The visitor’s arrival was minutes away…
He was seconds from revealing the secret…
Got this in my mailbox a day after my traffic cop performance in the parking lot.
I prefer to think it’s from a friend…
Mrs. Nix: So you’ve been busy.
Joanna Page: We’ve all been busy, right? Kind of comes with the job.
Mrs. Nix: Even after school.
Joanna Page: Yeah, I’ve met with a few kids about photography.
Mrs. Nix: In the parking lot.
Joanna Page: Oh, that.
Mrs. Nix: What got into you?
Joanna Page: I’d just seen one too many close calls and I just kind of snapped.
Mrs. Nix: Any way you could have handled it differently?
Joanna Page: You, and probably the parents, wouldn’t have appreciated my other ideas.
Mrs. Nix: Which were?
Joanna Page: Let’s just go with ‘more extreme’ and leave it at that.
Mrs. Nix: So, are you done with your little venture into law enforcement?
Joanna Page: Yes.
Mrs. Nix: So on to other things…how’s the instructional schedule going in your room?
Joanna Page: From my viewpoint, it’s going fine.
Mrs. Nix: What exactly is your viewpoint?
Joanna Page: I would think we are meeting instructional minute expectations.
Mrs. Nix: You would think?
Joanna Page: I don’t watch them too closely, but I feel there is plenty of learning and skill practice going on and throw in a little creative and divergent thinking.
Mrs. Nix: That all sounds nice, but is it fitting in with the Common Core?
Joanna Page: Well, I haven’t exactly checked it word-for-word, but I think there is a standard or two that applies.
Mrs. Nix: How about posting your daily learning targets?
Joanna Page: Not exactly every day.
Mrs. Nix: Hardly ever, from what I can see. Remember that term we talked about as a staff–‘laser-focused’?
Joanna Page: Okay, I guess I could use a little work on that…
Mrs. Nix: Do you even want to be at this school?
Joanna Page: Whoa! Where did that come from?
Mrs. Nix: Well…
Joanna Page: No need to answer that. But yes, I love my kids and so, yes, I want to be here.
Mrs. Nix: There seem to be more times than not that you seem to be paving your own way.
Joanna Page: Which means?
Mrs. Nix: You’re hardly following our routines.
Joanna Page: Routines…
Mrs. Nix: I have another meeting, but think about my concerns and check in with Mrs. O’ Brien to schedule a short meeting for tomorrow.
Joanna Page: It will have to be after school. We have a field trip to Safeway tomorrow.
Mrs. Nix: Safeway…
Joanna Page: Yep, a little ‘math and writing in the real world’ activity. You should come.
Mrs. Nix: Thanks, but I’ll stay where I belong.
Joanna Page: Okay…anything I can pick up for you at Safeway?
Okay, so here we go. I don’t have as much time to write right now because I have a meeting with Mrs. Nix. I can just imagine what’s on her agenda. She still hasn’t mentioned the after-school parking lot ‘event’, so I’m guessing that will be a top item.
More important, yesterday, I gave the kids a journal prompt of: “I want to live in a world where…”
The responses were classic, so good, in fact, that I launched us into our first ‘class book’. They’re now almost done with their individual pages–simple in design with just their single sentence and an accompaning illustration.
They had a head start right then, but they were expected to work on it at home, as well. I gave them plenty of choices for illustration. Hand-drawn is always preferred, but they were welcome to create a collage of words and pictures from magazines and newspapers or take their own photos to be printed out.
Some of their responses:
Staff meeting. Interesting. I sat down and the two colleagues at the table found reason to move elsewhere. I kept my head down in the Austin Kleon book I was reading and busied myself by taking out my wheel book.
Then our librarian, Sally Helm, sat down by me. I didn’t expect her to be staying for the meeting, but figured she had some quick announcement for the staff. I pulled out my Joy of Cooking chocolate chip drop cookies [hold the extra tablespoon of flour, thank you very much] and, after pulling out a couple for Mr. Taylor, plopped them between us. I shot her a glance and a smile, then nodded toward the cookies. She dove in.
A few minutes later, we both eyed the last cookie. I nudged it toward her. She chuckled and, with her notebook, slid it back toward me. Kate Smalley leaned forward and hissed [that’s really the only word that fits here], “Would one of you two eat it?” I scooped up the cookie and napkin and underhanded it to her table.
Was happy Mrs. Nix hadn’t shown up yet. It would have been just like her to pull the ol’ “And Ms. Page, did you bring enough for everybody?’ line.
After the meeting ended, it hit me. Shirley was not on the meeting agenda, but there she still was.
“Did you sit here just for the cookies?” I asked her.
“I can’t think of a better reason,” she said.
But it hit me…when she sat by me, there was no hint of chocolate chip drop cookies.
A highlight of my day, that lady was.
Added a new twist to journal time. We go around the room and ask for a favorite sentence they wrote during that session. Kids can pass on the opportunity, but most are anxious to share. Unfortunately, after one annoying incident, I had to add—and require them to copy down—the following guideline:
If I include a living, breathing person in my selected sentence, it must be in a positive way. If it might be embarrassing to that person, I will not read it to the class.
Thanks, Mrs. Nix, for spurring me to continue to give kids choices in what they want to read.
Seems that the more you insist on the value of what some offshore publisher recommends for my kids, well, that just doesn’t wash with me.
But, to appease leadership, for ten minutes a day, we’ll open the book about tarantulas and the scientists who study them. We’ll break down a page of text for any possible value—vocabulary, favorite phrases, valuable information— and then move on to our other language arts resources, such as, ‘ourselves as writers, ‘ourselves as readers’ and the materials we value. We’ve had some very interesting discussions centered around ‘What I’m reading’ and ‘What I’m writing’.
“To me, that’s the best kind of rule to break—an established pattern that does nobody any good.”
Caught this in a book on innovation.
Seems to be my rule of thumb lately.