Empower

Last week, our school based literacy team was led on a Walk Through by Jessica Mazzone, our TC Staff Developer.  Our team has representation from every grade level     K-5, special education, library and of course literacy.  Prior to heading out, Jessica set the tone, the vision, and the purpose for walking.

“Let’s notice and begin to rally around the work.  Let’ spread the good”

“Let’s notice what is amazing?  What feels great?”

“What’s the most prevalent need – what feels important?”

“We want to empower people that feel really good about something.”

That last comment stuck with me.  As a classroom teacher, I always believed that every member of my class was an expert at something I was not.  I believed that it was part of my job to recognize the expertise in the room and set up time and space for the expert to shine. These days, without a classroom to call me own, I see expertise in my colleagues.  They are experts in areas that I am not.  As a member of the school community, when an expert shines and is empowered, it call for celebration.

Today, I walked into a second grade classroom to pick up Matt and Winny.  I sensed right away that it was not a good time.  The entire class was on the carpet surrounding a pile of garbage.  The garbage was intentionally dumped onto a plastic blanket.  Ashley, our Workshop/Math teacher, was sitting before the garbage, holding a pair of tongs.

“Recycle or garbage?”  she asked the kids as she held a piece in her tongs.  “Garbage.”  kids would respond.  I watched as this went on for about 10 minutes.  She picked up plastic straws, tiny plastic toys/prizes, paper and more.  With each item, there was a decision as to whether the item belonged in the garbage or the recycle bin.  With each item, there was conversation.  “Should we use plastic straws? How can we compost at home?”  These second graders were involved in more than sorting garbage and recyclables.  Ashley had set up a structure and time for them to think about what they could do about the plastic problems, about embracing a zero waste mindset!

Ashley was about to sort her last piece when I heard Hannah, who had been watching and listening intently, blurt out, “Oh wait!  I’m going to camp!  Maybe I can make a difference there.”  Carolyn, the classroom teacher and I looked at each other and smiled.  Ashley was making a difference and is helping kids see that they, too, can make a difference.

Ashley has been a passionate about reducing our waste at school.  This year, she has created a Zero Waste Team and now, we have kids sorting their lunch garbage, she brings leftover, unopened food to a local shelter, and now she is working in classrooms to let kids discover what they can do.  She is empowering them with ideas that can lead to action.

When teachers feel passionate and empowered about something, anything, it can contribute to the whole school community.  Today was just one example of the impact an empowered teacher can have.  Let’s empower each other and celebrate our expertise.

 

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A Walk-Through – Notice, Share, Wonder

“What did you think of this morning?”  Jess asked when we ran into Amy in the computer lab.”I loved it.  I always love walking through rooms.”  Amy thoughtfully answered with a soft genuine smile.  “I think it’s so important to notice and be open to what you can notice.”

Today, Jessica Mazzone, our TC Staff Developer came today and our newly formed literacy team had the chance to do embrace a K-5 walk through.  She framed our time in classrooms with celebratory questions –

What’s amazing? What feels great?  What feels important?  Cross grade level, what’s going on?

So, as we headed out in pairs to visit classrooms at each grade level, we were excited and energized by the questions and the opportunity to notice, share, and wonder – together.

We had a hallway debrief after each grade where we shared what we noticed and what we wondered.  The structure allowed us each to see and then begin to think forward and in some instances,  think bigger.   When we came back together for our final debrief we continued to use the notice and wonder structure.  Again, this simple structure enabled us to celebrate what we saw, heard and felt.  It pushed us to think about possibilities.

I think that when we use this structure, we are beginning to live as teacher researchers.  We can ask ourselves questions like “What happens when I change my library with my kids mid year?  What happens when I have my current students write notes in my books like the staff recommendations at the library or bookstore.  What happens when I have my kids tally the tools they use?  What happens when I bring my first graders upstairs to learn from the 4th grade graphic novel experts as a launch to their own graphic novel work?

I think our Literacy Team has begun to grow the habits of observing, questioning  reflecting.  I believe these habits, like teacher research, can help us see the possibilities that lie within teaching and learning and  the children become the heart of our work.

 “The more we take risks and learn from each other, the greater the energy-giving satisfaction.  Ultimately, we see beyond our own limited collegial relationships to the                                  possibilities of an energy given vision we can fulfill together.”                                             Donald Graves, The Energy to Teach

 

 

Not Her Phone

We have a counter in our kitchen that holds our coffee pot, mail, and various “stuff” that comes in each day.  With the evolution of technology, this counter has evolved to the “charging counter”.  On a typical morning, Grace will grace us with her presence and a sleepy ‘hi’ or ‘morning’ and head straight to the charging counter, pick up her phone and check the gazillion messages and snap chats and what nots that came in while she was sleeping.

This past weekend, my Mom and Dad and sister were down for the weekend.  The weekend was filled with a show, projects, shopping and, of course, dining out.  The weekend was filled with loads of laughter that bridged the generations.

On Sunday morning, the early risers were hanging in the kitchen.  My Dad was standing against the “charging counter”, my Mom and sister and I were sitting around the table.  It was just after 8:00 and I scooted out of the chit chat to wake Grace up for practice.  I returned to my table spot and hopped right back into the chit chat.

A few minutes later, I could hear the sound of feet on the stairs.  Sleepy Grace appeared in the kitchen.  I watched as she made her way to the “charging counter”.  I watched as my Dad inched himself out of her way saying “Ohhh, excuse me…Good Morning Grace”.  I expected to see Grace reach behind her Grampa for her phone.  Instead, I watched and saw Grace step back,  and say “Whoa, where you going?”  I watched their eyes meet.

My Dad moved back towards Grace. Grace moved right in for a hug from her Grampa, not her phone.

Maci in the Morning

I walk in the door at 6:19 am, take off my coat, hang it on the back of the chair.  Maci has acknowledged my entrance with a lift of the head.  That’s it.  A lift of the head.  No tail wagging.  Just a lift of the head.

I put my phone at my breakfast seat and head to wake Grace and Megan.

The sound of the gate opening is enough to lure Maci from her bed.  I hear the tapping her nails approaching.  By the time I have folded the gate back, Maci is by me.  She looks at me.  Waiting.  “You can go.”  I tell her.  She continues to stare at me.  “Really?  I can go?”  her eyes say.  “Let’s go.”  Her head tilts to the side.  “Really?”  “Come on, Maci, girl, let’s go.” 

I make my way to the bottom of the stairs and stop.  She stops, too.  “Go ahead.”  I tell her, motioning my hand for her to go on.  She stands there, looking up at me, still unsure if she can really go.  “Go ahead.  Go ahead.”  I usher her to go ahead of me.   Still she stands, waiting for me to to make the first move.  I place one foot on the bottom stair and suddenly,  she pounces ahead of me up the stairs to rouse Grace and Megan for school.