Saturday was a beautiful day for walking! I so enjoyed participating in the Fund 69 Walk-a-Thon this year. As soon as I arrived, I was greeted with a big hug from a former student (how is he already in 5th grade?). As I walked with a teacher friend I had the opportunity to catch up with some lovely parents of former students who I rarely see/talk to, now that their children have moved on to higher grades. My son was able to play on the Madison playground with the children of my colleagues who have quietly grown at home without my realizing how much time has passed. Our time at work is so important and urgent, that we often don’t take the time to catch up on our personal lives. We no longer have time to eat lunch in the teacher’s lounge, instead spending the hour alone, planning and gobbling sandwiches in front of our computers. Emails and conferences after school with current parents reduce the time we have to maintain contact with parents of former students, even though we really enjoyed knowing and working with them in years past. The Walk-a-Thon was a great opportunity to casually catch up with all the people we know and care about in our school community. Thanks to Fund69 for a wonderful excuse to exercise with, and enjoy each other on a beautiful fall day!
Has your child come home from school recently complaining about all the TESTS? During the first couple months of school we seem to assess students constantly. This becomes tiresome for students and teachers alike. These assessments however, provide us with valuable information that helps us to meet student needs through appropriate grouping and instruction. The results allow us to provide tailored instruction rather than teaching all students the same things in the same way. During these initial few weeks of school, we also collect informal data on your child so that we can further individualize their instruction. Teaching is quickly moving from an art to a science. As teachers, we are doing our best to merge our intuition and experience with the hard, fast, data all this testing makes so readily available.
As summer turns into fall, and the school year begins to settle into a comfortable and familiar routine, the real learning begins to happen! The first few weeks of school, while exciting and filled with anticipation, often drag for students and teachers. Time must be devoted to establishing and practicing classroom and school-wide procedures. This is an important and necessary practice, but after a while students and teachers alike just want to get down to the business of learning! This week we will begin our regular literacy block and I am so excited to deliver formal reading instruction! There is nothing more satisfying than working with small groups of readers while my other students devour books of their choosing silently around the room, quietly work with a neighbor to sort words by patterns, or complete beautiful vocabulary journal entries. When students work with their teachers to set and understand their own literacy goals and they have access to text that is just at their level, the purpose in their work is obvious and their growth over time is real and measurable. THIS is what excites me about literacy block. It takes a while to move from the confused buzz of independent practice to the soothing hum of purposeful work, but it always comes with time. Third graders have so much potential as developing readers and I relish knowing that there is time set aside each day to help them realize it. I know that a vital part of my job is to help students not just learn to read, but to learn how to love reading. What a beautiful challenge! How will I share my passion for books with them this year? The possibilities (much like their potentials) are endless!
This time of year is always so exciting for me. I can't remember an August when school supplies, the anticipation of seeing old friends and meeting new ones, and the clean slate of a new school year didn't renew and invigorate me! There is a part of me that misses my former students and selfishly wants them back- but I know they are all ready for what fourth grade has in store for them. I also know that keeping them would mean missing the opportunity to know and love new third graders who are so bravely entering a new building and a new classroom for the first time. They have so much to learn this year and I have so much to share with them. This year will feel a little different as the teachers in room 138 learn to share the children and collaborate like never before. As a co-teacher and a job share partner, I have a whole new set of challenges and professional learning opportunities this year. Job sharing will strengthen my collaboration, communication, and technological skill set while co-teaching will serve as on-the-job professional development with a full time special education colleague, who will teach me how to meet my students' needs more specifically than ever before. I can only imagine the benefits my students will receive this year under the watchful eyes of three experienced and deeply committed teachers. Here's to our best year yet!
I would like to take a moment to wish all the mothers of room 109 students a very happy Mother’s Day! Thank you for all you do to help your children succeed in school. Thank you for packing healthy snacks and lunches each day, for signing those assignment notebooks each night, for helping with the (sometimes confusing) homework assignments every day, for supporting the daily expectations and demands of my classroom, and for providing the love and support that children need to thrive in class. When my students accidentally call me “Mama”, “Mommy”, or “Mom”, (and it happens at least once a day!), please know that I consider it a great compliment. I hope you enjoy the gifts your children so lovingly made for you. They couldn’t wait to surprise you!
One of my favorite Edison traditions took place here yesterday and as always, my students amazed me! The Great Illinois History Play is an annual, one-day lesson in history, theater, and teamwork for our 3rd graders. I can't believe how much Fax (The writer, director, and producer) achieves with so many kids, in such a short period of time. My students took a lot from this experience. Some faced off stage fright. Most learned plenty about pioneer life in Illinois. My most enthusiastic (read: high energy) students summoned more self-control than I have witnessed from them all year long! We worked together to achieve something great. The children experienced first-hand, the excitement, the purposefulness, and the intensity of collaboration in the theater. Granted, we were in the gym, behind a makeshift curtain, and we required (not a few) line prompts; but the experience felt every bit as real to these little actors as opening night on Broadway. Bravo!
My class has come so far in just a year. I talk with them regularly about current research in education and marvel at their reactions. They welcome challenges, debate generalizations about their generation, and get excited to disprove theories they intuitively disagree with. I love that they are always willing to try anything that I believe they can do. To me, this says a lot about 3rd graders. They are fearless, trusting, proud, and wildly motivated to learn. We have reached that point in the year which is undeniably exciting, but which always makes me a little sad. My class has become a community of independent, confident, compassionate learners. They are no longer afraid to collaborate, afraid of being wrong, or afraid to accept responsibility for their actions. They understand that learning is a social process and that working together makes school fun. They also embrace that they are all unique and that their individual goals look different from their peers. They get that nobody is perfect and that nobody is ever finished learning. I am so proud of them, and yet I am a bit melancholy. Their growth means that I have met many of my own goals for the year, and that I will pass them on to fourth grade teachers soon. I have to trust that these teachers will value and nourish what has bloomed so beautifully before me this year.
Last night was a wonderful experience for me. I was reminded of how lucky I am to teach such beautifully unique children every day. Their progress is a joy to share with their parents and as I pore over their portfolios and their goal sheets I beam with pride. Last night I looked forward to meeting with their parents and sharing good news with each of them. Today, when my students entered the classroom for the day, I saw them in a fresh light, because conferences always shift my perspective a bit. They remind me that teaching and parenting is a partnership, and I am so fortunate to be a part of that!
As I watch my 3rd grade students take the ISAT test, I begin to think about how prepared they really are. They have been testing every week since September. We have been analyzing their results and setting goals all year long. They have learned to monitor their comprehension, adjust their rate, and revisit the text to validate their responses. I think about how many goals they have already met this year- as a group and as indivduals. I reflect on the meaningful class discussions we have had, and how often they have impressed me with their connections, predictions, and perspectives. I am so proud of their growth and of their development as strategic thinkers. They may not realize it, because the first time taking a standardized test can be overwhelming for anyone, but I know they are well prepared and totally ready for this!! Encourage them at home this week and remind them that in the end... it's just a test.
We have been talking about learning goals all year long. Young students often struggle with taking the steps necessary to meet these goals. In room 109 we talk a lot about metacognition. We have defined this term as "thinking about our thinking" and I use it to cue students to monitor their own understanding as we encounter new, challenging topics. As you work with your child, ask them to explain why and how. Ask them to retell in their own words. Ask them to rate their own understanding. This will help your 3rd grader take responsibility for meeting his or her goals.
Lincoln Junior High