Monday, April 21, 2008

what (punctuation) sign are you?

This, evidently is the "punctuation" I was born under! Thanks Megan (at Read, Read, Read) for this fun look at ourselves.

You Are a Comma
You are open minded and extremely optimistic.
You enjoy almost all facets of life. You can find the good in almost anything.

You keep yourself busy with tons of friends, activities, and interests.

You find it hard to turn down an opportunity, even if you are pressed for time.

Your friends find you fascinating, charming, and easy to talk to.

(But with so many competing interests, you friends do feel like you hardly have time for them.)

You excel in: Inspiring people
You get along best with: The Question Mark

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

third grade character -slice of life #2

Teaching good character traits is an important part of our district curriculum. In fact it's in our Strategic Governance Plan under Essential Life Skills. Our third graders are instructed in a set of lessons presented by our guidance counselors and those are reinforced in the classroom and home by teachers and families. First, both our guidance counselors are goddesses. Along with the usual support counselors provide, they are great teachers. They know how to activate schema and engage students through discussion, role-play, rehearsing, and writing. I saw this in action today.

The lesson was about perseverance. I was in and out a bit with teacher chores, but, I did see and hear the last ten minutes of the 30 minute lesson. Groups of three and four students scattered in various spots all over the classroom carpet were abuzz as they responded to a set of questions that challenged their thinking about what it meant to persevere. These open ended, higher level prompts challenged my own thinking as I listened surreptitiously to the calm, thoughtful, back and forth discussions inhabiting these groups of third grade students.

Seen and heard:

Q: Rome was not built in a day. What does this common saying say about the importance of perseverance? A: Rome had a lot of perseverance to build such a big city and empire. The Romans were so great. The empire took years to build but, the Romans stuck to their plans.

Q: Perseverance is a virtue. But are there times it is a mistake to persevere? A: If you are hurting yourself. If somebody is better than you at something and you are jealous and want to keep snapping back at them. When someone is annoying you, they shouldn't persevere with that behavior.

Q:When in your life have you just given up? How do you feel about giving up? A: I have never given up (then, from a classmate: "Well, if you ever did give up how do you think you would feel?") I feel dissappointed when I give up because I can't reach my goal. I couldn't accomplish my goals. I would be very unhappy to give up on things I'm trying to do. I would never have a chance to see some things happen.
Q: Has anything bad really ever happened to you or to someone close to you? How did you or that person cope with the situation? A: What is cope? (after "cope" is explained) When my goldfish died I was sad but I got over it by hugging my mom and thinking happy thoughts. My cousin had perseverance because she broke her arm and didn't give up. She was three years old. She just tried and tried to play hand games with her cousins until she could do it. She never complained.

Q: You have a friend that can't seem to win. She never seems to succeed. She is feeling blue. What can you say to motivate her to not give up? A: You can tell her something nice or give her advice like, "don't give up." You could tell her she's a special person.
Comments we can all live by.

Monday, April 14, 2008

today's staff meeting

We had a late breaking staff meeting this afternoon in the library. One of our very capable, highly respected assistant principals brought our school family together to make the announcement that the other very capable, highly respected, assistant principal is going to become a principal at a nearby elementary school in our district. We couldn't be happier for her even though it means we lose a quietly powerful leader who loves our kids and has a pretty good sense of humor. She had previously been a school principal and it was only a matter of time before that calling had to be served. We were very, very lucky to get her. Timing was right for her to come to our school when we needed an assistant principal. But there will be no crying in baseball or school about losing such a skilled administrator. This happens once in awhile to us.

I don't want to say we're used to it. I don't think anyone wants good people to go. Our last assistant principal also left to be a principal at a school that needed her. She has now spent the last few years helping to make good things happen and her school and staff are growing professionally. Before that we lost our beloved principal so she could be the Director of Elementary Instruction for our district. I guess that's a pretty good job to have. With over 135 elementary schools it's a big job. We can't think of a better person for that position. Sure we could whine, but we all, and I mean all, from teachers to instructional assistants to custodial staff to specialists, to volunteers, understand good citizens leave our school not to leave us but to do good things beyond our walls. Each of those educational leaders have been part of and contributed to positive transformations for staff and school. We're better with each departure in a weird sort of way. We know that and so, it's easy to say, "Good luck," We'll really miss you," "You will do great things in your new school," "Those kids and that staff are so lucky to get you," "Thank you for all you've done to help our students," "Thank you for helping me grow as a teacher," and mean it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

not on the test

Our art teacher just sent this. Timely as we are starting to enter review season for testing in our school. It's a music video by Tom Chapin (2006) with a pretty catchy tune reminding us of some other very important things. Rock on for Arts Education, which by the way, is not on the test.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

the calm over writing workshop - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more
Yesterday for about an hour I quietly watched 17 third graders writing and sharing during workshop. It was our first day back together after a three week break. I didn't have high expectations because we were so out of routine. I was going to be happy if they could find their pencils, notebook, word book, and folder. I was going to be thrilled if they gathered those goods within five minutes. I couldn't even remember what our last workshop before break looked like. I expected to have to make desk to desk stops to support writers getting started. Today's workshop focus: visit your notebooks for ideas and pieces of ideas you started. If something inspires you, plan and write the beginning of this next great piece.

Well. Within 4 minutes, the class had their tools. Within the next few minutes they were writing. Second looks all around to be sure writers were on task. Third looks, ready to nudge relunctant writers. None needed. Seen and Heard: rereading, bookmarking, highlighting, coloring, adding to writing hearts, quiet whispering about an idea for a story series titled "A Visit to...", advice offered student to student in quiet whispers accompanied by a smile, story mapping to plan a story (worked on this before break to deconstruct fiction we were reading), a wonderful lead: "It was a hot, sunny day in July. The waves were shining. It was a perfect beach day," lists of new ideas generated by the old idea, "my birthday," a travel piece begun about Disneyworld (I could have used this a few years ago), calm.

I sensed we would need extra time for sharing. There would be much to talk about. Selfishly I couldn't wait to hear the comments. After 45 minutes we came to the meeting area in a circle. The prompt: "Reflect on your writing today. What made you feel successful or what made you feel pretty good about your writing." A response: "Can we pass?" Mental, unseen sigh with a smile. "Yes, but still take a moment to think about how you were successful today." Seen and Heard during share: story maps detailed with characters, setting, several plots, "I forgot I had some of the ideas I had in my notebook," that great lead about the beach, how the idea for a series of stories came up- "I have so much to write about and I thought a theme would be a good way to do it." "I like the funny stories like Junie B. Jones so I wanted to try something like that (spontaneous mentor texting), "I liked having the time to create my characters today," "Can I read my beginning?", "I passed earlier, can I still share?", "I liked writing today."Me, too.