Tag Archives: teaching and learning

Bring your edu-friends: #TheEdCollabGathering

18 Sep

There are many kinds of tired.

Grumpy tired, new baby tired (hi Kate and Maggie), but-its-THE-WEEKEND tired, and the rest. (Pun intended.)

Right now, though, I’m feeling awesome-tired. The kind where your eye balls are crossing and your every thought includes a blanket and yet you feel like you’ve accomplished something big.

While I won’t really rest until Saturday, at about 5PM, a first big accomplishment of this upcoming weekend is finished and ready to share:

#TheEdCollabGathering

Website.

Is.

Open!

Gathering.TheEducatorCollaborative.com

The-Educator-Collaborative-Gathering-logo

Come check out the agenda, the presenters, the sessions – and while I’m totally biased, I can’t help myself but be oo’ed and ah’ed by the line up.

Saturday, September 20th

9:30AM – 4:00PM EST

Donalyn Miller is keynoting, and there are just too many others (Jen Serravallo) to mention here (Rafranz Davis), you’ll really have to go (Kristin Ziemke) check it out (Kathy Collins) for yourself (Luis Perez) and start making (Sara Ahmed) plans for what you’ll watch live (Kristi Mraz) that day.

The best part, is that—if the internet behaves—all sessions will be archived. So you could actually watch all of the sessions, even the ones you miss the first time!

We will keep the site and archives live for as long as you’d like to keep click, click, clicking on em.

We are so excited to share this with all of you!  Thanks for all you do.

When There’s No White Horse: Being our Best Advocates

25 Jun

A few days ago several people forwarded a blog post to me titled “An Obituary for Close Reading.” They sent it along not because they thought talk of the death of close reading would worry me (life will go on), but because there are some less than glowing comments made about Kate and my book in both that post and a follow up one.

Some close friends felt badly for me, some others wondered if I should respond, still others said to brush it off.  I’ve had my share of good and bad reviews for all sorts of stuff, so it’s nothing new.

I did feel compelled to write a post today because, bruises aside, I actually agree with the author.

Well, okay, I’m human I don’t completely agree. I, like all parents, think my babies are the sweetest, brightest, most beautiful ones on the block.

I more specifically agree with the conceit that we need to be careful of buzz words and advocate for our own learning and practice.

To go a step farther, I think advocating needs to go well beyond shunning buzz words. Once something has become edubabble it is almost too late.

We, as a profession, need to advocate earlier and often for the policies that come our way. We need to shape the decisions that are made in our districts. We need to be active with our administrators. We need to offer our professional expertise so by the time something gets to the babble stage, it’s actually worth babbling about.

That was our hope with our tongue-in-cheek titled, Falling in Love With Close Reading, that we could restore best practices to a term which, at the time, was buzzing with nonsense.

 

We Can’t Wait for Advocates, We Need to BE Advocates

In their book Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School, Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan argue that while the teaching profession can hold onto hope that an advocate in government or the public will arrive, we must instead become our own best advocates right now.

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The reality is, when questionable things intended to “help education” trickle down to us — either from the federal, state, or district level — they are questionable to us now because they truly were questionable when they were decided.  Or more accurately, they were questioned during the process of decision making.

I was watching a documentary on the Cold War recently and I was struck by one meeting in particular.  Russian ships were on their way to Cuba and no one in the US military was certain why. Could they be carrying missiles? Were they empty and only coming to posture? Around the table, most of Kennedy’s advisors were pushing for a preemptive attack against Russia. Striking first, before the ships arrived, could scare them away. There was much debate, a lot of uncertainty, and for whatever reason Kennedy continued to say no, we should wait. Wait to see what they do first. No one knew the “right” move, it was all discussion, it was all conversation.

History revealed that choosing to wait was the right choice. Of course it could have not been.

Watching that documentary, I was so struck by my naiveté regarding history. For me, it always seemed so linear: pilgrims came, then colonies, then the Revolutionary War, and so on. Seeing the people, hearing their perspectives, I was shaken to realize (and embarrassed this had not clicked for me until now) that every decision that has been made and will continue to be is, quite literally, a room full of people talking about possibilities.

The same holds true for decisions that come our way in education. Though textbooks can seem to rain from the sky and standards are zapped into being through bolts of lightening, those initiatives were made by people and their best guesses.

So first, it’s important to realize that in all cases, decisions are drawn from experience and information (or lack thereof). When your district says “this textbook will help our students succeed.” You can be certain that no one who made that decision is 100% sure of that statement.

Which is where we, as professionals, come in. Before edubabble ever gets to the point of edubabble, we can advocate in small and big ways. We can help bring our expertise, experience, and knowledge to the table.

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Small Steps to Advocate

There are small step ways to advocate for our students, our work, and the right improvements to education:

  • Take back edubabble: In some cases the babble may come with a good intentions that may have become muddle in practice or the telephone line of implementation. If what you are hearing doesn’t match what you know to be best practices, change the word or revise the definition.
  • Don’t malign district decisions, get in there are help to make them: Decisions that are made are almost always made to help kids. It is just that often people making those decisions do not read research and work with kids enough to really know what works best. You are the expertise they need. Volunteer for curriculum review committees (even if they don’t exist yet, volunteer yourself!).
  • Connect with other passionate educators: Around your district and across the world there are people as engaged, active, and inspiring as you. Find them. Start a book club or lesson planning circle in your community, join a twitter chat, or sign-up for a summer course.

Dorothy Barnhouse‘s introduction to her new book, Readers Front and Center, is a master class in advocating. Written with passion and practicality, she helps us to rethink some of the edubabble in the Common Core reading standards and the constellation of “aligned” (and often not) initiatives. One highlight is the way she reframes the “Text Complexity Triangle” that every CCSS states’ educators have seen one-thousand-and-one-times (see my tweet for the visual, color added). That graphic, stunning in it’s simplicity, is a whole new way to talk about the same work described in the standards. I can picture school board members having those concentric circles in their hands and school leadership teams posting it on the wall of their meeting room, all saying “did we start with students with this decision?” and consulting the image again.

 

Big Steps to Advocate

The big step ways involve supporting our colleagues in having the vision, passion, and guts to bring classroom experience to leadership and policy levels:

  • More career educators need to move into policy and government roles: school boards, local, state and federal governments
  • More career educators need to move into school leadership roles: administration and central offices
  • More career educators need to move into research and teacher training roles: higher education, authors, consultants
  • More career educators need to remain in the classroom and also become more politically and socially active: writing, voting, speaking

A piece of this is reflecting on our own careers. Have you ever entertained the thought of an education life beyond your classroom or school building? You do not need to have one, but it’s a question worth considering. Your gifts may be able to impact many students and educators in more positive and purposeful ways then we are often experiencing now.

A larger key is being inspiration for others, for our fellow educators. When I began as a teacher I assumed I would always be in the classroom, I loved my students and found the job both impossibly difficult and incredibly fulfilling. It was a high school literacy coach who said, “maybe you should consider coaching. I think you’d be good at it.” It was my first step out of full time classroom teaching. The rest is history.  You can help shape the future of our profession by inviting a talented colleague to dream: “I think your passion and voice could help a lot of teachers and kids, have you ever thought of applying to policy program? We need more educators out there.”

 

We Are Our Profession

You are already an advocate. Every day you walk into your school, every child you believe in, every family you connect with, you are advocating.

We need your voice and talents even more. There are many improvements ahead for our profession, if you are not a part of making them then someone else will.

Your voice matters.

Thanks for all you do.

 

Applying for 2014-15 Services

8 Mar

Dear friends,

In April I will begin booking services for the 2014-15 school year. If your school or organization is interested in on-site or on-line professional development or speaking engagements please be sure to join the growing wait list before April 1st for your best chance at being added.

For more information or to apply, use the contact form on the bottom of my Services Page.

This school year has been exciting and such a joy teaching and learning inside of classrooms with teams of teachers, speaking at conferences and workshop days around the world, and connecting with educators online in webinars and interactive sessions.  I’m looking forward to 2014-15.

Also, there are some surprises in store (announced soon!), be sure to follow me on twitter or subscribe to this blog to so you don’t miss the big announcement.

Looking forward to continued collaboration, inspiration, and together becoming our best so students can become their best.

Thanks for all you do,

Chris

by Camdiluv used under Creative Commons lic

Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve (and Walls and Actions and)

10 Feb

As I work with schools and districts across the country, I find one question becomes essential above all else:

Is your heart visible?

by Amada44 used under Creative Commons lic

Michael Fullan describes that when organizations and schools falter it is not because there is a resistance to change, but because too many initiatives are taken on all at once with little time to get good at any of them.

The more scattered our focus, the less focused we truly are.

I find the question–is your heart visible–is an important one.  What we make visible in our classrooms, in our schools, even in our lives, shows what we value, what is important, and what we feel and believe.

At my home, for instance, if you walk into my daughter’s bedroom you’ll find mountains of art supplies and in-progress projects of all kinds. Paper, glue, crayons, scissors, pipe cleaners, googly eyes and mountains of little characters she has created. In my son’s room puzzles rule, as well as maps (oh so many maps. Seriously, if anyone needs a globe or map we have extra), and his illustrated dictionary is always open on the floor.

From the time each of us are young, we gather what is important, keep it close at hand, curate it, and sometimes even display it for others to see. In our schools and classrooms, when we make our hearts visible we not only own a deeper sense of our mission, we also invite our students and our community to share it with us.

Show Off Your Love

At New Milford High School, for example Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal) and his team display a belief in technology as a tool for collaboration, innovative, and risk-taking.

The first striking feature is that New Milford HS looks like nearly every other building in the US. It’s stately, yet aging, and locker filled hallways lead to linoleum-green classroom floors. The heart is not held up, or held back, by the physical plant. It is in the vision of the staff and students.

Take Laura Fleming‘s Library/Media Center. A MakerBot 3-D printer, lego robotics, a little circuit station, and more. She has devoted part of her space for experimentation.  “No one signs up, they just come when they want to come and try what they want to try. Not just the students, staff come to play around, too,” Laura pointed out during my visit.

It’s easy to be dazzled by the cool stuff. The message is bigger, though. There is a keen sense that learning is about doing, making attempts, rethinking things, trying again.

This is carried throughout the building, students and teachers see learning as a blend of online and off, and as risk-taking. One teacher we ran into in the hallway I said, “I’m not technology phobic like I used to be, because I’ve learned that it’s all about trying something out.”

As the building leader, Eric  believes in making his beliefs visible but then also stepping back to allow his staff to experiment and grow.

At another school, Cantiague Elementary, principal Tony Sinanis wears an incredible love of his community all over everything – his office walls, his blog and my favorite, his twitter account.  He regularly tweets and retweets images of students and teachers at work with captions celebrating their work.

Recently I was able to visit his school, one focused on supporting students’ growth in literacy. His belief in literacy meant he has made room in his budget for a terrific literacy coach and together the school has been spending a good amount of time on best-practices in reading instruction.  As with all things, what you focus on often grows and what you don’t can sometimes stagnate. Together we wondered if students were writing enough each day, to really practice the skills they were learning.

In another example of making your heart visible, his school, in what felt like less than day after my visit, looked at students’ current writing and made a decision to make the time and celebrate the time students would spend writing.

A big shift happened, and so quickly, because a focus was placed on making a school value more visible.

Reflecting on Your Heart

These are two of the many examples of schools and organizations who are striving to unite their communities in the best interest of learners.  In the busy, sometimes scattered, often frantic pace of the school year, it is important to stop at times and reflect. Is your heart visible in your classroom? In your school?

Step back and take a look:

  • When you look around your classroom, what do you see the most of?  Is it what you value?
  • When you look through your students notebook and folders, what does their work say to you? Do you see evidence of why you are an educator? Evidence of why you love what you teach?
  • When you walk through the hallways of your school, what do classrooms and displays have in common? Can you see the heart of your community or is it unclear?
  • If you talk with your colleagues, is your community’s heart visible in conversations?

Sometimes these questions reveal the lack or erosion of a shared belief system, other times they reveal qualities you may have forgotten were there.

The best news is that showing your heart only takes a little bit of bravery–once you begin an incredible path lies before you.

by Gian Cayetano used under Creative Commons lic

Open Letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña

5 Jan

image by krispdk used under Creative Commons lic

January 2013

Dear Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña,

Welcome to your new roles in our great city.

I need not tell you how excited we are, here in the education community, that Carmen will be taking the helm of our vibrant, diverse, challenging, and promising school system.

Her appointment says to many of us that this new administration believes that education policy must be forged at the intersection of ideas and experience.

It says that education, like all vocations, is a unique field with unique levels of knowing and doing. That those who spend their lives in practice–in classrooms and schools–bring a level of insight that no one from outside of the field can possess.

It says that dedicating your life to building expertise in our field–as she has done–is not just commendable but necessary to developing a world class education for every one of our city’s children.

I have been lucky to have worked with Carmen when I was at the Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College, Columbia University. This, however, is not a relationship anyone can claim as unique. Her decades of service have put her in touch with generations of educators and children. She has been accessible, personable, and in touch with schools because she is always within them.

More recently, as Deputy Chancellor under Joel Klein she continually toured schools, met with educators, and–most important in my eyes–spoke with students. Every interaction I have observed her in, from classrooms, to staff meetings, to intimate conversations with school leaders about the needs of their school, always at the forefront of her thoughts and actions is this: our children.

This is why I am writing to you both today. Our city’s children need you. I am asking for your leadership and your continued partnership with educators, families, and students.

I do not need to numerate the hardships our field is facing, they are in news reports, television advertisements, and the voices of schools.  The number of educators, new and veteran, that say to me almost weekly, “I don’t know how much longer I can keep teaching,” is heart-breaking and alarming. Their frustrations are always political,while their reasons for holding on remain the same–they deeply love and believe in the potential of every child.

We need your leadership in a number of specific ways:

  • Just as great teachers do in classrooms with students, observe the effects of your policies on educators’ practice and lives. Data that takes more time to collect than use is as useless as no data at all. A high teacher “value-added” score coupled with teacher or administrator burn-out does little to bring real long-term value to our classrooms. Losing hope in our system is a hopeless path for our system.
  • Just as great teachers do in classrooms with students, look at the effects of your policies not simply as a reflections of educator work, but as a reflections of your work. As teachers, we know that if many students fail a quiz, it is the test, not the takers that needs support. The problems that plague our highest need schools are larger than any one solution; no policy will be perfect, no implementation will be without fail. See your policies as works in progress and revise from feedback, versus pressing harder for compliance.
  • Like the best principals (of which Carmen, you have been one), engage educators in your decision making process. In NYC, as across the United States, the greatest distrust has grown from being disenfranchised within our own profession. The greatest administrators, the most effective leaders, authentically involve their constituents – students, parents, teachers, staff. As Hargreaves and Fullan write, collaboration is one of the keys to leading our profession into the future (2013), we need to trust in you by seeing and feeling your trust in us.
  • Like the best principals, shield your staff from forces that can disrupt their connection with students. When New York State or the US Department of Education does right by children, guide us in that direction.  Equally, when they–or other forces–do not, stand with us as we say no. I have been inspired by the stories of NYC administrators who say no for the sake of their children: saying no to using test scores in high school entrance decisions, saying no to untested textbook adoptions, saying no to initiatives imposed solely for initiatives’ sake. Stand with us when we stand for our students.

So many of us are excited by the possibilities ahead. Thank you for what feels like a new day in our schools. I hope, through your leadership for and with educators and families, we can create a new day for all children of New York City and be an inspiration to other cities and schools. That shared leadership and shared problem solving, with dedicated professionals, can bring about positive results.

Lead with us. The world is watching. Our children need us. We are ready.

Most sincerely,

Christopher Lehman

Educator, Parent

On Broken Door Handles and Butter Knives

27 Nov

A day or two before leaving for a long stint away from home, speaking at UW-Madison and then on to Boston for NCTE and CEL, it was a typical afternoon. Right around 2:40 my mother-in-law and I were getting ready to leave to go pick up my kids.  It is often a two person job–she was heading to our preschooler several blocks to the west and I to the bus stop for our first grader several blocks to the east. Shoes on, coats on. Routine.

She reached for our apartment door and it wouldn’t open.

Jiggle, jiggle, lock, unlock, lock, unlock. Nothing.  I ran over. Jiggle, jiggle, lock, unlock, lock, unlock.

“Está cerrado!” I said, not able to find the word “broken” in my mental Spanish dictionary.

“Oh no,” she said.

Both children are picked up at 3:00, we had fifteen minutes to get this door open.

So, we did what any reasonable human being would do, we completely freaked out in this order:

  • Jiggle, jiggle, lock, unlock
  • Shake the door handle violently.
  • Jiggle, jiggle, lock, unlock–with more conviction.
  • Imagining how to jump out of a third floor window to the street.
  • Get angry.
  • Call my wife’s cell phone, who was teaching and clearly not in ear shot of her phone how dare she HOW DARE SHE.
  • Call again.
  • Both of us call her at same time on different phones.
  • Jiggle, jiggle, lock, unlock
  • Butter knife, right? Thieves do that or something.
  • Call wife’s school in a panic and frighten the secretary.
  • Call my daughter’s school in a panic. (They were calming, they know how to handle this).
  • TOOLS!
  • Hammer, pliers, large and small screw drivers.
  • Dismantle door plate and begin to remove door knob.
  • Stop, bad idea.
  • Reassemble door knob and door plate.

By this point my wife had gotten the message, had left school early, was rushing home, by this point it was clear it was too late to get to the bus stop on time and (as her school calmly told me) my daughter was most likely on her way back to school at the end of the route, by this point my son’s teachers knew we were running late.

Everything was arranged on the outside, we were basically not needed.

Then.

by MichaelDiederich used under Creative Commons lic

I wedged the butter knife back inside the little open space on the side of the door, near the latch, and paid attention.  While the flat side didn’t grab the latch, the teeth did. The slightest movement! TWO KNIVES! I grabbed a second and like two little hands inch-wormed the latch open. Freedom.

Caution: broken doors

The NCTE and CEL conventions this past weekend in Boston were incredible, as they always are.  Joyful, exciting, like a homecoming.  There was also, just below the surface, a sadness.

At the end of my session with Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts on Saturday, I told the crowd that now, more than ever, at speaking engagements people seem to come up at the end and cry.

They cry because while filled with a deep joy for the art of educating, they are feeling crushed by the state of education. The many people in my life, dear friends or friendly acquaintances who have a gift for teaching that shines through their children’s eye, those people who are pillars in our world are all asking, “how much more of this can I take?”.

I’ll be honest with you, I’m seeing their faces now as I write this and am trying very hard not to cry myself.

I see you, my friend, the Curriculum Coordinator, and you Literacy Coach, you ESL teacher, you Amazing Principal and you brand new Science teacher, and I see you teacher I just met and hugged after that session, a big bear hug as we cried together.

Teacher evaluations,

student testing,

scripted curricula,

slashed budgets,

initiative overload.

This was not our routine. This was not in our plans.

Know this: there are always butter knives.

For me those butter knives are connecting.  At NCTE (as with twitter, conferences, and working in schools), I get to remind myself why I fell in love with teaching in the first place.  This weekend I shook Nancie Atwell’s hand (and tried not to embarass myself with gushing), I met Donna Santman… I mean, I have been in rooms listening to her for years and carry Shades of Meaning like it’s a map… but we met each other for real. I had the incredible pleasure of speaking on the same stage as Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts. I spoke in hallways, turned and talked in sessions, toured a museum, sat at lunches and dinners, all with old friends and new. I stood back and saw the sea of faces in those sessions, hallways, hotel lobbies, and was reminded that we have the collective power to do amazing things.

Butter knives are different for each of us, but those butter knives are there.

My friend Paul Thomas won the George Orwell Award at this past convention, his butter knife is writing and speaking out for the lives of teachers and educators.

Jillian Heise received her National Board certification this past weekend, her butter knife is learning and belief in learners.

Penny Kittle passed out envelopes at a session to raise money to support more classrooms having books, her butter knife is supporting readers.

Heather Rocco spent two years organizing the CEL convention, her butter knife was bringing leaders together to refuel their own passions.

The list continues: listening to children, talking with a colleague, taking on a study, joining a twitter chat, writing a blog post, leading an organization, waking up in the morning and deciding to go to work.

You know your butter knives. Use them.

Epilogue

Once we got that door opened it was amazing how all of the stress left. Nothing seemed hard anymore.

We replaced the door handle.

It works now.

door handle

I’m speaking during UW-Madison’s American Education Week #AEW2013

17 Nov

I’m looking forward to my address this Wednesday at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s American Education Week!

I’ll be speaking about Common Core State Standards myths, meanings, and providing guidance on ways to support our schools  in moving forward.

Attend (Virtually): Webcast, Tweet

Registration for the in-person event has met capacity, but you are able to watch the live-stream online. Registration for the webcast is free: here.

You can use the hashtag #AEW2013 (American Education Week) while viewing, in order to connect, chat, and respond.  I’ll plan to read and respond to tweets at the end of the evening.

Giving Back: Funding Books for Educators

One aspect of this conversation will include research around the absolute necessity of providing access to books. With this in mind, I wrote to friends at Booksource and asked if they would consider funding some educators’ needs.  They graciously agreed and have committed to giving a total of $1,000 in book money to a few educators in attendance.

Here are the details from UW-Madison’s website and how Wisconsin educators attending in person or online can apply. Deadline is Monday afternoon:

Screen Shot 2013-11-17 at 12.49.45 PM

 

Virtual Book Study

UW-Madison will also be kicking off  a virtual book study of Pathways to the Common Core, more information is forth-coming. Pathways to the Common Core

I hope you will attend, tweet, and continue these essential conversations.

Thanks for everything you do!

Your Work, Your Kids, Your Ideas: Beyond Falling in Love with #CloseReading

13 Nov

A quick note today to say that I sometimes have to pinch myself when I think of how lucky I am to be a part of our education community. My heart and mind grows with every interaction, in person or through twitter and blogs.

I’ve been having a blast hearing some of the ideas and stories coming from studies of my newest book with Kate Roberts, Falling in Love with Close Reading.  It’s Kate and my hope that you find our book inspirational and practical. Equally, it is our hope that you grow well beyond it’s pages while you collaborate, talk, revise, and bridge our ideas to your own next studies and steps.  We don’t see the book as a strict regiment, but instead as one path from which we hope many more will grow.

by Gtapp used under Creative Commons lic

Here are a few examples of recent posts and tweets of educators, like you, developing new ideas, making your own exciting connections.  We love hearing these and hope you will share more.

Ongoing Twitter Community #FILWCloseReading

The hashtag #FILWCloseReading is alive and well.  Fran, Alison, and Laura are hosting a follow up chat, on December 9, to continue the conversation (unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, Kate and I are presenting together on Close Reading in Upstate NY, with only a few seats left, on that day and will most likely be in the air and miss it! We’ll read the archives and connect after, we promise.)

Many of you are also continuing to tweet using the hashtag. We love following your thinking and answering your questions or responding to comments.

Falling in Love With Close Reading cover

Posts and Tweets on Next Steps and Growing Ideas after Reading FILWCR

Tara Smith, one of the new contributors to the dynamic Two Writing Teachers blog write about how Close Reading can support Close Writing. It’s a gorgeous post full of practical inspiration.

Fran McVeigh shares the development of her personal quest to study close reading in this post.

Then, follow the link below to Laura Komos’ Storify archive of Monday night’s #FILWCloseReading chat.

It’s so wonderful to learn along with all of you.  Thanks for all you do, everyday, on behalf of your students.[View the story "#FILWCloseReading chat" on Storify]

What would you tell the world about the #CommonCore and your classroom?

12 Oct

by Kevin M. Gill used under Creative Commons lic

Your ears may have been ringing as I am find myself quoting posts from the blog-a-thon continuously, “…that Fran McVeigh post, wow it got me thinking….”.

All of this got me thinking, so I’m trying a little experiment here…

Whenever I present at speaking engagements I bring research, my firsthand experience in classrooms, and the ideas of fellow educators I talk and work alongside.  Over the next few weeks I have several large keynotes coming up (dates are at the end of this post) talking Common Core State Standards myths and opportunities.

In each of these I plan to bring what I always bring, but I am thinking I would love to bring bits of your experiences, too.

Educators in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa), for example, will largely attend from American curriculum schools. They are brand new to looking at the CCSS and also not held by the testing machine we have here. What would you tell them about the pitfalls to avoid or the joyful teaching you are doing?

At UW-Madison, anyone anywhere will tune in because it will be live and live-streamed. What do you want to tell the public about the changes in your school, both the overwhelming and the fascinating?

by One Way Stock used under Creative Commons lic

This is completely an experiment, usually everything I gather is from face-to-face with kids and educators, but twitter and our blog-a-thon has changed my sense of what is possible when educators are connected. I’d like to bring your knowledge and experiences to others.

So here’s my pitch:

With your permission, I’d love to include some of your voices in these upcoming speaking engagements.  Send your anecdotes, links, images, that you would like me to consider sharing in a few ways: as comments on this post, via my twitter handle, or to this email: iChrisLehman(at)gmail with the subject line “Talking Common Core”. For student work or photos you would like to send, I will send you a parent/guardian permission slip to be completed before use.

I’m especially collecting experiences around three themes:

  • “We are tired…” take this as either physically/emotionally tired because of X, Y, Z or action-oriented as “I am tired of being told…. when actually my students…. see look!”  These could be bashing or supportive or somewhere in the middle.  Such as “I am tired of everyone saying students can’t write, when my team and I studied the CCSS together and really made an effort to teach skills not just assign work we found…” or “I am tired of being told some texts are worthy and others are not, I find in my classroom that…”
  • “There is no one way…” I think it’s important to both critique those promising the “ANSWER TO EVERYTHING” comes from the CCSS and to critique those comparing it to “THE END OF DAYS.” One essential point I continue to raise is that everyone’s experience with “implementation” is not the same. Yes, there are classrooms that are forced into a one-size-fits-all approach (please share those stories) but there are equally classrooms and schools that are using the standards as a study while still holding onto the practices they love and work well for students (share those, too).
  • “Our students are our curriculum…” What are ways you are helping your students drive your instruction? This could be “data” in an overwhelming way, or inventions you and your colleagues are making to gather usable assessments, or ways you continue to reach beyond the standards, or anything else.
  • Your inspiration, challenges, solutions, and so on!

So again, if any ideas speak to you I’d love anecdotes, links, anything that you would share with other educators about your experiences. I’ll weave many into these upcoming speaking engagements.

It would be great to see you in person at any of these events as well. Also, the UW-Madison event is free and streamed-live, registration is at the link below.

 October 25, Cleveland, OH. Invited Keynote. Cleveland State University’s Annual Reading Conference: “Growing Literacy from the Core.” Register: here.

November 1-2, Dubai, UAE. “MENA Common Core Conference.” Invited Keynote and Session Speaker. Register:here.

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November 5-6, New Orleans, LA. The Leadership and Learning Center’s “Common Core State Standards Summit 2.0: Getting Ready for the Next Generation Assessments,” Invited Keynote and Panelist. Register:here.

November 20, Madison, WI. Evening Invited Keynote during the University Wisconsin-Madison’s American Educators Week. FREE registration to attend live or online: here.

Archive of this Week’s @LeadAndLearn Webinar – And Upcoming Events

20 Sep

I’ll be totally honest: I speak at public events all the time–I should be used to this–but nothing still gives me more butterflies than the hour before a webinar goes live. I always find myself sorting through things that need not be sorted and texting people that need not be texted.

I will also tell you: the second we start and I get to connect with fellow educators, it feels just like home.

In this post, I’d like to:

I’m looking forward to sharing all of this with you (butterflies and all)!

Archived Webinar: A Conversation About the Common Core State Standards

Thanks to all of you who attended my live webinar with The Leadership and Learning Center.  It was a blast, Tony Flach was a terrific host and Cathy and crew from the center made it very enjoyable.  In case you missed it, it is now archived! Here’s the link or click the image below.

click to be taken to archived video

click to be taken to archived video

I’m also looking forward to providing the first day keynote and joining panel discussions at The Leadership and Learning Center’s conference on the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Assessments in New Orleans, November 5-6. More here.

Upcoming Webinar Series:  Energize Your Classroom: Informational Reading, Writing And Research Are Way More Interesting Than You Think! 

Beginning October 2, I am leading a three-session, live, interactive webinar series on best practices for informational reading, writing and research.

I led a similar series this past winter, and it was so much fun that Heinemann has decided to offer two separate time slots, giving you more opportunities to attend.  Both series will run for the first three Wednesdays in October, select the time slot that works best for you (or perhaps even your team for day-time learning):

Morning 11:00AM-12:15PM ET  (8:00AM-9:15 PT)

Afternoon 5:00-6:15PM ET (2:00-3:15 PT)

For information on group rates call Heinemann PD at 800-541-2086, ext. 1151.

The webinar involves my live video stream, an on-going real time chat box for all attendees to communicate, and options for credits. All sessions are archived for participants.

click for registration page

click for registration page

As always, thanks for all you do for your students and fellow educators. I’m honored to be a small part of your big journey.

Upcoming events, Fall 2013

8 Sep

Let’s work together! I have several speaking engagements coming up over the next few months, with more being added soon.   Bookmark my Speaking Engagements page for continual updates.

On-line

Energize Research Reading and WritingWork together online in my 3-Part Webinar Series: Energize Your Classroom: Informational Reading, Writing and Research are Way More Interesting Thane You Think!

Heinemann is offering two different LIVE series times, during the day for in-school professional development or in the afternoon for end-of-day learning.   PLNs are encouraged to apply and can call 800-541-2086, ext. 1151 for information on reduced group rates. Links to register:

October 15, 2013. Online session with Albany Area Reading Council, NY. “Energize Your Research Reading and Writing Instruction.” More information on membership and events here.

In Person

September

Over 500 educators are already registered!  September 17, 2013. Upstate Schools Consortium at Furman University, Greenville, S.C.  “Pathways to the ELA Common Core.” Info: Upstate Schools Consortium

October

On-line live Webinars, see above.

November

 November 1-2, 2013. Dubai, UAE. “MENA Common Core Conference.” Invited Keynote and Speaker. Register here: MENAcommoncore.com

November 5-6, 2013. New Orleans, LA. Leadership and Learning Center’s “Common Core State Standards Summit 2.0: Getting Ready for the Next Generation Assessments.” Keynote and Panelist. Register here: Leadership and Learning Center.

November 20, 2013. University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI. Evening Keynote during “American Education Week.” Registration information coming soon.

November 21-24, 2013. NCTE Annual Convention. Closer Reading: Close Reading Texts, Close ReadingScreen Shot 2013-06-25 at 1.20.43 PM Lives (with Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts). Boston, MA. Info:NCTE

November 25-26, 2013. NCTE CEL (Conference on English Leadership) Convention. Info: CEL

December

Falling in Love With Close Reading coverRegistration is open now for my Heinemann One-Day Workshops, Fall In Love With Close Reading.  Early-bird discount through September 13.

December 5, 2013 Evening with the Madison Area Reading Council, WI. Information on membership and events here.

December 7, 2013. Workshop with the Waukesha County Reading Council, WI. “Kids Want to Write!: Develop a Powerful Culture of Writing, Growth, and Community” WCRC facebook page or membership information at WRSA.

Blog-a-thon: Let’s Closely Read the Practice of #CloseReading

29 Aug

In honor of our upcoming book, Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts–And LifeKate Roberts (@teachkate) and I invite you to join us for a 7-week blogger community conversation about close reading practices and our classrooms.

Close Reading Blog-a-thon

For the next 7 weeks (Sept 2- Oct 18), every Monday on my blog and every Thursday on Kate’s we will post on topics related to close reading, including:

  • What Close Reading Is Not (Or At Least Shouldn’t Be)
  • The Five Corners of the Text: Personal Experience and Text-Based Close Reading
  • Why Would Anyone Ever Want to Close Read Nonfiction?
  • Writing About Close Reading
  • Close Talking is as Important as Close Reading
  • Close Reading Our Lives: Making Practices Relevant and Real
  • and more!

Join In

We have lots to share, however there is so much to say, think, do, debate, problem solve, question, that we would like to invite you to JOIN our Blog-a-thon with your own posts.

Here’s how it works:

  • Any time over the next 7-weeks write a post (or multiple posts) on the topic of close reading (could be in response to someone else’s post, raise a debate, answer a question, share your own experiences).
  • Each time you post add this button to your page and be sure it links back here (the Contributors’ Page).

close reading button

  • Then comment on any post on my blog or Kate’s with a link to your own post so anyone can click back to it.
  • We will also grab selected posts (URL links) from the comments to add to the Blog Contributors page**
  • If you tweet your post include the hashtag #CloseReading

Violà! One stop shopping for great thinking on close reading!

We are excited to learn along with you!

Chris and Kate

**Disclaimer: All opinions, discussions, debates, posts, videos, and photos will be considered for the “contributor” page pending they are free from offensive language, libel, slander, whose main purpose is to sell a product, is a broken link, or otherwise deemed inappropriate by us or raised as such by members of the community. All decisions for posting these links on the “Contributors” page are made by us and are final, however we accept no responsibility for content or reliability of links that leave our respective blogs. The original poster is owner of their post and solely controls content , including any such content that may infringe upon copyright law.

Archive from tonight’s #DonGraves chat

10 Jul

What a moving conversation tonight for the #DonGraves chat. Thanks to Penny Kittle and Tom Newkirk for this project.  It was fun hosting with Donalyn Miller and Penny and seeing so many of you come out to talk about Don’s legacy, his vision, and to share inspiration.

The archive is below, I plan to look back between that, the book and DVD for new insights.

Listening matters, conversation matters, and it’s great to have both with all of you and this vibrant education community we are within!

Chat Archives

Storify version of the archive

Google Docs version of archive (thanks Sarah Mulhern Gross for your help with this!)

 

#DonGraves trending on twitter…

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Middle/High School Teachers Apply for a Book Love Foundation Library

28 Jun

Penny Kittle has been announcing on twitter that applications are now open for her organization, Book Love Foundation‘s classroom library grant.  Applications are due very soon, July 1st!

Open to Middle and High School teachers, it is an amazing opportunity to give access to books to your students and–quite literally–change their lives.

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Access the application (due July 1st!) from the Book Love Foundation website or here.

Give the Gift of Reading

Penny  tells me that soon Book Love Foundation will be accepting donations and fundraising will take place later this year. This way even more classrooms can be supported. Be on the lookout for these updates!

What’s Good For Parents is Good For Schools

24 Jun

My daughter is ending her first public school. Her kindergarten “moving up” ceremony was Tuesday night where she sang the ubiquitous “First Grade, First Grade” to the melody of “New York, New York” (which, my mother points out, I sang at my own moving up ceremony prompting her to bawl, both at the actual moment and at every mention of that moment since).

I am sure that the steps of the moving up ceremony are ones her teachers and her school have moved through over and over again. I know they feel important to the staff, like the first day of school feels to everyone, but I know it is nevertheless routine.

I think of my own parent-involvement routines from my classrooms: “back-to-school night” to introduce myself and our curriculum, inviting parents to writing celebrations, going on class trips with parent volunteers, and parent-teacher conferences. As a teacher these things felt important, they were also procedure.

Now, however, everything feels different. I have a child in school, her brother is in Pre-K next year and soon in the public system himself.  I. Am. A. Parent. (oh goodness.)

Just as I look back at my first class of sixth graders and think, “Well, at least they knew I loved them because holy cow did I not know much about teaching then.” I have a new awareness of what it feels like to be a parent coming into a school. I now wish I had done so much more.

by woodleywonderworks used under Creative Commons lic

Every Parent Wants to Know

Parents want to know [everything] because they want to help. The more we let parents and guardians know the more they ultimately can help their children and, in turn, us.  Many schools post grades online (and yes, many teachers have wonderful and terrible experiences in relation to those postings), but grades are simply the end result of an activity. Consider instead how you communicate with parents at the start of learning.

  • Communicate the focus of the month in every subject.  This could be as simple as an email form letter with topics, or in a more elaborate way suggest activities parents and guardians can take on at home.
  • Help parents see the journey. Weight loss before and after photos are dramatic and inspiring, if even for a moment. Consider ways you are providing a “before” and “during” or even “after” image of growth for parents.  I am learning that we really can see it, but in other ways we really can’t. My daughter can write words and sentences (huge and visible), but how she thinks about science is less clear (teach us how to see this). As the year moves on, consider times for these inspiring updates.
  • Tell parents important events and ways to give back waaaaay in advance. I love our “month at a glance” calendars our daughter brings home. Many schools share these with families. Know that we stick them right up on our kitchen wall where it’s impossible to miss. Include both trips and events, but also ways to be involved for parents that can come into school as well as those who would like to give back from afar.

Every Parent Wants to Be

Parents want to be present and active parts of your community (but we don’t want to pester). Schools often are concerned when there is a lack of parent involvement. I’m guilty myself of the teachers’ lunchroom complaint, “some of these parents never show up.” What I have reflected on this is year is how hard it is to be all the places I want to be and also how difficult it is to reach out and ask.

  • The more invitations the better. Often times parents and guardians want to support their children’s schools but don’t know how or are afraid to ask.  I think of a school’s role as needing to be more like television advertising.  The goal of those advertisements is not to make you stand up right now and go purchase the product, instead it’s to influence the way you think about the product so next time you are shopping you think, “wow, I have a feeling this soda will make me more fun to be around.” If invitations 1-24 don’t get involvement, 25 just might. Don’t give up. Keep ‘em coming.
  • Balance safety with a welcoming spirit. I have visited schools where the focus is on school safety and security. Good. I have also visited schools where the focus is on school safety and security and community. Breath of fresh air Better. Think of how the TSA underwent a massive retraining as complaints about customer service rose. I travel a lot and am acutely aware of how much a TSA officer’s friendly, “flying anywhere exciting today?” greeting or “Let me help you with that” offer goes a long way to feeling welcome.
  • Call on expertise. Sometimes parents don’t know what to give back or don’t believe they can contribute. In conversations early in the year, seek out individual family strengths, keep a list, then call on them later: “Mrs. Carter, I remember you said you love to paint, we were going to do a science project on life cycles and I was wondering…”

Every Parent Wants to Feel

Parents want (no not just want, love, LOOOOVE) to feel cared for, just as their students. 

As I said, my daughter’s “moving up” ceremony was last night. I noticed the large paper flowers carefully made and hung throughout the auditorium. I noticed the music carefully chosen. I noticed the felt green “mortar boards.” I noticed the children’s names printed in the program. I noticed the hours of practice to get “This Land Is Your Land” out just right. I noticed the teachers who stood for way to long to make sure every parent got a photo with them and their “diploma.” I noticed these details. We all did.

Know that every thing you do for us–for all parents–means way more than you realize.

Your few extra moments typing  “The Class of 2021″ onto green paper will stay in our keepsake box for years. Will be taken out in 8 years when our children move to high school and again 4 years later as they pack up for college. When you put your love into what you do for our children, you are reaching every family in a profound way.

Continue to reach out to your parent community. What you strength for them, will strengthen your school.

________

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