Tag Archives: Slice of Life

Life in Motion

Sometimes life seems to be taking place in fast forward–moving at speeds that make it impossible to  catch up (or keep up, for that matter).  Weekends offer opportunities to reconnect with loved ones, squeezed between chores like laundry and grocery shopping…and when I’m really lucky, time for an adventure or two.

I love the way my camera makes time stand still for an instant, but today I was trying to capture moments of motion.  We headed north to the San Onofre State Beach, also home of the now defunct nuclear power plant.  I’m always surprised by the multitudes of treasures I’ve yet to discover not far from my home…how have I missed this place I have passed by on the freeway so many times?

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The day was gray and threatening.  The weather forecasters had dismissed the rain for the weekend, but the clouds hung dark and heavy in the distance.  We saw a couple of cars with surfboards on top heading away as we pulled in, and my husband joked that the surfers were done for the day.  Until we turned the corner and saw the sea dotted with wet suited surfers afloat on their boards.

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And a few were in motion.

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I love watching sea birds, and I wasn’t disappointed today.  I saw egrets and cormorants as well as the usual seagulls and pelicans.

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I also caught this sandpiper frolicking in the surf.

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Further north, we strolled out on the San Clemente pier with the wind whipping my hair and making me wish for the heavier jacket in the back seat of my car.  The colorful flags danced in the breeze, in constant motion.

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Surprisingly, there were no seabirds on the pier.  But there were lots of pigeons.  I noticed these bobbing their heads to drink from this sink.  (Notice the sign…hmmm, were they drinking salt water or were they sipping from tiny pools left from the increasing drizzle?)

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I love to go under a pier.  There is something about watching the waves through the mussel-laden pilings that I find mesmerizing.  The color of the water, the sound of the rocks, and the rush of the waves creates a musical performance of constant motion.

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As we headed to the car, the rain began in earnest.  And after all that motion, I am now sitting, near motionless, listening to the rain fall outside as I cuddle with the cats, chat with my husband, and try to stock up on some much needed rest to fuel the week ahead.

March Madness

It’s that time of the year…

No, I’m not talking college basketball, brackets, and the sweet sixteen.

It’s report card time, and I can feel the March madness starting to seep in.  That insidious doubt that narrows my vision and makes me doubt what I know to be true.

If I weren’t writing report cards right now and you asked me to describe student learning in my classroom in one word, I would say blossoming.

Our students are blossoming.  They are reading and writing eagerly.  There’s a sense of confidence and fluency among this group of 6, 7, 8, and 9 year olds that defies grade level benchmarks.  Last week when students learned about how reasoning could make their evidence more compelling in a piece they were writing about this special place where they live, they were undaunted and dug in to add reasoning to their evidence, carefully explaining just why the beach makes this place special and why having a family owned donut shop matters to them.  A line like this one makes my heart sing… A second grader describing an iconic statue in our community that makes the community a special place to live wrote:  We also have a Cardiff Kook that loves to get dressed up.  I think everyday is Halloween for him.  And I want to shout from the rooftops when I read an ending like this one a third grader used to close the essay: So where were we again in the beginning? Oh yes, the beach.  Now the sunset kisses the dusk with oranges, yellows, reds, pinks, purples, and blues too beautiful to explain, and as you see the last foamy white whale spout on the horizon, there’s no doubt Encinitas is a very special place.  

Of course they weren’t written on demand in an decontextualized setting.  They are the result of rich discussion and leveraging of background knowledge, a writing community where revision is ongoing and expected, instruction that encouraged students to go back and add reasoning to their claims and evidence, and a space filled with mentor texts that highlight and celebrate beautiful language.  These complex sentences mean that the punctuation isn’t perfect…and the vocabulary students use push them to depend on phonics to express the words they don’t yet know how to spell, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But I know the first thing people see when they look at student writing is the mechanics…and that sometimes it can stop them from even noticing the beauty of the language and composition.

And then there’s math.  All year we have worked to develop a strong sense of number and the ability to solve real life (or as close as you can get in a classroom) mathematical problems.  So why did we hand our students traditional equations to solve?  March madness is my best excuse.  Luckily I took the time to look closely and notice that every one of our third graders competently solved a problem that featured Alexander Calder and his wire circus–and required both multiplication and division to solve.  And the majority of them solved three different versions of the problem that varied the level of difficulty!  (Thank goodness we decided to add that problem to our assessment to represent the kind of problem solving we have worked on all year!)

And most people don’t even ask about students’ programming skills, design abilities, persistence and resilience, empathy…or even their dispositions as budding scientists.  (You can read a bit about that here and here)

So, as I write report cards I’m trying to remind myself to breathe…and focus on the blossoming, pushing against the March madness.  Are all our students right where we want them to be?  No. Is there still room for growth?  Of course!  Can I improve my instruction to better support student learning?  Yes–and I’m working on that every day.

But, our students are blossoming.  And I want to make sure that the way I communicate progress helps their families and other educators see all that they can do, all the ways they have grown as learners…and help our students recognize that growth can be measured and documented in lots of ways.  And also know where they need to continue to work and grow…because learning continues for a lifetime.

I understand the importance of accountability and communication in our educational system.  I want to make sure that students are making progress and not slipping through the cracks.  But I also want to honor hard-earned growth and pay attention to the attitudes and processes that aren’t measured by standardized tests or traditionally reported on through report cards and assessments.

I’ll keep pushing against the March madness…and once the report cards are done, maybe I’ll watch a bit of basketball…

 

A Pink Fedora

It was a pink fedora kind of day.  What does that mean, you ask?

This is parent-student-teacher conference week.  I love the opportunity to talk to families and yet, it’s a tough week for teachers.  Three hours of back to back to back conferences takes its toll…and it takes those precious after school moments usually devoted to planning and preparation and pushes them aside to make room for the conferences.  And, in conversation after conversation I find myself reminding students to be playful in their learning–that learning doesn’t mean routine and boring and something you dread.  You have to find ways to make it fun and interesting.  And that, in turn, reminds me to be more playful in my teaching and other responsibilities.  I have to find ways to make my hard days fun and rewarding too.

It seems odd to remind children to play, but when it comes to school and learning they seem to think that the path to learning is narrow.  They are looking for the one right way, which sometimes transfers to battles at home about that thing called homework.

I want “homework” to be curiosity and experimentation.  I want students to go home and explore ideas that came up in the classroom.  I want them to play with numbers and play with language.  I want them to figure out new ways to express their ideas in words…and in pictures. And I want them to come back to school and spread that energy and excitement around.  And some of my students do.

This morning, one of my students arrived at school wearing a pink fedora.  It was the first thing I noticed when I walked out to pick up my students this morning.  I could see him from quite a distance…smiling broadly and walking with the air of assurance that comes from knowing with confidence that a pink fedora makes a statement!

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Somehow that pink fedora represents that playfulness I hope for in our learning community. Playful doesn’t have to mean silly or distracting…and that fedora was neither today.  For me that jaunty pink hat was a talisman of fun, of individuality, of style, with a bit of hopefulness and joy thrown in.  I’m not so sure that the hat will arrive at school again…and that’s okay.  One day of the bright pink fedora reminds me…and helps me remind my students…to find the fun and the playfulness in our work and our learning.

I hope you had a pink fedora kind of day too!

Wishing on the Moon

We are having an unusually warm winter here in southern California.  It was 75, sunny and dry on the coast today and the forecast is suggesting 81 for tomorrow!  My students have gone back to their shorts and tank tops…and many are not even wearing sweatshirts when they arrive at school in the morning.

Our school garden is growing like crazy and trees and other plants think that spring has already arrived.  Even though we see pictures of snow in other places, it’s hard to imagine that it is still winter.

It’s still getting dark early and the moon was making its presence known as the sun was setting around 5.  Even knowing that my moon pictures never turn out very good, I headed out across the street to try a photo or two of the moon near the palm tree in my neighbor’s yard. With a bit of editing, I was able to produce this interesting moon photo.

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And although warm weather is beautiful, I’m ready for some rain.  We’re well below our already pitiful yearly ten inch rainfall total…and no water now will mean a real threat of devastating wildfires in the summer and fall, the scariest of our weather conditions!

So while I looked up at the moon tonight, I was wishing for rain.  Is it true if you make a wish on the rising moon it will come true?  Or is it just wishful thinking?