For the last two weeks, we have all been horrified and saddened by the killings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church –- known to most as Mother Emanuel -– in Charleston, South Carolina. And wondering what we might do. Wishing there was something that could make it all less senseless, something that might relieve the grief of the families left behind.
On Saturday, having done nothing beyond telling my South Carolinian friends how sorry I am, I watched President Obama’s eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Mother Emanuel’s current pastor, and one of the nine who was struck down in the shootings. The eulogy was beautiful, constructed so we could see the astonishing, unexpected, utterly amazing grace of the families whose forgiveness of the alleged shooter has opened the door to reconciliation.
The first leg of our virtual trip across the country to Seattle, Washington gave us special insight into the importance of discourse as part of learning to reason. This time, we’re hitting the road and heading all the way to Tampa, Florida and Thristene Francisco’s sixth grade language arts classroom. Here, we’re not only going to hear amazing student discussion, but we’re also going to learn how this teacher uses student-driven questioning as the foundation of the learning that happens in her classroom. Let’s get those wheels turning and travel on!
You’re invited to join us on a special Zaption tour of Thristene’s classroom, where we will not only take a closer look at her instructional moves, but we’ll also have a chance to learn from other teachers around the country by participating in the discussion feature on the tour. And, I’m telling you, just wait until you hear what kinds of insights these sixth graders are uncovering as they read!
This interview with Thristene Francisco is part of Sarah’s Summer Road Trip: Uncovering the Secrets of Great Teaching. Engage with the Zaption tour of Thristene’s classroom and ride along on the road trip!
“I’m really about students. I have high expectations. I want them to think.”
Five minutes into talking with Thristine Francisco and it’s clear: she not only cares about her students, but she’s passionate about teaching them to think, helping them to exceed even their own expectations. This eight-year veteran found her way to the classroom after a series of mission trips to Haiti and tutoring students from urban schools. Her accumulated experiences in social justice permeates the way she talks about teaching and her students: “I believe kids can. They have more to say than they think and I don’t believe there is any such thing as ‘I don’t know.’”
Recently, The Math Forum’s Annie Fetter (@MFAnnie) and Max Ray (@MaxMathForum) hosted Elementary Math Chat (#elemmathchat) on Twitter. The focus was Powerful Problem Solving. During the chat, we shared Noticings and Wonderings around a purposefully chosen mathematical image, discussed student responses, reflected on our curriculum’s approach to problem solving, and thought about ways in which we could modify problems to make them scenarios that encourage deeper student reasoning.
I’m lucky to work in a school district that’s chosen curriculum aligned to Common Core Standards for both math and literacy. But when I really started to reflect on whether or not I was helping students meet those standards, the Speaking and Listening Standards were the ones that stood out the most. I asked myself, how am I helping students prepare for the discussions we’re having? How am I helping students build their capacity to ask questions or explain their thinking?
I decided to become intentional, planning opportunities for students to build their speaking and listening skills, and found that our conversations were richer because of it. Below are a couple of helpful tips and strategy videos that I used to help my students meet those valuable speaking and listening standards.
Thank you to all who joined us as we shared out thoughts about the art of teaching, from what that means to us to how that looks in our various classrooms.
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There’s nothing that defines summer more than the classic road trip. Great plans, detours, getting lost, finding unexpected adventures, making memories. And when I think about taking road trips, I think about the people I’d most like to cruise with: all of you! I thought we could load up our virtual cars and take off to meet three teachers and their classrooms, in three parts of the country. We’ll get to learn more about who they are, peek into their classrooms with a special Zaption experience, and then learn more about their lessons through interviews and a Twitter chat. What do you say? Are you in?
But before we embark on this excursion, let’s make sure we have a good map.
Enter the work of Jerry and Monique Sternin on positive deviance: the belief that communities can be “transformed by the innovations and wisdom that already exist within that community.” In other words, examples of positive deviance — the work of those people who are figuring out our toughest problems in the most unsuspecting ways — are all around us. We only have to pay attention to the invisible in plain sight. And I can’t imagine another community I’d rather pay attention to — and with — than all of you here at Teaching Channel.
This interview with Lynn Simpson is part of Sarah’s Summer Road Trip: Uncovering the Secrets of Great Teaching. Engage with the Zaption tour of Lynn’s classroom and ride along on the road trip!
Lynn Simpson’s students are a reflection of her own story as a teacher: empowered, persistent, growing.
Lynn found teaching as a second career, during her time volunteering in her children’s elementary school (the school she teaches at now). After 20 years of working for an HMO, Lynn used her volunteering experience as motivation to obtain her teaching certificate, and is now completing her seventh year of teaching at Lakeridge Elementary School in Seattle, Washington.
As the school year comes to a close across the country, we know that opens up A LOT of time for kids during the long summer days.
We also know that kids today are increasingly using the Internet in their free time to find information, entertain themselves, purchase goods, and communicate with their peers and family. If you’re working with kids this summer — whether in a summer learning program or at home during family time — or if you’re still in the process of saying goodbye to your students, you may be looking for ways to help them sharpen or extend their skills during the next couple of months.
What I miss most about being a classroom teacher are the relationships I had with my students. I miss getting a million hugs from kindergartners and hearing former students yell, “Ms. Jones!” I miss sitting next to students as they learn how to read, feeling like I had just won the lottery as they decipher “cat” independently.
But what made teaching so wonderful is also what made it so hard. The relationships were all encompassing. I loved my students so much at school, and I loved them so much when I went home. When my students were having difficulties, I worried about them all night. During my first year of teaching, I worried about my students so much that I ended up with a perpetual stomach ache.
Whether you’re entering your first year of teaching or your 30th, I urge you to spend time this summer thinking about how you will strike a balance, building rewarding relationships while not letting the relationships overtake your life. For me, repeating two things like mantras helped: “Teach from the heart” and “You can’t do it all.”