Monday, February 18, 2013

I'm back....

Time to get back here!  I'm taking a Web 2.0 class and realize the importance of collaborative tools online! 

Friday, December 9, 2011


It's been way too long since I posted something here! Life, living and learning...

Nothing is more authentic than students pleading with you about what to do for the next hour "Please! Please! Please!" AND it's NOT something you planned, but it turns out it is a continuation of something you started the day before and had NO idea they would be that excited about it! At that point you just have to say, "Okay. Learn away. Guess I don't even need to be here!" (Always a great day for a teacher.)

What you are viewing here is one of this year's goals... How can I take a subject each child is personally interested in, infuse it with literacy learning (another post on how I use their choices with literacy menu work) AND teach them one new technology tool to use in order to share their learning? This week it was the Prezi....

Again, chills....enjoy.  (You must have to copy and paste?  I'm used to URLs just automatically becoming links.  Evidently not on Blogger---or it's one more thing to figure out/learn today!!!!  Please do watch...)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why? So what???? The ART of Inquiry

It's been awhile since I articulated my thinking here...But promised myself, colleagues and my students that I would be practicing my own writing just like they do, with a real audience!

I have immersed myself these past years in the genuine "art" of, LEARNING, and the power of true inquiry. Through a myriad of books, brain research and practical trials in my own classroom, I am inspired anew to focus on authentic learning. I know we all say we do that, but once we're back in the classroom so much stuff and junk clouds everything up and we feel that old "hoop jumping" checklist emerge and then it's June (sadly). I am determined I will not let that happen this year, so decided writing here would help me with accountability.

Nothing literary or research based tonight...just my own reflections on myself as a learner. I feel the single most important insight I can bring to my classroom is how my own inquiry wasn't encouraged as a young learner. I always felt "slower" than the rest, "dumber" than the rest. I was always asking the teacher, "Why?", and "So what?" (nicely!). Other students would look at me and roll their eyes as if to say, "Really? Let's just get out of here, don't you get it?" I remember how I internalized this painfully. I was a poor learner.

Having since studied the brain, authentic learning and true synthesis I have thankfully been able to amend my thinking. I WAS THE TRUE LEARNER! Who knew??? I wish my teachers had! I share my own experiences with my students often and never want to make the same mistakes with them. I want my classroom to be full of risk, questions, proving or disproving assumptions, analysis and research. I want more questions than answers so they embrace learning as a life long journey, and that there is always more to know. Most of all, I want them to feel safe in their quests, and that I am there to cheer them on and am more than excited to learn right along with them.

I can actually feel the relief and inner smiles in my students when they ask me a question and I reply, "I have NO idea. Let's find out." We all feel like we need to be experts, even my 4th graders, and the "experts" I admire recognized and acknowledged that they learned through NOT knowing, trying things, failing and repeating this process until they uncovered a nugget (or 2 or 3) of something new.

The National Inquirer has it right..."Inquiring minds want to know!", AND how it applies to life, knowledge, and the art of life and living.

Highly recommended resource... Comprehension Collaboration

Monday, August 9, 2010


My two favorite "captains" (both literally and figuratively) also happen to be the two men who have influenced and enriched my life most in more ways than I can begin to express adequately in this space...My father was and remains a captain of my very being and also of his beloved boat. My husband is the captain of my heart and life and also of his restored Luscombe.

Beyond sailboats and aiplanes, these two have shared their passions, ideas and beliefs with me and TAKEN ME ALONG FOR THE RIDES. They have taken the time to expose me to experiences and ideas I wouldn't have without them. I'm invited into their journeys and learn things about skills, technique, art, craft and life every time.

As I prepare for this school year with brand new students to know, teach and love I've been reflecting on how to be this kind of captain for them. Some captains you never know and they surely don't know you. They simply take charge, provide their expertise and get you where you're going without ever knowing how. Am I guilty of being this kind of teacher when I feel crunched for time and overwhelmed by curriculum demands? I sure don't want to be...

To culminate all of my summer reading and rereading as I prepare for the new year I am convicted anew to slow down, go deeper and make sure my students are invited into the journey of inquiry, discovery, enthusiasm and process so they come away with new ideas, questions, skills, techniques and insights into who they are as learners. As "captain" I want to share my passions, processes and obstacles in order to model for them that I am still learning right along with them.

We all know it comes down to time...the beast of all beasts. There have been many days when I really felt I couldn't afford to take an afternoon for sailing or, laundry you know the drill! I am always grateful when I do go, and the last time I looked the laundry hasn't filled up the house and the dishes are usually mostly done. Providing my students with the learning time and opportunities they deserve and need is always my goal and dream. Maybe this year I'll figure out even more ways to integrate all of the "musts" with rich learning trails. Maybe they'll get to their destination knowing just how they got there and remember the "sights" and lessons along the way.

How do you beat down the beast of time in your classrooms in order to provide your students with rich, meaningful learning opportunities? Millions of us are all ears...

Here's to my dad and my husband...thanks for being the kind of captains you are and teaching me right along WITH you.

Friday, July 30, 2010

So What????

Maybe, no...most definitely, it was my beloved college sociology professor, Dr. Fahs (pictured here), who lit the torch of my anthropological spirit. After each furlough assignment, he would bounce into the classroom full of new life and enthusiasm because he got to learn, again, from a group of people he didn't know at all before his research. I was privileged to accompany him to the Honduran Island of Roatan where a unique people, the Carib Indians ( a blend of escaped African slaves and native Central American Indians) existed in a 'world of their own'. We couldn't wait to learn about them and from them. He always said, "Get rid of all of your assumptions and preconceived notions. Spend every second learning them and loving them. Ask questions and see what makes them who they are and do what they do. Go out and LEARN their lives!" I loved every single moment I was with him, and he died way too young. What a life-long impact great teachers have on the very core of our being.

Maybe that's why I am always reading, what I call, "Umbrella Books" along with education specific books. Umbrella books are written by the inspiring anthropologists out there who are studying the "why?" of culture and peoples, and spending all of their energy shining light on what's really going on and what we should be prepared for, or know in order to be ready for our future. How can we become equipped to help others in an educated way? Especially the next generation, our students?

Daniel Pink's mantra is, "We need to prepare our kids for their future, not our past." That is something I think about each and every day. How am I doing that for my students? One way, I'm convinced, is to know from these thinkers what they believe is really going on out there and what the future will look like...who we will need to serve. So I read, and read....and read.

Malcomb Gladwell is WAY up there for me. So, imagine my surprise while rereading That Workshop Book by Samantha Bennett, when it described how one teacher used one of Gladwell's articles to guide a year-long humanitarian study on homelessness. I can't recommend his work highly enough, and use the ideas from his work all the time in my classroom to model important questions and inquiry with the highest of purposes...knowing who we really are and how we can make a difference in the world. Why I use him as a model of inquiry...he makes NO assumptions (or rather, he tests the assumptions out there and looks in every corner to see what we might have missed), he is incredibly observant and creates essential questions that lead to powerful discoveries. He finds multiple resources and experts in his quests, and Malcomb also has an incredible knack for making analogies and comparing his content to other situations/research he has conducted. He leaves the reader wanting to know more and deepens our understanding of who we are and what we're doing in this world. He's also a great writer and teaches with stories!

I have all of his books and almost every article he's ever written in the New Yorker. I have used the concepts/ideas in almost every chapter of Outliers to enhance my students' ability to ask questions and form hypotheses. They love the seemingly inane topics he's curious about (What's up with ketchup choices compared to mustard?? There's actually a fascinating story there!!!) and, consequently, they dare to be curious about everything under the sun. One example from Outliers is the "10,000 Hour Rule". They are intrigued to learn (based on extensive research) that while some kids have innate talent, people who don't use it, lose it, and MORE interestingly, people without innate talent can make up for it if they put in 10,000 hours of practicing on a skill they're motivated to learn. How meaningful to let our students know they can do ANYTHING they want to if they want it badly enough!

After making the Gladwell connection to That Workshop Book, I have poured anew over his work and am devising more ways to incorporate his brilliant work into my students' thinking. After all, "It takes a village," and I'm so grateful to have these minds in our midst.

I would love to know if any of you have found the profundity of his work for classroom learning? Who else should we know to help students be "prepared for their future and not our past?

To Dr. Fahs...How I wish we could talk about Gladwell together!!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Celebrating STORY

I spent yesterday afternoon with the best story teller I have ever mother. From my earliest memories she filled my world with stories. I believed Christopher Robin was my best friend as she transported me to the English countryside through the wondrous words of A.A. Milne.

The most powerful stories she shares, however, are ours. She has spent her life collecting the stories of our family and she can take us back many centuries. We played an important role in the turning point of the Revolutionary War. As Quakers we have family homes that served in the Underground Railroad! Yesterday she shared with me yet another story about my wonderful Grandma Comfort and her traumatic yet beautiful life. Through uncovering this story she contacted people she hadn't talked to in decades to fill in the gaps for us. She says she has a 'new best friend' because of her latest research. (A few years ago she even self-published one of my grandma's stories-losing her parents in the flu epidemic.)

I was struck by how much these stories mean to me. My life in the context of thousands of narratives all around me. Thanks to my mom, who shares them and writes them down with enthusiasm and passion, they help me know who I am in the larger sense. In Daniel Pink's A WHOLE NEW MIND "story" is one of the 6 abilities we need to pay more attention to if we are to move into what he calls the 'Conceptual Age'. I became newly inspired yesterday to help my 4th graders learn their own stories and become story tellers themselves. We connect best to others and the world through STORIES...