Today was a day- one of those days that has strong peaks and valleys- ack. I am choosing one of the peaks- my notebook holds the valleys for today too.
I walked to the classroom next door to check in with them- it was indoor recess- lots of rain!
“Are we starting WRiting Club again?” Y asked.
“Hmm, should we?” I asked.
“Yes!” she answered.
“When would you like to have it?” I asked. When we were online we had it as a “wake up and write” at first, before Morning Meeting, and then later, during morning recess time.
“I can’t do it on Fridays anymore because I have a duty then. Would you prefer morning recess or lunch recess?”
After some think time she decided she would like Monday mornings. “I think we should have it Monday mornings, because sometimes on Mondays I just want some quiet time'”
Me too, I thought! “Should we have it grades 4 and 5 like before, or include grade 3 too?” I asked.
“Maybe I could ask around and see if enough fifth graders want to do it, so we could just have it for grade 5,” she answered.
By then her friend, F was there too and halfway convinced she would join in too. She had never joined before. I left them as they were preparing to survey their class, but not before I told her, “You made my writer’s heart grow today. I am glad you want to write together again. Today is my blogging day too and you have given me my story of the day.”
Y smiled and walked off.
I look forward to the results of her survey and writing with the club again!
When we returned to campus a few weeks after many months online I noticed that writing stamina was not all it could be. I also noticed that some students would benefit from conversational practice- enter quick writes. I have long been known as the teacher who… so gifts for me are pretty easy (anything connected to purple, writing, or reading is a guaranteed hit). At least three years ago (and maybe more) I was gifted with a small journal with a prompt on each page- called something like What Would You Do? (the journal is at school, so I cannot confirm the title) and over the summer when I was finally clearing out some piles I finally took it out of its plastic wrap and thought I could use it myself- I do love a good prompt some days.
When the need for some writing stamina/conversation starter practice came up I thought of this green journal on my bedside table and the 5 minute write was born. At least twice a week I choose the next question and students write based on the question (a recent one was “If you could meet any celebrity who would it be and why?” Well, actually the question asked which celebrity you would date, but I upgraded it for grade 5). They always have the option to choose their own subject too. Sometimes they share other times not.
I notice the knock-on effect of it as a conversation starter extending past the writing time. There is a small group of girls who have asked to borrow the book a few times during free time so that they can take it out in the hallways and discuss the prompts. Today I showed them the many spaces left blank at the back to write your won prompts and invited them to add their own ideas that we could use later. They came up with three so far- their favorite being “If you could have a day that was all day or all night, which would it be, and what would you do?” I love that they are taking this on as their own project.
Side note: Today when I gave the class 15 minutes to do whatever they wanted to do to take care of themselves this is what they did. A different group of six came together to plan a book they want to write together and a group of three took off to a corner to each start their own books they wanted to work on together. I think we may be working our way out of the writing stamina issue:)
We are nearing the end of a unit of inquiry Where We Are in Place and Time that has the central idea that What is happening in our world can cause a shift in thinking and inspire change. We have focused a lot on opinions, how they are formed, and changed. This week the students are choosing something they have a strong opinion about and then researching to help strengthen their reasoning. They will then create a final piece with all kinds of options on the choice board. The work these fifth graders are doing is inspiring. A few quotes from the last two days:
“Nobody should be gendering anything!”
“Everyone should have a home.”
“World hunger is something we can solve.”
“All genders should have equal opportunities.” (this promoted a great discussion on the difference between “both” and “all”)
Everyone should have access to an excellent education.”
“Climate change is our responsibility .”
These learners are teachers- coming up with great ideas to support their opinions with real action. They have inherited a mess of a world- now I am convinced they will create viable solutions.
As @thelivbits says #kidscanteachus (and I am grateful they do every day).
While report writing is not my favorite genre to write it does allow me time to think deeply about learners, their progress, and next steps. Today I “exceeded expectations” for my own report writing goal (which still means I have to do lots of revising and editing and add in their strengths and goals), so that felt like a win for a day off, as I also got to read more than half of The Beatryce Prophecy (Kate DiCamillo’s latest-you want it, trust me!) as my reward.
Last Thursday was our first day with elementary students on campus since February 22. It has been a whirlwind of awesome. My main goal in these first few days has been to try to show each student that I see them and that they matter. It is a balance as there are still four students from the class online- I want them to feel that too, but with short connections just twice a day that now feels harder for them to feel that love.
I can see where I am failing- the new student who is feeling stressed and thinks he is in trouble because he got separated from the class. There are other moments for others- that look small to me from the outside, but feel huge for them- all amplified by the fact that everything is still just so different. Add in a sprinkling of Covid worry and it is a slightly uneasy feeling just under the layer of “oh, my goodness it is so good to be at school” and every piece of the daily puzzle can feel a bit much. For us all.
Still, at the end of the day and at the beginning as well, with frequent reminders in between the message I want to send is consistent- “I see you, you matter.”
Last night we found out that the elementary school at our PK-Grade 12 school had received permission to open (the secondary school has been on campus for a few weeks). That still did not mean we knew when, so this morning was a little unsettling. I had hoped we would know something before our morning Zoom, but no luck. I told my class that it felt like one of those days it was lucky that my head was attached so I couldn’t forget it- everything felt a bit topsy turvy.
This morning in Zoom I took an informal poll asking when students thought we would be back on campus- my guess was the soonest-Thursday. My teammates were also all over the place in their predictions.
The whole day felt a little off- complicated by the fact that it is accreditation week and we have a virtual visit of about 10 educators from several organizations working on verifying our self study, so we are in extra meetings, have visitors popping into Zooms, etc.
At 2:40 the email came. We had been given the green light to start on Thursday. It is super exciting, but a little bit stressful also as we immediately thought of Zooming to teach tomorrow, check completed work, and add in planning for the first two days in person the first time since last February, coupled with the fact that our school day had officially already ended for the day- phew! We still have many questions- most will remain unanswered until after school Wednesday when we have our “quick” all staff meeting, so yes, tomorrow (and Thursday) will be one of “those days” too! But kids, actual kids, will be in our fifth grade classroom on Thursday and that is pretty thrilling!
It is break here (Pchum Ben, which celebrates ancestors). I never had an autumn break until I taught overseas and at the one school that did not have it I kind of felt like I was not getting the right rhythm. I need that pause.
October break used to mean taking time to notice the changing seasons (and dreading the winter to come when I lived in cold climates). When I was a single mom it was a time to reconnect with my sons. We did not travel because money was tight. We enjoyed local jaunts.
Since moving to Southeast Asia as an empty nester October break has meant consulting maps- is it rainy season there? Too cold? Are the flight times okay?
Since COVID I have not traveled-— at all. It is the longest stretch I have gone in my adult life staying “home”. I almost traveled this break, but I didn’t – still feeling a little leery with my Sinovac hitting the six month mark.
Instead I am traveling another way- in books. It is the fourth day of break and I have already finished four books. I am using the time to do my own ancestor work as I continue to learn more about racism and antiracism.
I am about halfway through a course “So What If We Are Teaching Critical Race Theory?” and it has really pushed my thinking over the last few Sundays (we have a theme each week and resources to explore and then get together for an hour each Sunday evening on Zoom). Combine that with an inspiring day long conference a few weeks ago that focused on DEIJ in international schools and I know I have to move beyond reading and thinking to doing. I have so many plans…
I am a planner. My strategy for the last few years has been to strategically grow my class library. The class discussions we have had have been amazing and the kids give me hope for a better future. We have delved into all kinds of topics and students have had the opportunity to have books that were windows, mirrors, and doors (thanks to Dr. Rudine Sims-Bishop for introducing me to this concept). We have a new unit centered around where we are in place and time with the central idea “What is happening in the world can cause a shift in thinking and inspire change” that we will combine with some opinion writing and nonfiction reading to uncover author’s purpose and bias, among other things. That central idea is guiding me over this quiet break to make my own action plans as the unit begins- it always feels like the units of inquiry teach me as we go, which is part of what I love about this way of learning.
Now I am on the hunt for some great mentor texts that can inspire these thoughtful grade five thinkers. Writing will take us new places.
Some days are ugh and I was feeling that a bit too much yesterday, so today as the chair of a planning meeting I had a chance to open with a way to reframe my potential attitude.
“What are your top three?” I asked. “ Your top three whatever you want to share. It could be your top three songs, holiday locations, anything,” I continued.
“I can go first, as I had longer to think about this than anyone else,” I said. “ It may not come as a surprise to you, but I want to talk about reading. My favorite genres are historical fiction (because I always learn something and then often go off and research the parts that are new to me), mysteries (because once upon a time I thought I might want to be a spy because I am so nosy), and realistic fiction (especially about characters who are not “just like me” because I love learning about different lives/reactions, etc.).”
The rest of the team shared their own top three- we heard some more about genres, favorite local restaurants, favorite cuisines, favorite homemade foods, and favorite siblings. We all definitely learned a little bit more about each other and started off with a smile before we dug into the hard work of unit redesign.
Some days I resist inclusions at the start of meetings because I want to “cut to the chase”, but today it felt like a means to get me to focus on something I love and I needed that. It reminds me that other people may need that same entry point into other meetings so I should remember that when I want to rush to the main point, because maybe the start can be the bridge we need…