Best Book I Have Not Read

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

I find a school visit to be one of the most powerful professional development tool October 17, 2009

We are taking the following books to Public School 41 when we go for our school visit next Friday. A small thank you token to the teachers, administrators, and staff…We are going to take 6 copies of each so teachers whose classrooms we visit feel appreciated.

Jackie robinsonTesting the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson by Sharon Robinson & Kadir Nelson

Old Bear by Kevin Henkes only in dreams

Only in Dreams: A Bedtime Story by Paul Frank

old bear

We are also taking along copies of Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Interesting Items About their school:

  • There is a School District Parent Coordinator whose job is to facilitate communication at the front-line between parents, teachers, and staff
  • There is an Extended Day option for students who need extra instructional support in a small group setting that can be mandated or voluntary from 8:00-8:50 Monday-Thursday
  • Reading Recovery is a reading intervention program used with First Graders
  • 2 times a month there are Family Mornings-families are then invited to stay after drop-off to observe literacy and math
  • Cluster classes are part of regular classroom instruction throughout the school year and include: Science, Physical Education, Art, Music, Computer, Theater and Movement.
  • Choice is an additional double period cluster class chosen by the students in 4th & 5th Grade. Past offerings have included Expression Art, Computer, Violin, Physical Education, Chess, Art, Science, Math Enrichment, Music and Chorus.
  • There are two part-time literacy staff developers  and one full-time math staff developer assigned to the building. In addition they have a TCRWP Staff Developer who comes in and leads classroom lab sites in reading and writing as well as study groups
  • Collaborative Team Teaching Class (CTT) -Their CTT class is a model for the entire New York City school system. At PS41 each grade has one CTT class, which has one full time general education teacher and one full time special education teacher.
    • In the CTT classes, the ratio is approximately 60% general education students and 40% special education students. Our inclusion classes provide the same curriculum as our other classes, with the added benefit of a higher staffing ratio and a great deal of support.
    • The Committee for Special Education (CSE) places the children who are on the special education side of the CTT class. The school administration places the children on the general education side of the CTT class. Children on the general education side are “model” students — they must model excellent behavioral and learning habits — and cannot be receiving any special services themselves to be in a CTT class.
 

16th Annual July Institute on Teaching Reading at TCRWP June 16, 2009

Here’s the highlights of yesterday’s mail–

Section Assignment: 4B

8:00 Registration Lerner Hall (on Columbia University’s Main Campus)

9:00 Keynote

10:00-11:50 Grades 3-8 Large Group-Lucy Calkins

11:50 Lunch

12:50-2:50 Small Group-leader Tiffany Nealy

2:55 Closings

We’ll receive ‘The Trail Guide’ (There was one of these for the Reunion Weekend-VERY HELPFUL to get yourself around) at registration, need name tag for all .

We’ll also receive a copy of The Art of Teaching Reading by Lucy Calkins, which we can turn in with a voucher for a different professional book if we already have it. I think it is one of the best books out there, and was rereading parts this morning. I’ll probably see what the other choices are, but probably keep it to use as a door prize for one of the back to school teacher meetings. If you are a K-8 teacher and you have not read the book, get yourself a used copy off Amazon for $24.00 (instead of $47 at the college bookstore) and start reading this summer! You’ll be so glad you did. 

For July’s Institute, I am driving from Ohio with my friend (the one whose very kind parents put me up for the last Institute) and her three young children. It should be a 11 1/2 hour drive, but seeing how it is a holiday weekend, that is probably  a low guess. I’m counting on children’s “Are we there yet questions?” not bothering me as much when they aren’t my own children (crossing my fingers!) Then the next day we’ll see how good my memory is from spring when I got myself from her parents house to Columbia everyday by train, subway and cab. Once there, I will stay in campus housing, which should bring back some fun memories! Seeing how summer is just starting this week for me, it seems a long way away. In reality, it is 19 days away. My husband is in denial and keeps asking, “When are you going to be gone?” and is sure the house will sell, we’ll have to move, and the world will spin out of orbit during the week I am gone. I guess I should take that as a compliment.

 

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.  


 

Dublin Literacy Conference 2009 February 21, 2009

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The “Sisters”

Johanna Hurwitzimg_1732

Barbara O’Connor

Blogger Friends

Even though the day started early (with great coffee) and is just ending (with more coffee), it was filled with good learning and good friends from work and Blogging!

 

P.S. for James Preller-See Bill was there!