Archive for December, 2016

Putting our Minds to Work

Today one of my fifth graders came up to me to celebrate his great day. He immediately shared that he was having such a great day because his mind was full of great things. When I had walked into this classroom, he was completing his Genius Hour work and feeling pumped. His comment came with such confidence that I believe he really was full of positive and felt it was all going his way. Wonderful!

I then had multiple moments with both fourth graders and their parents as the buzz was surrounding the completion of their invention¬†projects. This afternoon, our media center became home to the great Fourth Grade Invention Convention. Tomorrow our students will showcase their innovative minds through sharing the inventions they dream to become reality. Multiple times parents shared how in awe they were with their children completing this project on their own. The inspirations came from every day living of a fourth grader. The idea was for the students to put their minds to work, not make it anyone else’s work.

At this time of year, we have tried to capture every moment to keep our minds on learning. Our teachers have kept driving our learning in classrooms. I have enjoyed seeing the focus on building minds. We have a full week of learning left before we all receive a well deserved break.

I wish everyone a great last few weeks of 2016. Thank you for your support in helping our students stay focused on the work we have to complete before we leave. Let’s keep those minds working.

Books

The Book Fair is at Joyner this week. I am overwhelmed by the response of our families. So many of our community are coming in to visit the books with their children. It is magic to this book lover to see parents and children delighting together over books.

Last December our staff received the gift of books and reading. We challenged each other to consider participating in the 40 Book Challenge. While I am unsure how everyone has done, I know that I have kept diligent track this year on the Good Reads account my husband set up for me. As the year has progressed, I began to be amazed at the amount of books I have completed. I have pushed myself into a variety of genres as well. A month ago I celebrated my completion of the 40 books this year and have dug into perhaps making it to 50 like I recently read Bill Gates does.

I reflect on myself as a reader and believe that I have grown. This proves that reading is something that helps us grow no matter the age. Our children also grow when they read. I enjoy talking story with our students. Most students have figured out that I LOVE books and talking about them. Watching children grow in their ability to grab text and make it turn into story and interesting information is the joy of working in an elementary school.

This school year I began introducing new children’s stories at our staff meetings. I begin each meeting with book talk. I talk about the story and the viewpoints that could be brought into the classroom. Often there are other readers of the book and they immediately offer their ideas of how they read these children’s stories. After we book talk, I draw a name and the book is given to that member of our staff. Other teachers quickly sign up to borrow it.

I always enjoy seeing how our teachers use books to introduce ideas, talk about content, or connect emotions. Children’s books really can ignite learning and questions.

I encourage our families to continue to nurture and give that gift of story. Share and read together. Find new adventures with favorite characters. Talk about why we love books with our children. This is one of those gifts that measures beyond grades and into life.

Be Ready to Adjust

Last night before I left, I finalized my schedule for today. I looked at the list of things to do, meetings to participate in, and observations to complete. I knew of certain students I needed to connect with as well as staff and parents. Before I even started my day, my first text came in with an adjustment to my schedule. And that began my day filled with opportunities to bounce. Not many things on my “list to do” landed in my “list accomplished” today. But I also reflect on the incredible moments I had from those unplanned turns, am grateful and the see the opportunities in them. My list can continue to grow as I move it to tomorrow’s list. Rework it because that is our work that is never done.

I think about the classroom experiences I had today. I watched as a second grade teacher completed the first step in her small group. She asked if the students understood. One particular outspoken young man quickly spoke up and just told her “nope”. I wondered what the teacher would do. Calmly she turned in her chair towards the student. She began to pull her visual example out again and explained patiently in a new way. The lightbulb sprung and he quickly explained it to her. I think about how teachers all day have these zigs and zags in teaching. Teachers prepare their lessons. They consider how students might find a challenge in the work. They discuss with their colleagues what they could do just in case that happens. And then in come the students and the lesson comes alive. Once that life happens in the classroom, teachers are prepared to move and adjust to the learning with students.

I see so many moments in my day at Joyner where teachers have to take that turn. I hear teachers ask students to reflect on their learning and give feedback on their understanding. I watch as teachers bend down at student level to really see what students are trying and listen to how they process. Our children take the lessons our teachers plan and bring it to action.

Living life in a school teaches the adults to keep bending and moving. We continually keep trying new strategies and coming up with creative ways to bring to life the learning and growth for our students. We wake up each day ready for anything because we work not with lists but we work with these little people who bring their own selves into the learning place. Our students keep us moving and bouncing and adjusting.