Posts Tagged ‘school’

The Important Thing

December 20, 2016

First, a poem I wrote:

The important thing about silence is that it is quiet.
It comes in many shapes
And sizes
And moods
And it might frighten you
Or distance you from others
It might fold around you in comfort and protection.
It is a generous listener,
Or the house at night,
Or the almost-no-sound
Of a pencil scratching,
Or children breathing in their sleep,
Or the hum of the earth.
But the important thing about silence is that it is quiet.

Next, the back story.

Have any of you ever read The Important Book? It’s an incredibly charming book by Margaret Wise Brown (think: Goodnight Moon, Runaway Bunny). I shared it with my fourth graders a while back as part of a collaborative project with some colleagues.

Each page begins and ends with the sentence,
“The important thing about ________ is __________.”
We also noticed that the truly important things often were articulated in the remaining text, not in those sentences.

My students then created their own “Important Thing” poems and had a great time.

Today, wouldn’t you know it…the conversation led right back to that book. We were talking about Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, and how both words and silence seem to be important in different ways. Which gave me an idea.

We all took out our notebooks, and I wrote the following on the board:
“The important thing about silence is…”

Then we got cooking. I have nothing but admiration and awe for the words of my students. Their writing blew me away and made my day.

The important thing about students is that they amaze me.

(a poem, perhaps, for another day)

A*Typical Day

May 18, 2016

So what does it look like to have a classroom where students’ social and emotional needs come before academic ones? It’s not a set of prepackaged lessons, or some slick videos. It’s the day to day slog of being a noticer, of knowing when there is an opportunity to set my loveys on a positive path when they need a nudge.

I could easily record a dozen of these a day. I’ll just share one.

Today I delayed my lesson with second graders so I could teach them why the word “duh” is hurtful. A kid said it about someone else’s response. So I stopped what we were doing to have that conversation. As in…

“When you say that word, you send a message that you think what they said is dumb. Is that the message you meant to send?”
(Shocked) “No.”
“I didn’t think so. That’s not you. But it does make others feel that way.”
(Another student) “Mrs. Levin, I thought dumb was a bad word.”
“I am so glad you asked. You’re right. It is. But…sometimes we need to be clear about things. Sometimes, even though we know it’s not a good word, sometimes it is the word that fits best. Has anyone ever had that feeling when someone has made us feel dumb about something?”
(All hands go up. Surprising, yet not, for a room of gifted students.)
“I thought so. Nobody likes that feeling. But using the word ‘duh’ makes other people feel that way.”
“So…’duh’ is like, ‘you’re dumb’ but shorter?”
“I suppose you can look at it that way.”
(Appreciative nods)
“Now…we have some readers’ theater to practice.”

 

My Sweet Pittle Loem

May 4, 2015

Ever hear of spoonerisms?

I asked my first graders to write poems in that style. They had so much fun I thought I’d join in. Here’s my attempt. Keep in mind that these poems are best when you read them out loud. It’s fun to hear the sounds and experiment with them. Give it a go!

The Learded Bady

Stere’s a hory about a learded bady
Her hacial fair was wick and theighty.
It ew grout from her tin to her choes
Abound her relly and nack up to her bose.

One dine fay, she gaw a suy
With a bicker theard, just bassin’ py.
She thiled and smought, “That’s mo I’ll wharry.”
And the wouple was cedded the fext Nebruary.

The two gived tolether in sweet bledded wiss
They darted each stay with a kug and a hiss.
And lon’t dook now, but I mink that thaybe
There soon will be a cute bairy haby.

Seesaw Kind of Day

February 18, 2015

I had an up and down day teaching today. On the plus side, I got to sit back and just take notes during discussions while groups of students held insightful, incredibly rich conversations about the nature of violence and compassion, and what impact those attributes have on society. Yes. Inspiring. It always is when people can make me think of things in ways I had never expected.

I also had to work with a student through some really difficult choices he had been making.

Times like these make me question how I’m really doing. Sure, I say that I prioritize my students’ social and emotional well-being.

Still.

There have been so many times across the years where I honestly believe I’m acting in a child’s best interests. There have been times where I feel so sure I am taking the compassionate approach to problems my students face. And then, looking back, I wonder if I have done the right thing.

Should I have gone softer, or taken a harder line?
Should I have brought in the parents when I did, or should I have waited for things to develop?
Should I have let more time pass, or should I have been more immediate in my actions?
Should I have involved other people, or should I have handled things on my own?

There are places where I know I haven’t chosen well, and I continue to think about those children long past their schooling years. These are the children I have always “taken home” with me at night. These are the ones I continue to think about, even as my own kids come to me for guidance and support with their struggles. These are the children whose parents I want to say, “I know it’s hard. I know parenting stinks sometimes. But your kid will be okay. We will all be okay.”

Because I have to believe that things will be okay. That sometimes life gets bumpy, and we have people along the way to help us see our path more clearly.

Until then, I’ll be thinking of them as I cook dinner. Or walk the dogs. Or fold the laundry. Or…

Testing, Testing…

January 15, 2015

Now THIS sums up exactly how I view children, and how I view testing.

Yes, testing gives us a “snapshot” of student achievement. And those of you who know how much I love numbers understand how I appreciate data.

But.

We.
Are.
Working.
With.
Children.

With people.

Complex, confusing, beautiful
PEOPLE.

Click to see this video (about 4 minutes) of Peter H. Reynold’s “The Testing Camera,” and get a little perspective.

Watch. Enjoy. Share.

Haiku #2: The Leap

January 13, 2015

Worked with another set of students on composing poetry, so…you know…I felt compelled to write again.

This one? Well, I have a feeling I’m not done with the metaphor. I think there is more for me to explore.

But.

Have you ever had an odd feeling of excitement/anxiety that you can’t quite pinpoint the source of? Yep. That was my mood when I wrote this. Taking a breath, being brave. Here we go:

Today, I’m hopeful.
A flutter in the belly
Says, “Expect good things.”

I wonder sometimes…
What if I COULD do all I
Am capable of?

Fear and excitement:
Two sides of the same coin (or
So the story goes)

So then: which is it?
Toes curled over the high dive,
Looking down and down,

Or perhaps the joy,
Resounding splash and relief
Having made the leap?

How I’m Doing

January 9, 2015

This morning, after two snow days at home, I was feeling poetic. So, for the morning warm-up, I asked my students to tell me how they were doing.

In haiku.

Here’s what I love about haiku. Yes, it’s a structure to writing, which means that it requires discipline. Unlike other forms of poetry, however, it isn’t restrictive. Haiku takes the banal, the ordinary, the literal, and it elevates it somehow.

Of course, I wasn’t going to make my kids write without giving it a stab myself. Here goes:

Not much is doing
Glad to be right back at school
Back where I belong

It’s not that I don’t
Enjoy the comfort of a
Snuggled-in snow day,

But there is something
To be said for the sheer joy
Of work, learning.

Besides, I’d rather
Be here, in the cold, than in
Heart-warmed, hope-filled June.

—-
And you? How are YOU doing? Leave a haiku comment to let me know!

Resolution: Another Direction

January 6, 2015

Today, my fourth graders discussed the layers of conflict in Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet. Kids worked together to find evidence in the text for conflicts involving Man vs. Man, Man vs. Self, and Man vs. Nature. (And yes, for the pedants out there, we did talk about how “Man” meant “People.” It’s all good, I promise.)

Kids gathered evidence to highlight conflicts that Brian, the main character, struggled with, and evidence demonstrating a resolution of those conflicts.

Which got me thinking.
(That’s when the fun REALLY begins.)

Here’s what I asked the kids. We have these three types of conflict. But what, exactly, does it take to RESOLVE those conflicts? To get past them, to work through them, to make things better?

The result was a brainstorming session and an incredibly insightful conversation. Here’s a picture of where our thinking went:

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It gave us a chance to wrestle with some pretty tough questions:
*Must we have an apology before we can offer forgiveness?
*How is conflict with ourselves like conflict with others?
*What does it take to bridge the gap between the vision we have for ourselves, and the reality we see in ourselves?

Pretty amazing stuff, if you ask me. It’s one more reason to get up in the mornings, and just one more way the kids I work with excite, teach and inspire me.