Friday, June 28, 2013

Words of Affirmation

This is Keely. She recently invited family and friends to her violin recital and treated us to more than thirty minutes of wonderful music.

At the end of the recital, Keely thanked her guests for coming and then asked her teacher to come up front. Their mutual affection was evident as they talked about anticipating Keely's moving on to another teacher and a higher level of performance. Then Keely's mother, Kim, shared a few words of appreciation, explaining the attributes that make the teacher such a special person to them. I started taking notes as soon as she started sharing about this wonderful instructor:

  • She has dual vision, able to simultaneously see a student's current state and their potential.
  • She is quick to affirm what a child is already doing, even if the child can't articulate it, helping to identify the skill and move it to a place of cognitive awareness.
  • She tailors instruction to meet each child at their level, building in small increments so each step can be mastered.
  • She teaches skills and concepts in context instead of using seemingly meaningless exercises.
  • Once students have learned a skill, it isn't discarded, but instead new skills and concepts are layered on, increasing the student's sophistication.
  • She focuses not only on technical skills, but on a positive attitude, individual goal setting, perseverance to achieve those goals, and the intrinsic sense of worth that comes from growth and success.
  • She makes you feel like it is truly an honor to be your teacher.
I'm telling you, I almost signed up for violin lessons right then and there. But doesn't it sound a little like a Daily 5/CAFE classroom?

As your school year comes to an end, I'm sure there are many parents and students who feel the same way about you. Just in case they didn't express it verbally, I will. I want to say thank you for the way you have poured yourselves into your students this year. The work we do is hard, but it is of infinite value.

Blessings as you recharge during the summer.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Words With Friends Lessons

My dad and I enjoy playing Words with Friends. If you are unfamiliar with the game, it's like Scrabble, but we play it on our cell phones and receive a notification each time it is our turn. Though an octogenarian, he beats me soundly about 95 percent of the time. There are a couple reasons for this:  

1.     He does the daily crossword puzzle in his newspaper.  
2.    He is a voracious reader.  

Those contribute to his amazing vocabulary, but there is a deeper reason behind why I am typically trounced. Dad looks for the best move. I just look for a move.  

I am always so happy I can make a word that I just throw it on the game board. Dad looks at all the letters available to him, carefully examines the words in play, and then determines which option will be of greatest benefit.   

This realization led to an educational aha moment. I've had the opportunity to observe many teachers in my 16 years of experience.  Student progress and success has been the goal of everyone I have worked with, yet some teachers have gotten big results, whereas others haven't.  

Some teachers work their way through a curriculum, content just to have a lesson to teach. Other teachers, often the ones getting big results, work at teaching the way my dad plays Words with Friends. They carefully study the students in their classrooms, evaluate their resources, and then make decisions that will have the most impact.  

I want to be like them and like those of you who play the teaching game with such excellence.  If you want to join me, here's what I've learned we can do that will help us win:

  • Resolve to pay attention to what assessments are really telling us
  • Deepen our commitment to listen with our entire being when conferring 
  • Get to know the standards and how our classroom resources fit curricular goals and student needs
  • Endeavor to make intentional decisions that will help our students reach their full potential

And if you play Words with Friends,  keep Qi (pronounced ChÄ“)  in mind.  Not only does it refer to circulating life energy, but it's worth a lot of points, especially if you put it on a triple word score.