Sunday Letters 8.23.15

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Dear Classroom,

Enjoy being clean and organized.  Enjoy being relatively germ free.  All of that will change Monday when the kids arrive.

Don’t be too sad, though.  Once the kids enter, you will not only be filled with germs and stuff.  But, you will also be filled with excitement, energy, love, and laughter.  Maybe some learning, too?!

– Ms.  Bless

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Dear Teachers,

This isn’t directed to all teacher – just those of you putting specific color folders on the supply list.  I understand your need for color coded supplies.  However, as a parent, it drives me INSANE!  Last year I went to store after store, searching for an orange folder.  This year…it was the (apparently) rare yellow plastic folder with prongs.

– A Mother

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Yes! I wore this on our opening day institute.

Dear Pin,

Thank you so much!  Although not everyone understood you, those who know me couldn’t help but laugh.  not to mention I smiled a little more than normal.  So, thanks!  🙂

                                                            – Lady with a Resting *itch Face

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Dear Teacher Across the Hall,

I know you are stressed.   I know you doubt yourself.  But, I promise you this…

I promise your students will love you the second they enter your room.

I promise you they won’t care about boxes still needing to be unpacked.

I promise you are completely capable of being their teacher.

I promise you are amazing!

– A Fan!

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20150809_085744Dear My Son’s New Teacher,

You asked for three things I want you to know about him.

  1.  My son is creative.  He loves to create, on paper or with Legos.  When he gets an idea in his head, he can’t wait to make it real.  He can sit for hours building a Lego baseball field.  His backpack holds several notebooks, just in case he feels inspired.  I love his creativity and try to encourage it as much as possible.
  2. My son is a perfectionist.  He likes to do things perfect the first time.  Therefore he tends to shut down or not show all he knows because of a fear of being wrong.  However, he never truly gives up on anything – he just practices in private until he has it mastered.  Although I know this, I don’t know how to help him and I am open to suggestions.
  3. My son keeps his own feelings private, but he is very empathetic.  He is friends with everyone and is very funny.  However, when he is upset, he isn’t going to tell you how he feels or why he feels that way.

As you can see from the length of this letter compared to the others, I love my son and can talk about him nonstop.  Thanks for asking!  🙂

– A Proud Mommy

Writing Marathon

20150716_103831This summer I participated in an amazing professional development with the Illinois Writing Project.  For twelve days, we learned about ourselves as writers and about how to be writing leaders in our classroom and our school.  On one of those days we participated in a writing marathonMy school’s literacy coach, Michelle, and I knew this was something that we needed to take back to our school.

previewThis past Thursday, Michelle and I met at a the beautiful Cantigny Park with eight of our colleagues.  (five returning, five new)  We were able to introduce this strategy and build relationships at the same time.  Teachers learned about each other and about writing.

IMG_32781One observation made was that sometimes we talked to each other during the independent writing time, but that was alright.   It gave us ideas to write about.  Maybe a completely silent independent writing time isn’t necessarily realistic?  Maybe we need to allow students to wander when they hit a writing block?  Maybe we need to give them opportunities to write in places other than their seats?  Food for thought.

There were also times that something one person said during a share led to the writing of someone else during the next stop.  It just shows that share time is so important.  It is often the part of writing workshop that is forgotten or eliminated for lack of time.  However, it can generate so many ideas!

20150815_122407I can’t wait to participate in a Writing Marathon with my third graders!  However, I know that it isn’t something we can just expect them to do and love without preparation.  Here are a few of my thoughts about a marathon with third graders…

  • During the fall, with lots of fall colors!
  • Practice in the field and at the park before the event.  Students need modeling and practice on how to use the environment for inspiration.
  • Generate a list of ideas in their notebooks before the marathon.
  • On the marathon field trip, bring parents willing to write with us.

You can expect a post later this fall about how this went over with third graders!  I can’t wait!  Write on!

To Craft or Not to Craft

I’ve been reading a lot of advice for new teachers and I keep reading warnings about themes and Pinterest classrooms.  The common idea seems to be these take time and detract from the important things – like curriculum and student learning.

Here’s the thing – I love themes and I love Pinterest.  My classroom will be filled with Pinterest finds.  Crafting, Pinterest, themes – they make me happy.  And the reality of teaching is I spend a lot time at school.  At least eight hours a day, five days a week.  A minimum of 1,408 each school year.  (This is a very very low estimate.)  If I’m going to spend that much time in a room, I want to make it a happy place.  While every other decision I make throughout the year is based on the kids and their needs.  But, the theme and the beginning of the year Pinterest-ing is what I do for me. 20150728_190328

I don’t make a bunch of anchor charts.  I don’t label the kids’ lockers.  They make those.  But, I do craft my heart out.  This year’s theme…Travel.

Themes are necessary to my happiness.  I am not an everything needs a place kind of person, but I am the everything needs a theme person.  Every party.  Every classroom.  Themes are a necessity.

So, my point is there need to be two warnings…one for new teachers and one for school leaders.

New teachers:  Beware of falling into a pit of unnecessary work. Themes and Pinterest crafts are not necessary for your classroom to be a welcoming place for students.  Charts should be made with the kids.  Students need to be a part of creating the physical environment.

School Leaders:  Don’t judge a teacher just because her classroom is filled with crafts.  Yes, she may be a Pinterest addict.  However, that doesn’t mean that she is taking time away from planning.  It doesn’t mean her focus isn’t on student learning.  It may just mean that crafting and themes make her happy.  🙂