Friday, May 31, 2013

"Did you have any good questions today?"

A few weeks ago in church our pastor opened by relating an interview he'd heard on NPR with Elie Wiesel, the author of Night. During the interview Wiesel discussed how when he came home from school his mother wouldn't ask him what he learned, but instead "did you have any good questions today?"

The power of asking that question to a young child is overwhelming.
Did you have any good question?
Did you not just take in the information, but instead studied it, rolled it over in your head, thought about it, and challenged it?
Did you take what you were learning and seek to learn more?
Did you wonder about what you saw throughout your day?
Did you shift from being a passive observer of your day to being an active one?
Did you move beyond participating in required tasks but instead think beyond what is asked of you?
Did you admit to something you didn't understand and try to understand it?

We want to take all of our students beyond being passive learners and make them engaged learners. We want them to think for themselves, interact with what we give them beyond our expectations.

We need more of this in classrooms. It's so easy to teach specific, direction instruction and so easy to measure specific, direct instruction. It's harder to teach and measure questioning, but think about the broader implications when we do.

*unfortunately I have yet to find the npr interview but I will keep looking*

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Being Kind

At the end of last week this article on the importance of being kind to our students was floating around facebook but I never had time to sit down and write about it. Despite the busy weekend I found myself thinking about it frequently. I thought about it when I watched my daughter excitedly squeal over a book and wonder how her kindergarten teacher will treat her. I thought about it when I thought about my students who are moving on from my room next year to another school or out of our program. I thought about my own end of year frustrations and how this time of year it's easier to be grumpy than to be kind.

I thought of the students I was kind to in the past despite groans from coworkers. I thought about how sometimes we're not as kind as we want to be because we're proving to those around us that we're in charge. 

It's a good reminder for this time of year. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

First, Then

This is my new favorite book.

There is a long list of reasons why it is my favorite, and even if I was in general education I would love reading this to my kids....


For my kids, when we are working on retelling and identifying what happens FIRST and THEN, it is perfect. I feel like I've found the holy grain of a very, very simple retelling book.

And before you get all huffy about whether or not the chicken or egg came first, read the whole book.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Using Author Studies with Children with Intellectual Disabilities

Recently my team started planning with the general education kindergarten team. We try to do the same activities and lessons they do, just adapted to meet the needs of our students. This sounds like a no-brainer, but sadly I'm finding that this isn't the case in many schools with programs for students with intellectual disabilities. It took us until March just to figure out coverage so that we could attend the kindergarten team meetings. 

The kindergarten team decided to do an author study on Kevin Henkes. While I loved reading Lily and the Purple Plastic Purse to my gen ed kindergarten students I've found his books a bit painful for my current students. They are long and the little jokes he writes in his illustrations often get overlooked by my students. I probably would have chosen something more like Mo Willems or Jan Thompson, but I'm determined to make this common planning work. So instead of tossing out their idea and doing my own I took a deep breath and embraced Kevin Henkes.

 The thing with author studies is that it really doesn't matter who you do- you can manipulate anything in the text to fit the needs of your writers. Check out our "What Kevin Henkes Does" chart.

I know you're shocked by our observations. He uses WORDS. And Pictures! And he writes so we can read it! That's EXACTLY what we work on as writers! (Imagine me passionately pointing this out to my students over and over again.  Imagine me holding up a student's book and saying, "Johnny used words JUST LIKE KEVIN HENKES. Johnny said his words slowly and wrote down the first letter so that we could read it, JUST LIKE KEVIN HENKES". Powerful stuff, the author study.)
Since identifying emotions is also something we work very hard on I decided to draw our attention to the fact that KH uses emotions all the time in his books (Wemberly Worried, Sheila the Brave were the books we focused on). After reading Henkes books and making our anchor chart of what he does as a writer we started in on writing our own class text. I prepared the words and board maker symbols ahead of time. Every student got to make their own page and select what animal they wanted along with what feeling. Then I gave them the four word cards and asked them to sequence the sentence (The animal is ...). My higher students were able to write their own words in the sentence.

Everyone illustrated their page and then we put it together into our own class big book, inspired by Kevin Henkes.

 Our next step is to write our own individual texts. Some of the students are given the board maker symbols and just like our class book they can choose the animals and feelings. Then they are responsible for sequencing the words and gluing them in order on the paper.

Other students are able to write their own Kevin Henkes book that is much more open ended, they just need to have an animal or feelings in the book.
Next week we'll share with the general education classrooms and we'll all be able to talk about Kevin Henkes and our own interpretations of his work.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Coping Our Lowest Common Behavior

"NO PINO NO" my year and a half old daughter screamed at my cat. "NO!"

I was horrified. The voice she was using was not her usual pleasant voice. It was not her usual disgruntled voice. You know the, "I'm almost two but I think I should be 16 and get to drive the car myself" voice.

It was mean, impatient, and it was MINE. The intonation, the exasperated sigh, the way she delivered the NO. All mine.

My husband and I have been very, very careful about our language around our daughter. Our daycare provider pushes positive language. She's very clear about the language we should use at home. We aren't suppose to say no, instead we say "no thank you". We say a lot of "Not for playing", "Food is for eating"
"Crayons are for coloring"

All language I use in the classroom. State the correct purpose of something to redirect the behavior. And if you say no, add "thank you" so that when your child decides to use that word over and over again at least they'll be polite. (So far I believe this has worked for every child in the daycare except mine).

So in all our hard work, where did she get this mean tone? I wondered as I listened to her repeat "NO! DADDY's FOOD! NO PINO!"

We are firm but polite in front of her. We work hard on this. We even make a point of monitoring each other. We've taught our daughter to love the cat. "Pet her gently," we say, "pat, pat, pat".

Then I realized that although we are very intentional about how we talk to each other and how we talk to her we aren't so kind with our cat. We don't say "No thank you" to the cat. We kind of yell at the poor thing and throw stuff to get her to move. In the mornings the cat plays this game where she lays down in front of the door and refuses to move. We can't leave the house. We're late. When we try to leave she fake bites our feet. It's not pretty. Did I mention we are late? So occasionally we lose it. It's not very polite to our poor kitty.

All of our good language and good teaching goes out the window. She copies our lowest behavior. We've shown her it is OK to talk to the cat like this, which occasionally transfers over to how she talks to us or her friends. Despite all of our good intentions and efforts, the moments of our worst behavior are what she copies.

The same is true for our kids in school. We model, teach and re-teach how to be nice to each other. We model eye contact, using polite words, listening with respect, and using friendly voices. But that one moment we snap we can undo it all. Our actions speak louder than our words and our kids are watching. Our impatience teaches them it is OK to lose your cool when you're impatient, despite who it hurts. It is OK to use mean words or be bossy when you're tired or not feeling well. But they don't hold it in for those few moments like we do- they let it out on the playground- testing out the behavior like they are trying on a dress- it worked for my teacher, can it work for me?

We can't be perfect all the time, but we can be conscious of our behavior patterns. We're working really, really hard at being nice to our cat now. We say "no thank you" to the cat a lot. We give the cat choices and warnings (and although we feel crazy it's working- the cat likes it better too). It won't be perfect, but being aware of the problem is better than continuing it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Getting Books into their Hands

How do we construct children? Christopher Meyers* asked yesterday at a panel on Picture Books Through the Ages hosted by Politics and Prose.   On first read the topic of the panel- picture books through the ages- could be expected to be light and fluffy. Children books. Picture books. Beautiful pictures. Lovely stories. Happy memories of our childhood. Luckily this is not the direction the panel went. In fact, it was pointed out that Goodnight Moon, arguably the world's most quintessential children's book, was actually a pretty dark book if you think about it, and in being dark it helps children struggle with their fear of the dark and even death (goodnight air, goodnight nothing). 

The authors and publishers quickly jumped into the discussion of how we get books into the hands of all readers, but especially our neediest readers- the kids who don't have easy access to books. Like with seemingly so many things, the best quality books are the most expensive, leaving the quick and easily accessible books- the Doritos and cheap candy bar books- as our children's first introductions to owning and interacting with texts. Cheaply published books from movies, adapted from TV shows, or just books that required little imagination and were easy to publish are put in shopping carts as an afterthought- impulse book buying. Our kids, many kids, aren't getting to own their very own version of a nice hard covered book. They aren't getting to interact with a story over and over again- a story they own- a story they can examine the pictures, re-write in their heads, connect to, think about, and then carry around like a teddy bear. Books are expensive, and picture books- the good ones- the meaningful, thought provoking ones- are not in many family's budgets. As a teacher, particularly a teacher in a low income school, I'm willing to bet you've watched one of your students walk around with a book as though it is his teddy bear. Not reading it, but holding it because the mere presence of the book is a reminder of the child's connection to the story.

Constructing children was an idea that Meyers came back to repeatedly.  As adults we decide what books we deem 'kid worthy'. Are the darker, brooding books worthy of our children? Are we comfortable allowing our children to struggle with ideas in children's literature, or do we lean towards the whimsy, trying to keep our kids innocent and carefree? I admit I've actually hidden all the Disney Princess books in my house. If I'm honest I will admit that I'm desperately trying to construct my daughter's childhood to not include these characters. (We'll see how long I can keep this up.)This question itself could be an entire thesis, yet I realize that the mere idea of being able to construct a childhood is a luxury.

We get to make these decisions (good or bad) for our children in middle to upper middle class households. We have the disposable income to buy quality books. Many of our children aren't given the opportunity to get their hands on even the most whimsical books. And, like the authors and publishers discussed yesterday, those children often need the quality books the most.  Reading may not be something they do often outside of school. If they are going to become life long readers they need to have a reason to They need access to books that make them reflect on their own lives, books that help them feel connected to the world, give them something to relate to, or just give them a reason to laugh.

It was heartbreaking to hear the authors themselves struggle with this, listening to them reflect on knowing that their work isn't getting into the hands of the readers who need their books the most. Yet it also made me hopeful. This isn't just a problem  we're fighting against as teachers. If others see it- if the writers and publishers acknowledge it- we're further along the path of solving the problem. 

There are programs that get books into the hands of kids, and some of those programs even get good books into the hands of kids. But we need more.

The librarian at the Think Tank did amazing things with her program when she shifted the focus of the library from protecting the books to getting books into kids' hands. She dropped the limit of how many books children could check out. Suddenly, they could check out as many as they could carry. Any book they dropped leaving the library had to be left behind, but otherwise they could walk out with books stacked to their chins (and they did). Returning books was no longer a barrier to getting to check out new books either. She kept close tabs on them, contacted parents to let them know books were overdue, and had children work off their lost book fines. But nothing was going to stop them from taking home new books every week. Teachers were never held to returning books on time either. If we wanted to check out books and keep them all year we could. She knew that in our classroom libraries they'd be getting read and re-read as much as they would in the general library. She even changed our school book fair, moving away from the traditional Scholastic book fair to a different publisher who sold more paper back books. This was huge- suddenly our kids could afford to buy the books being sold at school. 

She got books into the hands of kids.It took all of us to step back and examine our practices and realize that our traditional practices weren't necessarily helping our kids read. And it worked. Our kids were reading. Constantly. Yes books got lost and never returned, but careful budgeting for lost books and the understanding that books are truly getting read makes up for the financial loss. It's easy to keep pristine books safely on the shelf if no one is reading them.

*My auditory memory isn't up to journalistic quality. I believe this is the direct quote, but I am not 100% sure. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Nation of Wimps?

Read this from Psychology Today. It's long, but read it anyway. Try not to cry. Then look at when it was published. First in 2004. TWO THOUSAND AND FOUR. It's only gotten worse.

If you don't read all of it here's the excerpt on the importance of play. I think it speaks for itself.

Arrivederci, Playtime

In the hothouse that child raising has become, play is all but dead. Over 40,000 U.S. schools no longer have recess. And what play there is has been corrupted. The organized sports many kids participate in are managed by adults; difficulties that arise are not worked out by kids but adjudicated by adult referees.
"So many toys now are designed by and for adults," says Tufts' Elkind. When kids do engage in their own kind of play, parents become alarmed. Anderegg points to kids exercising time-honored curiosity by playing doctor. "It's normal for children to have curiosity about other children's genitals," he says. "But when they do, most parents I know are totally freaked out. They wonder what's wrong."
Kids are having a hard time even playing neighborhood pick-up games because they've never done it, observes Barbara Carlson, president and cofounder of Putting Families First. "They've been told by their coaches where on the field to stand, told by their parents what color socks to wear, told by the referees who's won and what's fair. Kids are losing leadershipskills."
A lot has been written about the commercialization of children's play, but not the side effects, says Elkind. "Children aren't getting any benefits out of play as they once did." From the beginning play helps children learn how to control themselves, how to interact with others. Contrary to the widely held belief that only intellectual activities build a sharp brain, it's in play that cognitive agility really develops. Studies of children and adults around the world demonstrate that social engagement actually improves intellectual skills. It fosters decision-makingmemory and thinking, speed of mental processing. This shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, the human mind is believed to have evolved to deal with social problems.

By Hara Estroff Marano, published on November 01, 2004 - last reviewed on February 19, 2013

Talk Moves Success

Back in March I wrote about trying to use "talk moves" with my students with intellectual disabilities. Talk Moves are the new teacher-term for ways to get your students engaged while teaching. Asking your students to turn and talk to one another, asking them to justify their thinking ("How do you know?"), or to restate what another student said. 
I'd loved using these when I was a general education teacher and I was excited when I came up with a way to use them with my class. I wasn't sure how it would work and exactly how beneficial it would be, but I knew I'd seen growth when using them in the general education classroom. If nothing else it means that my students would know what was going on when they were in their inclusion settings.

So for three months now we've been using these strategies during morning meeting, particularly when it comes time to discussing the weather. Every day we turn and talk about the weather. Then I ask how they know what the weather is. At first I had to give them a prompt "Did you look in a book or out the window?"

On Thursday the weather was iffy. It was kind of cloudy, kind of sunny, and maybe a bit rainy. Each talking partner pair came up with a different answer. When one student said "It is cloudy" Rock Star loudly said, "NO! It is sunny." I asked her to politely restate her opinion by saying "I disagree" and then I said, "Why do you think that?" not having any idea what I'd get from her. Why questions are usually not met with any logical reasoning in my class. 
"I looked out the window!" she said confidentially, and pointed out the window, justifying her opinion to her friend.

It seems little, but oh, in that moment I gave her a huge high five and we all cheered. 
1) She'd answered a WHY question. Appropriately
2) She'd justified her thinking- something we try to get kids to do in gen ed
3) Unprompted she was able to tell me how she knew something. She's starting to get it. She's starting to understand that you don't just KNOW things because your brain tells you them- you can actively find them out.

I was on cloud 9. Of course, when I turned to her friend and asked her how she knew it was cloudy she said something about Halloween, so I didn't stay on cloud 9 for long.

But it's working. Slowly we will get there. My kids, our kids, they are KIDS who benefit from the same strategies used with gen ed kids. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

(Not) Managing Life While Teaching

There is a hole in my kitchen ceiling. Back in July an overly ambitious plumber put it there trying to find the pipes (in his defense he was our third plummer in our quirky old house and he was absolutely determined to do what the other two couldn't.)  At the time we'd called contractors and handy men and they all said they were too busy with Derecho work to help us out. School started and we quickly realized that we wouldn't have a chance to get it fixed until next July.

It's not pretty. It's jarring when you walk into the kitchen. People who have been to our house multiple times look at us in confusion and ask nicely if we'd like the name of a good handy man.

Yes, we say. Someone who works on Saturdays only. And who takes calls after business hours. And will only call us after business hours.

It's nearly impossible to get things done when you're a teacher. We don't get to just pop in and out of school for the little things in life. Popping in and out of school means substitutes, lesson plans, leaving lessons un-taught, getting off pace with our planning, and just creating a general break in routine for our students. And in my district you have to get a substitute for a minimum of three hours. If I want to be home to meet with contractors I have to dedicate 3 hours of my precious, precious sick time.

I have a doctors appointment that I keep cancelling. I don't want to tell you the last time I had a physical, but I finally found the time to make an appointment. Then a meeting came up so I postpone the appointment a week. Then another meeting. Then a child is having a rough week and I know I can't take off.
Don't ask me the last time I've been to the dentist. Baby L was prescribed physical therapy. That's on hold until the summer.

Before Baby L it was different because I could risk the occasional doctors appointments and household chore hours. Now I have to save my sick time for being home with a toddler who is exposed to all kinds of germs in daycare.

Occasionally I'll meet someone who went into teaching because it gave them the same schedule as their kids. This confuses me. I know other professions make it difficult to take off from work as well (I mean, Mr. Lipstick is equally responsible for the hole-in-the-kitchen phenomena) but he manages to get to the doctor. He can leave work for an hour or so. It's not easy on anyone, but it is possible. Teaching is that strict set schedule that doesn't allow you to be flexible for life. As a carefree 20 something when you don't have to be flexible this isn't too bad. As a parent it is ridiculously hard. I know so many moms missing their "muffins for mom" breakfasts just to host their own.

At some point I'll fix the hole in our kitchen (and yes, I'd love the name of your contractor/handy man/ neighbor who wants to get into the business).

Sunday, May 12, 2013

RESPECT Teacher Movement

As we were getting up to leave from our teacher conversation at the Department of Education on Wednesday afternoon the discussion leaders handed out a leaflet on a new teaching movement coming out of the Department of Ed called RESPECT Teaching.
The ED website states that Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence,and Collaborative Teaching (RESPECT), is a teacher-led movement that has been two years in the making. I'm fascinated, hopeful, and a bit hesitant all at once.

The opening paragraphs in the Blueprint published in April 2012 reads like a teacher call-to-arms. Acknowledging our hard work, dedication and commitment to our jobs, while also stating that our children need more. It lays out a plan for reform that (in my opinion) should have been put in place in the beginning, before NCLB brought teachers vs politicians at war with one another.

The Blueprint doesn't look like it changes anything about current reform methods, or that it is calling for dramatic decrease in testing. What it does is bring teachers into the reform discussion, honoring their talent and hard work and acknowledging what teachers truly need as professionals to grow and thrive.

Reading it makes me excited to be a teacher and gives me a desire to see reform in action. I see my current school within the profession it describes- a focus on continuous growth, an emphasis on collaboration, a positive school culture that leads to the successful education of students, and an engaged community that plays a strong roll in the school. All of these are a part of the seven critical components of the RESPECT project.

I worry that it may be too late. If the Bush administration had rolled this out along with No Child Left Behind we may have reacted to the mandate differently. The only difference in RESPECT and current practices is that it comes from teachers themselves, and instead of saying "we need improvement" instead acknowledges true difficulties in the profession, highlights ways we can improve ourselves while being positive yet firm about the need for growth and change. It doesn't change what is currently happening in education policy, but it states what is happening from a teacher prospective.

What if this was how the education reform movement started?  When high stake testing was introduced to us it was to "hold us accountable", implying that if one didn't hold us accountable we would simply let the children eat bon-bons and watch movies. As educators we became defensive (and rightly so) as the world seemed to turn against us. Reforms didn't come from within, but from politics. Wait, we screamed, we are accountable! We are hard workers! We don't need tests to prove that! What the world heard was "we don't want change" and the political spin became "lazy teachers don't care if children learn".

Sadly, now the RESPECT movement reads like a nice thought, but skeptical educators who are tired of constant reform will see it as a wolf in sheep's clothing, trying hard to win over the teachers in the midst of the war.

Personally I read it with regret and wonder what our schools would look like if a teacher-led movement like this had started education reform. I can only dream of where we'd be.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

What do you think? Conversation with the Department of Education and CEC Members

On Wednesday I was among 15 other special educators/ members of the Council for Exceptional Children admitted into the holy epicenter of our country's education decisions- the United States Department of Education in downtown DC.

They tagged us with visitor badges, gathered us in the lobby and waited until we were all together to escort us upstairs. It was clear we were not to go anywhere in the building without our escorts. I'm not sure what they thought 15 teachers would do if let loose in the building, but I'm pretty sure they thought whatever we would do would be nefarious. Come to think of it, they were probably smart to stay with us. Never underestimate the power of a group of special education teachers. Particularly in the midst of testing season.

Escort services aside, it was a honor to be there, sitting around a conference table in that building, being asked questions about how current policy and decisions impact our students and ourselves. It is rare that policy makers stop to ask teacher opinions, and rarer still to be invited into the very place where decisions are made, offered a seat at the table, and have people genuinely listen, respond, reflect, and guide discussions around our concerns.

Before we arrived we were asked to reflect on the impact new teacher evaluations have on our practice, both good and bad, as well as how the Common Core and VA's SOLs play out with our students.

These are risky questions to ask a group of educators, and you very well could end up with a mutiny on your hands. But the conversation made me proud of our profession and the other teachers in the room. People spoke passionately yet rationally about what's happening in our schools. We talked about the frustrations with the alternative assessments for students with intellectual disabilities and how these assessments negatively impact our students, not just in the current school year but in designing their futures. We talked about data collection and how schools don't quite know what to do with all the data they have. We listened to one another tell the same story over and over again. Each story took place in a different setting, with different students, different grades, different administrators, but the bones of the stories were all the same. I wish I could retell every sentence uttered that afternoon because many of them were powerful. These were passionate people who desperately want the best for children. It was hard to listen to that group of teachers and think that we are a profession of lazy, uneducated, irresponsible and uncaring individuals as we so often get portrayed.

Some of the educators in the room are on their second career. They have experienced what life looks like outside of teaching. One passionately and articulately stated that "I have never had a job where I wore more hats... and that makes for hazardous working conditions". 

We all sat silently for a minute, letting that sink in as she explained how she saw these hazardous conditions evolving. And it's true. When you do too much you can't do anything well. I think that sums up my current frustrations about profession and my specific job. And I won't lie, I've been doing soul searching on whether or not I can stay in this profession. (More on that later).

Whether or not anything will come of our Wednesday afternoon conversation remains to be seen. But it was nice to be heard. Participating in a discussion illustrating our common difficulties, concerns, and successes was a powerful experience. It's rare as teachers we get to talk with one another across schools, states, and districts and not just share horror stories but instead have a meaningful debate on pros, cons, and possible solutions.

I have a lot to mull over in my head and more posts are coming on this afternoon...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Baby Steps (When Everyone Else is Leaping)

Today I sat in on a kindergarten literacy planning meeting where everyone was going over their spring testing data. As we sat around the table and people crunched numbers "OH My GOD!" could be heard time and time again as they squealed with delight at the progress their kids made over the year.

"WOW. He had 14 points in the fall and now he has a 180!" and statements like it were heard throughout the hour long meeting.

It was exciting to hear them cheer for their kids. I'm proud of the kids and proud of them. But at the same time, part of me felt a pang of angst. I don't teach kids who make that kind of progress.

I walk out of my room with my hands over my head in victory when one of my students uses the bathroom unprompted, wipes his nose himself, or identifies his name in print. I'm excited when a kid who came in knowing 5 letters leaves knowing 10.

I'm proud of my kids and I'm proud of the work I've done with them this year. I see progress- real, meaningful progress on a daily basis. But it's not the same progress they see in the general education classes, and it never will be. (If it was then the child should, by definition of the progress, not be in my room anymore).

It can be disheartening day in and day out to try to hang on to the small moments of progress happening in our room. What seems like big steps in the moment begins to look like teeny, tiny tip-toes an hour later. And what seemed like sure, absolute progress? Suddenly the child regresses and no matter what I do I can't seem to get the knowledge back inside their brains. I have data and evidence that two months ago they could do this independently. But now? They look at me like they've never seen it before.

I think a lot about the parents at these times because although I love these kids, I'm not their parent. I signed up for this job. I said, "yes, please give me these children because I love them. I am prepared to sit in meetings and hear about other children's progress." The parents of my kids didn't get to say that. They didn't get to make that choice. I imagine when report cards come out, when state test scores and college admittance letters, and end of year awards ceremonies take place the parents of our kids feel a lot like I did at that meeting this afternoon. Happy, and yet... disconnected, sad, and overwhelmed with the feeling of being powerless. We do so much, and still can't catch up.

I'm so excited for those kinders and their test scores. Everyone worked so, so hard to make it through.
We worked hard too, it is just going to be measured in different ways.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mathews on Teacher Evaluation

Over the years I've found myself rarely agreeing with Jay Mathews. In fact, I've been known to blame him for the downfall of education in grad class in rants that only earn me irritated looks from classmates who want me to stop talking so they can go home early.

However, when I stumbled upon his blog from about a month ago* on his take on teacher evaluations being tied to test scores I was pleasantly shocked. For once I agree with him.  And not just agree with him, but hope that others will read him and consider his point of view.

He writes about the great teachers he's known over the years, teachers he has written books and articles about. Teachers he witnessed make great changes in the classroom. He describes them as possessing creativity and vitality.

"They are full of ideas. Most mornings they can’t wait to get to the classroom. They love conferring with colleagues. Students, parents and other educators gravitate to them."

I can picture those teachers.I love working with those teachers.  I hope I am one of those teachers. 

He goes on to write about what he thinks those teachers, the ones with creativity and vitality, want from their schools.

"... they would also be pleased if school systems spent less time checking off points on a clipboard when evaluating their work and spent more time looking for ways to back their best ideas and increase the time reserved for conferring with colleagues."

Yes, please. 

And in regards to principals? He writes:
" much more careful than we have been in the past about who gets to be principal, and provide much more training. "

Oh yes. Please. Please. Please.

He ends with, 

"The better the principal, the more creative and vital the teachers. The best principals I know were great teachers, like the Agnes Meyer winners. They know student test score gains are not the best way to measure what teachers do."

HT: Assorted Stuff

*I am way behind on my google reader. Maybe I am trying to wean myself off of it in preparation for it disappearing  but whatever the reason I am behind. So when I was catching up on Tim's blog and found it. A month late, but the thoughts are the same.

Support from the Leasing Office?

At the end of the day Tuesday we were called into the library for a teacher-appreciation celebration. It wasn't the PTO who was hosting it (they'd done their appreciating last week), nor was it our administration. It was one of the apartment buildings that feeds into our school.

I've never heard of another apartment complex doing this, or taking this much concern or time for their families. In the beginning of the year the apartment complex donated school supplies to needy families. They come to school and work as mentors for students who live there. They tutor children on site. They took the time to serve us coffee and brownies and tell us how much they appreciate what we do for their community. Not their own kids, not their own families, just what we do for the community.

We need more of that.

Think of the message it sends to families- school is so important that even your leasing office is going to show up at your school and visit you. Our students don't just have a apartment complex, they have another set of eyes looking out for them, asking how they are, and letting them know that they matter.

I looked on their website and didn't see them bragging about their involvement with their families. Other than a generic blurb about a commitment to social responsibility it mentions nothing about how the building is involved in the community. They don't do this to pull residents in, they (seem to) do it because they genuinely care.

The times I am proud to be a teacher are becoming fewer and farther between. Listening to the apartment complex thank us was one of those times because it reminded me of how important education is. It's not just about getting kids to pass tests, it's about building a community.