Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The future...

I spent some time today looking into the future. While many feel that our education system is stagnated, I find it compelling to look at future trends and to think about how they will impact our schools, learning and teaching.

I visited the Cool Cat Teacher blog where she suggested in her Daily Spotlight on Education that readers take a look at an interview, Six Important Forces That Will Shape 2009 at Trends in Living Networks. I found Ross Dawson's points very interesting especially the trend he calls Constant Partial Attention (CPA). He states that "our attention is constantly divided between a massive array of channels." and that "to be successful, we need to thrive on constant interruption.

This makes me think about the times I often watch TV, talk to my husband or to a friend on the phone, and read blogs or twitter - all at the same time! It also makes me wonder how that will impact learning and teaching.

In education, we need to raise the urgency to understand and respond to future trends. While this information is connected to the business world it has huge impacts on education.

While I was at Trends for Living Networks, I also linked to Future Exploration Network where I discovered a few other fascinating things under FEATURED CONTENT.

Extinction Timeline - a fascinating look at what will disapper in our lives

Future of Medial Report 2008 featuring the seven driving forces shaping media

and Enterprise Social Network Strategy Report that features what people are saying about social network strategy

Ross Dawson also posted on December 23 a Trend Map for 2009 created by futurist, Richard Watson and points out a few of the elements of the trend map.

While this seems like an unusual post for me, my brain has exploded with information as I have blogged and twitted in the last month. Hoping that you will join in the conversation.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Educationally Significant

Cris Tovani shared this quote in her presentation at NCTE in San Antonio last Sunday.

"What was once educationally significant, but difficult to measure, has been replaced by what is insignificant and easy to measure. So now we test how well we have taught what we do not value." ~ Art Costa

Scary to think about!
I need to post this quote in my office as a constant reminder to do what is right for kids.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I attended the NCTE session by Karl Fisch on Saturday. I left with a sense of urgency. Some time ago I had seen the original video Karl put together. The one he shared in the session had some new thoughts added. It was great to watch.

I appreciate Karl's thinking. He said that it is not about covering the content but about students uncovering understanding. So smart! I am thinking about how we can build intellectual curiosity at our school.

He shared a great quote from Hellen Keller.

"It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision."

We have been working very hard this year on our school's vision. We created it the summer after the first year our school was open. At our summer retreat, we had students join the staff to collaborate on the vision statement for our school. The kids were amazing and really helped us create a meaningful vision statement.

Here it is:

Glacier Ridge Elementary is a learning community with high expectations dedicated to inspiring children to find a passion for learning in a safe and kind environmenbt that celebrates diversity, promotes leadership and encourages the unlimited potential of the whole child.

There is always the danger of a mission statement and/or vision statement lacking any influence or impact on the learning community. It's important that we understand the words we have put together in our vision statement and continually look for the influence it has on the way we teach, learn and live together.

This year we are "unpacking" the vision statement by looking at each phrase and brainstorming what it "looks like" and "sounds like" at our school. It has given us time to celebrate what we are accomplishing but it opens many opportunities to think about our goals and what we want our school to be.

Karl's presentation adds a whole new dimension to our thinking - a set of new eyes to view the vision statement and think about the impact it could have on 21st Century learning.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I am in the airport waiting for my flight home from NCTE in San Antonio. It was a great conference this year. I am tired but energized. I will be blogging about it some this week.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Choice, Time and Independence

I spent some time in writing workshops in a few classrooms last week. My faith in the unlimited potential of our children was once again renewed as I saw young writers work their way through texts they chose to write.

I marveled at how soon into the school year first and second graders were able to work with intensity at writing. One child had a several page story going with a great lead. ("Once there was a girl who had woods in her back yard.") She had done some editing and was transfering her writing to a picture book format. I am axious to read the rest of her story. I asked her to make sure she read it to me when it was finished.

Another student, who struggles in writing, was using a mentor text to create his own similar story. It was a pleasure to see him use the scaffold of a mentor text. He was so engaged in the adventure of creating his own book.

In another classroom, children were creating a class book for a student in the class. After interviewing the student, each child was creating a page celebrating the life of the child and what they learned about him in the interview. There was a level of choice and purpose to the task. The pages were compiled into a book that was presented to the student who was interviewed. It was a great way for them to "publish" their writing. They understood that their writing could be a gift.

As they worked on their pages, these first graders chatted about their ideas, helped each other with spelling, and shared their work with each other. When they were finished, these first graders moved to reading or writing activites of their choice with a great deal of independence.

We are all writers.
We will write every day.
We share our writing with others.
We use our own ideas and thoughts in our writing.
We have a choice of what to write.
We can learn from the writing of others.

The teachers in these classrooms have established a way of thinking about writing. Students hear the big messages and are well on their way to developing their own identities as writers.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Students Leading the Way

This week our Fall Student Leadership Team met after school. Students submit an application to participate in the Student Leadership Team and include ideas for activities and projects for the year. We have had so many students interested in being part of the Student Leadership Team that we had to split them into a Fall Leadership Team and a Spring Leadership Team. It's nice to know that we have so many students interested in developing their own leadership skills and in making good things happen for our school. I have always said that we really need to listen to children. They have so much to teach us. On the application, we asked students to give us some ideas for projects that they would like to see in place this year. I am so impressed with their ideas. Here are some of them:

Have big kids work with little kids
Help new students adjust to the school
Encourage others to be hard workers
Collect food donations for the needy
Raise money for charity
Include others
Respect the school and others
Get more kids thinking about leadership
No bullying
Make it easier for the little kids to be safe
Bring in extra school supplies for children who need them
Promote diversity
Include others
Start a support group for bullied people and help them make new friends
Do something for the community

Overnight Read In
Caring/Helping Day
New Friend Day
Spirit Days
Movie Night
Compliment Day (I want kids to be nicer to each other)
Eat lunch outside
Have fun activities and stay healthy
After School Grounds Clean Up
Plant flowers
Have a week dedicated to animals and conservation
Service projects
Fundraiser to earn money for the library
Healthier snacks in the cafeteria
Play calm music during work time
Include birthdays in the morning announcements
Have a full time computer teacher
Music during lunch
Start a Writing Club
Start an Invention Club
Fitness Club

Sometimes we are so busy building schedules, planning instruction, setting up classrooms that we can't hear the voices of our students. We have to create opportunities for children to be heard.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Balloon Rides and Train Rides

I have been thinking about how important it is to stay true to our beliefs about learning and teaching. I think our beliefs clearly define who we are as teachers and learners. They give direction to every decision we make in the classroom. Most importantly, they guide our interactions with the children.

There was a time when I would have measured the success of a teacher by how closely his/her teaching practices, instructional processes and classroom environment were most like my own. But I have learned some things along the way.

First, I learned that there are many ways to teach effectively, wisely and well.

Second, there are many ways to set up a classroom for authentic learning and thoughtful conversations.

Third, how we teach and what we teach aren't nearly as important as our relationships with the children in our classrooms and our schools.

Fourth, our relationships with colleagues should never be defined by the differences in our styles but by the similarities in our beliefs about children and the experiences we share.

Through the years, I have made good decisions in my classrooms and made more poor decisions than I would be comfortable admitting. During my days in the classroom, I balanced my own autonomy with being part of a community of learners. There were tough decisions about when to travel alone (what I would call my hot air balloon rides) and express my learning and teaching styles in ways that were tightly aligned with my beliefs and that expressed my unique way of thinking. There were also times when I made tough decisions to travel with others (what I would call my all-aboard-the-train rides) and join in celebrations of learning and community. Not one of these decisions were wrong. None of them harmed children. All of them represented the way we live and learn together.

No longer does anyone stand alone in education. Our work is too complex and demanding to be doing it alone. No one has all the answers. What seems like a good idea to us may not be the most motivating idea for someone else. Someone else's ideas may not be the choice we would make. But the common thread should be a balance of walking alone and coming together to find what works best for children. Sometimes it means being part of something bigger than our own thinking.

I believe strongly in collective wisdom and collective energy. What does it mean to give ideas, accept ideas, and build a common knowledge and a common motivation to do what is right for kids? How do we get there? Each day, I have to believe that we can reach that goal of collective wisdom and collective energy that binds us together for the success of our students.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Zeke shares his birthday with H. A. Rey

My good friend, Louise Borden, told me that my grandson, Zeke, was born on the same day as H. A. Rey who wrote the Curious George books. How fun is that! Of course, we had to go out and buy a Curious George for Zeke!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I'm a grandma!

I have a new appreciation for board books now that I am a grandma.
My first grandchild, Zeke, was born on September 16. What a miracle!

Now, I find myself gravitating to the board books whenever I walk into a bookstore. I took my mom to Half Price Books today. She loves getting those bargain paperbacks.

Of course, I was in the children's section. One of my daughter's favorite books was The Giving Tree. I found a copy in great
condition. I found a couple of Spot books, too.

Isn't he just perfect!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Stop the train!

I can't believe how long it has been since I posted on this blog! I am caught on the fast train to the beginning of the school year! As a principal, it seems like I never really got off the train. I made a few quick stops to some peaceful moments (mostly reading books) but now we are full speed ahead. I need to constantly remind myself to slow down and think about the big things.

Since I last posted, I did read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, an epic of a story. Read the review on the New York Times. There were moments when I was mad at myself for starting a book of over 500 pages because I didn't have the time to read anything else but it was a real pleasure to have read this book. I quickly got drawn into this fascinating story. A satisfying read.

I need to start another book because I can already see how my job is consuming me. If I have a book I am reading, I will work hard for moments to sit down, relax with a cup of tea, and read a few pages. If I'm not reading a book, I am too easily drawn to my work - and there I go again - an unbalanced life! There are still books on my stack that I want to read ... so many of them inspired by Mary Lee and Franki at A Year of Reading.

I am wondering if our students start the year feeling like they have hopped on a fast train. Do we jump into routines and assignments so quickly that we forget our first goal is to get to know the children? Something to think about. How can we remind ourselves to slow down? Each and every minute we spend with our students should be like panning for gold. Scooping up the pebbles from the river of their lives and looking for the sparkle that makes them different from the rest. A work of patience but unbelievable discoveries!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

An Incredible Book!

I just finished reading The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. It was recommended by Franki at A Year of Reading.

This book is incredible! Franki did a great job reviewing the book so I won't do that here. I can only encourage everyone to read it. I want to read it again right away but I think I might wait a bit and move onto something else on my "next read" stack. I have a feeling that it will keep enticing me to jump into the reread. I may wait until I can get a couple of kids to read it with me. That would be so much more fun!

Get it! Read it! NOW!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Book That Made Me Cry

I just finished reading Waiting for Normal and literally cried!
Read it if you haven't already.

What books have touched you this way? Let me know.

The really good books stay with you for a long time. This one is definitely taking over my brain and my heart. The story weaves itself into my thoughts since I put the book down.

So I have been thinking about how some of our students are "waiting for normal" as they learn. Do our most struggling students wish for things to be normal? Do they recognize that something is different about their learning? Do they connect with people like Soula, Elliot and Rick who give them the courage to keep going? Do our most struggling kids need these kinds of relationships?

How can we help children be as resilient as Addy? Who is in their corner cheering them on, finding their strengths, and celebrating who they are? Mrs. Rivera, the music teacher, Grandio and Dwight were there for Addy.

I will be thinking about this story for some time. It was a mixture of "sad" and "happy" that left its mark.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mom's Reading

My mom came for a visit last week. It was great to spend five days with her. We only live two hours apart but during the school year it is a challenge to get together. She needed a break from "the same four walls" so she came to our house. We went on some great shopping trips and simply enjoyed each other's company.

On one of our shopping adventures we stopped by Half Price Books. My mom is an avid reader who is always looking for a bargain. She found about 10 books that she wanted to purchase. So I considered it a successful trip to the bookstore.

That evening she started reading... and reading... and reading. I had forgotten what a model she was for me as we were growing up. She has favorite authors and favorite series. She buries herself in the book and can do little else until she reads those last few words.

It was a pleasure to see her unwind, relax with a book, eat meals that someone else cooked for her and smile. What a great week!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Reading and reading

I have been reading and enjoying the summer pace but have neglected the blog. So I will catch you up on my reading for the last month.

After finishing The Glass Castle I decided to reach for a children's book. I bought The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff when the local bloggers met to kick off the 48 Hour Book Challenge. It was such a fun read with such an important message about honoring the gifts we all have.

Next, I read Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O'Connor. Wow! Such a story of comfort about bringing people together and building friendships.

I slid over to an adult novel that I picked up at Powell's bookstore in the airport on the way home from Oregon. For some querky reason it caught my eye. I loved every page of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. It is a historical novel about the woman who had an affair with Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect. The story is based on the truth but embellished so beautifully by Nancy Horan. For me, the story was less about a love affair and more about a strong woman finding her way in the early 1900s. I would definitely recommend it to others looking for a good adult read.

I spent a couple of days skimming and scanning one of my favorite professional books - Going Public by Shelley Harwayne. It is always an inspiration to me during these summer months when I have time to slow down, reflect, and plan for the next school year. Her every word is a tribute to the lives of children.

And now I am reading Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor. I am only about one third of the way into the book but I love the characters she weaves into this story.

So I am a satisfied reader... I even have had time to read the daily newspaper and my favorite blogs. What more could I ask from these glorious summer days?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Not Much

Ok, I read a total of 100 pages over the weekend.
More than I have in awhile. I am hoping I have awakened
my reading life - at least for the summer.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

48 Hour Book Challenge

Well, I started out with good intent but the 48 Hour Book Challenge has been quite an impossible task for me this year! I am already thinking about next year and how I can set myself up for success. I have decided that whatever reading I do this weekend will be more than I usually do so I still consider the 48 Hour Book Challenge a great event because I will enjoy every minute I spend reading. Sometimes LIFE gets in the way of INTENT. That's OK because there have been so many times when LIFE is what pulls me away from WORK. And that is great!

The weekend started out quite promising. On Friday evening, I spent a couple hours reading blogs. I am looking for some good principal blogs. If you know of any, please send them my way. I also started reading THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeanette Walls. It has been on my stack forever and had made up my mind that it would be my first read this weekend.

On Saturday morning, I met fellow bloggers from Columbus for a great breakfast at North Star. Since I am new to blogging, it was nice to get together with other folks who have much more experience in the blogging world (Stella of My World - Mi Mundo, Mary Lee and Franki of A Year of Reading, Katie of Creative Literacy, Abby of Authentic Learner, and Karen and Bill of Literate Lives). After breakfast and great conversations we moved to
Cover To Cover Children's Books, our favorite
children's bookstore. Good food! Good conversation! Good books! it doesn't
get any better than that.

Of course, we all left with a stack of books to read for the weekend!

Here are my choices for the 48 Hour Book Challenge:

Something Old: THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeanette Walls
Something New: GREETING FROM NOWHERE by Barbara O'Connor
Something Borrowed: THE THING ABOUT GEORGE by Lisa Graff
Something Blue: WAITING FOR NORMAL by Leslie Connor

It's Sunday morning and I will continue to read the rest of the day. If I don't get through my four books, I have a great "next read" stack for the coming weeks. Happy Reading!

Monday, June 2, 2008

48 Hour Book Challenge

I can't wait to spend some time reading this weekend. I am jumping into the 48 Hour Book Challenge from Mother Reader. I am joining some friends for breakfast and a trip to the bookstore.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Whole Child

Our school's vision statement speaks about encouraging the unlimited potential of the whole child. So in these last few days of school I am thinking about what we have done to explore and encourage the talents of every child. Now that the school year is coming to a close, we are witness to many visual, oral, and textual displays of learning.

Just watching the children as they spend their last few days of recess, picnics and parties together, we can tell that they have become part of a learning community that values everyone, appreciates differences and respects the individual in all of us. They have learned to work and play together. Do we have room to improve? Of course, we do. There will always be emotional, behavioral and social bumps in the road, but if we can approach them with a set of beliefs about what we value, then we will be able to support the growth of the whole child.

Our Writer's Club had their final meeting and share. Proud parents attended the celebration and joined in recognizing every student as a serious and credible writer. I watched parents making an effort to talk to every children about their books and the writing process. A writing club advisor shared the story of one writer who told her that she just couldn't draw. The advisor wouldn't settle for that and began to show the student how to shade a drawing with colored pencils. The student's final story was accompanied with beautifully drawn illustrations colored with skill by the budding artist/illustrator. When we think of the whole child, we learn to value the growing self-identity of these students as learners as well as the skills of writing they learned. I think it was a moment that will be etched in student's memories as they develop a sense of identity as writers and illustrators. What has resulted from their passions reminds us of how we can support the whole child.

Our fourth graders shared individual projects they had worked on during the last few months of school. Because students chose their topics for research, they were so invested in the work. As I stopped to look at project displays, viewed electronic presentations and listened to students share what they had learned, I realized that it wasn't so much about the research and presentation skills they had learned but how these presentations were expressions of their passions. How can we encourage our students to bring passion to their learning? How do we respect those passions and encourage choices for the whole child?

During the last four days of school, we invite our students to participate in a Talent Show that is held at lunchtime. Children sign up to perform while their peers eat lunch. I am delighted by the respect and attention our students give the children who peform. But what we really discover is that children have passions and talents beyond the school day that we may not even know about. We watch dancers, gymnasts, singers, pianists and violinists as they share their talents with us. I am thinking that we need to find ways to showcase talents and passions early in the year and throughout the year. How else can we begin to understand and respect the whole child?

I think when we are commited to encouraging the whole child we remember to value and celebrate every child's passions. Tests and formative assessments can only tell us so much about a child. When we create communities of learning that value time, choice and passion for learning we can nurture and celebrate the whole child.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"High" and "Low"

Occasionally, I start a conversation with my son (who is now an adult) by telling him my "high" and "low" for the day. Each day, I can overcome the "low" by appreciating and celebrating the "high".

Today, my "low" is that there are not enough hours in the day to get done what I need to get done by the end of the school year. Most of the work is the "have to" kind, and I find myself wandering from my office to spend time with kids who will be gone (and missed) over the summer.

My "high" for the day was something I discovered on A Year of Reading. Mary Lee posted the text of a commencement speech at Smith College. One commenter mentioned that the video was worth watching so I searched and found it. I sat here in front of my computer consumed by the words so well spoken and so full of meaning for us all who spend our days in the classroom.

Take a moment to watch the video. It might just be your "high" for the day.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

This time of the school year can be so chaotic. How can we slow down enough to think about this past school year? What memorable moments can we bring to mind?

I took this picture last summer on our drive up the west coast of California. We found this spot on our journey through the Redwood Forest. Can I transport myself to this calm summer day? Can I close my eyes and feel the breeze?

This is where I want to be when I steal a few moments to think back on this school year. It seems like I never accomplish everything I set out to do. So I leave the school year with a measure of frustration but a resolve to do a better job next year. When I think about the small victories I can always picture a smiling child. And when I add up all those small victories I can see a wave of smiling faces. Children who discovered the joy of learning.