#WMYST

WMYST stands for “What Makes You Say That?” and is a visible thinking technique I have used over the past several years in my professional development meetings and modeled lessons.

Before a series of meetings a couple years ago, I hung a sentence strip in the meeting space and waited for someone to ask what the acronym stood for.

The purpose of this technique for me, is to have a key phrase that elicits more complex and elaborate answers. Many times teacher responses are validations. This phrasing is purposeful and respectful and can be used from kindergarten to adult learners.

The first time it is used may result in quizzical looks and the need for scaffolded questions.

It can be frustrating for the people who are used to cut and dry answers or non verbal validation of answers.

Try it and see what happens!

It was almost as successful as the cluster meeting where I only spoke in questions. It was an interesting experiment and a story for another day!

For more information: Visible Thinking Website

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Are you a Leader?

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Are you a leader?

Do you FEEL like a leader?

Leadership roles have been a component of my professional life since it started. One of my core beliefs is to be a learning machine by exemplifying a growth mindset to enable my students to become lifelong learners. I truly believe this statement and don’t just say it because it sounds like something I should say.

My first year of teaching my hope was to exude a light that showed the children around me that I cared about them, their learning and their thinking. My third year I had hoped to extend this mindset to a student teacher assigned to me. My principal insisted on her being in my room even though I protested. I did not think I was ready for someone to learn from me.

In that same school, I was the professional development coordinator which required me plan PD for early release days. I had the assistance of the district professional coordinator to keep the schools aligned with the superintendent’s vision. The learning I received at this time is still some of the best coach training of my entire life. This brilliant district professional development coordinator introduced me to Harry Wong, Stephen Covey, and the proper way to run a meeting which also happened to be brain-compatible.

Other leadership roles I have held:

Conference presenter

Reading specialist

District presenter

TAP (The System for Teacher and Student Advancement) Master teacher

Teacher coach

Evaluator

Workshop creator and leader

Throughout my career, I have been honored to work for schools that have been nominated and won several prestigious awards. My reading program won the Indiana Exemplary reading awards. my elementary school won the Title I School of Distinction award, the National Blue Ribbon award,  and was nominated for the National School Change award. I was honored to help write this paperwork. It exposed me to another type of writing I had not dealt with previously and has molded much writing after that time period.

To pursue personal passions and make a difference with the community and my students I have received several grants to start and fund programs of my design. I was awarded the Mary Kay Stanton Reading Grant through the Portage Township Education Foundation (PTEF) for a preschool reading program with parents. I was also awarded another PTEF grant for a preschool program centered around gross motor skills, fine motor skills, math and reading. Activities were presented for parents to accomplish with their children at home. Parents went home from the program with the materials needed for each activity. The needs were great as a high poverty area so I worked with the local preschools and conducted a roundtable to make it as effective as possible. The relationships I forged with the parents and community was a true strength to this program. I also was awarded the ISRA Mini-Grant which allowed me to buy Lester Laminack’s favorite books and use for mentor texts with teachers. Lessons were modeled for teachers with the books and became a rotating set of mentor texts to revisit for various purposes.

I am honored to have the care of student and teacher learning in my hands and will continue to lead and learn for the rest of my career regardless of my title or place of employment.

Echo Cry

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In June I attended an amazing workshop with Jack Berckemeyer and his colleagues. One of the main components of their presentations was FUN. As I was listening I started a list of funny stories from my teaching career. 

Laughter helps you lose weight, live longer, and lower your blood pressure. Bring on the guffaws!

Echo Cry

William was an interesting student from the beginning. At 6 years old he was used to getting his way and manipulating his parents. In 20+ years of teaching, I have never seen a student turn the waterworks on and off so quickly. Large tears would roll down his face as he wailed.

As a newer teacher, I tried talking to him.

I tried getting angry.

I tried ignoring him (which then he only wailed louder).

I refused to give in to whatever he was resistant to doing. 

The classroom I was in that year had its own bathroom. One day in frustration with William’s crying I told him to pull himself together in the class bathroom. I didn’t want to send him out of the room. 

He wailed so loudly, and the echo of the small room amplified the sound so much the students could not hear anything I was saying. It was so jarring that at first everyone got quiet and then started laughing.

I looked at my students and said with a smile, “Well, that isn’t going to work.” 

Moving forward I continued to battle with this little one. Do you know what got him to stop?

In the middle of the wails I asked him out in the hallway away from 28 sets of little eyes, ” Do you get your way when you cry at home?”

“Yes,” or something that resembled this word through the crocodile tears and sound.

“Has it ever worked with me?”

“NO,” in between wails…

“Then STOP.”

And with that, he never tried it again.

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Workshop Wednesday Recap

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Last Wednesday I hosted Workshop Wednesday during team times. The invitation was specifically sent out to the English teachers but everyone was welcome as always. The email informed the staff the topic was Independent Reading. This meeting is voluntary so I always let staff know ahead of time so there is no surprise. I was pleasantly surprised myself when my content teachers showed up as well.  Their attendance really showcases how dedicated they are to the new reading culture in our middle school. 

Last year there was not consistent Silent Sustained Reading, Independent reading, or choice reading. It doesn’t matter what the label was, but there was not enough time or support it seemed to pull it off.

It was decided with the new block scheduling this year there was time to implement Independent reading time. Now is the time where teachers have tried various components and how to differentiate for their classes and students.  I am so proud that all of the teachers who keep the choice piece sacred. All the decisions made were around that central idea.

The purpose of the meeting was to celebrate reading in our building and the culture they are all perpetuating. It was also to make lists of what was the reality of the reading time and what we want to make consistent across the school. To make a school wide definition decided by the teachers – not anyone else. 

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It was a great discussion about conferencing, book talks, reading identity, first chapter Friday and what it looked like and sounded like in their respective classrooms.

We talked about what they needed and how to make reading spaces more inviting.

There was celebration about reading memories, students asking for more reading time, and books disappearing because the students want to read them so badly.

Taking inspiration from THE ART OF GATHERING by Priya Parker,  I had my version of “15 Toasts”. I had silly plastic champagne glasses with sparkling water. Everyone had a toast to make in the area of  a reading memory or the first memory they had of reading. One teacher shared she sat in the back of her third grade classroom because it was where the bookcases were and she could snatch books and read no matter what subject was being taught. There was one book that she loved so much she stole. She still has it! After the meeting she came to show me the book!

I also incorporated the Google Jamboard which I had never used before. It is designed to be used on an interactive white board but I just used the post it note function for everyone to share something exciting going on in their classrooms. I hope to foster some relationships between teachers to visit each other’s rooms and share ideas that are working. 

Here is the shared Jamboard

I am excited for the conversation when I can get all the stakeholders together and make some decisions for the achievement of our teachers and the students!