An Honor

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See this beautiful guy?  He’s an Inupiaq hunter, retelling his success on the ice.  He drums and sings in a sing-song voice, calling, chanting.  Perhaps it is a seal he’s followed or maybe a walrus.  Regardless, he’s already been successful.  If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t be masked up and drumming;  he’d be out hunting.

Thursday night I joined four other amazing teachers from my district to be honored by British Petroleum as Teachers of Excellence.  The energy company (since of course, it isn’t just oil now) honors teachers each year and has for over 20 years.  The honorees receive $500 for their school, $500 for themselves, and a free college class about natural resources in Alaska.  One teacher is chosen as Teacher of the Year and is given $1000 for continuing education.

It was an interesting process.  First, a teacher is nominated by folk (I suspect the more, the merrier) and then invited to complete an interview form.  I’ve heard of teachers balking at that step and I suspect there are plenty that decide not to continue.  You know why?  It’s HARD for teachers to talk about all the great things they do!  For real, we are just doing our job.  The memes, “I don’t mean to brag but I totally _____” and the blank is something pretty easy and normal come to mind with I think about this.  It’s just what good teachers do!

My daughter told me later that the district should make a school of only BP Teachers because everyone’s classroom sounded so amazing.  Rightly so!  I want to be in their classrooms, too!  Congratulations Carlyn Nichols, Will Chevernek, Jen Booz, and Staci Wells!  Please brag about what goes on in your classrooms and come alongside other teachers so that every teacher in our schools knows how to be a teacher of excellence.

We had a day’s notice to have some words prepared if we were named the Teacher of the Year.  I ended up writing mine on the back of a parking receipt in addition to the words a student gave me to say:  Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!  It’s what I do, involve students.  (The Potterheads in the crowd chuckled when I did actually say them last night.)

Being a teacher of excellence doesn’t come without a support network of excellence.  Thank you to my students and parents, community and colleagues, district and PLN.

I joked with my husband later about now being beholden to BP but that isn’t correct.  If anything, I’m bound to teachers and helping them all establish excellence in their classrooms. Like my soapstone hunter, it’s time to dance it out because I have a story to share.

 

 

Fake Winter

What does a Texas girl do in the middle of the summer when the temperature soars to 100 degrees or more?  Makes a fake winter, of course.  All it takes is an A/C window unit and a good book that presents a setting far different than the sweltering sidewalk outside.

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From Wikipedia, this is actually from Winter 1881 that Wilder fictionalized in The Long Winter.  (Train, 2017)

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder was perfect for curling up underneath the air conditioner in the front room (my sisters and I would actually fight over that spot, the only cool spot in the house).  In the book, the teenage Laura and her family fight to stay warm during an excruciatingly bitter winter in the early 1880s.  Quite the opposite set up of me trying to stay cool in Texas summer.

Two images stay with me from that book.  First, it was so cold, the nailheads in the attic always had frost on them in the morning.  I can see little white circles in a line on the slanted roof!  What kind of winter causes that?  Brrrrr.  The other is a scene where Ma decides that to have fuel for the fire, they would twist hay into sticks.  And so they did…twist after twist after twist.  My poor Texas mind could not wrap around such a scarcity of fuel, nevermind the cold that would require it.

During my first graduate degree, I took a Children’s Literature class.  Pretty much the only thing I remember the instructor specifically say to me was about this book.  “You should read it as an adult,” she said.  Having lived on the North Slope of Alaska, now I do know what a long winter is like and yes, that book is a different read.  But it will always take me back to summers in Texas.

 

 

Red Zone or Bottom of the 9th?

I’ll admit, I don’t often use sports metaphors.  I do love baseball and football, but they don’t encompass my being.  Our school is a basketball school and I don’t know as much about the sport as I should after a decade plus.  Certainly not enough to use basketball-based imagery.

But here I am:  one (big) assignment away from submitting all work required for my M.Ed in Education Leadership.  And clearly procrastinating it while I decide which phrase to use the rest of the night.

Red Zone:  this is the last 20 yards before a touchdown.  It makes me think of offensive plays, though the defense also has red zone stats.  (Actually, is it really a thing other than the TV graphics and commentators?  Like I said, fan, not fanatic.)  The team wants to convert the red zone field position into a score, preferably a touchdown.

Bottom of the 9th:  this is clearly an offensive term since there is no bottom of the 9th if the home team is winning.  The visiting team is on the offensive (as the defense) to keep the ball off the field, out of the stands, off the scoreboard.  The home team is actually playing offense, looking to advance runners and win the game.

Friends, I think I’m in the bottom of the 9th here.  Perhaps down by three with one out left but the bases are loaded and the clean-up hitter is at bat.  Full-count then the sweetest, juiciest pitch ever slips from the pitcher and there it goes.  Root for the home team grand slamming away.

What a dramatic metaphor…if you’re into baseball.

The good news is that the situation isn’t quite two-out, full-count drama.  More like a single runner on base and all the outs left to use in a one-run game.   And possibly extra innings because of the extension I received because my husband’s cancer decided to throw down, charge the mound, and delay the game for a bit.

So…

Stading to the plate.
Game’s on the line.
A crook of the elbow.
A shuffle of the feet.
Settle into the crouch.

And here’s the pitch.

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Modeling Annotations

In our district, 4th Quarter is research quarter in ELA.  Now really, every day is research day anymore, but this is where we do the deliberate instruction of skills for an extended project.  In past years, students did a traditional research paper;  last year, I added a digital presentation to that paper and honestly, those were more fun to review than the papers.

This year, my co-teacher and I decided to skip the paper (though it is an option for anyone who wants to take it;  it hasn’t gone away for good) and do an “extended research project.”  A new step for the students is creating an annotated bibliography for their sources.

What a packed assignment!  Finding sources, initially analyzing for usefulness, taking notes on ones that pass the first step, summarizing the source, and putting it all into APA format takes a lot of work.  Once that is done, the next step is to make a useful project out of the information to answer whatever research question the students self-selected.

Our goal, particularly in middle school, is to have students test out a variety of ways to “show what they know” so that as we more completely move into the personalized learning initiative our district has (thankfully!) embraced, the kids have skills to really personalize.


As an example, this annotation relates to the read aloud the middle school is doing, The Wild Robot Escapes.  It’s a little short; it could be two paragraphs with the second one relating more about how the source relates to the (undisclosed) research question.

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Humble Honor

I’m finishing up with a student and switching out with one of our amazing paraprofessionals when the secretary comes to the classroom and says, “Mike needs you now.” The tone was mildly urgent which is weird because usually it means something is up in the classroom I am fixing to leave.

Must be about testing, I think, more focused on the door being held wide open. We never have that door wide open.

At his office, he says, “Come on in, we have some questions about PBIS,” and it is obvious he has this set up for videoconferencing. Now I’m thinking, shoot, what do I know about this? (Well, lots. I love PBIS.)

It wasn’t about PBIS. Click the tweet to find out.

Necessity and Invention

My goal was to blog once a week about Genius Hour as we did it in class. I got one week. And I think there is a draft in here somewhere for week two. But then this poor blog falls fallow, like so many other years. Well, my new co-teacher is planning on blogging once a week and I am going to use her to keep me accountable.

Necessity: I am starting my third week out of the classroom, unplanned. A month ago, we rather suddenly discovered my husband has cancer. Stage IV Renal Cell Carcinoma (Clear Cell), if you care for the specifics. We have a big, big monster to slay so we’ve left Alaska and got him set up in Seattle for care there. Family first. I’m very thankful to my co-workers, school, and district for their agreement in that belief.

Invention: Now, I know many teachers do this all the time: deliver content online to students. And I am generally moving my few electives to blended-style courses that can be (mostly) accessed asynchronously. This week, though, I’m designing a series of lessons that my co-teacher will help deliver in person to our MS ELA class so that when I’m back in person, we keep carrying on. It’s a read-aloud. I love reading aloud to students. So why let a few thousand miles interfere with that?

Here’s a video I recorded for my class where one-take dorkiness abounds.

If you’re looking for a fun elementary/middle grade read aloud to do this Spring, look up The Wild Robot and The Wild Robot Escapes, by Peter Brown.

PS.  Some friends set up a social media campaign of encouragement for us in this cancer journey; check out #stadingstrong on Facebook, IG, and some on Twitter.

Genius Hour Day 1

Genius Hour.  I LOVE GENIUS HOUR.

My first foray into it was probably in 2013 or so, similar to finding Twitter.  Because of course, good ideas find YOU on Twitter.  I started with elementary, just creating, just learning.

We just kicked off a Middle School Genius Hour.  Every Monday.  Monday!  Let’s set the tone for the week with student-led learning is my plan.  This time around, it will be a little more formal, a little more accountable because my goals for them are not only learning but figuring out how to plan a project, keep working on a project, find ways to be accountable for that project.

There will be missteps.  Like today, was I excited enough about it?  Did I warm up the grill before dropping the steak on it like #tlap?  I don’t know.  Do I have a plan for more than just today?  Not yet.  I know, in theory, what this should look like, how I should revise it for this next go around of Genius Hour.  In theory.  The theory is good.

My own Genius Hour project is going to be blogging about Genius Hour.   (And blogging in general.)  It’s TIME to contribute to the larger field of learning and teaching!  I’ve 22 semesters under my belt, never two the same.  It’s time for my students and it is time for me.

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My Loves and Ideas