Tuesday, September 9, 2014

EdCamp Edspiration

     Like many educators, I spend part of my weekend working.  I do, however, try to leave my Saturdays open for me, for my daughter, for fun.  This past Saturday, I engaged in professional learning by attending EdCamp Citrus.  It wasn't a day of work, but a day of professional inspiration.  I left feeling like I do after I leave NCTE and ALAN each year, awed by the professional teachers and energized to do more, do better.  I woke up early and headed north with my BTF, Lee Ann Spillane.  Lee Ann was my impetus to go because she has been thinking about hosting an edcamp in Orlando for awhile.  I arrived at edcamp with no expectations.  It was free and I had been hearing about unconferences. I wanted to learn more.  EdCamp Citrus is five years old and the organizer, Jerry Swiatek, put together a day that more than exceeded my expectations.
     If you haven't been to an edcamp, you go thinking about what you would like discuss or share with other educators. If you want to led, you sign-up that morning.  Therefore the opening was just the pulling together of the topics for the sessions.  I didn't choose to lead. I didn't, however, lurk;  I actively participated in the sessions.  The premise is you choose with your feet.  You are encouraged to leave sessions that aren't meeting your expectations.  The sessions were mostly teacher-led although there was one student-led session.
     My learning path that day included Redefining Digital Citizenship, Using Data Binders, Gamefication and Bullying in Schools.  The sessions ranged from informal discussions to formal presentations, but I learned more than I anticipated even when a session didn't meet my expectations. I gained insight into gamefication, a term I thought I knew, but the session uncovered my misconceptions.  I am still thinking about gamefication  and how it jives with the research on motivation.  Lunch featured an App Smackdown where individuals came up and gave a 90 second share out of their tech tool.  Of the many that were shared, I loved Kahoot, which a teacher could use for formative assessment or if thinking about Marzano, a virtual/face-to-face academic game. I am excited by the new tools, not just tech tools that I have to push my thinking forward as an educator.
     Ultimately it was the connections that I made with teachers that mattered most.  Tech experts helped me process some tools that I knew, but hadn't figured out how to use purposefully (LiveBinder).  I discovered experts right next door, literally a third grade teacher at my daughter's school. I was awed by the work that teachers are doing in districts that have less resources than the district that I currently work.  If you want to connect  with Florida educators, join the Florida Educators Chat on Wednesday nights at 8 pm on Twitter, #fledchat. I can't wait to take my future teachers there.  You can also check out the next close-by EdCamp in Lake County next month or if you are reading this from other place find an edcamp near you by checking out this Wiki.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Access & Summer Reading

I've taught for the past 21 years and at three different schools.  At my first school where I taught for 9 years, we didn't have summer reading. We didn't do fire drills either.  In 2001 I began grappling with summer reading as both a teacher and now as a literacy coach.  Access to summer reading books is one of my greatest issues or concern. What are the ways we communicate our purpose and titles to the community?  What are the ways that we support struggling readers and English language learners?  How do we give students physical access to books and how do we ensure that students can comprehend the books once they read them? If we don't consider issues related to access and work systemically to remove the barriers of access, students who won't read, can't.

At both sites where I have worked we set-up school-wide summer reading so that students read two books. Both sites allowed for student choice for one of the titles.  Choice in my mind removes some of the greatest barriers. They key is that students know how to choose a book and have it in their hands to do so.  In a literacy-rich classroom, you continue to feed the readers and they are able to choose. I think, however, this choosing is a challenge for readers, who just pick something that they have read in the past to get by.  More work should be done through the media specialist or in the classrooms during the last weeks of school to help kids make a thoughtful choice as they head into the summer.

The tricky part is the "required" book option.  At my first school, the teachers chose 4-6 high interest required titles, appropriate for a range of readers. The problem here was that the teachers didn't read all of the required titles  (a different blog post).  At the school where I currently work, we have a One Book\One Grade Level as our required book.  This set-up allows for students to have a common conversation and assessment. But I, however, think that we can do better in our required choices.  If we are requiring a title, we should consider the following questions:  Is is available in not only English, but the predominant native language of most of the students at your school? Is it available in audio format?  I am not sure that we are so conscious in our choosing. Considering these questions not only begins to remove access issue for our students, but it also allows the parents of our students to be a part of this process.

How ensure access to your your program?

  • Book Fair at the school site with the titles
  • Flyers at freshman orientation in February & sent to feeder schools at the end of the year
  • 150 copies of required titles for each grade level available  in the media center for check out
  • Loan sets of the summer reading books to teachers doing the summer school programs
  • Flyers in the native languages of your students
  • Connect-ed phone calls home to remind parents
  • Signing summer reading contracts at the end of the school year
  • Providing flyers in your guidance office for registration
  • Providing flyers in the main office
  • Connecting with your local library
  • Using social media as an outlet to promote summer reading
  • Connecting with your local bookstore to promote & provide titles
  • Upper grade students promoting the titles to younger students
  • Meeting during the summer at school or in the community to discuss the books
  • Survey students about summer reading
  • Have students help choose summer reading books
  • Ensure that you have up-to-date information on the school website

What happens when you remove access issues and students still don't choose to read?  I'll consider that question/barrier/challenge next week!

What are ways you ensure access to your students for summer reading?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

OLW: Well-Knit

Just a tiny slice tonight because it is about the act of writing sometimes when you aren't inspired to write.  Well-knit is my OLW intention for this month.  September is the time of year when you are trying to pull your work team, professional learning community, or your students closely together. It is also valuable time to rejoin yourself after navigating the chaos of school opening. Well-knit can also be synonymous with strong or sturdy, the key to any foundation as you build community in your classroom.  

Two strategies that keep me well-knit throughout the year in my job as literacy coach are my calendar, paper only, and routinely meeting with my team members.  I decided, however, that I needed to do something else to this school year to stay well-knit, keep a little of summer in my school year. I am building day-trip excursions that I normally do in the summer as part of my weekend life.  I decided that I don't want to cram my fun just in the summer months.   I envision that these excursions will give me a necessary distance from the work I tend to engage in when I just stay home on the weekends.  It is a distance that I used to have playing ultimate and traveling to tournaments on weekends. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer Reading

Add your voice to the summer reading Sunday series during September & October by linking here: http://portable-teacher.blogspot.com/

I do summer reading.  So does my daughter. She does not have a required summer reading, yet.  Summer reading in our household is a natural part of our daily routine as swimming is.  We read every night regardless of the season.  Most recently, we read The Giver together. The movie is coming out and I know with the focus on the Language Arts Florida Standards (LAFS) aka Common Core Reading Standards in disguise, she will not experience this full text in her fifth grade classroom this school year.

My daughter, age 10, quite capable of reading alone, likes me to still read books to her and that is okay. Sometimes we get her dad to read books to us.  One thing that always stood out in my mind is that my students used to say that my daughter was lucky that she had me to read to her.  I wish every student was as lucky.  I don't worry about my daughter as a reader, yet. I do worry about the hundreds of students who don't read during the summer and they do anything but.  Over the next 8 Sundays,  I will be exploring that and other issues around summer reading that I confront in my job as a reading coach.  I hope you will join our conversation.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Life Sentence

Sick, the day after
my diagnosis.
I received my life sentence six years ago tomorrow. Among my tribe we call it our diaversary. I've written about it each year and this blog was initially created with the purpose of processing my life sentence and finding balance. My mission hasn't changed.

Well-Managed, six years later!
Over the six years, I've learned some key steps to the management of my chronic disease with the sole goal of living with the longest life sentence possible.

What I know for sure is that what we worry about or imagine is not as hard as we make-it-up to be when we actually face it. Taking care of yourself requires care and patience and a tiny bit of selfishness. Paying close attention to the overwhelmedness clues in your life matters. My clues happen to be a misplaced purse, phone, keys, meter, or pump---never lost, but misplaced.  Gently educate the people in your life, they mean well, but they don't know well. What they do or say is often out of love and a desire to help. Don't beat yourself up about the management or mismanagement of your life sentence, you are working as hard as you can.  I know I will continue to learn more, but acknowledging my diaversary is one small step in celebrating my daily wins over my life sentence.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Aloha means hello and goodbye! It signifies greeting and parting.
Aloha students!  Wednesday is our district's last day for students.  Some of you have already said goodbye and some of you have a few more weeks. I love the arc of teaching. It is the perfect story. The end.

Aloha slicing! I always think I have more time to write in April and May, but invariably find no energy. I spend most of my time during the 4th nine weeks proctoring tests.  At last count, 28905 tests were administered to the 2900 students at our school. .This number doesn't include other mandated tests.  We are still counting. Test fatigue or life fatigue, I am not sure.  I have find that with last nine weeks comes the planning for next year while closing the current and my energy isn't there to write. I have no excuses now, it's June.

Aloha self! A year ago I injured myself and I was in the midst of getting stronger and fit. I ended up being sidelined for 7 months in 2013 and have spent the last 5 months of 2014 moving closer to fine.  I'm not 100% yet.  I'm not where I thought I would be, but I am closer. I feel great.  Summer is the perfect time to challenge myself and meet my fitness goals.

Aloha summer! Time to explore my one little word, well.   Time to traipse in the mountains and disconnect. Time to push myself as a writer. Time to to learn something new, paddle boarding. Time to swimm in the springs. Time to lay in the hammock and read. Time with my daughter, friends, and family.   Aloha summer!

How will you spend yours?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

You've Got Mail

A fed ex package from New York arrived for my daughter on Saturday.  Luckily the driver waited for us to get home. The chances of him being able to actually deliver it to my door on the weekend are slim to none.

We opened a small package from my aunt in New York. She is the only one of five children left on my father's side.  She mailed us her great-grandmother's ring and a picture of my grandmother at age 20 with the ring on her finger.  I guess this makes it my great-great-grandmother's ring and my daughter's great great great grandmother's ring.  It was a welcome surprise since my dad passed away when I was 21 and I haven't been to see that part of my family since my daughter was little.  We exchange cards. They send Christmas cards and I send Happy Spring cards.

What I've learned in the years that have passed is that sometimes when someone in your family dies, you just don't lose that person, you lose part of your family too.  The struggle is to rebuild it in a way that makes sense.   It was nice, however, to recapture a small bit in the mail this weekend. A thank you note is on its way.