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DOING ONE THING AT A TIME
to find your balance

 

Research has shown that your brain cannot actually multi-task.  When you think you are multi-tasking, you are actually changing your focus over and over.  Although it may seem quick and seamless, you actually do loose time.  When I try to multi task, not only do I loose time, I find that I do not enjoy what I am doing as much as when I am focused on one thing at a time.  I find I am more efficient, more relaxed and happier when I don’t multi task.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

TRY JOURNALING
to find your balance

 

In the ideal world I would journal every morning.  It is a way for me to sort out feelings, put questions out to God, relax and get those nagging thoughts out of my head.  Because no one reads my journal, I can really write down what is in my head.  If they are thoughts I’m glad to have I can spend the time with them, writing and really enjoying them.  If they are thoughts I don’t want to be having, writing them allows me to get them out and be done with them.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCING MORE THAN THE CURRICULUM
by curbing creative criticism

 

As teachers we want our students to do well and help them learn so that they can be prepared for the future whether for the next grade, for college, or for a job.  We spend a lot of time pointing out what they can do better.  Unfortunately, we too often forget that students are living their lives right now, just as we are. Therefore, we need to frame our feedback in such a way that students understand what skills they do have, as well as skills they need to continue to develop.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCE YOUR NUMERACY
the importance of knowing basic facts

 

There was a time I used to thinking that as long as students had strategies to figure out their basic facts why make our students memorize them.  As I studied more about balanced numeracy, I came to realize that knowing basic facts is as important as knowing sight words.  Although having skills to sound out words is critical, if your sight word vocabulary is low, reading becomes laborious and unsatisfying.  I would argue the same applies for knowing basic facts and math.

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

STOP LABELING EVENTS AS GOOD OR BAD
to find your balance

 

We often judge events or encounters with others as either good or bad, when in actually most events are neither all good nor all bad.  Martha Beck, author of Steering by Starlight, discusses an exercise in which we can take notice of the best parts of our life and follow them back to its start.  Quite often, we will find that this greatness started from an event that seemed to be bad at the time.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCING YOUR NUMERACY
by making connections

 

Arthur Hyde, author of Comprehending Math discusses the importance of making connections in math. In literacy instruction we teach students to make connections, e.g.: text-to-self (connecting to prior knowledge and experience) text-to-world (connecting to events and reports about events in the larger world) and text-to-text (connecting what we have read to what we are reading).  We also need to teach students to make connections in math. 

  • Math-to-Self: What does this situation remind me of? Have I used these skills before?

  • Math-to-World: Is this related to anything I have seen in social studies, science or another class? Is this related to anything I have seen people doing outside of the classroom?

  • Math-to-Math: When have I solved a problem like this before? Can I use what I learned from another problem to help me with this one

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

GO FOR THE FEELING
to find your balance

 

So often I’ve wished for things such as a BMW, being able to fly first class, or more money, just to name a few.  I’ve been very fortunate to get a lot of these things for which I have wished, but I have also come to find out that it was never really about getting these things.  It was more about the feeling that I thought would go with having these things.  For example, I would love to have a house on the lake but I need to save a lot more money and perhaps even retire before I get it.  In the meantime, however I can get the wonderful feeling of having a house on the lake by simply renting one for a week.  This allows me to enjoy sitting on the porch, relaxing, looking over the lake.  I am able to fulfill many more of my dreams faster with this mindset.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCING YOUR NUMERACY
by going beyond "problem solving skills"

 

All too often problem solving activities in math classes are simply computation practice disguised as number stories.  These number stories require students to use skills we have taught them. Once students have these skills mastered this “problem solving “ requires very little thought or reasoning.  True problem solving, however, is constantly changing and always requires thought, metacognition and reflection.  True problem solving often has more than one right answer and entails interpretation, elaboration and explanation.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCING MORE THAN THE CURRICULUM
by asking open-ended questions

 

The kinds of questions we ask can allow students to answer it at their own level. Truly open-ended questions not only give all students an opportunity to answer the questions, but it also gives us good information as to where they are in understanding.  A couple of examples are:

  • The answer is 27 apples.  What was the question?

  • What are different ways you can represent 24?

  • What is something you remember from the lesson/school day/story?

  • Draw a picture of something you learned today.

     

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

EXAMINE HOW YOU RELAX
to find your balance

 

The other day I came home from work needing to relax so I turned on the TV, ate a cupcake and played a computer game.  I found that after a half hour I was no more energized than when I came home from work.  The next day, I decided to go for a walk instead of sitting in front of the TV.  I found that after my walk I had more energy to cook dinner and do the chores that needed to get done.  When we relax, shouldn’t we do things that energize us?

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCING MORE THAN THE CURRICULUM
by moving beyond cooperation

 

We are living in a world where cooperation is necessary, but no longer sufficient.  We need to teach and practice collaboration.  Collaboration is the practice of taking the knowledge of one person and combining it with the knowledge of another in order to create new knowledge that neither person could have conceived alone.  As I have consciously practiced collaboration, I am better able to do it, teach it and recognize it.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

REALIZE IT'S TEMPORARY
to find your balance

 

I have been in such a mood lately and I don’t like when I feel this way.  Fortunately, I have been practicing keeping the perspective that all things are temporary.  This helps to alleviate some of the stress because it allows me to ride out this feeling, knowing that it will be better soon.  Although good feelings are also temporary, I can truly enjoy them without fear of them going away, since I know they will be back.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

RETHINKING DISLIKED ACTIVITIES
to find your balance

 

I was on my way to exercise class, whining to myself about how I don’t like going to exercise, but I have to go because it’s good for me.  When I stopped whining, I realized that I was enjoying the ride over, listening to my music. “OK,” I thought, “maybe GOING to exercise class isn’t so bad.”  I then got to class and enjoyed the “warm up”.  When we got to the “cool down”, I realized I love this part! On my way home, I came to the conclusion that it isn’t the whole exercise class I don’t like, it was simply the 30 minutes of the really hard work.  It makes exercise class much more bearable.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

WEEDING
to find your balance

 

In a garden it is essential to weed, in order for new plants to have room to grow.  I think this is true for life as well.  So often we hold so tightly to our possessions, our thoughts and our beliefs that no longer serve us.  When I am feeling bogged down and stagnant, I often “weed”.  Sometimes it’s my closet, sometimes it is my email in box….the physical act of thinning something out helps to free up space, not only in my home but in my head.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCE YOUR NUMERACY
by teaching reading versus spelling decimals

 

The other week I was teaching about decimals, and as usual many of my students wanted to read 0.6 as “zero point six” instead of “0 and 6 tenths”.  Although in the adult world this is often perfectly acceptable, it does not promote any understanding of what this number means.  I came to realize, and shared with my students, that reading 0.6, as zero point six, is like reading cat as c-a-t.  (reading the parts, and providing no meaning).  Now I have my students ask me, “Do you want me to spell the decimal or read the decimal?”

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCE YOUR NUMERACY
by computing aloud

 

So often we require our students to read aloud so we can hear whether or not they are reading correctly as well as to build better understanding.  This is a widely accepted practice among students and teachers.  However when it comes to “showing your work” in math, students often ask, “why can’t I just do it in my head?”  I have told my students that showing your work in math is like reading aloud.  Eventually a lot of what they are writing will be able to be done in their heads, but just as a teacher needs to hear what young readers are reading, we need to “hear” what young mathematicians are thinking when they solve problems. 

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCING NUMERACY
by taking time to understand number stories

 

Good readers think about what they read; they question, connect, and build meaning from what they read. Unfortunately, more often than not, those same great readers fail to use those strategies when reading number stories. When given a number story, they look for the numbers, the key words and try as quickly as they can to solve the problem. According to Arthur Hyde, author of Comprehending Math, “[the phase of understanding the problem] is critical and deserves to have significant time devoted to it – perhaps 75 percent of the time available.” I have hidden the numbers in number stories and Arthur Hyde has titled his number stories. This helps to start discussions so that students can begin to understand the number story and to prevent them from jumping right to implementing a strategy to solve it.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

SET TIME-SENSITIVE GOALS
to find your balance

 

I often bring home large stacks of papers to grade, even if my afternoon is booked with too many things to do to really get those papers graded. There have been times, however, that I have been realistic about what I can accomplish during the evening and only brought home what I was able to accomplish. It is on those evenings I am able to sleep more soundly and satisfied. I always try to remember: it feels better to plan to accomplish 3 things and get 3 things done than it does to plan to accomplish 100 things and only complete 50 of them.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCE YOUR NUMERACY
by focusing on mathematical vocabulary

 

 

Mathematics is a language all it’s own. My students and I often laugh at how mathematicians need their own word for everything. For example, mathematicians talk about the attributes of shapes. What they are really looking for are adjectives to describe the shapes, or characteristics of the shape. If we were scientists, we would be looking for the properties of the shape. Just as when we teach a foreign language, students may answer questions using the vocabulary that is most comfortable for them and then we translate it, using more mathematically correct words.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

DO SOMETHING KIND
to find your balance

 

For the past week or so I had been down in the dumps. Things were “happening to me” that really did a number on my ego. I was not only frustrated that these things were happening; I was frustrated that I couldn’t move past them. Then the other day I had an opportunity to do something kind for someone that I admire and don’t see very often. She was so thankful for what I did, that I could feel the stress of the previous week’s event actually fading away.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

USE YOUR TIME WISELY
to find your balance

 

The other morning, I received a call that we had a two-hour delay. Instead of our meeting starting at 8, it would start at 10. I had 2 extra surprise hours! Normally I would have tried to leave at normal time so that I could get extra work done in my classroom. This time, however, I decided not to rush and to stay home for one of those extra hours. When I went outside to shovel, I found that I actually enjoyed it. It was the quiet after the storm, the sun was just coming up over the snow covered trees and I was not in a rush. Afterward, I even had some time to read! I was then able to go to work an hour early and get things done. I was actually more productive during my “extra hour” of work because I was able to thoroughly enjoy the hour I took for me.

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!