Archive for March, 2017

Learning about the Work

A group of teachers have been meeting on Tuesday mornings before school starts working together through a text on literacy instruction. The text is Who’s Doing The Work by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris. The conversations so early in the morning are truly incredible. Teachers from multiple grade levels share ideas, talk through challenges and attempt new strategies. As we learn together, the facilitators have provided conversation starters and videos to engage us further. Each week, we commit to work to try. I have enjoyed taking part in this learning to engage further students in literacy.

As you can gather from the title, the text engages us in thinking about placing the work of learning truly into the hands of children. We are challenged to give the time and focus to our children to engage in thinking. The idea of placing the work into the hands of our children seems so simple and yet for teachers who are so driven to move our children, it can feel challenging.

This past week we discussed giving time for intellectual dissonance to our students. We want to engage them into thinking deeply without quickly jumping in to rescue to take over. As the principal, I recognize that I am not spending my whole days in one classroom working with a group of children. But I do find myself in classrooms as often as possible. I often stop to talk with students, learn about what they are learning, and encourage. I realize that sometimes I don’t spend length of time with one student when watching the work in the class. So after our conversation, I decided to give the time to engage in that intellectual dissonance that we were discussing. I wanted to feel that struggle and see what happens. I visited a second grade class while they were making comparisons of fiction and non-fiction text. I noticed a student who was doing his best to not draw attention to the fact that he wasn’t getting much thinking down on his paper. As I walked over to talk, he waited to see how I was going to help and give him the answers he was seeking. I swallowed that need to rescue and instead began to ask the questions and waited for him to think through the answers. I reminded him of his courage to proceed. And after a few minutes, he began to do the work. He stepped over his nervousness of doing the wrong thing and really started to capture his thinking.

I share all of this because I know as parents, we also feel such a sense of rush to do for our children. We want to help get them to the answers. But I wonder if we allowed our children to think things through and really make those efforts, how much more they will truly learn. It takes time. It takes courage. But I believe the growth that our children will make in building their own minds will be worth the work.

Restorative Circles

Earlier this year, I wrote about the circle practice many of our classrooms are experiencing this year. I also talked about how the adults in our school use circle practice to build stronger adult relationships as well. In the last week, I have found myself sharing more about our restorative circle work with parents and others. I want to share again what this practice is about.

When you consider the idea of restoration, many times one might think of antiques receiving restoration to look new again. It is an idea of putting things together or rebuilding. I also think of the concept of doing something with care.

Circle practice at school begins with building relationships. Circle practice takes time and takes care. Our students and teachers sit together and learn about each other. Students share ideas and share about themselves. And students also listen. Through guiding questions, a teacher can begin to build a class community. Students begin to see their classmates as the individuals they are. And during this time, teachers can support conversations to problem solve issues or challenges that crop up in a classroom community.

As we prepared for our Student Led Conferences last week, I listened to students reflect on the circle time in their class. Students provided intuitive reflections on their ability to listen growing. Students enjoy hearing about each other. And students feel safe to also share. Students are learning to communicate with each other. The words and responses students have given can be powerful. Students feel a greater desire to be at school because of these stronger feelings of community.

When I navigate students who might be in conflict, I also have found myself working through the process of restorative practice. Our students learn to speak up for themselves and share their voice. We sit together to problem solve issues. I leave these conversations more hopeful that we have some strategies to put into place for everyone.

This work is not the only solution, but I see our culture of community that is so important to the fabric of Joyner continue to grow and deepen through the work of circle. The connections that students make with their peers and their teacher become even more valuable. When discussions arise at different points of the day of learning, the language they are learning in circle to listen and respond come out. When a student is in trouble, other students support with offering words to encourage or just breathe.

It is my hope that our students find an eagerness to come to school to learn because they are in a safe place where they can be heard and can be noticed. Using our skills in restorative practice, builds that sense for us all. It takes time and work and care. But I believe it is the direction that we need to take.



Invitation to the JYJ 5K

This past weekend while at my daughter’s middle school, I ran into several JYJ alum. (Side note: I LOVE watching our children continue to grow. I enjoy celebrating who they are continuing to become. I am grateful to meet these students wherever I go and hear their continued stories.) While we chatted, they quickly told me that they would see me this next weekend for the JYJ 5K. With that came my inspiration to write to everyone tonight with an invitation in mind.

Our Joyner 5K is an annual event that celebrates being healthy as a community. If you wonder could your young kinder really make it 3.2 miles? I will tell you absolutely yes. And that brings me to the reason to join us. The motivation to step forward comes from the community that comes out. We have JYJ alum of all ages that stand along the race course who cheer and celebrate all students. There are tons of parents who encourage along the way. The positive spirit along the race course compares to no other.

Then the inspiring bigger kids who truly can race that course wiz by, and it is exciting to see their heart as they work together to accomplish that top prize. It is fun to see the parents who also get into the spirit and take the tempo to the next level.

The JYJ 5K has a place for everyone. Strollers of little ones munching on their crackers, watch the big kids. Parents begin to connect and meet and talk along the way. Professional runners join the fun because of such a positive atmosphere. And then there are teachers that enjoy the afternoon in a relaxed setting with their students and perhaps their own children.

I know I am excited to once again dress as a book character to celebrate accomplishing our book drive goal. Thank you to kindergarten for selecting the book character. Ms. Burton also looks forward to hearing what fourth grade chooses as her book character.

The Joyner 5K is a family event. All are welcome. If the idea of the length worries you, please join us along the route cheering on our JYJ family. I know you will feel lifted and walk away with a lighter step after being at this special event. I look forward to seeing everyone on the course!