Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pieces to the Puzzle

Here is my attempt at trying to piece some of the "stuff" rolling around in my head.

Point #1
Consider for a moment David Warlick's Converging Conditions.
  • Unpredictable Future
  • Info-Savvy Students
  • New Information Landscape
Point #2
Now take some time to ponder the National Educational Technology Standards and Performance Indicators for Teachers.
  1. Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity.
  2. Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments.
  3. Model Digital-Age Work and Learning
  4. Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility
  5. Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership
Point #3
Let's sprinkle in a little of the NCTE Definition of 21st-CenturyLiteracies into this conversation.

Point #4
As a final component to this equation, take a moment to let this quote from Lucy Calkins work its way into your consideration:

"The problem is that if our teaching is to be an art, we need an organizing vision that brings together all of these separate components into something graceful and vital and significant. It is not the number of good ideas that turns our work into art, but the selection, balance, coherence and design of those ideas."

Calkins, Lucy. The Art of Teaching Reading. New York: Longman, 2001.

OK you 21st-Century Teachers, now take a deep breath, reread if necessary, and begin planning. Ugh!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Birth of a Poem

There I was at approximately 7:45p.m. and decided to tackle my paperwork a bit early before the kids actually made their way to bed. I carefully placed each item in its proper location on our wooden kitchen table. Laptop to the right for recording grades and twittering while I work, ungraded pile of student work directly to its left, and the completed pile just under that. Of course, my hazelnut flavored cup-o-joe was close by as well as the charging iPod.


Just as my work area was prepped and ready, my four year old son suddenly dove into the kitchen with his "Thomas the Tank Engine" Laptop and promptly joined me at the table. It wasn't long until he made his way to my welcoming lap when we read through a writing assignment one of my students had completed. The writing by the way was very good and filled with wonderful descriptive phrases that led Gavin and I down the road to great conversations.

Fast forwarding the scene a bit, Gavin felt so inspired by the writing that it led him to place his pencil to paper where he began to create his very own "Halloween poem to display at his school."

Ghosts, Witches,
and Kids
Trick or Treat
in the city
and vampires
all the kids
are trick or treating
all the kids
dressing up for

This was an amazing moment for me to witness this story literally come alive. Gavin was filled with an intense sense of urgency to finish the poem despite the fact that bedtime was quickly approaching and there was simply no stopping that train.

From a teacher's perspective there is so much that I can speak to. For instance, Gavin had an authentic audience that he was writing for, his school. For this reason it drove him to do his very best work that he wanted to desperately share with others. He was able to draw from his previous experiences which allowed him to tap into his language and knew what his message was going to be. He had his topic and then knew what genre would fit his apparent need at the time, poetry.

From a parental perspective I am just so thankful to be a dad and I am touched each and everyday by this wonderful gift. Right now I am really just trying to enjoy these days that I still get to carry them to bed, and help them brush their teeth, and to be able to spin them around through the air while they are in my arms. I absolutely treasure each moment I can hold my kids in my arms because I know it won't be long before I am teaching them how to drive and help them decide on which college to choose.

This was certainly one of those defining moments for me as a dad and honestly I am still trying to find the right words that explains the fact that my eyes are filling up with tears while I am actually writing this. At any rate, if you have read this far I thank you for your time.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Memoir Monday

I have recently been enjoying a blog by Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz called Two Writing Teachers, who have designed a section within their blog called Memoir Monday. Their challenge is to "bloggers from all backgrounds (not just teachers!) a chance to reflect on something from the past. Each writer creates a memoir-like post by writing with precision about an event or a person and how it changed them as a person."

Here is my attempt at Memoir Monday with a piece titled, Family Matters.

Thinking back through the years the only hardships I experienced was that I lived the typical routine life; a middle class boy in a middle class town in a middle class home with middle class values. My parents both developed these traditions by working themselves out of severe childhood poverty and wanted so much to give my sister and I the life they never had.

These values were first challenged the night we lost our home and all of our belongings to a tragic fire. There is something very surreal at the tender age of 12 to suddenly loose everything, to be standing at the location where your home once was, to be standing among the black ashes and rubble that use to be your bedroom.

That starless night, we came home to an endless sea of emergency lights and my first thought was that something happened to our elderly neighbor. It was only after getting closer to the scene that I suddenly realized the horrible truth. I stood at the edge of the smoldering ashes of what used to be our home, heaving tears from my eyes and wondering, “What are we going to do now?”

It was at this moment that my father, who was crying as well, held our family together in his arms and found the strength to comfort us all. “It’s OK, everything that is important is right here, right now, in my arms,” he said. Hearing those words gave different reason for my tears to fall.

Over time, we rebuilt our home and all the material things were replaced and life fell back into the typical middle class routine, but something was different. Not only did I loose my home that night but my childhood as well. I felt older and somehow more confident and comfortable knowing that no matter what happens I will always have the unconditional love of my family. To me there is nothing more important than this.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Taking a Hatchet to My Aggregator

Tonight I took a hatchet to my G-Reader and deleted many RSS feeds that I simply have not given any attention to lately. This was really long overdue. There was a slight sense of guilt that was associated with this process but then again Google Reader is part of the network that can and will change as needed. So, the guilty feeling is gone and I am now on the look out for other intermediate elementary teachers that are blogging to build the G-Reader back up.

I have recently added the following bloggers in the good ole aggregator that seem to focus heavily on intermediate elementary issues:

Lisa's Lingo by Lisa Parisi
A fifth grade teacher that I had been following on twitter for awhile but for some reason I did not have her blog or her Delicious feed in my Google Reader.

Creating Life Long Learners by Matthew Needleman
"Creating Lifelong Learners is a blog which aims to offer practical tips for elementary teachers in teaching language arts, valuing students and their cultures, appealing to different learning modalities, and integrating technology in the curriculum."

Two Writing Teachers by Ruth Ayers and Stacey Shubitz
"Good teaching is good teaching. Too often we get caught up in what’s happening in our own classroom walls or in the faculty lounge of our own school building. This blog is a place that erases all of those barriers and focuses simply on teaching kids to write and catching minds in the midst..."

Angela Maiers
"I am proud of my 20-year career in education, especially the years I spent as a classroom teacher. I am currently working as an independent consultant dedicated and committed to helping DOE’s, schools, districts and teachers reach their goals in literacy and literacy education."

The challenge with this type of social network is that I feel I take much more than I give. Anyone else feel this way too?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Eternal Fall

There is something majestic about this time of year with the continuous collage of colors that gently roll over the New England hills, where hot coffee tastes a bit better, where smooth jazz seems to strum the heartstrings, and warm sweaters feels oh so right. I love it and could easily live out the rest of my days in eternal fall.

This morning my kids and I stepped out of the house away from the t.v., computers, and even books just to spend some time gettin' dirty and enjoying the great outdoors. Unfortunately, my days during the week are hectic and my weekends can be pretty crazy as well working a second jobby job, but today was all about the kids.

As much as I enjoy the constant hustle and bustle that technology brings and teaching 21st Century Skills there is still something in me that hungers for tranquility and a place where there are no signs of civilization. Let me tell ya, I think it is getting pretty hard these days to find such a place. When was the last time you were outside at night and could not see any other lights around, whether it be from another house or a town or a city?

I long for the endless sea of brilliant sparkling stars in the depths of the sweet autumn night sky. I guess this is from my Henry David Thoreau influence.

Oh, by the way, we are getting a Smart Board in our fifth grade classroom.