Saturday, October 31, 2015

Have you ever experienced your class as a student?

Dear Readers,

After reading books like Pure Genius, Master the Media, Teach Like a Pirate, Learn Like a Pirate, Ditch that Textbook and Google Classroom, I have decided to allow students to co-teach and/or independently instruct the class. I experienced my first day as a student in Ms. Gross' 8th grade Language and Literacy Class.

The lesson for the day was differentiating between Storytelling vs. Newscast Writing. Two of my students had taken on the challenge of teaching the class. I took a seat towards the back of the room to maximize my view of the entire class. 

Some of my observations:
  • The student to the left of me was pulling up pictures on Google despite the direction to not engage with it yet. Not a huge distraction, just pulled up 1 picture and let it sit there. (It caused me to divert my attention away from the learning.)
  • The student to the right of me was tapping his pen. It seemed as though he was listening and did not realize he was doing it. (However, it caught my attention and I turned to watch for a few moments.)
  • Two students directly across my line of vision were frantically raising their hands and trying to get the teachers' attention. (In watching them, I missed the instruction and what the teachers were saying.)
  • I got up to reference an anchor chart and started to engage in conversation with some students. The teachers came up to me and very respectfully said, "Ms. Gross, you need to have a seat." I sat on a desk in the back of the room and was promptly told, "Ms. Gross! You need to sit in a chair!" Laughing, I fell back into my chair. (Unfortunately, I was the distraction.)
  • It was a very relaxed atmosphere. I felt very comfortable. (My hope is this is how my students feel as well.)
Some of my reflections:
  • It was difficult to follow the instruction when so much was happening around me. Is this what my students experience daily? How can I help create a learning environment where every student is successful?
  • I wanted to talk with other students. It was difficult not to. How can I continue to empower students to lead instruction and participate in conversations?
  • It was difficult to focus when the teachers stayed in the front of the room. I need to keep my practice of "wandering" the room.
My Biggest Take-Away:
  • My students and I have created an amazing climate and culture in our classroom. One where students are willing to take risks and be leaders, while being themselves.
Thank you to my 8th graders who I have known since they were 4th graders. I have learned so much from you over the years, especially the last 2 looping as a Language & Literature class. You inspire me, you support me in my instructional decisions, you collaborate with me and you brighten my days.

I hope you, my readers, feel the same way about your students, staff, etc.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Why I Became a Literacy Teacher

Why I Became a Literacy Teacher

Dear Readers,

I have been wanting to start a blog for quite a while. Amazing people in my PLN have asked me when I am going to start blogging about all the books that I read. I finally took a moment tonight to investigate Google Blogger and realized it might be easier than I thought. In order to understand my love of literacy and teaching, you need to hear the start of my academic career in elementary school. Currently, in 6th grade Language & Literature, we are writing personal narratives. I always write with my students and use the same story. I use it as a tool to make connections and build rapport.

As a kindergartner, many years ago, I went to school for approximately 2.5 hours. It was a time to learn social skills and engage with my peers. I was a shy child and spent most of my time surrounded by my family, particularly my grandparents. Much to my chagrin, upon entering 1st grade, I realized I would no longer be spending most of my day with those that I loved.

On my way to the bus stop, on the second day of 1st grade, I intentionally missed the bus. I remember I walked home and was surprised when my mother put me in the car and drove me to school. I entered the main office to find the principal, school nurse and my 1st grade teacher. Insisting that my mother leave, the staff attempted to get me into the classroom by carrying me. I wanted no part of it. As they brought me through the doorway, I wedged my little fingers between the door and wall, in that 1-2 inch space, and held on tight. Needless to say, I was not a student who was easily forgotten.

Years later, that same 1st grader teacher awarded me a scholarship. It was given to a high school senior wishing to go into teaching as a career. She told that story at the awards dinner. As embarrassed as I was at the time, I can imagine now that I am an adult and teacher myself, she was proud of me for who I had became.

I was that student who always carried a book. I was that student who kept to herself and exercised her independence. I was that student who did not always want to follow the rules of school such as being told what to read and what to write. I was often bored and disengaged in school. 

My hope as a literacy teacher is to open up a world of reading and writing to all students. My hope is to create a learning environment that meets the needs of all students. My hope is to engage students in their learning. My hope is to build their confidence and help them reach for the stars and dream of anything they can imagine.

To all you teachers who may deal with difficult students, thank you for being patient with us. Thank you for believing in us. Thank you for encouraging us to pursue our dreams.