Students learning about agriculture at the fairgrounds

Teach Me, Don’t Tell Me

Teach me, don’t tell me what I need to know.  Show me how to do something with interactions and examples, and I will be glad to prove to you how I have grown.
There are many things I do not know how to do. For example,  I cannot change the oil in my car, I cannot solve multi-stepped algebraic equations without assistance, and I cannot make a pot of rice without it burning or sticking to the pot.  With direction, and good instruction, my thought is that I would be able to successfully complete those tasks (well maybe all but successfully cooking rice–that will never happen).  When I do not know how to do something, I could watch YouTube videos that would show me how to change my oil. I could read written instructions that I had printed out about solving math problems, or possibly, I could have someone show me how to problem solve in person.  BUT, what if I didn’t know how to find help?  What if I did not know what options were available for me?  What if I was a kid in a classroom, and was waiting for someone to mentor me… someone to show me instead of telling me what to do?  I would be in trouble.
So often teachers are busy with the lesson/end game/product, that the essential instruction is left out, or the teaching is not sufficient to guide students through the lessons.  Learning becomes less meaningful, or lost.  I have been guilty of providing bad instruction to my students. I hate to make mistakes, and I hate even more to admit that I have made mistakes.  Our kids do not know what bad instruction looks like (it’s the only instruction they know) but our students can feel what bad instruction looks like.  Students who are confused or lost will shut down during poor instruction.  Sometimes kids become disruptive when they do not understand why the day’s lesson is valuable.
Today I am thinking about good teaching practices. I have to remind myself that lessons taught within classrooms must be:  meaningful, insightful, goal-oriented, carefully cultivated, and purposeful.  If I can say yes to all of these adjectives, it is likely that whatever lesson I am trying to teach my students will stick with them.  If I do not know the purpose of my lesson, or if I am unable to explain to my children what my intentions for the day might be, I am also teaching them something…how to be ill-prepared, unsuccessful, and educationally inadequate.
Today’s reminder, “Teach me, don’t tell me what I need to know.  Show me how to do something with interactions and examples, and I will be glad to prove to you how I have grown.”
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Shoes in a line

If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit, Don’t Wear It

What happens when one day you find that your old comfy shoes don’t fit?  Throw them out?  Donate them to charity?  Pass them to a friend?

Thinking about shoes makes me really excited, I love shoes … but what if you loved a pair of shoes, you had worn them in all of the major moments of your life, good and bad, stylish and not.  You wore those shoes while running, and also when you snuggled down to read a good book.   Would those shoes be so easily dismissed and handed over to somebody else?

Some of you might say yes, “If your shoes don’t fit, get rid of them,” others of you, myself included, think, “They have so many memories, I must keep them. ” O’how I love good shoes, even if they do NOT fit, I want to keep them, just in case I might need them to wear on another day. The could be just the right touch for a fancy outfit.

glitter shoe

Photo courtesy Psychopink

Today at work I had a day…well, I have had a week, which means in French terms, it has been a little tough.  I don’t really use the term “bad day/s,” because I don’t want to invite negativity, but some people might label it so.  Over the past few days I have been contemplating my work, and if I am making a positive impact on a community, students and staff…and some days, I just don’t know how to answer myself.  Yes, of course I am making a difference, right?   Smile, I tell myself, you will feel better, and I do, but the feeling only lasts a short time.  It doesn’t always feel great.  The effort that I have been putting forth lately has taken a toll on my energy and positivity.  I have been working so hard, and right now, I feel not unappreciated, but rather ineffective.

I have carried with me fears of inadequacy, imperfection,  unsatisfactory.  When I get a little low, those fears leak out and try to take root in my mind.  I don’t know why I carry the negatives, but I do.  I don’t know why I remember who planted them, but I do.  I look back to past experiences, and I visit the negativity that prohibits my optimism.

Today I really realized, that the past events are just that, in the past, and I outgrew those past experiences and have moved on.  I can think that way all I would like, but my brain has not moved on, those bad feelings still exist.  That’s when I started thinking about my shoes.  If I had a pair of ill-fitting shoes, I would get rid of them.  If the shoes didn’t fit, I would throw them out, donate them, give them away.

I was thinking, “What happens when you outgrow a pair of shoes?”  You get new ones.  My new shoes will be fancy.  My new shoes will be soft and shiny.  My new shoes will lift me up and I will feel taller and stronger than I was before.  I won’t care when people talk about my shoes, because they might, and that’s okay too. Parents of young children had it right all along, when you buy your kid new pairs of sneakers each year, they offer a new start to the kid, and they are pretty and they smell nice.

Growth is good and also inevitable, even if you don’t want it.  I outgrew my shoes.

If something doesn’t feel right and it’s too tight, don’t wear it just because you have worn it in the past, that’s not you anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still exhausted, confused, and a bit cross, it’s just that today I realized why I have been self doubting, and I can change those shoes.

* Featured image at top of page courtesy siewlian



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photo of Kathy French, ofancyfrench, from Navasota ISD

The Navasota Intermediate Librarian Kidnapped the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Books!

The librarian at Navasota Intermediate kidnapped all of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books from the library shelves and has hidden them away!  Surely she has gone insane, the kids love those books!

It is true, the librarian did kidnap all of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books at Navasota Intermediate and is holding them hostage until a handsome ransom will be paid.  The librarian is not insane or pro-censorship, rather she is tired of students coming in every other day returning these books to the library, to be re-shelved again and again, without being opened.  How do I know how she feels, because the “she” is me, long time reading teacher and newbie librarian.

You might say that the students did open the novels and were reading during their Silent Sustained Reading time, or maybe they were even reading at home.  But I ask you, can students read novels in two days and brightly smile as they return their books to the library, and have truly read their novels with an intensity that allows recollection?  On our campus I am sad to say, there are very few, and when you spot those readers, you know who they are because they are telling you about their book and why they loved it, or didn’t.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series are the most often checked out titles in my library.  Man, I love the author, Jeff Kinney, he is a smart man.  Its hard to convince reluctant readers to enjoy books, but Mr. Kinney does that so well.  Through the success of the series and the success of the movie, kids are exposed to the wonderful work of Mr. Kinney.  I celebrate him and his work today in this blog, even though I kidnapped his books.  I just want my students to read something different, perhaps a series that they have not yet read…

Now here is where the reader gets to the good part, what price will the students pay to gain access to their beloved Diary of a Wimpy Kid books?  Students asked me what they could do today to get them back, I said, “I dunno, what do you think you could do to get them back?’  One kid responded, “I could read 20 books this week!”  Really, yes please I thought, read 20 books this week!  Another student said, “I could write a book report proving that I really did read my chapter book!” I thought in my head, WHAT?  Maybe this kidnapping of books would end happily ever after after all.

Now students at Navasota Intermediate School are coming up with their own “handsome ransoms” to rescue their beloved books from the librarian, and I couldn’t be more delighted.

Students are being exposed to new authors and new book series.  Students are now talking in the hall, restrooms, and playgrounds about what they can do to save their books.  (When was the last time you heard kids talking about books on the playground?)  Our students are thinking about how to talk about what they read, in non-teacher led, authentic conversations with their peers.  Also, students that cannot read the Kinney series will now have an excuse to check out books that are nearer their independent reading levels and not have to pretend to read the larger chapter books.

For me the kidnapping has been a win, win decision.  I cannot wait to see the handsome ransoms that will be paid to set these books free.  I have never been so happy to take books off the library shelves!

As for Greg Heffley, Rodrick and Rowley… move over, more characters will soon be visiting!

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