BulgingButtons

Not bad for a fat girl


Leave a comment

Student Success Strategy

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to participate in a virtual staff training. Here we were, a staff of mostly white, mostly female educators trying to improve our practice. We worked with a trainer who has spent her career researching and applying methods to bring EVERYONE to the table in terms of education. From early childhood to graduate studies there are obstacles that many of our learners and their families face that take them further and further away from receiving the quality education they deserve.

There was a lot to learn, think about, and digest, but for me there was one nugget that stood out. Here it is: Every Decision Made Must Be For The Benefit Of The Students. It seems both obvious and simple, but when I think about day to day practice in schools (not just my own), there’s plenty of work to be done. Think about it. Every decision. Wow. Let me just throw out a few, some from the workshop, and some from my reflection.

  • curriculum (yes, that’s HUGE)
  • class size
  • class make-up
  • teacher hiring
  • teacher preparation
  • lesson plans
  • assessment
  • discipline plans
  • schedules
  • school assemblies
  • morning announcements
  • visitor policies
  • teacher evaluation process
  • building conditions
  • athletics
  • cafeteria set up
  • instructional team decisions
  • furniture placement
  • performances
  • family communication plans
  • rewards and incentives
  • technology use
  • competitions
  • lighting
  • heating/air conditioning
  • wall/hallway displays
  • playground design
  • supervision of unstructured times

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Within each of those individual bullet points there are dozens of factors to take into consideration, but the most important one must always be the best outcome for the student.

The reality is that we know there are things that could and should be better if only we had bigger budgets. Smaller class sizes, more access to high quality instructional materials and equipment, the ability to bring in experts to share their knowledge and love of their field to spark kids’ interests; all of these would be wonderful. However, we must work with what we have and find ways to make it better.

There are dozens of times a day during teaching when I make decisions on the fly. If the class seems to be drifting off, we switch gears or take a break. If the work turned in is poor, I analyze the weakness in my instruction, and have another go at it taking a different approach. If part of a lesson has taken longer than expected, I modify the assignment to reflect the shorter amount of time for students to work on it. These are things that teachers do all the time, and the more experienced they are the better they get at it. But experience can also bring an attitude of “this way works for me, so I’m going with it.” This is where the Benefit Of The Students can come crashing down.

Here’s what I mean. In my teaching I have always read aloud to my students. I have taught kids from preschool to grade six, and I have read to them all. Over time I’ve found many books that I love, and in my heart I would like everyone else to love them as well, but I know better. My reality as a white woman born in the suburbs more than 50 years ago is quite different from that of ANY child born in the last ten years. Now add in family structure, race, gender identity, home language, disability, living conditions, access to adequate food, housing, and healthcare, economic situation, issues of safety in the home, and more, and you see that my reality and my students’ realities may be worlds apart.

What speaks to me, inspires me, motivates me, and enthralls me may do none of those things for my students. If I were to share some of my old favorites, it would become a lesson in drudgery for many of my kids: just a boring old lady reading a boring old book. That is NOT how you share a love of literature. Thank goodness for Jason Reynolds, Meg Medina, Kwame Alexander, Kate DiCamillo, Varian Johnson, Pam Munoz Ryan, Linda Sue Park, Tedd Arnold, Jason Chin, Dusti Bowling, Erin Entrada Kelly, Dav Pilkey, Jeff Kinney, Jacqueline Woodson, Matt de la Pena, Katherine Applegate, Dan Santat, and so many others for giving voice to the children of today. Of course many old favorites have stood the test of time, too.

A mixture of older and newer titles.

While I’m feeling pretty good about the literature I share with me students, I do sometimes make decisions that I know aren’t necessarily in the best interests of the students. Is every lesson as engaging as it could be? No. Time constraints are a big factor on this one. Planning, executing, and assessing these top tier learning opportunities take a good deal of time and effort. Every teacher I know has limited time, and most of us are knocking ourselves out in the effort department, just trying to keep our heads above water.

Here’s the thing: when you know better you can do better. Can I completely reinvent what I teach and the way I teach it? Not completely, no. But can I make adjustments that benefit kids? Absolutely. After all, doing what’s best for kids is why I became a teacher in the first place.


Leave a comment

Where Does the Day Go?

You know the old saying, if you want something done, give it to a busy person? Well, I feel like I’m not busy (since I’m not working this week) but, boy do I feel busy.

How do I get all those things done that I do during the school year? When do I grocery shop and do laundry, let alone go to the dentist, the bank, or, heaven forbid, the cable tv store to get a replacement remote? My non-work pace is slower, to be sure, but I still feel pulled in too many directions. I think it’s me, because really, I don’t have a whole lot I HAVE to do.

Sure, there are many things I SHOULD to do, but are they critical? No.

I should organize my studio (fancy way of saying office/craft room, but I like studio better).

I should rearrange parts of my kitchen that aren’t working well.

I should give my house a deep cleaning.busy-schedule_large.jpg

I should do some gardening.

I should clean out my closet.

I should do some editing of my manuscript.

I should read the professional book I just dropped $40 on.

I should restore my dining room to its former neat and tidy self.

I should exercise. Okay, I really should do this one.

I should plan a menu for the week, so we don’t end up grazing all week.

I should shop around for new car insurance.

I should take a closer look at all of my finanaces and make sure I’m not wasting my money.

I should write more.

So many I shoulds. We all have them. They suck the life out of me if I let them. I need to plan an organized attack on some of them and let others go, at least for now. Deep breaths. Prioritize. I can do this. So can you.


Leave a comment

Never Will I Ever…

spring-cleaning.jpg

I’ve been doing some Spring Cleaning (yes, I think the capital letters are appropriate in this instance) and I’ve learned some things.

First, I learned that I’ve been harboring some items for far too long. Way beyond their useful lifespans. Why? I’m not a hoarder. Am I? No. Most definitely not. However… I do have “collections” of things that I really don’t need to collect. Some of it is purposeful, but some of it has crept up on me over the years. I really didn’t need to keep those stinky old sneakers and that sweater I loved as an undergrad.

I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but I managed to purge my closet of six bags of items. It’s all shoes and clothing, and that makes me somewhat embarrassed, but I’ve gotten quite a few nice new items over the past year, and I feel really good in those clothes. As a result, I don’t wear some of the older items, and frankly some of them were really never quite “me” from the get-go. Six bags later, and I feel relieved. Less stuff. Less clutter. Less to fret over.

So that takes me to the concept of “never will I ever.” Here are some things I’ve decided fit in that category:

NEVER WILL I EVER

  1. Read all of the books that I’ve loaded onto my Kindle and loaded into my bookcases
  2. Sew up all the beautiful fabric that I’ve collected over the years
  3. Complete all the unfinished projects that are collected in bags and boxes
  4. Completely break the clutter habit
  5. Figure out the keys to maintaining healthy habits

My home feels better than it did. Lots of little projects have been accomplished over the past week, thanks to Spring Break, but there are so many others that haven’t even been touched.

Never will I ever run out of things to do, that much is for certain.