Amplifying Minds

Learning and Growing Together

Archive for the category “beginning of school”


Today is the 5th annual picture book event:  #pb10for10. Here’s how you participate!


And, here are my 10 favorite picture books for looking at the world differently:

The Napping House Not only does this book show varying perspectives of the room on each page, but I have an incredible story to go with it.  I had just read this book (numerous times) in my kindergarten class right before one Halloween weekend.  Over that weekend, one of my students was in an accident and went into a coma. My Teaching Assistant and I went to see her Monday after school and when we talked to/at her, her brain pressure dropped, so I kept going back, and took books to read to her as I sat with her. Whenever I read The Napping House, she became visibly calmer and seemed to be hearing and recognizing it.  I left the tape that went with it, and the nurses would play if for her. When she came out of the coma, she asked me to read it to her…over and over…so I know reading a favorite book made a difference for this child.

Piggie Pie NO group of kids I have ever shared this book with has  not enjoyed it tremendously!

Zoom such a great book for predicting and seeing things differently; especially great for working with “bird’s eye view.”

It Looked Like Spilt Milk  This book teaches that with a little imagination, something ordinary could become something extraordinary. (Amazon’s words)

The Potato Man (and The Great Pumpkin Switch), but these go together to show storytelling and the importance of seeing the world through another perspective. Kids want to know where # 3 is–and some of my 4th graders even wrote their own “Lucky Penny” stories.

If  You Give A Mouse  A Cookie (I use it to teach Algebraic thinking with the “if…, then…”)

Tomorrow’s Alphabet -Explore a wonderful world of possibility with an imaginative alphabet puzzle that encouraged young readers to look beyond the obvious. (Amazon’s words!)

Bedhead and Baghead (two books, but they go together) Having  a bad hair day? These two kids handle it differently, but help us understand the commonality of worrying about how we look to others.

Counting On Frank–this one shows how a mathematical thinker looks at and thinks about the world

Picture This-a book full of visual surprises, sharing new perspectives on what came before and what is yet-to-come


I could do another 10 like this….but am going to go read other’s lists and gather a whole new bunch of ideas for books to use in a new school year!

Is Learning Real?

I live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. In Central Virginia, we have the most beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, our land is mostly lush and green rolling hills, we have great weather most of the year, and the skies are simply gorgeous. Our county, Albemarle, is sought out by many of the rich and famous for a home because of the beauty here.

So when I teach Virginia Studies in our upper elementary grades, I take kids on as many field trips as I can, simply because it is worth seeing their faces as they go down into a cavern to experience stalactites and stalagmites, or see amazing views from the Blue Ridge Parkway, or visit a nearby apple or peach orchard and see the bounty we have produced since colonial days or ride down a nearby Interstate and understand, really, what a median in the highway is.  (I then use that understanding to teach median in math!)

Part of the History and Social Science curriculum is to teach the five regions of Virginia.  (It used to be three, then a couple of years later it became four and now it’s five.  When they take Geography in 9th grade, they’ll earn there are lots more than 5.) So, today, I was working with three kids new to our school who “have already learned” the whole VS curriculum and passed the state tests. We’ll need to differentiate for them all year, and I have that task.

I was really just chatting with them today–to get to know them, to find out what they might be interested in learning and to kind of tease out holes or strengths they might have from their learning last year. As part of that conversation, I asked them which region they lived in last year and where they lived now. All of them knew they now live in the Piedmont region of Virginia. All of them knew the region they came from. All of them knew the Blue Ridge region is next to the Piedmont.  But not one of them knew the mountains they

  • ride beside, in a car or bus, EVERY day going to and from school,
  • see from the front of our school,
  • watch the sunset over and
  • see fog and storms come over

were the Blue Ridge Mountains. They could all tell me the Blue Ridge Mountains were old mountains, rounded on top from years of erosion and weathering. They could all tell me they were part of an old mountain chain, and that they ran the length of our state. All of these facts are part of our state curriculum.

But they did not know those beautiful mountains right outside their houses, and right outside our school were the Blue Ridge Mountains.

So what if our kids can cite factoids?

Do they see beauty and wonder about it?

Are they curious about the world around them?  (I was always asking the names of nearby mountains when I was a kid, and now LOVE the app, ARPeak–I can just point with my phone and find out!)

Do they care to learn about the place they now live?  (Their homework tonight was to go home and research Crozet–and find out why the town is named that and what railroad tunnels have to do with that.)  When I told them to google Claudius Crozet and VMI, one of the kids said, “My Dad went there.”

Really?  and the dad didn’t tell the kid about Claudius Crozet when they moved here? Claudius Crozet, who is buried at VMI, who the dining hall is named after, and who designed the cadet uniform as the first President of the Board of Visitors?

Another kid said something about the parents’ favorite restaurant.  When I asked the name, the kid responded with “Blue Ridge….”  And the kid didn’t think about the region Blue Ridge or see the mountains which surround us and think they might be them??

I absolutely get that these kids are 9 and 10 years old. But come on–shouldn’t we have helped them be better at making connections? Shouldn’t we, as educators, be making the book learning be real?

This post isn’t about the kids really–it’s about what we as adults do to help kids make connections, or what we don’t do. The fact these kids are new to our school and our area gives us an opportunity to help them make some of the things they learned elsewhere real to them.  I can’t help but wonder, though, what the kids who have grown up here know about Crozet, the man? Do they understand those mountains are part of the Blue Ridge chain?

I took the VS kids on a “walking field trip” to the front of the school.  Stepping outside, I asked them what color the mountains appeared to be.  As soon as they said “blue” I saw the light bulbs go off….and I know there are three kids who will be looking at those mountains differently tomorrow morning as they ride the bus or in their car to school. I know they’ll look around in our small town a bit more because of our conversation today.

And I bet after they research good ‘ole Claude and find out he engineered three tunnels through those mountains after the Civil War (without dynamite, through rock), and that he started on both sides of the mountain and the tunnels being dug from both sides almost matched to the inch when they met, that they’ll think about being from Crozet a bit differently. I bet when they look at the railroad mural in the middle of town they might wonder which of the three tunnels it is coming out of.  I bet, if they don’t run into this fact online, they’ll wonder if the tunnels are still being used by the railroad today.  And I bet when two of them see the road Claudius Court in their neighborhood, they’ll know where the name came from.

And I bet, when they are ever again in a conversation about old, rounded mountains, they’ll see the Blue Ridge Mountains in their mind–cause they experienced that today.

Is most of the learning our kids do real, or are we just spoon feeding them unconnected facts? I want kids to be curious, to ask questions, to wonder….and I want them to make connections, look for similarities and differences, and use what they know to understand themselves and their world more. Is that too much to ask in this world of high stakes testing?

Shaking Hands-Math, part 2

OMG was the way the imaginary Tweet I began when I left the 5th grade math class. (I sent it later, promising a reflection, and so, here it is.)

There’s never enough time.  I always overplan, but  because this was the first math class, and I really wanted to include all parts, I really rushed the kids. I own that.  They didn’t finish the problem, the time for reflection was minimal, and they mostly complied with the various activities, without deep conversation. They didn’t get to share strategies or talk about the problem in a class discussion, so there is a lot left for the next class.

There are several things I really want these kids to understand–

a.) While the answer, in some cases, is extremely important, we’re going to be using messy questions to think about process and strategies, and sometimes we won’t center on the answer. Today was one of those days.

b.) There are many ways to solve most problems, and there usually just isn’t a right or wrong one.  There will be more efficient or less efficient ways, and we’ll talk about that.

c.)  Complicated problems are what they’ll encounter in life. We’ll practice those, often.  And, math is NOT simply arithmetic.

So today, they got involved in something that encompassed all three of those things, and when many of them figured out we were NOT coming to closure on the right answer, there was an amazing amount of frustration, even though they hadn’t had enough time to really get to the end of their own mathematical processes.  Yet, the comments on our Today’s Meet were mostly thoughtful and honest, not frustrated. I’ll be interested to see what they have to say after we look at some strategies and final answers.

So the next class will be sorting some of their responses to the “what is math?” question, looking at some of their work under the document camera, with them sharing strategies they used, and then groups finishing the work to get to a resolution. When they finish that, we’ll ask them to make up their own handshake questions.  It’s a pretty intense beginning to what looks to be an interesting year!

Shaking Hands

So in the post, First Day Plans, I was brainstorming possible ideas for the first day of an advanced math class.  I want it to be fun for the kids, to be active, to include mathematical thinking and to allow my collaborating teacher and I to observe their problem solving and collaborative skills.

Here’s what we came up with:

The Do Now:

Please open your journal and respond briefly to the question, “What is math?”  Share what you think.  (We’ll be doing this throughout the year so your definition will change and grow and as you do.)


1. Pick a number from 1-3. Write it on the last page of your journal for accountability.

2.  Without talking or giving away your number, you will go around the room shaking hands with your classmates.  Each time you shake a person’s hand, you shake their hand the number of times to match the number you chose.  If you chose 3, for example, you shake their hand three times.  If they chose 1, they will shake your hand once.

3. You can sort yourselves into three groups if you pay attention and find like handshakers.  That is your job today.  Once you think you have your full group, shake hands with your group members once more to check.  Once you have done that, raise the correct number of fingers as a final check.  Move groups if you need to do so.

4.  Class discussion: We’ll look at the groups and talk about their sizes and see what patterns or relationships we can infer. (We’re anticipating the term probability to come up and we’ll be ready to talk theoretical or empirical if necessary.)

5.  Then, we’ll count off in each group, A, B C.  When that is done, we’ll have smaller groups  to work the next problem.

6.  Small group work:  If every person in this room shakes every other person’s hands, how many handshakes will that be total?  (We will not specifically address whether the adults count or not, but simply refer the kids back to the question. Our intent is to observe the small groups and see who includes what, how thorough they are,  how they organize their work, if they understand the problem and have strategies to attack it, who disengages, who steps up as a leader, who can be a follower or leader, etc.)  We, the collaborating teachers, will simply be observing during this time.

7.  Whole class reflection time: We’ll share strategies, examples of work, and answers and ask them to think about whether this was a good problem to work or not.  The last five minutes will be responding on a Today’s Meet to share what they think of the problem and what their work/behavior told us about them.

8. We’ll pull the work they do Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week together on Friday by asking them to help make a problem solving rubric against which we’ll look at our work this year.

Best of Both Worlds

I don’t remember facts from my elementary school.  I remember getting under the desk for bomb drills. I remember being allowed to jump out of swings from as high as I could.  I remember helping out in the library shelving books. I remember riding my bike home to have a hot lunch my Mom had fixed for me and getting back before the lunch period was over. I remember a holiday gift I made my Mom in 3rd grade because it took a long time and was actually fired in a kiln. I remember two specific learning episodes with teachers where I was held up to the class as an example. I remember playing kickball, walking home (I don’t remember there being busses), and running in a cornfield that bordered the school playground.

I don’t remember spelling lessons or math lessons or english lessons or lessons from science or art or music or PE or library or history or anything else I may have been taught. I mean, I guess I was, because I’m not an ignorant person–but those aren’t the things that make me who I am.

I remember the things I cared about–being annoyed under the desk, being chosen to shelve books, being a part of a group playing kickball, taking risks jumping out of the swing (and yes, at least once I fell and went to the office to get my skinned knees cleaned up)–but I came back and continued to jump out of them and hang upside down on the monkey bars (no hands!), and run through the cornfield playing tag.

I remember in High School that I couldn’t grasp geometry–and my Mom worked with me to see it as a puzzle, a game to figure out–and I grew to love all kinds of math.  I remember she and I played Scrabble EVERY Sunday afternoon after our Sunday dinner was done and we spent the majority of the afternoon waiting on one another to look through the dictionary for the perfect word that was the best match for our letters. I learned patience and persistence and my vocabulary grew through those games.  I remember my parents teaching me I was to respect my elders–because if I got in trouble at school for being disrespectful, I’d be in more trouble with them. I remember being taught to care for others and our world.

But I don’t remember tests being a huge part of my schooling.  I don’t remember studying and memorizing facts or disconnected pieces of information. I don’t remember being anxious in school or feeling afraid to fail. I do remember working hard on assignments and feeling proud of what I accomplished. I loved to read, but I don’t EVER remember doing a worksheet on a book in elementary school. I remember spending hours sitting outside in a tree or on our porch reading and I do remember doing math homework…but mainly I remember just being responsible (mostly) about going to school and learning.

So what did school teach me or give me time to learn?

It gave me time to take risks and become adventurous.

It rewarded me for doing well.

It taught me persistence and hard work makes one successful.

It taught me family and friends are important.

It taught me to take care of our world.

It taught me to try things, and that it was okay to not be good at it from the get go.

It taught me to not give up and try again.

As a child, I never thought that I would ever write words that would be read by many people from many countries as my words on this blog are. I never thought I would engage in Twitter conversations or be followed by thousands of people that are interested in my thoughts.

But kids today DO have some expectation of being heard by many.  They do expect that they can create a video or write a blog post  that may go viral.  They do expect that they can use technology to create something that may make them famous and/or rich.  They do expect their phones to connect them to their friends and families and yes, even strangers, instantaneously. They do expect to be able to learn both in and out of school–and learn out of school however they want to learn, about whatever they choose.

So why can’t schools today teach the best of both worlds–like the experiences I had to learn risk-taking, perseverance, resilience, how to work hard, how to fail and try again, etc., and the experiences kids can have today with technology to personalize their own learning? Our kids deserve both.

So as many of us begin a new September, a new school year, a new class, let’s give our students what we know they need–the best of both the world of yesterday and the world of today so that they will build the worlds of tomorrow well.

First Day Plans

So our kids have been in school for 8 days.  Teachers have been building classroom community and pre-assessing for some achievement groupings, and getting to know the kids.  We’ve been doing some pre-work on our new devices (an infusion of 40 Chromebooks and 18 iPad minis this year) and talking about our Design 2015 projects in each grade level.  So far the highlight of the year for kids (and definitely our principal!) has been the Book Brigade, I think.

But the highlight for me is that the first week of September I get to start working with kids more than one on one testing them! So here’s what I’m thinking about math.

I’ll be working with 25 or so kids in 5th grade–who will be heading towards a middle school honors class that is a compacted 6th, 7th, and 8th grade curriculum.  There are two likely paths for these kids when they get to middle school.  Those who succeed in the 3 year compacted class will go into Algebra in 7th grade. Some, who are less confident and secure in the concepts taught next year, will go into a compacted year of 7th and 8th and go into Algebra in 8th grade.

My goal, to amplify their minds this year, is to help to my kids look at the world through a mathematical lens, rather than see math as algorithms to be learned. So, we’ll be working with real life examples whenever possible, they’ll be learning math within real contexts and we’ll do units like the “Artful Engineering” one developed to use the fabricators we have. I’ll be collaborating with a fifth grade teacher for this class, and we’ll mostly do it in her room.

But this first week, I can’t decide quite how to begin…

I want to have discussions about what is math and what does a mathematician do. I’m considering asking them to do/make something to show what they know/think/believe about math. I’m not sure that wouldn’t be too open-ended for the first day, though.

I want to take in some new manipulatives that will end up being snap cubes, but right now are nets of cubes.  I want to ask kids to figure out what they are and design something with them, to see what they build and how they think.

I want to read Counting on Frank and talk about “Henry Questions.”

I want to show the figure from Lockhart’s Lament and ask them how much room the triangle takes up and hear their thinking–and watch how it changes as others share theirs.

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 9.50.37 AM

I want them to fiddle with questions such as:

“A piece of wood is 15 feet long. How many 3/4-foot sections can be cut from it?” so I can see how they think.

I want them to list and think about questions that arise from looking at things like:


I’ve thought about building a slideshow of some kind and asking them to pick a picture and describe the math in it. I’d include pictures like those from here and here and here.

I want them to see math as art, as fun, as manageable and achievable and most of all something to invest in and enjoy!

So I’m trying to figure out how to involve and engage them in something cool…something that shares what math means to them… something that helps me begin to know more deeply how they think and what they think doing math is.

What would you do?

Mindsets and Expectations

I think most teachers go into each new school year with high expectations for a new beginning, to try new strategies, and to work anew to be a better teacher.  I believe students go into new school years with enthusiasm for a new beginning as well. The excitement, especially in an elementary school, is palpable– at least for the first few days.

I always have the expectation that this year will be the year I can keep control of the piles on my desk and not let them run away willy-nilly so that I only have enough room on my desk to open my laptop each day.  I expect that I will manage to control those piles, but so far I have not lived up to those expectations.

But mindsets and expectations are so often communicated subliminally…and I’ve begun wondering what all the pre-assessment we do at the beginning of the year communicates.

Recently we gave a pre-assessment in one of our grades, and the test was simply a released state test, usually given at the end of the year to see if kids learned the mandated curriculum.  The reason we give this is to find out which kids know a lot of the curriculum already so we can do an initial sorting of kids for instructional groupings.  It’s not a test we use for remediation, but instead for a kind of acceleration–sorting out the “high achievers” so they can go faster through and further than the mandated curriculum.

Why aren’t we using different kinds of assessments to find out what kids know? We talk about how the state multiple choice tests aren’t the best way to assess….so why use it here? This one was already created and easy is why–and there are times we just do that, for sanity’s sake, to save a bit of time, or to get a quick sort.

We tell the kids that this test is to see how much they already know of what we are supposed to teach them–so they will likely encounter things they have never seen or heard of before and if they truly have no idea, just to skip the question. As the gifted resource teacher, I was given  the kids who were identified, who had worked in math groups with me before, or who were new and records indicated they might be high achievers. I also asked my kids to note the numbers of the questions they made educated guesses on and which they just plain guessed, if they chose to answer one they really didn’t know.

Of course the kids who know how to play school tried to answer every question. Despite us teachers telling them it was okay to skip, not one of my kids skipped a question–and they had several “guesses” noted. So, I would bet their scores were a bit inflated by the fact they guessed–and probably are good test takers to begin with. In another room, though, there were kids who skipped more questions than they answered–and their scores were some of the lowest of the group.  So what does that tell us other than perhaps they give up easily?

Now we’re triangulating data–how they did on the pre-assessment, how they did on last year’s state test, what their records show, etc., to set up our instructional groups.  Did kids who skipped many, many answers end up in a group together?  Did kids who guessed well get given to the group whose instruction is being designed to go faster and further? As we group, are we addressing kids who work fast or slow, who persevere or not, who have strategies or who don’t? Should we? Have we analyzed the data we got beyond the scores, or are we simply looking at the numbers?

My expectation is to look at learning and testing behaviors as seriously as we look at the number they got right or wrong.  My expectation is that kids will share their thinking with me as they go along, marking which questions they guessed on and not simply skipping things. My expectation is that working slowly does not nix you getting into the fast group–I want to know what’s the reason for that slowness?  Lack of knowledge?  Checking the answer a variety of ways?  Inattention to the task?  I need to know more before allowing anyone to knock the kid down a group for the speed at which they work.

And do we really believe kids don’t know when they are sorted into bluebirds and buzzards? What mindset does that give them, to find they are a buzzard?  What expectations do they then have of themselves?

Should how fast or slow a kid works determine what group they’re in? Do we care whether a kid guessed or made an educated guess, or knew the answer on a multiple choice test?

Should we have achievement groupings anyway? Please notice I use the term achievement versus ability.  We know what kids have done–we can document their achievement.  We do not ever truly know what a child’s ability is–and if we profess to, we are using a fixed mindset rather than a growth one.  I’d rather assume kids are capable.

What do we inadvertently teach and show through our actions? What mindsets do kids and/or parents assume by what we do? And, how many of the reflective questions posed here really have to do with learning? With “Amplifying Minds”?

The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching

Recently I was asked by ASCD to review this book by Bryan Goodwin and Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, and so was given an advance copy to read. I devoured it, to be honest.  It was easy reading, affirmed many of my beliefs, but also stretched my thinking as I constantly was assessing whether each touchstone would be one of my own twelve. I have to say the one I like the best is the last one–“I help students do something with their learning.” Again recently, a friend, Hollins Mills (@htmills on Twitter) commented here on my blog and said, “I always ask myself, “Would this work exist anywhere but school?’ and if the answer is no – it needs to go.” I so agree with Hollins. What we help students do with their learning has to be real.

Another part of this book I liked was the real life examples in areas other than education for checklists, and also the recurring acknowledgement of how complex teaching and learning are. Many educators are talking about Carol Dweck’s book  Mindset–and whether teachers have a fixed or a growth mindset.

But just how much growth do we need to see to feel like we did our job and are doing it well?  Did you know that “if the success rate for air travel was as low as 99%, 870 planes would fall out of the sky every day in the United States alone? ”  ( quote from 12 Touchstones authors)

Every teacher, even every great teacher, can tell you the things s/he needs to work on to be better. But these 12 touchstones are a way to help us reflect and check ourselves each and every day to make sure we are “identifying and sharing what we know we must do and then see that it gets done.”  These 12 touchstones are organized in sets of 4–into three groups.  Each set of four is grouped into one of three organizing imperatives:

1. Be demanding.

2. Be supportive.

3. Be intentional.

I love these three imperatives…and if I asked teacher friends to name 4 components of each,  we may or may not come up with the same four, but some would certainly be similar.  The difference in what the authors of this book came up with is that each and every one of their components is considered a “big Idea” and is based on decades and decades of solid educational research.  We know what works–we often just don’t take the time to make sure we are doing it every day, in every classroom, with every child.

The subtitle of this book is “A checklist for staying focused every day” but it is not about reading the item and doing it–checking it off.  It’s more, as the authors say, a “Do, Confirm” list–do it, then look at the checklist to make sure you have done all you need to do.  We need to “relentlessly focus on doing what we know must be done and doing it well in every classroom, with every student, every day of the week.”

So, to teach writing, we should ask kids to write–not answer our questions, but respond to things they read or events in their lives or feelings, thoughts and questions they have that they want to share with others.

To teach math, we should look for examples of real life mathematics.  In early August, for example, I saw this sign in a Target store:

photo (43)

and immediately thought,

  • Holy Cow!  How much does that mean they make a week?
  • Is that for all Targets or just this one?  Do different Targets have different amounts?
  • How do they define community? My community or all communities they serve?
  • What’s the markup on items they sell?

and I could go on and on and on…but what I really want is to know what the kids wonder when they see this. So this will be one of my first math lessons when we start switching and I begin to work with my assigned group. (I’ll also read Counting on Frank  to my fifth graders and we’ll talk about “Henry questions.” That book begins, “My Dad says, “If you have a brain, use it.”  So I do.”  and it goes on from there, showing how Henry uses his brain every day.)

We won’t be talking about 5 paragraph essays. I know I used to teach those, but that’s before I had a clue how to teach writing- before I participated in two National Writing Prjects and became a writer myself.  It’s also before our Virginia DOE Literacy coordinator flat out said in a workshop that the VA DOE was NOT looking for 5 paragraph essays in our state writing tests, and if they saw a proliferation of them coming from one school, they would know the kids had probably been given limited opportunities for real writing.

I won’t be killing kids’ love of reading (committing “Readicide“) with comprehension packets of worksheets.

I won’t be giving blogging prompts to get kids to respond to books. I will be modeling blogging my own thoughts and sharing those with kids. I will be talking about books I’m reading and pondering themes, characters and plots in conversations with my students.

I will be sharing my passion for learning and thinking aloud a lot with them.

And I will be sharing the three imperatives from this book and asking for student feedback.  Maybe we’ll even create some touchstones for learners….

hmm, I wonder what those would look like?

The Best…

emails come unexpectedly.  Today I got one from a former student who is entering high school next week.  When he was in fifth grade, that particular group of kids really got into conversations about what school should be like.  I’ve continued to keep up with Nicolas, and he’s continued to think about school each year as he enters a new grade and encounters various school situations. He’s done a guest blog on the Cooperative Catalyst blog, as well as present (by himself) at the k12online conference (as a sixth grader.)  He’s helped out every year but one since fifth grade at our New Teacher Academy, sharing his wiki and talking with new teachers about being connected.  Today’s email shared the latest page he’s made on his wiki about “Reimagining School.” It’s pretty impressive thinking. Enjoy!

Wow…My 40th First Day

The first day back for teachers….what do YOU want to see?  Is it the same each year? What do you want that first day back to be like?

I want to see my class list, my schedule and know exactly what I am going to teach (will I departmentalize with my team, teach all subjects, etc.).  I don’t particularly care to see the school handbook or the lunch monitor schedule (unless I’m on it) but I do want to see what changes have been made around the school over the summer and get a great pep talk by my principal.  I want to reconnect with my staff and teacher friends I may not have seen all summer.  I am anxious to get back into it…

I don’t think that what I want now, as I return to school, is much different from my early years of teaching, in some ways.  Then, I wanted to know the things that would affect my whole year as well. After all, I’m the one who needs to make lemonade out of whatever lemons I may end up with (such as specials at a time I hate or a late lunch when I want an early one, or whatever…)

What HAS changed is my faith in myself to do that- turn the things that could be deficits into assets. I don’t count down the days until school ends–I count ON the days I have to help myself and others learn. (I actually hate to see the end of a school year.) As an experienced teacher, I ask questions to help myself and perhaps others see another perspective or think more deeply. If I don’t ask questions, how can I  be more reflective or see more avenues or help others do that? How do I know what I think until I question myself and what I say as well as think about what others say and do?

In conversations about what to teach when, or how long the various parts of the day should be, or as we develop the specific work we’ll ask the kids to do, we teachers are learning from one another. Today, as a teacher and I talked about geoboards, about whether plastic ones or homemade ones with nails were better, I liked that we were learning from one another’s questions and comments….and isn’t that what we want for our kids?  To incite a curiosity in them that causes them to ask questions of one another and listen carefully so they can form more questions and continue to learn?

I’m still asking them after 40 years in this job…and I’m still trying to amplify all of the minds I meet, and have mine amplified, too….which is why this blog.

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