Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Tip from Us to You - Shoes It Wisely (Hee hee)

Ok, let's get real here ... what's the number one skill that a first grade teacher needs to have? If you teach in lower elementary this is a no-brainer - you need to be a world-class shoelace tier. In fact, we should probably start being a little more hard hitting in our teacher interviews. "Oh, you have a masters in education. That's nice but can you tie teeny tiny shoes all day every day? Can you undo partially tied double-knot shoelaces with the utmost patience and care? Yes? You're in!"

One day while visiting the LAND OF BRILLIANT IDEAS AND LOST HOURS (aka Pinterest), KH was collecting ideas about exercising instead of just getting off her rump and actually exercising when she came across a post about a way to double-knot shoes that is as easy as 1-2-3 to undo. This elicited a quick double-take THEN an excited, "Say what?" THEN a rapid lemme try this out for myself. And, guess what??? It works and it's brilliant. So from us to you, here's how to tie double-knot laces that are easy to undo.

Gratefully borrowed from this website:
Go forth and tie, our dear teaching friends. May your fingers be ever nimble and sure, and your students' shoes securely tied.

From the limb,

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why We're Over the Word "Challenge"

Almost every year, KH comes down with strep. It's her achilles heel. If she's going to get sick, like full-on sick, it'll be strep ... every time. Last year, KH did not realize that she had strep so she was working in the classroom in that state you get in just before you realize that you're sick ... you know, the way you feel when you look back and think, "That's why I felt so weird." Anyway, in this strep induced cloud, KH had a strep induced genius thought and we're about to drop it on y'all ...

Every child needs a challenge.

You're welcome!

Ok, ok, ok ... let us explain ...

Do you ever find yourself using specific language just to appease a certain group of parents? We'd like think that we're above all of that ... that we tell it like it is ... but the truth is that we all do it. We want parents to trust us; we want them to believe that we have their child's best interests at heart and we're acting out of our extensive knowledge and experience base to meet the unique needs of their child. And many do hand us this trust and this professional respect buuuuuuuuuuut there are always a few who do not and we find ourselves, often subconsciously, changing our language and our presentation in order to convince them of this. One of the ways we do this is by throwing around the word "challenge", particularly to parents who are very concerned that their child is bright and they are not being, well, challenged.

"Your child is ready for a challenge ..."
"We will be challenging your child by ..."
"We are working on the challenging work of ..."

You get the idea.

But the truth is ... every child needs a challenge. Actually, scratch that:

Every child needs deserves a challenge.

That's our job, really ... right? Challenge exists in the area between what I can do and what I am just about to be able to do. It's the wilderness where learning occurs. Challenge might look different for every child based on their individual needs and learning trajectory, but if it's stretching you, if it's pushing you, if you're learning then it's a challenge. So that's why we're going to stop throwing the word challenge around like a prize to be held by certain students. Every child deserves a challenge and that's what we're about.

Okay, thanks for listening. We'll get off our high horse now :)

From the limb,

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lessons from the Limb #10 - Touchy Feely is Sometimes What It Takes

In our classroom we have many rituals; we thrive on organization, structure, and consistency. One of the structures we have is a Morning Meeting - which we totally invented (Just kidding! We wish!!) - and a Closing Circle to open and close our day. Both of these times are an important aspect of our community building. Morning Meeting gives us a chance to check in with each other as a class, exchange important information, and set a purpose for the day. Closing Circle gives us an opportunity to reflect on the day's events and set goals for tomorrow. While we always like to maximize every spare second of classroom time for instruction, these two rituals are so important that we never EVER skip them (like EVER).

We have been running a collaborative classroom together for the better part of 3 years now (woot! woot!) and in many ways we are a well oiled machine. But in the busyness of keeping our classroom running day to day, we forgot an essential thing - to apply the tenants of our classroom philosophy to our own partnership by having our own Morning Meeting before school and Closing Circle right before we go home each day.

Now to be perfectly honest, it's probably KH's fault that we let our meetings go (We used to have them - guilty face!). See if KM had her way, we would walk around school holding hands and wearing matching sweaters ... literally. And if KH had her way, we would be working with speed and efficiency through our endless to-do lists from the minute we set foot on campus until the minute we left for the day. And even though we are so in sync with each other, we still at times have friction and miscommunications (We know this is utterly shocking to hear but it's true). We would never cut Morning Meeting or Closing Circle out of our classroom day so why did we let it go for ourselves? Sooooo .... we've made a recommitment to having our own Morning Meeting and Closing Circle. We're sure you're dying to know what our Morning Meeting and Closing Circle looks like ... well, be in suspense no more:

Morning Meeting:
1. Say good morning (yeah, sometimes KH can forget this important part - guilty face!)
2. Go over the day's lesson plans and any special announcements
3. Go over any important tasks we have to accomplish - this is really important because KH is a planner and KM is not so it helps both of us to get on the same page about what needs to be done
4. Go over any goals we have for the day

Closing Circle:
1. Reflect on the day
2. Go over the to-do list and decide if any work needs to come home
3. Compliments!!! (This is KM's favorite part)

So the FLY AWAY is this: no matter how well you work together and how much you can accomplish, don't forget to take the time to work on your relationship and connect. Get on the same page about your day and the most essential things that need to be accomplished. Tell your teaching partner what you appreciate about them or something that you noticed that they did particularly well that day. And you could always end your day with an air high - 5 because really who doesn't feel good after an air high - 5? Yee-ah!!

From the limb,