The Next Page Entry 31: Good lady, that Mrs. Helm

The Next Page Entry 31: Good lady, that Mrs. Helm

chocolate-chip cookies
Staff meeting. Interesting. I sat down and the two colleagues at the table found reason to move elsewhere. I kept my head down in the Austin Kleon book I was reading and busied myself by taking out my wheel book.

Then our librarian, Sally Helm, sat down by me. I didn’t expect her to be staying for the meeting, but figured she had some quick announcement for the staff. I pulled out my Joy of Cooking chocolate chip drop cookies [hold the extra tablespoon of flour, thank you very much] and, after pulling out a couple for Mr. Taylor, plopped them between us. I shot her a glance and a smile, then nodded toward the cookies. She dove in.

A few minutes later, we both eyed the last cookie. I nudged it toward her. She chuckled and, with her notebook, slid it back toward me. Kate Smalley leaned forward and hissed [that’s really the only word that fits here], “Would one of you two eat it?” I scooped up the cookie and napkin and underhanded it to her table.

Was happy Mrs. Nix hadn’t shown up yet. It would have been just like her to pull the ol’ “And Ms. Page, did you bring enough for everybody?’ line.

After the meeting ended, it hit me. Shirley was not on the meeting agenda, but there she still was.

“Did you sit here just for the cookies?” I asked her.

“I can’t think of a better reason,” she said.

But it hit me…when she sat by me, there was no hint of chocolate chip drop cookies.

A highlight of my day, that lady was.

The Next Page Entry 30: Journal-sharing

The Next Page Entry 30: Journal-sharing

crowd with hands raised
Okay, a slight exaggeration… Photo by Alex Bracken on Unsplash

Added a new twist to journal time. We go around the room and ask for a favorite sentence they wrote during that session. Kids can pass on the opportunity, but most are anxious to share. Unfortunately, after one annoying incident, I had to add—and require them to copy down—the following guideline:

If I include a living, breathing person in my selected sentence, it must be in a positive way. If it might be embarrassing to that person, I will not read it to the class.

The Next Page Entry 29: Thanks, Mrs. Nix

The Next Page Entry 29: Thanks, Mrs. Nix

thank you sign in multicolored lettersThanks, Mrs. Nix, for spurring me to continue to give kids choices in what they want to read.

Seems that the more you insist on the value of what some offshore publisher recommends for my kids, well, that just doesn’t wash with me.

But, to appease leadership, for ten minutes a day, we’ll open the book about tarantulas and the scientists who study them. We’ll break down a page of text for any possible value—vocabulary, favorite phrases, valuable information— and then move on to our other language arts resources, such as, ‘ourselves as writers, ‘ourselves as readers’ and the materials we value. We’ve had some very interesting discussions centered around ‘What I’m reading’ and ‘What I’m writing’.

The Next Page Entry 27: Another Chat with Mrs. Nix

The Next Page Entry 27: Another Chat with Mrs. Nix

Mrs. Nix: When do you have reading?

Ms. Page: The time varies, but our daily minutes allotment surpasses the district expectation.

Mrs. Nix: But our schedule dictates that everyone reads at the same time.

Ms. Page: I figured that since we’re out here on our own, if we vary our schedule, it won’t disrupt others. And I’m making some judgment calls on when the students are more primed for reading.

Mrs. Nix: Judgment calls? Interesting.

Ms. Page: That time right after lunch, at least in September, isn’t always the best for them. It’s the warmest part of the day and I see the kids kind of sag, especially when I try to teach subskills.

Mrs. Nix: I see. So, you’re using morning for that?

Ms. Page: Very often, yes.

Mrs. Nix: Which book are you reading right now?

Ms. Page: Well, we started with the publisher’s suggested non-fiction book about scientists studying tarantulas, but, even with differentiation, the kids weren’t showing a lot of interest in it. And as I saw them struggle, I confess I was losing interest in it.

Mrs. Nix: So, you’re telling me what?

Ms. Page: I changed things up. They needed something lighter, something they would enjoy as they eased back into the school routines.

Mrs. Nix: Soooo?

Ms. Page: So, for the rest of September, they will be reading self-selected books. Most of them chose fiction, I noticed.

Mrs. Nix: Are you thinking you’re smarter than the publishers?

Ms. Page: I’m thinking I know my students better than the publishers do.

Mrs. Nix: It’s looking like we will need to continue this meeting.

Ms. Page: That seems fair. Do I need to bring anything?

Mrs. Nix: Just your attention and a willingness to be a team player. And we’ll be talking about your leaving Jeremy at school during your jaunt to the park.

Ms. Page: Just let me know the time, Mrs. Nix…

The Next Page Entry 26: Field trip, a look back

The Next Page Entry 26: Field trip, a look back

girl holding dandelionThe good:
1. Kids loved taking turns at the head of the line AND following my safety instructions. I think they liked feeling the power of the ‘raised flag’ [our signal to stop].

2. Only two kids complained about the ‘long walk’ to the park.

3. The wearing of the gloves– perfect for  a. picking up litter along the way and at the park.   b. pulling back bush branches in their search for colors in nature

4. The diligence in sketching.

5. The cameras: Pics of—

  • artifacts [rocks, plants] that needed to be left where they were found,
  • their adopted trees,
  • their designated study areas for seasonal comparisons,
  • their work groups -they learned how to use the timer function [and taught me]

The not-so-good: The messages awaiting me when I returned. 1. From parents of student I had to leave with Mr. Taylor.  2. From Mrs. Nix.

The Next Page Entry 25: Some intriguing online content…

The Next Page Entry 25: Some intriguing online content…

So, ramping up my tech skills can be a dangerous thing. I’m actually spending time online looking for inspiration and ideas. Mission accomplished…but nestled amidst the creative stuff are interesting comments by other teachers…

Paraphrasing…

“I love my kids, but I’m run-down by the constant documentation and data-drivel I’m expected to produce.”

and…

“We are expected to be eloquent and expansive, but tongue-tied and even muted when it comes to the current system’s problems and challenge.”