Monday, September 23, 2013

Slice of Life - Mentoring 101

Last week I received a book from a friend titled Mentoring 101 by John C. Maxwell.

My friend is a pastor at one of our churches.  His children attend our school, and his wife teaches here.  He actually leads a bible study and prayer group with a small group of teachers here at school.  I know - I hear some of you gasping right now.

We meet before our school day officially begins.  The power of prayer for our students and colleagues, diving into the Word of God, his inspirational text messages, and focusing on these throughout our day is amazing.  It is one of the highlights of our week.

I haven't read past the preface and first chapter of the book, but I think this book has the potential to be inspiring.   I have been placed in a couple of new leadership positions this year, and with that comes opportunity and professional growth, but also many new challenges.  Although I love the challenge, it is harder to find the time to do the things that I love...reading and writing.

A line in the preface says "If you want to grow and become the best person you can be, you've got to be intentional about it."  This is still a work in progress in many areas of my life.  My intentionality right now is not including the reading and writing that I so enjoy and need in order to become a better teacher.  I miss that, and I am searching for some balance.

Also in the preface, the author says " is busy and complex.  Most people run out of day long before their to-do list is done."

My to-do list included a longer slice but....I have run out of day!  Seems to be a pattern lately.

I have read more of this little gem of a book since I first posted this.  Check back this week for more inspirational tidbits.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Slice of Life - Reflections

Since I started writing this summer, I have found that I do more reflecting than I have ever done before. I have always thought about how lessons and days went and how I could I change things, but now it is different.  Maybe it's because I am taking the time to actually write things down instead of just "thinking" about things.

Last week was just an all-round great week, so I decided to write a little bit about what happened in Room 19B.

1.  We received our standardized test results for last year, and 100% of the students I had all year passed!  I was thrilled to say the least.  They worked really hard to become better readers in an environment which was heavily focused on assessing.  Not something I like, but today's reality.

2.  We started our Independent Work Time and I started small groups and conferences.  This went exceptionally well.  I have modeled, and we have practiced and practiced, but it is so satisfying to see it all come together.  We even had an unexpected visitor and our room was buzzing with reading work.  I was very proud of my kids.

3.  We were reading The War with Grandpa, and the kids were begging me to read more.  I love it when that happens!  This an older book, but the kids love the story.  I always read it when we first start story elements because it has such great events in the rising action and climax.  If you haven't read this book, you might want to see if you can find a copy.

4.  I placed an order for the following books:  Counting by 7's, Paperboy, Every Day After, and The Center of Everything.  I can't wait to get started on these new books.  I am starting a Mock Newbery Club for my high ability 4th graders, and these are some of the ones I have been hearing about.  If any of you have read these, I would be happy to hear what you have to say about these titles.


5.  My students posted their first post on Kidblog.  I had shown them my blog when school first started and they were all excited to become "published writers."  I even had a couple of students go online at home and create a post and comment on students' writing.  I think this will be fun!

6.  The last thing and probably the best thing that happened last week was that we found out they have decided to make our part-time teacher full-time.  Today I will go from 36 students in the afternoon to 23 all day.  We all know the importance of building relationships with our students.  It was simply impossible to that effectively with 36 students.  Today will be like another first day of school and I can't wait to meet my class....AGAIN!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Slice of LIfe - Better than Yesterday

Last week on Portable Teacher, Lea Ann wrote a post about a comparison of running and creating curriculum calendars.  Her running trainer from Camp Gladiator sent her a photo with a quote:  "It's not about being the best.  It's about being better than you were yesterday.

This quote came to life several times this past week.

We received DIBELS scores which of course reminded my of the post from Two Years and Finishing Strong.  When I think about the kids with the "red dots,"  I know I need to remind them that it is not about being the best reader in our classroom, but about being better than you were yesterday.  So many of them are aware that they struggle with reading, but become embarrassed because of the books they are reading or because they go to the resource room. They just want to be like the others who are reading at grade level.  But it is about the small gains they make from reading every day and working hard to improve, not about being the best.

I am a mentor teacher to a new teacher in our grade level.  He was all excited today because he was going to start his small groups in reading.  He had everything ready to go - plans made, groups formed, and books chosen,
                              ...and things
                                     ...did not go

By the end of the day he was very disappointed, exhausted, and overwhelmed.

He told me

  • they got started late because of our school morning meeting
  • things took longer than he expected
  • the kids didn't stay focused on the task at hand
  • they were late for lunch
  • there were behavior problems

I told him, welcome to teaching, where things don't always go as planned.  I tried to use this quote as advice to make him see that this was just the first day.  It wasn't about being the best day, but learning from what went wrong, and making sure that tomorrow was better.

Last night we received our state standardized test results.  If you live in Indiana, then your know what a fiasco this has been.  Our school's results, as well as my own, were quite good.  But being the self-critic that I am, I looked at the fifth grade math scores and compared his to mine.  A conversation I had with my principal last year about this teacher immediately came to mind.  The gist was that "He gets results."

In my mind I added ..."but you don't."  That self-doubt came bubbling up and poured out today.  I questioned what and how I did things last year.  How could I have done things differently to get better results?

I had to give myself the advice I have been giving others...

It's not about being the best, but about being better today than yesterday.

So, tomorrow I will continue to build relationships with students and colleagues, work hard, have a positive attitude, and continue to make today better than yesterday.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Slice of Life - My First Featured Student Reader

In my last slice, I wrote how my reading heart was smiling.  The second day of school, I "caught" a student reading a book tucked inside her desk while I was giving a spelling inventory.  I knew she was a  girl after my own heart!  Today I have chosen her to be my first Featured Student Reader.  Thank you Ramona for the inspiration and for sharing your idea.

Jenna is a student in my fourth grade classroom and shares my passion for reading.  She began reading Harry Potter as a third grader!  As I was typing Jenna's answers, I decided it would be fun to answer the questions myself.  So, here is a peek into our reading hearts.

1.  What are some of your favorite books?  Why are they your favorite?  Some of my favorite books are Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Candy Makers, Runaway Twin, and Ella Enchanted.  They are some of my favorite books because they all tell an amazing story.  All the stories are different and I would recommend them to anyone.

I have read so many books that it is difficult to list list would be too long.  But, my list would definitely include:  Bridge to Terabithia, The War with Grandpa, Wonder, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and my all-time favorite adult book is The Thornbirds.  I am an emotional reader.  I love books that tug at my heart and even make me cry.  

2.  What makes you choose a book?  I choose a book because the cover and the back look interesting.  Sometimes I close my eyes and pick a book and end up loving it!

I prefer realistic fiction, and I like to read books that my friends or students recommend.  Reading other teachers' blogs has given me enough book ideas to last a long time!

3.  Where do you like to read?  I like to read in a quiet place with my pillows and blankets.  In my room I have a pink chair.  It's very comfy and it's my favorite place to read.

I love to read by the pool in the summer time.  I also read every night in bed before I go to sleep.  It is a way for me to unwind.  (Don't tell my students, but I also love to read in the bathtub!)

4.  What do you remember about learning to read?  I remember the popcorn words we had to know how to read because you couldn't sound them out.  Some of the ones I remember were:  I, have, were, and how.

Although it was almost 45 years ago, I remember being able to read the word "the" and being able to find that word in books.  I also remember learning how to read with the Dick and Jane books.

5.  If there was one author you could meet, who would it be?  If I could meet any author, it would probably be Peg Kehret.  My favorite story by her is Runaway Twin.  I would choose her because I love her books!!!  

An author of adult fiction I would like to meet would be Karen Kingsbury.  Again, her books make me cry and I am amazed at how God has used her writing to inspire so many people.  J. K. Rowling would be a children's author I would like to meet.  But, not because I like Harry Potter (fantasy is NOT my favorite genre!).  I think her story of how she became a writer is very interesting and I would love to sit down and have her tell me about it.

6.  If you had a friend that didn't like to read, what would you tell them?  How would you get them to start reading?  If I had a friend who didn't like to read, I would tell them that no matter what you like, there's a book for you.  I would get them to start reading again.  I would find a book that has their "likes" in it.  I would give it to them and hope they like it.  If not, I would find different books and try over and over until I find the right one.

My answer is very similar to Jenna's.  I love sharing books with others and the more we do that, the greater chance we have of turning someone on to reading.

7.  Is there someone or something that inspired your love of reading?  I think my teachers helped me love reading even more.  They encouraged me to try my hardest at reading, and I feel like they helped me a lot.

I am a third generational reader.  My mother and my grandmother are both voracious readers.  I remember when I was a little girl, going to the library on Saturdays with my mom.  We would go home, fix popcorn and read our new books together.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Jenna.  I look forward to sharing books with her this year.

Happy Reading!