Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mindful Teaching in the Mornings



Dear Friends,

I learn so much from reading all the great teaching blogs out there. It is late Sunday night here in Thailand, and I want some inspiration for the week ahead.  Where do I go?  Bloglovin'...  Clicking on blog, lead to another and another and I ended up at  A Teeny Tiny Teacher.  I read an old post of hers about her alternative to clip charts. I just can't wait to use her gold ticket system as a gold PYP Learner Profile ticket system.  Kristin you rock and I wish I would have read this posts back when it was originally posted. 

A Teeny Tiny Teacher
One of my continuing goals as a learning and teaching professional is to be more of a blog content creator rather than just a blog consumer.  Yes, this was my New Year's goal and I am still working towards it!  I always feel like I have nothing to share, but if these creative teachers didn't share their ideas, where would I get so many of the great things I do in my classroom? So, in the spirit of sharing, I hope to tackle my writer's block, be a risk-taker and blog more about what goes on in my second grade classroom. 

One of the conundrums we as teachers face, is how to organize those first few minutes in the morning when kids are entering the room... possibly over excitedly to be back at school, or feeling shy and maybe even a little tired, or with news of having just lost a tooth, or maybe hungry without having had a meal before they were rushed out the door at 6:30 to catch the school bus for their hour ride. 

Our precious little ones are looking to us for attention and approval, yet as teachers we a million and one other things need to do including taking attendance, managing the lunch count, saying the Pledge of Allegiance (America), or standing for the King's anthem (Thailand), collecting homework, sign-up sheets, talking to parents who are dropping off their kids, etc...  Deborah Schoeberlein David, who wrote Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone Who Teaches Anything, a book I am slowing making my way though, has me thinking about these questions more mindfully (ha!) these days.


We, as teachers, are good multi-taskers and we create systems... but even our systems can fail to help us follow through with our intentions. So, low and behold questions arise like: What am I going to do with this homework that they brought in? Are we even going to have time to look over it?  When will I have a chance to figure out who did it and who didn't?  How can I get the opportunity to greet each of my kids and give them a smile or hug and let them know that I care?  Just in the first few minutes of the day you may want to scream Seinfeld style, "Serenity now!"  (and it is only 8:20 am!)

So, what to do?  In the beginning of my career, some 18 years ago (gasp!) getting kids to write was a huge focus... So, I had the kids come in and write in journals to begin the day.  Later on, I started with circle time- doing some good old Calendar Math, then circle time turned into Morning Meetings (Responsive Classroom style).  Doing circle time meant that I needed to be front and center or at least watching from the sidelines if a student was running it, therefore not able to get attendance in by 8:30, not able to deal with a pile homework let alone acknowledge or check it. Morning Meetings were fun and I loved the way they generated a great classroom community, but it did not solve my issues and I did have some parent question its usefulness academically.  Writing first thing in the morning worked, but the reluctant writers wrote very little. Back then, I may not have put the time in to developing their love of writing first so that they would want to write just for the love of it.  Even though drawing and labeling a picture was acceptable, the blank page was just too much pressure for some.

So, without further ado, and curious about what you do,  I'll share my current strategy...

Every morning, when the bell rings at 8:15, the students come in to a quiet room where classical music is softly playing in the background.  They take out their Home Reading Record (a journal where they write about the books they have read the night before),  open to the page where they wrote about their book, and place it on their desk for me to read and comment.  They return the book they read the night before to their book box and take out a new book to take home read. Then, they get stuck into reading.  They can bring in books from home, but the books they choose have to be good-fit books.  That is it.  Those are the rules.  It works beautifully. It is a daily 'Read to Self' in modern terms and a good ol' DEAR for us who have been around the block.  You can see a funky short video on my classblog here

It has been modeled.  We have discussed examples and non-examples - Daily 5 style.  It is working.  The other day, a teacher walked in with an important message and I could actually take the time to receive it while the kids were all silently reading or writing about their books.  He was impressed!  The benefits?  My kiddos are reading, really reading, every night.  They do their home reading and are responding at like a 98% rate. Those who don't are expected to do it as soon as they come in.  I am acknowledging each student, sneaking around to each desk quietly whispering "Good morning." and composing a quick comment on what they read. I told them it was our way of 'texting' each other. The 'text' me and I 'text' back. When I am teaching about responding to texts, they have a real world connect, as they respond to texts night.  They are reading and writing for a purpose and I am getting my attendance done.  Meanwhile, the day starts in a very pleasantly calm, mindful way.  
 
 
Free Home Reading Record Template


So, tell me can you relate?  How do you start your morning with your students?

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Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 Your New Year Linky Party

Happy New Year Friends!

I have had a vacation from my computer, so I am just now getting in on the Blog Hoppin' 2014 Linky. So, I'll try to do all 5 days here in one post! 

 
 So, here goes... My 2014 Goal's are:









The main thing we miss about living at home in the US or Ireland, is our friends and family.  Keeping in touch doesn't happen without a bit of effort on both sides.  So, I want to do my part and keep blogging about our amazing experiences as expats in Thailand.  It has been over a week since I posted there.  Here's to hoping for a new start and lots of posts!





I love the Clutter-Free Classroom blog.  In her recent post, she shared great 'frugal storage ideas'.  I love the 'up-cycling' idea, not just for the frugality, but for the sustainability.  How cute are those green and blue can. Now, if I could just find the spray paint in great colors!









Do you use MyFitnessPal?  I love it for monitoring my caloric intake and exercise. You can even see if you are meeting your daily allowance of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Calcium and Iron! It helps me to make much better dietary choices and also motivates me to exercise.




This may be an unrealistic goal, and I do already have a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, but it can't hurt to write it down, can it?










 I am ready to clear out all the clutter and get rid of any and all messes at home and at school!


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