Posts Tagged ‘gifted education’

Poetry Month Day 14: What They Wrote

April 14, 2021

Want to write? i said
Want a space where you’re read? i said
Then come with me i said
You can blog like me i said
Here are some ideas i said
You can take them or do other things i said

And then they came
They blogged
They took some ideas
And they did other things like:

  1. A journaling of a day, gone by too fast.
  2. An ode to flowers
  3. A poem demanding us to look, just look, at the wonder around us
  4. A treatise on nostalgia
  5. A heart-wrenching poetic series that tells of our inner conflict between our positive and negative selves
  6. Stories about trampolines
  7. Deep dives into all those weird questions that keep us awake at night
  8. A poem that hangs heavy with the unfairness of life
  9. A COVID parody on “12 Days of Christmas”
  10. Soapboxes on humans and our treatment of animals
  11. Stories that they start the first installment of, then the stories that they switch to because why not take a chance and share some writing that isn’t quite your favorite but you’re still working on and want to just put out into the world and see what happens
  12. The latest installments on the Minecraft Saga, on Chokis and Fott’s new adventures, the New Life story, the tale of Test Subject 99,823, all somehow miraculously, magically written with correctly-punctuated dialogue and paragraphing and description and narration because miraculously, magically, they realize that other people are reading their work

This is good, i think
They’re figuring things out, i think
And they’re taking it, i think
And running, i think
And it’s hard to keep up, i think

And there are some problems
That are good problems to have.

All of this since the beginning of April. Whew!

Slice of Life 2021 Day 29: WHOOSH

March 29, 2021

Today marks Day 29 of the Slice of Life challenge. Join me as I work to write every day in March – and beyond!

Today. *

Today I blogged.

And before that I cobbled together my bananapants schedule for tomorrow: lesson to lesson, meeting to meeting.

And before that I thought through my lesson I’ll be sharing with kids on mentally preparing for standardized testing. While we’re on the subject, I’m not a fan at ALL of teaching kids to a test. If kids have skills, they have skills. But. Anything we can do to give our loveys a sense of control over their testing environment? Anything that will allow the kids to see how they can keep their wits about them in an anxiety-rich situation? I’m all in favor of THAT. This lesson is a follow-up to one I taught earlier about strategies for keeping cool in stressful times.

One more tool we have for keeping our wits about us!

And before that I checked in with a former student of mine, who’s brimming with rich fantasy worlds she wants to create through graphic novels.

And before that I got to work car line again for the first time in almost a month. I missed those faces!

And before that I shared Leo Lionn’s Frederick with my third graders. I opened up the Zoom chat to everyone in the group. Sometimes that goes haywire. Today it didn’t. They shared such insightful comments and ideas, like – “Frederick was misunderstood.” Yes, yes he WAS misunderstood. And now let’s talk about what it means to be UNDERESTIMATED. (We’ll be going places with that one, friends.)

And before that I assembled as many materials and activities for the self-guided learning my groups will do over the coming weeks. I. Am. Far. From. Done.

And before that I choked down my lunch standing at my kitchen counter with my puppy at my heels because SOMEONE had to let her out mid-day, and that somebody turned out to be me.

I think she likes me…

And before that I cranked my way through morning classes, eager to see students after a week, and trying my best to play whack-a-mole with student attendance, through patchy internet, through sound problems, and all those wonderful things we got to avoid in our week off.

And before that I recorded my weekly pep talk for my kids. I’ve been taking the kids through brief (2-minute) lessons about what it means to be smart, about what that means for the way we see ourselves and others. Today’s pep talk was about explanatory style, and how that feeds into our feelings.

Because we deserve to understand the way we think and feel and move about this world.

And before that I executed my morning routine with the customary military logistics a school day requires: waking, showering, letting dogs out, feeding dogs, making chai, smooching the spouse goodbye, praying the 17-year-old is up, grabbing my stuff and heading out to school.

And before that I felt my alarm buzzing on my wrist mid-dream, wondering why I was being woken at 5:45 when, in fact, it was 6:30…

*Special thanks to Vivian Chen and Fran McVeigh, who first gave me the inspiration to use this form. Visit them. Theirs, I assure you, are some amazing pieces of writing. =))

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 >>

Slice of Life 2021 Day 4: Kid Wisdom

March 4, 2021

Today marks Day 4 of the Slice of Life challenge. Join me as I work to write every day in March – and maybe beyond!

As I alluded to in yesterday’s post, I used my own writing as a mentor text for my fourth graders. The goal is to use student writing as the literature from which we conduct reading discussions. The REAL goal is to farm out the strategy, if it works. Who knows? Maybe we can have whole classes – whole SCHOOLS worth of children who see themselves as writers, who delight in creating literature that’s just as worthy of analysis as something they’d pick up off the bookshelf.

But I get ahead of myself.

Today, I read my students’ written responses to my work. I set them up with a 4-quadrant response chart before our class discussion. Reading their work, and then hearing them TALK about my writing? Friends, if you haven’t listened to other people talking about your writing, YOU. ARE. MISSING. OUT. I’m highlighting a few questions and ideas from my perceptive kiddos:

Something I don’t understand…
“Why is Lainie’s friend so mean? Why can’t Story be nicer?”
“Why should Story give Lainie a smirk if she already said ‘suit yourself?’ “

A question I have…
“Why does Lainie hate writing narrative fiction?”
“Maybe she is talking to her writing and doesn’t like it but STORY wants her to try again?”

Oh! This seems important…
“Story is telling Lainie she can’t tell her students to do one thing and do something else herself.”
“The friend is encouraging her.”
“Story is named…STORY.”

It’s interesting that…
“A lot of people don’t like writing things they can’t get wrapped up in.”
“Lainie always tries to encourage others but doesn’t try to encourage herself.”
“Lainie tells her students to do things she doesn’t want to do herself.”
“She is standing up for what she likes and doesn’t like.”

I want to let this wisdom stand, so I won’t belabor the point with a lot of extra chatter. But I will share TWO things:

  1. My favorite moment came when the students realized that Story smirked because she had tricked me into writing fiction. That’s when the kids were REALLY able to infer the “tough love” relationship I have with her.
  2. I mean, LOOK at what these kids observed and wrote. They have my NUMBER.

Now. If you need me. I’ll be sitting here, heart aflutter, waiting for what’s next around the bend. I can’t wait – and neither can my loveys!

Slice of Life 2021 Day 3: Story Has Her Say

March 3, 2021

Today marks the third day of March, the third day of the Slice of Life blogging challenge. I’ve committed to write each and every day during the month of March and – who knows? – maybe even longer. Join me! This entry was inspired by the conversation I had with my students this week after sharing a snippet of fiction I wrote. That writing is linked at the bottom as Part 1 of this series.

“You know they called you mean, right?”

Story stopped scrolling through her Instagram long enough to look up. “What?”

“My students. They read about you and me in the coffee shop, and they thought you were being mean to me.” Lainie shrugged her shoulders. “I can’t help what they say about you.”

Story rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on. You can’t help what they think of me? You don’t really believe that, do you?”

“It’s true,” an indignant Lainie huffed. “I say it all the time. ‘You can always write what you want, but you can’t control what happens with your work once you release it out into the world.’ “

“Yeah, yeah,” her companion snapped. “All of that trusting in art and all that blah blah.” She paused a beat. “But aren’t you ALSO the one who says that ‘as authors, we have the power to do anything we want as long as we make it readable and believable?’

“So what’s your point, Story?”

You know the point.”

“Of course I do. I’m the author. I know EVERYTHING about my story.” Lainie added triumphantly, “I say THAT to my kids, too.”

“Then give the whole story. I bet you didn’t even let them read the second and third installments of our conversations, did you? I look much better in those. Instead I just end up looking like the bad guy.”

“I’m perfectly fine with that,” Lainie replied.

“Well, I’m not. And you can tell those kids I’m not mean. I’m honest. I’m the friend who tells you what you need to hear. If I’m rough around the edges, well, that’s just how you see me. So if you don’t start taking all the advice you keep doling out about this ‘power of a writer’ nonsense, I’m going straight to your students and telling on you.”

A silence settled between them. The barks of a neighborhood dog and the rumble of a passing truck outside filled the space. Lainie couldn’t speak. She had too much stuck in her craw. She’s got me again, Lainie thought. How does she always know how to get me?

“I suppose,” Lainie begrudged, “that I could tell the kids that sometimes I get stuck.”

“And?” Story asked expectantly.

“And that sometimes I know I just need a good talking-to to get me going.”

“And?”

“And maybe I should let kids read the rest of the story.”

And?

Heavens, Lainie sighed. She’s going to make me say it, isn’t she? “And I’m grateful for the way you come to remind me that I need to be less of a scaredy-pants about pushing myself in writing.” Lainie waited for Story’s response. “Happy now?”

Story held her gaze for an extra moment before returning to her newsfeed. “Guess the kids will be the judge of that.”

Now, if YOU want the rest of the story, you’re welcome to dig in to our “conversations:”
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Slice of Life 2021 Day 1: Looking

March 1, 2021

Today marks the first day of March, the first day of the Slice of Life blogging challenge. I’ve committed to write each and every day during the month of March and – who knows? – maybe even longer. Join me!

A commitment to writing each and every day. Am I looking forward to it? Down into the abyss of overcommitment? Up into my imagination, into my own world of wonder? In at my sense of resolve and discipline?

There’s no doubt about it. The comfortable side of my brain is dragging her feet, crossing her arms and shaking her head in disbelief that I have committed myself to one. More. Darn. Thing. Still, I know full well from my participation last year how incredibly valuable this challenge is for me as a writer, a teacher, and as a human.

I’ve become braver as a writer. I’m almost as brave as my students, and I still hope to write with the same fearlessness that they do. The more I write with and alongside my students, the more respect and admiration I have for what they do.

I’ve also realized that I have the power to take the writing community I’ve come to enjoy, and bring that to my students. Why shouldn’t they have the benefit of seeing and hearing others discuss their work? Why shouldn’t they see themselves as real writers, with real audiences, writing with genuine purpose?

That’s the work I’m taking on, both this month and in months to come. We’re setting up trusted reader circles: groups of students who read one another’s work, cheer each other on, and offer honest feedback and support.

Today we dipped our toes into the waters. We used a piece of writing I did last year during the Slice of Life challenge as a mentor text for how we might talk about one another’s work. Then, they’ll do the same thing for one another.

Where will it go? Well, I’m hoping this catches on, that students will feel their writing is good enough and strong enough to serve as mentor text any day of the week. I’m hoping kids will see themselves as true peers and collaborators. I’m also hoping I can take this model and farm it out to other teachers.

Look out. Here we come!

Slice of Life Tuesday: Another Little Word

February 23, 2021

When writing my “One Little Word” post for the new year, I knew the word I chose, gather, would not last me through the year. In fact, it was my hope that this one little word would soon slough its skin to reveal the word underneath.

The other day, I was at school. It was late. Way too late for me to reasonably still be at school. Especially on a mentally-challenging day like that day. I texted a colleague who I knew was still at school, asking for five minutes just to blow off some steam.

We wound up talking for an hour.

Turns out, there is a LOT that I’m dissatisfied with:
The gulf between what I want for my students and what I’m giving them.
The gulf between what I want for my colleagues and what I can provide.
I want to do everything for everybody and I have to figure out where the boundaries belong.
I want everyone to feel supported in what they do and I have to figure out where to place my energy.
While I’m at it, I kinda want to take care of my physical, emotional and spiritual self.

All of these desires place conflicting demands on my attention.

And then my colleague, whom I admire more that she will ever give herself credit for, reminded me about DISSONANCE.

Dissonance.
That strong feeling when holding conflicting ideas.
It’s also when two sounds are inharmonious, when they strike the ear harshly.
Dissonance.

Dissonance sounds terrible when it’s performed accidentally or tentatively. Dissonance works because musicians lean INTO it, striking those discordant notes with full intention. It’s that leaning into conflicting sounds that allows us to appreciate the resolution to come – or not. After all, there are musical pieces that never quite resolve, just as there are conflicts in life that never quite resolve.

My friend also suggested that the times when we feel most dissonant in our lives, when we feel the deepest chasm between the reality of our lives and our moral center, THOSE are the times when our selves are preparing for a leap forward.

I know she’s right.
I know this is an uncomfortable phase I’m going through.
I know that pieces of myself are in conflict.
I know I don’t have to like it.
And I know that there is growth and change happening. I just have to see it through.

So…my next One Little Word?

Dissonance.
I shall lean in.
I shall tune in to the discord.
I will bring out of it what I can, whether or not I gain resolution.

That is, until the next One Little Word scoops me up, sets me in a new direction, and gives me another nudge.

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge. Give them a visit!

Swinging For The Fences

February 9, 2021

I’m not going to lie.

This year, I have had some SPECTACULAR fails in the classroom.

And I mean, not just the oh-man-this-is-tricky-how-am-I-going-to-figure-a-different-way-of-teaching-this-to-the-kids fail. That’s just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill, cost-of-doing-business, everyday type of fail.

No.

I’m talking about the holy-cow-this-lesson-is-crashing-and-burning-and-I-have-absolutely-no-way-of-backing-out-of-this-and-no-way-to-figure-out-in-the-moment-how-to-make-it-better-and-why-did-I-even-bother-getting-out-of-bed-today fail.

I’ve thought a lot about these fails.

They haunt me.

In the moment, failures as I’m teaching feel like I’m failing as a teacher.

The good news is that time offers perspective. And through the perspective of time, I get offered moments of clarity and growth.

You see, all my fails, at least the most spectacular ones, have had one thing in common: they all occurred when I was asking more of my students than they were ready for.

That got me thinking about what I do and why I do it. I was talking with my kids this morning about yet ANOTHER ambitious lesson we were going to try and take on. Here’s what I told them:

“Friends, I’ve been thinking a lot about what we’ve been doing, and I realize sometimes I mess up as a teacher. And when I think about the mistakes I make as a teacher, I kind of have to decide. Do I want to make the mistake of overestimating what you can do, and sometimes ask too much of you? Or do I want to make the mistake of underestimating what you can do, and asking less of you than you might be capable of?”

Down to a person, we all knew the answer to that question.

So yes. I will continue to shoot big, and yes. I will continue to sometimes miss big. But If I didn’t shoot big, Would I ever get reasoning like this?

Done as a group together (you may have to expand, but there’s good stuff here).

Would I ever get writing like this?

Fourth-grade spelling. Gotta love it.

Would I ever get peer feedback like this?

This is what happens when you model feedback based on grown-up writing communities like the Slice of Life challenge.

Fact is, I wouldn’t trade all those difficult moments for the world, if it means growth for me and my kids. And maybe next time, these mistakes will pave the way to a smoother path next time, one that takes them – and my teaching – even further.

Sunday Sitdown #1: Here I Go

January 17, 2021

I’m a member of my school district’s newfound committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.*

For our last meeting, we were asked to compose a racial autobiography, to craft a reckoning of our experiences with race and identity. (Check out the Pacific Educational Group to learn about their work!)

There were a LOT of questions. And as someone who’s been thinking about and reflecting on race for a really, REALLY long time, I didn’t know how I could put it all together. I’m a person of words, but I couldn’t imagine the number of words I’d have to summon to do the assignment justice.

So I did whatever I do in situations where I need a direct connection with my thoughts: DOODLE. I grabbed my flair pens and started drawing. Instead of a written document, I came up with this:

As I drew, it occurred to me how very MUCH there is here for me to unpack. There’s a lot more here than pictures can convey. I’m going to HAVE to put words to these ideas. And I’ll have to do it one step at a time.

That’s where you come in. I’d love for you to join me on this exploration.

Each Sunday, I’m going to work my way through this autobiography, one image at a time. I’ll share the stories and memories that connect with each part. I know I’ll encounter moments of growth that I wish I could relive. I’ll also have to think back on choices that I wish I could remake.

Here’s hoping I see you right back here next week!

*Yes, I have some general thoughts about committees for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. And also thoughts about those words needing to be capitalized. We won’t get into that right now. The good news is, I’m hopeful about what our group can accomplish. So there’s that. It’s also led by Regina Armour. So there’s also THAT.

Why I’m in the Living Room

January 13, 2021

watching the British Bake Show
and not in the family room
watching TV
at the end of a long day
right by my husband
is because

after enough time
standing on my feet
rubbing my eyes
taking a breath
shaking my head as I
stare at the world about me

I have decided
that I am done
watching
fictional shows

about the real world