DigiLitSunday: Problem Solving

As teachers, much of what we do on a daily basis revolves around problem solving. Classroom management challenges, instructional pitfalls (both expected & unexpected), students who are not progressing in an intervention, collegial relationships under strain…the list can sometimes feel never-ending.

I am a go-to problem solver. It is how I am wired. When it comes to problems that arise within the walls of my classroom or my school, dialoguing in the company of my colleagues is one of the best places to be where problem solving can take root and impact students, teachers, and systems positively.

This morning I listened to a powerful podcast around this very topic. Cornelius Minor shared how teachers can build an effective teaching team using the analogy of superheros. Everyone has something to contribute to a cause, and taking the time to seek out & identify each person’s strengths/interests/passions can lead to the creation of what can be a powerful & effective team both for teachers and students, and he nudges listeners to consider what each team member can bring to the table to better the work they are doing. This “recruit from the group” mentality takes a team of people who are willing to be honest, transparent, and I would add brave, as everyone comes together to create a solutions-based approach to problem solving that needs to be done.

One idea Cornelius suggested around building an effective team is designing your time when you come together to meet. Because time is something teachers never seem to have enough of, it must be acknowledged that making time is a required sacrifice everyone makes together.

To that end, he specifically suggests that everyone ask each other for 7 minutes a week. Seven minutes? Yes, seven. If those seven minutes are deliberate, focused, and always directed at the heart of the work at hand, a LOT can be accomplished in those few minutes. The first one or two minutes should be a check-in with everyone – now this is important..it is not complain time, because we all know we teachers do the complain thing really well. Cornelius suggests that status check-in should be full of *nouns* and not *verbs.* “This *unit* is going well” or “This *student* is showing growth” offer opportunities for everyone to share what is working, or simply where each person is within the journey of the group’s collective work.

Effective teams will likely need more than 7 minutes a week to work through the problem solving process and eventually accomplish big work. Certainly there will be longer, highly intentional meetings around issues that need attention. However, it is the consistent, intentional team building practices (like weekly 7-minute check-ins to name just one) that create and maintain the integrity and collective problem solving power of an effective team.

Thank you to Margaret Simon for this DigiLitSunday topic and for creating the space for everyone to share their approach to problem solving in any area of their teaching life. Click here to add your story and link up with others who are doing the same.

DIgilit

 

Poetry Friday: Summer is Coming

Blogging is a new adventure for me. With the help & encouragement of my friend Margaret Simon I am connecting with other bloggers through blog link-ups. She is also introducing me to poetry, mentoring me as I attempt to better understand the art of poetry and dip my toes into the world of writing poetry.

I find myself looking through the world with different eyes lately. I think more deeply about my surroundings, stretching myself to see beyond what is in front of me. I have been hiking for the last several weeks at a nearby state park, and as the weather is warming up, at long last we are preparing for the summer months that are just around the corner.

These journeys outside are the inspiration for my first Poetry Friday poem:

Ode To Summer (2)

Thank you to Buffy @ Buffy’s Blog for hosting today’s Poetry Friday link-up. If you would like to join us, click here.

Poetry-Fridaysm

 

SOL: A special celebration of books!

As a child I was one of the lucky ones. Every night, my parents read to me. They both valued reading and children’s books a great deal. My dad was a principal, and my mom was a paraeducator in the library of my elementary school. She made sure I had a steady diet of Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and Roald Dahl. I grew up appreciating books, but it wasn’t until my children’s literature course in college that I felt transformed. The storybooks of my youth looked different and I felt I was reading them through new eyes. The eyes of a teacher.

My newly discovered love for children’s books coupled with what I brought with me from my childhood remained steadfast in my heart when I became a parent to four daughters. One by one as they joined our family, I didn’t waste any time introducing each of them to their first books before they could speak a word, turn a page, or take steps to the bookshelf to choose a bedtime story. Goodnight Moon, Where’s Spot?, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? were constant companions and beloved favorites of every daughter.

When my daughters spent time at my parent’s house, reading with their grandma, whom they lovingly called “Meme,” was always something they counted on when at her house. Her lap was always ready for a granddaughter to sit in, and her book bin was always well stocked with favorite titles. If you got to spend the night at Meme’s house, it always involved comfort food & snacks, craft projects, and always reading together.

My mom’s love for children’s books extended to the children at Hedges School, where, as the librarian’s paraeducator, she was a passionate advocate for children’s literature for two decades. Teachers and students loved Mrs. Graham and could always count on her patience and kindness in assisting them with anything they needed. Her appreciation for literacy and her belief in its positive impact for children brought her great joy and satisfaction.

Last year after a brief but courageous battle with dementia, we very sadly said goodbye to my mom. Shortly after her passing, I found myself reflecting on the things that were important to her, and books, specifically children’s books came immediately to my mind. We set up a memorial fund with which we would purchase books for the library where she faithfully worked, joyfully sharing her love of literature with the students at Hedges School.

I have found and chosen the books, and all 45 of them are ready to be shared at last! How I wish she were here to pick up each book and unearth the treasure that waits inside every single one. I know she would have loved them all, and would have carefully matched each book to a student who, in turn, would treasure the story inside. Each book has a special memory label inside with my mom’s picture, so every reader knows of her love for children, and the importance of great literature in their lives.

celebratingbooks!

I am incredibly blessed to be teaching at Hedges. Every once in awhile, I find myself perusing the bookshelves of our library, occasionally opening a book and seeing her handwriting on an old library card pocket on the inside cover; a joyful reminder that her presence somehow is still here with me, as it is with each student who searches the bookshelves to discover the amazing stories waiting for them.

This is my first of what I hope will be many more Tuesday Slice of Life posts. Thank you to all of the teacher/writers at Two Writing Teachers who make this platform available to educators of all backgrounds where we can unearth the writers inside of each of us!

slice-of-life_individual

 

Packing Up, Moving Out

The countdown has begun..only 14 days of school are left. As I walk the halls in my school, the atmosphere has definitely changed. Here in northwest Montana, winter was long, and spring came oh so s-l-o-w-l-y this year. We’ve had a tease of sun and warmer temps intermixed with more rain and cooler temps than we would like, but with every day that passes, more blossoms are beginning to appear, the grass is getting greener, and the promise that summer will arrive next month is beginning to settle in.

Most of the teachers in my building will soon begin covering book baskets in their classroom libraries, tucking away materials in their cupboards, and closing their doors until they return in August. Two beloved teachers who have an impressive 77+ years of teaching between them will instead be cleaning & tidying for the new teacher who will occupy their room in August. When they walk out and close their doors behind them, it will certainly be with countless memories from careers that spanned decades, and powerfully impacted hundreds of children.

I am approaching my end-of-the-year routines quite differently this year. After 3 years as our school’s math & literacy instructional coach, I will be returning to the classroom to teach kindergarten in the fall. Fortunately I am not leaving my building, but only relocating down the hall. My mind is filled with great anticipation for this transition, and my list of summer reading is daunting to say the least!

TBR2017

Obviously it is unrealistic to think I will be able to read all 20 (yes, 20!) of these titles (not to mention the countless children’s books I am accumulating!). Fortunately, several of the 20 are books I have already read, but will take time to review again, Post-It notes in hand, annotating and marking specific parts I will be referring to during the year. Others will be new reads of course, full of effective and engaging strategies and approaches to teaching our youngest learners.

Leaving my coaching role has caused me to reflect a lot on my last 3 years and the opportunities I had to work more closely with teachers than I had while in the classroom. I have learned a great deal about listening, asking the right questions, and discovering the opportunities to learn myself as an educator through every coaching conversation, PLC, and professional development session I attended.

While I may be packing up and moving out, I am looking back at much growth and a renewed passion for all that lies ahead. How are you approaching your end-of-the-year routine in your classroom? You can click here to join our DigiLit link-up to share your story. Thank you to Margaret for opening up the discussion!

DigiLit

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

IMWAYR 2015

This past weekend, I entered the blogosphere.

Several years ago I maintained classroom blogs, but never created one for me…a place where I could share stories from my own professional journey in teaching. Thanks to AJ Juliani, however, and the encouragement of my amazing #G2Great friends I met on Twitter, the once talked about has at long last taken flight.

Through the help of my Voxer/#G2Great friend, Margaret Simon, I have found my way to the #IMWAYR link up, and I hope to become a regular contributor. Children’s books are my passion, and sharing my love for books I am reading will certainly be a great addition to my blog.

For my first #IMWAYR post, I’m going to keep it very simple. To be honest, writing any type of book review/blog post is a new practice for me, and one I will have to grow into. Plus, the book I want to share is one I am certain has been posted about many times already, but only recently discovered by me after hearing an episode from the wonderful podcast, All The Wonders where Kate DiCamillo shared all about Raymie Nightingale.

May I simply share a #booksnap I was inspired to create?

Raymie Nightengale #booksnap

I loved these snatches of text from Raymie’s conversation with Louisiana. Something as simple as one friend reading aloud to another brought Raymie to such a beautiful place… happiness coming out of nowhere and inflating her soul. That sat with me for a long time.

Thank you for letting me join in your celebration of reading. I look forward to making new connections with all of you!

Innovation

I recently became a member of the Innovative Teaching Academy with AJ Juliani. I stumbled upon this opportunity when reading a blog post by George Couros last month, and knew that I had to know more. Upon investigating the specifics of the Academy and discovering the monthly topics, I jumped in with both feet. I was especially drawn to the 2 areas of focus for April: Goal Setting & Priorities for Innovative Teaching & Learning, as well as building a blog.

I have envisioned and talked with many of my Twitter & Voxer friends about starting my own blog for at least a year. I follow many amazing bloggers, and knew that I would find the experience of having one rewarding, but honestly, I think I spent more time over thinking it rather than just doing it.

So here it is, my debut post on my debut blog! (I will admit to spending WAY too much time choosing a theme and playing with all of the various blog components…and after all that, I’m rolling with keeping it simple to start, and building from there).

We are currently at the end of week 3 in the Academy, where we discussed the topic of innovation. What does it mean to be innovative? What does it look like in the classroom? How can we encourage our students to be innovators?

When I consider being innovative, a few words come to mind: purpose, impact, intentional. Being innovative takes courage. It takes passion. It takes a willingness to get outside of our comfort zone. Innovative people are people of influence, and they approach innovation not only with a desire to impact those around them, but with an acute awareness that their actions can reach far and wide.

IMG_1284

AJ Juliani’s Framework for Innovation in the Classroom is a great visual that outlines what an innovation framework can look like for teachers and their students. As an instructional coach, however, I spend a majority of my time working alongside teachers, so my takeaways are perhaps a little different than a classroom teacher’s might be. In my role, I want to consider how I can support collaboration, failure, and inquiry with my colleagues.

Looking at AJ’s framework, I like how he starts with inquiry. When coaches are working with teachers on their staff, we need to tap into the questions teachers are asking, the instructional areas they want to know more about, and even the possible concerns they have about how successful they feel they may or may not be when venturing out into something new.

The process of innovation can be challenging for anyone, no matter what role they play in a school. Whether in a classroom or in a coaching role, there will be times when an idea or plan doesn’t pan out. Failure is part of the process of innovation, and while it’s never fun to experience a failure, if we can see it as part of the journey, we can experience growth.

Finally innovation does not have to be a solo ride. In fact, I will venture to say the journey of being innovative is far better when it is a shared, collaborative experience. When we join forces, venturing out into what may be unknown territory can be exciting! If we are faced with uncertainty (and we will be..) we have others there to encourage us to stay the course despite the challenges.

There will be a lot more learning around innovation for me in the months ahead, and I look forward to sharing more from my journey here. Thank you for sharing in my very first blog post. I would love to read your own thoughts on innovation. You can leave a comment below, or Tweet me @ girlworld4