Reading, Teaching, Learning

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Slice of Life - Listen

I've been participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers. I love the challenge of composing a piece of writing at least once a week about life or teaching.
 
 

Did anyone else feel a little discombobulated when they returned to school after the holiday?  I always get a bit anxious and stressed returning in January, thinking about what I haven't taught the kids and how much I still need to do.  I almost feel frozen - stopped in time, paralyzed by the overwhelming amount of what I need to accomplish by TESTING time. 

The first week back, I gave my kids a self-reflection sheet that asked them to look over their reading lists, add up genres and formats read, make goals, etc.  I ask them what they've learned as readers and writers so far and what they'd like to learn.  I even ask them what they'd like to change about my class, what they don't like and what they love.  It's difficult to ask those questions because 5th and 6th graders can be brutally honest!  However, I keep an open mind and change things when I think it's reasonable.

This year I also added something that I believe I read in Katherine Sokolowski's blog.  I added "Tell me something you'd like me to know."  I only see my students for an hour a day, and I see 105 every day.  I know there are kids I don't get to talk to much.  I wanted to give them a chance to explain something or get out a thought or feeling.  Not every student filled it in, but those who did reminded me of something.  That anxiety-producing TEST is not the reason I show up every day at school.  I know I'm responsible for making sure I teach them what is required, and I spend many hours making sure I do just that.  However, after reading some of the answers to that prompt, I realize (yet again) that we are teaching PEOPLE who need to be heard.  They need to tell us they made travel teams, forget homework because they're living in two houses, lost a pet to old age over winter break and have a broken heart,  and just that they love reading or want to write a book.  

So today, I remind myself I am on a JOURNEY with these kids.  Not a destination that ends when they take that TEST.  I'm there for them.  I'm there to hear their stories, hopes, disappointments, heartaches, and joys.  My goal this semester is to hold one-on-one conferences with every child every two weeks.  That's still not enough, but it's better than what I've been doing.  Maybe then I can make sure I'm not only helping them with reading and writing, but I can help them deal with this thing called life.  We all need a little help with that!

20 comments:

  1. Holly -- you are so right! We find ourselves saying again and again -- kids are not widgets they are people. We need to give teachers permission to teach, think and respond. The journey is determined by the people on the journey - kids and teachers. Standards help us know our destination - but we create the journey by listening, responding and teaching. Thank you for sharing and giving me the opportunity to think and reflect.
    Clare

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    1. I love how you put that - "Standards help us know our destination - but we create the journey by listening, responding, and teaching."

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  2. Great thoughts, Holly, especially the important reminder that the test is not the destination. I wish you much luck in achieving your goal. You and your students will learn and gain so much!

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  3. People and journey in bold overpower the test. I like how just one little question prompted answers that helped you to shift your focus back from the test to what matters the most.

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    1. Our students have so much to say if we let them!

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  4. Love the "Tell me something you'd like me to know." I use that often with kids. I get great answers--sometimes serious, other times not-so-serious, but I always learn something new!

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    1. There are always the jokesters! ;-) We need to hear them, too, though. Ha.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this good thinking, Holly, especially the reminder that the test is not the destination. Good luck with your goal!

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    1. Thank you! It's going to take some commitment, but I'm already loving it.

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  6. This thing called life, which get in the way of our kids' learning quite often. Bravo to you for setting such a worthy goal.

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  7. Thanks Holly! We were just talking at lunch today how we needed a little pep talk. The anxiety of returning after break and having SO much still to do. It is overwhelming! I am passing this along to them. It is just what we needed today.

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    1. I'm so glad this post could redirect you. It IS overwhelming sometimes!!

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  8. You are so right. We are "on a journey with our students."

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  9. Great post! I am two terms away from getting my bachelors in elementary education, and it is so nice to hear these posts. Testing is something that is stressed on both the students and teachers. It's great that you are making time to talk one-on-one with each of your students.

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    1. Good luck with your degree! Welcome to the world of education! :-)

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  10. Holly, I can identify with that overwhelming feeling. But it's a joy to connect with a student and to enjoy this journey we share with them. I wish I could be one of your 105!

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    1. It IS a joy to connect. Thanks, Ramona! :-)

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