For some reason, in the past few weeks I’ve noticed that many of our kids skip down the hallway. I've seen our littlest kids do this an even our 4th and 5th graders.
My first “teacher instinct” is to say “slow down, no skipping in the halls” but I’ve been stopping myself and instead I’ve been saying:
“Wow! You seem happy today! Look at you skipping down the hall!”
Children have responded with big toothless grins, hugs and giggles. I challenge you to “count the skippers” too. It’s amazing how much joy it brings me each time I see a “skipper” and I think it will do the same for you!
For the past 19 years I have been on a journey as an educator. I was so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be trained as a Literacy Collaborative coach. This training truly changed the trajectory of my career. I’ve written about this many times and I’m still forever grateful for the leaders who saw something in me and helped me on my journey. After my training it seemed as if a whole new world opened up to me. I understood the reading and writing process; I could listen to a child read or conference with a writer and quickly identify areas of strength and weakness which would lead me to future teaching points. And, for the past 19 years I have continued to learn about reading and writing practice within the context of the literacy collaborative framework. And, while I never believed that I would be finished learning, I must say that there came a point within the last few years that no matter what I read about reading and writing practice it just didn’t surprise me anymore. And, I was getting bored.
Then, the greatest thing happened. The conversation began to change. There was a shift. We began looking more closely at phonemic awareness and phonics. I began digging into our DIBELS data and having conversations about what to do when our students weren’t responding the way our LLI intervention system indicated that they should be. I could no longer be satisfied with the answer that these children were in need of special education services and I could no longer justify keeping children in an intervention that wasn’t working without having an option of something else to try.
That’s where all of you came in. I started engaging you in conversation about our data and you started asking questions and noticing that some of our kids were not responding to our teaching as well. And, YOU were hungry for more! This rejuvenated me! Just when I was getting bored a whole new world of reading instruction and a whole new set of questions opened up to me. Now, for some, this could be overwhelming and stressful; but to me (and I think to you too) this was fuel! I am fueled by the possibility of adding to our instructional practice so we can do even more for our students.
Today, I spent the afternoon speaking to the Director of Literacy Instruction from Marysville and a group of principals. The team shared the assessments they use; the data they collect; the ways they have adapted the Literacy Collaborative framework; their RTI model; and the additions they’ve made to the support that their reading teachers give to students. The information I gathered was so exciting because we are closer than we thought to being ready to shift our instruction to meet the needs of even more kids. What has taken them 4 or 5 years to create, we have figured out in the last few months.
Our kindergarten and first grade teachers are ready to begin using an Phonemic Awareness program called Heggerty during the word study portion of the framework. We are providing multisensory phonics instruction as an option for our Title students. With a few more tweaks we are going to be leading the way in reading growth for our kids. I guarantee it.
What I’ve learned the most from these recent discoveries is that I need to keep asking questions and to make sure that I do not settle by falling into the trap of “the way we’ve always done it”. I am excited for the next phase in our learning journey together.
I love the video from Tim Kight! What does "buy in" mean to you?
The first book I read in 2019 was Unselfie by Dr. Michele Borba. On Wednesday evening I was lucky enough to hear her speak at Darby High School. (I might have gotten my picture taken with her, too!)
If you're looking for a quick read that is relevant to the work we do each and every day and that is also relevant to our personal lives than you definitely want to read this book.
Michele explains that empathy is, "seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another. She shares the 9 Habits of Empathy with the goal of raising children who have moral courage and who are altruistic leaders.
As I listened to Dr. Borba speak, I frantically took notes and starred things that I want to try with my own kids at home.
Here are my top 10 take aways:
1-There are three kinds of empathy-affective empathy in which you feel how others feel; cognitive empathy in which you try to understand others; and active empathy in which you take action to help others.
2-Middle School Students expressed that they're more comfortable texting than talking.
3-For the first time ever, 3 and 4 year olds are being diagnosed with depression!
4-66% of kids report that they think THEIR PARENTS are too plugged in. They say they think their parents care more about their devices than them. We must give kids our presence.
5-We must teach children to stand with their head up and to look people in the eye.
6-Every kids needs a mantra! Michele explains that kids need to rehearse who they are and what they want to do and as parents we can help them create these ideas by developing a family mantra. Form your mantra by deciding how your family want to be described by others and what matters to you.
7-How we praise matters--praise with an -er at the end. For example, "You are such a helper. Thank you for putting your laundry away!" or "You are a comforter. You really took time to make your sister feel better when she was sad!"
8-TURN OFF THE NEWS-live images of things like terrorists, murders and school shootings lower our children's empathy and raise their stress levels. Instead show children the good side of the world. Expose them to stories of people, especially children, doing good things.
9-Ages 14-16 are the key ages for moral identity formation.
10-Teaching kids to breath is so important. Below is a picture of children in a kindergarten class practicing deep breathing by taking their stuff animals for a ride. The key to breathing is to inhale slowly and exhale twice as long as you inhale.
On Friday I traveled two hours west to visit the teachers and administrators in Fort Recovery School District. This small district has about 900 students and 70 teachers total. They are working with Focus3 for R Factor training and I got to be a part of their journey.
It was so exciting to work with a group of people who are just starting their R Factor journey. The teachers and staff were so excited to work to become the best versions of themselves. As part of the day, I spent time with the elementary staff training them on R1: Press Pause. Every time I do an R Factor training, I’m reminded of how complex each R is. I was reminded that press pause is so much more than just slowly down and pausing. Here are the highlights from my Press Pause PD on Friday:
1-When we Press Pause can use these four questions to help us see the EVENT with clarity and courage:
2-Do not fall into these three common Below the Line traps:
As I left the team from Fort Recovery, I asked them to choose one thing that they learned during our Press Pause PD that they would work on for the next few weeks. Their take-aways were inspiring and reminded me that no matter how long we have been using R Factor, we need to continue to review and build our skills. If we want to get better we must continue to get our reps in.
Do you fall into any of the common Below the Line traps?
Do you press pause so you can see Events with clarity and courage?
“Failure is a feeling long before it’s an actual result.” From BECOMING by Michelle Obama.
Let that quote sink in for a minute. “Failure is a feeling long before it’s an actual result.” How many times have you planted a suggestions of failure in your mind or in the mind of someone else long before you or they have even tried to succeed? What would happen if we listened to these feelings of failure? Can you think of a time you let the feeling become the result?
How about your students, friends or family? Do you ever plant the seed of failure? Unintentionally of course, but our words have power! Choose wisely. And, choose wisely about what you listen to.
I got to work on our snow days. I got to go to an AMAZING meeting in which Sharon Esswein graced us with her infinite wisdom and positivity. She shared the video below. It's about one minute and twenty seconds and it says it all.
I know the statement “one word can change your life” is true because it’s happened to me.
Five years ago, I read Jon Gordon’s book One Word and my life has never been the same. Prior to reading the book I hadn’t thought much about the power that just one word can have on a life. After reading the book, I decided to try it out and what I found was my One Word opened my eyes to a new reality. I thought about my word all the time, I noticed things that happened in my life that related to my word. My word was everywhere.
Over the years, my words have been Connect, Celebrate, Journey, and last year my word was Joy. As 2019 began to come nearer and nearer, I found myself trying really hard to find my next word. I tried out a few words-gratitude, inspire, and a few others but none of them felt right. Then, at the beginning of January my kids got sick and I missed three days of school. In the grand scheme of things I know that this shouldn’t seem like a big deal but to me it was. I was consumed by anxiety. I felt like everything was out of control. But, at the same time I knew that I was being completely irrational, I just couldn’t control my thoughts and anxieties. Over those three days that seemed like three weeks, I discovered my word. It was amazing because when it came to me I instantly felt at peace and I knew that this word was just what I needed.
My word for 2019 is PERSPECTIVE. This year as I focus on my word I will keep things in perspective as I build skill to help keep my anxiety in check. I also want to consider others’ perspectives. Many times I’m quick to think that I’m right and my ideas are best. I am going to work really hard to stop and understand the ideas and perspectives of others. I also want to consider my own family’s perspectives. Many times I bark orders at my husband and kids because I have an agenda in mind and just want to check things off my list. I expect them to have the same priorities and I don’t take time to consider their perspective on things. I am excited to see what my word will teach me and how I’ll grow this year.
We work hard. We are laser focused all day long at our school. It is easy to be so zoomed in that we forget about the amazing work we do! On Thursday, we had a visit from Teresa Scholl and some 5th grade teachers from Pleasant Local Schools. This visit gave me the opportunity to slow down and zoom out for a little bit.
Scott, Tasha and Whitney talked to the teachers about the reading and writing workshop and the why behind what we do. I got to be part of these conversations which reminded me that we are truly living our ONE WORD---PURPOSE. Scott and Whitney eloquently shared their purpose. They were asked questions about what standard they were teaching and what our test scores were. And, their answers made me so proud. They shared that at our school we care about kids and building readers and writers. They shared that the know their standards and certainly allow standards to be a guide but our main goal is to create independent readers, writers, thinkers and problem solvers. The funny thing is that earlier that morning I had told these teachers the same thing. Scott and Whitney had no idea about this conversation but when asked the same question, gave the same answer! Our arrows are so aligned. We are so lucky to have to be part of the amazing things happening at JW Reason.
When you’re in it every day, it’s easy to lose sight of the amazing things YOU do. So, give yourself a few minutes to zoom out, reflect on the work you do and your PURPOSE for doing it. I think you’ll be happy with what your hard work has helped you accomplish.
We are an amazing team. I have been gone for 3 ½ days and you guys have not missed a beat!
What an amazing place.
On Wednesday, I found this quote and I feel like is sums up our “circle” perfectly.
Your dedication to kids shines through in all you do. Thank you for hitting the ground running on this first week back from winter break!