Sunday, March 1, 2015

Simplistic View...week 9

Last week our district began administering the PARCC assessments for the first time.  I had committed to confidence:

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.

Due to weather, our schedules are still in testing mode going into this week.  Yes, I will stay true to confidence but I am adding a twist. Committing to the moment.  Life unfolds in the present.  Unfortunately too often, we are not really in the moment.  Our minds swing from topic to topic.  We are here but our mind is there.  We are here, but our mind is way over there. Often I dwell on the past or I worry about the future but this week is going to be about the "now".  Taking that moment to breathe in, breathe out, and notice the view.  As life unfolds and throws us curves or provides us joy, I want to practice being still...soaking it all in...eyes open.

My students are more than test scores.  I want to commit to my moments with them this week.


My other focuses:
MIND:  Teaching focus and personal focus collide!  Commit to the moment.
BODY:   Commit to no sugar (kinda).  This was the first week the scale really moved and I am contributing it to water, 3 -4 workouts a week, prepping meals AND one "no simple carb" meal a day.  So time to crank it up a bit!  My friend introduced me to the "No Sugar Challenge for 7 Days".  I am not doing all of the rules but here are the ones that will work for me to ease in. If I can do this then I will add the last one...the one I omitted will be very hard for me!
1.  Do not add sugar to any drinks or foods.  No sugar of any kind!
2.  No artificial sweeteners (Splenda, Sweet and Low, Equal)
3.  No sodas or energy drinks (No drink with "sugar" listed on the label)
4.  Don't use any boxed foods (includes frozen dinners).
5. Drink lots of water (recommend 1/2 ounce for every point you weigh daily)
6.  No fast food for 7 days ( we eat Subway on the weekend...is that fast food?)

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.