Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sharing my Reading Life

*This is blog post #4 in the 2012 Summer Blog Challenge*

I have had the pleasure of learning directly from Regie Routman in her Leadership in Literacy conference twice in the past two years. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a conference/workshop with Regie, I would highly recommend it. While I could write for days about why I have learned from Regie and the impact it has had on our school literacy practices, this post will actually be about how she has impacted my reading.

The first time that I heard Regie, she talked about how important reading is in her life and that she reads a wide variety of books...not just professional education books. I'm not sure why, but that was a shock to me. I spent every spare moment I could reading professional books to improve my practice, but Regie helped me see that I wasn't actually enjoying reading by only reading this type of books.  (She also said that it's important to have a life outside of school so that you have interesting things to write about...I'm still working on this one!)

Then she did something that really had an impact on me---she passed around her reading log to share her reading life with us. It was just a simple journal that she used each page to record the books she read for that month. For each book she included the title, author, makes fiction or non-fiction and also marked.a star by it was a great read for her. By logging books in a simple way and each page being month, she could easily see which months she was falling behind on reading (and also which months she traveled a lot since she does a lot of reading while flying).  If you want to see what Regie's reading and read more about how and why she started logging her books, you can read it here on her site.  I'm sure that my readers know by now that I'm one of those crazy people that is eager to learn and implement right away, so I recorded a few (ok, several) book recommendations that she had starred in her book log and then on my drive home I stopped at the store and bought a nice notebook to start my own reading log journal.  

April 2012 of my reading log
I started my reading log December of 2010 and have found that it has really pushed me to read more.  When I see a blank page, it motivates me to shut off the tv and read more (quite honestly, tv has become boring to me).  During the year 2011 I read a total of 26 books--6 fiction, 20 non-fiction.  When I saw that break down I realized I have got to read more fiction or I am going to become a boring person.  We are now half way through 2012 and I have surpassed the total of books I read last year. With today being the last day of June I have read 27 books--15 fiction, 12 non-fiction.

What have I learned from all of this reading?

  • Reading fiction is a big stress relief for me. I enjoy escaping into a good story. 
  •  By keeping a log, it is much easier for me to share book recommendations with others. 
  • I find myself talking about books with students in the lunch room that I've read, which leads them to talk about books they've enjoyed and then I read their recommended books (the same happens with adults).
  • It seems like the more I share my reading, the more teachers in my building are reading.
  • I spend a lot of money at amazon ordering books! (I partially blame the #educoach folks on twitter for this!)
After my first year of logging my books, I didn't feel it was enough to model and share my reading with my teachers.  In December of 2011, I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, which is a MUST read if you have anything to do with teaching literacy.  One of the studies she sited in this book found a link between the reading habits of teachers and the reading achievement of their students (Lundberg and Linnakyla, 1993).  The take-away from this study is that if we want our students to read and enjoy it for the rest of their lives, then we must show them what a reading life looks like.  I decided to take this one step further and do a better job of modeling reading for my teachers.  I was already maintaining a staff blog for a weekly memo, so I decided the best avenue would be to start logging my books onto shelfari and then add a widget to my blog so that staff could easily see what I'm reading (you can see my shelfari bookshelf widget on this blog to the right as well).  Since doing this, it seems like most of my teachers are reading more--both professionally and for pleasure.  It could be that they were reading this much before and it just got them talking about their reading more? Even if that is so, I know that the discussions and book recommendations help build our learning community...impacting our staff and students.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Relationships and the Number 96

*This is blog post #3 in the 2012 Summer Blog Challenge*

In my last post, I shared what I learned from Willard Daggett speaking about Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships. Readers' comments on that post pointed out that I didn't speak to the 3rd R, however, Relationships are essential in schools in order to get to the Rigor and Relevance.

On relationships, Daggett refers to the necessity for teachers to build relationships with students in the classroom. Daggett's point about relationships was that learning is personal. When teachers have strong, trusting relationships with their students, they work harder and achieve more. The same is true with leaders. We may have many ideas about what needs to be done; but without trusting relationships with those we wish to lead, we will find ourselves alone on the journey, It is so easy to get excited about the Rigor (this could be technology, new classroom pedagogy, etc.) that we forget to build strong foundational relationships before setting off on our journey.

When I think about Relationships, I think about the number 96. What is the significance of 96? On the last day of school this year, a student in our school told her teacher that she doesn't get to go to summer school (we have a large summer school program with many enrichment classes) and she is counting down the days until she gets to come back to school...96 days until she gets to be back to her favorite place. I know that it is the relationships this student has had with her teachers throughout the years that have made our school her favorite place to be.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rigor, Relevance and Relationships

I recently attended the 2012 Wisconsin School Leadership Academy and was fortunate to hear some great speakers that I will try to blog about in my next few posts (especially since I've been challenged to blog twice a week this summer --if you're counting this is blog post #2 in the challenge).  If you'd like to check out the tweets from this Academy, you can check #2012WSLA on twitter. I tweeted from the @AWSALeaders1 account, so you won't find too many tweets from me.

The first speaker we heard was Willard Daggett, known by many for speaking/writing about Rigor, Relevance and Relationships in education.  Here are some of my bullet point notes from his session:
  • Schools are improving, but we still have a gap of where students need to be in our changing world.
  • Teachers are on treadmills just trying to keep up and cover everything that might be on the test.
  • The 3 central challenges in education right now: Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Assessments, and Teacher Evaluations.
  • Rapidly improving schools have proactive leadership, and focused/sustained professional development. 
  • Our state tests focus on lower level applications, but our students NEED higher level/real world applications (Rigor/Relevance).
  • Research on the most improving schools have found that many have eliminated department chair heads and have instead moved to interdisciplinary teams. You cannot get to higher level/real world applications one discipline at a time!
  • Building character/guiding principles (respect, responsibility, compassion, initiative, adaptability, perseverance, etc.) are still essential for our students.  Do you know anyone that truly lost a job due to a lack of academic skills? It was likely a lack of one of those character traits.
  • There is NO research that supports eliminating the arts (especially if it means more test prep).
I realize that these are not the best notes from his session (like I said, I was also busy tweeting!)  I must confess that I have heard Daggett's name mentioned numerous times before, but didn't hop on the bandwagon to read up on the new "Rigor/Relevance" buzz words, but now I'm racking up another amazon order for his books.  Daggett doesn't speak to any sort of magic "be all/end all," but rather speaks about common sense practices and the importance of making your curriculum rigorous (higher level thinking/applications) and relevant (real-life situations that make the learning important and applicable for students).  

Friday, June 22, 2012

2012 Summer Blogging Challenge

Bill Carroza (@wcarozza) over at "Principal Reflections" snuck in a blog challenge in his post "5 Reasons Educators Should Blog." Then my twitter friend @fliegs threw @mmiller7571 and I under the bus in a tweet to get us in on the challenge (now that I think about it, I think he has done this to us every year!) I have a hard time saying no to anything so I'm in (even if it means that this first post is this simple--it is also my first attempt at using the blogger app on my iPad, so I have no idea what it will look like and have found I can't add any links into my post.)

So who wants to join us? Only 2 posts a week, come on we can all commit to at least 2.

Now I'm off to start thinking of my next blog post...