My classroom is not a quiet, orderly place.
Students are constantly moving, thinking, talking, reading and writing.
I do my best to help my students find success.



February 25, 2014

I do, I do it for you, You do... Really!

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Two Writing Teachers
I'm trying something tried and true at my house this week.  I'm not jumping in and saving my teens from their poor choices (note:  no harmful choices were made).  It's been an interesting couple of days as I work from being an enabler to more of an observer and coach.

One daughter was ticked off when I didn't provide any help for a major assignment that she started at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night.  (No dear, you can't blame procrastination on me.)  The other was astounded that she had to "pay" for a ride to school with her phone after she missed the bus.

I'm not dropping off gym clothes at school.  I'm not giving the time in 5 minute increments in the morning any more.

All of this is against every grain of my being.  I know my purpose in life is to help others -- I've always done it.  But enabling and coaching are different.

In the classroom I've been pressing my mouth closed and encouraging my students to talk more about their reading and thinking.  I've asked them, "What do you think?" more than I offer my ideas.  I'm trying to push them to their highest levels of thinking and sharing.  There are no excuses for not reading outside of my class.  I simply ask them to set a goal they can manage.

Enabling, coaching, caring, helping.  I'm trying to find a balance while helping the kids around me (at home, at school) find their way.

February 18, 2014

Savoring the Olympics

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We have a tradition at our house. It happens every two years. We are glued to the television each night of the summer and winter Olympic Games.

My girls and husband sing the Olympic Anthem at random times. We have a countdown preceding the opening games (starting at 100 days). We practice our geography skills during the parade of athletes.  Homework in front of the television is only allowed during the Olympics.

Why are we so enthralled?  My husband and I are amazed by all the sports we never had the opportunity to try due to our talents (more musical than athletic) and geographic location (Illinois flatlands).

Our oldest daughter watches any and all sports.  She sees Olympic games as the pinnacle of all sports, and she has great respect for the athletes.  Our youngest daughter loves the flexibility and artistry of the skaters and gymnasts.  She is in awe of their abilities.

We are thoroughly enjoying these 2014 Winter Olympics, but to me they are bittersweet.  This year my oldest daughter graduates from high school.  Her sister will follow in 2016.  These winter games will be the last time (for awhile) that we will spend hours together each day analyzing the athletes, keeping track of medals and cheering for the USA.

The Olympics will be an event that we will always share, whether near or far from each other.

February 11, 2014

Perspective

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Journal entry, Wednesday, 2/5/14

We received 7" of snow today.  That puts the season total at 59".
The girls made it to school safely and on time.
I spent the day helping teachers fill out intervention paper trails.
Oldest daughter talked of athlete friends signing for a college.
Youngest daughter assembled our new snowblower while I purchased a new gas can and gas.
We had takeout for dinner.
I called my dad to ask how much oil to put in the snowblower.
I got an email from a friend who faces brain surgery.

Why am I sitting here crying over my hot cocoa?
I couldn't get the gas out of the can and into the snowblower, so we gave up and shoveled.

I need some perspective.

February 4, 2014

Advice from the conductor



I've played second violin in the community college orchestra for 4-1/2 years. It's a mix of younger college students, music teachers, retirees, and a mix of other professionals who enjoy playing an instrument on the side (doctors, programmers, office workers).

Our conductor likes to "stretch our musical muscles," so he tends to pick pieces that fit a theme and challenge us (especially the string players).  We have four rehearsals, then it's concert time.  The short time period guarantees that you will not tire of the pieces, nor will you perfect your part.  There's just not enough time.

We are less than a week from performing Mendelssohn's 4th Symphony.  We missed rehearsal last week due to subzero temperatures and windchill warnings.  As we ran the piece tonight, I knew our conductor, Brian, would have to find a kind way of letting us know the piece (specifically the 4th movement) was not going well.

Brian can tell when we are stressed and need to regroup.  He will put the baton down, rub his forehead, and then share a short story.  It gives us a chance to lower our shoulders and relax.  Weekly, he reminds us to listen to each other (and not play like soloists!) and go with the flow of the music.  We had a few members tonight trying to play the correct rhythm loudly, as to prove they were right.  This wasn't working.

Brian's short story tonight was how a construction company was trying to relate the orchestra model to their business operations.  In orchestra, you perform, analyze, adjust.  Instantly.  There's no time to call meetings and delay projects for months.  Individuals need to adjust what they are doing (or not doing) to do their part to be in sync with their section, which helps the whole orchestra play in harmony.

AHA! Makes me think of school.

I wish that we teachers could adjust quickly to what our students need and to the changing standards.  I think many of teachers do this subconsciously.  They see a need, they fill it.  Others wait, complain, whine, and look for others to blame.  Each grade-level is a team, like a section in the orchestra.  You can tell when there is a weak section in the orchestra.  They stand out.

I'm hoping more teachers will see themselves as part of a bigger organization, like an orchestra.  They will learn their music (CCSS) and practice (apply CCSS).  They will listen to the other sections (grade levels).  They will analyze how they are harmonizing.  They will realize when they need to adjust... then quickly do it! They will realize this hard work is for their team, their students, and their parents.

Back to orchestra... I know I need to spend some more serious time working on my part so that the 2nd violins will blend harmoniously with the orchestra on Sunday.  I can't let my fellow musicians, my conductor, or my audience down.

(Pssst...here's a link to a YouTube video (another orchestra) of the 4th movement...yikes!  Wish me luck!)