Sunday, October 6, 2013

Finding a Balance

A week ago I got a phone call from our dear friends asking us to join them for the Packer-Detroit game in Green Bay the following week.  My mind immediately went to mush.  All I could think about was all my professional responsibilities coming up the next few weeks, such as my new PBL project, my Digital Writer’s Workshop class, an out of state professional development engagement, and 6th grade camp, just to name a few.  I looked at my husband and I knew that we both needed a break, and a chance to do something other than work on a Sunday for a change.  I said, “Yes!  We can’t wait!”

The following week was insane, filled with work, a sick baby, our son’s sports commitments, and planning for the trip to Green Bay.  My excitement about the game was overshadowed by the guilt of taking the Sunday off of work.  Why did I feel this way?  As teachers we fill our plates so full and never feel “done”.  I have a hard time disconnecting because my passion for what I do consumes me.  I realized this week that this is not a healthy way to be, and I need to get better at finding a balance.  

In Writer’s Workshop, I remind my writers how important it is to “live differently because you are a writer.  Notice small moments and capture them in entries.”  If I sit in front of my computer and never leave my house, how am I modeling this behavior as a writer?  How will I have anything to share? 

If I would have said no to the game, I would have missed the following small moments today:
  • The ride to and from Lambeau Field filled with stories and laughter
  • Our friend Ken winning a Jordy Nelson Jersey in a tailgating raffle
  •  Eating the best steak sandwich ever on a pretzel roll, and devouring two bowls of seafood chowder that would challenge any restaurant on Bourbon Street 
  •  Finding disgusting standing water by a dumpster and taking a picture of it to share with my students tomorrow (they know I am grossed out by putrid standing water)
  •  I was almost not allowed in the Packer game because my beautiful purse was too big to pass security (my sweet husband emptied it out and smuggled it in)
  • Watching an amazing Packer win in sunny 65 degree weather
  • Spending an entire day with my husband, kid-free, talking about everything, BUT education
As I type this on my phone in the car on the ride home, I realize I made the right choice. Granted, I'm sneaking a little work in, but I'm excited to share, reflect, and celebrate how I lived life differently today, and found a balance. I can't wait to share these exciting experiences with my class tomorrow, and discover what small moments they lived this weekend too.

Celebrating the Win
Rogers and Nelson?

A Purse Worth Fighting For
Lambeau Field
Standing Water

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Students! Assemble!

I am a superhero fan.  I love the comics, movies, action figures, costumes, and most important, I love the story behind the hero.  I like Ironman, but I am in awe of the brilliant Tony Stark.  He has an idea, and retreats to his lab to research and build with J.A.R.V.I.S. to create the next great technology masterpiece.  I like Batman, but my favorite scenes are when Bruce Wayne and Alfred or Lucius Fox are researching, brainstorming, discussing strategy, and testing the newest tech tool.  These men are mere mortals, but they don’t believe there is a limit to the possibilities. Awesome. I understand that Iron Man and Batman are fictional characters, but we all need a little superhero to push ourselves and believe that anything is possible, because it is.  This is a lesson I want to teach my students with the support of 1:1 Chromebooks.  In education, teaching and learning should lead to Common Core Standard assessment, but should start with student ideas and choice.  As learning missions take flight, we decide the best learning path together.  We research, we collaborate, we strategize, we create, just like Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne. Once the mission is complete, we celebrate our success.  Finally, we reflect and set goals for our next mission, just like other superheroes do. I feel honored to lead my superheroes on their daily missions.  We are fortunate at Merton to have Chromebooks, Smartboards, document cameras and iTouches to enhance our learning experience. I just remind them that it is the operator with the brilliant mind and thoughtful heart who is the superhero, not the device.

Thank you to my fellow tech geeks @chris_reuter, @chadkafka, @dkapuler, and @MisterMinor for sharing resources and my passion for superheroes. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Chromebooks Have Landed

What a wonderful Friday in Merton, WI.  At 10:12 A.M., the Chromebooks landed in Room 121.  My class used Chrome and Google Apps on netbooks last year as 5th Graders, but Chromebooks are a right of passage in 6th Grade at Merton.  My students immediately became one with their Chromebook.  It was a beautiful thing. Once they discovered a few things, they started to share their gems with classmates. After a few minutes, they went to their Google Drive and started their writing activity in Google Docs.  I was pleased that they remembered our discussions from last year, and why we have 1:1 access in our classroom.  We focus on learning outcomes.  Our tasks have purpose and tie closely to our learning targets.  Luckily there is always room for the 4C’s and fun in the process.  The graphic by Bill Ferriter can help educators take the focus off the shiny tools, and put them back on the learning outcomes. The tools will follow, and so will the students.  
One of the ways we start conversations and find answers is by connecting with classmates, PLN's and global communities via Kidblog. My students will be posting their first reflection next week. Please visit and comment often. Our connection to a greater audience and your comments motivates my students to write more than ever. We are always looking for other classrooms willing to connect and create together. Mrs. Reuter's Class Blog

We ended our day celebrating our week of learning and our Chromebooks. We discussed how we will model digital citizenship as we explore our Chromebooks over the weekend. What a great week! I’m so proud of my students. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I Want to See You Be Brave

I love teaching writing.  More importantly, I love reading what students write. Writing is essays, song lyrics, comics, advertisements, tweets, blogs, novels, and notes of encouragement stuck to my coffeemaker in the morning. Writing is everywhere.  Educators have the delicate responsibility of teaching standards-based units to our eager writers. How we introduce writing to our students can set the stage for the entire year.  

When I heard the song “Brave” by Sarah Bareilles, I got goose bumps. It is a beautiful song with a strong message:

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

This is how I will start the year with my writers.  
I have an advantage since this is the second year with my students.  We have a 5th/6th grade loop at Merton Intermediate School. I already know they are talented, thoughtful, amazing writers. My hope for this year is we can build on last year’s foundation of mini lessons and conferring, and they come to workshop feeling brave and ready to take risks.
For the first week of school, we will listen to “Brave” as we transition to Writer’s Workshop time. When the song is complete, we will be ready to start our mini lesson.  Each week, a student will select a new song that inspires them as a writer.  
Be brave this year! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Meeting Chris Lehman

Professional development doesn’t get much better than The Reading Writing Project at Columbia Teacher’s College.  The week began with a keynote by Lucy Calkins in the magnificent Riverside Church.  My friends and I anxiously climbed the stairs to the cathedral, when suddenly I noticed someone I recognized standing next to the entrance.  It was Chris Lehman!  I turned to my friends to tell them about my star sighting.  I rambled off a few of his books; Energize Research Reading & Writing and Pathways to the Common Core. Normally I would walk right over and introduce myself to someone I admired, but I froze.  I became an absolute puddle.  My friends were not much help at first since they were looking back at me, horrified.  They had never seen me like this.  I am normally confident to a fault. Luckily, they pushed me to go over and talk to him.  He was so approachable and gracious.  I introduced myself, and mentioned a conversation we had on Twitter.  Whether he remembered it or not, he made me feel like he did, which was so kind.  He also took a picture with me.  My heart was racing the entire time.

This event was one of many amazing experiences at Teacher’s College, but I keep revisiting it in my mind because of the emotional and physical reaction I had to this experience.  Why did I react this way?  I started thinking about the fact that I LOVE reading professional development books, online articles and blogs.  This is such a nerdy statement, but I really do.  While some people sit by the pool and read novels, my nose is buried in professional development texts or on Twitter.  The information shared by these authors inspires me to be better for my students.  They deserve the best.  Chris Lehman writes books that help teachers be better.  

Once I returned home and had more time to reflect, I realized the emotion came from an interaction I had last spring when my dad had surgery.  Time alone at the hospital is a scary thing, so I spent my time reading and on Twitter.  It was the first time I read Energize Research Reading & Writing by Chris Lehman.  I mentioned a few of my favorite parts on Twitter as I read, and within 10 minutes Chris Lehman and I began a conversation about the book.  It was really exciting to be able to dialogue with him about his work, especially since my class was currently working on informational writing. It was a great day.  My dad’s surgery went wonderfully, and I left the hospital with a new mentor.  

Chris Lehman is an amazing writer, teacher, and mentor.  Chris, along with all of the other brilliant teachers at The Reading Writing Project, are so approachable and generous with their time. These interactions were so important to me, and they are so important to kids. This year I am going to be more generous with my time.  I will make sure I am available for conversations, whether they are face to face or digital, and supply the much needed feedback my students cherish.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Looking Back/Looking Ahead

60 degrees in July? What’s up Mother Nature? Rather than sitting by the pool, I am inside covered in a blanket. I know we will have more hot days to come, but this weather is a gentle reminder that the 2013-2014 school year is quickly approaching. I will miss the time at home with my boys, but I am anxious to see my students. I am a 5th/6th Grade looping teacher at Merton Intermediate School, so I am fortunate to have my same students for two years.

The 5th Grade year was full of exciting “firsts” for my students. Some of my favorites include: 1:1 with Netbooks/Chromebooks, Google Apps, Boom Writer, the 4C’s, Kidblog, 1st & 3rd Grade Buddies and Student PLN’s. Our greatest success was the implementation of Writer’s Workshop. My students and I embraced the model and love our workshop time. Our favorite part was sharing our work with our class and global PLN. The Workshop Model stresses that both students and teachers see themselves as writers. This idea is what inspired me to start my own professional blog. My students’ blogs were amazing and showed extensive growth throughout the year. Please enjoy our final post titled, “Looking Back/Looking Ahead”. We are always looking for other classes to comment on our blogs and collaborate on project-based activities.

In less than a week I will be traveling to New York to attend The Teacher’s College at Columbia University. I am honored to represent Merton Community School District at The Reading & Writing Institute. I am excited to learn about the new units of study and how I can best deliver this CCS-based content to my eager learners. I promise to share my TCRWP gems in future posts.

Still only 66 degrees.  Stay warm and read blogs.