Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

And I’m Back…..New School Year, new position August 31, 2015

I am very excited to have the opportunity to focus on curriculum and academic achievement for a new school district during the 2015-2016 school year. While I loved my position of the previous two years, doing curriculum AND special education did not leave much, if any, time for reading, much less reviewing or posting.

I am fired up for A School Leader’s Guide to Excellence: Collaborating Our Way to Better Schools by Carmen Farina and Laura Kotch. Hence the desire to start blogging again!

 

School Leader's guideThis updated edition from 2014 takes a proactive look at how school leaders must work to involve the stakeholders they “lead” if there is to be any positive change. In an era of teaching under attack and decisions, often appearing random and not well thought out by the state legislatures, governors, and department of education, this book is a breathe of fresh air. The power of relationships and consistency is emphasized again and again throughout this professional resource. One of the highlights of my first several years in curriculum was when I got to be the “book fairy” and delivered books with a short book talk to elementary classrooms each month. Farina & Kotch have their own version of “book fairy” for their staff. Each month with a book and an inspiring letter explaining how the book ties into the ongoing work their team is involved in. A great read for a Literacy Coach, principal, superintendent, or other administrator who supports teaching and learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NCTE Reflections and more January 4, 2015

I’ve been wanting to write for what feels like forever, but time keeps running out. This evening, as my children work on their homework, my husband coaches basketball, and the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer are all full and running, I’m choosing to write.

That also means I’m choosing NOT to: read, knit, walk the dogs, answer e-mails, sweep, etc… Doing, not doing, it’s always a choice.

NCTE was a wonderful learning opportunity. The sessions, the learning, the reading, the BOOKS, the former and new professional colleagues I met and talked with, all of it. Such a great way to recharge the professional battery. Exhausting, but so great.

Listening to my professional heroes, such as Lucy CalkinsHearing new (to me) amazing speakers such as:

  • Sonia Nazario

Have you read Enrique’s Journey? No? Go buy it NOW and start reading. The timeliness of the book in relation to the national conversation about immigration could not be more perfect.

  • Marian Wright Edelberg-Children’s Defense Fund

“America, we have work to do. Our children can’t wait any longer!”

“If teaching is not a calling and a mission for you, go do something else!”

“The U.S. Government spends 3x more money per prisoner than per pupil.”

Seeing my graduate school advisor Dr. Evie Freeman and THE amazing Rudine Sims Bishop from the wonderful Children’s Literature program at The Ohio State University.

Sitting next to someone with a name tag from the Ouagadougou–not only knowing where it is, how to pronounce it, but having hosted students in a WAIASL (West African International Activities School League) athletic meet when we lived in Dakar, Senegal. Had colleagues at ISD who used to work at the school he is currently working in Burkina Faso.

Passing a friend from high school-we edited the High School Literary Magazine together-on the escalator bright and early in the morning–he lives on the west coast and is a professor of education

Having the opportunity to talk with current graduate students from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, while waiting in line for an autograph from Christopher Paul Curtis.

 

In the past all the ARCs (Advanced Review Copies) and books that I’ve gotten from NCTE I would try to read and post a review. I would then pass them onto to teachers to have in their classrooms. I LOVE BOOKS! I LOVE READING!

I HAVE AN ADDICTION!

This time, I have set aside four or five that I have a chance of getting read in the next month or two prior to their publishing date. Those I hope to read and blog about. All the others I have separated by age group and have started delivering to classrooms in the very poor county I work in.

Tonight I came home and cried. I told my family about the first classroom’s reaction. There are only two teachers who teach reading at this grade level. This fall when I first walked in with some books that my son had out-grown, I became recognizable to the students. Not just some other adult who is in and out of their classroom and building. The second time when I delivered a bigger bag of books from a Facebook friend’s hand-me-down donation, I became somewhat of a rock star in their minds. As I find books, buy books at Half-price books and auctions, or have books donated to me, I put them in the classrooms of students, the majority of whom have very few books of their own. At the beginning of the year, students from multiple classes were sharing the same book with different bookmarks marking their spots. No one could take the book home since so many students were all wanting to read it.

A couple of the students helped me carry the books in for their classroom and I was instantly surrounded by the students, exclaiming over the books-showing each other, showing their teacher, authors, series or titles they recognized. Once I explained that some of the books were autographed to their class and others were advanced review copies which meant THEY HAD NOT EVEN BEEN PUBLISHED YET and that THEY HAD THEM BEFORE ANYONE ELSE DID IN THE COUNTRY and that THEIR REVIEWS WOULD BE HELPFUL, the excitement went up even another notch!

That’s not what made me teary. A student came up to me and asked “Is there any way you could get Rick Riordan’s autograph? I’ve read all his Percy Jackson books and now am reading….”. He was SO earnest.I turned around and another boy, in a huge over-sized man sweatshirt, slightly dirty, known- but not for his reading habits, just as eagerly asked if I could try to find some graphic novels. He went on to tell me how he loves graphic novels but there aren’t very many in the school and he has read them all already.

Such small things.

So, @ArneDuncan, #imagineif, the money that has been spent of assessments, PARCC, and privatizing public education, was spent on helping children out of poverty.

 

Twitter Thoughts July 29, 2009

Filed under: adult learners,technology,Twitter — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:38 am

Get your twitter mosaic here.

Let’s start with the basics. People who don’t Tweet have no idea what Twitter is or why you would want to use it. I was one of those people a year ago. I remember sitting on the couch having my husband explain it to me one more time and why it might be good for my blog for me to begin to Tweet. I’m sure I looked at him as if he’d grown another arm.

According to Wikipedia Twitter is “a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers…”

Franki at A Year of Reading started the conversation (Check out her Choice Literacy article in the Beyond Gadgets series. Get a subscription to Choice Literacy as a gift to yourself for the new school year.). Her blogging partner Mary Lee followed with her Love/Hate Relationship with Twitter. Myself-I go back and forth between the two.

Things I like~

I can get book review links from bloggers, authors, publishers, and just plain people I don’t know, but have similar interests to me…

I can get cooking advice from Christopher Kimball or Chef Ann any time he/she feels like giving it to me

I can get an instant answer to my “Is my tongue going to fall off?” question

I can get news updates from Columbus

I can win books! (Three times lucky!)

Things I don’t like~

The biggest would be how author’s Richard Peck’s keynote made me feel about how Facebook and Twitter are to paraphrase, “Going to end civilization because we aren’t supposed to stay in touch with our elementary school crush and know what our teen-aged child is doing every moment of their lives!” I think he mentioned something also about it being a form of “peeping Tom”. I’m pretty sure I was sending Tweet updates at the beginning of that speech.

Getting updates on people’s moods

I’m also in complete agreement with Mary Lee about the time sucker it can become. I feel the same way about my $#*& e-mail!

Still trying to explain how it looks like I’m on Facebook all the time (I have my blog and Twitter hooked to my Facebook account).
I tried several Twitter helpers to help me manage all my Tweets and Tweeple, have settled on TweetDeck. Before that, I might have someone send me a direct response and not know about it. It has also helped me categorize so the Tweets from Blogging world people can be separate from all the general Tweets that might not be something I have time or interest in reading.

The biggest challenge for me with Twitter, moderation! Finding the sweet spot between TMI/time sucking and useful up to the minute updates.

The end of my ramble…

 

48 hour challenge has become 4 hours, 8 minutes Challenge June 7, 2009

Filed under: adult learners,award winners,book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:15 pm
Tags: , ,

Disappointing finish to the 48 hour challenge-didn’t have time to visit Columbus blog friends, didn’t have time to read. I have to remind myself that the things I did get done are going to really help sell this house. It’s nice that the kids are finally old enough that my husband and I can work on a project together without having to divide and conquer project/childcare. 

Thread of Grace

I did mange to finish Thread of Grade by Mary Doria Russell (yeah fellow Ohio resident!) and hope to be done with What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Bludnell by the end of the evening.  Interesting that they are both set in the 1940’s-I didn’t set out to pick them for that reason.  The first book was last month’s book club selection and is set during the last years of World War II in Italy and paints a gripping picture of the Italian Resistance in the countryside. When talking to a friend about the book at the pool I described myself as at typical late 1980s product of social studies education-no class every got all the way through world history (high school or college)-the teacher usually ran out of time around the late 1890s. So anything I know about World War I or II has been self-taught through the reading of historical fiction and nonfiction. I’m not sure that it is a very good way to know about such an important piece of world history, but it’s what I have. A Thread of Grace added more information about ad additional part of World War II of which I was previously unaware. 

At the beginning of the book there is a map and a list of characters. I did refer back to the both frequently and wish I had started keeping my own notes, as the names were unfamiliar to me and I would get the characters and locations confused. This book would make a great book for teachers to read and discuss together to help become aware of their own metacognitive processes.  The last line is memorable- “One last awful thought: all the harm he (Hitler) ever did was done for him by other people.” 

What I Saw and How I Lied is the National Book Award Finalist and has been on my TBR pile since pre-Cybils. More about it after I finishWhat I saw

 

TCRWP Coaching Institute Reflections-six weeks later May 5, 2009

What an amazing learning experience the TCRWP Institute was for me in so many ways! 

Almost anyone would benefit from attending a TC Institute as long as you had some background in reading/writing workshop. The only suggestion I would make is that I think they should record their sessions and put videos on-line, similar to Choice Literacy. Then they could have a subscription fee for those who can’t attend, but would like to view the staff development opportunities/professional learning.  

Here is a reflection I wrote a couple weeks about the Institute. State Testing weeks here in Ohio don’t put many people in very happy moods, which is where I was (smack in the middle of the dark place of testing) when I wrote this reflection.  I hope you, the reader will read more of what I’ve written in order to realize that I am not often so gloomy.

Reflection– April 2009

I learned so many positive things through my attendance at the Third Annual Literacy Leaders/Coaches Institute at Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.  I met amazing people from around the country and world. I heard how so many schools are trying to work through similar problems as the district that I come from. I learned about the great work TCRWP is doing in regards to Reading Units of Study. I was able to personally witness the amazing possibilities that exist when a school district the size of NYC puts its resources and energy into a focused endeavor.

I was inspired to set up a “Mega Lab site” of my own for students and teachers. I was motivated to try yet again to open conversations among grade level colleagues about the benefits of having a shared curricular calendar. I’ve been motivated to read and learn more on my own since my return. I can’t get enough reading/learning to fill up all the possibilities about which I wonder.

I’ve also learned how far I still have to come in my own learning about the teaching of reading and writing and how much further we as a district still need to come. I’m trying to focus on the latter as a positive, but it is hard having what you have suspected for years come and hit you full-force in the face with its reality. As we had an opportunity to discuss at TC, this is a lonely position in the vastness of education.  Laurie Pessah and Lucy Calkins would say that we need to start by establishing our “non-negotiables”. That’s easier said than done in a district where teachers have always been allowed to do whatever they want as we are considered an “excellent” district by the state.  How do you counteract the mentality that we are successful just because a test(s) says we are when we don’t examine our practice on a regular basis? How do you convey that “good enough” is not really good enough? We owe it to our students and community to be so much better. Does that mean we have uncaring and unmotivated teachers? Quite the opposite. Our teachers and administrators work incredibly hard and want children to be successful.  It’s not unusual to find teachers in the buildings working all hours of the morning, night, weekends, and summers (and no they don’t get paid for those additional hours.)  But just as a person won’t ever truly learn to speak Spanish fluently if they aren’t made to speak aloud, teachers cannot be certain that we are truly doing what’s best for all students if we are not willing to examine our practices on a regular basis.  As TC stated, “One of the greatest gifts a school district has is the collective intelligence of all their teachers”. Good ideas are not meant to be hoarded. Can I really not accept responsibility for any other students than the ones in my own classroom? Can it be okay for me to have thousands of books for my students to read and enjoy if the teacher next door has one hundred that are not at a level that can be accessed by her students independently?  Yes, I bought them myself, but that is not the point right now.

For too long, some district have treated its teachers like American Idol contestants where some will get voted off and others will go on to win the adoration of the community, the accolades of their principal, and parents will wrestle with other parents wanting their students placed in one or two certain classrooms within a grade level. One of the greatest things that has come out of my participation with The Literacy Connection and Teachers College Reading and Writing Project workshops is the common conversations colleagues (both locally and nationally) and I can then have about raising the level of all students’ learning.  Our district has begun making those baby steps to being collegial colleagues

                   Definition of Collegial:

                             Collegiality is the relationship between colleagues. Colleagues are those explicitly united in a common purpose and respecting each                                          other’s abilities to work toward that purpose. Thus, the word collegiality can connote respect for another’s commitment to the common                                           purpose and ability to work toward it.

                                     Source Wikipedia

I see one of my greatest tasks to come is to continue the work to try to help district teachers, “explicitly unite in a common purpose and respect each other’s abilities to work toward that purpose”. When I am feeling positive, I realize that it is one drop of water at a time that made the Grand Canyon. Each drop towards reform I can make is progress. Some days my personal perfectionism and sense of obligation to our community make the progress of growing a Grand Canyon remarkably frustrating.  I can only continue to be the drips, hoping that the erosion of one layer will cause a landslide of progress underneath.  


 

Professional Learning Focus: Reading and Writing. I Just Can’t Get Enough April 5, 2009

Having had the opportunity to hear Carl Anderson speak about conferring and assessing young writers yesterday just 2 weeks after attending a Lucy Calkins Literacy Institute, I am in professional learning and reflection rapture.

A blogging friend ran into me yesterday at the workshop and remarked, “You’re at everything”.

While I don’t attend “everything”, I would agree with her that I do attend everything that I possibly can that is professionally valuable.  I do draw the line and know that I can’t focus on everything. For instance, several years ago when I had first started using Lucy Calkins Units of Study, my principal got a little annoyed with me when I refused to attend a workshop on 6 + 1 Traits of Writing.  He could not understand why I would prefer (and insist) on going to a workshop about new literature at the Columbus Public Library when I had the opportunity to hear a presenter from Texas in my own school.

“My brain can’t handle any different information at this point. It is really hard work getting Units of Study up and running and I can’t afford any distractions from it if I am going to give it the attention it needs to be successful.”  I tried to explain to him.

I even went so far as encouraging him to cancel the speaker. After all, we were all supposed to be working within the parameters of Calkins Writing Workshop, and I truly believed that all the session with that Texan would do would get people excited about something that they really shouldn’t be doing that year and frustrated that they couldn’t go try out what they had just sat through a whole day session about. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. 

I also have learned that I have to go out and find what I am looking for in the area of professional development. Being a teacher in the community I live in, has so many positives, I can’t even begin to name them. Unfortunately on-site professional development is not one of them.

Bigger districts have had the opportunity to bring in renowned experts to talk and work with their teachers for years and years.

“What!? Ralph Fletcher was in your room teaching writing workshop!” I would drool hearing this year after year while talking to teaching friends at the Dublin Literacy Conference.

I, on the other hand, have had the opportunity to read their books and try things out with a couple of like-minded individuals.  Really good, but not in the same league. Rec league basketball instead of the NBAs.

Fortunately, it has gotten easier over the years with opportunities such as the fifth annual Lakota Literacy VIEW , The Literacy Connection, as well as the annual Dublin Literacy Conference, on-line resources such as Choice Literacy, blogs (see my sidebar for my favorites) such as Two Writing Teachers or Reading Zone and nings with like-minded teachers.  For now, I am still a learner and need to soak in everything I can in order to best help the teachers and students I work with. My excitement over the possibilities leaves me recharged and ready to learn more!

 

Group Dynamics-part of ongoing reflection March 30, 2009

Filed under: adult learners,Calkins,professional development — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:33 pm

Several of the Staff Developers at Teachers College, (including Lucy Calkins herself) referenced on several occasion a NPR Podcast from This American Life titled “Ruining it for the Rest of Us”. The first segment was about whether a Bad Apple could ruin a group?
The Experiment included three different “bad apples” types. The:
Jerk (“Are you kidding me?” “Do you have research to prove that?”)
Slacker-does less than they can (lean back in chair, text messaging or e-mailing friends)
Depressive/Pessimist (head down, “That will never work,”)

TC brought the podcast up within the context of group dynamics. How to deal with that ‘bad apple’ ?
The research study wondered if one bad apple could spoil the whole bunch in terms of group productivity. The answer was “Yes,” but not only did the group performs 30-40% worse than the control groups but it was found that the “bad apple” also effected how the other people in group started acting and treating each other. The researcher found that other group members started showing the ‘bad apple’s’ behavior.

An interesting podcast and something worth thinking about-are you a bad apple? Or can you immediately think of a “bad apple” group experience you have had?