Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer PD and #cyberPD

 And so it begins...

As the year winds down, I always start gathering my stack of books I want to read over the summer. My pile last year was a bit crazy, but thanks to my Twitter friends, conventions for IRA and NCTE, and Stenhouse... this year's double stack might be classified as ridiculous. There are just so very many amazing professional books out there!

Besides books, I have other Professional Development plans! At the end of June, I'll be heading to the All Write Consortium in Warsaw, Indiana, to spend two days thinking and learning about writing instruction. I will also be exploring some more tech tools (once we finally. finally have high speed internet and wireless access at my house!) I know I'll also be spending time collaborating with Jacquie and Nicole (among others) about our first grade classrooms. And then there's all of the rereading of professional books, reading children's books and "just for fun" books I'll need to read! So... I know I need to be realistic about just how many new professional books I want to tackle.

This summer, it looks like I'll first need to make some decisions about which books I honestly think I'll be able to read between now and August. Eventually, I know I'll read them all (and add more to my stack.) I have a couple in mind that I'm considering "must reads," but I'm interested in getting your feedback. Which books do you recommend? I know this is opening up a can of worms, but is there something that isn't in my stack that should be?

If I had to choose right now, these are the books I realistically think I can (and should)
read this summer. (Stack is subject to change, of course!)
Again this summer, I'm thrilled to be hosting #cyberPD with Cathy Mere and Jill Fisch. We're using our book stacks as our jumping off point to decide what book we should read and blog about this summer. Last summer, we focused on Patrick Allen's Conferring book and had amazing conversations about it. We'll be following that same format this year!

So, what's on your professional "to be read" pile this summer? You're welcome to comment or post a link to your own blog post about what you're reading. We'll also be using the #cyberPD hashtag on Twitter again! Details will be coming soon about what's in store for this summer's event.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chaos - Slice of Life

I've been in a state of chaos lately. But trust me, it's one of those good chaotic times. Questioning, rethinking, revisiting. Yes, I am amid the true end-of-the-year chaos, too... but I'm trying to remain focused on the good chaos that has been happening.

Two of my friends are moving their classrooms, and it has set my wheels in motion! Jacquie has been teaching first grade in Chicago and is moving to a new first grade classroom in Utah. Nicole has been teaching kindergarten part-time and is moving to a full-time first grade position (in Ohio.) Their quests for packing, de-cluttering, gaining new ideas, and making changes has inspired me to do the same.

Lately, I've spent a ton of time curating my classroom library (as Donalyn Miller would say.) I have a ridiculously large classroom library, built over the past 17 years. My baskets stem from a time when we were doing primarily thematic teaching, and many of my other books are in what I'd call "sort of leveled" boxes. My mission was always to have as many books as I could. That is still my goal, but I'm going through and making sure my books are worthy of being a part of my classroom library. Are these books going to capture the attention of my growing readers? Are the books outdated? Is this book worthy of my first graders' time? I went through each and every one of my baskets, as well as all of my "sort of leveled" boxes. When I finished weeding out books I no longer wanted, I opened up "Komos' Book Shop" in the hallway. I invited teachers in my building to come and take books to add to their classroom libraries, and I kept a portion of it to feed to my first graders for their summer reading piles.

My state of chaos has also led me to firm up my thoughts on having chapter books in my classroom library. Those new, updated thoughts will have to come in a separate post! :) A little hint though... I have lots of new chapter book titles and ideas to share!

I'm super excited to spend more time chatting and collaborating with Nicole and Jacquie to see what else we can tackle!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rolling Carts and Revelations

Have you had an experience that just stops you in your tracks and provides a lightbulb moment for you? Well, it happened to me yesterday.

My friend and I are at a teaching convention and were excited to do some shopping. We both bought cute little rolling bags before arriving at the convention to help us carry all of our goodies. So yesterday morning, we raced toward this Exhibit Hall, ready to shop. We were halted at the entryway by the security guard. He told us we weren't allowed in with rolling bags. No problem! We slid in the long handles and picked up our bags, just like you would carry a regular bag. Nope, denied. Because the bags have wheels, they're not allowed in. Being the innovator (sassypants?) that I am, I backed up and put my rolling bag inside of another bag which I could carry on my shoulder. Now it's not my main bag and is covered (mostly.) At this point, a different security guard begins yelling from several feet away that we are NOT coming in there with THOSE ROLLING BAGS. At this point, all I wanted was an explanation. I hadn't seen anything telling me this wasn't allowed and had seen others with rolling bags/carts. This female guard proceeded to get louder and louder, repeating over and over that THOSE ARE NOT ALLOWED. YOU ARE NOT LISTENING TO ME. YOU CANNOT COME IN HERE. Now, I will say that my friend and I remained very calm and were simply asking for an explanation... which we never received.

After I finished venting and speaking with convention organizers about the lack of professionalism of this individual, I had a better understanding of the reasons behind it. And I also had a revelation.

How many times have I barked rules or expectations at my students? Have I assumed they knew what was or wasn't expected without giving them an explanation? Did I give them a chance to explain themselves or did I just continue to bestow my rules upon them, without question? Is this especially true for those students who test us, who are given an answer of no but continue to try to test the limits? Do I stick to what I originally said or is there room for leniency? Have I picked out certain students to use as an example to others or are the rules the same for all? Do I take the time to stop and explain the "why" behind my decisions or requests?

Now, had I been given the explanation that this is a rule put in place by the organization because the rolling carts cause a safety hazard when the Exhibit Hall gets crowded, I more than likely would have grumbled about it but would've understood... and happily complied.

I am heading back to my classroom later this week, looking through a new lens. I hope this experience will help me to give my students a fair chance to explain themselves while I also provide them with explanations. Maybe my mishap will help you rethink and reflect on how you would handle these situations, too.

**Disclaimer: the security guards involved in this incident are not hired by the organization that hosted this convention. They are independently contracted by the convention center where the convention is being held.