A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned

Originally posted on Granted, and...:

The following account comes from a veteran HS teacher who just became a Coach in her building. Because her experience is so vivid and sobering I have kept her identity anonymous. But nothing she describes is any different than my own experience in sitting in HS classes for long periods of time. And this report of course accords fully with the results of our student surveys. 

I have made a terrible mistake.

I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!

This is the first year I am working in a school but not teaching…

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¡Feliz 18 amigos Chilenos! Happy 18th to my Chilean Friends!

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On the Border

Many people do things that are illegal. Most people speed in their cars; many people drink before their 21st birthday. Some parents will even say that their children are only 11 when they are really 12 so they can pay less to watch a movie. I won’t mention the more serious crimes of which we are all aware.

The crime that people are guilty of when they are in the United States illegally is Entering Without Inspection. This is a misdemeanor crime. That means that it is a minor crime like underage drinking or petty theft. When people cross the border into the United States they are required to check in with Homeland Security.

When a person does not check in with the border patrol they do not become illegal anymore than an underage drinker becomes illegal. A person cannot be illegal. A person can do something illegal; a person can be in the country illegally. A person cannot be illegal.

We would do well to welcome the stranger, believe that all life is sacred and ask some questions. Why do people want to come into the United States? What responsibility do we, as citizens and residents of the United States, have for the conditions in their home country? What responsibility does our government have? Leaving home for a foreign land is never a decision taken lightly. An easy first step we can take in this matter is to treat all with dignity and never refer to a human being as illegal.

Comment posted on NYTimes.com

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The Basics

I have been volunteering at a wonderful school in Lima, Peru and am reminded of some universal basics in education:

  • Have an objective;
  • Teach to the objective- use a text, activity, … to teach the objective remembering that the text is not the objective;
  • Evaluate whether or not the objective was met;
  • Reteach or move forward depending on the assessment.

When teaching I need to let the students do the work- talk, write, create, use the information- so they can show what they know and are able to do.  I love the workshop model where I give some input for no more than 15 minutes and then have the students use the information.  Then, I can provide more input.  Build up scaffolding and then remove it when it is no longer necessary.

I also like to backwards plan my units where I decide what I want the students to know and be able to do by what date.  Then, I backwards plan the lessons necessary to get them there.  And of course, relationships are key.

¡Feliz día del maestro amigos peruanos!  Happy Teacher’s Day to my Peruvian friends!

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New Header- ¡Biblioburro!

The new picture above is of the Biblioburro.  Have you heard of it?  Do a Google search and you will see/ hear/ read about this amazing project in Colombia.  I believe in the power of books and literacy to change the world.  Take a look at this YouTube video to get started on your learning about Biblioburro.

How will you change the world? Y tu, ¿cómo vas a cambiar el mundo?

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Life Lesson

As literacy coach, I mostly work with teachers to improve their instruction of reading and writing.  Now, as the school year ends, I have had the opportunity to return a bit to that which motivated my interest in coaching to begin with: conferencing with students.

Today in 5th grade a student asked me to do the final edit on his memoir.  I agreed.  We sat together and discussed a few key words, some grammar points and the structure of a memoir.  When we arrived at the importance of the story, he spoke of having learned that with support he can achieve any goal.  I told him to never forget that lesson.  We spoke of his going to 6th grade, his future and his enduring learnings.

As we finished our conference he leans over, pats me on the shoulder and says, “Thank you for the life lesson, Mr. Fleming.”  I smiled, thinking he was joking.  He wasn’t.

Life lesson.  That is education and it so much more important than the key words and the grammar points.

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I know him, I don’t know him

Mr. B walked a kindergarden student to his room where I was working as the guest teacher for the day.  The 6 year old was surprised to see me and not his usual teacher.  Mr. B asked the student, “Do you know Mr. Fleming?”

“Yes, I know him.”

“Are you ready to have a good day with him, learn a lot and follow the instructions he gives?”

“Well, I’m not sure.  He’s old.  And I don’t know him.”

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