Shoulder to Shoulder Coaching

September is coming to a close and it’s time to look back at this month’s work and set some new goals for October.  I’ve been talking with students about setting goals for work they want to keep doing and new work they want to try.  I ask them, “What are you proud of?  What do you want to keep up?  What do you want to try out? What do you want to do more of? What needs some work?”  I want students to understand that learning is about constantly outgrowing yourself. It’s about building on strengths and addressing needs.  I also want to make sure they see that this is true for adults too.  It’s not just one of those “school things” that we ask kids to do. So I’m trying to be more transparent this year about my own goal setting.

What am I proud of?

-This is my third year in this school, and I’m proud of the fact that I’m building some good relationships with students, families, teachers and administrators.  This has helped me to get started more quickly this year and with work that is more meaningful. Teachers are willing to open up their classroom and let me try things out, and they are honest about their own work and their own strengths and needs.

-I’m proud that I have continued to write on a regular basis.  I have posted a “slice” on the Two Writing Teachers site every Tuesday (with the exception of one)! I have also joined an incredible group of teachers in the district. We are studying Ralph Fletcher’s Joy Write and reflecting on our practice. Being a writer and talking with other writers has most definitely improved my teaching of writing and my coaching work.

What do I want to do more of?

-I’m in classrooms working “shoulder to shoulder” with teachers on things like designing Interactive Read Alouds that really push student thinking, using writing to plan instruction, and building toolkits to help with conferring. I can only do this by partnering with teachers, rolling up our sleeves, and trying to figure stuff out.

As October arrives, I want to push myself to do more of this kind of work.  I know I will need to run professional development sessions, order materials, model lessons, and demonstrate components of Balanced Literacy, but I think the work that has the greatest impact on student learning will be the work that results from working together shoulder-to-shoulder.

 

 

 

Dear Diversity

I attended a powerful day of learning and thinking this week at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Social Justice Saturday.  Presenters discussed the state of our country (and world) and provided opportunities for conversations about issues of social justice and how we might think about these issues with each other and with our students.  During one session, I listened to Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney talk about their books and their response to how we might become a more just society.  Andrea shared a letter she had written to Diversity, and challenged us to write our own, so here we go:

Dear Diversity,

I want desperately to embrace you, believe in you and be guided by you.  I try every day to be open minded, to celebrate differences, and to work to find common ground whenever and wherever possible.  I like difference.  Difference and variety are what make our world beautiful and interesting.  I dream of the day when people of all faiths and genders and religions and political parties can come to a place where we can have conversations, try to understand different points of view and lifestyles, and help each other grow toward a new understanding of the world.  I don’t expect (or want) everyone to believe the same thing or live the same way or try to be like everyone else.  Diversity is beautiful and healthy and necessary.

But, Diversity, I have to admit, you are complicated.  I’m not always sure what terms to use when I’m talking about you.  Is it acceptable to use the word queer (when you are straight), or is gay a more appropriate term?  Is it OK to refer to an Asian person as Oriental, or does that term refer to a rug? Can I ask a person of a race different from my own how they feel about certain comments or situations, or is that already regarding that person as different?  Is it racist to refer to someone in a crowd as, “that Asian woman over there.” when I almost never refer to someone as “that white man on the other side of the room” Can I have hard conversations with people about race and gender and politics without it becoming charged? Am I doing enough to change the world for the better in terms of diversity? What else might I do? How might I do it?

Diversity, you are appealing.  I definitely love you.  I suppose though, like in any relationship, I still have a lot of work to do.  I hope we can continue to be together, to understand each other, and to work together to make the world a just place for everyone.

Love,

Your Admirer

Wishing on a Thirty Year Old

This week my daughter will turn thirty.

Breathe……

That fact alone is enough to boggle my mind, but there’s more. I decided to make my daughter a Wishing Tree for her birthday.  I was inspired by these really cool Wishing Trees I saw this summer in Copenhagen created by Yoko Ono. I bought a bamboo palm tree at Home Goods and ordered some cute tags with heart cutouts.  Thirty wishes for thirty years.  We had a family gathering, so I asked everyone to write a wish.  I emailed my daughter’s friends and other family members to ask them to add to the Wish Tree.  

And then I had to write my own.  One wish for my daughter.  Only one.  I’ve known and loved this girl (turned woman) for thirty years.  I have billions (maybe trillions) of wishes for her!  Which one would be the right one?

I spent days thinking, jotting in my notebook, writing on a napkin, trying out one wish and then another.  Then I remembered a day, many years ago, and I had my wish.

Years ago, when my daughter was maybe 8 or 9, we were in the Drive Up lane at Duchess (This is the daughter who has her Master’s Degree in Food Studies, and now runs a literary supper club in Brooklyn.  Hmmmm….I guess mothers don’t have as much influence as we think!) and we were listening to NPR’s All Things Considered.  There was a piece that included this quote from E.E. Cummings (or is it eecummings?):

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

From the backseat I heard my daughter say, “I think I’m doing pretty well with that.”

Thinking back on that memory made me realize that my daughter is still living up to that ideal.  She is fiercely independent. She continues to be her own person even when the world pushes her to conform.  She has done this through high school, college, and now out in the bigger world.   

What else would I wish for my thirty year old daughter?

My wish:  “Stay true to yourself.”

What Makes Me Happy?

Everyone seems to be studying happiness these days!  Sweden and Denmark are the happiest places to live, adult coloring books are all the rage, and people are working hard to stay in the moment and be more mindful. Now researchers have found that hiring people to do some of your work will make you happier. 

In a recent piece in the New York Times (which I read and now can’t seem to find anywhere – in print or electronically), psychologists share their findings that people will be happier if they spend money on hiring people to do some household tasks instead of spending money to buy things.  They argue that spending money on services like housekeeping and lawn care gives people time to relax, thereby making us happier.  Money spent on things, likes fancy shoes and handbags, doesn’t have the same happiness effect.  The researchers say that people often feel guilty hiring people to do the tasks that they are capable of doing, but that once they try it, they feel better.

Although I do hire someone to help me with the housecleaning during the school year (and that does make me very happy), I have a different take on the happiness factor of hiring people to do some of the things that you can do yourself.  My husband and I have spent the last few weekends painting our living room and foyer. Yes, we could have hired painters to do this for us, and we would have added significantly to our free time on this Labor Day weekend, but I would argue that we are happier for having done it.  There is something very satisfying about DIY projects.  Painting takes a lot of time and a lot of patience, but when we stand back and look at what we have accomplished on our own, there is this happy voice inside that says, “You did that! It took time and hard work and a little bit of skill, and you did it!”  In my book, there is a lot of happiness there.  

While some people find happiness in hiring people so that they can color and be more mindful, I think I will find a few projects that I could hire people to do and do them myself.  I just noticed that the garage needs to be painted!

 

What Makes Me Happy?

Everyone seems to be studying happiness these days!  Sweden and Denmark are the happiest places to live, adult coloring books are all the rage, and people are working hard to stay in the moment and be more mindful. Now researchers have found that hiring people to do some of your work will make you happier.

In a recent piece in the New York Times (which I read and now can’t seem to find anywhere – in print or electronically), psychologists share their findings that people will be happier if they spend money on hiring people to do some household tasks instead of spending money to buy things.  They argue that spending money on services like housekeeping and lawn care gives people time to relax, thereby making us happier.  Money spent on things, likes fancy shoes and handbags, doesn’t have the same happiness effect.  The researchers say that people often feel guilty hiring people to do the tasks that they are capable of doing, but that once they try it, they feel better.

Although I do hire someone to help me with the housecleaning during the school year (and that does make me very happy), I have a different take on the happiness factor of hiring people to do some of the things that you can do yourself.  My husband and I have spent the last few weekends painting our living room and foyer. Yes, we could have hired painters to do this for us, and we would have added significantly to our free time on this Labor Day weekend, but I would argue that we are happier for having done it.  There is something very satisfying about DIY projects.  Painting takes a lot of time and a lot of patience, but when we stand back and look at what we have accomplished on our own, there is this happy voice inside that says, “You did that! It took time and hard work and a little bit of skill, and you did it!”  In my book, there is a lot of happiness there.  

While some people find happiness in hiring people so that they can color and be more mindful, I think I will find a few projects that I could hire people to do and do them myself.  I just noticed that the garage needs to be painted!