Saturday, May 19, 2012

Parent Night - Done and Done!!!

On Tuesday we had Parent Night for the Collaborative Teaching classrooms that will be running next year. This was an important night because it gave us the opportunity to directly communicate to the parents our vision and ideas for our collaborative teaching classroom next year. The pressure was on to be clear about who were are and our ideas because parents were given the opportunity to opt out of the program. We find speaking to parents at Back to School Night to be nerve-wracking with the sea of parent faces staring at you; this was like Back to School Night X 10. Take a look:

As you can see, we were pretty nervous about our presentation, but once we got started we were fine. Probably the most nerve-wracking part of the whole thing was our worry that the parents would have a bunch of difficult questions that we wouldn't know how to answer. We were so relieved to find this was not the case. While the parents did have many questions, we were able to answer them all and in complete agreement with each other. We've been spending so much time getting on the same page in terms of instructional pedagogy and curricular structure for next year ... so, so, so, sooooooo much time ... but it really paid off in terms of being able to field questions in synchronicity. So we are categorizing Parent Night as a SUCCESS! Go, us (hey, if you're not your own cheerleader then who will be, right?!!?)!! Whew, that's one thing we can take off our plates. Now, let's hope that we impressed enough people that we can fill our class for next year. Fingers crossed!!!

P.S. Here's the brochure that we created for the night:

From the limb,

Friday, May 11, 2012

It's List Time, Y'all #1: 10 Reasons Why We're Excited About Next Year

As the school year draws to a close, it's natural for many teachers to begin to look toward next year. This period of reflection and professional goal setting is invigorating for both of us. And, quite frankly, sometimes the only thing getting us through the SAME student asking the SAME question about where to put their paper ("Are you really asking me that!?!? It's May!!!") is the knowledge that we will use what we learned this year to work with our students even more successfully next year. We are able to hold onto the buoyancy that this outlook provides while blissfully ignoring that we'll feel the same way at the end of next year and ad nauseum for the rest of our teaching careers. So in the spirit of our optimistic, well ... spirit, we would like to provide a list of what we are excited about for next year. Enjoy!

~ The List ~

#1 Built-In Backup - To steal a line from a song on the Clueless soundtrack (oh, yes we did!): "Don't want to be all by myself an-y-moooooor-or-or" (We will not subject you to our rendition of this song in mp3 form - you're welcome!)

#2 Synergy - Not to steal a cliche business-y term, but it really fits the experience we've had so far while crafting our instructional program. Two heads have truly been better than one ... on the big stuff. On the little stuff, like sharpening pencils, we look a bit more like dysergy (it's a word, people - look it up!)

#3 Embedded PD ... like all the time!!!! Kristie is AMAZING at reading and Kristin is good at some other stuff :P. We will be constantly learning and growing from each other. We will also be continuing our personal growth in different curricular areas so we can strengthen our instructional practices by learning from each other.

#4 Houses - We are going to organize our students into four "houses" that will provide a smaller community for the children to feel connected to while also providing us with an invaluable organizational tool. The best part, though, is when we get to say things like "Two points for Gryffindor" when we award our house points.

#5 Color-coding EVERYTHING - Yes, we are those teachers!

#6 Flexible Instruction - We are going to work wonders like Cirque de Soleil ... BOOM!

#7 Looping - As overwhelmed as we will be getting to know 40 kids in one class, we know the children will feel even more so in the beginning and we are planning on dedicating a substantial amount of time toward training them how to learn and create within our instructional structure. We are so excited to have the opportunity to loop, both to develop lasting relationships with our students as well as reap the benefits of our teaching for longer than one year.

#8 Bird Theme - We're big on themes ... and matching ... and all things coordinated. We're going to call our Volume Anchor Chart "Chirp Levels" - c'mon, that's cute!!!

#9 G.L.A.D. - We're OBSESSED, period.

#10 Continuous Challenge - It's going to stretch us professionally, but we're up for the challenge. So bring it!

From the limb,

40 is the new 20

Yesterday Kristie was rolling through the office when she spied a towering, uh ... tower of boxes from Office Depot. 
"Whose boxes are those?" she snorted to some colleagues, jabbing a thumb over her shoulder at the ridiculous pile. 

"I don't know," they replied, "but those are a lot of boxes!"

"Yeah, who would order that much stuff? Jeez!!!" Kristie stalked over to the boxes to take a look at the fools who would order this much stuff.

This is what she saw:
This was her reaction:
Kristie eyes the boxes holding our classroom supply order
While ordering our supplies for next year, we were continuously boggled by the sheer quantity of supplies we were ordering. 40 Word Study notebooks ... 90 zip pouches ... 120 binders, oh my!!! It's natural to focus on the number forty when considering our upcoming work, to think that all we're are doing is essentially doubling everything. But then Kristie pointed out ...
40 smiles everyday
40 minds to mold
40 hugs
40 families to share this experience
40 "I love you, Ms. B and Ms. H"
40 lives to touch

When you think about it that way, the towering pile of supplies becomes a towering pile of possibilities and new beginnings. 

Now, where are we going to put all of these boxes?!?

From the limb,

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lessons from the Limb #1: The Devil is in the Details

When deciding to collaborate together in a single classroom next year, we knew that we would need to align ourselves carefully in terms of educational philosophy and pedagogy. Seems like a daunting task, but in fact, that proved to be surprisingly simple compared to aligning ourselves on the nitpicky details of running a classroom. You see, we all have things we like to be just so. "I like to arrange my folders this way" or "I like my markers to be lined up in rainbow order". Even the most laid back teachers have partialities, and there is no way that either one of us remotely falls into the category of "laid back" teachers. We like to think of ourselves more as delightfully and charmingly anal-retentive. We knew this about each other and thought to ourselves, "She likes things just so. I like things just so. This is will work!" Ah, but herein lies the rub ... this is what ensued ...

Do you see now? Just because we each like things "just so" does not mean we like things the same way. Oh no ... no ... no ... no ... no, my friends. So what's a fledgling partnership to do? Well that brings us to our recommended FLY AWAY from our first lesson. It's a simple phrase, really. It goes like this:

"Well ... you can take point on that then ..."

TRANSLATION: "I think you're crazy but for the sake our partnership I will let you be crazy as long as I don't have to participate."

Problem solved ... for the moment.

Now about those glue sticks ...

From the limb,

Our Feelings on Collaborative Teaching ... in Haikus ... You're Welcome!

So many children
So many many backpacks
Where will they all go?

Working together
Each one uber controlling
Can we get along?

Color-coding up a storm
Bins! Bins! Oh the bins!

Sharpening pencils
Kristie is on point for that
Kristin doesn't care

Overwhelming risk
Together we are stronger
We will overcome

From the limb,