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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You know it’s been too long August 9, 2014

Filed under: book clubs,reluctant readers,school,Teachers,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:51 am
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when you can’t figure out how to post on your blog

you can’t remember the title of the last children or YA book you’ve read

you’ve only been to your favorite children’s bookstore once in 6 months

but…

Somehow I find a reference

to a couple of women

who were written about in Reading Today

and summarized on Marshall Memo

who have a blog

and the most awesome ideas ever!
and now I want to be just like them

which means…

I need to come out of the world of district administration for at least a little while each week

and read more books

and talk to more kids

and get them as excited about reading as I am reading about their brilliant ideas.

Check out Crazy Reading Ladies at their blog or on Twitter!

 

 

Dylan Wiliam’s post on Incentive Pay–interesting reading December 4, 2011

Filed under: Teachers — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:02 pm
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Incentive pay for teachers—why it’s a really dumb idea that needs to be abandoned now The idea that paying teachers bonuses if their students do well on tests has been gathering momentum recently, which is alarming because it is an idea that will cost a lot of money to implement, cannot be done fairly, doesn’t work, and has the potential to lower student achievement. First, despite the claims of the value-added proponents, we cannot divide up increases in student learning and allocate them to individual teachers. As Jesse Rothstein’s work shows, good teachers benefit their students for at least two years after they have stopped teaching them, and conversely, the total harm caused by bad teachers takes years to materialize. Second, we cannot use classroom observations to work out who the good teachers are either. While the work of the Gates’ Measures of Effective Teaching program, and the work of Consortium on Chicago School Research, has begun to tease out what teacher behaviors are associated with increased student progress, they are still accounting for less than 20% of teacher quality. So if we pay bonuses to teachers who rate highly on one of their observation protocols, we do know that, on average, the bonuses will go to teachers who are more productive, but the differences are small. And then there is a real danger that teachers who are currently highly effective in ways that are not represented in the framework will become less effective because of the incentive to ape the protocol in order to get the bonus. Third, a recent study showed that even $15k incentives weren’t enough to raise students’ scores, which suggests that teacher effort is not the problem. And from what we know about motivation (see Daniel Pink’s book “Drive”), performance-contingent rewards tend to lower performance on high-complexity high-creativity tasks. So what should we do? Pay teachers fairly, and let them get on with it. Create an expectation that every teacher should improve their classroom practice every year, not because they’re not good enough but because they could be even better. And create support systems that support each teacher in lifelong improvement.

 

I Wonder… A lot… Do you? October 8, 2011

Filed under: school,Teachers — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:51 am
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I wonder about things alot. Not like Wonderopolis wondering (which I think is a fabulous site), but other big life issues and educational issues.

I’ve always considered myself settled in my career and hometown. I grew up here. My husband grew up here. Both our families are still here. I’ve been working in my childhood school district for nineteen years. I love it here.

In Ohio (and I think it’s same to say in America), once you are a teacher who has taught more than four or five years, it is typically very difficult to get a job in another district because you are “too expensive”. It’s not unusual for districts to have an “unofficial” cap on hiring anyone with more than three years of experience unless it is harder to fill area (not so much of an abundance of let’s say librarians, or high school science teachers or music teachers). So even if I didn’t love it, live here, etc., going to a different district was really never an option (as a teacher).

Until…

I had a realization this summer.

Just because I love it here, doesn’t mean that I can’t love it somewhere else.

What if…

I opened the cover of the book of somewhere else???

What if…

 

Welcome Spring March 20, 2010

For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you know I’ve been silent for a while. Thanks to those who didn’t give up, but kept coming back to see if I was talking yet.

I moved in mid-January (which has been wonderful), had four ‘extra’ snow days to unpack, but the rest has been hard.It’s not even been “my” hardness that has been hard, but our small town has been suffering through immense sadness.

I’ve spent many days plotting a trip to TCRWP for their March Reunion weekend. I figured if a shot of Jerry Spinelli, Lucy Calkins, Katherine Bomer, Alfred Tatum, and Jim Trelease mixed with the TC energy couldn’t fix my funk, I might need to seek professional help! Unfortunately (or fortunately from my husband’s point of view), I could not find anyone who thought NYC was ‘just a road trip’ from Columbus.

If I was there I’d be getting ready to walk into Riverside Church to hear Jerry Spinelli’s ‘Failure, Fried Chicken, Fiction’ keynote. I would then be trying to decide if I was going to hear Mary Enrenworth’s talk on “Reading Historical Fiction: The Project’s Latest Thinking on the Intersection Between Deep Comprehension, Interpretation, and Book Clubs” or Jen Serravallo’s “Reading Conferring and Small Group Work in a Classroom of Accountability”. I would then skip off to see Jerry Maraia, who was my TC staff developer last summer, talk, “My Students Just Retell! Getting Readers to Think Deeply About Their Books by Supporting Inference and Synthesis”. After lunch I would have been hard pressed to pick between Tiffany Nealy’s “Unit of Study on Mystery Book Clubs”, “The Intersection of RtI and Reading Workshop” (not because it makes my heart go pitty-pat, but because I have to think, talk, and advocate about the topic endlessly, or “Grammar Instruction on the Go! Creating Demonstrations Sketchbooks to Support Small Group Instruction in Writing”. (I will admit that I just flipped over to Expedia to see if a magical plane ticket for cheap had just appeared. I know I am nutty, but I’m a good nut). I will now make myself stop looking at the Workshop Schedule.

I haven’t been able to make myself read and finish a book. I’ve started several, but after a chapter I’ve put them down. Today, I vow that I will pick one up and finish it. It’s not good for me not to read.

Here’s the positive I’m going to focus on-

  • It’s the first day of Spring!
  • My kids and hubby are healthy and happy!
  • Not only am I going to attend a week of the July Summer Reading Institute, but I will have a teacher from the elementary school there as well! The August Reading Institute has another elementary teacher and two intermediate teachers! We have two on wait list for July! This is huge for us!
  • I have a huge TBR pile!
  • Four days until spring break!
  • I love walking two blocks to get a coffee, an ice cream cone, or a drink!
 

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.  


 

Earth Day books and read-alouds April 20, 2009

Looking for an Earth Day read-aloud? Here are a couple of my favorites!

h_earthday_oAll ages: Read alouds

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (How can you go wrong with Dr. Seuss???) There is even an old video of the book, but you should read the book!

Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-Haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle by51ju4huwnl_sl160_aa115_ David Elliott (a great chapter book that is a blast to read aloud and has a wonderful environmental theme. My students begged for this book every day-probably grades 3-6)

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry (classic!)

10things10 Things I Can Do To Help My World by Melanie Walsh (great for everyone-kids of all ages love the flaps! Adults of all ages will love the message!)

Old Turtle by Douglas Wood (beautiful fable, but definitely religious overtones)

The Earth and I by Frank Asch (Moonbear author-beautiful illustrations-good message for younger kids)

 

Our Big Home by Linda Glaser

Children of the Earth by Schim Schimmel

Our Big Home: A Poem by Linda Glaser

 

There is also a great little short story book just released in March called Recycle This Book: 100 Top Children’s Authors Tell You How to Go Green Edited by Dan Gutman. Each story is one to three pages. My fourth grader and first grader  love it! recycle-this-book