I am currently teaching and learning with 20 very excited first graders who love learning as much as I do! I am Elementary educator, Apple Teacher, Technology Integration Coach and loves to share my experiences.
I am excited to be joining the #cyberPD community in reading and discussing Welcome to Writing Workshop by Stacey Shubitz and Lynne R. Dorfman. Please join us, more information can be found here. Thank you to the #CyberPD founders for this opportunity.
"We would never expect a professional athlete to become better without time for practice with a coach. We would never expect a violinist to become a virtuoso without practice and instruction. Yet for many of us, the most precious commodity in our classrooms is time. We never have enough."
M. Colleen Cruz , Unstoppable Writing Teacher
The Most Precious Commodity:
The responsibilities of an elementary classroom teacher are numerous. Creating a schedule that allows time to teach and time for the students to explore is a continuous loop of imperfect balances. As a classroom teacher I fought to keep the demands and frustrations from consuming me.
When I am designing schedules, lessons, or making decisions for my classroom or collaborating with a teacher as an ed tech coach I lean on my belief statements.These statements keep me grounded in my core beliefs as an educator. I revisit my statements often, and occasionally I make adjustments as I grow in my thinking. This one statement has remained unchanged:
Children need choice in their learning and time to practice new learning.
Students won’t become writers just because we want them to be writers. Writers need to wallow in new teaching and they need time to let all the words, ideas and questions wash over them. With time, writers can connect new learning with their schema, and let the new information become their own.
When I listen to teachers make decisions about schedules; I hear teachers defend time for reading, math and content. Other teachers listen, nodding their heads in agreement. What I don’t hear anyone standing up for is time to write to become writers.
Why Do We Need to Protect Writing Time?
Writers who write over time become writers who write daily and for a variety of purposes. Daily writers come to know writing isn’t easy and best work doesn’t happen every day. Through writing, students gain experience with words, spelling, conventions, generating topics and genres. Students who write daily become writers.
Just as our students need time to read, explore new topics, and to work as mathematicians they need time and space to do the work of writers. Our students need time and freedom to realize all writing can’t be their best writing. Writers experience bad writing and know subpar days in their writing is part of being a writer and our students need to know this.
Our schedule provides time for writers to write every day. Writers make these discoveries and learn to settle in with tools, ideas, and the process of writing. Sitting down to write isn’t an on-demand job for many students. Writing requires students to decide on topics, message, words, space, and to calm the doubts that halt their words. Sitting beside all these demands is a student. Students who need time to process, practice and try again tomorrow.
Daily writers develop a sense of what writing is and why it’s important. Writers see the purpose and the message in writing. Writing is an ongoing process and writers who write for a purpose and write regularly understand what it means to be a writer.
How Can I Protect Writing Time?
Establish and stick to routines
Teach possibilities in minilessons
Offer writing opportunities in all parts of your day
Look for lost minutes in transitions
Invite support staff to provide services in the classroom
Post your schedule
Set timers to monitor time
Signal transition times with music
Ask a colleague into your room to look for lost minutes in the schedule
Keep materials organized
Teach students to how to access tools independently
Hold writing time sacred and your students will too.
Welcome To Writing Workshop Engaging Today's Students with a Model That Works, Stacey Shubitz and Lynne R. Dorfman
This is my spring break week! ONE whole glorious week of no alarm clocks, no plans that can't be broken (or rearranged at my discretion), and no meetings! It's time to catch up on books, friendships, favorite me things, and house chores that have been growling at me all winter! Ahh, I feel lighter just thinking about this week!
So day one, what did I do?
I called my mom for a mom and me shopping day, one of my favorite me things, I am a shopper! I often refer to myself as a professional shopper. I know all the malls, indoor, outdoor, strip centers, and discount stores. Shopping is more than a hobby, my whole family (even my hubby) LOVES to shop! As a matter of fact, our youngest daughter is making a career out shopping, as a market analyst. (Why didn't I know that was a career when I was a college kid?)
I know the current trends. I know where to find the best prices. I know when new lines are coming in and the "older" line is moving to the clearance rack. I know the target market for various stores and I know where I will find the just right piece to go with the piece from the other store, and I know how brands fit, I have got this shopping thing DOWN!
I could do it every day and never get tired!
Well, almost- I know when the stores get ahead of me too.
There's this time in February when winter clothes are picked over "clearanced to death," and spring clothes start trickling out all colorful, sleeveless, thin, and just too soon for Ohio's gray, cold days! And yet, there I stand, all bundled up in my boots with the fur and my parka feeling disoriented like I just entered the twilight zone.
How can I peel out of my multilayers of warmth to try on a bathing suit or shorts and reveal my pasty white flesh covered in chill bumps? I can't! I won't! I don't!
So this is the time I take a shopping break!
This comes at just the right time too. I am coming off the marathon of shopping seasons, Christmas shopping, all shoppers could use a break! And, on the other hand, it's just before the BEST shopping season of the year, SPRING BREAK SHOPPING!
So, starting spring break with a mom and me shopping day was a great first day of break! So, this morning when I woke up a deep sore ache in my bicep I knew I was out of shopping shape! I guess it's time to build those shopping muscles back up!
Today was a mixed bag full of highs and lows. I work with incredible people and knowing others are struggling is difficult. Today was a day when I not only saw the struggles of another, but I felt the gut punch she’s learned to live with.
I felt it first when I looked into her eyes and saw the pleas of help and the fear of already having been defeated. I felt it again as I experienced what’s become all to common to her. And it lingered throughout the day as I reflected.
I pushed it all away and walked into a meeting where other matters where highlighted and tossed about. But still the feeling was low in my gut, fighting to rise again.
I pushed it further down and walked into a classroom where 26 second graders and and an eager teacher were waiting to compose their FIRST community blog post! We all worked together planning, editing, revising, and finally publishing with GREAT CELEBRATION!
But still, as the class wrote their message, the gut feelings pushed and shoved, fighting to rise again. I thought of the morning, the look in her eyes, and I wondered how she was doing now? Was she still feeling the pain, the struggle, the helplessness?
I pushed the feeling down again. I walked into another meeting. We celebrated growth and planned steps for continued growth and the feelings nudged.
The day ended. I met a friend for coffee. We talked about our families, our upcoming breaks, and our jobs. The feeling began to rumble and bubble. I thought of her, her eyes, and her family. What did she have left to take home to her family?
On my drive home I made some calls. I shared my perspectives with those who can help. It was a risk. I was heard, the situation was understood, and most importantly I brought support to her.
My shoulders relaxed, I took a deep breath, and the feelings turned to productive. No longer did I feel hopeless empathy.
Next, I called her, “Hey, how are you? I’ve been thinking of you all day. I just couldn’t let it go. I want you to know I called ____. I want to support you.”
It happened suddenly and all at once Sunday evening. The excitement and busy of the week prior caught up with me and hit me like a ton of bricks. By Monday morning, I was down and out. I emailed the teachers and coaches on my scheduled and pulled the covers back up, and that was that.
Staying home meant a day of rest and recuperation for me personally, but professionally, it meant missed meetings, classes, and deadlines!
One deadline was setting up a first grade class of iPads for an upcoming blogging lesson. Typically, before I go into a classroom for a blogging lesson, I go in and log in all the iPads into the blogging website. Doing this enables the kids to sign in one easy step.
Today, I knew the one easy step method was not going to be. Today I knew we would be leading 25 first graders through the seven steps to sign in!
I walked in the door and made it over the teacher smiling my biggest and friendliest smile. She greeted me friendly and asked if I was feeling better. I assured her I was and I was excited to work with her class. This was easy, first grade and writing are my favorites!
I explained the lack of preparedness and my step by step plan to guide her students thoughtfully through the steps needed to get signed into KidBlog. The teacher smiled and said, "It's a good thing you know first grade."
Smiling and anxious, I and gathered the class on the carpet. I looked into their eager faces and asked them to remember a time they got a new toy, a bike, or maybe a time they baked cookies with a grown up. I asked them to think about the work of getting the new toy, bike, or cookies ready to play with or to eat. Everyone agreed it took some work the first time, but this was only the first time. The next time they wanted to play with the toy, ride the bike, or even eat a cookie, it was "easy peasy!"
With this mindset, we began the seven-step process of setting up and logging into our new KidBlog accounts.
Guess what? They did it! "Easy peasy. lemon squeeze!" In reality, I wasn't completely surprised, I knew the kids could do it. What did pleasantly surprise me was the teacher! She was so pleased with her class! She saw them listen to, follow, and successfully complete seven steps to sign in and set up their personal KidBlog accounts!
This was when I realized wasn't doing this prework of setting up and logging in students because I doubt the student's abilities, I was doing this because I was protecting the teacher's perception of her student's abilities. When in reality, I wasn't allowing the teacher to see the real potential of their students.
Sick day or not, students will now be completing all seven steps, showing their teacher just what they can do!
Thank you for your patience.
It’s no secret that I have missed a few posts over the the last week. This is called the Slice of Life Writing challenge because it is a challenge to write every day. I love a challenge, they push me, they introduce me to parts of myself I didn't know existed, and challenges invigorate me.
So, when I found myself not pushing myself yto write each day last week I was disappointed and surprised at myself. But, I made a choice, a conscious choice. You see, this week was my daughter’s spring break. In fact, it was her last spring break.
My daughter will graduate in May and begin her adult career in June. She has attended college 12 hours away from home and now, her career will have her living nine hours away. Time is precious.
I remember the phone call like it was yesterday, ”Mom, there’s a national fashion conference in New York. I really want to go. I think it would be a great way to network and get my name out there and learn more about the fashion world.”
My husband and I chatted. He didn’t love the idea of our 22 year-old daughter attending a conference in New York all alone, but we knew she was right, we knew this trip had the possibility of setting her on the path to her first career job. And we were right.
The days leading up to the conference were stressful. Liv called us daily second guessing her attendance, questioning whether she had signed up properly, and finally flight delays had her wondering if all of this was a sign.
As it turns out, these events were signs. Signs of how important the conference would turn out to be and the strength of Liv’s character.
Liv connected with several professionals who have offered advice, further connections, mentors, and job interviews. Not only did one of these connections lead to her first career employment, but another company agreed to connect with her university and allow students to shadow them on their next visit to New York! This connection was particularly helpful for the university, as a former company’s cancellation threatened to cancel the trip!
So, last week I choose to be present, to make memories, celebrate hard work, and embrace mom and me moments on her last spring break.
Well, it's been a crazy weekend of house preparation and plane delays but, she made it home!
This week, our youngest daughter, Olivia is home from college. We are thrilled to have her home even if it is only a week. There is something about the shortness of the visit that makes it special.
Tim and I made Olivia's favorite dinner, invited the grandparents over, and bought a cake from the Dairy Queen! Last night we sat around the table catching up, sharing stories, and it was grand! Olivia, a college senior who graduates in May shared stories of interviews, behind the scenes office tours, and awards!
Having family around is truly a gift and when it becomes part of sometimes its even more special. Now, at the end of the school day I am rushing out the door and heading home to embrace the special!
So I am signing off now to go sit with Olivia and see what else is new in her life that is ever changing and so exciting.
Isn't it weird how life changes without us even realizing?
Events that were so anticipated, events that forever change how we live, and who we are, slowly, gradually, ebb and flow over the days.
Each day changing one more aspect until everything is new again.
And we don't even notice; until we see someone else begin this journey of change of ebbing and flowing until everything is again new for them.
Today, I watched a co-worker and his wife welcome good wishes, gifts, and notes of advice as we all celebrated the upcoming arrival of their first child.
When the parents to be looked at each other the joy and happiness they felt was heartwarming. There was just something in the look they shared that told others they were already in love with their new family.
The upcoming days for the family are going to be filled with love, surprises, late nights, snuggles, messes, and so much more.
Each event changing how they live, who they are, and slowly, gradually, their days will ebb and flow.
Will they notice?
I don't think so.
Not when they're so overwhelmed in so much joy, so much busy, so much love.
How can they?
Until they see it all starting again in someone else?
I didn't mean for this to be "poemish," it just happened on the reread.
I hope it reads well- it's the first draft, it's a slice.
This week can’t end soon enough for me, actullay Monday can’t come soon enough for me! It seems weird to be wishing my weekend away and hoping for Monday before Friday has even arrived. But you see, while I know the weekend is going to be relaxing and will give me time to catch up with my husband and run a few errands, Monday holds something FAR greater. Monday’s promise is special because it doesn’t happen every day. As a matter of fact, Monday’s joy carries on through the entire week, and then, on Friday it reaches a new height.
Monday’s promise holds irony too. You see, Monday’s promise wasn’t always special because sometimes is part of special. Monday wasn’t always special, Monday was routine, Monday was seven days a week, 24 hours a day. People told me to enjoy it. People told me it would go fast. People told me I’d miss it. I heard them, I embraced every minute but, the truth is, somethings are too amazing not miss when they become part of sometimes.
Monday can’t come soon enough for me. Monday my youngest daughter comes home for Spring break. My oldest daughter joins the party on Friday. For two and a half days we will embrace every glorious minute of the special in sometimes.