Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Simplistic View (of cold and ice)...week 8

Mother Nature played havoc on my plan this week!  Subzero temps and 7 inches of snow meant only
two days of school this week!  So I thought about carrying my focus into next week but I think I am going to put my monitoring feedback to students on delay until after next week.

This week our district will be administering the PARCC assessments for the first time.  I think my focus this week is going to be: Commit to confidence.

With all of the educational drama in our state...ever changing legislation about what is or is not required in the world of assessments, social media thoughts about opting in or opting out of PARCC, questions that arrive about common core, the cry from the public and teachers to stop over testing our students, the anxiety of administering and preparing for the unknown, and the focus on what is the purpose of public education...I am committing this week to confidence since I know this experience will not change (at least for this year:).

Confidence that best practices will prevail.

Confidence that as teachers we have done the work necessary to prepare our students for any task put before them.

Confidence that the daily successes we share will triumph.

Confidence in my students...that they will try their best and that is all we can ask.

Confidence that my students will take my lead.  No matter how I feel personally about Common Core and PARCC, that my students will know how I feel about them as people and that is the feeling I want them to remember.

Commit to confidence.

And my personal focuses:
MIND: Commit to glass half full continues.  I want to be Tigger and continue to have a bounce in my step this week.  I want to assume positive intentions, practice patience, and breathe in...breathe out...feels like life keeps throwing me mental challenges. :)
BODY: Continue to commit to avoid one simple carb meal a day (simple carb: no bread, pasta, or rice).  I have really noticed how this adjustment makes me feel...especially when the meal that avoids simple carbs is the dinner meal!  Last week taco salad was my key meal.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Simplistic View...week 7

Over the past two weeks I have been committed to my guided reading notes.  I wanted to make sure
that I was keeping it simple, but yet recording information that would inform my instruction for the next day.  This process was well worth the ride, especially at the mid-year point of the school year.  

This week I am going to commit to what I say in the form of feedback.  I have recorded information that informs my instruction, but this week I want to monitor my feedback to students.  In order to nudge a student forward, I need to make sure that I am not only informing my instruction but informing the student as well for they are the reason we work so hard as educators.  I am going to just be aware...and focus on the following questions.

  • Is my feedback focused on a specific learning target or strategy?  

  • Do I provide observations that focus on a student's learning process and make comparisons to prior performance or connections to their classroom learning?  

  • Do I provide feedback that focuses on the work and does not judge the student?  

  • Do I stay positive and make clear observations?

There is a book that I have had for years titled, How To Give Effective Feedback.  I went back and reread, Chapter Two: Types of Feedback and their Purposes, to generate my questions for this week.  This week will be about reflection and making sure that what I "simply" say is worth saying.

If you are following my whole "simplistic view" journey...here are the focuses for this week...

MIND: Commit to glass half full. With test and legislative stress looming at work, family members working through hard times or decisions, and just life.  I am committing to positive thinking AND positive communication.  The Mayo Clinic says that committing to positive thinking will...
  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
BODY:  Commit to avoid one "simple carb" meal a day.  I am frustrated...drinking only water, working out 3-4 times a week with a combination of strength and cardio, and planning healthy meals for the week on Sundays.  And...no  movement on the scale...again!  My body does feel different...more energy...stronger...cleaner...but...hmmmm...So this week I am focusing on having one "simple carb" free meal a day.  By "simple carbs" I mean bread, pasta or rice.  Let's see if that shakes things up!


Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Simplistic View...week 6

Last week my focus was...Commit to my notes.  

This reflection could not have happened at a better time.  Last week I was working with a teacher in my building on this very thing...plus...had some conversations about guided reading with a colleague who does consultations for districts. I realized that my note taking system is working.  It is simple.  I write down what they do so I can see what they are not doing.  My biggest realization was that I was delighted to see one of my beliefs about reading in my notes.  I believe that conversation promotes the exchange of ideas so the students can develop flexible thinking by confirming, predicting, and adjusting.  After reading a two page spread silently, I asked students..."What are you thinking now?"  And the conversation begins!  Below are my notes from one conversation.  I monitor if their thinking is within, beyond, or about the text.  This helps me celebrate and "see" (instead of just hearing) where their level of thinking lies in the story.  If a student is staying literal with their thinking...why?  Does the student ever talk "about" the text?  When talking "beyond the text", does the student ground their thinking in the text?  Last year I added the conversation labels at the bottom of my note taking sheet.  This way I encourage conversation, monitor conversation, and can plan purposeful nudges to reach higher level thinking skills.

These notes are from a reading group that was working on a guided reading book labeled  K.

So next week:
TEACHING:  Commit to my notes (again).  Feel like this focus is not done...yet!
MIND: Commit to a date.  In the spirit of Valentine's Day this week, is there a person, partner, spouse, colleague, or family member that I have been meaning to get together with or get in touch with?  If so...this is the week to reach out and make time for that relationship on the calendar.
BODY:  Commit to my bedtime.  7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.  That simple.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Simplistic View...week 5

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

It has been 4 weeks and I can't believe the change I am noticing in my teaching.  The approach of simplicity and getting back to best practices has given me permission to be "wide-eyed", more patient, and more aware of my teaching tools.

TEACHING: I have been working on my wait time and last week shifted to being aware of my level of support when I do decide to nudge the conversation or situation.  Am I giving assistance or am I giving the answer for sake of time?  To help me gauge that I was moving toward independence and not just staying in "we do", I asked the kids when they left our group to name one thing they did by themselves that day.  As they skipped down the hall (or walked backwards for a few of them :), the comments proved that I had provided wait time and varying levels of support.  The fact that each student from kindergarten through third grade could name something they did in their tier 2 guided reading group amazed me.  They were more specific than some of my notes.  I was so proud of them! It made slowing down all worth it.  PS...one day...just for one day I want to walk down the hall like a first grader.  Skipping, smiling, wearing creative outfits, walking backward, and talking about things that are most important...lunch, animals, tractors, a friend's stuffed animal...we are so fortunate to be around these personalities each day. 

So I spent the week reading Kate Messner's 59 Reasons.  She has hit another home run and I am not even done with the book!   The passion and excitement I felt about my own need for writing came rushing back by the end of chapter two!  The best reminder..."I made time because it was important to me (page 26)."  As soon as I am done, you can believe there is more coming on this book!

My focus for next week? Commit to my notes.  It comes from my students that reflected with me skipping down the hall this week.  As I listened to their comments, I realized that I wanted to pay more attention to my note taking during guided reading this week.  I am not going to change what I do or start a new form, but I am going to reflect on...am I writing down what is most important to inform my instruction for the next day?  How is my note taking system working? Do I write down only what they don't do or do I take the time to write down the celebrations?  I will let you know after all my reflecting!

MIND: Commit to gratitude.  Now that my body has more energy, my mind needs to focus on this simple strategy that can make a huge difference on my outlook.  There are no shortcuts to happiness.  Even generally happy people do not find joy every hour of the day.  But a happy person having a busy or bad day can find gratitude in the small things in life.  So this week I am going to slow down and focus on gratitude.  I need to remember the things I am grateful for, I need to share these thoughts each day with a friend or partner, and I need to go out of my way to show gratitude when others help me.  In the hustle and bustle of life, I want to put my head down each night appreciating the simple things in life and put worry to the side.

BODY: Drinking water, committing to the calendar for my fitness time, planning and prepping meals for the week on Sunday.  Check!  After four weeks, the results were a 6 pound loss for the first four weeks introducing each focus one week at a time!  I think I need one more week of combining all three so it can become my "simple" routine and new habit. I am noticing a change!