Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Fridays at Williams School

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: a one and only kind of book!

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

a perfect summer read for middle graders!

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.

a Newbery Honor book that tells the story of how good can emerge from evil during difficult times

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

The "wonder" of trying something new!

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!!

Reprising my role at Williams

Sometimes life brings on the unexpected. After retiring from my position as library and IT specialist at Williams School in June 2015, I enjoyed a wonderful summer giving tours of Fenway Park. My husband and I planned a cruise to Canada that left the first week of school! That seemed weird. A funny thing happened late in August. I ran into my principal in the parking lot at school when I went in to return something. She said she had a one day position as a school substitute to fill and asked me if I would do it. I hesitated and told her I would think about it, but if anybody else came along and wanted it to go ahead and hire them. Well, I got back from my cruise and started back at my school one day a week. It worked out marvelously. I had my fix of school, felt like I was making a positive contribution, but I was also free to pursue my Fenway adventure. Around the middle of the school year I found out that the person hired to take my place, my colleague Felicia Quesada Montville, would need a maternity leave at the end of April. I decided to step back in as Library teacher for the last two months of the year. I am so glad I made that decision. It gave me a chance to work with the kids again, use some of my tried and true lessons, and try something new! Watch for the results in my next post! While it is a challenging time to be an educator, it is also so extremely rewarding, invigorating, and such a chance to make a difference in our students' lives. This morning I watched the fifth graders graduate. Their play this year was "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio. They marched across the stage with their "Choose Kind" tee shirts on as they closed their years at Williams. We have such important work to do. I am so proud of all of my colleagues for continuing to choose this path, and I am grateful for stepping back in to help one more time! This profession is amazing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

That's a wrap!

Another school year has come to a close. Every year I take satisfaction knowing that we have successfully moved the students forward on their formal education journey. At Williams we end the year with a ceremony called "Arch Day" to celebrate the students' efforts and progress over the current school year. There is always a tremendous sense of accomplishment for both students and teachers as we acknowledge the hard work of the whole community. This year was a hard year for me personally as I lost two very important people in my life within an 18 day span. One was my mother, who succumbed at 94 to Dementia. I continued to learn from her until the last day of her life. I watched her struggle for her final seven years, but at the same time I learned to appreciate the changes and challenges that come from the mind and body in its final stages. She was so strong from the beginning of her life to the end, and I hope to move forward with the same strength and conviction that was modeled for me. My dear cousin, Janice, my lifelong companion in so many adventures and trials finally lost the vicious war with ovarian cancer. Her five year battle with this disease was fought with strength, dignity, and great love for her family. She always put them first and continued to smile, advise, and be there for them. Her example has given me renewed perspective to live my life to the fullest every day and to try to give everyone my best effort in whatever I do for as long as I can do it. So June 2015 is a watershed moment for me. I have to decided to retire from my position in Newton Pubic Schools and explore a new path. I am a rabid Red Sox fan. I have taken a job as a tour guide with the Boston Red Sox. I am giving tours of historic Fenway Park. it is a lot of fun so far. I am meeting new colleagues,(who are wonderful and also crazy Red Sox fans) and watching the joy and wonder on people's faces as they see the Fenway field for the first time. Life is changing, but it is good. I hope to remain true to the words I spoke to the graduating 5th graders this year: "learn, grow, and improve. None of us are experts, all of us are learning. I want to keep living and learning to the fullest. It is the best way to honor the people in our lives and work to make our community as good as it can be. Be kind to each other, help each other, take care of each other.