Sunday, September 13, 2015

First Comes Challenge, Then Comes Joy

Principal ponderings...
My first year as a second grade teacher I was a terrible writing teacher.  Yep, I was horrible.  And my principal at the time literally never stepped foot in my room so it wasn't like anyone was going to tell me to change.  (No joke, I remember her sticking her head in the doorway in March and my students asked...who is that lady?) The worst part was I knew I was fumbling through writing instruction all year, but I had too many other things to focus on so I continued to fumble all the way until the last day of school finally arrived.  That summer, as a reflected on my year, I knew I had to change how I taught writing.  First, I had to figure out how to actually like teaching writing so that then maybe I could get my students to like writing and transform them into writers.  So I started reading everything I could find about writer's workshop.  I asked teacher friends about their writing instruction.  And I thought about what I could do to move writing off the back burner which was where it had been all year.

I wanted to be excited about the possibility of amazing things happening every day during writing time.  One way I got all of my students to be jazzed about writer's workshop was that I did a countdown to the start of our first workshop.  Whether it's the excitement of counting down to Christmas or counting down days until a trip to (and adults) love to be able to visually see days ticking away.  So we had a post it note countdown on the board.  I had filled a bag with alleged dates to start.  There was no need to tell the class that every paper in the bag contained the same date.  So we pulled our starting date out of a bag...also helped to build excitement since the students thought they were planning the schedule!  And we started counting down.  They did not really even know what the start of writer's workshop meant, but that did not matter.  With each day that passed, they kept getting more and more excited.  Finally, when we were down to one more day...I actually had a student tell me that she did not think she was going to be able to sleep that night because she was too excited about the first day of writer's workshop.  That was when I knew that this year I was going to be a better writing teacher.  I had to for that girl and every other student in my class.

To keep the enthusiasm going, on THE day, the start of writer's workshop, I had the students' writing binders tied with ribbon and with the soundtrack to Rocky playing in the background and after raising our writing hands and pledging to be writers, we had our own ribbon cutting ceremony to launch writer's workshop.  That day there was no mini lesson.  We simply opened our binders and began to write.  This was the day that we had been waiting for, counting down to.  Writing time was not until the afternoon, and my students could barely contain themselves until we got to that part of the day.  And then once the pomp and circumstance was over, you could have heard a pin drop in my room.  Everyone, I mean every single kid, even the one who I had been told by the previous teacher would never write....everyone in the room was frantically writing.  And they did not want to stop.  I had even invited the principal in (new one, no longer the one that no one knew) and he sat with us and wrote.  I have many days that I think back on and am proud of my teaching.  This was one of those days.  I had not even begun to teach them about writing.  But I had figured out how to hook them in and shown them that we were all going to be writers this year.  I had set the stage, and they were all ready to perform.  At the end of that year, I looked back on the year and I loved how I had taught writing.  What a difference from the first year!

I really should apologize to the students I had had the year before.  I'm crossing my fingers that their other teachers taught them to be writers because I definitely did not that first year in second grade.  They have all graduated by now, and I'm pretty sure none of them will remember the writing they did with me in second grade.  I don't even remember the writing we did that year!  But after I took on the challenge of redesigning myself as a writing teacher and focusing on creating writers in my classroom, the students that first year and all of the students who were in my class over the next several years...I am confident that I gave them a solid writing foundation.  And I know some of them remember becoming writers during their year with me.

First came the challenge.  The challenge to figure out how to become a better teacher.  The challenge to try something completely new.  The challenge to keep the momentum from the first day of workshop going all year long.  But after the challenge, came pure joy.  Looking around the room that first day, I was joyful and I saw students loving to write.  And throughout the year when I conferred with students and saw them grow as writers, I was full of joy.  I loved teaching writing.

I came across this video clip about someone who certainly took on an unusual challenge, but then the end result is that he brings joy wherever he goes.  Take a few minutes to watch and learn about the 'tale of the wandering piano man':

I love when he says that he "wanted to wake up every day, excited to see what would happen next."  With the introduction of writer's workshop this year, you all get to work with our students everyday and get excited about what will happen next with their writing.

Think about what challenges lie ahead for you.

Now imagine the joy that will come after you take on those challenges.

Currently reading:
I am listening to an interesting book on tape.  Have any of you read Bill Bryson's books before?  I checked out At Home: A Short History of Private Life from my local library.  It's an interesting look at each room in the house that then leads to a history of domestic artifacts, items that we take for grant in our house.  It's pretty fascinating to hear for example what led up to the invention of the refrigerator.   
I have also been reading my homework from Grace, A Guide to the Common Core Writing Workshop by Lucy Calkins.  Don't forget that we need to have read chapters 5 and 6 before our staff meeting on Wednesday! 

Events this week:
**Happy Birthday on Sunday to Dianna Fulreader!
Monday - Dr. Novak and Leslie Wickfield will be at our school from 3:15-4:15 to answer questions
Tuesday - 9:15 Dee Bus Meeting in the cafe, Liz, Sue W, and Nancy C at Ed Eval Committee Mtg 12-3 @ Prescott
Wednesday - 9-12 Liz at DESE Mtg, Staff meeting @ 3:30
Thursday - Curriculum half day, 12:15 dismissal, 4th Grade Band Demo @ 9:30 in the PAC, Curriculum Night, K-2 6:00-7:00, 3-4 7:00-8:00
Friday - K-2 Assembly in the gym 9:30-10:30, 3-4 Assembly in the gym 1:30-2:30, PTA Welcome Back Party 4:30-6:30

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Dr. Rodriguez spent the morning at FloRo, discussing the year ahead and visiting classrooms.
  • Staff did the best they could to beat the heat at the beginning of the week, including setting up an impromptu outdoor lunch spot!
  • Mrs. Fulreader spoke to all of the grades during recess to review expectations and playground safety.  She also read parts of Recess at 40 Below to help everyone think cool thoughts!
  • Thank goodness for the amazing Julie Bushnell!  She had no problem pinch hitting for us when we learned that Mrs. Mills would be out for the start of the school year.  Every time I have popped in the room...she's got it all under control. :)  Hopefully this week we will see Mrs. Mills transitioning back into her classroom.
  • Mrs. Roundtree's 4th graders were typing up some poems about themselves on the Chromebooks.  Very excited that we will have 3 more carts this year!
  • Mr Wiesner was quickly remembering how kindergartners are in the beginning of the school year as he reviewed some expectations in music class with Mrs. Taylor's class.
Check it out:
Imagine what it would be like if we obsessed over teachers like we do athletes...
Love this post about sending a child to school written by two parents who are educators:
Great article about how long it takes to form a habit, good to remember as we start the year with new groups of kids and new lessons:
And another video clip to put a smile on your face...300 Potential Teachers

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