Starfish

The dreadful evening news is filled with ills
Her gleaming eyes of planes that never land
The talking heads fill space ‘tween selling pills
And finish with cute puppies in the sand

Analysis is often hard to find
The whys and wherefores hidden in a cloud
But Sunday’s sales will mollify the mind
The deals! They’ll make a killing, feeling proud

Though sometimes there’s a tone that resonates
I take a breath and turn attentive ears
A problem I can tackle for me waits
Solutions not in months but many years

One more starfish thrown into the sea
The journey matters both for them and me

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Still Possible

A few days ago I was asked why I am worried about a Trump presidency.  The asker was not an ardent supporter of Mr. Trump but believed that Mr. Trump was a better choice than Clinton.  I am not an ardent Clinton supporter but believe that she would have been a better choice than Mr. Trump.

When I think of the United States, the country where I was born and raised, I think of possibilities.  I believe that it is possible for people of different racial/ ethnic backgrounds, different religions (or no religion), differences of many kinds to come together for the good of the whole.  I believe that it is possible to rise above tribalism to create something better than any of us could create alone, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  I believe that the United States of America is possible- that all are created equal.

When I hear Mr. Trump make racist comments I worry about his presidency.  I worry that people who are already on the fringes of society will be further marginalized.  There are many ways to be in this world.  We can celebrate those ways, accept those ways, without saying “my way or the highway.”   Someone’s difference is not a threat to me  (although violence is a threat that needs to end) if I am secure in my identity.  Maybe Trump’s comments were made in order to get elected; if so, those who support him because of those comments worry me.  Do they seek to limit the identity of the United States to those who are like them?  Do they seek to rid the country of difference?

When I hear Mr. Trump make sexist comments I worry about his presidency.  Anyone who knows a woman worries (or should be worried) about this type of violence.  Denigrating anyone is offensive.  Would I want someone saying such things about my mother?  My wife?  My daughter?  Would I want my son or my students at school to learn this behavior? If not, then it is not OK for Mr. Trump to say those things.  Maybe Trump’s more recent comments were made in order to get elected; if so, I worry about those who support him because of those comments.  Referring to people as objects is dehumanizing.  If we are all created equal then let us raise one another up instead of pushing some down.

When I hear Mr. Trump  speak against immigration I worry about his presidency.  Friends of mine have been told that, “Trump will kick you out, send you back.”  These friends are U.S. citizens.  Students have been cornered by groups of other students who shouted, “Build the wall, build the wall.”  The adopted daughter of a friend of mine asked her mom if Trump was really going to send her back to her birth country, a place she has not been since she was a few months old.  Maybe Trump’s anti-immigration comments were made in order to get elected.  Right now they are having an immediate effect on the lives of people who do not look white.  I worry about the people who supported Trump because of these comments.  This country is a country of immigrants (some of whom who added terrible violence to the lives of many of the original inhabitants of this land).  My ancestors came from Ireland.  The whole southwest used to be Mexico until the border crossed the people and included them in the United States after the war.  To suggest that the United States is a white nation is to ignore history.  We can welcome the stranger.

I believe in the possibility of the United States where we define ourselves as all of us.  I believe in the freedoms, rights and responsibilities that belong to everyone in the United States.  I believe in the gray areas, the messy areas, where life is not a dualistic either/ or, open/ shut, us/them.  Together we can navigate the muddy waters of gray, together.  Let us, then, rise above, come together to continue creating a welcoming, bountiful community where all are welcome and all is possible.  Let this be a place where violence and discrimination are shunned in favor cooperation and courageous conversations.

For now, I will wait and see.  I will never completely write off anyone.  Because you asked, though, those are some of the reasons that I am worried about a Trump presidency.

P.S. A self-described single issue voter asked me about abortion and how I could support someone who is pro-abortion.  To begin with, I do not know anyone who is pro-abortion (in the sense that a person believes everyone should go out and get one in the way someone might be pro-chocolate- I am pro-chocolate).  I do know that in countries where abortions are/ were illegal they still happen in very dangerous conditions making a bad situation even worse.  I also know that the number of abortions has been dropping since the early 1990’s and is down to numbers not seen since the early 1970’s.  Perhaps we can continue to improve education and situations so the number of abortions continues to drop.

Unfair to Learn?

Is it unfair to learn?

As I teach my classes, four sections of the same grade level content, I become a better teacher-  I notice the mistakes that the previous class made;  I understand their misunderstandings; I see the gaps in my teaching.  I learn.  That being said, class #4 receives all of my learning from the previous three classes and produces higher quality work.  They may even receive, on average, higher grades (I will check to see if this last item is true).

Is this unfair for class #1?  Is it unfair that the teaching they receive, because they receive it first, will always be a little less complete and polished?  Is this like asking if it is unfair for the first child in a family to have to train the parents?

Now, I return to weave the threads of learning for that first class, perhaps with colors not as bright but beautiful nonetheless.

On the Threshold

From Beauty Is an Edge of Becoming by Krista Tippett and John O’Donohue:

“If you go back to the etymology of the word ‘threshold,’ it comes from ‘threshing,’ which is to separate the grain from the husk. So the threshold, in a way, is a place where you move into more critical and challenging and worthy fullness. There are huge thresholds in every life. You know that, for instance, if you are in the middle of your life in a busy evening, fifty things to do and you get a phone call that somebody you love is suddenly dying, it takes ten seconds to communicate that information. But when you put the phone down, you are already standing in a different world. Suddenly everything that seems so important before is all gone and now you are thinking of this. So the given world that we think is there and the solid ground we are on is so tentative. And a threshold is a line which separates two territories of spirit, and very often how we cross is the key thing.”

And where is beauty in that?
“Where beauty is — beauty isn’t all about just niceness, loveliness. Beauty is about more rounded substantial becoming. And when we cross a new threshold worthily, what we do is we heal the patterns of repetition that were in us that had us caught somewhere. So I think beauty in that sense is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.”

Beautiful!

For more, you can read Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue.

Redemption

If rotten to the core
Means damned for evermore
Then redemption can’t be found
Not above nor on the ground

Ever? Never?

Dualistic thinking:
You float or else you’re sinking
Please rise above the fray
Visualize the shades of gray

If you’re pure down to the bone
Go ahead and throw that stone

Otherwise…

Graphic Organizers

If you have not seen these please take a look: Graphic Organizers. Estas ayudas gráficas están disponibles en español también.

Any time we can help students organize their thinking, plan their learning, make their learning visible, we are helping them build connections and increase the number of synapses– that is learning!  With graphic organizers we can increase literacy, too.

Literacy Creates Justice!

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Staggered Start Guided Reading

You are right- I never explained this!

In a guided reading group one of the goals is to have students read text while supported by you, the teacher.  Remember the idea of gradual release of responsibility:

  • I do, you watch
  • I do, you help
  • You do, I help
  • You do, I watch

Using staggered-start can be both of the last two bullets; the key is that the student is ‘doing’ while you watch or help:

  • When you stagger the start, each student has a copy of the text;
  • One student student begins with the first paragraph (first page, first part,…);
  • When the first student gets to the second paragraph (second page, second part, …)  student number two begins with the first paragraph while the second student continues on;
  • When student number two gets to the second paragraph, student number three begins with the first paragraph while the previous students continue reading;
  • While students are reading you are monitoring, taking notes and coaching.
  • When a student finishes s/he goes to the beginning and starts again and all students stop at the same time.

Did that make sense?  The idea is that each student starts and continues reading through to the end.  Because each student begins at a different time, each one has to appropriately-struggle with the whole text.  No one is getting nervous about everyone listening; no one is counting ahead and pre-reading his or her paragraph.  This is not round-robin reading!

As coach, you cue students as they are reading and take notes about their struggles.  I always ask students to use their finger or a ruler while they are stagger reading so that I, the teacher, know where they are on the page and I can match the text with their speech as I quickly check in with each student.

Remember, this is one step in a whole process; it is one way to have students practice their reading in a guided reading group.  Staggered reading will mean nothing if students do not understand what they are reading.  Reading= comprehension.

Literacy Creates Justice (and it’s fun!).

Here is a group of teachers practicing staggered reading: