I will finish up my remote learning / teaching tomorrow. Tuesday is our last day of school, but tomorrow is the last time we will meet with our students. We’ll play a Kahoot selfie guessing game. And say our good byes and best wishes for the summer. What a sad way to spend the last four months of our school year.
I guess the most important takeaway I had after that whirlwind, crazy experience is that students and teachers who own their own learning are going to be most successful at this. There was no way we could help the few students who chose not to be involved. But those who owned their learning were able to keep growing. I’m not sure what our future holds, but I’m confident that the ones who really bought into remote learning, even in this emergency, are going to succeed. I wish I could give a gift to all the troubled or reluctant ones. First, I pray they are safe and just making choices that this wasn’t important. After, I know they are safe, I would give them the gift of being able to want to learn, to be resourceful and take initiative. If they just jump through hoops and try to please the system, this remote learning is not going to work for them.
He did Genius Hour remotely, and it was without a doubt, my best series of lessons this past semester. I wish all of remote learning could be like that!
Something happened today that was one of those snapshot moments. You know the kind you know is special so you take a mental picture to remember it?
It was in our Zoom “Open Hour” meeting. This time is like office hours for my fifth graders during emergency remote learning. Students can come and share the draft they are working on, ask a question about the assignment, or just say hi and see their friends.
Zainab had a question on our assignment, which was to write a poem about ourselves using figurative language. She said she wanted to write an Etheree poem, which is a ten-line poem starting with one syllable and then each subsequent line adds another syllable. She explained that she had written 8 metaphors and similes and she wanted to use them all, but they were each 7-10 syllables. So what was she to do? What a great writer question! The ensuing conversation between us was one of those writerly moments that makes me love my job as a teacher. I shared alternative form ideas, but also an example of how I had to shorten some of my ideas, like my metaphor–“I am a sunrise of hope”–became “rise of hope” for line 3. During this encounter, I began contemplating the question, do we write for ourselves or our audience?
Anyway, we were into this sweet writing conference, and at one moment I looked around the Zoom gallery and saw the 13 attentive faces of the others in our meeting, listening to our conference. For a few moments I had forgotten about them.
I’m sure it was the first time in my entire teaching life that I was having a conference where 13 others sat in on the conversation.
We had lots more of these mini conferences during the rest of the meeting. Sometimes other students would chime in to help. By the way, each time I asked the students if they wanted to share and receive feedback in front of their peers. All of them said yes.
Here are our poems. I chose the Etheree, and Zainab chose a different form. I think the Queen of Poems made a good decision.
An Etheree Poem about Me
Rise of hope
Map of my heart
Daughter of the King
As old as a grandma
Talkative as a parrot
Delighted as a young puppy
Friend of caring, hope, and honesty
Trying to be a better ancestor
I AM POEM
I am Zainab.
I am the taste of pancakes and sweet maple syrup.
I am the smell of daisies starting to grow.
I am the sight of a birthday cake full of delights.
I am the sound of babies whining and their sweet laughter.
And the cheers of a crowd.
I am the taste of freshly baked pizza with a sight of delight for dessert.
I am a collector of my memories.
I am the sound of classical music playing.
I am the touch of guitar strings and fluffy marshmallows.
I am the taste of a fresh salad with a dressing that is made of magic.
I am the smell of the sea on an early summer morning.
I am the sight of knowledge walking on a runway
And books humming their words.
I am a girl with hair like a flowing river.
I am a princess with cheeks as red as roses.
The Queen of Poems,
Zainab Aref Almukhtar (5A)
#Verselove is continuing during the year for five-day challenges each month. I am so excited that the May #verselove 5-Day Monthly Open Write starts on Saturday this week. Kim Johnson will give us some delightful and challenging prompts. Everyone who wants to will write a poem in response to the prompt, however they interpret it or want to stray from it. Then the community of poet-teachers reads and comments on the others’ poems.
You are all invited! Join us starting this Saturday through Wednesday. It is a healing and empowering activity for this stressful time. (Click for the sign-up form.)
After a long day at work, I had a sweet conversation with my team. It was a nice ending to a long day. In a meeting this morning, I came to learn of a GIGANTIC report that the Ministry of Education asked us to complete last week, while we were on spring break. God bless our administration for not calling us in and making us do it. Instead the Ministry gave us an extra week.
Yesterday our VP explained some things to us in email, but we had a lot of questions, so I just waited until our Tuesday morning meeting. Today we realized what it entailed. I started texting the teachers on my team:
We discussed and began to figure out what was entailed. We each had to gather eight different pieces of evidence for each class they teach. As well as figure out how to best represent it–photo, Google Doc, video, link page.
It was a lot of work. Of course, we didn’t do only that all day! We had family commitments, other school work and connecting with students. I even participated in a virtual TeachMeet by leading a five minute session.
But at ten minutes before our deadline, ten hours after we started, we were finished, and it was a job really well done! We gave each other virtual high fives and applause. We gave flowers and congratulations.
There were lots more messages flying through the virtual airwaves. But the best one for me, as the team leader was this note telling about a Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol quote about how the best thing that functioned was the team. I miss them so much.
I am currently reading The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris Chesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling. It is a business book, but we are using it to improve teacher effectiveness at our school this year.
Last spring our innovative principal told me about the book and how it would inform our goal for the new school year. He recommended it, so I bought the book. It has been a slow read because it’s not what I’m usually interested in, but I’m plowing through and always asking how we can use the concepts in our school. Our WIG, or wildly important goal, is to raise our ELEOT scores in two categories from 2.8 to 3.2 by June 2018. Clearly a measurable goal from x to y by when goal. Meeting this goal will mean that children will be given a more equitable and high expectations learning environment than they had last year. If we succeed, students will be more engaged in learning, with more opportunities for differentiation and higher order thinking. Continue reading “The Reading Game”→