Posts Tagged ‘education’

Slice of Life Tuesday: An Ode to the Sticky Note

October 19, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. I’m so grateful for the community and support I find in this group. Check them out!


Oh, sticky notes.

You’re quite possibly one of my very favorite school supplies, and I’ve always reveled in the many ways you support instruction and keep me organized. Granted, I have a tendency to sometimes write student names on a sticky assuming I’ll remember why, and then promptly forget what the list is for, but let’s not think about that now.

Instead, I’d like to thank you for all the things you’ve helped me do this week, all of the bright moments you’ve brought me.

Let’s start with the exit slip board I’ve put up at the entrances to each of my classrooms. Every day, I’ll be offering a prompt for an exit slip. Kids will slap a sticky up on the board in reflection at the end of class. For what it’s worth, I’ve already learned to post the exit slip prompt by the start of class so my more deliberate thinkers have time to consider it.

And boy, is there gold in these here responses! I can see myself learning a LOT about my students and how they perceive the world. My guess is I’ll also be in better touch with what they’re learning and what parts of my message get through to them.

I’ve also given the option for students to write me a private note on the back of a sticky note, if they feel the desire. One student wrote, “I was thinking about for a long time how many friends will I make?” Hopefully many in here, buddy. Hopefully many.

Then there was the kid who is clearly getting a check in the mail:

That’s opposed to the kid who posted a sticky note with a question for me: “How many children or grandchildren do you have?”
Umm.
I don’t mind kids asking or knowing my age.
But this one maybe stung a little.
Maybe because it means I’m turning a corner, like how the day I brought a student teacher into my classroom was the same day I realized that no, I was NOT “just out of college” anymore…

Yes, I could do this all online. But there’s also something wonderful about holding these slips of paper in my hands, these pieces of themselves the kids have plunked up on my wall.

I’m also looking forward to the learning I get to do with these. Maybe I’ll find ways to organize them, to use them as assessment pieces somehow. Maybe I can use them as artifacts to show them their growth. Maybe I’ll be better connected to my kids because they’re simply going to be telling me more. Who knows?

I’m excited to see!

Do you have clever ways you’ve used sticky notes in your instruction? I’m all ears!

Slice of Life Tuesday: A New Little Word

June 29, 2021

This post is part of the Weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


I’ve been waiting for this.

It’s the realization that my One Little Word, first set at gather and then at dissonance, has finally shifted.

Dissonance is fine and healthy for a while. It helps me grow and push myself in new directions. It’s good to be dissatisfied, to want better.

But living in dissonance is all-consuming. It leaves me fatigued, wondering how long I can manage the push-pull I feel morally, physically, philisophically, wondering what sort of mom I am, what sort of teacher I am, what sort of human I am.

It’s why I’m glad and grateful to feel that tension begin to ease. Those reins, coiled around my wrists and held in a white-knuckled grip, are finally beginning to slacken. As they do, I can slowly unwind, unbind, feel the circulation and color coming back to my hands, shake out my fingers, roll my shoulders, exhale, feel myself stretch, lengthen…

unfurl.

Yes. My new One Little Word. Unfurl.

The act of spreading out from a rolled-up or cramped-up position or state. The act of stretching out to occupy new spaces, or opening up to the wind or the elements. Figuratively. Literally.

For a few months, I’ve harbored the hope that summer would bring unfurl as my next One Little Word.

I’ve needed this.

Even without COVID, it was a tough year – the kind that cracks my foundation, that drives me to check out just how many years there are until retirement (don’t worry, friends, it’s still a long while). The kind of year that teachers can handle once in a career. Once. Maybe twice, but never in a row.

So the possibility that I wouldn’t experience this release, the prospect of going back to school as pulled as I was, well…that was scary.

What’s turned it around for me? The moments in sunshine? The long walks with friends? The dozens of library books checked out, read, checked out, read? A vision of the next hours, days, weeks, of relative freedom?

I can’t really say. What I can say is that I feel the turning of a corner. I feel a greater distance between myself and this past year. Soon, I’ll start to miss my sticky notes, my Flair pens, my colleagues, my students, my work. It gives me hope that I can re-emerge next year content, energized, aligned with purpose. Stretched. Grown. Unfurled.

Poetry Month Day 21: On Opportunity

April 21, 2021

They say, sometimes,
that when God closes a door
He opens a window

(and yes I know gender is a construct)

but what I really want to say
is that sometimes
when God closes a door
what’s really meant

is for you to stay at home,
look around this place and say
hey
I kind of like this place
maybe I’ll spruce it up a bit

Slice of Life 2021 Day 12: Filling Buckets

March 12, 2021

Today marks Day 12 of the Slice of Life challenge. Join me as I work to write every day in March,

If you’re feeling low,

And you’re wondering whether the next big gust of wind is going to guide you to shore or strand you out at sea,

And you’re wondering what, if anything, you can do to make this world feel and inch and a half better,

Follow Larry Ferlazzo’s advice. *

Have your kiddos write comments in your Zoom chat about grown-ups who’ve made a difference.

Send those comments (without names) to your colleagues.

Watch the fuel tank on your heart gradually shift from E.

.

.

.

*Let me know if you give this a go!

Slice of Life 2021 Day 8: Why the Soapbox?

March 8, 2021

Today marks Day 8 of the Slice of Life challenge. Join me as I work to write every day in March – and beyond!

My blog is called “Ed Soapbox” for a reason.

Soapboxes. Ideas we feel SO STRONGLY, we just need a box to stand on and shout it out to the world. And friends, I have a LOT of them. Especially when it comes to teaching and learning.

My position calls for me to do a lot of talking and meeting with my colleagues, and they know it is VERY easy for me to step up on my soapbox about any number of things. All it takes is just a little something to wind me up and set me in motion. I’m guessing it’s pretty entertaining to watch, just because I get so keyed up about things. I try to restrain myself, because I don’t want to be the one yammering on or get preachy. I can recognize an eye roll when I see it.

Still. Here is an incomplete list of all the things you don’t want to get me started on:

<< clears throat >>
<< takes a sip of water >>
<< steps on up >>
<< inhales deeply >>

Why emotional learning is 90% of what we do
Why gifted kids need each other
Why we need to talk about people who don’t look or live like us
Why expectations that leadership has of teachers creates classrooms where everyone’s afraid
Why teachers need the freedom to teach as they see fit
Why people are much better at math than they give themselves credit for
Why kids need to read what they want and write what they want
Why we need to consider poor behavior as a lack of skills rather than discipline
Why kids need to understand themselves better
Why we need to let go of control sometimes in our classroom
Why we need to listen more
Why we need to stop judging parents of kids who don’t behave
Why kids seem to show a lack of remorse for poor choices
Why kids need to understand place value so darn much
Why teachers need to open their doors more
Why teachers need to close their doors sometime
Why schools work just like giant classrooms

See? All I had to do was turn on the tap and get it flowing. You can’t see it, but I’m sitting up straight, my shoulders are tensed and my blood is PUMPING. And I’m just getting STARTED.

All because of this fierce belief I have in children, in my fellow teachers, in my families, in education itself.

So yes, I know that it’s fun to watch Lainie sometimes as she goes on a rip and tear. I’ll admit it’s kinda entertaining. I’d rather be the subject of an eye roll than lose the intensity of these beliefs.

<< steps back down >>

A Teacher’s Guide to Inauguration in 36 Easy Steps

January 19, 2021

or, Reflections from the Evening of January 19, 2021: How to Manage to Stay Afloat for the Next Eighteen Hours and Hold up the Walls of the World While it Watches, Waits, Breathless

  1. Pull yourself away from noise.
  2. Pet your dog.
  3. If you don’t have a dog, pretend to have a dog.
  4. Drink something warm.
  5. Listen, just for a moment, to tomorrow’s poet, Amanda Gorman.
  6. No. I mean really. Go listen. It’ll take you two minutes.
  7. Pass the tissues.
  8. Get a good bedtime.
  9. Wake up. Look at yourself in the mirror.
  10. Don’t just find the visage in the glass. Find the PERSON behind it.
  11. Don’t tell yourself “You’ve got this.” You’re tired of hearing that.
  12. Don’t tell yourself to breathe. You’re tired of hearing that, too.
  13. Tell yourself that you will get through today.
  14. Just like you do every day.
  15. Even the most difficult ones.
  16. Because that’s what we do.
  17. Get yourself to school, or to your Zoom, on time.
  18. Or not. Folks aren’t taking tardies today.
  19. Remember that our children are the reason we get up each day.
  20. Put your suffocating dread in its own breakout room.
  21. Tell your students you have faith in them.
  22. Tell your students you have faith in this world.
  23. Tell them again. Most of them won’t believe you the first time.
  24. Tell them they are part of history, that future children will hold their lives between the pages of a textbook.
  25. You will get through the day.
  26. Just like you do every day.
  27. Even the most difficult ones.
  28. Because that’s what we do.
  29. Close your computer and walk away.
  30. Do what you need to do to unclinch your white-knuckled grasp from your fear and anxiety.
  31. Because tomorrow your children will be waiting for you.
  32. They will need to hear, again, of your faith in the world.
  33. They will need to hear, again, of your faith in them.
  34. And again.
  35. And again.
  36. And again.

Slice of Life Tuesday: Missing Dreams

December 22, 2020

Today for the weekly Slice of Life challenge I knew I had a poem to write, but wanted to experiment with language and form. I came to a modified version of a triversen, a William Carlos Williams-created form consisting of six tercets: 18 lines in 6 stanzas. I’m still tweaking and working and thinking, but here goes:

In timesothertimes my dreams are vivid
and I carry them clanking in my pocket
and I listen to how they speakatme

Now manytoomany dreams slip from holes
in my pocket and shatter on the floor leaving
shards beautiful to stare atandat

I see my selfnotself in pieces of these dreams
and I play those bits again and over
til their edges smooth roundanddown

I force these realnotreal visions to replay
like lyrics of beyond-reach songs so
I might slide into sight of what came nextandbefore

But each timeaftertime the light fades
from the edges, the lyrics never come and
neither does the wisdom that used to comeandstay

So for nowtilwhenever all my pocket holds is hope
that dream-words will once again rest there
long enough whole enough clear enough to be heardandfelt

On Finding a Writing Community

December 15, 2020

Sometimes my lessons are OK, but no great shakes. Sometimes they crash and burn – sometimes sadly and softly, others in a great fiery blaze of glory.

But sometimes.

Sometimes I have an idea for a lesson that’s a GREAT ONE.

And it WORKS.

I’ve been trying to be deliberate this year about writing workshop for my fourth- and fifth-grade students. I want to create a community of writers where we improve our craft. Where we love writing and fiercely protect our time at every turn. Where we take risks in our writing. Where we exist as a group that offers our fellow writers support, feedback and the occasional kick in the proverbial pants.

So far, we’ve got a space where we love writing, where we take risks and fiercely protect our time. I’d like to think it’s because I’m transparent with my students about my own writing. Whatever I ask my students to do, I do along with them. I share my writing, even when I don’t like the results so much. I love what I write sometimes, and I struggle to write sometimes. I think, and I’d like to hope, that it’s validating for kids to know that someone they see as a “real writer” (translate: a grown-up with a blog) shares their hopes and insecurities.

One area that’s been really tough for me? Peer feedback. I’ve tried for years to create routines, rituals and skills that fulfill the vision I have for a student writing community. This year, I really want to make that happen. I want my kids to feel comfortable sharing their work with others. I want them to feel like they are part of a writing community. I want them to feel that other writers SEE them, that other writers READ them, that other writers RESPOND to them.

Kind of like…the community I have in the Slice of Life challenge.
(dim the lights)
Like the fearless writing my blog cohorts put out every week.
(cue soft music)
Like the thoughtful, sincere and thorough feedback in the comments.
(gradual crescendo)
Like the fascinating conversations that occur in the comment section.
(lights and angel music UP)

YES. That’s IT. How did I not see it before, ever?
I can use the posts and comments from other Slice of Life bloggers…as MENTOR TEXT for FEEDBACK!
How. On. EARTH. Did this idea not come to me sooner?

We started with my own blog post from last week. Students read my post and the comments that followed. What did we notice? Encouragement. Quotation from the text. Deep connections. Specific compliments. Questions.

And then? We hopped over to my blogging hero Fran Haley’s site and read her work. The students’ challenge? Work together to write a comment that’s worthy of being in the company of those we saw.

WOW. Did they ever deliver. Don’t believe me? Check out the page for yourself and be the judge!

What’s even more incredible is how excited the kids were to see their posts up on the Internet. We read the kind and sincere comments that Fran wrote back to each and every one of them. I don’t know how much time Fran put into her responses, but it was worth every second to see the smiles on my kids’ faces. I’m utterly overwhelmed by Fran’s generosity. Of course, she might read this, blush and say it was nothing.

But it was everything.

My kids feel seen. They feel proud. They now know their work deserves to be read, to be considered and talked about. And they feel inspired to continue their work.

I can’t fool myself into thinking that our work is done, that we have somehow magically perfected this community of writers. But we have laid the foundation, and I am grateful to the writers and colleagues from my own writing community for helping me make it happen.

Slice of Life bloggers, if you’re out there, and you’ve made it this far, THANK YOU. Thank you for providing me with your support, motivation, friendship and inspiration. It means the world.

Upon Re-Entry

November 17, 2020
From a flower fairy

I’ve been here.

I’ve returned to school after a devastating loss before, and I did it again today.

Days like these are strange, tiring and full of uncertainty. Will I be able to hold myself together? Can I make it through? Do I have it in me to accept the “we missed you’s,” the knowing eyes and nods, and not break down into a blubbery mess?

I felt like one of those candies – the cherry cordials. The one with the waxy hard shell and the super gooey insides.

I hate cherry cordials.

Had it not been for the “soft landing” gifts my colleagues left me –

had it not been for the air hugs I was offered in the hallways –

had it not been for texts with little more than a heart or the word “hug” –

had it not been for friends to arrange dinner, or a bottle of wine, or an errand –

had it not been for supervisors who offered grace and assistance beyond what I could hope to expect –

had it not been for family members who gave unconditional support and validation –

had it not been for the notes of sympathy from students of mine who just wanted to reach out –

had it not been for flowers that awaited me after a long drive home from the funeral –

had it not been for my husband and son, whose physical presence at that funeral meant more than I could say –

had it not been for the power of hugs when they are discouraged but so desperately needed –

had it not been for a family not my own to take me as one of theirs in a time I felt utterly alone –

had it not been for friends who held me in love and compassion in those early nightmarish days –

this strong shell, already cracked to pieces, most certainly would have shattered.

On College Education

October 6, 2020

Well. Looks like I’m stepping back up on to my soapbox. What’s got me so fired up this time?

My college son called me to chat about one of his professors. Things have gotten so bad that students banded together and complained to university higher-ups, so much so that the department issued its course evaluation survey halfway through the semester.

After hearing my son read his responses listing the numerous ways in which this class and its instructors have fallen short, I found myself really,

really,

REALLY wanting to call up this department and give them a piece of my mind.

But I’m not that kind of gal. Besides, it sounds like the students are already advocating quite well for themselves.

Still, as someone who dedicates her entire life and livelihood to the pursuit of excellence in teaching, I can’t just let this go.

So here’s what I WOULD say, if I were one who would say it.

Dear Professor,

Let me start by saying this. Your job is HARD. You’ve been asked to step in for the very first time to teach this undergraduate course. What’s more, you’re being asked to do it in the middle of a pandemic, and while the university is doing everything it can to protect your life and the life of the students, we are in a scary time. And you are being asked to teach in ways that your predecessors never had to consider.

What I’m imagining you think and believe right now? First of all, that you really know your stuff. You know that the class you’re teaching is HARD, and it requires you to teach an encyclopedic amount of information. I’d also like to believe that you truly want what’s best for your students. And I’m also wondering if you’re starting to realize that KNOWING material, and being able to teach it MEANINGFULLY are two separate animals.

I’m also going to guess that you were thrown into teaching this course without any training or support in pedagogy, or the foundations of teaching. I’m going to guess that the preparation and mentorship you were given as an instructor may have been limited to a copy of the syllabus as it had been previously, as well as your own experiences when you were a student.

I can’t fault you for that. You are a part of a bigger system that values the quantity of content over its instructional delivery. You are a part of a bigger system that values publishing credentials over the craft of teaching.

I also imagine you think I may be speaking out of turn, that as an elementary teacher I don’t have enough understanding of college students to know what good instruction looks like at the collegiate level.

I’m going to be straight with you. Good teaching is good teaching is good teaching. Let me repeat that. Good teaching. Is good teaching. Is good teaching.

The same foundational principles that apply to teaching first grade will resonate with fifth grade. With eighth grade. With high schoolers. With college students. With anyone. Why? Because at the heart of things, we are all human beings. We are curious. We learn when we are motivated. We crave connection, feedback and growth.

I’m guessing the complaints you’re getting right now feel pretty terrible. Critical feedback, especially in this volume, can really sting. But it’s also a wake-up call. You can be better. You can improve the experience for all. How? Here are a few places to start:

1. Respond to your students’ communications promptly and sincerely.
2. Give your students meaningful, prompt feedback on their work.
3. If you can’t give meaningful and prompt feedback, it’s a sign. You are assigning too many things. Pull back.
4. During classes, use presentations as a starting point rather than a script. Your students will engage more, and retain more, if there is context and explanation of the material.
5. Be a person to your students. If they connect with you, they’ll connect with the material.

Maybe this way of teaching is different from how you learned this content. Maybe this way of teaching isn’t valued in a system like the one you are in. Maybe you haven’t gotten the guidance and mentorship you needed as an instructor. But from one educator to another, we both know this is how we best learn, and we know it is what our learners deserve – no matter the level.

You can do it. I have perfect faith in you.