Category Archives: Love

Where Relationships are Made and the Magic Happens

 Home Visits: Where dinners become walks and relationships are formed
A young lady  sat silently in my front row the first week of school.  I greet her like I greet every other student with a hug and a “Good Afternoon.”  She accepts my hug with a small smile.  However, she barely raises her hand when the class is asked a question about Wonder, the book our 4th graders are reading during shared reading. It’s the first week of school and all students are shy.  That is to be expected.
During Writing Workshop on Friday of that week,  Ireri wrote a wonderful piece and I encouraged her to read it to her teammates.  She spoke eloquently and really shared her thoughts.  During dismissal, I saw her mom to tell her about the shock that I had that this young lady was able to share so effectively with her team.  Her mom was actually shocked, because she said her daughter is very shy and never talks. I was surprisd because that was not what I saw when she stood in front of her teammates and presented her ideas.  After having this discussion with the mother,  I laughed and told her that I am sure that this is the year of change for this beautiful child.  As a teacher in my past life, that would be the end of our communication until another dismissal or parent teacher conferences.  Luckily for me, this was the perfect time for me to ensure that I could schedule a home visit for Ireri and her family.
One of the key levers to excellent teaching is having a relationship with the students’ families.  One of the things I have learned to love about being a teacher at Rocketship is being privileged to be invited into our childrens’ homes to see them in another element.   It is a time to really get to know our families and the goals they have for their amazing children.  It is also a time to get to know the parents because without parents our work would be so much less effective.  Home visits may really be the best thing that happens to us as teachers.
During back to school night the second week, I spoke to Ireri’s mom about how proud I was of her amazing daughter.  After finishing our conversation, she said, “Make sure that you don’t eat, I want to cook for you”.  I’ve had some impromptu dinners and have had some  good food during these amazing home visits, but when a family tells you that you are going to eat, you really get excitied.  I went with earnest expectation of that night.  I was greeted by a myriad of hugs (mom and dad know I am a hugger from the Welcome Barbecue and have accepted it).  That night was full of family games including speed puzzles (timing to put together puzzles) jokes, and then dinner.  Before that day, I had never had a tamale and it was amazing.  After dinner and questions, it was the perfect segue to go.  As I prepared make my exit, Ireri asked me if I would go on a walk with her family to the Washington Park.  Still in my heels from school, and looking at the time, my first reaction was an honest no.  However, upon thinking about this evening’s conversation and how important it was for Ireri to trust me, I enthusiastically said yes.  At around 7:30 I walked with my student and her family to the park.  I sat and played with the children I also talked a little to some people from the community.  It was the most humbling experience I’ve ever had.  Not only was I getting to know this family, but I had conversations with people in the community.  It was a blessing and it was really amazing.
The aftermath of that home visit and many others have allowed me to be the best teacher I could for the children in front of me. I began to teach with their families in mind.  Students like Ireri began to give their opinions on the day’s readings and take initiative in group and classroom projects.  The coolest thing about this, it is only September.  I cannot wait until December.  The relationships I formed during home visits that I have completed like with this student and the other 20 (and more to come) have been the driving force in my instruction this year.  I am so happy that home visits were something that I was asked to do.  It has renewed my passion for eliminating the achievement gap.
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The View from the Other Side

“Life is messy thats how we are made. You can waste your life drawing lines or you can live your life crossing them. If you are willing to take the chance, the view from the other side is spectacular. “

 

Man is the view from the other side spectacular.  Imagine you have the opportunity to pick up your entire life and just start over.  You aren’t just starting over, you are joining a movement bigger than yourself.  The movement forces you way out of your comfort zone.  Opportunities are yours only if you are willing to take them.  Everyday is the biggest blessing that you could ever dream.  For me it meant moving across the country and joining an amazing team of dedicated and humbled individuals.  I have only been here for 6 weeks and I can honestly say that I have amazing friends some of whom I can consider family. There are no pretenses, I can be myself: quirky, smiley, friendly and just plain silly and no one looks at me sideways.  It is amazing because I am truly living life outside of the box and the lines drawn and I can see the possibilities.  

These past few weeks have also pushed me to ensure that I give the same love and support to my students.  I am working a place where my strengths are celebrated and my weaknesses don’t really matter.  Even the things I am not so good at do not define who I am.  In my classroom the same happens.  I try to focus on what my students do well.  The LOVE to talk.  We celebrate that they love to talk and give them the room to talk to each other. It is a REQUIREMENT.  If their supposed weakness is silence then we work towards periods of silence.  They are getting better.  I think that it is important that my students use their quirkiness and silliness and childishness to their advantage.  It will enhance their learning. They begin to trust each other and maybe they will learn to trust me.  

My life has changed from a year ago, but the more radical change happened 6 weeks ago when surrounds with amazing people.  I hope this is the year of their radical change from the other side 🙂 

 

Why library cards are still exciting

Getting a library card is still exciting

Today my mom sent a photo of my two nephews who got their first library card. When I was younger, getting a card meant that you had access to a world of books. You were allowed to get lost in a book, and most importantly, you can hang out wherever you wanted in the building away from your parents. Having a library card meant having power. Let’s be serious, you don’t have much power, but in the hands of children like my nephews, it was the best moment of their lives.
In a world of tablets and e-readers it is a little difficult for your emerging reader to know the Amazingness of print concepts (how the words are supposed to go on the page), smelling the new pages (an intoxicating smell all people should encounter, or most importantly how many books by an author they’re really are). Having a library card heading to the (now endangered) bookstore is probably the most magical experience for any emerging reader. Physical books and being in libraries give students mastery in ways that teachers and e-readers can not.
Today’s professional development focused heavily on the shift of our network to the Common Core State Standards. As a reading specialist, I AMA shocked at how even thought they were written in 2010, how outdated an somewhat unattainable some of these standards are to master considering our information and technological age. For example, how beneficial is it for a student to know how to look up a word in a dictionary when my e-reader, smartphone or other gadget gives me an attainable definition just by my clicking on the word as I read? Skills that helped you and I through college, are no longer a factor in my nephews’ world. It is the equivalent of you and I having as a standard to manipulate a microfiche machine.

As a person who has seen the coming of age of technology, I think, but what if they become an awesome researcher and the only sources are in print, or even worse there is no wifi connection. Those skills are still relevant. In order for them to stay current out children still have to go to the library and peruse through the print. Dictionaries and guide words are still important in their development. I mean if you think about it, it is still less expensive for a school to buy 100 books than 100 e-readers. Practicing what is like to pick out a book. To be engrossed in the the pages. And smell the places its been (when they are not smells that cause nausea) will support your child in their adaptation of the rigor that is coming from their classrooms this year.

As an educator, I am excited for the direction of my instruction. As an aunt, I worry about my balance between technology and print resources. It is easier to download the book on my iPad, than to buy the book, which closely aligns with their classroom experiences. Please don’t think I am against e-readers, (I carry my kindle as if it were my wallet) I just would love it if we can preserve the innocence of print resources until, like microfiche, it is no longer relevant to the world of research and achievement. We also preserve the innocence of childhood as I saw today with my 5year old nephews with their new library cards.

First comes love

To be honest, it is love.  To be a teacher, to draw knowledge from young and old humans alike, you first have to show love

–Edulovereading

Someone asked me how I get my students to be so engaged.  They seem so eager to read and participate in class they said.  I told them that the answer is simple, okay it is not that simple, but it is simple enough, the answer is love. The school year starts really soon, so now I am reflecting.

On the first day, it is important that your students know that you will still accept them even if they fail.  They know and understand that the first day of learning something new can go two ways, either it will go really well or it can suck.  The idea here is to understand persistence that even though it sucks you can always get better with practice and admitting your defeat.  When it goes well they should know that they can not be complacent that they can always do better, challenge themselves and help others to do the same.  When they make a mistake they should know that failure only comes when they decide to take that mistake and make it into something great.

You as the teacher should know that  making students  feel bad about that mistake can actually make the mistake a failure.  Children should learn from their mistakes above all things.  When students feel the love and know that it is okay to fail, they will reach more success over time.

That is the beginning of learning to read.  First comes love.

 

 

 

Reading and Speaking really matter

Reading and Speaking really matter

In my post Yes Reading Matters I wrote that it was important for newborns to be read to as it helps their vocabulary and brain function.  I recently found a NYT article on the importance of reading to newborns for the same reason.  So if you haven’t read Proust and the Squid, this NYT article has almost a Reader’s Digest version of some of the research.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/24/us/pediatrics-group-to-recommend-reading-aloud-to-children-from-birth.html?ref=education&_r=0

Blooming

“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tightly closed in a bud, was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

–Anaïs Nin

The last time I posted I wrote about the importance of no being a just.  Well instead of being a hypocrite, I decided to follow my own advice, and work on being me not just a just.  I mean how comfortable is it to just remain in your comfort zone and do what you always have done?  But what happens when what you always have done, no longer describes you? You’ve lost your drive, motivation, gumption,  spark, what ever you want to call it.  This week has been hard for me because I decided that it is time for me to blossom not just as a person but as a citizen of the world.  To be honest that ish hurts, but then in the words of a good mentor of mine, “if it doesn’t scare the shit out of you, then it really isn’t worth it.” So instead of playing with the idea, I have started to go out on a limb and be vulnerable, ask for help and get rid of things that were once my comfort zone and my overall comfort. Did I say that this week hurt?  Well it did.

As a teacher I force my kids out of their comfort zones everyday, I tell them to take risks, cry laugh and not be afraid of the fact that some days some people will not be your favorite people.  However the people who love you unconditionally will always be there.  This week I went out on a limb and let me tell you that by going out on that limb it was emotionally and professionally draining, however it hurts too much to sit still and be tightly closed in a bud.  Instead it is time for me to figure out how to be the best me there is to become.  I am young, and fine as I don’t know what and being a just is just not enough.

So sometimes I will journal and other times I will blog, but my main thing is to continue to write.  I love people, but the first key to not being a just, is to love and appreciate myself and these past years that hasn’t been happening as much.

Is it time to move on?  Absolutely!  Is it time to be accountable to my brain and life goals?  Totally.  By April as the rain showers descend, I will be blossoming with the flowers.  It hurts way too much not to bloom.  As I walk through this journey, I am reminded of the fact that all actions and events happen for a reason and because of that everything will fall into play.

~Say

Not Just a Just

Recently I decided to actually watch the Year of 4 Documentary with Beyoncé. Not only was it really good it was in some ways inspiring. I am not always impressed by other people and their success, but this woman is truly phenomenal and this thing was made a couple of years ago.
Anyway, one of her answers to the interviewers really struck me…
“Sometimes we don’t reach for the stars, sometimes we are satisfied with what people tell us what we’re supposed to be satisfied with and I’m just not going for it.”

This really inspired me because often times I feel as if I am short changing myself and not living up to my full potential. I mean I am good at some things and my drive to accomplish the best tends to make me the best. If something stands in my way or I think I can do better, I do everything I can to get better. But then I sometimes get stuck and I think about what I am “just” instead of who I really am. I get caught up in other people’s dreams and aspirations and then I lose my own.

Obviously I am not the person I was 6 years ago or even yesterday, but I do know that these past years I have been asking others for where I fit in their vision. As if my vision doesn’t matter and that really pissed me off. Let me tell you after years of asking where others see me, what they see is not very far. In other visions you can be a ” just” not a “who”. I have been grappling for years about what I want and where I want to do it, but I think the grappling is over. I think I finally am ready to stop being a “just” and instead be a “who”

I may be good at somethings, but it is time to become good at something else. In the words of wise old Rafiki

“It is time”