Friday, May 29, 2009

Why We'll Blog

Okay westcler teachers and friends. Here's the deal. How do we communicate news and views about teaching and learning in westcler with more of you (teachers) and fewer of us (T&L staff)? And how do we make this news a give and take? Jodi D took a bold step this year and starting blogging with her fourth graders. It's easy. They love it. And we hope you will, too. Check out Sachi and Lee LeFever 's "Blogs in Plain English" on TeacherTube.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

perfection vs. persistence

"There's no such thing as the perfect lesson, the perfect day
in school or the perfect teacher. For teachers and students alike,
the goal is not perfection, but persistence in the pursuit of
understanding things."

Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe

It's Closing Time

It's the end of an era for Jay Leno. Seventeen years ago, Jay succeeded Johnny Carson as the host of The Tonight Show. Now the baton will be handed to Conan O'Brien, and Jay will move to prime time. As I watched The Tonight Show earlier this week and listened to Lyle Lovett sing "Closing Time", a certain sadness came over me. Not a tear-your-heart-out sadness. Not an all-hope-is-gone kind of sadness. I guess I would describe it as a little bit of melancholy tinged with sentiment. Almost the same feeling I get at the end of the school year when the bulletin boards are dismantled and the last child gets on the bus, waving out that little rectangular bus window.

Now don't get me wrong. When I was a classroom teacher, I was filled with joy at the prospect of endless summer days, not wearing a watch, and visiting the bathroom whenever I wanted to! And even now, in my work as a support for classroom teachers, I look forward to family vacations and late nights around the fire pit.

But for me, there is still something sad about the end of the school year. Maybe it's the wish that I had been more patient with that child who constantly tugged on my shirttail. Or with that colleague who always talked too long or complained too much. Or perhaps in my reflection about the year I tend to magnify my mistakes and minimize my triumphs.

Do you feel the same? Is the end of the school year bittersweet for you, too? If so, I think we're among the lucky ones. Our sentimentality tells us a lot. It means we are reflective. It means we want better for ourselves and for our students. It means we still care, after all these years.

So here's to you at closing time. Stack up those chairs and say your goodbyes. By the time Independence Day rolls around, you'll be full of plans and dreams for next year. And so will I.

Friday, May 22, 2009

In Flanders Fields

Do students memorize poems any more? Beyond primary grades, I mean. Tanny inspired me a few weeks ago--it was "poem-in-your-pocket day," I recall--to memorize some poetry. So for this weekend, I'm working on "In Flanders Fields" by Lt. Col. John McRae.

It's Memorial weekend and our pool opens for the summer! A group of us were talking about our, family, picnics. Hurray for Willowville Elementary's Memorial Day parade. It's become a community tradition, but most importantly, it teaches our children that Memorial Day is more than just the beginning of summer. Let's carve a few minutes of this weekend's fun to remember the origin of the holiday and to salute all fallen soldiers.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Turn and Talk

I heard Peter Block speak this morning at a local leadership conference. In his keynote he used elements we use in readers workshop...including turn and talk!

He didn't call it that. He just said, "Find two people you don't know and and turn to face each other. Ask each other, 'Why are you here today?' and 'What about what I've said has meaning for you?'" He wrote the questions on the overhead to keep us focused. The room buzzed for 15 minutes.

I was tickled that a famous keynote speaker was using comprehension strategies to engage us. Turn and talk allows everyone in the room to have voice. It allows us processing time. It allows us to hear from our peers. And it holds us accountable for our own learning.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Made to Stick

I use "Made to Stick" at the beginning of my seminars. One of the 6 sticky characteristics that the Heath boys recommend is Concreteness...which of course aligns with my book.

The former president of IRA, Linda Gambrell, cited "Made to Stick" as the one book she read last year that influenced her thinking about teaching more than any other book...and it's not even a book written for teachers. I came across this book quite by accident. I was walking through a Barnes and Noble and was attracted to the faux duct tape on the front cover! The rest of the title, Why Some Ideas Die and Others Survive, also got the best of my curiousity, so I bought the book!

I use three of the Heaths' sticky qualities as a structure for my presentations: Simplicity, Unexpectedness, and Concreteness


Friday, May 8, 2009

A Little TLC

Welcome! This is our first blogspot post. Who doesn't need a little TLC? Teaching. Learning. Community. This is a place for West Clermont educators to get news, share stuff, and think aloud about our work.

This year, many of us have been reading and talking about the ideas in Mike Schmoker's Results Now. He writes, "The experts are among us." We see that every day. He also tells "the brutal facts" about K-12 teaching and learning. So how do we face our own brutal facts AND use our in-house expertise? Join us for some TLC.