Thursday, June 1, 2017

How LeBron James Made Me a Better Teacher

For a couple of  years I've been working on starting a blog, but following through on my intentions hasn't been the easiest of tasks for me. I'm an introvert. Writing for others - who aren't students in my second grade class, is outside of my comfort zone. For almost a year I've mulled over the content I could write about. Then in June of last year - June 19th, to be exact, I heard words that have fueled me forward. Humor me while I explain.

I am an obsessive Cleveland sports fan. Let's face it - rooting for teams that hail from the shores of Lake Erie is no easy feat and typically ends in disappointment. But that all changed last year when the Cavs were able to overcome a three-one game series deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors and win the first championship the city had seen since 1964. It was a history making run, but at the center of it, LeBron James - the greatest player on the planet was struggling. Somehow he was able to turn things around and work with his teammates to put together a run that brought home the trophy. During the post-game interviews James said these words:
“I just locked in. I had to change my approach a little bit to how I approached my game.  I wasn’t too good in the first two games. I watched a lot of film.  I changed my blueprint. I was able to put together some spectacular games after being down from 3-1. This is history. The first team ever to come back from a 3-1 deficit. This is special.” - LeBron James (6/19/16)

When I heard James' words it hit me - this is what we teachers do. Lessons don't always go well. Not every plan plays out the way we intended.We all have days we want to do over. But we recognize this. We watch our kids, we make careful observations, we reflect on our practice and from there we change our blueprint.

Changing my blueprint has been my mantra for the past school year. Last summer I sat back and really thought about how things were working in my classroom. Recent years had been more difficult than others. It was apparent that the underlying issue was being just plain burnt out from new initiatives, new directives and the revolving door of administrators at my building over the past few years. In my classroom, there were a few things that needed tweaked and some things that needed to be overhauled. I needed to reclaim my vision - not what others intended my vision to be. So, that's what I've decided to use for the content of my blog - how I changed my blueprint. My hope is that through writing I can better process the changes I made and be reflective on what worked and what is still developing while sprinkling in some other things along the way.

Thank you for reading this. I hope you'll come back.

And, oh yeah - GO CAVS!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

2016 #PB10For10

It's here!!!


Part of the teaching joy I experience every day is combining my classroom teacher position with being the Diversity Liaison for my building.  In this position I am responsible for being a resource to the staff regarding diversity and inclusive education ideas, dispersing district level professional development at staff meetings and, my favorite part of the position - working with the A.C.E. Advocates.  The A.C.E. Advocates is a small group of students who meet with me each Friday to learn about diversity, culture, inclusion and community service.  To inspire these young leaders to be the change they want to see, I use literature to spark thinking and discussions.  Here, in no particular order, are the books I've chosen to start the year as we work to understand the concept of friendship, empathy, teamwork and acceptance:


Stacy McNaulty is quickly becoming a new favorite author of mine.  I won one of her chapter books, The Dino Files, in a contest she was running this spring.  Excellent Ed is her new picture book and tells the story of Ed, the dog, who is searching for his place in his family of humans.  Through trial and error, Ed learns the importance of just being himself.


Beautiful hands is a concept book by Bret Baumgarten and illustrated by Kathryn Otoshi.  "What will you do with your beautiful hands today?" was the question Bret asked his young daughter each morning.  

This book celebrates friendship and teaches the lesson of how to add a new person to an established partnership. 




This series of books by Nicholas Oldland is just plain funny!  My students love to revisit these books and read the stories of these three friends.  They are a great addition to a classroom library to teach lessons on teamwork, flexibility, perseverance and critical thinking.  If you've students who are obsessed with Elephant and Piggie, these titles will be sure to please.

One of the best books I've come across that addresses the idea of inclusion.  It is a beautifully illustrated book complimented with a gently worded text that communicates the message of  how to include everyone.


 I've used this book for a number of years to facilitate discussion on gossip and secrets.  It is one of my fist reads of the year.


Thank you for taking the time to stop by my blog!  It's been on the back burner for the last year and this is my first post to restart bloggin on a regular basis!


Monday, August 10, 2015

10 for 10

                                                 
I always look forward to this day - it's like hearing what all your friends got for Christmas on the first day back from holiday break. This year 10 for 10 happens to fall on my first day back to work, so in honor of starting back to school and participating in my first 10 for 10, I'm sharing...
#PB10for10 Google Community

The 10 Picture Books I Can't Wait to Share With My New Class!
(In no particular order.)

1. Sometimes the biggest treasures are discovered by accident.  Larry made his way into my collection last summer after spotting him on the Worthington Library's book sale shelf.  Larry is constantly looking for the spotlight and learns a good lesson about sharing the stage.  It's a great read for the beginning of the year to help foster courteous listening skills.
 2. Mr. Tiger is one of my new favorite characters and I have come to adore all things Peter Brown.  This gem made its way into my room via a random visit to Cover to Cover.  Mr. Tiger shows us how important it is to follow your heart and march to your own beat.
 3. In keeping with my Peter Brown crush, My Teacher Is a Monster! was my first read aloud to my kids last year and I intend to make it my first again this year, too.
 4. Zachariah O'Hora illustrated Wolfie, the Bunny by Ame Dyckman.  In doing some research, I discovered several other titles by Zachariah O'Hora, including this recently published book.  I'm looking forward to discussing the author's message about acceptance.
 5. I have a very soft spot in my heart for Wolf!  Not only does it lend itself to those beginning of the year conversations about becoming a reader, but it was a favorite book of my dearest teacher friend who recently passed away. When cleaning out her classroom, I found her copy and was reminded of what an engaging story this is to share with the children.
 6. Abby Hanlon's Ralph is like many of the squirrely boys who show up in our classrooms full of life and spunk. I have been sharing this book with my kids during the first days of writing workshop for the past couple of years.  After hearing this story about Ralph and his struggle to write, I've seen students who have the same difficulty turn the corner and feel empowered to share their  small moments.




7. Rufus the Writer was on the new book shelf at the public library.  By the time I was home, I had it ordered so I could have my own copy.  It is a delightful story about a boy who decides to sell stories to his friends.  It's a great companion to Ralph Tells a Story and will inspire many young writers in my room.


 8. This book is absolutely darling. The soft illustrations and simple text make it what I like to call a quiet read.  I'm looking forward to sharing it on the first day when we share our Hopes and Dreams for the year and can dig into what the word extraordinary means so our class can strive for an extraordinary second grade experience.
9. I've bought this book in late May, soon after our school year came to a close.  While I've never wished a summer away, I've been anxiously awaiting the moment when Wolfie and Dot are introduced to my second graders.  Ame Dyckman has written a fantastic book full of smart humor that the kids are going to love. The illustrations by Zacharia O'Hora compliment the text and offer some good predicting opportunities.





10. Ferdinand the Bull has been a friend of mine for most of my life and that's why I share it with my students on the first day of school each year.






Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Every story has a beginning...

Well, I'm blogging!  Thanks to my friend Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for giving me the nudge to take the plunge.