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.