Foster Parenting

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Celebrating New Learning

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing this space for sharing our celebrations and the Margaret Simon for hosting DigiLit Sunday.

A funny thing has happened as my role has changed again...reading support teacher (no longer in the classroom), literacy coach in a building that is trying to figure out how to support vertical teams, and a new Ph.D. student.  I'm not sure what my message is anymore.  Which lens do I write through in this new phase of my life?  Coach?  Reading teacher?  Middle-aged graduate student?  Mother? Wife? Friend?

As I try to sort through all of it, I realize that the lens I can use and still stay true to each of these roles is that of a learner.  My head spins with all of the new learning that is going on in my life right now and that's what I'd like to celebrate.  And it's not just my new learning, but also what I gain from my different learning communities.

The foundation of that learning lies in the work I'm doing at OSU.  My instructor, Dr. Laurie Katz is a master teacher.  I learn so much from her just by watching her teaching moves.  She approaches her teaching from a strength based philosophy and we work together to construct knowledge in this class.  She acknowledges that the work we are doing is difficult, but assures us that it will get easier and that we will figure it out together.  She is respectful, validating and supportive.  She is one more model I hold up in my coaching work, because that is who I want to be as I work with teachers in my building.

I've found that working on the patio makes this new academic reading a little easier.  

We have a group of teachers in our building who are diving into blogging, which has me so excited.  For some, it's their first try, for others, they've blogged in the past with their students, but want to take the next steps.  I am looking forward to conversations around connecting with others outside our classroom walls and around digital literacy.  I know that some of them feel overwhelmed and in over their heads, but they are willing to be uncomfortable in order to extend their learning.  We will learn together and move at a pace that fits their needs.  I am especially grateful to this learning community because I miss  having my own classroom to dive into digital literacy and all the learning that comes with that.

Our reading support has been reconfigured this year, which is giving us the opportunities for new conversations. How do we best support our neediest learners when we have fewer resources?  What can look like a huge hurdle has actually opened us up to think creatively and outside the box.  The math coach and I are having some important discussions around kids in different communities where we've been invited.  We are scheduling visits to other kindergarten classrooms at our sister school to continue conversations around literacy.  Again, more learning together and being open to new ideas.  There's the understanding that what we try may not work and if it doesn't, we will try something new.

A trip to the zoo with A and D

And then there is the learning in my personal life.  I never know if this is the place for me to write about it, but it's such a big part of me and my thinking around others, that I can't not write about it.  I spent Saturday morning with a family that I hold very close and dear to my heart.  The parents of the girls we fostered last year have opened their hearts to us and for that I am eternally grateful.  But the lessons are difficult for me because I can't fix their hard lives for them.  So what I learn is that what I can offer is arms and a shoulder for a fearful and unsure mother who loves her children with all her might, but her own background of a hard life makes parenting difficult.  Jumping in and washing dishes and taking littles ones outside for walk can soothe a mother's jangled nerves and allow her to see a little hope in the day.  Frozen vanilla lattes with whipped cream can bring a smile to tear stained face.  I am learning new lessons every day about poverty, drug abuse, recovery, and healing from abusive childhoods.  My eyes have been opened to horrors that I had only read about, but are now real to me and yet I know, that I really don't know.  This learning is not the exciting learning described above, but it just as important.  It's easy to think about what they don't have and feeling bad that I can't snap my fingers and fix it.  So, I refocus on the strengths I see...a family who loves each other fiercely, a mom who wants her kids to have a better life than the one she's had, a mom who's willing to be vulnerable and admit she needs help and reaches out instead of pulling into herself and falling back into bad habits, children who are energetic, loving, a little ornery, and full of curiosity.

My life is rich and full of new learning, and that is something to celebrate!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Celebrating Real Writing

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for inviting us to share our celebrations.  Even in the most trying of weeks, it's refreshing to find the shining moments that sustain us to keep moving forward.

As the reading support teacher and literacy coach in my building, I get to talk to a lot of kids and teachers.  It's one of the things I love most about my job.  Some of those conversations pop up at the most unexpected times as well...

As I was opening ketchup packets and yogurt tubes during first grade lunch duty, a little girl looked up at me and smiled shyly.  "Thank you for commenting on our blog," she said to me.  I brightened immediately.

"I loved your blog," I told her and the others at her table.  "It's so fun to read about all the great learning you are doing in school."

Her friend sitting next to her jumped in next, bouncing on the long wooden bench as she said,. "We have some questions we need to ask.  We get to write the next blog post all by ourselves.  M's mom wrote in colors.  We are wondering how she did that, so we are going to put that in our blog.   Someone else wrote in big letters.  We don't know how they did that either. That's going to be another one of our questions."

There is nothing I love more than seeing kids be excited about reading and writing.  I marveled at the important lessons their teacher was imparting:

  • Writers write for a real audience.
  • That audience extends beyond our classroom walls.
  • Writers (and researchers) ask questions when they want to learn more.
  • Writers reach out to experts to get those answers.  Sometimes those experts are our parents or even other kids in our class.
  • These young writers have been empowered to make decisions about the message they want to share with their audience.  In addition, their teacher trusts them to create that message on their own.  She'll be there to support them as they learn the conventions of print, just as she would if they were composing on chart paper.
  • Writing is purposeful.
  • Writing is meaningful and fun!
Sure enough, the next day, I received a message from Mrs. Cochran that her students had published another blog.  

If you have a chance to visit their blog and leave a comment, I'm sure that they would love it.  Which means, we'll have lots more to talk about on Monday at lunch.