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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Idea Percolation

Sometimes I just sit for hours and let the ideas percolate. This happens when new paths are being forged and new ideas are taking shape. I can feel them working in me, and it's hard to relax and rest when this is true. Generally this idea percolation takes place prior to big events such as the start of school, holidays, travel or milestone events such as birthdays, graduations, wedding, and new babies.

So as I try to bring the percolation to fruition, I'm thinking way ahead beyond the holiday season and well into the new year. What ideas are brewing?

It's more of the same, a time for deepening and enriching craft, team, trust, and practice. Unlike a shiny new car, this is similar to a favored painting that becomes more dear over time. In less than a decade when I leave my practice, I want to leave on top which means providing the best possible service to families, students, and colleagues--as I've written about this is a period of pushing in, going deeper, and getting better at the most critical aspects of the teaching profession which are all about engaging, empowering, and educating children so that they continue to develop with strength, confidence, positivity, creativity, and a solid foundation in the basics of literacy, numeracy, knowledge, and life skills.

To reach this crescendo is all about efforts to quiet, build character, listen, observe, read, research, and practice, practice, practice--that's the path toward this desired momentum, and then, perhaps, after that I'll write about it, use what I've learned in a different setting, or venture in other ways--only time will tell.

I've bought a few good books to read as I journey in this direction, and as with any new or renewed journey there's a sense of curiosity about where this path will take me.

The Content of Your Character

Students watched MLK's "I Have a Dream Speech" which led to a deep discussion about what's important. Later during an Open Circle meeting we discussed the idea of forwarding a Good Character campaign. Children had all kinds of awesome ideas including:
On Wednesday, just before Thanksgiving, students and I will meet again to discuss how we might divide into Character Teams and make good character visible in our individual and collective lives. Each team will be responsible for making posters and completing other related tasks for the Good Character Campaign which we'll figure out together.

As we do all of this we'll let the information on this Developing Character page lead our efforts. If you have any additional ideas, please share.

Priorities on the Teaching Path: November 2017

This is a year of pushing in and focusing deeply on the classroom and school team--how can I contribute more and better to teach well?

As I think about the teaching path ahead, and this central question, I identify the following efforts that are empowering direction:

Family-Teachers-Students Teaching/Learning Team
Family members have been an incredible source of capacity this year. I have reached out to numerous parents to support me with the efforts to teach math well, and they have responded with incredible honesty, care, and support. This level of teaming is resulting in much greater student investment, understanding, and development which is awesome. I want to continue to make more time for this in ways that matter. In some cases, this requires push since some families are difficult to get ahold of and others are sometimes more difficult to understand with regard to their needs and what will help, but instead of turning away from the challenging situations, I want to work with my colleagues to be more inviting and making the family-teacher-student team accessible and successful for all.

Extra Help: Homework Club
By making time for extra help, I am gaining tremendous capacity with regard to student-teacher relationships, understanding my learners, and the ability to help students in ways that matter. In the past, I was unable to provide this extra support due to my own parenting schedule and duties, but now that my children are older, I have that extra half hour most days to open the classroom up to students who want to drop in, ask questions, gain support, and work on their home study at school. The hum in the room during these extra help sessions is energizing, and what I learn from these young, enthusiastic learners who are choosing to be there is meaningful, inspiring, and ever so useful when it comes to teaching well.

Everyone in the Classroom is both a Teacher and Learner
To foster a culture that understands that everyone in the room is both a teacher and a learner is to gain far more teachers, and an openness to learning from your peers. Often students who master a concept will help a student who is working towards mastery. There's an eager attitude here that promotes best possible teaching and learning. When students help each other, everyone benefits and it gives me more time as the teacher to zero in on specific students and their learning needs.

Welcoming Learning Environment
The cozy chairs, bright rug, and multiple supplies make the room a cozy learning environment. This is positive, and the more I work to create that atmosphere in spirit and set-up, the better.

Email Me
I encourage families and students to email me anytime they have a question. I find that this open invitation typically results in a number of emails upfront, and less after that. To answer people's questions right away is to create a sense of camaraderie and trust which leads to greater efficiency and ease of questioning after that. I tell students "Don't Stay Stuck, Ask," and I tell family members, "No question is to small, please email me with your questions and concerns."

Teacher as Learner
Vulnerability is a large part of this year's focus as you have to make yourself vulnerable so that you can learn. These vulnerability means owning your mistakes, reaching out for help, asking questions, and taking responsible risk to better what you can do for each other. The teacher as learner is the teacher who continually betters his/her work for the benefit of all. There's sometimes that tendency to close the door to new ideas, suggestions, and ways of increasing capacity, but we can't do that if we're going to teach well--we have to be ready and willing to ask questions and then to listen to the advice that our colleagues, families, students, administrators, and community members have to better our impact.

As I look deeply into my practice, the areas above are areas I want to focus on in order to build my capacity to teach and learn well. Onward.