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Archive for March, 2011

Wardrobe choices

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

What happens when I wear nylon stockings to school:

  1. I get asked about 12 times “Are those your legs or something else?”
  2. I spend the whole day asking the kids to stop touching my legs.

Not surprisingly, I rarely wear them!

Boats

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve spent a lot of last evening looking up online listing of liveaboard boats for sale.  I should be clear upfront: I know almost nothing about boats.  I don’t know how to sail them, I don’t know how to anchor them, tie them to a dock, or fix them.  But here’s what I do know: I think I’d really like living on one.

Living on a boat is an ultimate minimalist lifestyle.  The furniture is almost all built-in, the storage is enough to hold what you need, but not much else.  I like the idea of being that streamlined, of living that small.  But most of all, I like the connection to outside.  A boat is tiny, but it’s surrounded by the world in a way that no apartment can be (at least in my price range).  I love the idea of windows on all sides, yet having remarkable privacy.  This winter my heart would soar watching the sun rise over the river; I felt as cozy as I’ve ever been drinking tea while the rain fell outside.  I think the isolation yet tight-knit community of a marina is right up my alley.  I want to know all of my neighbors and talk to them when I want to, yet be totally able to withdraw and have no one come talk to me.

I don’t see living on a boat as something in my immediate future (see above confession of total lack of boating knowledge), but I do think it’d be a lifestyle that would fit me.  I once interviewed a student whose family spent a year living on a boat and sailing around the Atlantic and Caribbean, something I could absolutely see myself doing.

 

Tangrams

March 9, 2011 Leave a comment

My class is working with shapes and spatial thinking right now in math.  Since I LOVE tangrams, I’ve put a lot of emphasis on that in my instruction.  While not all of the kids are enjoying them, a handful have really latched onto it.  They’ve mastered the dozen advanced designs our team prepared, so today I brought in my old set of tangrams and deck of tangram design cards.  I introduced it during indoor recess, starting with three boys who were really interested, but building up to six kids after others saw that we were having a lot of fun.  I explained that the goal is to be the first person to make the design on each card and (here I may have stretched the truth a bit) that I was a champion at tangrams in middle school.  (There was no official tournament, but I did play a lot against my friends and I usually won.)

Of course since 1) I’ve had a lot more practice and 2) I’m an adult, I finished almost every figure first.  We had some good conversations though about the strategies I used and what was really tricky to figure out, even for me.  And I encouraged the kids to use my completed design as a template for making it with their pieces, since practicing putting figures together – even if you’re looking at the answer – is one of the best ways to get better an tangrams.  One of the boys is definitely starting to see the patterns in the pieces.  He finished the large arrow at the same time as me and exclaimed “that’s so easy!”  When I asked him what made it easy he said “it’s just a big triangle like this and a square.  It’s easy!”

I think I had more fun today than any other indoor recess – and the kids enjoyed it too!  I sent two of the boys home with their own set of paper tangrams and new figures to try out; several others asked if we could play this again during recess or academic choice.  I’m really happy to be sharing an activity I like so much with my students.

[Aside: I finished one figure particularly quickly and left it on the table while I went to help a student with the computer.  Coming back I heard one child ask “how is she so fast?!”  Another answered, very matter of fact, “She WAS a champion at it.”]

Walking into the wind

March 5, 2011 1 comment

One of my students has dominated our classroom all year with her energy, volume, and constant need for attention.  She is bright, articulate, highly capable, and a great conversation partner one-on-one, but has a very hard time being one of 15-19 other children in the room.  She recently moved and the change in our classroom has been dramatic:

  • The first day after her move, the class finally got a big star in music (something they’ve been trying and failing to do since September).
  • The second day, I picked them up from P.E. and was told, “We didn’t get in trouble at all!!”
  • The third day, we finally reached our class-wide behavior goal and earned a free-choice celebration.
  • The fourth day my instructional coach visited and commented on how much quieter and less on edge my students were.
  • And the fifth day, another teacher told me she was amazed by how well my class was walking in the hall all week – what had I done to create such a dramatic change?

For me, it is as though I spent all year walking into a gale-strength headwind…and the wind suddenly stopped.  I’m standing a little taller, getting places a little faster, and feeling way less tired at the end of each day.  And my students are benefiting, too.  For the first time all year, writing workshop is actually a quiet time, and the amount and quality of writing they’re creating is reflecting the better working conditions.  In addition, with volume and behavior under control, I can actually have high-value teaching conferences with students about their writing without being constantly disrupted by classroom management needs.  Most importantly, all of the students whose behavior needed my attention all year but whom I just couldn’t get to when this one student was taking up so much of my time – these students are starting to get what they need and that is allowing the whole classroom to settle down even more.

Teachers say it all the time: one student can change everything.  While I honestly miss my girl who moved (and appreciate that email allows us to keep in touch), I am incredibly grateful to have these coming months without her to reshape our classroom community and give the rest of the students the attention they so need and deserve.

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