story.

I am at a wax museum that Ms. Young has helped her students create. Parents and teachers wander around meeting historical figures like Betsy Ross, famous Americans like Sally Ride and pop culture icons such as Andy Griffin. I also meet other powerful members of our history like a Cherokee woman. Students not only had their history facts down and their presentation well staged, iPADS sat before them with video clips they had created to provide another tool to communicate their learning. Often parents and teachers broke quickly through the “wax” and wanted to talk further with students about what they had learned.

These moments of showcasing learning are opportunities for students to be assessed through performance. There are many ways we check for student engagement of content. These performance opportunities are one way.

One of the joys of my work is being a part of these performances. Students have the opportunity to take their learning to another level. But I also love the side gift of having moments like I did with “Amelia”. We laugh together. And students are allowed to see that their learning is fun to share and we are eager to learn from them.

I followed up with one of the Wright brothers today about a question I asked him yesterday. He was eager to fill me in. I challenged him with something else. We will continue to banter with this learning.

Performance assessments are not just opportunities to take pictures and see our kids do something. But it is another way to celebrate learning at Joyner. It is an opportunity for the adults of Joyner to enjoy learning from all of our students.