Tuesday, March 13, 2018
I am retired, but I am currently reprising my role as library teacher at Peirce School in West Newton, Ma. Every year with fifth grade I do a lesson on Martin Luther King, Jr. using his Memphis speech to the sanitation workers on April 3, 1968, the night before he was murdered. I do it because I think the kids have learned enough about his childhood, his career, and his I have a dream speech throughout their elementary years. Most of them have never heard or seen him give a different speech. I only use about 3 minutes of the speech, and then I ask them what they thought he meant by those words. He tells the crowd that he would like to live a long life, but if he does not that will be OK because he says he has "been to the mountaintop and I've looked over and I've seen the promised land" I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people will get there." I ask the kids these questions: What was the message that Dr. King was trying to convey in this clip? What did the mountaintop stand for? Why do you think Dr. King felt that It would be OK if he did not get to the mountaintop? What did he see over the mountaintop? Their responses are insightful, thoughtful, empathetic, and inspiring. We used Google Draw to create a slideshow, but more importantly, we learned a little more about the mission of Dr. King and how it still applies and affects us today. Take a look at our work: Memphis Speech slideshow by Grade 5
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Since November, 2017 I have been working in the Peirce School library. It is the elementary school that my children attended. I was asked to d a maternity leave for almost five months. At first, I wasn't sure if I would accept the position. If it had been at my beloved Williams I would not have hesitated, but I wasn't sure I wanted to take on a whole new cohort of colleagues and students. We have a fixed schedule, so I teach classes to every child in the school. Now three months into it, I am so glad I said yes. The kids have been great, and I have returned to so many favorite books and some new ones. I have had a chance to reprise many of my Internet Safety lessons, and work with a couple of my favorite colleagues who are now at Peirce School. This past week I had a chance to teach and talk to kids about Martin Luther King, Jr. Yesterday, I taught fifth graders how to use Google Drawings. They were so enthusiastic and got so creative. When they are completed I am going to post the results here. Today is Saturday. I am rummaging through some stuff to weed and organize my basement. I came across some of the notes that the Williams kids gave me when I retired. This work is so rewarding, and I can't believe how fortunate I am to have had this experience and to continue to reap these benefits of teaching. What a great ride!
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
It has now been two Junes since I retired from my position as a school library teacher an Instructional Technology Specialist at Williams School. In those two years I have worked as a jack of all trades in the building on Fridays, subbing and filling in wherever I was needed (including reprising my role as library teacher for two months in the spring of 2016). This experience has given me even more insight into the great work that everybody contributes to the education of students. Sometimes when you are mired in the 5 day a week responsibilities of your own position, it is hard to take a look around to observe and appreciate your peers. You collaborate with them, you communicate and commiserate with them, but you don't get a lot of time to enjoy their work. The two years in these various positions have allowed me to marvel at the patience, the classroom management, and the truly uncanny ability of classroom teachers to anticipate and adjust to their students' academic and social emotional needs. They quickly assess situations and respond with appropriate strategies to improve the experience in their classrooms. I am fortunate enough to have spent these two years with colleagues that I have worked with for years. It has been my pleasure to see them in action. In all the years that I have taught, these two years really have allowed me to marvel at the work we do with students as a school community. Every single staff member makes a difference in kids' lives. Each one engages students in ways that contribute to the social-emotional climate of the building. Students learn when they feel safe and supported by the adults in the building. All of us: the custodians, the principal, the nurse, the secretary, the specialists (Library, art, music, P.E, Literacy, teaching assistants, the Special Ed team, PT's and OT's represent continuity and stability that provides a safe learning environment. What a joy and privilege it is to be a part of this learning community of dedicated professionals! I know that now more than ever, and I am confident to leave my beloved Williams School in the care of these individuals who come together from September to June to help our children learn, grow, and improve! Thank you all so much!
Friday, August 5, 2016
The one and only Ivan is a story of struggle, hope, and triumph. It spans the behavior of humans at their best, and at their worst. What emerges is a tale that reveals the power of taking action to effect positive change for yourself and others. I love how the story is told from the perspective of a gorilla. It allows readers to empathize with his life conditions as a circus animal. We see Ivan reach out to a baby elephant who is motherless and alone as she learns to trust him and later the humans who rescue them from a cruel and lonely circus life. There is love, compassion, joy, freedom, friendship, empathy, strength, kindness, and trust throughout this thoroughly entertaining children's novel. I especially like how it takes a sometimes painful topic for kids and treats it with such gentle and loving emotions and vocabulary that they do not have to ever feel too sad. At the same time it is brutally honest that sometimes people are mean, but other people can combat that by becoming allies to those less fortunate and standing up to those who cause harm to others. I loved it! This book is one where readers can read to learn and build on their love of reading. Third graders can probably read this themselves, but honestly I think as a read aloud not only will the kids benefit, but also any adult that picks up this tender story.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
This spring our literacy specialist asked a simple question: What will you read this summer? I had a lot of books on my list, but one I had not had a chance to read is The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall. It takes place in the summer in a small town in the Berkshires and is the story of a motherless family with four girls, a loving father, and a hound. Their adventurous spirit leads them to find friendship, explore and enjoy their surroundings, and sometimes get themselves into trouble by crossing boundaries. All four girls have distinct personalities, and they are loving, loyal, and always ready for a new challenge. There are lots of local references to Massachusetts, including a few that are Red Sox related, including two rabbits named Carla and Yaz! That certainly is right up my alley! This is a great read for fourth and fifth graders, and if you like it you can continue to read more about this family in their further adventures, as there are 3 more books in this series. This is the first book, published in 2005. Take a look at her website to learn more. This one is a perfect summer read! Keep reading to learn this summer.
I just finished the War that saved my life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. This historical fiction novel has been chosen by the Understanding Our Differences program for their annual book event. It is the story of a young girl living in London at the time of the bombings in World War II. Ada, the main character, and her brother are evacuated to the countryside along with many other children to escape the London bombings. For Ada, born with a club foot to a mother who is full of shame and rage, this otherwise scary time becomes an opportunity to experience life in a positive light for the first time. Amidst the terror of being Attacked by Hitler's air strikes, she receives emotional and physical comfort from the woman who is charged with taking care of her and the people she meets during this time. It is so important to share stories of empathy, struggle, peace, acceptance and love, with our students. We can make a difference with books!!. Check my twitter for a couple of great links to books that promote social emotional learning. Please read this book with your 4th, 5th or 6th grader this summer and plan on attending an evening with the author on October 18th at Newton South High School at 7 pm. She will discuss her book, have a Q and A, and a book signing. This title is available in the Williams School library. Happy reading!
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
When I came back to Williams I was certainly not at a loss as to what to teach the students in my charge. I have so many K-5 lessons that I have loved over the years. Most years I don't get to them all. For my two month stint here I felt free to choose the ones I had the most fun with, were meaningful, and fostered a love of the library and reading. I had a blast. I had more time to peruse Twitter and Facebook this winter, and a funny thing happened as a result. Even though retired, I found myself gravitating towards the education posts and actually having the time to read them!! I looked at many library ideas, pedagogy, general education philosophy, assessment, testing, and integrating technology to name a few. On one occasion in February I came across a twitter chat that discussed using Wonderopolis.org to foster inquiry and motivation based on students choosing what they wonder about. It is a great website that leads kids to be even more curious and provides a deeper learning opportunity by offering choice. There are unbelievable wonders out there. I used the FREE Wonderopolis brochure template that was offered by Teachers pay Teachers to guide the students. It was an end of the year activity with fourth grade. I wasn't sure I could get them to be excited about doing research in June, and at first I think they just wanted to get through it, but before long they were doing exactly what I hoped would happen: They dug deeper into the website and came up with more questions about their topic. Their enthusiasm grew and they all wanted to share what they learned with each other. I couldn't have asked for a better outcome. So kudos to the 4th graders at Williams for helping me try something now. We all learn together!!