Sunday, December 28, 2014

My Story for 2014

 I’ve been thinking about this tweet since last Sunday. I had family over and couldn’t participate in the NCTE Twitter chat, but did catch up in the archives. I am a visual person and I love photography. If I didn’t spend so much time reading and writing, I know I would put more effort into learning more about photography. Alas, there is only so much time in the day. At any rate, I saw the tweet and grabbed my phone. Currently it is my main camera. I decided to scroll through my photos and settle on one to share here, answering the tweet in a blog post. My only “rule” was that the photos had to be on my camera, not ones I had already saved to my computer. I ended up, of course, with more than one photo, I selected nine. I think this mosaic does a pretty good job of telling my story.

NCTE asked, “What photos tell the story of your 2014 as an educator?” Here is my answer:

(I’m describing the photos starting in the top right corner and going across each row.)

I am an educator that shares herself with her students. I plan on blogging on this topic soon, but I strongly believe my students need to know me well to begin to trust me and let me into their lives. In that vein, I share my favorite Christmas movie with my fifth graders each year – Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. I tell them about growing up, watching it each year, and how I still do today. How it brings me back to being a little kid in the safety of my parents’ home.

I am an educator who doesn’t leave my passion for children and reading at my classroom door. The most common gift I give at Christmas is books. One can never have enough books. When I learned that my niece, Meredith, hadn’t read Smile or Sisters, I promptly purchased them for Christmas. It was one of my favorite parts of the day when I sat with her on the couch as she devoured Smile and immediately picked up Sisters. What an honor to experience that with her for the first time.

I am an educator that wants my students to be themselves. When I hear teachers bemoan chatty kids, restless kids, I do want to scream at times. I think we forget that they are just ten year olds, not mini-adults. Kids need to be kids. Heck, I think we all need a bit more kid in us. The world would likely be a better place.

This year I made sure to be an educator who put herself first. (Although I could still improve in this category.) At NCTE one of my absolutely favorite memories will be sightseeing on Thursday morning with Karen. It gave me a chance to connect more with a friend—and with my students! As we went to the sights, I took photos and sent them to my class Twitter account so the kids could see them with me.

I am an educator who works hard to develop relationships with all of my students. Sometimes you know it is working, sometimes it takes you by surprise. I stayed home sick this fall with a nasty cold bug. Seeing this tweet from our class account to me brought tears to my eyes. Thanks, Max.

I am an educator who works hard to connect kids and authors. I want my students to know how special they are and the potential they have. I wrote on this blog about Lexi’s connection to Kate Messner’s upcoming book. Kate signed a copy to Lexi and I was honored to be able to give it to her. I hope it is a memory she will treasure; I know I will.

I am an educator who strongly believes in the importance of reflection. I think this is critical for teachers, I am constantly thinking of what I have done well, how I can improve. I also think my students need to learn to reflect. Often they just say, “I did great…” even when they know they didn’t. I embed reflection throughout the entire year. Here was their cover sheet to their NaNoWriMo pieces from November. They worked on editing in December and then turned it in to me. Since most pieces were over ten pages, I asked them to select one part and tell me why it was the piece they wanted to be graded on. Their answers and reflections fascinated me.

I am an educator who respects her students. We took “shelfies” of the books we were going to read over break. One of my students has autism and really does not like to have his picture taken (individually, he’s fine if it’s a group shot.) I know this about him and asked if he wanted me to skip him for the shelfie. He struggled because, as he explained, he wanted to have his picture taken with his book, but he didn’t want to be seen. This was our compromise, he is behind his book. He checked out the picture on my phone and said it worked for him and I was welcome to share it now.  I think it is important to honor all of our students and respect what makes them comfortable.

And I am an educator who is a Sage through and through. The Sage is our mascot – a wise owl. I have been a Sage since 1984 when I moved to Monticello as a fifth grader. Our superintendent, Dr. Zimmerman, ends every opportunity to speak with this phrase, “It’s a great day to be a Sage.” Last year he gave us these pins, which I immediately attached to my backpack. It is a reminder to me on a daily basis that I am blessed to have the job I have and I need to work hard to give back to this community that has given me so much.

And that, in a nutshell, is my story as an educator in 2014. What is yours?