Day 7 – #AprilBlogADay – Champions

Public domain image found on Check ’em out. Maybe you’ll want to buy ’em a cup of coffee.

Has anyone ever helped you in your career? Been your champion? How will you become someone else’s champion?

I’m thinking of Barb Davies. She was my instructional coach when I went back to teaching in 1999 after a ten-year baby raising break. My experience teaching in the 80s was very different. We were given textbooks and several teacher guides, and we taught what was in the textbooks.

Anyway, I came back to school in the new world of state standards, but I didn’t know. When I was hired, I assumed teaching was still the same.

I had a science book and a class of hungry-for-learning second graders. We did a picture walk through the whole science book, and I let them vote on which chapter they wanted to learn first. (I guess I could be a little innovative in the olden days.)

It didn’t surprise me when they chose dinosaurs. It was early in the year, our first or second week. We got to work making a bulletin board with 3-D trees and rocks. Paint was flying, kids were making dinosaurs. It was a big, beautiful mess.

In comes Barb after school for our first meeting. I thought she’d be impressed with the students’ mural. I’ll never forget our conversation that ended in my tears.

What are state standards?
What do you mean second graders in Arizona don’t study dinosaurs?
Why would it be in our books if they don’t study it?

Anyway, it was a memorable point in my development as a teacher. Over the next three years, though, Barb helped me, like no one had before or since, to become a good teacher. To understand pedagogy like I had never understood it before. It was all good. She was a mentor and my champion.

Three years later, when there was a new reading specialist position opening at our school, she recommended me for the job. I’ll never forget you, Barb.

How will I become someone’s champion? That’s a good question to ponder. I suspect I have helped some people along the way, but I like the question. I need to do some thinking about who and how to do that in a more deliberate way, as Barb did for me.

Learn more about the #AprilBlogADay here.

Day 6 – #AprilBlogADay – Awe-Inspiring Moments

What was your most recent “awe-inspiring” moment in the classroom today?

My students always inspire awe. There are many reasons–the fact that they can communicate so well with me in English even though their first language is Arabic (or another language) is one of the major reasons.

We just finished a ten-day spring break, and I thought they may have forgotten a lot. Instead, they came with enthusiasm, great minds and memories, and created spontaneous learning opportunities, like this when they began to make the letter of the week, Y, with their bodies.

Making Y's

Day 5 – #AprilBlogADay Challenge – Happy Easter

First of all, a blessed Happy Easter to all those who celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

And Chag kasher v’same’ach to my Jewish friends who celebrate Passover.

Now for today’s very short #AprilBlogADay post…

What needs to stop in order for Education to move forward? What practice, tradition, instructional strategy or anything else “must die”?

It will be an amazing day when educators stop rewarding students for standing in straight lines, for being quiet, for being good, for jumping through hoops, and anything else for which they are rewarded. Along with that, grading must die. Then children will start to really learn.

Here are some resources to learn more about this simple, yet necessary idea.

Alfie Kohn interview about his book Punished By Rewards.

No Grades + No Homework = Better Learning, two lectures by Alfie Kohn.

Read about the #AprilBlogADay Challenge here.

Day 4 #AprilBlogADay Challenge – Connection

My teacher desk

A Moment of Humanity in the Classroom – Think about a moment in your teaching experience where there was a “connection” between you and a student or group of students that resonated beyond content.

The one moment that stood out is when a group of students happened upon a video about Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. It was during my first year of becoming the chief learner in my classroom. We had made a huge switch in how we did school in eighth grade history and language arts classes.

We were becoming co-learners on a mission to improve the world.

Here’s the caption I wrote on this picture on Flickr.

Four students started out watching this video while others were busy on something else. Others were pulled in to the experience. I loved the intense look on their faces.

This morning 52 million people had viewed this video, and a few hours later, it was up to 56 million.

They left the room wanting to do more.

I didn’t know what to do or how to do it. It was outside my level of expertise. I had never been trained for this. However, although I was clearly out of my league, when I gave up control and became a co-learner, we were all able to learn amazing things together. This was one of many times of rich connecting and learning that we did during that school year.


Wisdom is a good reason for becoming the chief learner.

Update: Now over a million people have seen Invisible Children’s video and thanks in small part to the great awareness this “Kony 2012” video brought about, things have gotten better in Uganda. Read an update on Christianity Today about Kony and the LRA.