Monthly Archives: March 2019

Sky View: SOLC 2019 Day 23

I couldn’t take my eyes off the sky.  Our usual monochromatic blue or gray skies were replaced by deep blue textured with white.  My first view this morning was as we headed off to run errands.  We have this quirky spiky tree near the driveway that I am obsessed with photographing.  It always makes an interesting backdrop to photos of the sky.  This morning I noticed the tree was beginning to get leaves (again–this tree gets terribly confused with year-round spurts of spring and summer weather) as I looked up into sun infused clouds, with the neighbor’s palm tree in the background.

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Later, after the errands and some shopping at the outlet mall, my husband offered to stop along the coast in San Clemente so I could get out and take some photos.  My eyes were drawn to the contrails playing with the clouds against the brilliant blue of the springtime sky.

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The coastline is always beautiful, and today was no different.  It was high tide when we stopped and I picked my way down close enough for photos–but trying to avoid another oops like I experienced yesterday!  The sky appeared to have stripes…and you can’t really see it in this photo, but the sea had dozens of sailboats in the distance.  I like the way the white of crashing waves echo the white of the contrails and clouds in the sky.

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Even the traffic couldn’t ruin the day.  Accidents and heavy weekend traffic made a 30 mile trip take more than 90 minutes, something that is unfortunately all too typical. (I suppose it is a price we pay for living near the coast.)  Our too-often-brown hillsides were wearing their springtime best and bursting with lush and vibrant green and so many yellow flowers…you can almost feel the softness with your eyes!

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Although I missed the photo opportunity as we left Costco and headed back home, my eyes took in yet another playful interweaving of contrails and clouds.  I looked up and noticed an enormous hashtag in the sky.  #skyview

Oops! SOLC 2019 Day 22

Ah!  The briny air filled my lungs as the gentle spring sunshine warmed my back.  There is nothing better than a walk on the beach at the end of the work day.

I wondered at the beach goers in bathing suits more than waist deep in the still cold Pacific ocean.  (Even in summer, 72 degrees is warm water–refreshing when temps are in the 80s.  Today’s water temperature of 60 degrees is hardly balmy.)  Low 60s do not constitute bathing suit weather in my opinion.  I was thinking about how San Diego is really not a spring break destination.  We’re often mistaken for a tropical location, with warm weather year round.  In reality, we are a temperate climate.  It’s seldom too hot here, and we don’t even know snow unless you drive high into the local mountains.  But March is predictably sweatshirt weather–and I almost always wear shoes on the beach at this time of year because of all the rocks.

I digress.  I walked quickly, trying to have this clear-my-head walk count as some kind of exercise in a week that left too little time to move my body.  I found myself on the uncomfortable slope of rocks thrown high by the surf as I climbed to avoid the waterline, slipping and sliding on the uneven piles.

I’m never bored along the coast, there is always something to see.  Today I watched surfers, dressed in their black wetsuits, as they headed out into the glistening sea.  There is seldom a day without surfers around here, even when the weather and waves are less than ideal.

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Looking up I noticed a modern day pterodactyl, our native pelican, gliding on the currents.

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At my turn around point, I got bold, walking further out away from the rocks.  Walking on the sand just felt so much better than slip sliding on the rocks.  I knew I was taking a calculated risk–walking in my jeans and relatively new tennies so close to the water.  I know all about rogue waves and watched as I was walking.  About halfway back to my car, I could see it coming.  Just as I reached the point of no return, I saw the wave rushing toward me.  I spied a rock jutting up higher than the sand and jumped on it.  Seconds later I felt the cool salty water rush over my feet, my ankles, wicking up my pant legs.  With nowhere to go, I stood, waiting for the water to recede.

My walk the rest of the way was of the squelchy variety as my wet socks and wet shoes squished with each step.  I was less careful at that point.  I was already wet, so I took the easier, if wetter, pathways on my way back to the car.  I had to laugh at myself, maybe I should have just taken my shoes off and walked barefoot for the entire walk.  If I were more like those bathing suit wearing beach goers, I wouldn’t be squelching my way back to my car!

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But neither wet pant legs or squishy shoes could take away my pleasure and delight in my beach walk.  There is something healing and rejuvenating about a walk on the beach!

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Now back home, my shoes have been rinsed, the insoles removed and are sitting on the spare bathroom counter drying.  I wonder how long til they’re dry enough to wear on my next beach walk?

 

 

What’s Your Angle? SOLC 2019 Day 21

When was the last time you used a protractor?  Drawn a circle?  Measured an angle? We spent time earlier this week doing all of those things in my classroom.  There’s nothing like a new tool to pique students interest…and the protractor did just that.  Students were fascinated that protractors also have rulers on them, they couldn’t wait to experiment with them!

We used those protractors to draw a half circle on the fold and then open the full 360 degrees of circle.  Each student then had to measure an angle–one randomly assigned–and cut that angle out of the circle.  The cut out angle became the mouth of an “angle fish,” the piece removed became the caudal fin.  Some designing soon resulted in a whole school of individual angle fish!

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Why bother with angles and protractors?  Simply for a cute crafts project?  You probably know me better than that.  My students are just beginning to pay attention to angles, to recognize those perfect square corners that measure 90 degree.  To understand that triangles exist that are not perfectly equilateral, with equal angles as well.  They are starting to understand that attributes can categorize without diminishing the diversity of possibilities within those categories.

I hope geometry lessons can teach ideas that transfer far beyond polygons, sides, and angles.  I want my students to recognize that each of us brings our experiences, genetics, family backgrounds, and opinions to who we are.  That they will learn to see diversity and difference as opportunities to enrich their own experiences, to add value to our world, to push beyond their own status quo.  That they will step outside the comfort zone of sameness, and consider the view from another perspective.

I’m pretty sure my students understand the categories of acute, right, and obtuse angles…the rest will continue to be a work in progress.  After all, I’m still working out my angles too.

 

Balancing: SOLC 2019 Day 19

Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one struggling to balance the demands of work with the pleasures of leisure.  More often than not, work wins, creeping into my mind, occupying my thoughts, even when I am sleeping.  And I’m lucky, I love my work.  It gives me purpose and satisfaction…and a fair share of frustration.

It’s report card time, the time when I most feel the tug threatening my balance.  My shoulders start to knot, carrying the unspoken conflicts of the mechanism of reporting student progress.  Somehow my students are also feeling the tip too, rocking like those weeble dolls of days gone by, out of sorts and out of focus–just when I need them to be so much more.

Walking on the beach on the weekend, I noticed some other people seeking balance.  I watched an engineer/artist drag quite a few rocks over to a large algae covered boulder facing the low tide seas–the perfect canvas for this temporary art.  With careful precision each rock was placed, with an eye to both balance and beauty.

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Nearby another person sought to achieve balance of the body.  Crouching low and tipping forward, lifting first a toe, testing the raising of each foot until both feet were raised and balance was achieved–if only for a few seconds.

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Instead of planning assessments for tomorrow, my students will be making wire fish sculptures.  Using floral wire and buttons, they will bend and crimp, thread and fold until beauty emerges from one long wire.  Ultimately, they will create a mobile, seeking to balance their wire fish on a piece of driftwood with the help of fishing line.  I’m pretty sure their efforts to create balance and beauty will create an oasis of balance and beauty for me too.  I’ll tackle the report cards later.

With My Head in the Clouds: SOLC 2019 Day 18

Some days I find myself with my head in the clouds, my mind floating on thoughts of projects to be done, problems to solve, reflections on what happened before.  Like a helium balloon, I float on the air currents, directed by my inner monologue.  When my head is in the clouds I risk missing what is right in front of me.

Like most Mondays, today was a day for laying groundwork for the rest of the week.  The hours pass like minutes, the minutes like seconds and time rushes through my fingers like a waterfall…not stopping to pool at my feet as it disappears, just out of reach.  I get into the hurry up mode, chasing time ideals set in my plan book.  I get impatient with my students, wanting more from them as I feel the pinch of time.  Trying to find the perfect ratio of time to learning.

When the bell rang ending our afternoon recess, I headed out the classroom door to pick up my students from the playground.  My head was already running through all we would accomplish while still leaving time to clean up, pack up, and gather before dispersing at the dismissal bell.  Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a lizard, sitting on the sidewalk, soaking up the energy and warmth of this amazing almost-spring day.  I almost rushed by–feeling the tug of time.  But instead, I stopped.  I watched and noticed.  I crept closer, wondering if I would capture an image of this grounded creature.  I snapped from afar, then crept closer.  The lizard seemed to keep an eye on me, unwilling to relinquish the warmth coming up from the sidewalk and down from the sun.

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That lizard reminded me to take a breath and appreciate the moment.  And also to remember to appreciate all those moments that students need…to tell the seemingly unrelated story in the middle of my lesson, to ask question after question–and then the same question again, to need directions…again…and my patience and encouragement, even when I feel like my own well has been emptied.  I need to spread my toes and grip the ground, feel the earth beneath me grounding me, giving energy and reminding me to use those roots to connect and grow and to support my students as they connect and grow too.

I guess I have another ratio to work out…the ratio of head in the clouds to feet on the ground!

 

 

Silent Sunday: March 17, 2019 and SOLC 2019 Day 17

For a number of years now I have participated in something called Silent Sunday.  On Silent Sunday (every Sunday for me), I post a photo that I’ve taken in the past week that tells a story through the image.  I include no words, hoping that others take a close look at the photo, letting a story emerge in their own minds.

Sometimes the image provokes a conversation on my blog or social media.  Other times I’m not sure how the photo is received.  I can imagine using Silent Sunday photos as writing prompts for my students (although I haven’t up to this point).

So for this Slice of Life entry, I submit my Silent Sunday photo.  Although I’ve included all these words to explain the process, I will not provide words to accompany the image…I will leave that up to you to interpret!  (I’m happy to engage further through blog comments or social media if the image provokes that response.)

Here’s my Silent Sunday and Slice of Life Challenge entry for today:

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When is it Worth it? SOLC 2019 Day 16

When is it worth it to fly halfway across the state for a Saturday meeting?  Up at 3:45am, driving before the sun has even begun to think about peeking over the horizon, at the airport waiting for a flight before my regular wake up time.

Arriving well before the meeting time–because airlines work on their schedules, not yours.  Searching for coffee on a sleepy college campus, a futile exercise on a Saturday morning.

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(Luckily a Philz was right off campus…a pour over experience to fuel the day to come.)

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When is it worth it to meet face-to-face?  Our hunch was right.  We needed to be human, to be real, to not only see and hear one another, but to feel each other too. We were in need of an opportunity for a shared experience AND spaces for those small, informal conversations that build relationships and enhance the more public and formal interactions.

A network is a network when we are connected.  Today’s long day that spanned hundreds of miles of travel for our group was definitely worth it.

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I’m filled with information, inspiration, and hope…for the network, for the work, for the future.  And I feel the warmth and comfort of relationships reinforced, bonds renewed, and the tingle that will lead to growth and new ideas.

And the cherry on the top?  I was able to change to the earlier flight home!

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Team Bird: SOLC 2019 Day 15

Today’s walk had me watching pelicans.  And as I observed their precision maneuvers, I started to think about how birds compare to sports and their athletes.  Pelicans are like synchronized swimmers, matching their moves and depending on the precise movements of each to create the desired formations as a group.  I sometimes see one peel off, slowing down or heading off in a different direction, but most of the time they are working the V, adjusting position and speed to ensure that the entire group gets where it is going with speed and efficiency.

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Seagulls are more like that pick up game of basketball or soccer.  They have shared interests, but there is always plenty of squabbling and trash talk.  There are definitely leaders and followers and lots of jockeying for position (and food).  Seagulls seem to laugh a lot (at least in my mind), they love to play in the wind currents and hang out together on the beach.

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Osprey are those elite individual athletes–the Mikaela Shiffrins or Serena Williams of the bird world.  They are strong and independent and ferociously focused on their goals.  Osprey are beauty in motion, each muscle toned, each movement made with grace that makes the nearly impossible seem easy.

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Egrets are steady, patient and observant.  They wait for the perfect opportunity, a lot like the utility players in football or basketball.  They have that grace of movement, but they don’t draw your attention until you look away from the shining stars of the game.  But when you do look…oh la la, they are poetry in motion!

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Sandpipers are team players all the way.  They move together, eat together, and watch out for each other.  Like a finely honed World Cup soccer team, they seem to read each others’ minds, moving separately almost like one.

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I’m always encouraging my students to be a team, reminding them that we need to support each other and create a space where we all can learn.  But after watching the birds, I’m wondering if I need to refine my language.  What kind of team do I want them to be?

What Does it Take to Thrive? SOLC 2019 Day 14

I walk below these cliffs all the time, noticing the canyons and wrinkles wind and water carve along their faces.  I see evidence of human interference, the places where lawns and ice plant hasten the natural erosion of sandstone along the beach.  I’m mindful of walking too close to the cliffs, remembering days when huge chunks let loose and fall to the shore.  I wonder about the multimillion dollar homes perched on the edge–the ones with the incredible views of the Pacific Ocean–that are in danger of dropping into the sea during the next big storm.  Are those homeowners insured for cliff erosion?

Today’s blue was intense, blues that need words like cerulean, azure, and cyan to begin to describe the richness of the color.  And the blue was punctuated with thousands of small orange butterflies…on a mission headed north.  It was almost as they were emerging from the sea, flying straight for the cliffs, then up, up , up.

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Oddly, though, my eyes were drawn to a small bunch of yellow flowers high on the wind-blown cliff, a tiny patch of blossoms flourishing in hardscrabble sandstone.  I’m reminded that some of us make the best of where we are planted and take advantage of whatever resources are available…not dependent on soil amendments, special fertilizers, and protection from wind and other elements.  What does it take to thrive in sandy soil and harsh conditions?  Sometimes the blue skies, mild temperatures, and more plentiful than average rainfall is enough.

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Reflection as Archeology: SOLC 2019 Day 13

Sometimes I feel like an archeologist as I sift through artifacts, looking for the story that history has missed.  Okay, so that history is pretty recent…and I better admit that it’s almost report card time in my classroom.

I’m trying to get my students to think about their own learning.  I want them to know themselves as learners, recognizing what it feels like when they “get it,” and also when things are not making sense at all.  Over the years I have tried lots of different ways to have students reflect…in fact, I wrote my master’s thesis about reflection in my multiage (first, second, and third grade) classroom.  For the last couple of years, I’ve been playing around with the idea of “artifacts” as the provocation for reflection on learning.

I know what artifacts do for me.  They jog my memory and get me thinking.  (If you are an actual archeologist, please excuse my broad and inaccurate use of the word artifact.)  My camera is my tool of choice for documenting my experiences and seeing the world. Through my lens I find myself searching for meaning as I look closely.  A couple of days ago on a rainy beach walk, I noticed these shells up near the cliff.  I know they didn’t get their on their own, so I started wondering about the story behind them.  Who picked them up, why did they leave them behind? I recognized the familiar bits of shells native to this beach, and found myself reflecting on how much I have learned about these creatures from my frequent walks.  After taking a photo or noticing something new or unusual through my lens, I often find myself researching, adding to what I know, thinking about what I want to know, and then looking more closely.

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I want my students to experience some of that with their learning in the classroom. Sometimes I give students a broad topic–find an artifact of a success or struggle with math and then send them to sort through projects and papers, books we’ve read and tools we’ve used.  Photograph the artifact and load it into a slide show, then reflect on that success or struggle.

Today I decided was the perfect day to have all my students reflect on what they have learned about geometry.  I thought Flipgrid would be the perfect tool–they could videotape their reflection while showing the artifact(s) of their learning.  Flipgrid lets you download your video to your device…and limits your video to 90 seconds!  (Plenty of time for this purpose!)  I gave directions and showed kids the ins and outs of the app on their iPads and set them off on their reflection.  Energy was high, students were interested (novelty through a new app helps with that) and they eagerly gathered their materials, ready to get started.

But wait…I heard the murmuring, “We don’t have Flipgrid on our iPads.”  What?  How can that be?  Ugh…now what is plan B?  How do I take advantage of the momentum and not waste this precious time?  I grabbed a student iPad and saw Clips on there.  I did a quick scan of how it worked, decided it was close enough and quickly got them going again.  I also emailed our tech support, could they get Flipgrid loaded?  As students were videotaping themselves and reflecting, they also reported that Flipgrid was loading on their iPads.

After much thought, I decided that I would have students go back to their artifacts and recreate their reflections in Flipgrid.  Their Clips experience would serve as a practice round, maybe even improving their reflection.  I had less than 30 minutes for students to get this accomplished and we wouldn’t get to the second part–actually getting the reflection video into the slide with some written goal setting attached to it.  But all my students did get the video reflection completed.

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I’ve listened to most of them, and they do convince me that the artifacts help with reflection.  I like that many of my students included artifacts of their learning that I didn’t suggest and all at least summarized the basics.  I like that the individual videotaping lets me hear my quieter students and those who are reticent to risk speaking up in front of more confident peers.

My goal is to have students create a reflective slide each week…in under 30 minutes. I’m already way over time for this week…but I’m hopeful that it will get more efficient as we become more familiar with the tools and process.  But I also want to remember to keep it fresh, offer lots of choices, and allow for creativity.  Can my students become archaeologists and uncover the artifacts that will help them understand how and when they are learning?  Will their reflections help me and others hear their stories, appreciate their individual learning paths, and be better able to support their learning?