Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Tale of Two Students

Principal ponderings...

It was the best day of school, it was the worst day of school, it was a time of learning, it was a time of struggle, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, one student had all sorts of opportunities in front of him, and one student had nothing positive to look forward to.  This is the tale of a typical school day for two very different students.
One student started his day when his mom woke him up and had breakfast waiting for him at the kitchen table.  She reminded him that he had soccer practice after school and gave him a quick kiss on the forehead as he walked out the front door, down the driveway and hopped onto the school bus. His good friend was already on the bus and had saved him a seat.
Another student started his day by getting himself up, throwing on a shirt that was wadded up on the floor.  His mom, who worked second shift, was still asleep.  He found one pop tart and took a bite while he watched TV by himself.  When the bus honked, he ran out the door, forgetting to grab the rest of the pop tart, and the field trip form he was supposed to get signed.  The only seat left was with a student from a younger grade who he did not know.  While he was looking to see if there were any other seats, the bus driver yelled at him to hurry and find a seat.
After a fun bus ride with his best friend, the first student arrived at school in a good mood.  As he walked to his class, several teachers looked him in the eye and said good morning to him.  His teacher was waiting for him at the door, smiling and welcoming him into the classroom.  She even remembered to ask him how his soccer tournament went over the weekend.
After a tough bus ride with a younger student who kept annoying him so much that he finally yelled "leave me alone" and the bus driver reprimanded him, the second student arrived at school hungry and in a bad mood.  He bumped into a couple students as he walked down the hall and a teacher stopped him and made him apologize, even though he did not do it on purpose.  When he finally got to the classroom, his teacher was talking to another student.  The other students were either unpacking their things or visiting with each other.  No one even noticed him or acknowledged him as he made his way to his seat.
During writing, the first student was excited that he had his soccer tournament from the weekend to write about.  It was his first tournament, and he had lots of good details to add to his story.  Because he had so much to say in his writing, his teacher even asked him to share some of his story with the rest of the class at the end of writer's workshop.  He got to sit in the author's chair and everyone was eager to hear what he had written.  Several students complimented him on his descriptions.
During his writing class, the second student sat and listened to his stomach growl.  He wished he had eaten more of his pop tart that morning.  His mom had worked extra shifts during the weekend, and she was too tired to do anything with him.  So he spent his weekend watching TV.  That was not a very exciting topic to write about.  He stared at a blank page until his teacher came up behind him and startled him when she told him to get something on the paper.  He wrote the words 'this weekend' and then retraced them several times with his pencil.  When it was time to share, he still had a mostly blank page so he did not get selected to share his story with the rest of the class.  He never got to share.  It's not like anyone cares about what he has to say anyway.

You could probably write the rest of the tale of these two students.  Same grade, same school day, but clearly very different experiences.  I was thinking about the quote that I shared with you at the beginning of the school year:

“Students learn better when they are challenged, have choice, feel significant, 
receive feedback and know they matter.” @sjunkins
In particular, I was focusing on the part about students feeling significant and knowing they matter. How we respond to students, how we interact with them each day, how we see them (or don't see them) has a major impact on their learning.  Would you be worried about the first student's learning? Or would you be worried about the second student's learning?  How many kids have a day everyday like the second student?  How do we make sure that we truly see all of our students each day? Because if one student thinks they do not matter to us...then learning most certainly will not happen.  

What will you do today to make sure that all of your students feel significant and know that they matter to you?

Currently reading:
This past week I listened to the book Still Alice during my drive to and from school.  This was a poignant book that certainly brought me to tears a few times.  (Of course, the whole pregnancy hormone thing makes me cry as well!)  It's the story of a woman who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease.  While it is a tough book to read or listen to, I definitely recommend it.
After visiting the Scholastic Book Fair last week, I now have some new titles to add to my reading list.  I enjoyed reading a great new picture book by Brian Lies: Bats in the Band.
I'm also excited to read one of Cynthia Lord's new books, Shelter Pet Squad: Jellybean.  Seems like this will a good new series for our 2nd and 3rd graders.
I'm still reading When Life Gives You O.J.  Having a little trouble getting into this book, but I'm not ready to abandon it just yet.  And I reread Each Kindness the other day.  This is our book that the entire school will be reading.  Please make sure to read it and/or read it to your students.  We will begin with some book-related activities in a few weeks.

Events this week:
Monday - Latin Class @ 3:30
Tuesday - Dr. Rodriguez visits the school in the am, 3 4th grade classes on field trip to Mt. Wachusett, Spanish Class at 3:15, Latin Class @ 3:30, School Council meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - School Picture Day!, 1st grade library field trip in the pm, Liz out of the building at MCAS-Alt training
Thursday - 2 4th grade classes on field trip to Mt. Wachusett, 1st grade library field trip in the pm, Spanish Class @ 3:15
Friday - Para meeting at 9:00 in the staff room

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Teachers looking at our Tell Mass results and brainstorming ways to improve as we move forward.
  • Teachers talking about ideas they have for activities related to the book Each Kindness.  Can't wait to see everyone's ideas come to life as part of 'One School, One Book!'
  • Indoor recess means I get lots of great letters from students!
  • Mrs. Guernsey's class did some experiential learning with the 3 Sisters' Garden in the front of the building.
  • Mr. Crowley was conferring with several different students during Reader's Workshop.  He made sure to meet them wherever they had chosen to read and documented the conference using an online form.
Check it out:
October 6 marks the start of the Global Read Aloud project which goes until November 14.  I'm still waiting on the Peter Reynolds author study books to come in, as well as The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  Check out the main site for ideas:
Also, if you are on twitter, be sure and use #GRA14 to connect with others participating in the global read aloud!

Looking for a twitter chat to listen in on or try out your tweeting skills?  On Monday nights there is a regular twitter chat called #tlap.  It was inspired by the Teach Like a Pirate book.  Join other passionate teachers who want to improve their professional practice at 9:00 Monday night.  Even if you can't stay up for the chat, you can always look up the hashtag and read what people have been talking about!

Even though this article is a little long, it's an interesting look at what interactive writing can look like for our 2nd through 4th graders, especially how it can be an effective way to meet the Common Core literacy standards:

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