Saturday, November 26, 2016

I forgot to trust myself.

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I was the best teacher when I knew nothing about teaching. No, seriously. I had yet to be indoctrinated in theory, confined to district mandates, and criticized by my peers, I drew from what I knew to be true and that came directly from the heart. I taught from a place of authenticity, of meaning, of a belief in children and their creative processes and desire to learn. Somehow, along the way, I lost sight of these driving forces. It's not that I don't hold those beliefs anymore, I just got overwhelmed and I forgot to trust myself.

I've always been a good student, traditional schooling was something that came naturally to me. I liked assignments with clear directions and expectations and it was even better if the teacher gave me an exemplar I could follow...ahem...copy. I have also always been a pretty good reader of people, so I could easily decipher what the teacher wanted to hear, what he or she was passionate about, or what the "most important" ideas were. So, I just created my work product in the image of the exemplar in a manner that catered to my teacher's priorities. I made it seem like we were kindred spirits and that I was, too, passionate about the topic at hand. And, I usually got an "A."

That all sounds great, right? Report cards looked good. Parents were happy. But, the thing about it, was that I didn't learn. I missed the opportunities to really take in the information, process it in my own way, test it against my own beliefs and feelings, and allow the learning process to shape me. As a result, at 44, I'm still figuring out who I am and what I believe because I've spent a lifetime telling others what they want to hear.

This cycle has carried over to my teaching. I no longer trust my instincts when it comes to my students. I have spent a fortune on books seeking the perfect system, or lesson, or unit plan, or classroom management scheme. I have looked to more "seasoned" peers and copied whatever it is they are doing. But, despite all of my efforts at achieving "best practice," I've neglected my students. I've failed to see the faces in front of me and use my core beliefs to guide my practices. I've failed to listen to their interests, their pondering, their worries and met them with curriculum that enables them to flourish and thrive.I've worried too much about my test scores and not enough about making sure that each child is reading a book they love and has an opportunity to talk about it.

It's time to find that new teacher inside me again, the one who saw a system that was broken and vowed to devote her life to making it just a little bit better. It's time to return to teaching from the heart and trusting what I know to be true. Children are inherently curious, passionate, creative and eager to learn and they can be trusted to do so. They just need someone to believe in them and to provide them with rich provocations and support. I'm willing to be a bit lonely if it means that I can be proud of my work and truly teach. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book JourneysKellee, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts host It's Monday! What Are You Reading? with a kidlit focus. 

Here's what I'm reading this week in preparation for the upcoming celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday and for a couple of book groups in my classroom:

10 Days:  Martin Luther King Jr. by David Colbert

Martin's Big Words:  The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Saturday, January 11, 2014

It's Saturday! Let's Celebrate!

I thank Ruth Ayres for hosting the Saturday Celebrations on Discover. Play. Build


I celebrate my OLW for this year:  Promise.  I liked this word because of its ability to be both noun and verb, implying both an active and a passive role for me.  I promise that I will do my very best to be the teacher my students need.  I promise my family that I will do my very best to balance work and family.  I promise myself that I will not live on autopilot, but will work to be present, to enjoy the passing moments that are flying by too fast.  I will also revere the promise that the future holds, the promise that my 10-year-old is showing as she works to rebuild her mathematical foundation, the promise that my 12-year-old shows as she works to navigate the tricky social world of middle school and all the incredible promise that I see in the year ahead.


I celebrate my students; those that just joined my classroom this week and those that returned to me in various emotional states after the two week break.  It feels like we are starting over in the building of our classroom community, which presents both a challenge and an opportunity.  We’ll get there, right?

I’m celebrating the winter in Colorado.  My family takes full advantage of all that the Rocky Mountains have to offer, especially in the winter.  My husband and daughters took a “powder day” yesterday (DEF:  A powder day is a day you “call in sick” to work/school because skiing on the freshly fallen snow is just too good to miss.)  All day, I received texts with photos of action shots from the slopes, hot cocoa "mustaches" and ice skating.  My girls are very lucky indeed.

Tell me, friends, what are you celebrating this week?

Monday, December 23, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Visit Teach Mentor Text and Unleashing Readers to learn more about this weekly event.

With the winter break upon us and Donalyn Miller's #Bookaday challenge in the air, I'm ready to curl up and catch up on some reading.  As I'm teaching 4th grade this year for the first time, I'm trying desperately to get into the hearts and minds of my students, especially my 4th grade boys. 

I may very well be the last person in my circles to read Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief, but read it I must.  Virtually every boy (and a couple of the girls!) either are well into the series or have it on their "To Read" lists.  Having not read this book, I am starting to feel like there's a party and I haven't been invited.  I can also tell that my students really want to talk about it and I really want them to keep talking books.  So, today's the day.

I've had The Candymakers by Wendy Mass sitting in our home library for quite some time.  It is one of those books my daughters picked up at a bookstore, started, and then abandoned.  I have one student who pled, Ms. Holst, pleeeeeease read this book!"  So, read it I will.  Ms. Mass has provided a springboard for many of my readers to launch reading lives, including my own daughter, and I typically enjoy her humor, imagination and characters. 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is next on the list.  While this book is likely too difficult or mature for my fourth graders, I have simply heard too much about it not to read it. 

I just realized that this list only gets me through Wednesday with my #bookaday challenge, but I want to be sure that I've got space in my schedule for what Santa may bring!  Enjoy and wonderful week of reading, my friends!