Friday, January 27, 2012

10 Reasons I Love My Job!

Wordle: 10 reasons

Our job as educators can be challenging, exhausting, and exhilarating (all in the same moment sometimes). This week was all of these things for me- a GIANT balancing act as usual.... and I enjoyed every minute! Ending the week I found it necessary to reflect on the 10 reasons I love my job:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Perfect Storm: Creating a 21st Century Learning Environment

Over a decade has passed in the 21st  Century and technology continues to advance at an unpredictable rate. Conversations are occurring everyday regarding ideas, strategies and theoretical approaches for teaching and learning as we move forward in this digital age.  But the challenge is trying to keep up with and integrate all the amazing approaches for creating a student-centered learning environment.  

Back in June 2011, Ann Ottmar and I took on an exhilarating task: create a 3/4/5 Multiage Program that meshed our school district endeavors, PLC Goals, and 21 st Century Skills.  We worked together closely over the summer and thought deeply on how to communicate our research and perspective with our students, parents, colleagues, and community members.   Clearly we understood that visuals would be the way to go, but we took it one step further to create a 3D model within our classroom.  This giant display explains how we merge expected state standards, higher-level thinking, and the affective domain within our multiage community.  Our over-arching goal is to essentially empower students by providing them with a direct role in the learning process and explaining to them the key elements in education.  And so begins our metaphor of “The Perfect Storm,” a synthesis of elements for student success. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Oh Perfect Day!

Reading, Writing, Reflecting, Connecting, Researching,
Texting, Blogging, Tweeting, Learning, Growing and
5 hours until I have to be anywhere!  ~Ann

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reflection is the New Enlightenment

Reflection is a process I have only lately come to appreciate.  I know they say don’t live in the past, but to me that is funny since through reflection I feel like I have finally begun to “live in the present”.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Long Day...

Thursday was a VERY long day for me and Ann.  To kick things off we attended our weekly staff meeting (which is a quick shot of PD in the arm), and then we entered into a LONG day with no Preps with Starbucks in hand.  We do love these days, though, because of the uninterrupted learning time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fierce Conversations

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a workshop called Fierce Conversations with Deli Moussavi-Bock.  It was incredibly inspiring and I was struck by the fact that so many of the truly fierce conversations that I have occur with Celina and our students every day as we build our community and our learning. 

Having a "fierce conversation" is one in which you are speaking in your real voice and to the heart of the matter (which by the way Deli shared that the french root of courage is heart!).  You are asking and listening, provoking learning, and enriching relationships.  But most importantly the definition by Fierce (2011) is that when the conversation is over YOU are different!  This was profound.  Every time we ask our kids about their thinking, their insights, their revelations, we are astounded, amazed and changed.

As if reading my mind, Celina sent me a text at recess of the whiteboard in our room where the Brain Breakfast of the day was students' reflections on the quote: "The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil." by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  One of our fifth graders added his thinking right next to the quote saying, "I find Ralph E's quote means that the better a student is treated the more they can learn and grow." One of our third graders wrote her reflection above his, saying, "What this means to me is that if you respect someone they will respect you back and learn the things you want them to learn and Bloom.

The kid connections, discussions, thoughtful responses, collaboration, and even the noise just signifies to me that we are living a fierce experience within our classroom on a daily basis.  I prefer it to the alternative. Wouldn't you?  ~ Ann

Fierce Conversations (2011) Seattle, WA: Fierce, Inc.

Monday, January 9, 2012

And They Inspired Us Again

The mantra "Just ask the kids!" is a favorite of our instructional coach.  She inspired Ann and I with these words many times last year. Their voices dynamically changed our practice by providing truth and motivation. 

Ann and I have continued to make this our goal this year.  We provide our students ample opportunity to assist us in creating, tweaking, and redefining our Student Learning Community every day.  They know themselves as learners very well and can help us understand what is working and what is not.

Today we shared with them additions to our Metaphor for "Creating a 21st Learning Community," before we officially post it.  WOW!  Their reflections and ideas were amazing, causing us to laugh, tear up, hug, dance, smile, etc.  They have been an intregal part of creating our program- they are essentially the CORE, or essence if you will- so their opinions, criticism, and thoughts are what we seek out first and foremost.  The depth of their thinking, their expressive voices, their dedication to the process- that is what inspires us to keep processing, researching, and believing.

Have you asked your students to reflect and provide you with feedback lately?  I am so glad we did today. Their words have stuck with us and proven that we are traveling the right path, making the right choices, and empowering them with the right skills... thinking, trusting, collaborating, respecting, and celebrating.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Shift #3: Cultivate the 5 Minds

Wordle: 5 Minds
In reading Chapter 1 of 21st  Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn, Ann and I were introduced to Gardner’s 5 Minds for the Future.  We were inspired by the depth of each mind, so much so that I had to purchase his book (2008).  But we did need time to process and find relevance in Gardner’s words in the lives of our students and our own selves.  Then when Ann and I began our mind-shift reflections we went back to reread, immediately calling each other with many AH-HAs that excited us.  We began to see how the 5 Minds fit into education, our multiage program, and our personalized learning approach, as well as our own lives.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Well, here it is my first post of the new year! Better make it a good one... :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

How a Multiage Model Made it Possible to Meet 21st Century Goals

Multiage classrooms are not new in the world of education; they have existed from way back into the one room schoolhouse days and open concept schools of the 1970’s. Yet when we accepted the position of teaching a 3-4-5 multiage classroom last year, many questions quickly arose. How would three different grades be served? How could the various ranges in academics and social-emotional needs be handled? Would these students receive the expected district curriculum? Would they be ready for the next grade? Why were we pursuing this idea? Because there would be three different grades within our two rooms it quickly became apparent that the traditional factory model of education was not going to work. A multiage experience is more like what students will face in their adult world, so why was the idea so hard to grasp? Many of the questions had centered on the curriculum and materials that students learn in school. To us though the question was no longer about WHAT to teach, but HOW to teach it? Asking this question led my teaching partner Celina and me down an entirely new path.