Warming Up on a Cold Day with Awesome Teachers

Friday, January 9, 2015

     I don't know if you have heard about this, but it was really cold this week.  I mean REALLY cold.  In fact, the only snowman we have built at the O'Donnell house with the highly anticipated first snow of the season was this LEGO snowman.  We even built it during school, because it was so cold that we had 2 cold days.  I mean, that is REALLY cold.  

     OK, that probably isn't news to you guys from Chicago.

     When I heard the news that school was in session on Friday after being off the 2 previous days, I was a bit reluctant about it.  To be honest, I was nervous about the cold weather and sending my son to school, where he waits outside in the car line to be picked up at the end of the day (a car line that I had a feeling would be waaaaaaaaaay longer than normal due to the temps...).  I also knew that my husband would be home, because his school opted to take the third day off due to frigid temps.  But, I woke up and bundled up and drove into school, with just a little bit of the winter blues.

    Then I got to school, and the thaw began!

     I started the day in a book talk about standards based grading.  It was our first meeting to discuss On Your Mark, a book written by Thomas Guskey about the reasons to shift towards standards based grading, led by our principal +Karen Marino.  We had an honest conversation about the purposes for grading, and the reasons that it is an important shift for us.  We began talking about our current report card and its limitations.  We had an interesting discussion about I Can statements and how we use them in our classrooms, effectively and not so effectively.  It was just the beginning of the conversation, but did I mention that it is an optional book talk (the day after 2 cold days) and there were 20+ staff in attendance!!!  It really just shows the dedication that our teachers have to really understanding their students better.

     I then met with a teacher to help her get some video clips of her art project into an iMovie to show her thaumatropes to her students.  They were awesome!  Starting my day with art is always a step in the right direction.

     I then dropped off some children's books to a teacher who is looking to include some mentor text into her writing lessons.  They are starting opinion writing, so I got to look through my books and find some fun books that show strong opinion or persuade.  Nothing brings a smile to my face faster than children's literature, but a close second is a teacher looking for a good mentor text.  

     I stopped into a few classrooms and caught some great mini lessons in both reading and writing.  Our kids were off for a few days, but you could never tell by the learning I saw today!

     I had a thoughtful mini discussion about running records, and the purpose for them and the information we can get from them when they are "cold" or "warm" reads. 

     I then met with a teacher about some ways to get some partnership book clubs going, with the possibility of using some close reading signpost strategies in the process.  While we work that out, she turned the conversation to the PD +Meg Hanisch and I held on Monday at Institute Day about main idea and standard 2.  She decided to do a pre-assessment and asked me to meet with her after school to look at the results and begin to create a rubric of sorts for main idea.  "Of course!" I shouted!  (Ok, I didn't really shout out loud, but I did inside a little.  How fun!)
      I then went to talk to another teacher about one of her higher level reading groups, and some of the challenges we are having since moving to nonfiction.  We decided to use a book from Jennifer Serravallo's newly arrived assessment kit (YIPPEE!!!) with the group, to get a good sense of the information we can gain from the assessment kit.  We plan to have the group do the assessment, and use her system to discuss their answers and really look for their strengths and weaknesses.  

     On the way back to my office, I chatted with a reading specialist about the possibility of her providing some support to a teacher.  We talked about a possible observation cycle of sorts, and then discussed some data I have been analyzing that looks at some trends across 3 and 4 year periods of F&P data.  While that might not sound all that exciting to some people, I am a data junkie.   Proud to admit it.  

     I then went to meet with a teacher who wanted talk about assessments for their character unit, and the possibility of adding some close reading lenses to their current shared reading block.  We looked at a rubric she had already created, and then talked about the types of things we might like to assess for this unit, with a close eye on Standard 3.  We also have an idea for close reading that I will have to share once we actually teach it.  It is going to be so fun.  

     I then talked with a teacher who gave a PD on using formative assessments that I missed this week, and asked her to meet with me and give me a mini version of it because of the positive buzz that it has created around the building.  

     There were three brief conversations with teachers about their individual data walls, as we prepare of our IDM meetings next week.  Questions about universals, RTI, and missing data.  Oh my!

    This is when I had a piece of delicious homemade banana bread, thanks to a dear friend.  Did I mention it was homemade AND had chocolate chips in it?  

     I then got a text message with these photos, and the message "Super fun teamwork!"  Um... Can I be in 2nd grade again?  I want to be on their team.

     I stopped into a classroom and took a look at some books and resources left behind by a previous teacher, and found trade books from our last two reading basals and a summer school program.  It is so interesting seeing where we were then, and where we are now.  The previous teacher (ok, it was me) worked so hard to get those leveled readers purchased for her groups.  Now, our book room is filled with authentic reading materials.  

     One of our teachers then invited me to sort some formative assessments with her.  She has started sorting them, but wanted to think about how she could sort them and record them in a way to show progress over time.  While I don't know that we accomplished that goal, we did sort the samples with a lens of "problem/ solution" and had an interesting conversation about her students' responses.  I think we came up with a teaching point to add to her read aloud to help her students move to the next step.  

     I then had bus duty, where I got to meet the grandpa of one of our new Hiawathans.  What a nice man!  

     I finished the day getting to have a brief conversation with a teacher from another building, and then a longer conversation with that teacher who had done the main idea pre-assessment with her students.  We read the main idea student expectations of our CCSS rubric for standard 2, and determined some next steps for her main idea instruction.  We realized that her students are doing a fantastic job using text support and finding key details, so she will use that strength to move them along.

     So, I may have started to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher to you somewhere in the middle of that.  I have a feeling that CCSS based conversations, rubrics, pre-assessements, close reading, partner book clubs, mentor texts, work sample sorts, and book talks about standards based grading do not excite you as much as they do me.  But, I am a but of a nerd.  I embrace it.  So why bother boring you with all that?  I typically don't discuss how I spend my days, because coaching is a private thing at times.  

     I just couldn't help myself.  I just had to share those conversations with the world.  

     Did I mention that this happened the day after two cold days?!?!?  I kind of wanted to be in my slippers still, and they were ready to hit the learning targets.   

     Wow.  While half of Chicago was still frozen and not even attending school, those are the conversations that I had, with some really amazing teachers (and I am sure I missed a few in my list).  I mean, days like today make me realize how fantastic the teachers at Hiawatha really are.  Below zero temperatures do not stop them.   And I couldn't be any prouder of them.

     I just really hope the weather warms up just a little bit next week.  As warm and fuzzy as all that academic talk made me today, I really would like to stay a literacy coach and not become a snowman.      

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the glimpse into the life of a Literacy Coach! I know you think that you have the best job in the district, but I think I do too. lol. It's good to love your job!