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Sunday, April 22, 2018

The April 2018 Week Ahead: Math, Science, ELA Study and Exploration

To return after a vacation week demands enthusiasm--there are approximately ten big weeks of teaching ahead, and we want those weeks to be worthwhile and memorable.

What will the first week back bring?

Students will begin by getting organized with sharpened color pencils and then leading our school assembly--that will help everyone get back on track.

Then they'll have some time for recess, and after that we'll dive into fraction problem solving and model making. Throughout the rest of the day, I'll teach that fraction lesson a couple times more, meet with both grade-level and school-wide colleagues and give students some time to work on their biography project reading and research.

The rest of the week will find me working with students to problem solve utilizing concepts including order of operations and volume.

Students will also spend time studying science via a Bill Nye wetlands video, observing conservation of mass, and physical vs chemical change.  For conservation of mass we'll find the mass of ice and then see how that mass does not change when it melts to water. We'll also notice that this is a physical change since there was only a phase change not a property change. Students will create a graphic model to show that change and record the mass. To demonstrate the chemical change students will blow up balloons with water and vinegar. They'll find the mass of all objects before and after to show the conservation of mass. They'll also mix a variety of matter to create a physical change as they make bouncy balls too. They'll notice the property changes that occur during this change.

At the end of the week, I'll administer the ELA MCAS tests to students.

Professional learning will find me working on the science/math exploration prep as well as the Junior River Ranger booklet. As always, it will be a busy week, and the overall focus will be to support children with as much positive care and attention as possible.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Overcoming the Tough Times

Anyone who has read my blog knows that I've been through some tough times in the past. Times that found me returning home day after day upset, crying, frustrated, and hurt. Times have improved significantly thanks to the respectful and dignified leadership and friendship of many whose examples have showed me what it means to be a good leader, friend, confident, and mentor.

Looking back at those trying chapters in my life, I am glad that I met the chapters by seeking counsel and support always with my eyes on finding the truth of the matter and understanding what was really going on. Never did I give in to the struggle by giving up on my values or beliefs, however I did recognize truths that fostered positive change and development in me. As in all struggles, rarely is one to blame, but instead it is the conflagration of multiple shortcomings, past experiences, challenges, ambition, poor choices, ignorance, and more.

What did I learn in those tough times? I learned a lot including the following:
  • Empathy is essential
  • Err on the side of assuming positive motives and intent
  • Don't be quick to judge and also don't be quick to trust--sometimes peoples' motives are not well intended or directed
  • Focus on the mission of your work and endeavor 
  • When in doubt, ask questions
  • Keep a written record of events
  • Be respectful and considerate
  • You always can wait to respond or act--time is the friend of conflict resolution
  • You may not understand the root cause or rationale for struggle, it may take years ahead to fully understand what really happened
Bad times happen and we weather them when we approach those times with our best selves, support, and direction. During those tough years, I found strength and inspiration through the words and actions of many. I hope I can be a support to those who struggle too. 

Becoming a Teacher Naturalist

In a sense, I became a child naturalist at a young age as my dad brought us on one outdoor exploration after another. We were always hiking, swimming, biking, and exploring in the woods, at the ocean, and along mountain trails as children. These explorations brought us great joy and a sense of adventure.

Then when I became a teacher, I was drawn to the community where I teach, in part, by the natural beauty of the land. The community members have taken conservation and environmentalism seriously and have protected lots of natural land and water throughout the community. As a young mother, my husband and I explored many of those paths, trails, and waterways with our own children. Later my children continued to explore the land and waterways with countless local adventures such as canoeing to school, hiking to the area's highest peak (small as it may be), running through the outdoor trails, swimming in the local lakes and ponds, and biking from one town and nature sanctuary to another.

Where I live is Thoreau land and there is a deep commitment to the natural lands and water--and this deep commitment is visible via the countless environmental organizations that exist. As a teacher I have wanted to forward this sense of appreciation, understanding, and stewardship to my students, and over time I have participated in a number of activities to do this, but I must say I am not satisfied with what I've done and feel that I can do more. Many families and teachers in our school system have committed substantial time to composting, gardening, creating nature trails, and studying the local landscape with students. This has been wonderful, and I believe we can still do more. My part in this is to work with my grade-level colleagues to develop our river/wetlands environmental education with the local Audubon Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary and the National Wild and Scenic River System/Program. We are fortunate to be the recipients of a grant to support our efforts.

What does this mean for me as an educator?

In the weeks, months, and years ahead this means that I'll do the following:
  • Embed the state science, technology, and engineering standards into our Junior River Ranger booklet and program.
  • Tour the lands and waterways myself to explore and learn about natural habitat and to plan for students' trips and explorations.
  • Read books and information about the local lands and waterways.
  • Attend related events.
  • Develop our program with system leadership, families, students and colleagues.
  • Assess our efforts and develop our collective work and study.
This is an exciting aspect of my work as an educator because it is timely, engaging, meaningful, and well supported. There is much to do, and I look forward to the work ahead. I am also open to your thoughts and suggestions.