Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Planning for "I don't know"...


As a district curriclum supervisor, my plate has definitely been full during the recent school closures. 

March was busy working with staff to navigate and learn online platforms for remote learning. determining what parts of the curriculum would be the focus of remote learning, and supporting staff as they began to design and craft their virtual learning sites and lessons. 

April rolled around and things shifted to supporting virtual lessons and platforms, working out the kinks with technology, and making sure staff had the resources and materials required to successfully meet the needs of students...the best they could in a virtual environment. 

Let me pause for a moment to say how amazing teachers, librarians, guidance counselors, therapists, CST, and all school personnel have been making things work. They have liteally built this plane of virtual learning while flying it...no small feat!



Now we're into May and it's time to plan for the 20-21 school year. It's time to plan for curriculum, instruction, assessments and professional development. It's time prepare class lists and order materials and resources that will be needed to deliver the curriculum.  This is something I do every May and June. It's become routine.

The problem is, we have no idea what we are planning for this time. 

We're looking at curriculum, resources, class lists, teacher assignments, and ordering, but the answer to questions posed is always "I don't know". Will students and staff be back in school to full capacity? Will we continue with remote learning? Will there be a hybrid of the two? Is there a chance we could come back for a time and then need to be out for a time and return to remote learning? 

I don't know.


How do we properly prepare for "I don't know"?
How do we ensure that we'll be able to first and foremost support our students through the 20-21 school year? 

We're all working hard to plan, but the truth is that we just don't know what the coming weeks, months and year will bring for our schools. 

This is something that can keep you up at night. I worry about our students, staff and families. Education is all about the kids. How can we best do our job as educators in a current world of "I don't know"? 

Hopefully time will tell us sooner than later.

In the meantime, I'll keep learning, working, planning and supporting for "I don't know". ..while reminding myself that everything is going to be alright...eventually. 




Sunday, April 12, 2020

A Reflection on Quarantine and Emojis

Yesterday I woke up and realized that I had been socially distancing for four weeks. 
Four weeks...it seems like a lifetime has gone by. So much about our world has changed in such a short time. 

I was texting yesterday...something I do with much more frequency as it has become one of the few links to connect with friends and family. 
I like emojis. Those who know me, know I love to send emojis, bitmojis and GIFs with my text messages. I send very few without them. 
What struck me yesterday, aside from marking four weeks of social distancing, was the order of the emojis on my keyboard. The first few emojis that come up on my keyboard...the ones I use the most...are always the smiling face, thumbs up, heart, and LOL. I was taken aback to notice that the sad face had now taken over as my most-used emoji. 

The sad face.

My top-used Emojis on Friday morning, April 10
It says a lot about how I've been feeling and the conversations I have been having lately. It was a moment that caused me to reflect.
We are all experiencing the ups and downs of being isolated. Some days are better than others. We hope. We pray. I continually remind myself of all that I am grateful for throughout this pandemic; and  believe me that list is long. 

So why has the sad face taken over?

In this crazy, unpredictable world, this is one thing I can control. This is something I need to control. 
What I've learned through all of this is that we need to lean on each other more than ever. We need to check in on friends and family frequently to lift each other up on the challenging days. Everyone is dealing in their own way and everyone has their own challenges to face. 
So, send text messages (with happy emojis), call, Factime, Zoom, write letters and cards. Let others know you are thinking about them and make the little things count. 

We're all in this together and together we will get through it. 

Sunday, April 12...Getting Better!


Thursday, January 9, 2020

#OneWord2020- STRENGTH


It's January...time to reflect on the progress towards goals set for 2019 and look to set new goals for 2020.

My OneWord for 2019 was CHALLENGE, and in a blog I wrote last January I shared the challenges
My words beautifully illustrated by my friend Heather ๐Ÿ’—
I was hoping to face for the year and how I hoped my One Word would guide and motivate my journey.
I set challenges that were both personal and professional.

"Personally, I want to challenge myself to turn 50 healthy and strong. This requires me to get back to regular exercise, something that has been missing due to injuries over the past few years. No Excuses." 

Hmmm...I didn't do so well with my personal goals ๐Ÿ™„ My weekly FitBit challenges helped a bit, along with getting a puppy to walk. I still have a LONG way to go towards this, though. I'll get to that in my 2020 goals.

"My CHALLENGE also comes professionally, as I want to expand upon my accomplishments of 2018 by continuing to be an active part of my PLN (#4OCFpln), continuing to read, write and publish, presenting professional development both in and out of district, continually challenging myself in my leadership position as I work to serve the students and staff in my district, and being open to accepting new challenges as they present themselves."

My biggest professional accomplishments occured when I became a published author...four times in 2019! I am so proud of this and am eternally grateful to those who gave me the opportinitues to contribute to their books; Rachelle Dene Poth, Kristen Nan, and Dr. Jacie Maslyk.



     




I also challenged myself professionally through professional development presentations, reading,  and
My First Published Article!
attending national conferneces. I was fortunate to spend a week in Philadelphia with my PLN at ISTE19...and we even presented!
My PLN Presenting at ISTE19



I presented an Ignite Session at a summer administrative retreat, ran sessions at a few EdCamps, and presented professional development sessions at the district level.  I also had so much fun connecting and meeting up with former students as part of my blog series

So, in terms of "Challenge" for 2019, I am happy with how I rose to it, but also feel the need to
ASCD Conference in DC
continue along this path and push myself further beyond my comfort level.

So bring in my OneWord for 2020.....STRENGTH!

I feel that STRENGTH is an offspring of CHALLENGE. In 2020, I am looking to find my inner-strength and continue to push myself into the uncomfortable, still challenging myself while finding the strength to meet each challenge.

 I'd like to better meet the personal challenges I set for myself in 2019, and strength will definitely be needed to bury the excuses. Professionally, I want to continue with my writing and presenting, moving beyond my circle of comfort. I also need to be better at meeting uncomfortable conversations head-on, choosing courage over comfort.

I am looking for the STRENGTH to be brave, adventurous, strong, and courageous...to own my story. 

I am looking forward to 2020 and moving from CHALLENGE to STRENGTH. Bring it on!




Monday, November 25, 2019

Connecting With the Past...Meeting with Former Students (#4): Learning From an Artist

I am having many interesting take-aways from my conversations with former students. Some students
remember very specific details about our classroom experience, while other students have more general memories about their elementary experiences.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to meet up with former student #4, Lindsay. Lindsay was in the same looping 1st-2nd grade class as Keith from my last blog. In that blog, I shared how special this class has always been for me.

If someone was to ask me to name a few of my most memorable students, Lindsay would definitely be one of them.  No favoritism here...I promise! It was more about Linday's love of school and learning and how much she seemed to love me and our classroom that makes her so memorable. That and the dozens of pictures and letters along with homemade gifts she gave to me over our two years together.

Lindsay and I met for breakfast and had fun chatting about everyone from this class and what she remembered from our two years together.

Lindsay made this for me and it is still displayed in my office today ๐Ÿ’—

Lindsay's memories are more general about her experiences in elementary school. She does remember that she loved school and is still in touch with several of the students from our class. She shared that second grade did have a homey feeling since it was the second year our class was together and we had really become a close-knit group.

Her memories from our time together include our hamster Speedy, the Scholastic Book Fair, the traveling planetarium that used to visit out school each year- StarLab, doing gymnastics in gym class, the school carnival each year, Halloween parades, our beautiful school library, and the very cool playground that had been built by families just a few years prior.

Lice invaded our classroom during the second grade year and unfortunatley Lindsay's long beautiful hair was not spared. I know that was a stressful time for all ๐Ÿ˜”

The summer between our first and second classes, I attended Lindsay's birthday party at her house. The girls from our class were there for a swim party and it was a fun afternoon catching up with everyone and hearing about their summer fun.
The Girls in 2nd grade


What I remember about Lindsay is how much she loved school and how creative and artistic she was. She was always drawing pictures and making projects, and a typical day either began or ended (sometimes both) with something on my desk from Lindsay. She was a good student and definitely an out-of-the-box thinker.

Lindsay taught me to find and nurture the gifts in all of my students. She taught me to see the beauty in every day and that giftedness comes in many different packages.

Linsday is now an artist and a high school art teacher who is expecting her first child in February. Her husband is currently deployed and I thank him for his service and wish him a safe return home...hopefully in time to welcome his baby into the world.

Just two of the dozens of letters, cards and drawings I have from Lindsay. 



Monday, September 23, 2019

Connecting With the Past...Meeting With Former Students (#3): A Familiar Voice

I have to say I have really been enjoying my time catching up with my former students, who now range in age from 22-34 years old. My "Connecting with the Past" blog series started due to my curiosity about these students, and wondering how they "turned out" after leaving my classroom.

In 1996, I was fortunate to be part of my district's multiyear classroom initiative (AKA Looping), which means I taught the same students for two years; from first to second grade. I loved being a looping teacher! Having the same group of students together for two years was an incredible experience! Essentially, we were given the gift of an extra month of school together, as September of 2nd grade became a continuation of 1st grade. There was no "first six weeks" of the new year for getting to know each other and establishing a classroom culture for learning. That had been done in first grade, so we began September right where we left off in June. I knew my students well, and the connections we made through two years together was strong. We were a family.

The students in my first looping class have always held a special place in my heart. They were a special group of kids and I feel we are forever linked by the incredible experience.

My Looping Class (1995-1997)-Keith is in the back center rockin' the 90s overalls

Keith is the first student from this class that I have been able to reconnect with, and we recently spent an hour talking and reminiscing about our class. Keith doesn't live locally, and I appreciated the chance to catch up over the phone.

Keith had spent some time preparing for our call, thinking back to his time in first and second grade.

One of the first things Keith shared was a thank you. He had been placed in our district's gifted and talented program starting in third grade, and he shared that this gave him confidence as a student and was the beginning of his journey towards academic success. As an adult he realized that I must have been the teacher to recommend him for this program, and he is grateful for the impact this experience had on his life.

We had fun talking about each student from our class and where they are now. Keith kept in touch with many of his classmates over the years and I enjoyed hearing about his later experiences with them. He is still in touch with a few of them today, and I look forward to catching up with some that I have been able to reconnect with recently.

I remember Keith as a friendly, outgoing, and chatty kid. He got along with everyone and was a great student to have in class. As Keith shared, he probably loved school because it was a social time for him. He remembers that I provided him with a lot of opportunities to talk to the class which not only helped feed his talkative nature, but has made him a confident public speaker to this day.

We laughed about the lice...which wasn't funny at the time. In second grade, we had a lice outbreak in class that lasted for several months. We just couldn't get rid of it! Keith never got it, but does remember having to put his belongings in a trash bag each day and sitting on the tile floor because our class rug had been removed until we were cleared of the critters.

And of course, Keith remembers the Pog craze of the 90s, our class hamster Speedy ๐Ÿงก and how exciting it was when the Scholastic Book Fair came to our school, even if he wasn't allowed to buy I Spy books. He also remembers that Officer Buckle and Gloria had just won the Caldecott Award that year (1996) and we read it as part of our study of Caldecott-winning books. 

One time Keith called me "mom", as many students did over the years, and was teased for it. What a memory!
The Boys of Room 23- Keith is second from the left

We also talked about many of the families of the students in our class, and I mentioned that I felt fortunate to have had so many supportive and involved parents. Many of the moms were able to volunteer in the classroom on a regular basis, which only enhanced our sense of community.

After our phone call Keith sent me a text to say how much he enjoyed talking to me, and also to share how he remembered my voice after all these years. It's always interesting to hear the things that are remembered, and how our senses trigger specific memories. For Keith, it was the sound of my voice.  I can only hope it was a good sound for him full of positive memories. 



Friday, August 30, 2019

Connecting With the Past...Meeting With Former Students (#2): It's All About a Feeling

It's All About a Feeling 

This is the second in a series of blogs about meet-ups with my former students. As I shared in my first blog, my students now range in age from 22-34 years old. I recently connected with many of them through Facebook, and plans have been made to get together and catch up.

In 1996, I was fortunate to be part of my district's multiyear classroom initiative (AKA Looping), which means I taught the same students for two years; from first to second grade. I loved being a looping teacher! Having the same group of students together for two years was an incredible experience! Essentially, we were given the gift of an extra month of school together, as September of 2nd grade became a continuation of 1st grade. There was no "first six weeks" of the new year for getting to know each other and establishing a classroom culture for learning. That had been done in first grade, so we began September right where we left off in June. I knew my students well, and the connections we made through two years together was strong. We were a family.

I taught my second looping class from 1997-1999, and the end of our second year together culminated (for me) with the birth of my daughter. As I was waiting to become a first-time mom, my students pampered me and even threw me a surprise shower. Of course, watching my stomach move around while I was teaching math (right after lunch) became entertainment for my students (and me!) by spring of that year.

Our Looping Class during Year 1- 1996
Rachel is right next to me. 


Rachel was one of my students in this looping group. I remember that she always had a smile on her face, and was a genuinly happy kid. Rachel's twin sister was in the other looping class right next door. I honestly couldn't tell them apart, but I always knew Rachel because her face would light up with a smile when she saw me.

Rachel and I recently met up for dinner, and the first thing we realized is that we hadn't seen each other in twenty years! After my daughter was born that June, I transfered schools within my district to shorten my commute. I hadn't seen her since.

Rachel's first question to me "how do you remember me?".  Honestly, I remember every student from my looping classes. They have a special place in my heart. 360 days together over the two years where students demonstrate more academic and social-emotional growth than any other years in school was pretty significant to me.

Rachel shared that she doesn't remember a lot of details from our classroom. She explained that it was more about the atmosphere, or feeling she remembers and less about the specifics. She does know that she liked school and that she felt smart in first and second grade.
Rachel and I on Halloween

She did remember our class hermit crab (Bud) and hamster (Speedy), and a class trip to Duke Gardens in second grade. Reading groups (guided reading) was a special time and she has always loved reading. Rachel specifically remembers changing groups during the year, and that she was intimidated at first in her new group because she knew they were the "good readers".

A memory Rachel shared that I don't recall, is that someone once put glue on the toilet seat in our classroom bathroom. Apparently, I was not happy.

On the whole, we both agreed that this class was a pretty amazing group of kids. There were very few behavioral issues...we really couldn't remember much of anything,  but these were six and seven-year-olds so there had to be some amount of behavorial issues/lessons, right? I guess I just forget things like that ๐Ÿ˜Š

We looked through pictures together and remembered the students in our class. Rachel is still in touch with several of them, and her classmate Megan is still one of her closest friends. We both noted the lack of diversity in the class and the school as a whole. We had a great conversation about education, equity, and multiple intelligences. It was a fun time together reminiscing and telling stories.

The thing that most resinated with me after my dinner with Rachel was her comment about her memories being rooted in a "feeling". Though specific memories fad, the feeling of connections, relationships, and belonging remain. Children need to feel a sense of safety and belonging and that someone cares. Only then are they ready to learn.

Rachel and I at dinner together 2019







Monday, August 12, 2019

Starting Your Year Trauma-Sensitive


Educators are getting ready to welcome students back to school for a new year. It's a new year full of promise and excitement for both staff and students.

As a curriculum supervisor, I oversee both language arts and social studies at the elementary level in my district. We have worked to institute some changes to our district curriculum over the past few years to better support all of our students (as we know better, we do better), while being aware of and sensitive to the differing life experiences our students bring with them to school each day.

Some of those changes have been met with push-back from staff as we work together to balance traditions established in the classroom through specific activities with an awareness that some of these traditions can actually be traumatic for our students.

The other day I saw the following visuals on the Instagram site of trauma_informed-montessori , and they definitely demonstrate the sensitivity that needs to be taken with our students as we prepare activities to begin another school year.

As you begin a new school year, I implore you to think about the family-centered/historical activities you will have your students complete, and then take another look from the perspective of your students. How these might these be perceived by or effect your students? Think about the "why" behind these assignments, and use the suggestions below to help you meet your objectives in a more trauma-informed way.

All graphics from trauma_informed-montessori