This is the first week of school and the year is already filled with abundant amounts of adventure and confusion!
This is the email I sent to my teachers 2 weeks before school started:
Good summer to you!
I am sharing a Google Doc with each of you individually with some questions to answer. I will be sharing a separate doc with my own answers as well.
One of my goals is for us to have the most powerful and dynamic working relationship. In order to respect everyone’s learning styles, I am sending this doc this week. I know some of you like to marinate a little longer than others.
I will send it again closer to starting school! I want to meet with everyone for about a minimum of 10 min to talk about the year either through tech or face to face. I will be sending a schedule Aug 13th.
Have a great rest of the summer and I am looking forward to hitting the ground running.
This was the statement repeated over and over at my writer’s group last Thursday. It reminded me writers are writers whether they are 5 or 50 and some of the rules apply no matter the age.
I tell students all the time the writing is theirs and they can listen to the advice in the form of GLOWS and GROWS from their peers and teachers or they can choose not to. They are the author and have the choice whether they want to change the story.
Connecting with other writers is the most important factor of this group for me. The connections are part of the story and the critique is secondary. These fellow adult writers have become part of my life story now.
As I start to think about the new school year and my coaching I am keenly aware of the connection piece. I think that we can foster a much stronger community if we focus on the connectors that are not obvious. We are all part of each other’s School Story at least but the personal factors we find most important are the way we can become a tighter knit community. This is the theory I am working with right now anyway.
In order to gather some data I sent out a goal sheet for my teachers last week. Some of my people have longer processing times and I wanted to give them the opportunity to marinate on their answers if they so wished. (We don’t officially start til the 13th). Instead of just the academic goals and conversation about how we can work together to strengthen their teaching I also included a self care question. I want to be able to facilitate some nourishment so my fellow teachers do not burn out. The profession is hard and I want to nurture the teachers in the way they feel renewed. This document is also only between the teacher and I – no one else.
So my question to you is: What is the biggest influencer of your story right now?
The Literacy retreat I attended at the end of July is still sticking with me. Being a writer causes all my learning to be applied into three buckets.
One bucket is my personal writing which has been focused on short stories and the blog.
The second bucket is writing that applies to teaching students, specifically middle schoolers in my present position. My plan is to start SHORT STORY CLUB and I am excited to start the project.
The third bucket overlaps with bucket #2 – working with teachers. Although writing is not the only topic I do professional development and coach there is always a strong writing thread in everything I do.
The title of the poem I write at the retreat is What Stories Do I Want To Live By? This title is by no means an accident. It is a reoccurring theme that has been coming to the forefront since May.
The basic idea of story connected to other big ideas keeps coming onto my radar. First, it was with Danny “Sunshine” Bauer and his Core Value Story podcasts. I love this idea and am crafting my own. I am almost there. I have done core value work for years but have been having difficulty pinpointing what I want my focus to be.
The ONWARD book by Aguliar that I am working with professionally also has a core value piece.
Several podcasts that are in my queue have been discussing this topic as well so CLEARLY I am supposed to pay attention. No doubt, core values will be part of a training here at the beginning of the school year for my teachers. I have often used Simon Sinek’s WHY stories and probably will again.
I have known for years that narrative is good for the human brain and helps us to connect to new information. I have strived to make the connections between abstrast concepts to the concrete in my lessons for better understanding for all learners for almost my whole teaching career.
What big idea are you working on personally or professionally? Are they the same or separate?
Smelly markers – the good smelling kind! The ones that conjure up memories!
I love the Mr. Sketch Markers for anchor charts. They last forever and the smells bring great stories to mind.
At the end of last school year I was able to order some markers for teachers and myself. I brought them to my presentation on Wednesday and everyone went crazy with “OOO I love those “and “Can I smell them?” I even converted a couple people who were not on the Mr Sketch marker train.
You know your kids have been into the markers when a colored dot is on their nasal septum (that part between the nostrils) even if they claim they have not been sniffing the delicious scents!
My favorite scent is the Brown Marker that smells like cinnamon. YUM!
In my presentation last week, someone said it would be great if there was a marker that smelled like McDonald’s french fries. Broccoli would not be a good scent for green. What do you think? What do you think your students would say?
There have been several times in the trajectory of my teaching career over 22 years that I have questioned whether I am in the right place and doing the right things. I’ve been struggling with this concept for quite a while.
Tuesday my mindset shifted while listening to Marc D. Hans. He is a man who does a lot and deals in Design Thinking. He is so much more than a teacher. After listening to him, I feel like I am in the right place again. I cannot put my finger on exactly what he said that resonated but overall he was INSPIRING. I needed to be inspired by someone dynamic. During the experiences he led us through I was ALL IN. It felt amazing and everything that he said made sense to me. I will be coming back again and again to my notes for the weeks to come.
5 Takeaways (there were so many more for me!)
Storytelling – every concept he talked about was connected to a story from his life. We were able to get to know him and he made his point. Even though I know that narrative is how our brains like to learn I often forget. Marc reminded me.
Be Comfortable with the Uncomfortable – Being an introvert causes me to push out of my comfort zone with people all the time. The first activity he did that dealt with our phones pushed me – but I did it and I didn’t die. I have to remember that sometimes the payoff is better than the uncomfortable feeling. This idea ties into me sharing my own writing too.
Make the SUBJECTIVE OBJECTIVE – naming things and examining exactly what it is can give perspective. Our perception of how people might react causes us to not start things because of our own limitations. We talk ourselves out of a lot and get in our own way. It reminds me to ask myself, “What is the worst that can happen?” Usually, it isn’t as bad as I first think.
Humans crave GENUINE EXPERIENCES with others. I vow to stop answering “Fine” or “Good” when people ask me how I am.
“Relationships are the difference between being a teacher and an employee.” How we care about the adults and students around us matters.
The literacy coach and consultant Lisa Vahey has been a jewel in my life over the past two years. There are many reasons for this fact, but the most prominent in connection to today’s post is that she has introduced me to people that I never would have met any other way. I never would have met Marc if it wasn’t for Lisa.
I am so glad that I was able to go to the workshop on Tuesday and Wednesday. I really left feeling inspired and I had some great conversations with teachers I work with.
I encourage you to look up these two people – you will not be sorry. You might even get inspired too!
I am up incredibly early today. It is the second day in a row I am up at 4 am. I have had coffee and I am thinking about the day.
Yesterday was a busy one. Today will be too. I have happily engulfed myself in the laid back schedule of summer which requires minimal driving, lots of reading and writing, rest, and exercise.
Today is different.
Today I have to go to work. I have to tear myself from my new “normal” routine and transition back to “work” routine and I am not happy about it.
It will be fine once I am on the road. I will naturally morph back into my coaching role today at the literacy retreat/workshop today and tomorrow. I will listen to my podcasts to and from work and make notes.
Don’t misunderstand. I love the people at this workshop and will be delighted to spend the days with them but there will be a part of me all day longing to be with my husband and children.
Today will fuel my writing and my plans for coaching for the upcoming school year. I have big plans, but I am not quite so ready to think about them yet.
I like my bubbles. Most of the time the home bubble and the work bubble only exist next to each other. We will see if they collide today or continue to be friends.
As a person, I am scattered a lot of the time. Partly, it is my personality. Partly, it is because my life dictates it. Different personality traits tend to work within different roles I occupy in my existence. I believe quality work comes from focus. If I am having a hyper-focused period I can get a heap of work done and I feel on top of the world. Other times I am drudging through trying to find more time. In order for writing to be read, it has to get written.
I love hearing about other writers’ and teachers’ processes. I always think there is going to be a magical idea that will make the difference. I change processes always trying something new. It if works for you, keep it or modify it for you. Pay attention to what speaks to you.
As a writer, I distract myself with all kinds of activities but that can cost me. (Hello Twitter and random rabbit holes of information on the internet). You might be reading this blog as an aversion right now. So read the post and get back to work.
Let’s maximize our time and get more done with some tips about productivity.
Put these tricks in your bag of brilliance.
Trick 1: Don’t Spin Your Wheels
Don’t get in your own way and waste time with silly mistakes. Make sure you are following the guidelines for your project. Make notes for each project to focus on and remember where they are! Keep notes, resources, and research for the same project together. I often need to remember this myself. I have started writing short reminders at the top of the doc for the current project for quick reference that includes word count, graphics or not, research still left to do, and special instructions for this project.
Trick 2: Don’t Let the Good Ones Get Away
My ideas and interesting sentences come to me mostly at the wrong times – when I am in the shower, or driving or waiting in a line. Yesterday I had to wait for about 3 hours over the course of the day. Instead of getting irritated I researched and got some planning done. I think about what I am working on all the time, but my mind doesn’t stop. There is no perfect time for ideas to hit you. I am able to get more words on the page when I sit down to write them if I have been marinating on the ideas. I use the time to think about phrasing and connections to bigger ideas. More time thinking away from the computer means more completed projects. The magic doesn’t happen by accident even though we want everyone around us to think so.
Trick 3: Never Be Alone
Going back to the idea of being scattered – Keep a notebook with you at all times. I like paper for notes ideally but I spend a lot of time on the go. I have the Google Keep app on my home screen. I can write and send it to my drive easily. I don’t have to waste time rewriting those notes. You never know when lightning strikes and you have to be ready. There is nothing more frustrating than a great sentence floating away into the sky because you didn’t have anything to write it down with. As a juggler of life and time, we have to take advantage of time in the edges. Write it down immediately! Ideas fly away fast when they aren’t captured.
I like the KEEP app because you can open different notes for different projects and label it. I have a list I keep of 10 writing ideas. For me, 10 is the magic number. Not only does this help with the current project but if lightning strikes for a new idea you work on for another time. All great ideas must be captured!
Trick 4: Talk To Yourself
My thoughts run a little wild sometimes. I joke with my friends that I have too many drawers open in my brain at one time. You too? I have to use a dictation function when I cannot write, usually in the car or on a run for me. This one takes some getting used to. If you do not speak clearly sometimes you get some pretty weird word combinations. It isn’t all bad, sometimes I work the weird phrase into a piece!
Trick 5: They Are Called Deadlines for a Reason
No one wants to miss an important opportunity because cannot remember the date. Yes, we get busy but deadlines are deadlines. As a professional, you must turn your work in on time. Google or another calendar app can help block schedule time with a specific purpose so you get the work done. I schedule a lot into my calendar. In fact, I do this first thing in the morning. Then my phone alerts me to what I had planned to do that morning. Nothing calls a scattered mind to focus like an alert from yourself on your phone.
Trick 6: Sometimes it is a no pants day…sometimes it is not
I am a pantser no matter what I am writing. I like to write “from the seat of my pants”. I DO NOT LIKE TO PLAN, but I get more words done in a shorter period of time if I do. I make a lot of lists. I use a formula to figure out words per 15 minute chunk and allot time frames for myself. Then I put my ass in the chair so I write better, faster.
There are few books I reread. The book Essentialism by Greg McKeown comes back onto my radar usually after I have listened to Tsh Oxenreider from THE ART OF SIMPLE talk about it.
This book requires me to think about my actions and why I make the decisions I do especially when it comes to how I spend my time. There is often a gap between what my responsibilities are and what I want to do. There is also a category of the things I should do because someone expects me to. This is the area I am really looking at for the upcoming school year. I have made a big decision about doing what I deem essential and also managing my schedule and time differently.
I have a choice about how I spend my time. At school, I want to spend my time on the actions that I can get the most bang for my buck and make the most impact with my teachers. I cannot do everything even though my TYPE A personality whispers to me in quiet moments that I can.
I stopped celebrating just being busy for busy sake and my stress levels went down.
Over the next couple of days these questions from the book will be on my mind:
What do I feel deeply inspired by?
What am I particularly talented at?
What meets a significant need in the world?
The next right thing for me and my time is on my mind. What are you thinking about for the fall?
I am continuing my series of fun stories from my teaching career. It has been fun to share these funnies and to remember these wonderful students who are so important to me.
Last month I attended an amazing workshop with Jack Berckemeyer and his colleagues. One of the main components of their presentations is FUN.
Laughter helps you lose weight, live longer, and lower your blood pressure. Bring on the guffaws!
Today’s story is more fun than funny.
Let me start this story by saying I am that annoying teacher who puts writing and reading opportunities up in a school everywhere. I put jokes and poems on the backs of bathroom doors, over pencil sharpeners, in the hallways, in the teachers’ lounge, in the teachers’ bathroom, and whatever random place I can get kids to read and write. This causes students in the stalls to read knock-knock jokes to each other.
I don’t even remember where I heard about graffiti boards but I started posing a question on a large piece of butcher paper outside my room so students could stop and write their responses.
In the school I was in I was about midway down the length of the hallway. The concept took on a life of its own and would cause a traffic jam in the hallway in the morning and the afternoons at dismissal. Students also randomly asked to go to the bathroom so they could come and write their responses in peace in the middle of the school day.
The questions varied from silly to serious. Some examples:
Who is your favorite character in what you are reading?
What is your favorite food?
What are you looking forward to over spring break?
What color should Mrs. Breitweiser dye her hair?
Rainbow and pink I believe were the most popular answers to the last one.
I had teachers who were salty about this idea. They were afraid students would write something inappropriate. To be fair, it did happen twice that I can recall and it wasn’t that bad. There were no cuss words just something minorly insulting that a 5th grader would think is funny.
Overall, the good outweighed the bad. Any opportunity for reading and writing is a good thinig in my book!
I am continuing the logging of some of my funny stories from my teaching career and am sharing one for Two Writing Teachers Blog Slice of Life.
Last month I attended an amazing workshop with Jack Berckemeyer and his colleagues. One of the main components of their presentations is FUN. As I was listening I started a list of funny stories from my teaching career. Every teacher has funny stories of situations with students and I have decided to write some of them down.
Laughter helps you lose weight, live longer, and lower your blood pressure. Bring on the guffaws!
Poem in Your Pocket…Literally
I love poetry. I love writing poetry. I love teaching poetry. I love reading and displaying the poetry my students write.
When I was a reading specialist I introduced Poem In Your Pocket Day. I use poems with reluctant readers because they are fun and because they seem to be less intimidating to students. We use them for reading and writing.
I was lucky in this particular job at the elementary level to push in to do full classroom writing lessons but also have small groups.
My classroom was right by the front doors and the office, but also right across from the bathrooms. I learned early that it was important to have reading materials outside my door and in the hallway so students could read while they were waiting in line for their turn to use the facilities.
I was standing in the hallway having a brief conference with a 5th grade teacher and her students were lined up. I noticed one boy kept patting his jeans pocket. It was that movement we have when we have something important in our pocket that we do not want to lose. We keep checking to make sure it hasn’t magically disappeared without our knowledge.
I asked him what he had in his pocket. I was intrigued. He looked at me shyly and said, “My poem”.
This was a student that was a little on the harder side. He was very guarded and would be likely to have a weapon in his pocket rather than a poem.
The look of surprise was evident in my face and he continued.
“You talked to us about poem in your pocket day so I thought I should put my own poem I am working on should be in my pocket then I always have it with me.”
I smiled at him with tears in my eyes. “I love it,” I told him.
He smiled and patted his pocket again.
I saw him several times during the day and every time he would smile at me like we shared a secret and pat his pocket to let me know his poem was still there. He extended poem in your pocket day for at least a week.