Saturday, March 17, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

16. Build in choice. (they raise their own bar)

Choice is one of the most powerful teaching moves we have in our toolkit. It's one thing if you offer a list of choices for work time, but your classroom community operates at a whole new level of trust when you teach a couple of adding fractions math games and then, in making rounds and checking in with partners and groups, you find that some boys have invented their own game which requires them to practice adding fractions in a WAY more complicated (and interesting) manner than any of the games you offered. A reminder here that when you see something going on in your classroom that doesn't look like what you expected, slow down and get information before you fly off the I'm In Control Here/Do What I Say handle.

Friday, March 16, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

16. Raise the bar.

Up the ante. Kick it up a notch. Set a deadline and stick to it. Is teaching your job, or are you a professional?

Oh. You thought I was talking about raising the bar for your students. Well, yeah, raise the bar for them, too. That's what we do all the time as we build their understanding of more and more complicated ideas and content.

But if we're going to apply this saying to the work you ask your students to do, then please remember: when you raise the bar in a game of limbo, you make it easier to get under. So every now and then, maybe you should raise the bar for the wiggle under and not the vault over.

And how about this: if we change the spelling of raise, we totally change the nature of the game: raze the bar. What would that look like in your classroom?

Poetry Friday: Saying Goodbye

Unsplash Photo by Steve Johnson

Saying Goodbye

The storage unit is pitch black
The boxes 
are stacked right where we left them. I kick one with my shoe 
and wonder what I’m going to do with these boxes 
once I get them home. There will be new 
piles of boxes 
in our basement. I’d rather have you 
back than all these memories stuffed into boxes.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

This Golden Shovel was written for the March 2018 Ditty Challenge using part of a line of a poem by Devon Hope. I wrote it to remind myself that I can write in this form. (I wrote one last April for Malvina Reynolds.) I wrote it because of my poem-a-day challenge for April (coming up at the speed of time). When I began my "sort of a Slice of Life Challenge but not really" for March, I hadn't decided what I'd do for my Poetry Month challenge. I was talking to my students about the goals and challenges writers set for themselves and one of them laid down the gauntlet. Our classroom family has since grown from 29 to 30, so...why not. I've never in my career had 30 students (never again, please), so why not write a poem about each child? Never one to make things easy for myself, I've had each student choose a quote that resonates with him/her. 

In April, I will write a Golden Shovel for/about each of my 30 students using the quote they chose as the poem's "striking line."


Linda has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at TeacherDance.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

15. Notice.

Every day try to make sure you really SEE every student. Every single one. 

Especially notice the ones who work hard every single day on every single assignment. Notice the ones who are always quiet in line. Notice the ones who come right to the carpet when you invite the class to come close for a mini lesson or a read aloud. Notice the neat work. 

But also notice the head down, the clouded face, the grumpy demeanor, the short temper.

That old saw about teachers having eyes in the backs of our heads? So far from the truth. We are ALL eye, because one of the most important things we do all day long (every minute of every day, in case you were wondering why we're so exhausted when we get home) is...


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

14. Celebrate risk-taking.

Value the words, "I'm not sure, but..."
Cheer on the "I used to think, but now..."
Validate "Would you check this to see if I'm on the right track?"
Honor "I think I know!"

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

13. Plural possessives will happen. But probably not on your timeline.

J. was working on his opinion piece this afternoon. I had given the class articles from ReadWorks about the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Shasta Dam. Their job was to choose the most amazing of these two human-made structures and back up their choice with reasons and facts from the articles.

The article about the dam told about ways the dam was harmful to the native salmon, but also some temperature control innovations that helped the salmon. I nearly fainted from joy when J. asked, "Where do you put the apostrophe if you've got lots of salmon?" We had a quick lesson on singular and plural possessives. He was ready to learn. Even more than that, he had identified exactly what it was he needed to learn.

Today I was in the right place at the right time. When that happens, savor the moment.

Monday, March 12, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash
12. Improvise. (A mashup of yesterday's Mix It Up and The Power of Routines from the day before.)

There was an unused spot at the top of the word study section of our big language arts bulletin board last fall. On a whim, I used one 12x18 sheet of paper to write "Be" and another next to it to say, "_______". Our first word was AWESOME. We started the year being awesome.

Somewhere along the line, we decided it was time to change up the word, and at some point it was decided that would happen when we change desks/spots every two weeks. The person who chose the word gets to choose the next person.

A routine was born, not because I planned for it, but because I accidentally made the space for the class to invent it. We improvised. We made it up as we went. It's one of our favorite routines because it's 100% ours. (Bonus payoff--it keeps us looking at the word study section of our language arts bulletin board!)

So far this year we have encouraged each other to Be...


Sunday, March 11, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

11. Mixing it up now and then is just as powerful as solid routines.

The surprise factor. The juicy, delicious fear of not knowing what's about to happen in the lesson. The eagerness. The heightened awareness. You need all of this this just as much as your students do. Have solid and comfortable/comforting routines. And mix them up now and then.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash
10. Routines are powerful.

Routines are like paved paths through a beautiful, well-groomed park (aka your day). They get you from point A to point B in a relatively efficient manner, everyone knows what to expect from them, the sights you see and the stops you make along the way are comfortingly familiar. After you've walked the same path for several weeks in a row, you can close your eyes and walk it in your sleep. Key words: efficient, comfortable.

If you know me, or if you read Truth #3, you know this isn't the end of this story. Stay tuned for Truth #11 tomorrow.

Friday, March 09, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash
9. Take care of yourself.

Easier said than done, right? You could work 24/7 on lessons and grading and professional development and classes for your masters degree and gathering books from the public library and buying classroom supplies with your own money...and you still would never be caught up, let alone ahead of the game. So since you can't ever get caught up (not for more than a day at a time in a good week), remember Truth #4 and let something go so that you can go out to dinner with friends, or watch Antiques Roadshow, or get that exercise routine going, or catch a couple extra hours of sleep.

If you're not a happy, healthy PERSON, how are you going to be a happy, healthy TEACHER?