As the school year begins with laminating machines firing up, photocopy machines heating up, and all kinds of technology charging up, there’s this question teachers often ask each other in hushed tones: “Is your room ready yet?”
I’m sure you’ve heard every intonation of this question. There’s the energetic-excited-enthusiastic voice, just hoping you’ll ask her so she can tell you about every corner of her space. There’s the voice hoping for camaraderie and absolution in not having started yet. And there’s the common, but understated, “Well, it’s as ready as it’s going to be because the kids are coming tomorrow.” You know she’s exhausted every ounce of creativity and purposefulness with every name plate, every Pinterest organizational idea, every word wall and responsibility chart.
It was about this time last year when I had copies of the Common Core spread out across desks in my classroom. I was determined to see how I could resolve this overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t “hold” all the standards in my head while I was teaching. So, I set out to “skinny” them, and see if making them more manageable would also make them more usable to both me and my students.
Of course, figuring out how to get the Core into six buckets was only part of the challenge. The real challenge was figuring out how to implement this system into the fabric of my teaching.
A year later, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to “live the buckets.” As I get ready to begin another school year, I’m looking to the lessons of last year to guide my foray into Paint Buckets 2.0.
Our last road trip stop in Tampa, Florida, helped us reconnect with the importance of giving students all kinds of space for learning: verbal space to drive discussions, cognitive space to design questions for learning, and physical space to foster collaboration.
With our sense of space broadened, let’s make our way to Flushing International High School in New York, where we’ll meet teacher Jordan Wolf. He’s going to give us some incredible insight about working with English Language Learners. Onward!
You’re invited to join us as we take another special Zaption tour, this time in Jordan’s classroom. We’ll learn more about the ways he meets students where they are in order to build deeper learning experiences. Don’t forget, when you participate in the Zaption tour, you also have the chance to discuss it with teachers from around the country who are road tripping with us!
This interview with Jordan Wolf is part of Sarah’s Summer Road Trip: Uncovering the Secrets of Great Teaching. Engage with the Zaption tour of Jordan’s classroom and ride along on the road trip!
Like many teachers, Jordan Wolf’s path to the classroom was more happenstance than planned. Also, like many teachers, Jordan Wolf knew immediately he had found his passion.
As an environmental consultant, just out of college, Jordan recognized that his love for science and research was being overwhelmed by the politics of his consultancy work. Then, one auspicious day on the New York City subway, he read an advertisement from the NYC Teaching Fellows offering an alternative credentialing system to become a teacher. He signed up, was accepted, went through an intensive two-month initiation program, and started student teaching while finishing his coursework.
Dirty laundry and bug-covered windshields are always sure signs of a road trip well-taken and are certainly part of the experience. For as much as I love planning a trip, I always look forward to the catharsis of unpacking the car and taking stock of the adventure. The snapshots in my mind of great moments, quietly laughing about the imperfect ones, and re-telling favorite stories.
Recently, I’ve embarked on a virtual road trip, visiting classrooms around the country to uncover the secrets of great teaching. This virtual road trip has left me with the desire to keep talking to these amazing teachers, to learn more about their teaching stories, and to have them “unpack” all of those invisible moves in their lessons.
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 6th 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 6th 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.’”
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.
So much about teaching comes in waves, and the end-of-the-year wave is often marked by an immersion in the science of teaching: assessments, grades, proving what was accomplished. But as we ride out one wave and onto summer’s, I think we should welcome back into our lives the notion of the art of teaching.
Although the art of teaching may seem more elusive, it’s no less crucial to the pulse of learning. It’s the part of the craft that’s about our creative impulse, our read of a child’s emotional state, our instinct to make this decision or that in the midst of the thousands of decisions we make each day.
If you’re ready to kick off your summer thinking by sharing what you’ve learned about the art of teaching, about the importance of creativity in your professional life, then join us for June’s #TchLive chat this week! Share what has supported you to become better in this area of your practice, whether it’s a mentor, a colleague, professional books, or just plain old lived experience. If you’ve just completed your first year or your 20th, you’ve got knowledge and wisdom to share on this subject. And, if you’re looking for a few resources to get you thinking before we chat, you may want to check out these:
The #TchLIVE chat will be on June 18th, at 4pm PDT.