Friday, January 30, 2015

All About That "Base"

It's all about that "base".........baseline data, that is. :)

If you don't know where your students came from, it's hard to know what direction they are headed.

Data words in our number world
What do our students know? Where do we want them to be? Are they on track for meeting these goals? Are they making growth?

Today was "Data Day" in our district. It was a professional inservice day of really diving into all kinds of data (primarily reading and math) to better understand where our students came from, what they are currently able to do, and what we need to focus on to help them reach their goals. It was interesting to see the harsh reality of our weaknesses as well as celebrate the successes that we sometimes overlook as we are focused on the next thing coming our way.

Although the loads of numbers, graphs, and comparisons tend to get overwhelming at times, it's important to use data to help us make decisions about teaching and learning.

It's also important to remember that students are not just a number,
a dot on a chart, or a color on a data scale.

They are each unique individuals, placed in our classrooms to learn and grow.

They are daughters, sons, grandchildren, classmates, and friends.

They are each deserving of our best, no matter their background, ability, or interest.

They are the difference, and that's just the "base" of what it is all about.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

She's moving away.

You're moving?


Not after all the time, effort, and attention that I have spent.

Trying to help you break out of your shell.

Trying to help you fit in.

Trying to help you read.

Trying to help you succeed.

Now what?

Where will you go? Will they care? Will they know how I we all tried to help you?

A seed has been planted, but now the winds blow and take you away with them.

On your next journey may you go........

What happens when it seems all of your effort, time, and attention to a student's needs seems to disappear as quickly as a puddle of water on a hot day?

This is how I felt when "Susie" moved away. All year I had tried to help her, emotionally and academically. All year many of us had tried to help her fit in and come out of the shy shell she was in with hopes of helping her gain confidence, strengthen friendships, and smile more. I had even chosen her as my student to work with on an intensive basis during my Master's Degree work which meant we spent even more time together talking, reading, and working on the skills I thought would help her become a better reader and more confident student. All of the relationships, extra work, interventions, and plans for the next year were suddenly put to a halt.

She was moving away.

Far, far away.

And it made me sad.

Was I sad for her, or for me? Probably both. Even after years have passed, I still wonder about "Susie" and what she is doing now.  Has she grown? Does she love her new school? Have her teachers taken her under her wing -- helped her, hugged her, and allowed her to find herself? Does she remember me? Does she remember any of us that took the time to care so much?

Even if I had known earlier that "Susie's" move at the end of the year would leave me feeling that all of the time, effort, and attention was disappearing along with her, I would have still tried.

Because I care.

And I believe that you have to.....

......and know that what you do matters.

You never know what the next day may bring.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Each Day is New

"Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?" ~ L.M. Montgomery

Students need to know that no one is perfect, their mistakes are always learning opportunities, and each day is new.

It's a simple thought, but so often overlooked.

A negative experience, conversation, or perception from one day can affect a student's next day, if we let it. That is why it is so important to build connections, positive relationships, and a growth mindset. Learning is not set in stone, and neither is our classroom culture. It is like any other relationship - it takes effort, positive attention, and most importantly ~ time.

Des Moines, IA sunrise 1/18/15
While building a positive culture takes effort, it's the small things that often make the biggest difference. Here are a few things a teacher can do to make a positive difference for students:

Greet students with a smile and welcome them.

Ask them about their activities.

Let them know the exciting things they will do and learn today.

Listen. Truly listen to what they are telling you.

Allow second chances, and more.

Find out what makes each student unique.

Take time to celebrate success.

Keep things fresh and try new ideas.

Just as the sun rises each morning, allow your students to know that each day is a new opportunity for a positive light to shine in your classroom.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

No One is Perfect

perfect ~ having no mistakes or flaws; completely correct or accurate; being entirely without fault or defect; corresponding to an ideal standard.

Perfectionism is something I have struggled with, starting back when I was in school and continuing into my adulthood. I want things to be right. I don't want to make mistakes. I don't want others to find fault in me.

Unfortunately, perfectionism is something that has held me back from the freedom of just being ME.

All the time I spent trying to make things perfect and worrying about things that probably didn't matter in the first place has robbed me of taking delight in what I do well and how my unique qualities are what should be celebrated, not my accomplished (perceived perfect) tasks.

Letting go of perfectionist tendencies is hard. Having children of my own, I want to help them learn that being perfect and being 100% correct is not always what's important. Instead, being responsible, kind, and special are the things I wish for my own children. 

I wish the same for my students.

What would happen if growth, attempts, perseverance, and uniqueness were celebrated even more than final grades and high-stakes assessments? Would that allow us to help students achieve a more positive mindset when it comes to their work and their ability to perform tasks they haven't tried before?

Embracing the idea that you don't have to be perfect is the first step in allowing yourself to take risks and grow without regrets about the process in becoming the best you can be!

Here's one example of how I have tried to help my students learn without the worry of being 100% perfect. This fall, my class and the other fourth grade classes at our school worked on a project with the CritterKin team of Jena Ball and Marty Keltz while reading one of Jena's books, Lead with Your Heart. The students not only read the story, but participated in lessons to draw, write, and collaborate with the local Animal Rescue League while most importantly learning lessons of kindness. In our culminating activity, the students created a newspaper entitled "The Des Moines Doggy Daily." The students were so excited to see all their efforts come together and be able to present their work to their schoolmates, families, and the ARL Through these activities, my students were able to use their skills, whether it was drawing, interviewing, writing. reading, or reviewing to take part in the overall success of the project. 

The Not Perfect Hat Club is a new project of the CritterKin team. Their new book is "under construction" and will be one to celebrate how kids are perfectly "not perfect" with their own unique gifts and talents. You can read more about it hereand here.

Embracing the notion that being not perfect is actually a perfectly wonderful way to learn and live, and I wish I would have realized that earlier in life!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My #oneword for 2015

It's a new year.
A fresh beginning.
A chance to change.
An opportunity to renew.

About this time of year is when many people feel.....
...anticipation for what is to come and the dreams still need to be reached.
...regret for things that weren't accomplished or fulfilled the way they were imagined.
...pressure to make resolutions as the turn of the New Year appears to be a point for starting over.

Recently I've read many posts on Twitter with the #oneword or #oneword2015 hashtags with tweets about leaving New Year's resolutions behind in favor of choosing a word to focus on for the year.

It's a new encounter.
A word to guide.
A word to ponder.
An inspiring phrase.

Why one word?

This tweet from Jon Gordon sums it up for me:

I did not pick a word for 2014, but if I had, it would have been "inspire." In fact, it was a word I was considering for my #oneword for 2015. The word, "inspire" was even the topic of my very first blog post last May. It was also the words engraved on my new necklace and the metal wall hanging my husband bought me for Christmas. It sums up the mission I had in 2014 ~ to inspire my students and be inspired by others to be the best I could be.

So now as I wake up to a new year and a new outlook, I can carefully consider a word to guide me and inspire me through what will be, hopefully, an amazing 2015 year.


I can with all honesty say that I thought this one through for many days. And I acknowledge that without God, the ultimate Creator, I cannot create anything to happen that is not meant to be.  But I do believe this word was placed on my heart because of these things I know that He can create in my life~

      my career, family, relationships, use of time, and focus of energy.

               ...for my students, myself, and my family.

      draw from many sources and to radiate to others.

      devote to my faith, family, and friends.

               ...for better health and mindset.

      hold me accountable and to connect me to those that will help me grow.
     both the little things and the big things that are obstacles every day.

As I make my way through the next year, my hope is to focus on how new ideas, opportunities, and changes can create the best of myself to shine through.

What is your #oneword to guide you this year? How will you keep that in focus? How will you let that inspire you instead of overpower you?

For me, it starts with visibility ~
~ finding verses, quotes, and images to keep the word in my mind and heart. 
~ putting this word where I will see it often (my phone, mirror, desk, car, profile, blog...)

Here's to celebrating a New Year that will be created one moment at a time.