Sunday, July 10, 2016

Back into the swing of things...

Well, it has quite a while since I have posted to this blog.  Confessions has been the last thing on my mind...such is life.

My summer is now over.  I had a wonderful, uneventful June, with most days spent watching TV and lounging around the house in my THAT'S the life, isn't it???  Tomorrow I start presenting at a writing workshop for my district.  Three weeks of it.

I have just returned home from a fabulous conference by Solution Tree on the PLC process.  While I learned a lot, I found some of the pull-out sessions exceptional.  As a matter of fact, one particular presenter really impacted me.

I've always thought that teaching children was my ultimate goal in life.  I love teaching.  I'm passionate about it.  As a CIS, I have enjoyed working with students and working with teachers to help them with their pedagogy.  But I now feel I am meant for something bigger...more profound...more impactful.  All of those adjectives describe teachers and teaching.  But for me, personally, it means doing something much, much more with my life.

It is rare that I come home from a meeting or conference and still feel moved days later.  That's how I feel right now.  I absolutely cannot think about anything else.

Dr. Anthony Muhammad changed my thinking and my life goals in so many ways.  To him, I am just a face in the crowd.  But to me, he is an inspiration for my loftier (and scarier) personal goals.  He presented two pull-out sessions about school culture and the achievement gap.  I plan to read his books that I purchased at the conference.  As I become more knowledgeable, I will share this process with the empty blogosphere, in hopes that one person may be a support for me on my journey.

To begin...I cannot believe the teacher and mentor I once was.  PLC is the hot term floating through the school system right now.  But its purpose is real.  It's all about learning to teach better.  My reponsibilities as a CIS require me to share my ideas and knowledge with my campus.  I love doing that.  But as a classroom teacher, I must sadly admit, I was horrible at it.  Sometimes, great last-minute ideas would pop into my head.  Yet, I never shared them with my teammates.  I just shut my door and did my thing.  What a b$%^&!!  I guess, if I'm honest with myself, I felt that if I shared my idea, a teammate might take it and do it better than I had originally planned.  That would have been a slap in the face!

What I failed to realize is that sharing and contributing to my team would have improved it as a whole.  Teaching isn't supposed to be a competition.  We are tasked with teaching all children to the best of our knowledge.  By keeping ideas to myself, I not only stiffled the abilities of my team members, I closed myself off to the ideas of others; good ideas that would have made me a better teacher and person.

Why do we do this???? Why don't we embrace each other, learn from each other, practice and perfect the art of teaching with each other???  Why do we hold back and think that we are the only ones with the answers?? The truth is, whatever worked for me one year did not always turn out well the next.  But I stuck to my routines.  What a diservice I did to my students and myself.

We have to open our minds to what we, as teachers, have to offer each other!!  Our world is constantly changing!  If we work with each other, share with each other, confide about students with each other, we inspire an entire grade level of students, not just the 40 we may be responsible for.

Something Dr. Muhammad said really struck me.  I'm paraphrasing here; I didn't write down what he said word-for-word.  I was just so enthralled by my awakening!  He said, essentially, that if something I teach isn't mastered by my class the first time, why would I insist on reteaching the same material????? Why would I not go to a colleague who did it better and ask for their help?  If it didn't work the first time, why in the world would it work the second time???? What...did I not teach it to the best of my ability the first time? OF COURSE NOT!!! I did the best I could.  So I, I NEED the help of my teammates to reteach.  Not one single teacher I know does a crappy lesson on purpose the first time!!!! NOT ONE!!! We all do our best the first lesson.  So if there isn't mastery, I NEED TO DO SOMETHING NEW!! And who better to learn from than the teacher that had mastery?????

Wake up teachers!!!! We cannot do it alone and every single child we teach deserves our best, and when our best isn't good enough, they deserve our collective best!!!!

So, I feel my journey may take the path of consulting.  I don't know what it will look like, but it will be about ideas that work, that impact students and teachers, and I hope one day to inspire someone to learn and do more.

Of course, for now, I need my paycheck! LOL!  But reinvigorating this blog may just help me move along my purpose!!

“I’m not out to compete with any one, I’m here to complete, by encouraging and inspiring souls through a text at a time.” 
― Bernard Kelvin Clive

Please Google Dr. Anthony Muhammad to find out more about his messages.  He also has a website at
*** I am in no way associated with Dr. Muhammad and I get no payment for suggesting him.  I was just inspired by his presentations!


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

And Adding to that Theory...

Good evening!

It's almost Spring Break, and I am definitely happy!!'s the AFTER Spring Break that concerns me!!  A week after we return, it STAAR time in Texas.  And that means our 5th graders need to be reading to read!!

I just wanted to add a little information to the Notebook post.  I am a HUGE notebook fan (in case you haven't noticed).  Last post, I shared information about anchor charts I have students put into their notebooks.  But, I wanted to show some other things we do in our notebooks.

My 5th grade groups are working on novel studies.  I don't use worksheets or prepackaged units.  Since we are so close to STAAR, I spiral through all of the TEKS students need to know.  But everything we do is OPEN-ENDED.  Students have to give me their answer, why they wrote the answer they did, and what part of the story told clued them into the correct answer.  Now, it's really difficult to come up with new questions on a daily basis, but one of the best things you can do is use the LANGUAGE OF THE TEK to create your questions.  If you teach outside of Texas, use the language of your standard.

We are lucky on our campus.  Our district provides us with some question stems, we've pulled stems from released STAAR exams, and we use stems provided by Margaret Kilgo of Kilgo Consulting.  We've attended her Math and Reading sessions, and found her information and work invaluable.  Stems are broken down by TEK, and that makes it so much easier.

Here is how I use the resources in my groups:

As you can see, I ask the question and students have to respond with an answer, why, and where it came from.  (This is great idea that our district coordinator came up with.)  I have two different groups.  One group is reading James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.  The other group is reading The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff.   (I highly recommend both!)

For assessment, students USE THEIR NOTEBOOKS to answer questions:

Another option is to have students answer multiple choice questions using their open-ended responses.

And I'm outta here...


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Expanding the Notebook Theory

Happy Wednesday!  I can't tell you how happy I am that the week is almost over!  This time of the year, every day is a busy, stressful day, and they can't go by fast enough!

I wanted to continue with a little example on my challenging post from yesterday.  I asked you to think about how interactive notebooks are used in the classroom, especially in elementary school.  I encouraged you to allow students to use their notebooks not only for instruction, but for assessment. So I thought I might give you a little hint of an example..

I don't have my own classroom anymore, but I do tutor students and teach summer school (on occasion).  I absolutely REFUSE to give Pearson any of my hard-earned money for "reteach" or "test prep" materials, so I use only interactive notebooks and novels or grade level readers.   I usually do initial instruction that includes some type of interactive notebook anchor chart or activity.  Here are a few examples of something we have done in our notebooks...

These are anchor charts for their interactive notebooks that were actually used in my 4th grade summer school class.  Each chart gives the elements of fiction, non-fiction, and literary non-fiction.  When we worked on this, we also discussed and listed the types of questions that might be asked on STAAR, or the specific TEKS that might be covered.

I generally don't give my students any type of test.  If  I were in the classroom, I may quiz students over the types of fiction, non-fiction, and literary non-fiction.  I could quiz them over the types of questions that  could be asked...the possibilities are endless!!! BUT....I would let them use their notebooks!!!!!!!  Totally open-ended questions that they could answer using their notebooks!  I can guarantee you, especially in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade that your entire class or block would NOT make 100%!  The way I see it, these charts are building blocks for future knowledge.  Students have to understand these elements before they can even begin to fully comprehend.

I can also promise you that students who use them frequently will eventually stop using them because they now KNOW the information, especially after repeated use.  That's our goal, isn't it????

Ok, ok....I'll relax....

I just get too dang passionate about using the things we work so hard on!!!!!!

"I don't sugar coat crap; I'm not Willy Wonka."---??

teehee teehee