There is a strong sense of hustle and bustle this weekend as many schools set to begin their school year on Tuesday. I know that I have been busily getting things in order to make sure that my first week back gets off on the right foot (which includes alarm setting and wearing “real clothes” as I call them). Tuesday will officially begin my 25th year of teaching. Yes, I have former students who have children of their own beginning kindergarten on Tuesday. Tuesday will begin my fifth year as Academic Interventionist at our school. I have the coolest role in the world. I get to meet with students in small groups and support them as learners. I get to watch them learn and grow as they navigate their way through school. I get to do that. And probably the best part of my role is getting to hear and listen to their stories. We laugh a lot, I listen a lot, and many times after they leave I have tears. Because everyone has a story to tell. Today I want to share one that is very close to my heart. I hope that you are able to connect and see her perspective.
I had been working with this one particular student since she was a second grader. She did not need support academically, but sometimes needed a quiet space to work away from the hustle and bustle of the classroom. She would come down at the end of the day, or maybe during her extra recess by choice. Usually she was towing some papers and books along with her, and always she had something to catch up on. We would sort out the stack and get to work. Most of the time she did not need my help with the academic pieces, but what she needed help with was how to do school. She knew that taking this unfinished work home was not an option for her, and she wanted to get it done. She knew that she sometimes could not focus, that people got frustrated with her, and that she got frustrated with herself.
One particular day she came down with a rather large stack of things to do and we started to prioritize what needed to be done first. She had been absent for several days and still was not feeling the greatest. What she said when she sat down is forever etched in my mind. She looked at the stack of papers and looked at me and me and said, “School is not the place for me.” A million things went through my mind as I tried to usher in a response. Well, she beat me to it. “I can do the work. I just cannot do it fast.” She pointed to a paper with several problems on it and said, “See I can do it. I just cannot get all of them done.” She went through the entire stack of papers and said, “See I CAN do it.” She was right. She could. She continued working on her papers and in fact, she could do it. She proved it several times, front and back.
When she left that day I felt horrible and her words repeated, “School is not the place for me”. When she came back the next time we started to shift how we approached the work. And that started to change her mindset. She did not need to complete the whole paper to show her understanding, doing 6 or 7 was all she needed to do to show that she understood the concept.
Every child has a story. Our job as teachers is to do our best to make school a place for them. A sense of place does not mean the same for everyone. Some children will come on Tuesday fitting right in to our place. Some will feel out of place, and some have never felt that they fit. Be ready to listen to and hear their stories, and help them create a new next chapter.
How cool is that?
Well it has been a while right? What have you been up to? I am still plugging away at “Big Blue”. It has been a really busy school year (and I have lots to write about of course). Stay tuned…..
We just wrapped up 10 days of Summer Learning in our building for incoming second and third grade students. The main purpose of this program was to provide a boost before school starts in a few weeks. Each morning around 8:30 the students began to arrive for breakfast. Learning started at 9:00 and we powered through until noon. During these three hours we built foundations for strong reading habits, dove deep into informational text, rocked number bonds and tape diagrams, and worked together as teams on STEM challenges.
What started to unfold as these ten days went on was pretty cool. Friendships formed that might not have had a chance to blossom during the regular school year. Friendships that seem tricky to navigate during the regular school year were looked upon differently as they had time to work through some challenges and differences. These students (aside from some groggy moments) came to Summer Learning excited to be there. For many this was their time to shine. We watched the normally quiet kiddos come out of their shells and be able to have a voice. I had many quiet victories over the past two weeks, and we celebrated out loud! My greatest hope is that they come back in a few weeks walking a little taller, feeling more confident, and ready to shine!
‘Twas the eve of the day before the last day of the 2017-2018 school year. We just finished up our last of 3 Data Days in our building and I am not sure if I will be able to sleep tonight. My head is spinning. My heart is pounding. In a good way.
I am so over the moon proud of the teachers in our building. Yeah, we talk and puzzle over scores, and growth, percentiles, charts, graphs. You know that I totally groove on that stuff. Numbers are swirling in my head, and I will deal with that later.
What I am most over the moon about is the conversations that occurred at the table on these Data Days about teaching and learning. Hard conversations. Long conversations, some that ended with more questions than we started with. That is the stuff that I absolutely love. The conversations circling around: What did you try? How did it go? How do you know? What might your plans be for the fall?
It will always come down to teaching and learning for me. When we as teachers truly know and understand the depth and complexity of what we are teaching, where students are coming from, and where they have to go….that is the magic.
Teachers, thanks for letting me be a part of your conversations.
And to all a good night……
‘Tis the season. The season of winding down another school year. We are heading into our last week of school. “Four and a half more get ups!” The teacher list of “To Do’s” is very lofty in those four and a half school days. It will all get done. It always does.
You can tell as you walk through the school that things are beginning to wind down. Hallway displays quietly retreat as we begin to send student work home. We start to tuck away a few things here and there. Markers are on their last legs, and glue sticks have all but dried up. You are hard pressed to find a pencil longer than 6 inches, with an eraser. You can tell that kids are starting to spend more time outdoors as their freckles are beginning to appear.
I was collecting books from some of my first graders today and one of them looked up from their project and said, “I am not ready to be done with first grade yet. I am going to miss school.”
You know for some kiddos we are their stable, their constant, the one that meets their needs, listens to them, nourishes them, are their champions, sounding boards, the ones that get to see the best side (and not so pretty side) of them.
As we finish up these last few days of school and we as adults are feeling paper thin, hanging on by a thread….they are too. Hanging on to what school does mean to them. What you mean to them. School is “their place”. You are “their person”.
Have a great last week of school.
On Saturday, seventeen very dedicated 5th graders from Davisburg set off to Stony Creek High School in Rochester for their very first Division III Math Pentathlon state competition. This group of students have met after school weekly since January to prepare for the competition. These Pentathletes learned and strategized the five different problem solving Math Pentathlon games that they would face at the competition.
The gymnasium was filled with over 600 Pentathletes from the Michigan-Ohio center. Seventeen of those kids were ours. It was inspiring to look out over the sea of children playing their games, strategizing, respectfully challenging, puzzling, and shaking hands with their opponents once the game was through. It was neat to watch them out of their element, matched up with competitors outside of our Holly world. Between games they shared their triumphs with pride, and their losses with grace.
I know that their biggest cheerleaders (and teachers)- Julianne Strong and Stephanie Creasey were keeping pretty close tabs on how the kids were doing throughout the day. When it came time for the awards ceremony at the conclusion of the games, I have never seen 600 4th and 5th graders sit so still awaiting their final scores. The awardees were called up by category by Math Pentathlon co-founders Dr. John del Regato and Dr. Mary Gilfeather and were asked to “take a bow”. There were tears, it was touching.
For Davisburg’s first showing at Math Pentathlon the children did amazing. You never know how our students stack up to their peers, and they showed that they were there to represent, and can hold their own. We brought home some hardware. Not bad for our first go at it.
Congrats to our 17 Davisburg Pentathletes. Take a bow.
As we enter Teacher Appreciation Week at our building, some reflections on some biggies in my life. Who inspired you?
*Barb Naylor, my third grade teacher at Reid Elementary, Grand Blanc. Would you believe that she is NOW my neighbor and good friend? She is as cool now, as she was back then. Thanks to her I got my first taste of history and days of yore.
* Gene Dolby, sixth grade, Grand Blanc Middle School. We had something that he called a “Syllabus”. The syllabus was full of vocabulary words that we learned. I can still remember him walking around in his kelly green pants with ducks on them teaching us what a credenza is. I still have my syllabus from his class. I do.
* Pam Whipple. She tutored me a few summers in math. She always had really sharp yellow pencils and she helped me master my multiplication facts. 8×7=56 written on a Gloria Vanderbilt postcard.
* Vic Trembley, English, Grand Blanc High School. He taught us never to settle for anything but the best. We read a ton in his class, talked about books, and learned to love literature. He would not accept my work unless it was written in cursive. Just so you know Mr. Trembley, I still print. Neatly.
They say that people come into your life for a reason. I am a firm believer in that. I believe that every person that you encounter has something to teach us. Today this is a story of one special spunky second grader.
This student arrived at our school a few weeks into the school year and soon became part of my daily life. Sure, we worked on reading and math, but it was way more than that.
I learned her life story. She shared it openly, honestly, and frankly. Sometimes I had to shake myself out of it because I thought, at any given time, that I was sitting with an adult. This is a child that fully understands her struggles, embraces her strengths, stands up for the little guy, forgives, is empathetic to others, and lights up a room with sass on a daily basis.
Friday was her last day with us. And there was a party. Her classroom teacher did a beautiful job making it a party to remember. There were invitations, treats, dancing, and presents. The class gathered around her to watch her read the book that her teacher had created for her. She opened her presents and thanked everyone with grace and kindness. Her classmates wrote kind words about her on sticky notes, placed them on a board that read “Happy Day”, and her teacher read a few of them out loud. She listened with light in her eyes and joy in her heart. It was her day. She rocked it like a champ.
So there will be a huge empty hole on Monday in my room. Hopefully we will meet again someday. We all learned from you. Stand up for the underdog. Stand up for yourself. Someday she wants to be a Social Worker or a Police Officer. And she will be.
As we are riding off into the Spring Break sunset for a much needed recharging of our souls, whether your toes will be dipped in the sand, or you are snuggling up on the couch for a much needed afternoon nap, I leave you with this picture from one of my spunky first graders. Rest and recharge my friends. You have earned it.
Our school is just wrapping up spring Parent/Teacher Conferences. For this round of conferences I decided that I was going to do things a little bit different. Usually I run around(literally) on conference night going from classroom to classroom to touch base with as many parents as I can. There were times that I was triple booked for one time slot and I was missing out on connecting with families. I also wanted to make sure that the students that I support had a chance to shine. I am so proud of the reading growth that each and every one of our students has made and I wanted to help them CELEBRATE! So the planning began.
The students helped design the invitation for their parents and hand delivered them with care. We researched what we could serve for a snack and decided that Bunny Mix was a perfect fit for our celebration. Each child had a part in creating the snack and setting up for “the party” as they called it. We put tablecloths and balloons on the tables, added a few extra touches and we were ready! They were very excited to pull out their most favorite LLI books to share with their guests.
I really wanted this night to be a celebration of growth- because they have come so far. It might not show up on a state assessment, but they are growing. That is something to be proud of.
And guess what? They came! At one point all of the tables were filled with kids, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and grandmas! It was a beautiful sight.
I was hoping that 5 or 6 of the kids on my caseload came– guess what? I had 26 students show up with their people! 26! With smiles, and excitement, and pride they had their chance to shine and show their stuff.