Big Blue Gets A Makeover

Recently my students benefited from a grant received from The Holly Education Foundation for Ergo Ergo stools. With the help of some of the kiddos, we researched the different sizes and cost of the stools. After much deliberation(and measuring) we decided to go with the size of the secondary stool as it sits a bit taller and fits my big kids perfectly. With our grant money we were able to order two stools. It is a start!

So yesterday two boxes arrived in my classroom- two BLUE Ergo Ergo stools. We quickly unpacked them and set them at the table. The kids were so excited! “Miss Schwartz they match the table!”

Not five minutes later two more boxes arrived!  What?  Our amazing principal pitched in for 2 more stools for Big Blue.  Now we have (4)!  This was the view from BB yesterday:


Thank you to the  Holly Education Foundation for supporting our Davisburg learners, and thank you to @denisekott for making my group of 4 readers really happy!

Comfort Zones

By nature I am a pretty conservative person.  I intentionally work to push myself outside of what I think is my comfort zone(hello, I did a Polar Plunge over the weekend). There have been two things that have pushed me out of my comfort zone as an educator that I would not trade for anything and I want to share them with you today.

  • Co-Teaching: This year was probably one of my best years of teaching ever. It was also the most challenging. The most frustrating. The most eye-opening. The most rewarding. We were positioned one year with the ability to have a co-taught classroom with myself and my friend who is a special educator.  It was the first time that I had to share my space with another adult.  We managed to make it work, had a few hiccups and collisions along the way. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I saw first hand differentiation at its finest. I saw and truly understood how not all students learn the same. I learned that it is okay to try 1,000 ways to get there and it is okay to take the time if you need it.  I knew all of these things, but you never fully understand it until you feel it in action.  This class of students grew so much that year. Some of them even looped to the next grade with us. We grew together. I will always treasure that.
  •  What I Do Now:  There are so many layers to this work that I cannot even begin to express it. It is so much different from the work of a classroom teacher, not harder work, just different. I never would have thought that having a small group of 4 or 5 students over a 30 minute time span would challenge me so much as an educator. That 30 minute time block is precious time. Precious to me, and precious to the learner. The things that you realize about learners as individuals that likely would blend easily in the bigger pond, are vulnerable and out there in the open.  I am blown away on a daily basis that these kids ask me about words.  Things that I might have assumed that they understood in a larger classroom setting, are revealed in these small groups. And they are comfortable letting you know what they don’t know and understand.  Plus we form some pretty awesome relationships along the way.

What pushes you out of your comfort zone?


My New Job

So I have this one particular group of first graders that I think are quite lovely. As they were working hard today sorting words by their vowel sounds one of these sweeties piped up and said, “When I grow up I want to be a baseball player.” In true first grade fashion, they were quick to pipe in about their career ambitions. “I want to be a ‘You-Tuber’ “. “I want to be a ballerina teacher.”  “I want to own a farmers market.” “I want to chase monsters.”

So I chimed in, “What should Miss Schwartz be when she grows up?”  After a quizzical look (probably thinking geez lady you are already a grown up) I had two suggestions offered.  One was a veterinarian.  Not bad, I like animals. The other little person felt that I should just stay home. Not sure how I feel about that last one. Do they think I should retire?  Or that I have worked hard all these years and I should rest?  Oh these first graders!  So silly!

The Right Work, The Right Direction

Today was a HUGE day! At least I think it was. Today was a district professional development day. We were fortunate to have a large chunk of time together as a building staff on this very rainy Michigan morning following a long weekend.  And boy did we jump in with both feet.

One of the things that I always try to keep in the forefront of my mind when it comes to teaching and learning is, “Am I Doing The Right Work?”  One of the many parts to this work is understanding exactly what the work is. And by “work” today I mean standards. What exactly are the standards that my students need to learn?  Where are they in my teaching materials?  Are they in my teaching materials?  If they are not, what am I going to do about that?  What do the standards in the grade before me look like?  And where are students going after they leave me?  Am I getting them there the best way possible?Having and understanding that global view is priceless.

So we began this exact work today. Together. Looking at the learning progression of just one part of one strand allowed us to frame our minds for “the right work” and the “right direction”.  And it got messy. The best kind of messy. The kind of messy that makes you take deep breaths, sigh, walk away, come back, and challenge each other. The good work. The right work.

Kind of ironic that it was a muddy Tuesday. This was the picture that I shared with the staff at the end of our standards analysis. The right work  gets messy before it gets pretty.  To quote the book Holes, “The first hole is the hardest.”  Start digging!

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At The End Of The Day…

Some people reflect on their day on the drive home. Some quietly meditate.  Some talk it out. There are many possible ways to debrief the day.  No matter what way I happen to debrief the day- I always ask myself the same question?  Who or what did I encounter today (good bad or indifferent) that I can learn from? Many times it is looking at things from the perspective of a child, a parent, or a colleague.

Is there something that someone has said or done that had a profound impact on the way that I view things?  Absolutely!  Here are two that I think are noteworthy:

A really smart lady  that I know has a great line- “It’s not dropping the ball as long as you pick it up on the bounce.”  This is a reminder that I keep in my hip pocket when I feel like I am going in a million different directions. It’s all about the bounce!

Another really smart lady has taught me the true meaning of “Seek First To Understand”.  This is her mantra and she lives by it, and I believe that it was her dad that instilled this value in her.  Thanks for the reminder as sometimes we get lost in the moment and need to take a step back.

Thanks ladies!




Moving Forward

We just completed grade level Data Days at our school.  These days are some of my favorite days. They are long, exhausting, but invigorating.  Not everyone feels that way, but I do. These are the days where we get to talk about kids, and teaching, and learning. We pour over online assessment data and classroom based assessments. We talk about what is going well with instruction, and what we need to look at differently to meet the needs of our learners. We celebrate the gains, and make plans together. We look at data upside down and right side up.  Chart paper covers the walls. It is like one giant puzzle with a million moving pieces. Sometimes we leave the meetings with more questions than answers. This is the good stuff.  These are the conversations and plans that change the teaching and learning that happen in our classrooms.

What I love even more are the conversations that come in the following days. “Hey I’ve been thinking about trying this?”  Or,  “What are your thoughts about this?”  “So if I look at this standard this way…?”

This is how I know that we are moving forward with our teaching and learning. The good stuff.

Turning The Table

“Miss Schwartz, what don’t you like about your job?”

This question came from a third grader last week. She sees me daily for all kinds of support. That day we were working on math. But she threw me a curveball.

I looked at her, and paused, allowing myself adequate wait time to think.  I knew what my answer was, but I wasn’t sure how to phrase it for an eight year old.

The answer was just a few feet away sitting in organized piles on another table. My answer is time.

This was going to be a tricky conversation with this all too wise third grader, because my answer of “time” is exactly what she struggles with in her world. She can name it precisely. It takes her longer to do things in all aspects of her life and that is what we work on together. More time is not what she needs, managing the time she has is her goal. Creating some strategies that she can develop to help her overcome the clock.

My struggle with time is different. I can manage time. I get things done (mostly), I can clear my piles. But sometimes I would like a bit more time.  Time to sneak in a few more groups, time to sneak in on some old friends….

After sufficient wait time this is what I said.

“There isn’t anything that I don’t like about my job. It is different everyday, never the same.  I wish that I had more time to work with kids and teachers because that is what I love.”

She looked at me with her head tilted, “Miss Schwartz, today I feel like I was your therapist. I have a book at home that has some quotes in it that I think might help you.”

She forgot the book, she didn’t have time to put it in her backpack. Maybe on Monday she said…

We will both keep working on this.