Monday, June 20, 2016

bigtime blogging challenge announced!

Good morning everyone! Super excited to announce the third annual BigTime Blogging Challenge! My blog turns three on July 4th, so each year, I spend July writing every day and opening it up to all my blogging friends to write along with me.

The details are pretty simple - write a post on your blog every day, link it up with mine, and then comment on at least two other blogs. Then, if you share on social media, use #btbc16 to share so all our posts collect together!

If you need a little inspiration, please download a prompt guide. I'll be writing about the topics attached, including three little book clubs:
I will be reading:

  • Live Writing: Breathing Life into your Words (Fletcher)
  • Selected Poems (Brooks)
  • Use Your Words: A Myth-Busting, No-Fear Approach to Writing (Deveny)
You're more than welcome to grab these books and share your thoughts on them, too! Or, on book club days, share about a great book you're writing, or write about anything else you'd like to! The big goal: write every day, share, and comment!

I have to give a few shout-outs, though, as the inspiration for this writing celebration was inspired by others. First, it was inspired by Two Writing Teachers who hold a Slice of Life Story Challenge writing challenge every month. Thank you for hosting that and inspiring this writing challenge!

Secondly, the book club book Use Your Words was because I saw another teacher on Twitter with it, and I'm like 99% sure it was one of the teachers who writes with Two Writing Teachers. But maybe it was Instagram, because I can't seem to find the tweet to link it up.

Generally speaking though, I am just so thankful for my PLN, who inspires me to do better, write better, teach better, and share more each day!

Can't wait to see your stuff in July!

Friday, June 17, 2016

how to spot a great teacher

This morning I went to my favorite Yoga class - Hot Power Fusion (HPF) at CorePower Yoga. Our teacher was amazeballs, and it got me to thinking about how you can really spot a great teacher. Here's my take.

1. Care for Students
First and foremost, great teachers show authentic care and concern for their students. They want them to achieve, and are there to help them though difficulties. When we began our session this morning, Terri told us that if we got stuck or didn't feel well, that we should stay in the studio so she could help us. Fast forward about 30 minutes when someone left: she told the rest of us to take a quick break and grab some water so she could check on the other student. I thought that action right there spoke volumes about the kind of teacher Terri is. At the heart of her work with us is a care for students.

Similarly, I've always believed in my work with students they will work harder for you and take more risks for you when they know you are on their side. Do some kids screw up? Absolutely. And they will definitely receive consequences for it. But it's *because we love them - rather than in spite of it - that they earn consequences for bad choices. I told a student once, "The day I stop asking and nagging and having the "talks" with you - that's the day you should worry." This was met with a middle school eye roll, but I just smiled to myself as I saw a bigger picture that this particular student couldn't quite envision just yet.

2. Thoughtful Planning
Great teachers also take time to plan thoughtfully for their sessions. One of the reasons I love HPF is that in the best classes, the teachers offer up an intention for our practice. They bring some kind of knowledge or wisdom to share with us that we can use to drive our practice for the day. Today, Terri brought the book You are a Badass: How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life. And then, as our eyes were closed and we were standing at the tops of our mats with our hands in prayer at our heart, she read to us about "sweeping out the self-doubt." Clearly that has stuck with me (and I have a new book to read).

And it wasn't just the reading, it was also the thoughtful planning of her music. There was noting haphazard about it. In the moments in the class when we were working hard, the music was faster and more up beat. When the class slowed down, so did the music, including a new version of Bulletproof that was amazing.

Thoughtful planning takes time and effort. The best teachers rehearse for their lessons, us writing teachers read the Calkins curriculum and make slides that we can use along with it to show students what we mean. We write memoirs along side our students so we see where they might get stuck.

Thoughtful planning takes time, but it really shows up on the execution of the lesson!

3. Specific Feedback
Another one - specific feedback. Teachers have to give great feedback so students can adjust their practice. In yoga, this takes on two forms, verbal cues and hands-on assists. When the teacher cues verbally, he or she will narrate what he or she sees and then give verbal cues to the whole group so everyone can adjust. Even more specific are hands-on adjusts, where the teacher will come over to someone and adjust their postures and positioning so that everyone can focus theirs more, and see exactly what the teacher means by watching!

As a classroom teacher, specific feedback is equally important. A long time ago, in my early years, I learned about how to 'SIP' kids - provide them with feedback that is specific, informative, and positive. Like Terri, in my class I might say something like, "Alright I see that Zach is ready to go - he has his notebook and pencil and is looking at me for more directions. Thanks, Zach!" That cue will let the other students know exactly what I'm looking for. Additionally, feedback takes on a written form as we read student writing, highlighting the things they did in such an awesome way, and also press them to think further by asking questions.

Feedback makes a difference as we learn!

4. Positivity
Another thing about great teachers is that they are positive. They're not just positive when giving feedback (although that is really important) but they are just positive people in general. I don't know about the Yoga Teaching World, but the education world can be really intense, and it's really easy to fall into those holes of negativity. It's really easy to get caught up in gossip and never smile. The best teachers? They remove themselves for negativity that drains their spirit and they keep on simling, remembering that teacher balance is so important, and that by doing something for themselves, they are in turn, making themselves better when they step in front of kids.

This morning, Terri was so positive, from the smile I got when I checked in at the front desk, to the eye contact in class, and the jokes about a certain posture potentially leading to a whole night's worth of sleep, and that maybe it might be a bunch of baloney, but we'll try it out anyways.

Positive teachers make their students want to return to their classrooms.

5. Ability to laugh at their mistakes
The last thing is that great teachers don't take themselves too seriously. They understand that there's *no way* for them to know everything or to do everything perfectly, and so when they screw up, they laugh it off and move on. They get that life it too short to worry about what someone else might be thinking about their actions - that kind of conversation in our minds only depletes our energy. One thing that master teachers excel at is constantly learning and growing and improving, and they don't let the little mistakes derail them from their greater purpose.

So - that's just what I was thinking in class today. I love Core Power Yoga and especially HPF, and I will definitely be returning to Terri's class... highly recommend!

What do you think? What else makes a great teacher?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

I see you

Our fifth grade class is a really special group of kids. They were the first group who got full day kinder, their parents are super involved, and the kids are amazing. I became really close with them when they were third graders and I was collaborating with their teachers. The rest, they say, is history.

I do recess duty with them every day, so I get to watch the way they play together and interact, and again, super special. Every day they play football together - not just a handful of kids, but like 30 of them. Everyone who wants to play can play.

I love lots of kids in this class, but this week two of them, R & E, stand out to me. They are both very outgoing, very engaged, thoughtful, competitive kids.

Yesterday at recess, I had to have little conversation with E about playing for fun vs. playing to win, but then sent him back to keep playing. A few minutes later, I noticed that these two particular boys were playing pretty intensely - and kind of to the point where I thought they might get in a fight, so I blew my whistle to break it up.

Fast forward five minutes, and same thing, but then it was time to line up, so I blew the whistle again and the situation dissolved. Then, much to my surprise as I was walking towards these two to have another conversation, I see R put his hand up to high five E. Then he walked over to the kids in his line who were playing and did the same.

I was taken back.

I didn't expect that.

I know this kid R, and E, too, are great kids, but they are also boys on the verge of middle school, playing football and wanting to win. As I approached R, tears were welling up in my eyes (also: last day of school) and I walked up to him, put my hand on his shoulder and said, "You're such a good kid. I see you."

I had to walk away before the tears really started falling, but then, I watched as R went to the other fifth grade line to high five all his friends over there, including E again.

Fast forward to last night, about 11pm when I saw this video that Sarah from A Rocky Top Teacher posted, and it was right on with what happened. People want to hear that they matter. People want to be seen...I mean, don't we all? Don't we all want to know that we have made a difference?

I know it's hard sometimes, especially when kids are difficult and are seeking attention in any way possible. But, as the adults in such situations, it's our job to break that cycle... to stop the arguing with kids, to turn the corner and find something positive.

I promise you - even your hardest student - if you find something beautiful to see in them, it will change the relationship forever.

I know it's summer break for most of us (Day 1 for me!) so we might not be around students, but let's take time to notice those around us, our families, our friends, maybe even the people we might walk by on the street. Look up from your phone and see the world, including all the amazing people that cross our paths.

Who did you see today?
Leave a comment and share!

Monday, June 6, 2016

what I'm loving Monday

There's been so many wonderful things going on lately. Let me share!

I felt compelled to write right now because it's 6 in the evening, the sun in coming in my windows on one side of the apartment, and the wind has the trees rustling right outside the other side of the apartment, right through the window directly behind me. I love this time of day, in the summer, in this apartment, in this city. My seven year anniversary of moving to Chicago was just last Saturday! Still loving this amazing city, on this beautiful day, in this lovely apartment.

Loving that I was part of the 5th Grade Farewell last week. I actually coached two of our kiddos in publishing their memoirs about endings and beginnings. Check them out; I'm so proud of the writers that we're able to support with the high quality instruction that is given via the Writing Workshop and the Calkins' curriculum!

Also, I love middle school aged kids. Check us out doing the new dance that I just learned about: Lean and Dabb:

Loving Arbonne's Detox Tea. It's part of the 30 days to healthy living program that I'm doing this month. The tea is meant to be taken before bed and is to support healthy functioning of the liver and kidneys, but it's also been making me sleep so much better! Usually I wake up three or four times a night, but the past few nights, I've only woken up once! And not even until like 2:30 (Usually I'm up just an hour and a half or two hours after I go to sleep!)

I'm loving being a coach. This is the third year I'm finishing up and it's a bit different. This year, more than one person has brought me a gift. And it's not about the stuff - although each gift I was given was so thoughtful, so me - it's the fact that I have done stuff over teh last year, and maybe last three years, that has made a difference. How lucky am I that I have a career path that allows me to make a difference every day? So amazing. Thank you for the gifts, my friends, and even more than that, for the words in the cards that were poured out from your heart. I will treasure those notes for years to come!

Lastly, I'm loving that I have.... wait for it.... only ONE MORE WAKE UP separating me from a fab summer break!

What are you lovin? Leave a comment and share!
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