Tag Archives: reflection

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!

 

 

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?

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?

 

One Little Word 2019

Like so many others, I gave up New Year’s resolutions years ago.  I know myself well enough to know that good intentions will likely not change my behavior over the long haul.  Of course I want to eat better, exercise more, and be a kinder, more thoughtful person.  But resolutions have never gotten me there.

I few years back I became intrigued with the idea of a word guiding my year.  Choosing that word can be challenging.  I ponder a variety of ideas, trying hard not to pick a word just because others are choosing it.  I often read an array of blog posts, paying close attention to the rationale guiding the word choice, at the same time thinking about my personal goals and intentions for the new calendar year.

Here are my past words:

2014: Play

2015: Explore

2016: Expand

2017: Possibility

2018: Stretch

I notice that I seldom select my word as the year turns.  I seem to need time to mull it over–to come off the whirl of the holidays before deciding on my direction for the new year.  And this year is no different.  I’ve tried on some different words, considered revisiting some from previous years, but it wasn’t until today that I felt the pull of a word for this year.

I know myself well enough to know that I need a word that not only guides but also inspires, one that pushes me beyond what I would do without a muse word.  When I look over the past 5 years of word selections, it was my first word: play, that moved my life forward.  Play reminded me to step beyond my work responsibilities and take time out to enjoy life.  It reminded me to dig in the sand, to laugh with my family, to try things I’d never done before.

So for 2019 I’m asking make to guide me.  As I walked along the beach today, make kept finding a place in my mind.  Make time for exploration and play.  Make minutes count, appreciate all that comes my way.  Be creative, make writing, make art, make a difference. Make healthy choices and make the most of possibilities that present themselves.

I’ll be making an effort to be present and enjoy all that comes my way.

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What One Little Word will guide you this year?

Time Travel

I’ve really been feeling the pinch of time in my classroom this school year.  My new schedule has me on campus only three days a week, handing my classroom over to a partner teacher for the other two school days.  I feel super productive when I am away from school, with long stretches of time to focus on specific work, flexible hours to schedule meetings and phone calls, and the ability to arrange most of my work travel on days I am not on campus.

But…I feel like time is taunting me when I am with my students.  Each lesson and project seems to take longer than anticipated, forcing me to leave work hanging across weeks instead of days. I’ve found myself prioritizing and rethinking everything I ask students to do.

My past practice has been to use Fridays as a day of reflection and work completion, giving students long stretches of time to read and write and think.  Without new instruction, they could dig deep, revise, rethink, and get projects done.  Today, Monday became that kind of day (I no longer have Fridays with my students).  I did have to spend some time reviewing expectations, reminding students of the work we started, but then they dug in…and that beautiful thing happened.  Work began to hum, students were engaged, working at their own paces, allowing me to help individuals as needed.  Time both stopped and flowed–no one needed to use the bathroom, roll around on the floor or annoy a classmate.  I wasn’t feeling the need to rush students with my eyes glued to the clock, dolling out minutes like rationed resources (I’m thinking about the water restrictions we experience in Southern California).

The reality was that still everything didn’t get done.  I’m already reevaluating and reprioritizing my plans for tomorrow, pushing off launching that new math concept to make space for a bit more finishing time, figuring out ways to make space to confer with students over a piece of writing they’ve been working on and provide feedback on another project.  And I’m excited about some new reading and writing I have planned for tomorrow…something I’m already anticipating taking more of that precious time than I initially allotted.

Somehow I will figure out how to travel through time this year, carefully balancing new content with time to dig deep, think carefully and produce meaningful, high quality work products.  I know I’ll still find myself with unfinished student work, lessons that run short and those that run long, requiring that continual rethinking of lesson plans.

I’m hoping that this will be the year that I learn to make time jumps, those science fiction leaps of faith:  pushing time forward to see which lessons produce the best results and scrapping those that end up as a waste of time.  But…just in case that doesn’t happen, I’ll keep paying close attention to my students, adjusting to their needs and reworking my plans to make sure school is more about learning than about time.

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#whyiwrite: October 20, 2018

I should probably title this post, All the Reasons I Don’t Write, instead of using the National Day on Writing hashtag #whyiwrite.  But instead of enumerating a list of excuses, I will use this occasion as an opportunity to write.

I’ve established a regular walking practice.  I’ve learned to carry my walking shoes (and my flip flops) with me in my car, leaving me ready for unexpected opportunities–and no excuses for not walking because I don’t have the right shoes.  My camera is also a motivator for my walking–I love to take those daily photos and walking gets me to interesting locations where I find the fodder for my photography habit.

My writing practice fares better when I have an external expectation keeping me on track.  I wrote and posted daily during the month of April when my students and I took on a 30-day poetry challenge.  And I posted weekly photography challenges for years when the iAnthology was my audience.  So now, I know I need to create some reasons for establishing a regular writing practice–one that takes me beyond the more work-related writing that always happens–you know, the lesson plans, the emails, the proposals and reports.

So I will begin today with some thoughts about birds.  If you’ve visited here before, you have probably noticed my obsessions with egrets, including the post I wrote about the egret being my spirit animal.  But yesterday and today, it was a different kind of bird that was called to my attention.

Birds of prey are difficult to photograph–and even to get a close look at without a camera.  They tend to soar high above our heads, their sharp eyes on the lookout for prey.  Yesterday I spied a hawk perched on a sign along the beach-side cliff.  It sat, overseeing the beach and was not at all bothered by me approaching from below to photograph.  Somehow it seemed appropriate that the sign it was perched on said, “Pack Your Trash!”  While I’m not entirely sure, I’m thinking it’s either a red tailed hawk or a red shouldered hawk.  I thought at first it might have been an osprey–I’ve seen them before in this area, but this was clearly a hawk of some sort.

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And today, not far from this same spot along the cliffside, I noticed a man looking intently high up on the cliff.  When I looked up, he drew my attention to the large bird of prey sitting on some bare branches above us.  I knew immediately that it was an osprey (I had done a bit of research when I got home yesterday).  He pointed out the fish beneath the bird, which he had been watching for a bit.  I stood under the branch, trying to capture a photo of this beautiful bird.  Other people came by, commenting on the beauty of this elegant sea eagle.

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I found myself thinking about this coincidence of spotting two birds of prey on my walks on two consecutive days.  When I watch egrets, I think of their patience, their calm and regal manner as they stand knee-deep in the ocean water.  They seem solitary–in great contrast to the seagulls and smaller shore birds that ofter hang out in groups, running with the tide.  When I think of birds of prey, I think of fierceness and independence.  They seem to take control of their environment, taking the long view of the resources below.  They are brutal and efficient, moving sharply as they take their prey, gripping firmly with sharp talons and sharper beaks.

Do I have something to learn from birds of prey right now?  Is this a call to be more decisive, to be more fierce and determined?  I know these beautiful birds have me thinking…and writing.

I know that I write to think, to better understand myself and the world around me.  I write to reflect and to express, to slow down and pay attention.  On this National Day on Writing I renew my commitment to daily writing…and to more frequent posting here.  How will you celebrate the National Day on Writing?  Why do you write?

Reflections on Writing Poetry

After 30 days of writing a poem a day, I asked my students to take some time to reflect on what they learned from participating in the challenge.  So, in the spirit of full participation, I am also taking the time to reflect on all I learned from this poetry challenge.

My thoughts seem to have coalesced into four categories: learning from poetry, learning from writing, learning from students, and learning from blogging.

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Learning from Poetry:

Poetry offers opportunities to express feelings, to practice crafting vivid descriptions, to bring others into your view of the world.  Like the sunset, poetry makes everything more beautiful. Each word contributes to the painting the reader experiences, blending and building,  As I read poems written by others–published or not–I found inspiration for my own poetry.  Poems became mentors for my poems, they opened my eyes to my own experiences, allowing me to see my own life in new ways.

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Learning from Writing:

The only way to be a writer is to write.  I have learned the lesson again that when I write daily, writing comes.  My brain and my hands seem to respond to the daily habit of putting words on a page.  Knowing I will write each day helps me pay attention, helps me think about connections between thoughts, actions, and ideas, and helps me articulate my thinking.  When I write daily I get into that mode we in the writing project often call writer’s brain.  It is a space where experiences become fodder for written expression.  When I expect to write, I write more and better and explore life’s possibilities through language.  Writing helps me branch out, trying on new ideas in different ways.

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Learning from Students:

I have watched my students blossom as writers.  Stilted, ordinary poems have become unexpected expressions of whimsy, of fear, of love, of exploration.  My students have become a community of writers who are interested in the writing of others and who are eager to share their writing with others.  They are talking about their inspiration, about their struggles as writers, about their ideas for revision, and finding poems in their baseball games, in their dance rehearsals, in the night sky, and in the books we read.  I have loved watching their poetry grow in sophistication and I have noticed that writing has become less daunting, although no less challenging as they strive to express themselves.

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Learning from Blogging:

Blogging my 30 days of poetry has been a public affirmation of poetry as a valuable learning activity.  I not only made my own poetry public, but I also showcased the poetry of my students. Giving my students an authentic audience was motivating.  They were eager to share their poetry and have it appear on my blog.  Many checked my blog to see whose poem they would find. Blogging each day also made real my commitment to being a teacher-writer.  I not only teach writing, I write.  Being vulnerable as a writer helps me remember that this writing thing is not easy…and is filled with pitfalls.  I remember each day when I work with students that writing needs nurturing…and writers do too!

Thanks to all of you who read and liked and commented during our 30-day poetry challenge.  I look forward to reading my students’ reflections and hearing their perspectives on this learning. I’ll be sure to share their insights with you too!