Sunday, September 27, 2015

sunday letters

WRITE your letters.
LINK them with mine.
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Hi all! I am sorry I'm so unreliable with the letters. I think I was supposed to post last week, but I was out of town and didn't put it on my calendar, so I'm back today! Please write some letters and share them with me if you want to!

Dear Carrie,
Your letters are my favorite to read (love addressing one to "person-who-shall-not-be-named!) and you always keep me accountable to the letters. Thanks for your post, otherwise I would have just forgotten again!
Blogging Buddy

Dear ASU football,
What happened last night? I'm so sad. That is all.
A forever fan

I can't wait until Wednesday! It's always such a fun time to go to the conference with all the coaches and specialists in our district. This year, Colleen and I are presenting, too! Can't wait to spend a few days immersed in best practices for reading and writing!
Literacy Enthusiast

Dear Fall in Chicago 2015,
You have been beautiful! Yesterday was a perfect day, clear, sunny, and about 70 degrees. I hope this mild weather sticks around for many weeks to come! You're making my perfect season even perfecter!
Love, Michelle

Dear future husband,
I know you're out there. Looking forward to meeting you soon... or maybe I have already? :-)
Love, an optimist

Dear Brian,
I'm so glad we have been friends for so long, seems like lifetime friends considering we met in like like 20 years now? You're such a great person to have in my corner and I hope we stay friends for years to come!
Love, Michelle

Dear girlfriends,
I have so much fun doing all the things we do - like drinks and gossip on Jess' patio, hanging out at festivals, watching ASU games, spending time on breaks together, craft nights. I'm so thankful for all of our friendships and couldn't get through life without all of you! Here's to many years of friendship to come!
Love, Shel

Dear Twitter,
I love you! Love to go see what everyone is doing each day just by searching for our school hashtag! (#tigerslearn) Imagine if every school did this, it would be so amazing!
Social Media junkie

Dear Self,
I'm so proud of you for sticking to your goals of reading and running and eating better. You're kickin' @$$ at all of it!
Keep it up!

Alright friends, link your letter's with me!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

through another's eyes

Happy Wednesday! Today I had such a great day! One of my friends from Illinois Writing Project, Liz, visited me at Emerson. She is a first year Literacy Coach at a private school in Illinois and, much like I had wished my first year, wanted to come and see how Literacy Coaching looked from another coach's perspective. What better way to find out than to visit a friend in action?

She arrived before nine and we were able to talk a little bit about my schedule and organizational systems. Next, we visited classrooms for an hour and then attended a common plan that was on my agenda for today. After, we talked a little bit more before she had to go.

As we visited classrooms, some Reading Workshops, Some Writing, I was so struck about the amazing work we do at our school every day. Each day, students at Emerson sit in mini-lessons while their teachers demo strategies using beautiful mentor texts. Students listen carefully to read-alouds and, just like their teacher modeled, then they try a new reading strategy. Children engage in reading and writing activities for extended periods of time - independently - while their teachers give guided reading lessons and confer with peers. Students are asked in Writing Workshop, "Try and write your draft in a different way - try and bring out a new meaning or start it earlier or later in the sequence of events." And they do! All throughout workshop, teachers address students as Authors, Readers, and Writers. All of this takes place in classrooms where student thinking is apparent on the anchor charts around the room, where bountiful classroom libraries with books of many genres flow from shelves, and while sitting on beautiful rugs in the gathering area.

This doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't happen without a vision and commitment to, what I believe, is the best, richest curriculum we can give children. A curriculum where they are taught to be agents in their world, using their literacy as a means to make their places here on this Earth just a little bit better, whether that is via the lived-through experiences they have when reading books, or in their advocacy units in Writing Workshop.

Walking classrooms with a friend, hearing her gush over each new space and each new lesson we observed, is such a beautiful experience to look back on as I reflect on my day. Emerson teachers, not sure if you landed on this page, but believe me when I tell you it's my honor to work alongside you each day!

Liz, thank you for visiting our school! I look forward to seeing you in October and future collaboration we may continue to do!

Anyone want to see what we saw today? Head over to Twitter and look up our school's hashtag, #tigerslearn :-)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Classroom Reveal

Friends! Finally....our room is ready enough to show you!

It mostly was taking a long time because our rug was on order for weeks. It's beautiful, though, right?

Let's start with the amazing colleagues/friends I share a space with --

Christine, on the left, is our Reading Specialist. She sees small groups for our Tier 2, and then some kids 1:1 for Tier 3. Alexa, on the right, is our Bilingual Interventionist. She coteaches in third and fifth grade writing classes and then gives a few Tier 2s and a Tier 3 - in Spanish! Then there's me, in the middle. As the Literacy Coach, I work with classroom teachers on the Universal Curriculum.

The doors leading to our room are double, with bulletin boards to each side. We've got this one going for the year, with little pictures of the books we're reading. When we finish them, we move them over to the yellow bulletin board on the right. And, the cute bunting welcome sign above, Christine made that one!

Just inside the door, this is your view:

The main part of our room is a 12 x 18 rug where kiddos read. As you look back, Alexa works by the window, Christine on the right hand side. My space is in the corner next to the book's the other side:

Tall bookshelf has all of our fiction, picture books to the bottom two shelves with baskets of poetry and biographies (now just realizing I should probably move those to the little shelf!) Middle shelf has some books in Spanish and easy chapter books, and then top two shelves have chapter books. We have a little stool over there so our little kiddos can reach! The other book case to the right has all the Nonfiction.

Just to the right of the bookshelves is my space:

I've got my desk and then a little table. I see one kiddo for a Tier 3, but then sometimes teachers come visit or we have meetings, so we've got a table to use. Then, just shot some pics of the things that make my space feel like home!

One day last week, I was sitting at my table with my little kiddo, and I saw...

Christine with one of her groups....

and Alexa with 1:1 with one of her kiddos. All of us were working with our separate kids in our cozy room and it just made me so happy.

Hope you're feeling at home in your classroom or office. Making it a nice place to be sure makes going to work so much easier!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

what I'm loving Wednesday

WRITE a list of things you're currently loving.
LINK your post with mine.
SHARE the love via comments!

❤ The Coaches Launch Presentation
My girl Felicia (she's a new blogger in my district, give her a follow!) but she shared how every year she begins with a Coaching Launch Presentation, so I did one for the first time this year and it has been really great. What I love about it is that it makes it clear to all staff members about what your role as a Literacy Coach is and in what ways I'm available to collaborate with teachers.

❤ our staff shout-out board
This year Jennie sent me a pin of a Staff Shout-Out board, so I put one up in the lounge:

As Union Rep for our school, I make a call for positives once a month, but I wanted a way to do more with that, so I'm glad Jennie sent me that pin! All the little papers in green are from our Union Meeting and then the others in blue and green and white are written by our staff to our staff at other points within the month. The forms are in a little plastic box on the table in our lounge with pens and tape, so it's all there for teachers when they are in the lounge. Additionally, mid-month, I am putting the forms in teachers' mailboxes in case they forget. I did that for the first time this week and after there were a bunch of new ones up! This makes me so so happy and I hope it makes the other staff members happy too. I got one this week that made me especially happy:

Thank you, made my day! :-)

❤ seeing all the kiddos back in class!
It's been so good to be back at work with the kids! Below you can see a few of the kids from a very special fifth grade group that I started working with when they were in third grade. That class is such a special one in so many ways!

Also love that backpack!

❤ my team
I work with two amazing girls this year. We share a classroom and collaborate so well together! Classroom reveal is almost ready... stay tuned!

❤ friends who reach out and check on me, and send me presents :-)
Thanks Holls for sending me relaxation in a cute little bag! Sometimes when things are rough, it's important to remember to take care of yourself, and I am so appreciative of having friends like you!

❤ reaching goals
August 12th, I set a goal to run 35 miles by September 12th. Was so disciplined the last month and it felt so good to hit that goal. This next month I'm hoping to hit 40+!

What are you loving?

Write up a list and share it with me!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

going 1:1 when you're a new teacher

I work in a 1:1 district. All of our students, grade K-8 have their own device, and soon enough, all those devices will be going home with kiddos so they can extend their learning beyond the school day.

This month the #compelledtribe is talking about making technology integration seamless, so that it is viewed as just the way we do business, rather than "an event."

Because we are far along in our journey with technology in my district, returning teachers who know the routines of our district do, in fact, make it a pretty seamless integration. What I'd like to talk more about today is how we support our new teachers - some who come with teaching experience, others who come new to the profession.

For a new teacher, first thing is that they have to get used to the Macs if they are not familiar with using that kind of device. I remember my first year and I was not a Mac person - the way I had learn to orient myself to the operating system was so different! (I wasn't even 1:1 at the time!) Since then, I've been transformed... will never have anything again that is not a Mac, but it's important to remember we are all on different journeys with our technology!

The next suggestion I have would be that our new teachers are made aware of all the programs we use to support student learning, and in our district, there are many. (Thanks Meg for this idea!) On a district level, we do a great job behind the scenes of preparing the programs for student use. Teachers don't have to worry about importing students and their data, but teachers do have to familiarize themselves with all the applications and programs we use. There are quite a few, and that can be overwhelming when you're not used to teaching with so many options. So, a great idea would be to have some kind of document that lists all of the applications we use, and perhaps prioritizes them for the new staff. That would give them a place to go to know where to start.

And to go with that, I would want to tell new teachers, that as with anything else, it really is a journey. You can't make it seamless and perfect using every application right from the beginning. You have to start small and move forward just a little bit at a time.

If you've been in education for any length of time, you know that teaching is so complex. Of course, teachers have students to teach, and content to plan, but then you have Back to School night, interventions to give, and IEP meetings to attend. There are common planning meetings and collaborative work in developing common assessments. After school events, and sports and clubs are also part of what we do. And if you are lucky enough to work in a district that has a 21st century vision, you have a lot of technology to acquaint yourself with.

We need to remember that Rome wasn't built in a day and that it takes time to get all this down. Mentors need to remind the new teachers will be much easier if they remember to take care of themselves, to give themselves a time limit on the hours they spend working, and then turn to taking care of themselves to stay balanced. It's so hard to do, especially in your first few years, but our emotional well-being is so important for all the work we do with students each speaking and otherwise.

How else can we support new teachers?
Leave a note in the comments and let's keep the conversation going!

Monday, September 7, 2015

book review: home of the brave

I just started and finished Home of the Brave (Applegate) this weekend and it's so super good. It came to my attention because it's the mentor text for the fifth grade Calkin's Reading Units of Study, and so I brought a copy home to see about it and I'm so glad I did!

This is the story of Kek, a refugee from Sudan. Kek's brother and father both perished in Sudan, and his mother is missing, leaving him in America without any of his immediate family. To quote the back cover of the book, "He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter - cold and unkind." As he takes each day at a time, he finds friendships: a girl in foster care who lives in his building, an older woman who owns a farm, and a cow. He's funny and grateful and sometimes sad for all that has changed in his life. It's such a touching, fabulous book! Oh, and it's written in verse, so it's a super quick read!

Here are some excerpts I flagged as I was reading. Hope it gives you a little sense of what this book is all about!

Of all the things I didn't know
about America,
this is the most amazing:
I didn't know
there would be so many tribes
from all over the world.
How could I have imagined
the way they walk through the world
side by side
without fear,
all free to gaze the same sky
with the same hopes?
What would my father have said,
to see such a thing? My brother?

This country we live in really is quite spectacular, isn't it?

I don't know what to do with it all, I say.
I kick at a chair leg.
To have all this food and
all these books
and all this freedom.
I feel sort of...
I don't know the word.
Too lucky.

It's so easy to forget all the things we have, all the things we take for granted. The following is another way Kek appreciates all that he can have here in America.

They give me a card with my name on it,
and let me look at book after book.
The library workers don't even know me,
and yet they promise I can take books home.
To be trusted with such precious gifts
is a great honor.
My father would have sung me
a song of pride
to see his son so trusted.

And sometimes when we really miss what we have lost...

I don't want to be here anymore.
I don't want to be in a place where
my words taste wrong in my mouth.
I don't want to live in a place where
candy for a kind girl makes people angry
and every year the trees must die.

I want to be in a place where the things
I love and know
are there within my reach.
But where is that place?

This book is highly recommended, and if you're about to embark on Lucy Calkins' fifth grade Units of Study, you're in for a treat!

Has anyone else out there read this? Thoughts?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

sunday letters

WRITE your letters.
LINK them with mine.
SHARE the love via comments!

Greetings friends! I'm here for some fun, thoughtful, snarky, heartfelt and/or whatever-attitude-you'd-like-to-take letters. Do you want to write your own? I hope so! Compose your post and link them with mine!

Dear Lucy Calkins,
This week I came across a quote you had in your Guide to the Reading Workshop book of your new Units of Study: Step with me into this series, into this effort to give young people the richest possible education as readers. I love that, and I totally believe in everything your work stands for. I have seen it transform the children in the school I work in. Thank you for authentic, rigorous curriculum, now differentiated across the grades.
A Grateful Literacy Coach

Dear D100 Literacy Coaches,
I'm really looking forward to working with you again this year. I love the idea of visiting each others' schools and can't wait to come to all your schools. Thank you for being there for me as a sounding board and for all the knowledge you continue to share with me. Hopefully we can spend some time together on Tuesday!
:-) Michelle

Dear Coaching Bloggers,
I'm so glad I keep finding more and more of you! Are there any other coaches out there who might have landed here? Please leave me a comment with your blog so I can follow you! I love the online community we continue to build and would love more coaches to collaborate with!
your future cyber coach friend :-)

Dear Paychecks,
Why am I always feeling like this....?

I mean, I don't think I'm asking too much to be able to afford all my stuff plus go on a few vacations, right? Either way, I'm going to definitely be more mindful of what I'm spending so I can make the holiday in Cabo for Christmas vacation happen for realsies.
More-financially sound Michelle

Dear KC,
I love how you are so good at reading reviews for planning trips. "I like to read all of them. There's 4000, hang on." I know we're going to have the best Christmas holiday ever and I can't wait!
Love, Bestie

Dear FF,
I can't wait to read your first blog post! I know it's going to be great and full of such amazing knowledge and personality. I am so glad you're going to be sharing your expertise with the world!
(im)patiently waiting...
your blogging buddy

Dear LG,
I promise to put you in the Literacy Scoop more often! Until then, will shout-outs here suffice? :-)
Love, MB

Dear friends who have checked on me repeatedly over the past few weeks,
Your texts, messages, calls, notes, hugs, stories, and support has meant more to me than you know. Thank you for taking time to think about me and check on me. I am so thankful for each of you and lucky to have you in my life!

That's all from me friends! Can't wait to read your letters!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

currently september

Happy September! Back for another month to see what was new with all my blogging friends. Last month at this time I was writing from a beach, in Florida, on vacation with my boyfriend. This month I'm back at home, back at work, and single. So much can change in a quick month, right? Don't worry, I'm too angry to be sad, and the writing is actually quite therapeutic. 

So let's get on with it. Thanks to Farley for hosting us again!

Listening to Old Dominion 
You know, that song, Break Up with Him? Well, funny story. On vacation last month, the ex and I thought it was totally funny that the song started, "Hey girl, what'sup?" and so we listened to it a lot while we were together. Now I'm enjoying it for a completely different reason. #notreallyfunny

Loving Our new school year
We've been doing tons at our school to make things fun and positive. We met this week to plan out socials for the whole year, figure out appreciations we can do for our staff, and we even have a super fun idea for Halloween, but it's TOP SECRET! You're going to love it though when you see it! It' so important to build a positive school culture, and we're kicking butt at it this year!


Thinking about the weather
91 degrees on September 1st is too hot. I had to turn on my AC today. But, this is so much better than 91 below zero, so I will zip it!

Wanting Tieks
I still want them. I think about them all the time, and I've asked friends on my Instagram if they are worth it. Everyone says yes. I need to pay some bills down, but then they will be mine! Only need to decide on the color. I really want red flats, but I think I should get a color that will go with more stuff.... like a ballet pink? Thoughts?

Needing to go to Ikea
Anyone else want to go this weekend? I need a few things to complete our new classroom. This year, the reading team actually got a classroom space (moved out of the closet we used to reside in) and we are having so much fun putting it together. It's still not ready for the reveal, because we're waiting on a few things that were ordered. But, back to the point about Ikea - I think maybe I'll go this weekend, any takers?

Three Goals
1. Empower Staff
2. Read more books
3. Commit to be fit

That is all. Make sure you share your Currently with Farley over at her blog!
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