Teaching and Living in the Middle

A National Board Certified Middle Childhood Generalist Teacher . . . in the Middle of My Teaching Career . . . in the Middle of Life . . .
and Life in the Middle is a wonderful place to be!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Cornucopia by Lezley Davidson on DeviantArt available under a Creative Commons Attribution license 3.0 at http://lezleydavidson.deviantart.com/art/Cornucopia-320269817

Feeling Thankful

I saw a post on Two Writing Teachers about expressing gratitude to teachers and other education professionals who have been your mentors.  I thought to myself, "What a wonderful idea!"  I have a fairly long list - in my 20th year of teaching I have had the opportunity to have some wonderful mentors!

Cindy Knott-Guillaume - My "Mentor Teacher" twenty (gasp!) years ago.  The finest teacher ever.  Wow!  Was I ever lucky to get her!  She taught me so much about how to manage a classroom, and about how to be a teacher - foundational skills.

Lorinda Brown - One of the very best principals I ever worked for.  My lesson plans were on her desk by Friday - or I didn't go home!  It didn't matter that this school was in the projects and 100% of the students were on free and reduced lunch.  "Her kids" deserved a good education.  She was awesome!  Moving from the private school system to a public school setting was different, and she supported my steps along the way.

Julie Little Goodman - I have learned so much about reading, and the development of the reading process.  She gave me books to read, and took time to discuss "case studies."  I still go to her when I have kiddos who get "stuck."

Kaaren Salminen - In our conversations she reminds me about where kids begin - and it helps me not to take anything for granted.  This is especially important when you have 5th Graders who are so very far behind.  She gives me perspective - truly a gift.

Pranee Pogeline - I wanted to be a teacher of writing, but I didn't really know how.  I read all the books; I tried the practices in my classroom - but I needed a coach.  Pranee coached me.  She wasn't even a teacher in my own district - she did it because she is the "pro" in professional.

Kelly Boland Hohne - She taught my 5th Grade Reading Workshop Group at Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project.  I learned more in 1 week about how to teach Reading than I think I have probably learned in my whole career!  What an amazing experience!

Angie Snapp, Kelly Slagle, and Julie Gill - My three student teachers.  There is nothing like having to be a mentor teacher yourself that forces you to reflect on your practice, to think about every step and instructional move you make.  What a great opportunity!

Keith Collins - One of the finest, most dedicated principals I have ever had the pleasure to work for.  He always made time to listen, and I felt valued and supported as a teacher.  He mentored me through the jump from special ed to general ed.  Under his leadership, my instructional skills really began to grow, because he found my area of interest and provided opportunities for growth and development.

Jan Cornelsen - I had absolutely no idea how to teach Math - and Jan took me under her wing.  She spent her own time coaching me - reviewing my teaching videos with me; finding the positives and coaching me through the rough spots.  She is an amazing lady!

Carmen Avila - A good chunk of the great ELL strategies I learned were from Carmen in my TESOL Program.  I still use them - on a daily basis.

Ramona Slagle - Another great inspiration and source of strategies and support for my English Language Learners.  I learned some of my best Vocabulary Strategies from Ramona.

Tracie Coskie, Michele Hornoff, and the Teachers at the Northwest Teachers Writing Collective - What an awesome group of professionals to learn alongside of!  We have done action research projects, book studies, case studies - and I have never failed to learn something new every time we met.

I know there are many more I haven't listed - these are just the ones off of the top of my head.  Some of my greatest teachers though, have been my students.  That is another list . . .

I am thankful for all of them.

Monday, September 29, 2014

My poor sad little blog . . .  It seems that it has gotten tossed aside while life has just rolled on by.  I expected as much.  Such is the life of a teacher, about the time that October rolls around.  The reality of the school year has hit, and the pressure is on!

I am beginning to learn who the little people in my classroom really are.  There are 24 amazing young people who share my space every day - 10, 11 and almost 11 year olds.  They have all of this shining halo of hope and future around them.  Mostly, I just love basking in their light.

I love the joy of learning that they bring to my day - the sense of wonder they have in everything about them.  It seems as though the moments we share are just flying by.  I will cherish every single one, because I know they will end all too soon.

I love teaching.  And I love teaching 5th Grade.  It's a great place to be.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Slice of Life is a weekly blog hosted by a couple of wonderful writing teachers.  Click on Two Writing Teachers to learn about this wonderful writing community, and how to use it to build a community of writers in your classroom!

If She Only Knew Me by Jeff Gray and Heather Thomas

If she only knew that I had to watch my little brother last night while mom was at the park with her friends, she wouldn’t have punished me for not getting my homework done.”

I read aloud this book in my classroom on the first day of school - every year for the past few years or so, since I discovered it.  I can always tell the kids who know exactly how the little boy feels on this page – the one who has been sentenced to stand in the corner of the classroom with his face to the wall, for his transgression.  I watch their faces dip just a bit lower when he talks about taking that extra box of cereal at breakfast, because he didn’t get anything to eat for dinner the night before. 

And I see the spark of fight in their eyes at the end of the book when he talks about all the things he does know in his neighborhood – the kinds of things that his teacher doesn’t appreciate – like which Laundromat to go to so that your clothes don’t get stolen. 

I hand out an index card to each student at the end of the read aloud.  I say, “What is it that you wish I knew about you?  You don’t have to write anything that is uncomfortable for you – you can tell me something you are good at.  Sometimes teachers don’t always see what their students’ interests are here at school.  You can tell me something you think I need to know – something that is difficult for you.  You can also tell me about something that you are really interested in learning about.  It’s your choice – tell me what you need to tell me.”

I collect the cards, face down, when they are finished.  And I save reading them for the end of the day – when my classroom is quiet.  I read them when everyone else has gone, and when I won’t be disturbed.  I want to give their words honor.  I have watched them struggle and labor to write them, hands cupped around the edges - brows furrowed as pencils move stiltedly over the lines.  I feel as though they deserve at least that much in return.

And I read them with reverence  - If you only knew . . . I just love basketball . . . my baby brother almost died . . . I really want to learn about Egypt . . . my parents got divorced and I miss my dad . . . It’s hard for me to concentrate at school . . . I love Math . . . Math is hard for me . . . My mom has cancer and I am afraid . . .

I have to remind myself that they are only ten years old.  They are only ten years old, yet some of them carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.  What I know now will forever change the way I teach.  That book will always be a part of every first day, because it must be.  I am wondering at all that I was completely unaware of, before I had the impetus to ask.  I pray for grace for my ignorance before I found this book – for all I didn’t know.