Best Book I Have Not Read

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

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.  


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Helping children or friends with grief September 11, 2008

Filed under: books,on-line resources,read alouds — bestbookihavenotread @ 1:06 am
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Griefwatch has a website that goes along with the book Tear Soup. It is definitely worth checking out. A video for Tear Soup was also just released. 

http://www.griefwatch.com/tearsoup/youarethecook.htm

 

Writing Inservice continued September 4, 2008

 Early Release Meeting 

The goal of this early release meeting is to determine the *** Classroom teachers’ definition of writing at the elementary level and to identify strengths and weaknesses within the Reading Streets program. My role as Curriculum Coordinator will help to provide support for staff in this area over the Early Release meetings this year. Specifically, I focused our discussion on writing-our own and the students.   

AGENDA:

1.     pick up snack and water

2.    select journal, folder, and pen (pretty new things along with snacks are good for starting teachers off feeling happy!)

3.    staff divided in cross-grade level tables (check chart for table assignment)

4.    small group definition of writing (large group share)

5.    strengths and weaknesses of current writing program (large group share)

6.    My Life in Seven Stories-If you could choose only 7 stories that define/reflect who you are and your life, what would a list of those stories be?

7.    Write one of your stories

8.    Discuss 6 + 1 Traits and how we will revisit our own stories to focus on one of the traits or a revision strategy each session

9.    Voluntary interest groups sign-ups for different book studies (Daily Five and Lucy Calkins Units of Study for Primary Writing)

10.                       Door Prizes

 

Book Study groups:

Units of Study for Primary Writing by Lucy Calkins

Daily Five: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades

by “the Sisters”  

great resource and very readable-like having a conversation with a friend. They also have a free and subscription website.

http://www.the2sisters.com/the_daily_5.htm

 

Peer Editing and On-line Resources August 18, 2008

Filed under: on-line resources,school — bestbookihavenotread @ 10:54 am
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When I was preparing for some grade level meetings for the next two days I was looking for a specific web resource and I was reminded that not all teachers know about a great on-line resource called the Ohio Resource Center (ORC). Even if you are not from Ohio, this on-line data bank is very useful, as many state standards are similar.  I pasted their general information below. Anyone can surf, but you can also set up a free account and bookmark the web resources that you like so you don’t have to go looking for them later.

Ohio has a wonderful ORC provides links to peer-reviewed instructional resources that have been identified by a panel of Ohio educators as exemplifying best or promising practice. Available resources also include content and professional resources as well as assessment and general education resources that will support the work of preK–12 classroom teachers and higher education faculty members. The resources are correlated with Ohio’s academic content standards and with applicable national content standards.

One resource ORC has listed that I really like is a ReadWriteThink lesson http://readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=786 which is a lesson on peer editing. Check is out!