Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why I Love My School

So I am back at school for the 2014-15 school year. We began with two days of staff development and team building, followed by two days of Listening Conferences with parents telling us all about their children in preparation for the new school year. Tomorrow the students will come. This post is about those first two days of professional development.

We began our first day with a morning meeting just like we do each day with our students. Then the staff was placed into random groups and given a box and told to find a location to work with our team. When we opened the box we found fedoras, sunglasses, t-shirts that said "RAKtivist" and a link to this video:

Our team chose to visit a local senior living center and sing a few songs to any residents we could find for our RAK - Random Act of Kindness. After arriving at the center we set up in the lobby and sang our songs. I think the few residents there really enjoyed our song as you can see in these videos (taken by me while still trying to keep singing). We loved the woman who danced to our songs with her walker.


After we sang our songs an employee came and asked if we would sing again for the Memory Care Unit. Of course, we agreed. One of the nurses filmed us so we had the "proof" of our RAKtivism to bring back to school.

Needless to say, we had a wonderful day. The purpose of this day was to give teachers a chance to experience what we want our students to experience - service learning. We all had a choice of what acts to carry out. There were lots of great ideas. Some people delivered treats to our transportation department, others visited a local hospital, and much more.

The senior living center really wants us to come back and visit again. We are all trying to think through the details of providing this type of experience for our students.

The second day of our two staff development days had the whole staff going on a hike. This time we wore t-shirts that said, "Think Outside. No Box Required." During the hike we had some time for some solitude and reflection - just like we ask our students to do, along with lots of relationship building.

Do you see why I love my school?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stuck - Again

So it turns out that I can't seem to make this post be what I want it to be despite many revisions. I think I may just go ahead and post it so that I can move on. No great reflections here just a random collection of thoughts. Read at your own risk but please know that I am not looking for sympathy here, I am just trying to clear my head.

About 11 months ago I wrote a post on this blog called Stuck about how "stuck" I was feeling in my job at the time. I realized recently that I am still stuck and have been since that time - none of the things on that list have gone away or been resolved. Most of the posts I have added to this blog have been posts that I wrote for my classroom blog. I can write on that blog for parents but I can't seem to be able to write more reflective posts here.

What really brought home to me just how "stuck" I am was being asked to take part in some online blogging challenges going by the names of Sunshine Award or PLN Challenge. I had fun reading the posts of others who accepted this challenge and so appreciated being asked to participate by Rose and Judi. When I actually sat down to write my 11 random facts about myself, I was shocked to see what came out. You know how the act of writing sometimes actually brings out what you are thinking even when you aren't aware of it yourself? Well, that is exactly what happened to me. My list was a very sad list of things that had happened to me over the last few months and years. I knew then that I was depressed even if I was able to carry on with my day to day life and act very positive. So needless to say, I ended up not participating in the challenge.

A few other things that have happened that may also have contributed to my "stuck" feelings have also helped me change my perspective and outlook on many things. Last month was the shooting at Arapahoe High School. My husband teaches there so the impact on my family was rather intense and while we still have moments of great sadness, we know that we need to appreciate each day we have with each other. (For more details of this event, see my husband's blog post about it, 12.13.13 or Judi's blog post about it, Teaching Tip...It's Okay to Cry - Judi is my daughter's Language Arts teacher and tells the story about how that day unfolded for my daughter.) The other more recent thing that happened was that I was hit by another car while I was waiting at a stoplight. No one was hurt and my car had minor damage but it was extremely scary to be slammed into the middle of the intersection when I was hit.

I have been using these events to remind myself to appreciate each day and each moment because we truly don't know how many moments we have. So while there is still sadness, there is also gratitude. These events help me put into perspective the "things" that are making me feel stuck in my job (as listed in the previous Stuck post). They help me put into perspective a rough start to this year that included a very contentious school board election and lots of resulting fallout from that (including a very, very uncomfortable district-wide professional development day last Friday).

I thought I had a specific purpose in finally returning to this blog and trying to reflect and write. It may have just been that I realized the other day that I was once again writing reflective blog posts in my head. I sort of feel like I can't move on and begin to write those reflective posts until I get some of this out (and not nearly as eloquently as I wrote it out in my head earlier).

Maybe now I can move on to writing other posts. Time will tell if I am finally unstuck.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Joyous Chinese Cultural Center

The following was posted last week on my classroom blog.

We had a wonderful day of learning at the Joyous Chinese Cultural Center. We went to sessions on making dumplings, doing Kung Fu/Fan Dances, doing paper cutting and doing calligraphy. Check out the photos below to get a peek into how we spent our day.  Thanks so much to all of the chaperones who went along and were so helpful all day. (If you get this post by email, you will need to go directly to the blog to enjoy the Haiku Deck.)


The following was posted last week on my classroom blog.

We are climbing this week in PE. Thanks to all who came to belay the climbers. We truly appreciate it. Enjoy the Haiku Deck below. (If you get this post by email, you may need to go directly to the blog to view the Haiku Deck.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Learning from Friends

This was originally posted on my classroom blog.

We have been so lucky to connect with Mrs. Price and her class from Australia this year. We have learned so much from each other in just a few short months with plans for more. Earlier I wrote a post that shared some of the tweets that we have sent back and forth (click here to read the previous post) but I thought I would provide a little update on things we have learned since then.

A Few Things We Have Learned from Mrs. Price's Class
We learned about an animal that we had not heard of before. It is called an echidna. It lives in Australia and it looks like a porcupine with a long nose. Mrs. Price shared this video with us that she took while walking in a national park.

 We also learned that in Australia, McDonald's is called Maccas.
Source: Link

We learned about a yummy looking dessert called Pavlova that is a favorite in Australia.
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lauramacdonald/3460971856/lightbox/

 Mrs. Price sent us a picture of her Pavlova plate with the recipe in the center of the plate.

We also enjoyed getting this video from them so that we could hear their voices.

We also learned some interesting things about the largest rock in the world from Sam's grandma and Mrs. Price in the comments of this post.

A Few Things Mrs. Price's Class Has Learned from Us
They learned about Tellagami's by watching the Tellagami's that we posted on our Kidblog page. Here is Mrs. Price's Tellagami that she shared with us.
They saw how we created patterns using popsicle sticks (they call them icypole sticks) and wanted to try it themselves. They sent us some photos of their patterns. They were so creative with their patterns. We saw more pictures. This is just a sample of the photos.

They also learned more about our American holiday of Halloween. They enjoyed watching the slideshow of our costumes on our blog.

We are going to try to Skype with their class tomorrow afternoon. (Let's hope we don't have any technical issues.) Our crew also wants to begin a conversation about coins/money in our countries so we can notice any similarities and differences. So much to learn!

Sunday, November 3, 2013


So I have been absent from this blog lately. I have been processing many changes in my school district and limiting my writing to just my classroom blog where I could stay in my comfort zone. All of that began to change for me last Friday during our professional development day. As a staff we took a day long course on creativity that happened to be taught by our own Art teacher. It was a very inspiring day. It made me think a lot about the ways that I currently ask my students to be creative and how I can improve upon that. It was interesting to learn that there is a defined creative process.

The Creative Process
  • Observe and analyze
  • Generate and select
  • Discover and apply
  • Revise and refine
  • Apply and evaluate
What we ended up noticing and talking a lot about is how this process is basically the same process as the writing process, the problem solving process in math, the scientific method and the inquiry model. It is also similar to the process of using reading strategies that we teach readers who are just beginning to decode text. It is a way to describe many processes. It is all about thinking. I want to use this new knowledge to help my students begin to see at a much deeper level all of the cross-curricular connections. The creative process is a learning process and can be applied in many areas. If they learn the basic process using whatever labels are developmentally appropriate for them, my students will have learned how to learn. For me this is exciting and I can't wait to dig in.

The Creative Process in my Room Now
Currently we use this general process in all academic areas but it seems to stand out the most in our Writer's Workshop, Math Exchanges Workshops, Number Sense Workshops, various apps on our iPads (ShowMe, Tellagami, etc.) and in our Social Studies and Science Expeditions.  I have worked hard to add short times to our days where students can also use this process. One of these is the Build and Create Station. At this station, we rotate through collections of various building toys - blocks, gears, pattern blocks, dominoes, marble towers and a new version that we call a Maker Station. The Maker Station version of the Build and Create Station is when we gather lots and lots of recyclable materials and the students can make anything they want. It has been very popular.

New Challenge
The day ended with a challenge from our principal. She asked us to dive into the creative process ourselves as learners. She asked us to think about our "perfect" classroom and think about what we would see there. She challenged us to take one idea from this thinking and try to implement it using the creative process. She encouraged us to think big and be willing to fail and try again. Her question to us was, "What matters enough to me that I'm willing to fail while trying?" She also asked to let one thing go that is currently on our plate to make room for this new thing. I am now pondering what I will try. I know that I am excited to try something new - I just have to choose one thing. So I would like to throw this question out to you. What would you try? How would you choose? What matters enough to you? I really want to know.