All posts by boysanddogs

Teachers College Reading August 2014 Day 1

My promise to myself… to blog my impressions and initial take aways during my week at Teachers College. This is my third institute. I am in the advanced reading section but by no means a seasoned participant. I sit across from an amazing woman, Julie, who has attended 25 institutes. She took classes from Ellin Keene as she was writing Mosaic of Thought; she went through grad school with my small group leader, the amazing and entertaining Natalie Louis. She is gracious and knowledgable. She makes me want to sit and listen as she teaches along with the group leader. I feel like a novice compared to Julie but still work toward the same goal of furthering my craft so that students may benefit. This is the beauty of Teachers College. Picture joining a week long pep rally where everyone is cheering in unison for the same team. Some are cheering louder than others, some are leading the cheers, but all share their voice and all cheer for the same team.
There has been an underlying theme present in my first two days, throughout all of my sessions with Christine Cook Robson, Natalie Louis and Lucy Calkins – the idea of goals and transparency.
When students work, do they know what they work towards? Do they know the next goal in their journey as a reader, as a writer? How do we support their understanding of not only how they approach text today but how that approach will shift tomorrow?
Students must know what quality work entails in order to make strides with deliberate practice when reading and writing. Without this the work is loose and lacks focus. There is no work toward mastery or growth, there is only work.
Lucy tells us that the idea of checklists and learning progressions brought forth in Units of Study have taken the educational community by storm. These have given students a clear sense of what is expected and the ability to check themselves against a standard. They have taken some of the onus out of the teacher’s hands and provided a structured means of students taking ownership in their learning and understanding what their next step should be. They have given students “the sense that I can get visibly, concretely, better.”
Clear feedback gives the learner a vivid image of the next step in their learning. Take inference, for example. How many of our students have a clear understanding of what inference is and can articulate that understanding in a meaningful way to others? How many of our teachers? Now lay the skill out and picture how it spirals and weaves in and out of reading levels. What are the demands of the text and what does inference entail as we climb the ladder of text complexity? Do our students understand that how we approach text shifts and changes as we grow as readers? Do we as teachers understand that the skills they build as they move through reading levels will shift and shuffle based on what they are building in their repertoire within that given level? How does the notion of clear feedback and clearly understanding where they are going next help students in deliberate practice?
Another big idea that I am excited to explore more throughout the week is one brought up by Christine Cook Robson, the idea of the role of inquiry in Readers’ Workshop. How would your reading instruction change if you deliberately shifted toward an inquiry approach when conferring with readers? This was tried in lieu of the much used demonstration and other more teacher-directed conferences in 1st and 2nd grade in NJ. TC found that students relied on the teacher to verify their thinking in the traditional workshop structure. When inquiry was introduced, students began to do the thinking and naming. They began to own their learning at a deeper level rather than waiting for a teacher to tell them they were on the right track.
We learn more about this idea, as well as the idea of students applying to move up a reading level based on evidence of their work. Hopefully I have more of both to share tomorrow!



Summers are hard. I had no idea when shifting roles from teacher to district support just how hard summers would be. This summer we trained a lot of teachers. When I say a lot, I mean drop your jaw, holy cow a LOT.
Summers are exciting. They hold the promise of new learning waiting to be brought into classrooms. They are also in the “honeymoon” period of teacher learning, when everything sounds awesome and implementing large scale change looks completely do-able. By progress report time, some of us have gone from honeymoon straight to “parent of a newborn” mode where we have no sleep, no time, we are totally frazzled and sometimes, admit it, wonder what the hell we were thinking.
Summers are 7-5. Summers are waking my kids and getting them into the car by 6:45 am (most of the time) My guilt of robbing them both of the summers I knew as a child where we slept late, played all day and went on adventures in the woods behind my house is eased a little knowing the work we do in the summer will make a difference for my boys in their classroom each and every day.  (The rocking field trips that daycare provides doesn’t hurt either)

Now, this summer is almost over.  I am wrapping up the end of this season by going back to Teacher’s College next week. I have been inspired by so many of your blogs, tweets and chats that I think it’s time to hold myself a little more accountable. My goal is to write about what I’ve learned each day next week. I’d realy like to follow that up with more online reflection and collaboration.  The work we do is too important not to share.  It is too hard to do alone.  Irene Fountas said it beautifully last year at IRA, “Collegial Generousity goes beyond teachers sharing brownies in the lounge.  Today, teacher isolation is a matter of choice.”

If you happen to be one of the three people who have stumbled across my blog, please feel free to hold me accountable.

Father to Son


Tonight was one of those nights that are just fun.  We agreed to have dinner with our neighbors on a whim.  We splurged and dropped the kids in hourly care that looks more like an indoor amusement park than a babysitting service.   Good company, good food, happy and carefree.

On the way home we gather our children.  Hubs actually goes inside and let’s me stay in the car.  At that point, the mood of the evening shifted.  B is infatuated with the candy jar at the checkout counter.  The candy is there on the honor system.  Take one and leave a few cents behind.  Tonight he asked his father for two.  He was told he may have one.  B decided one extra wouldn’t be noticed and took two anyway, sliding one inside his jacket as he turned away from the counter.   Dad saw the whole thing and B is busted.

We know kids make mistakes.  We even remember some of our own.  I remember stealing a pair of Barbie shoes from my neighbor, Sultana.  At the time I justified it by telling myself that she had many, many pairs of Barbie shoes and that because I had a little sister I was forced to share Barbies with, I had mismatched, chewed on, Barbie shoes.  I wasnt caught but I have felt guilty about those shoes for years!  Tonight my son made the same decision his mother, and almost anyone else who has ever been 8 has made.  He made the wrong choice based only on his wants.

After a silent car ride home my husband took B into his room.  I could hear the conversation through the door.  B was being punished for refusing to obey his father, but more importantly, my husband was quietly explaining that he was being punished because he did not act with honor.  He told his son that it was important to learn these lessons now so that someday when he is a man he will know in his heart how to make the right decisions.  Men, behave with honor.  Even when no one is looking.  While it seems like such a small thing, a piece of candy, the lesson is one we never outgrow.  I chose to leave this conversation to father and son.  I heard my husband tell his son that he is loved.  We are proud of him.  And that the most important thing we can do is learn from our mistakes.

March in Texas

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for slice of life stories here at TWT. GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories/blogs.


Yesterday I began the day in shorts and a short sleeved shirt.  Outside, looking over the spoils of hub’s latest fishing trip, the temperature dropped 10 degrees in under five minutes.  A cold wind blew in that felt like someone turned on a window unit full blast.  That wind hasn’t stopped yet.
Tonight we are under a winter storm watch.  Thunder, lightning, and cold rain fill the sky with the promise of freezing.
If you are not from the south you don’t understand how life stands still for a little frozen precipitation.  The sad truth is, we don’t prepare.  We have no reason to.  We know heat. We know hurricanes. We cancel school at the first sign of a snowflake.
Temperatures dipping into the 20’s or even 30’s guarantee mothers across the Bayou City will be tuned in to the 10 pm or 5 am news glued to the screen waiting to hear of school closings.  I will be right there with them.  The thought of making up a day later seems far far away while the possibility of curling up with my boys, a fire, and a book… That seems like heaven.

My first post – Basketball Season 1

My first post, my first day of the Slice of Life challenge…..

See that kid?

He’s mine.

The one on the bench.

The B team player who  plays with his shoes instead of watching  A team .

He’s the one you have to remind “offense,” “defense,” and which man to guard.

He’s the one who will let a rebound fall right in front of him because he’s a little afraid, and a little unsure of what he would do if he caught it.

He’s the one who never picked up a basketball before this season.

He’s the one his team cheers on when the ball hits the backboard in warm-ups.

He’s the one who has yet to score, but he has fun playing.

He’s the one who has “most improved.”

He is the one who, for the first time, knows what it feels like to be part of a team.

Today he was the one walking with his head high, and a little swagger in his step that is new to me, as they called his team for championship trophies.

See that kid?

He’s mine.

And I couldn’t be prouder.