A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Empowerment Mentoring

Empowerment Mentoring

Click on the link above to see Les Brown's video on Empowerment Mentoring.  Don't be fooled by Les's informal clothing. Les Brown has been underestimated for his entire life. Long ago when I was a bucking maverick, I was encouraged by a wise friend to enroll at the Dale Carnegie Institute and take a course called Effective Communications & Human Relations/Skills For Success-- my wise friend, now deceased, promised that the Dale Carnegie Course would change my life, and my career and human relationships blossomed as promised. http://www.washingtondc.dalecarnegie.com/local_courses_desc.jsp?cCode=DCC There I met a beautiful person named Barbara Giallotta (probably mispelled) who introduced me to Les Brown's motivational tapes. Hungry and hooked by the Les Brown story, I replayed Les's tape so many times over the next year that I quickly wore it out.

As a 4th grade teacher, I was mentored by a beautiful person who helped me grow as a teacher.  She taught me teaching skills and processes for small group instruction that I needed to know.  She co-taught and co-planned with me all year.  My good friend and mentor encouraged me not to give up on a dream of becoming a teacher that was inspired by Les Brown, despite some of the problems I had encountered.  At the end of the year, my good friend advised, every master is at one time a disaster.  Ouch!

Last week was my second week as an emergency Kindergarten teacher (the teacher went on maternity leave before the first day of school, but not before leaving me the best set of plans I've ever seen).  As a male Kindergarten teacher, wherever I go, everybody in the school is watching.   The first day, I was stopped in the hall by the School Nurse, who had never seen me.  The watching is both necessary and unavoidable.  Last week, I was approached by the Title I Math Specialist, who offered coaching and co-teaching opportunities.  I understand the gravity of my responsibility as a  teacher, and I offered, "as far as I'm concerned, Title I Math Teachers walk on water -- they are the best."  On Friday, my new mentor helped plan, observed and participated in my lesson.  Afterwards, she offered tough, accurate feedback, and I gratefully accepted her help.  I told her how much I appreciated hearing the observations now, so that I could anticipate problems and adjust before they became problems.  My new mentor recognized my talent for integrating technology in a math lesson, but stressed repeatedly, "less is more."  Later, the Reading Specialist mentioned to me that she had stopped in and noticed what we were doing.  I never noticed her.

While setting up my SmartBoard, the technology specialist suggested that I use Kidspiration to construct a simple patterning lesson -- I built and tested the tool on Thursday evening, knowing and fearing that I was going to be closely observed on Friday.  During the lesson, in which I introduced the SmartBoard for the first time, children loved personally interacting with this powerful technology. Students rotated through three stations, where we used sentence strips programmed with two levels of pattern difficulty to guide children in constructing patterns using connecting cubes, pattern blocks, and links.  Student needed to construct patterns on their sentence strips and name their patterns using letters ABAB, ABCC, etc., then name the pattern using colors.  During our conference after the lesson, my mentor suggested that we could re-use the Kidspiration tool on Monday, and re-use the same stations.  Less is more.  Les is more.

Last Friday, on Citizenship Day, I borrowed a procedure for establishing rules that I learned from Chris Fisher, a beautiful and talented GT (Gifted and Talented) teacher.  I wasn't having any success in establishing class rules in my first year of teaching, and Chris Fisher offered me a lesson that she had used with her 2nd grade GT students:  Chris wrote down three simple rules on sentence strips, "I take care of myself," "I take care of my friends," and "We take care of our environment."  She then had children come up with their own examples of each of these ideas ... e.g., I raise my hand before talking, We pick up the trash, etc. She then had children categorize the sentence strips they had created and put them under the 3 headings she had created, then one-by-one, she pulled each of them away leaving their 3 simple rules.  I wrote down the lesson on a napkin while standing in the hall.  I tried out Chris's lesson with my 3rd graders and it worked.

Having introduced Writing Workshop on Thursday, following the Lucy Caulkins model, I modeled how Kindergarteners could write stories about any one of the three big ideas, using examples we had experienced over the past few weeks.  Earlier in the week, one child had approached me because he was afraid of going down a tall pole -- I advised my little friend that he may want to wait until he could reach the pole more easily, and used this as an example of I take care of myself -- I sketched a big tall pole, and included the detail of a tiny child who could barely reach it the pole.  I used the example of how two girls had helped one of our little friends avoid a dangerous situation on the playground by stopping him from using a certain swing that is reserved only for handicapped children as an example of  I take care of my friends.  Then, I pulled out a can of playdough that had been left without a top and tossed it in the trash with dramatic flourish -- I then showed one of the children snapping the top on the playdough to show how "We take care of our environment."  The children then came up with their own stories.  Later, when one child who had I had been closely monitoring for the past two weeks came to me and showed how she was taking care of our environment by snapping the tops on the playdough, I excitedly gave her a Mustang Ticket.  On Monday, the children will sign our Class Constitution with our 3 rules, I take care of myself, my friends, and our environment.  We will refer to these three simple rules until I finish my assignment in December.  If someone is talking during instruction, I'll be able to ask, "How are you taking care of yourself?  What should you be doing?  What are you going to do?"  Or even better, I'll be able to simply point to the Constitution and give the child a look as a reminder.

Les is more.

YouTube - "The Secret of Oz" trailer - How to Fix the 2010 Depression - directed by Bill Still

YouTube - "The Secret of Oz" trailer - How to Fix the 2010 Depression - directed by Bill Still

Here's a huge problem that my parents and my generation, the Baby Boomers are passing on to our children:  run-away debt.  Click on the link for an informed look at a problem that won't simply go away without a paradigm shift.  Unless problem solvers identify root causes, the problem can only continue to grow like a cancer, a plague on our children that can be avoided with intelligent action.

The following observation was forwarded to me in my email

On 9/16/10 5:47 PM, Bell Olson wrote:
 Just an observation:

To those who do not think Justice is important and would leave it out of their arguments for change or any other consideration, I would remind you that it is the cry at the heart of everyone on Strike, every Revolution and every call for action of any kind by citizens of any nation. It may not be Justice as some would want or understand in every case, but in the heart and reality and belief of those in Revolt, IT IS JUSTICE! EVERY TIME!

 Barbara O.

My father recently returned from meetings at the University of Chicago with groups of concerned citizens affiliated with Max Weissmann, a co-founder of the Great Books Academy, along with Mortimer Adler.   .http://www.greatbooksacademy.org/  They discussed the formation of Justice University, the brainchild of Robert Brantley, a member of CESJ, the Center for Economic and Social Justice. http://www.cesj.org/

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lesson Plans

The lesson plans I've received from a teacher going on maternity leave next week confirm a belief that I have held for a long time.  The best teachers I've seen have mostly been primary teachers.  Kindergarten students enter school around the age of 5 knowing virtually nothing about school.  Every procedure, every expected behavior, every learning skill, even snapping the tops on markers, or twisting the orange part of the glue bottle rather than unscrewing the white part must be anticipated.  The 18 page detailed plans I received describe the most well-thought out system for inviting students into our schools that I've ever encountered.  They cover a period of the first 2 weeks and beyond.  The first weeks happen to be the most critical period in the school year.  Her plans could form the skeleton for a book, a book that would sell!

No wonder it has taken me 3-4 days to wrap myself around her plans, and I'm still wrestling with her plans.  Every resource is listed.  Every teaching procedure is described. Her plan describes the order and sequence of how to teach and practice using materials and proper behaviors to get multiple learning centers up an running "the kindergarten way".  Need the right music and rules for quiet time, she has it in her plans.  Everything has its place.  Activities are in kits, and are rolled out according to a logical sequence.  The teacher talk in these plans is highly explicit, everything is planned for, which explains why the teacher I am covering for has enjoyed well above grade level end-of-year assessments in her classroom. I've been translating her plans into Outlook, so that my daily schedule will synch to my PDA computer.  I've and added some lesson planning features that I learned from reading Lucy Caulkins and John Van de Walle, because I teach best when I have great plans.  I've been at this mostly all day.  It's tough, very tough.  Details, details, details.  But it's doable.

YouTube - TurboTax: The Rap (Extended Version)

YouTube - TurboTax: The Rap (Extended Version)
Remy is from Arlington, VA, my hometown. Very funny, very irreverent. Very much my style.

Friday, September 3, 2010

YouTube - "Capital Homesteading for Every Citizen" (Part 6 of 8)

YouTube - "Capital Homesteading for Every Citizen" (Part 6 of 8)
This is probably the best case for reexamining the role of the Federal Reserve I have seen.

About Daily 5

About Daily 5 As a guest teacher starting the year in a Kindergarten class, which is somewhat new to me, I noticed posters for Daily 5 centers under the whiteboard, so I asked about it. The Daily 5 is new at the school where I will be working this Fall, but in a past Professional Development seminar, I've seen videos of the two sisters. Perhaps I should have been paying closer attention.

As I prepare to ramp up for my emergency assignment, my first tasks are to finish reading the lesson plans, read the Math Program of Studies (POS), read Lucy Caulkins book on Conferencing for Writer's Workshop, and then I'll need to work on trying to get a quick overview on the Daily 5 program. Interestingly, the Reading Specialist never mentioned the Daily 5 to me when I asked her today at our Open House if she had anything she wanted me to read.  Hmm, I wonder what that means.  When I get a chance, I'll look at some of the videos on this website.

Ooh, I see the materials are not free.  Yikes, they're rather expensive.  Maybe the school where I am working has access to these resources through Blackboard.  That would be nice.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lucy Caulkins, Launching The Writer's Workshop

I've been reading Launching The Writer's Workshop, by Lucy Caulkins.  Tough sledding.  I spent several hours just reading the initial rubric, and developing a spreadsheet based on the rubric so that I can easily track any factor for each student on any day.  Maybe it will help, but not an efficient approach.  I need to change.  Today, I'm making better progress, because I know that  I'll be at a staff meeting tomorrow at 9am, where I'll be introduced as a guest teacher in a Kindergarten class.  I haven't even read the sub plans yet, and I have a pile of materials that I need to plow through today!  No wonder I feel fear in the pit of my stomach.

Here's a portion of my notes:

According to Lucy Caulkins, I'll need to model stories that are personal with details from my own life.  She often repeats, "I'm telling you this because authors do this and you can do the same thing!"

In her insistence on representational drawings, here's something Caulkins stresses that teachers need to watch for, because our illustrations should tell stories.  Tulips and rainbows indicate that the child is not representing meaningful details from his own life.

Here is a story I came up with today as a model that might be appropriate in a mini-lesson

I was reading, but Mabel wanted to play.

by Daniel Kurland
September 2, 2010