Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Part I

Welcome all! As we’re getting started, I’d like to let everyone know that I have invited the teachers who will be visiting The Ron Clark Academy in June to join us for this book study. I look forward to their input and wisdom as we discover new ideas to add to our classrooms and professional bags-of-tricks.

A little about how I blog…

Okay, so I’m a little OCD when it comes to reading. I read cover-to-cover. I read the Dedications and Forewords and Introductions. I read the Appendices and often look through the glossaries and citations and what-not at the end, too. I also read at the same speed at which I speak, which some folks say is kind of slow. While this has made “doing school” historically difficult for me, especially in Grad School, I think this makes me a better reader in the long run. I stop and re-read things. Sometimes I have “internal conversations” about what I’ve read at the end of a paragraph or chapter. Often I’ll type out these little conversations and process through them in the blog. I’ll use the blog to give voice to the questions that occur to me as I read, and I’ll try to let our group provide answers to those questions.

How YOU can participate

Please feel free to join us at our meetings. (See the schedule at right, please.) Don’t worry if you can’t come to every single meeting. Although, New Teachers, I’ll pay you if you do. It’s all part of my wicked plans: to help you realize your own individual style as a professional educator. Soon we’ll take over the world…!
So feel free to add your comments below, or bring your ideas to our meetings. If you don’t see a box for comments below, just click the “Comments” link at the bottom of any post and one should appear shortly. I look forward to reading the thoughts of my fellow “ramblers!”
Or, if you’d just like to follow along with the conversation (or if you don’t have time to read every page in the entire book) just follow along vicariously. Again, no big whoop.


page xviii: “The next day I walked into that class and instantly fell in love with teaching.”
Not every educator will have the opportunity to start their own school and appear on “Oprah” and so on. However, I think – no, I’m CONFIDENT – that each of us has a story to tell, and each has the potential to be just as amazing as Ron’s.
I would love to hear about the moment when you first realized that teaching was the right thing for you.  For some of us in early February of our first year in the classroom, perhaps you’re still waiting for this moment to occur – and that’s okay. In fact, it may be normal. (However, does anything in education really deserve the term, “normal”?) 

So finally, Part I:

  • Teach children to believe in themselves and don’t destroy the dream.
We’re all supposed to help boost a kid’s self-esteem. Heck, our mission statement is even, “Helping Students Achieve Their Dreams!” Have you ever stepped on a kid’s dream? Was it an accident or was it for their own good? If given the opportunity, would you handle the situation any differently today, or would you stand by your original actions? Why?
  • Not every child deserves a cookie.
This one’s tougher than it sounds, at least for me. I am drawn to the discussion on page 11 about teaching expectations: What is “good” work; What is “average” work; What is “failing” work. The difficulty inherent in this is helping kids think outside of those pre-defined boxes of what is and is not acceptable and encouraging them to be innovative and unique, while still making sure that they have shown their mastery of the skills you’re trying to assess. How do you straddle that fuzzy and constantly-moving line between defining expectations and encouraging individual creativity in your classroom? Following that, what are appropriate ways to reward that and encourage further innovation?
  • Define your expectations and then raise the bar; the more you expect, the better the results will be.
This is all about developmentally-appropriate rigor, defining it in kid-terms, and then challenging them to do that and a little bit more. How do you encourage your students to give 110%? How does that translate into student products? 
  • Uplift other adults who play a role in the lives of our children.
Schools often focus on engaging parents/guardians. That's vital. However, there are lots of other adults who influence the lives of our students on a daily basis. Do you have ideas to help engage these other adults in your classroom activities or school environment? 
  • Listen -  Kind of self-explanatory, don't you think? 
  • Give all that you have to your children even though you will often receive nothing in return.
To me this is harder than it sounds. When/Where do you draw the line? How can you give all and avoid burning out? Have you felt struggles with this one?
  • Get to know your students in nonacademic settings. Ideas?
  • Be selfless with your contributions to the team.
  • Make it happen, Don’t give excuses; find solutions!
It is really easy to get bogged down in the why-nots of life. Some may argue that venting and complaining is healthy and has a place in the normal process of dealing with adversity. What do you do to stay positive as you make good things happen for kids? 
  • Be excellent!
  • Create moments that will have a lasting impact on children’s lives.
  • Set the tone for a love of learning.
  • Treat every child as if he or she were your own.
  • Push yourself to be innovative beyond your imagination.
  • Know the name of every teacher, student, parent, administrator, and board member.
What activities have you enjoyed this year that have helped you feel like part of the team in your building? 
  • Use music to excite, motivate, and inspire.
  • Know your students.
Again, this is harder than it sounds. As a middle school teacher, I had 150 students that I saw for 40 minutes a day, and it took me until midterm first quarter before I even knew the kids' names. For the elementary teacher who has a single group of kids all day every day, is it that difficult? What do you do to get to know the kids in your class on a personal yet professional level? 
  • Don’t let opportunities pass you by, even if the time, funding, and circumstances aren’t completely right.
  • Make learning magical.
  • Teach children that the good you do in the world comes back to you.
  • Teach children to embrace their personalities and present themselves with confidence in all situations.
What do you do to celebrate the individual in your group of students? 
  • Live with no fear.
  • Love what your students love…
Have you ever sat down and watched the TV shows that your kids watch? Play games tat your kids play? What do you do to connects to "kid culture"? 
  • Create lasting traditions. 
What traditions do you have that help kids feel like they are a lasting part of your classroom?