SUMMER IS A GREAT TIME
to find your balance

 

I have entered this summer with great relief, excitement, and a bit of anxiety.  My children are grown and I have one weeklong vacation planned with my family, otherwise the time I have this summer is all mine. I have a long list of things I’ve wanted to do when “I had the time,” and now I have the time!  However, it would take me a year or more to accomplish all I want to do.  I feel I need to choose from my “to do” list wisely.  I want to relax, feed my spirit, and reconnect with family and friends; I also want to take time to prepare for the upcoming year.  It is my intention to practice consciously choosing my activities, enjoy doing them without thinking about other things I could/should be doing, and living in the moment.

 

                                                                                    Don’t forget to find today's balance!

WELCOME YOURSELF TO A NEW DAY
to find your balance
 
This past weekend I was on vacation with my mom.  Each evening she would set out a napkin with our coffee cups, a spoon, and sugar on it.  She also put milk in a small pitcher in the refrigerator, ready to be taken out in the morning.  My mom says she does this each evening so that when she wakes up in the morning she feels “welcomed”.  When we got up each morning, I, in fact, did feel welcomed by the new day.  This practice did not take much time in the evening, yet it started my day on such a happy, peaceful note.
 
                                                                                                               Don’t forget to find today’s balance!
BALANCING NUMERACY
by providing a "writer's climate" in math class

 

In writing class, we teach our students to prewrite, draft, think, revise, rewrite, proofread, and then come up with a final draft. This provides an atmosphere that mistakes are inevitable and change is expected, and it takes time to write well. Unfortunately, it is rare to find this same kind of atmosphere in math class. As students experience an emphasis on getting the one right answer quickly, they hesitate to ask questions, make mistakes, and revise their mathematical thinking. Perhaps if we emphasize mathematical process, connections and discussion, we can foster a stronger growth mindset in our math classes.

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BLOG

BALANCING MORE THAN THE CURRICULUM
with silence
 
I have just finished a book called Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise by Thich Nhat Hanh. He talks about the idea that silence brings us to the present, allowing us to “come home to ourselves”.  When we are “home”, we are centered, less stressed and better able to think clearly.  I couldn’t help but think about how this idea can help my students (and myself as well).  One way he suggests to quiet our mind is to ring a bell that resonates, allowing us to turn all focus to that one sound.  I am thinking that I am going to get a resonating bell and offer my students time to quiet their minds during the school day, especially when transitioning from a more lively activity to a quieter one. 
 
                                                                                                            Don’t forget to find today’s balance!
THINKING HORIZONTALLY
to find your balance
 

My grandmother always told me to never forget that there is no one in this world better than me. She would pause and then remind me that I was no better than anyone else either. Society has taught us to think vertically, we tend to classify people and events as better and worse, winners and losers, good times and bad. Each event and each person that comes in my life holds a gift.  I have been practicing using my energy to find that gift rather than ordering events and people on a vertical yardstick.  The hardest one for me not to put on the “yardstick” however, is myself

 

                                                                                    Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCING THE CURRICULUM

by teaching more questions than answers

 

I recently attended a workshop called “The Science of Answering and the Art of Asking Good Questions” with Michael Gorman.  He discussed the importance of not only asking our students thought provoking questions, but also to teach our students to ask themselves those questions, as well.  In a world where we are able to ask Google, what seems to be, any question and get an answer in less than a second, we need to ask and teach our students to ask questions that Google cannot easily answer.  Michael Gorman suggests we move from Essential Questions to Driving or Investigative Question.  Here is an example he gives to show the difference between the 2 questions: EQ: How are measurement skills and our knowledge of math and geometry related to building a dream park with a given set of dimensions and budget? DQ/IQ: In what way can we design, plan, and pitch a needed park for our community?

 

 

                                                            Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

REFRAMING OUR MONTH OF SUNDAYS

to find your balance

 

August is often referred to as “the month of Sundays” because the stress of the start of school begins to build.  I have come to realize that I still have a third of my summer left.  Of course that list of things to do is more impatiently waiting than it was in July, but I have decided not to completely give up this part of my summer in the name of getting ready.  This means, as I take my last weekend or two away, or spend a morning I the garden, or finish that great novel I’ve been reading, I will relax and enjoy it.  I am also grateful, however, that August offers me a drive to prepare without the stress of grading papers, going to meetings and living by a clock.

 

 

                                                            Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCING MORE THAN THE CURRICULUM

by using the power of “yet”

 

Carol Dweck’s research about growth mindset (as opposed to a fixed mindset) has become an integral part of my teaching.  As my students develop a growth mindset, they are more motivated and confident to struggle with challenge.  I have found that one of the easiest ways to promote this growth mind set is teach my students to use the word yet more often.  Instead of saying, “I don’t understand.”, teach students to say, “I don’t understand, yet.”  Instead of, “I don’t get this.”….”I don’t get this, yet.”  Once I started to teach my students the power of yet, they not only added it to their own vocabulary, they helped their classmates remember to use it as well.

 

                                                            Don’t forget to find today’s balance

CREATE FOR YOURSELF

To find your balance

 

In her book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us that “creativity is the hallmark of our species” yet we often block ourselves from being creative.  Some of these blocks are: the belief that we are doing it for others, that others need to like it for it to be worthy, or that it has not met some preconceived standard.  Elizabeth Gilbert goes on to talk about how creativity is more personal than that. She says that she wrote Eat, Pray, Love for her “own pleasure, because [she] truly enjoys thinking about the subject of creativity,” and that if she wrote it in hopes of getting people to like it, the book would never have been published.  It is this thought that gives me to the courage and motivation to continue to blog. I do it for my own enjoyment and to keep track of thoughts I find interesting.  Although, I do continue hope my blogs are interesting and helpful to others as well.

 

                                                       Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCING YOUR NUMERACY

by using number model summaries

 

As I was preparing a lesson that included number stories, I came to the realization that a number model is a numeric way of summarizing number stories.  We do need to remember however, when we summarize text we don’t simply pick out words from the text, we make meaning of the words and use them to summarize in a way that helps us remember the entire passage.  When students simply pick numbers out of a number story without knowing their meaning, the summary does not help.  Therefore when we ask students to summarize a number story with a number model, it needs to hold meaning and help students remember the number story.

 

                                                            Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF

to find your balance

 

During these past couple of weeks, I have been very focused on getting ready for school and enjoying the last of my vacation.  When I realized how long it has been since I posted my last blog, I found myself frustrated for not meeting my goal to blog once a week.  Fortunately, the practice of meditation came to mind.  When meditating, the goal is to clear your mind and simply be in the present. While we meditate however, our minds can get “hijacked” by thoughts of the future or the past. It is at that time we need to gently redirect our thoughts back to our breath, which brings us back to the present.  I needed to use this idea to remind myself how much I enjoy blogging and gently redirect some energy back to it. Perhaps when we “astray” from the path toward our goals, rather than get frustrated, we gently redirect ourselves, we will be more successful at and more positive about meeting our goals.

 

                                                            Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCING MORE THAN THE CURRICULUM

by offering new roles for students

 

According to role theory, we take on roles with socially defined duties, expectations and behaviors.  Without balance these roles can trap or hold us back from being all that we can be.  However, research has also shown that when given a role, people often adopt the expectations and take on the behaviors they believe belong to that role. This year I am using this theory to help my students live more consciously and grow in confidence.  During the first week of school, we brainstormed the behaviors of readers, writers, mathematicians, scientists and citizens.  As we added things like “make mistakes”, “ask for help”, “use resources”, and “keep trying” to each of these lists, students started to understand that they are already readers, writers, mathematicians, scientists and citizens. It is my hope that my students will take on these “new roles” with a confidence that will help them take ownership in their own learning.

 

 

                                                            Don’t forget to find today’s balance

BALANCING MORE THAN THE CURRICULUM
By giving enough time to “front load”
 

For me, the first couple of weeks of school have always been about teaching students the procedures and expectations for the up-coming year.  Although, personally, it is one of the hardest and tedious times of the year, I have decided to spend extra time to, not only teach my students about my expectations and how to work independently (using resources other than me), but to practice it and build confidence to do it as well. We have been building stamina to read, work, and write independently.  I have decided that even if it takes 4 or 5 weeks (or more) for them to effectively work independently for at least 20 minutes, I am not going to require it until they have built the stamina to do it. Once this stamina is built small group and one-on-one time with students will be uninterrupted and more effective.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BE HAPPY NOW
to find your balance
 

There have been many times in my life when I said, “I’ll be happy when….” (I’ll be happy when I finish this degree, I’ll be happy when I get married, I’ll be happy when I get my BMW) As I have gotten older, I have realized that as I reach each goal, another goal usually presents itself right away. If I keep waiting to “be happy when…”,I will never be happy.  Therefore, I have been practicing being happy now. In his book, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, Vishen Lakhiani reminds us to “Stop postponing happiness. Be happy now.”  He also says that we should “keep [our] big goals- just don’t tie your happiness to your goals.” He goes on to talk about the fact that when we are happy, grateful, and positive, our brains are better able to think creatively and find help, allowing us to attain our goals more quickly while having fun working toward them.

 

                                                                        Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

LISTENING

To find your balance

 

According to Thich Nhat Hanh, “listening leads to understanding, understanding leads to greater connection.”  In his book Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise, Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that in order to really listen, we must start with silence, which means we need to quiet our internal nonstop thinking. During these last couple of weeks, I have been meeting with parents so that they may tell me about their children.  I had to practice silencing my mind, so that I was better able to listen to what parents had to say.  When I listened, instead of thinking of what I was going to say next, I heard hopes and worries parents had about their child’s education.  As I listened and simply reflected on what parents said I felt more connected with them and more confident that we would be able to work as a team to help their child make the most possible growth throughout the year.

 

                                                            Don’t forget to find today’s balance

BALANCE YOUR NUMERACY

By reframing the Standards of Mathematical Practices

 

During the ATMNE 2016 conference, Amy Lucenta and Grace Kelemanik explained the Standards of Mathematical Practices in a way that made a lot of sense to me.  One of the many things they discussed was the idea that the first Mathematical Practice (Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them) is like an arch under which all of the other practices lead. As I reflected on this idea, I thought about the fact that we have been encouraging students to make sense of what they read and persevere in understanding text for years.  Perhaps, it is now time to teach students the importance of understanding how numbers work and help them build their perseverance by pointing out what they do know about quantities and numbers, so that they may use this knowledge to solve more difficult problems.

                                                            Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCE YOUR NUMERACY

By reasoning abstractly and quantitatively

 

Another thing Amy Lucenta and Grace Kelemanik discussed during their workshop at the ATMNE 2016 conference was the idea that “Reasoning Abstractly and Quantitatively" (Standards of Mathematical Practice 2) is like an avenue on which we travel to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.  As I thought about this metaphor, again I realized that we have been using a very similar avenue to help students make sense of what they read and to understand text.  As with numbers, letters and words are abstract. Words and sentences represent things, actions, thoughts, etc.  We gain understanding of these words through context, practice and perseverance.  Similarly, numbers represent quantities (how many or how much of something that can be measured) and to ask students to understand numbers without ever discussing the quantities they represent is like asking students to understand meanings of words without giving them any context.

                                                           

                                                                    Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCING YOUR NUMERACY

What does that mean?

As an elementary school teacher, I have spent many of my professional development hours learning about Balanced Literacy.  During these hours, I was introduced to many different ways to approach teaching literacy, which allows me to help more of my students to process and understand words and text.  Unfortunately, when attending professional development about math, the variety of practices to help my students to process and understand how numbers work was quite limited.  After reading Comprehending Math: Adapting Reading Strategies to Teach Mathematics by Arthur Hyde, I was inspired do more study about using reading strategies to help my students, as well as teachers, to understand math concepts. I called my idea Balanced Numeracy to make the connection with Balanced Literacy.

I have been building connections between math and reading instructional practices for about 5 years. As I balance between teaching the “language of math” and procedural fluency, I have come to realize that in order to truly have a balance there must be a connection as well.  It is this connection and balance that will help our students move beyond simple memorization of mathematical procedures to a true understanding of why these procedures work.

                                                            Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

SAVOR THE MOMENTS

To find your balance

So often during the holidays, I find myself rushing through my preparations just to get to the next task.  As I rush through these preparations, I need to remind myself of the advice my cousin gave me right before I married.  She told me that during my wedding day I should stop, breathe, and take in the wonder of the day.  Instead of continually anticipating the next part of that day, I was able to savor each moment, even the “down” times, and it made all the difference.  This year, I am setting an intention to take my time and savor the preparation as well as the holiday itself.  This way I can take notice of the sweet smell of the pumpkin pie, the beautiful colors of the flowers on the table, the contagious laughter of family, the warmth of a hug, the taste of each bite of food and most of all the love I feel for those around me. 

                                                           

                                                              Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCE YOUR NUMERACY

By looking for and making use of structure

According to Amy Lucenta and Grace Kelemanik, looking for and making use of structure (Standards of Mathematical Practice 7) is the second avenue to help students to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.  Just as we use parts of speech to help us to understand meanings of unknown words, we use place value to help us to more effectively understand numbers.  For example, if we truly understand place value, we can add 2 or 3 hundred to any number without needing to write anything down.  We have been teaching students to decompose and compose words through the teaching of suffixes, prefixes and base words.  Again, if we understand one part of the word, we can often figure out the meaning of the rest of the word.  When we compose and decompose numbers they become much easier with which to work.  If students can decompose 8 to a 5 and a 3, it is much easier to remember 5 + 8 because they can add 5+5+3.

                                                           

                                                                   Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCING MORE THAN THE CURRICULUM

By not forgetting our introverts

I have been reading a book called Quiet by Susan Cain. She talks about how our society idealizes being extroverted.  We tend to favor charismatic, outgoing leaders; workplaces are becoming more open and collaborative (as opposed to having their workers work alone in offices/cubes), and media is filled with “happy people” in large groups.  In order to prepare our students to be successful in today’s society we often reflect this “Extrovert Ideal” in our schools.  We have come to believe that group projects, collaborative problem solving and team building lead to more creative thinking and learning than the row seating, quiet classrooms and independent, uninterrupted work time. Susan Cain cites studies have shown just the opposite. These studies have shown that some of our most creative thinking occurs when we are able to work in our own quiet space, especially when we are introverted. As we think about our lesson plans, we need to work in time for our extroverted students to be able to shine, during group projects and presentations, as well plan time that our introverted students can shine during quiet, uninterrupted work time.

                                                           

                                                     Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCE YOUR NUMERACY

By looking for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

According to Amy Lucenta and Grace Kelemanik, looking for and making use of structure (Standards of Mathematical Practice 8) is the third avenue to help students to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.  I find this practice very similar to looking for and make use of structure in both literacy and numeracy. I think it is a matter of making connections between what you know and have already done and to new concepts.  In reading we teach “word families”, predicting (based on patterns), and poetry (including meter, rhyme, and alliteration).  In math we teach, skip counting, algorithms, and “rules”.  Long story short, I believe it is important to ask our students, “How is this like what we have done in the past?” “How is it different?”

                                                            Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

LET GO OF THE RUSH

To find your balance

The other day I found myself racing to get home when I realized it was 20 minutes earlier than the time I usually try to leave work and that there was no one to get home anyway.  I got thinking about how many times I rush through things when I really don’t need to.  I find that when I hurry, my heart beats faster, my muscles tighten and my mind races.  However when I take a breath, my mind opens to more efficient ways to complete tasks, I am better at remembering what needs to be done, and I am calm enough to enjoy what I am doing.  Although, there continues to many times I feel the need to rush to get somewhere on time or complete many things in a short time, I have set an intention to ask myself whether I truly need to rush or do I have enough time to take a breath and enjoy what I am doing.

                                                            Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

BALANCE YOUR NUMERACY

By teaching number stories as its own genre

 

Number stories are often written and taught as an extension of computational practice. When students are told to find the numbers and “key words”, they are being deprived of real understanding and problem solving.  As we shift our focus from “number” to “story” numbers become quantities, which have true meaning, and the so-called “key words” become just another part of the story.  As students truly comprehend the whole number story, they are able to understand WHY they need to add, subtract, multiply and/or divide.  It is through this understanding that they develop the ability and confidence to more widely generalize what they have learned from solving one kind of problem to solving a variety of other problems.                          

 

                                              Don’t forget to find today’s balance!

SET INTENTIONS

To find your balance

 

As a teacher, I spend many hours setting goals for both my students and myself. However after reading Mindfulness for Teachers by Patricia A. Jennings, I will be setting intentions, rather than goals whenever I can.  Dr. Jennings says, “Setting an intention is not the same as setting a goal….setting an intention doesn’t assume that I will reach an endpoint, but that I will stay on course.”  Many goals we set (getting a promotion, getting an A on an assignment, loosing 10 pounds) require an external measurement or judgment. On the other hand, when we set an intention (work hard, learn as much as I can, eat healthy), there is no need for measurement or judgment because there is no endpoint. Also, when we loose track of our intention it is not a failure, but a time to decide whether to get back on course or change it.

                                                            Don’t forget to find today’s balance!