Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Week 2 #cyberPD: Creating Space for "Their News"

It's the second week for #cyberPD.  Our community is reflecting on chapters 3 and 4 of Sara K. Ahmed's, Being the Change.  You can stop by our #cyberPD Google Community to read reflections from other members.  Believe me, it's worth a click.  You can also follow the conversation on Twitter:  #cyberPD.

First of all, I have to say that I'm still working my way through posts from all of you.  Each stop, each new perspective, gives me more to think about.  This is a timely topic.  I suppose, in a sense, we are practicing what Sara talks about in her book as we read through each chapter using our identities as educators to synthesize information.  Where we are, the students we learn beside, the news that comes into our classroom, impacts our thinking as we read.  Here is our schedule:

Being the Change
For me, chapter 3 and 4 brought to mind the difference between my time alongside sixth graders and my time alongside first graders.  I appreciated the way chapter three addressed identifying our own biases and how the biases of others may impact us, and then chapter four moved into thinking through "news."  When I taught sixth grade, the news walked into our room every day.  Students were paying attention to what was happening in the world and beginning to shape their opinions.  The combination of my content, language arts and social studies, certainly kept the conversation flowing.  As a first grade teacher, the news that came into the room was often about the students.  "I lost my tooth last night."  "My grandma is coming."  "My friend is coming over today after school."  That's why I appreciated Sara's distinction of "their news" and "the news."  Even when my sixth graders walked into the classroom with "the news" it was always their version.

Three Take-Aways

  • Growing an awareness of personal bias can help us to think more about our words and actions.  "It is often the hidden, unintentional forms of bias that are really damaging to marginalized individuals (p. 74)," Sara Ahmed.  This statement is one that will stay with me.  Across my career, I've worked to understand the perspectives of others and be aware of my own bias, but I also know we don't always know what we don't know.  I think about the impact of reading blogs, news, nonfiction and fiction in helping me to understand different perspectives.  The same is true for our students (chapter 4 really speaks to these possibilities).  
  • This work is important in "making the implicit explicit (p.79)."  As a primary teacher, I learned a lot about making thinking more concrete for students.  These opportunities Sara shares across chapters allow students to make their thinking more concrete.  I've been thinking about the ways these opportunities might look different across grade levels.
  • There's power in conversations about "their news."  When I think about primary students especially, I think about how some students will hear more news than others.  By allowing students to work through "their news," it keeps the conversation about how it impacts them and allows them to determine the action they plan to take.  In classrooms with older students, this can help ease difficult conversations as students consider news from different perspectives.  Sara illustrates how, through listening, we can open doors for students to work through their news and come to their own conclusions (keeping our "personal crusader capes at the door [p. 109]").  At any level, I appreciate the reminder of the power of a pause.  

Two Questions

  • What literature might illustrate the way a character is impacted by "news" and takes some kind of action?  
  • How might this work look across grade levels?

One Important Next Step

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

It's Coming August 10th #pb10for10

This year, I'm suffering from FOMO as I watch the tweets for #nErDcampMI.  I've attended most years, but this year I needed to stay home because of a calendar conflict.  Of course, I've been following the tweets from those attending.  Following all of the book conversations is keeping my Goodreads account hopping.  It also has me looking forward to building a list of favorite picture books for our August 10th, Picture Book 10 or 10 event.

This will be the 9th year for #pb10for10.  Picture Book 10 for 10 began from a conversation about must-have picture books for our classroom libraries.  Mandy Robek, Enjoy and Embrace Learning, and I were going back and forth about our favorite books for our classroom communities when we decided it would be interesting to be able to meander through the libraries of other educators to see what books were on their shelves.  It's not easy to fly around the world to see different libraries (though that would be fun!  Mandy, why haven't we done that?), but it was possible to ask others to share their favorites virtually.

Since then, educators, media specialists, parents, and book lovers in our PLN have been taking the time to create a list of their 10 favorite picture books to share with one another each year on August 10th.  Though it's my favorite event to kick off the new year, it's not for the faint at heart.  Trust me, each year I spend a little more money than I wish on books after reading everyone's posts.  I've gotten a little smarter about keeping my library card out as I read, but that doesn't completely solve the problem.

In just one month, our community will share their favorite titles.  I hope you'll join the conversation.  Stop by our #pb10for10 Google Community to learn more.

Counting down the days....

Here's how you can participate:
  1. Grab a Badge (just copy the URL address of the one above or take a screenshot)
  2. Join the #pb10for10 Google Community
  3. Choose Your Favorites:  All you need to do is choose ten picture books you cannot live without for whatever reason.  In the first days of this event, everyone shared their ten very favorite titles.  This still works.  You will notice, however, that many past participants choose some type of theme to determine their selections.  We'll leave this up to you.
  4. Narrow Your List to Ten:  It isn't easy, is it?  We've seen some crafty ways to get around that number.  
  5. Write Your August 10th Post:  Write a post about the ten books you cannot live without.  Share your post on August 10th and link it to the Picture Book 10 for 10 Community.  
  6. No Blog?  No Problem:  If you don't have a blog, this might be the perfect time to start one --- or there are a million digital ways to join (see post below).  Of course, now with the Google Community it is quite easy to just post your favorites directly into the community without a blog.  We will also be tweeting from the #pb10for10 hashtag.    
  7. Comment:  On August 10th (and maybe for a week --- there are a lot of posts) take some time to read posts from other participants.  Please comment on at least three. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Week One #cyberPD: Creating Spaces for Safe Conversations

"We will give ourselves permission to create learning conditions where kids can ask questions they want to ask, muddle through how to say the things they are thinking, and have tough conversations (p. 23)."    - Sara K. Ahmed 
This is always the time of the year that I'm shifting my thinking to the new school year.  Each new year brings an opportunity for a fresh start with a new community.  This week's #cyberPD reading of Being the Change by Sara Ahmed, is perfect for thinking through those first six weeks as we shape our learning community together.

Her first two chapters, Exploring Our Identities and Listening with Love, help set the tone for the way a community will listen and take care of one another across the year.  In the first chapter, Exploring Our Identities, Sara shares ways students can get to know themselves better.  Of course, as students share about their identities it creates an opportunity for community members to learn about one another as well.  It is in understanding the stories of their friends that they will build the foundation for learning to listen with love.  The first weeks of school are the perfect time to, not only get to know one another but also, learn the strategies for discourse in the classroom.  These first careful steps can help to make our learning communities safe places for difficult conversation.

Three Take-Aways

  • Developing social comprehension helps us to move past the idea of a single story.  
  • It's important to be intentional about maintaining a stance of curiosity and open-mindedness. 
  • "We can develop skills and habits to help us comprehend social issues and participate in relevant, transparent conversations (p. 25)."  

Two Questions

  • In learning communities where students are of similar culture and background, what are some ways we can grow the understanding of those beyond our classroom? 
  • How does the thinking around social comprehension (Ahmed) align with our previous #cyberPD conversation of social imagery shared in Opening Minds by Peter Johnston?  (I want to go back and look at my old notes to think more about this.)

One Important Next Step

  • Grow my library of pictures books for building identity. 

More About #cyberPD
Want to know more about #cyberPD?  Stop by my previous post:  Are You Ready for #cyberPD?  

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers

"All children deserve to know that they can write a different version of their stories (p. 154)."    -- Ruth Ayres

Now that summer is here, I finally have a bit of time to catch up on my reading.  I've started many professional books that now need to be finished.  This week I was able to finish reading, Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers by Ruth Ayres.  I'm adding this book to my "books that inspire me to be a better teacher of writers" shelf, for sure.  It will rest beside The Art of Teaching WritingWriting Through ChildhoodWhat You Know by Heart, About the Authors, and What a Writer Needs.

I could go on for days about Ruth's writing craft and the ease her words flow off of the page.  There's often this sense that she is sitting across the table from me and we're discussing the challenges we face as teachers, writers, and moms.  However, if I spent all my time there I'd miss the many important points she makes about nurturing our young writers in our workshops.

Here are my big takeaways:  

Writing requires safe spaces and caring communities.  Ruth begins by reshaping our thinking about writers who may have difficulty putting pencil to paper.  She not only reminds us of brain research and what children need in learning but also that sometimes the behaviors we note "[stem] from fear rather than defiance."  This lens might truly change the way we respond to writers as they work to overcome obstacles.  "Fight, flight, and freeze are common responses to fear.  It's important to realize that when we think children are being willful, they may actually be afraid (p.20)," Ruth reminds.  One of the first steps to enticing hard-to-reach writers is to build a relationship with them and learn their story.  Writing is hard generally, but what if the stories you carry inside you are hard also?  As teachers, we have the ability to provide the space for working through hard stories.

To support writers, we not only have to provide safe spaces but, also, know the challenges of writing.  "We must write and discover the process for ourselves (p. 48)," according to Ruth.  As a teacher who writes, I know the challenges of putting words on paper.  It helps me to understand the hard days of writing, that not every story written will be better than the last one, and to know the difficulties in writing in a way that an audience will hear your intended message.  Our experiences writing help us to guide students through these challenges.  Our experiences writing through all the hard parts and celebrations can help us to shape communities of "faithful and fearless writers (p. 70)."

As teachers who write, we know writing can be hard, but we also know the joy of working through tough challenges.  It is easy to get caught up in the things our writers aren't doing, but perhaps the power is in beginning to see what writers are doing.  In her book Ruth talks about the power of being strengths-based:  "Instead of focusing on the things students don't do well, consider the things they are almost doing as writers (p. 82)."  It's the celebrations that fuel our next hard steps.

Writing isn't a lock-step process; instead, it is messy work.  In Ruth's final chapters, she shares the moves we can make as teachers to support hard-to-reach writers (any writer) in our workshops.  In these moves, she shares her thinking behind each and some practical ways to give it a try.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Show kids a path through a writing project (p. 90).
  • Build curiosity (p.91).
  • Write a draft in a way that works for you (p. 96).
  • Convince students there is an audience that cares about reading their writing (p. 114).
  • Support students in finding and claiming a writing mentor (p. 125).
  • Name the strengths students have as writers (p. 131). 
  • Diversify the end of workshop share sessions to provide more opportunities for students to share and hear about their feedback (p. 140).  
This was just the book I needed to read this summer.  More and more it seems our writing blocks get filled with lock-step processes and product focused work.  This book reminds me of the importance of helping students, not only find themselves as writers but, dig deep to find the stories that matter in their lives, the stories we can all learn from.  This book reminds me to celebrate the experiences of my writers and those little steps we make along the way.  

Thank you, Ruth, for sharing your thinking with us.  

Friday, June 29, 2018

Are You Ready for #cyberPD?

I've got my book, and I'm ready to begin.  It's time, once again, to dive into #cyberPD.  #cyberPD takes place each year as the calendar turns to July.  For the month, our community reads and discusses the same professional book.  The book is divided into three sections.  The community reads one section each week.  After reading, participants share their reflections and then read and comment on the thinking of other participants.  Each year I'm amazed at how much I learn through the reflections of other educators in the community.  (You can find out more about #cyberPD here.)

Here are the books selected since 2011: 

In our eight years, our global community has grown from 15 to just over 500.   You'll find educators from a variety of positions who join the conversation.  The variety of experiences these educators bring to the conversation always opens my eyes to new ways of thinking.  I'm amazed each year by the way the community supports one another through this experience.  Participants not only read the book and share their thinking, but they take the time to reflect and comment on the thinking of others in the community.  

Here's the schedule for this year's conversation:  

How to Participate
  • Purchase the book (need it fast?  go digital)  
  • Join the #cyberPD Google Community to connect and receive updates 
  • Read the selected chapters each week beginning the week of July 1st
  • Respond digitally to each section at some point during the assigned week
  • Share or link your response in the Google Community:  2018 Being the Change  (you can also grow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberPD)
  • Take time to reply to at least 3 participant responses

Ways to Share Your Reflections
  • Respond on your blog and link your post to the Google Community
  • Post your thinking directly in the #cyberPD Community as you post
  • Be creative.  There are many ways to link in the Google Community so feel free to try something new:  slides, infographics, ThingLink, video, etc.  (Oh, the possibilities...)
  • You can also share thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberPD 
  • I'll be trying to post a bit on Instagram using the #cyberPD hashtag (we'll see how that goes...)

2018 Links You Might Find Helpful
We know it is July.  Like us, you might have a vacation in the middle of the event, might be teaching some kind of summer school, or maybe you have family coming to visit; just make #cyberPD work for you.  The great thing about this event is that everyone shapes it to be what they need.  We hope you'll join us and help to grow our conversation.  

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Transforming Teaching and Learning with Digital Tools

"Helping teachers seek out connections with others fuels their creativity and generates a feeling of support, of a connected community (digital page 42)." -Dr. Stephanie Affinito

I've been learning from Dr. Stephanie Affinito for some time now.  Originally connecting with her work in literacy on Twitter (@AffinitoLit), it wasn't long until I was following her literacy thinking on her blog and joining her in virtual learning opportunities.  As a literacy coach, I was quite excited when I heard she had a book coming out about literacy coaching and the ways digital tools might help us to connect our learning community.

When we think about technology, we often think about the ways we can now connect with others far from our classrooms.  Through technology, I have been able to connect with teachers in other states and around the world.  These connections, outside of my daily community, have shaped my practices as an educator and given me much to think about.  I'm quite sure I would be a very different educator today without the connections I have made over the past ten years through social media, blogs, and expanded digital learning opportunities.

While we tend to think of the ways technology has allowed us to talk with educators timezones away as if they taught across the hall from us, I'd be remiss if I didn't also acknowledge what these tools have done to grow my connections within my community as well.  In the busy life of teaching and learning, it can be difficult to find time for extended conversations with colleagues.  As we work within our classroom communities, it can be challenging to find time to sustain the rich conversations necessary to continue to grow.  Technology can allow us to continue conversations beyond our day, see what is happening in the classroom down the hall, and collaboratively grow resources with one another, among other things.

I just finished reading Stephanie Affinito's book, Literacy Coaching:  Transforming Teaching and Learning with Digital Tools and Technology.  Stephanie reminds us of the ways technology can bring our local communities together in extended learning.  Here are three key ideas I'm pondering after reading her book:

  1. Digital tools for collaboration:  Digital tools can help to "cultivate a shared sense of inquiry into literacy instruction (digital p. 15)" and create a culture of collaboration within our learning community. 
  2. Digital tools for innovative practice:  As literacy coaches, we can leverage digital tools to, not only deepen our community conversations about teaching and learning, but also to help teachers envision new possibilities for "using them in more academic ways for reading, writing, teaching, and learning (digital p. 28)." 
  3. Digital tools for connection:  Digital tools can begin to "open the doors" of our classrooms if we utilize it to "take [our] experiences and make them visible and accessible for all (digital p. 66)."  
In her book, Stephanie shares concrete examples of the ways we can use technology to work smarter, deepen professional conversations, and grow our connections with one another.  While the book is written for literacy coaches, I couldn't help but think it would be a smart read for any teacher who wants to discover ways to connect conversations within their team or building.  I thought of many teachers who lead from their classrooms who would benefit from reading this book.  Full of charts to show how digital tools can extend possibilities for the work we do, Stephanie shares ideas for launching this work in your learning community.  

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Design Your Summer

Here we sit ready to open the door into summer.  I'm not sure how we got here so fast.  Wasn't it just August?  Weren't we just falling into the rhythms of a school year?  It seems hard to believe, but it is summer.

On the way to school this week I was listening to Gretchen Rubin's podcast: Happier (Podcast 169).  In this episode, she and her sister, Elizabeth, were talking about designing your summer.  The idea is that summer should have a little adventure and if you aren't careful to design your time it can slip by without the opportunity to do all you had hoped.  (The idea intrigued me so much that I dug in a bit more and found more explanation in podcast 67 and podcast 118).)

As an educator, I always struggle to be kind when I hear, "Oh, you teach.  You have your entire summer off."  This is a bit of a myth, but I resist the urge to lecture others about the contract days of a teacher or the reality of summer work.  I understand that summer does bring me a bit of flexibility in my schedule.  For me, and for many educators, summer is the training months for the marathon ahead.  June is peppered with meetings, and August is a race from the moment we turn the calendar.  How we spend our time matters.  During the summer I have found I need to determine an amount of time I will truly rest, catch up on all of the house tasks that fell behind in the prior months, spend time with professional reading, and plan for the year ahead.

I'm taking Gretchen's advice to design my summer before it begins:

Adventure:  Patio Pursuit

It's patio season!  Most of the summer you will find me sitting on my patio enjoying a good book and a cup of coffee.  I just love being able to sit outside early in the morning and well into the evening.  Of course, summer also brings the opportunity to find new patios.  It's the perfect time of year to find restaurants with outdoor patios and coffee shops with outdoor seating to linger.  This summer, I will find a new patio each week to enjoy.  I'll be posting these on my Instagram page with the hashtags #patiopursuit #designyoursummer.

Friends & Family:  Wedding Bells

This friends and family one is easy.  My oldest daughter is getting married in August so this summer will be spent in final preparation for this event.  There will be lots of opportunities for friends and family along the way.

Professional Learning:  Eight Would be Great!

Oh, my professional reading stack is large and looming.  I love this time of year as it allows the opportunity to focus in on some professional reading.  It's obvious I need a plan to accomplish the task of reading these titles so I've decided as I design my summer that "Eight Would Be Great!".  My plan is to have eight professional books read by the end of summer (and that is a very doable number.).  It's roughly one book each week with a week here and there for books that require a bit more reflection.

Projects:  The Office

Since leaving my classroom, we have a room that I have used as an office/creation space/guest room. It needs some work to make it comfortable and utilize the space in the best way possible.  I'm honestly not sure what that actually is, but I think I'll spend the summer figuring it out.

What are your plans to make your summer the best it can be?