Summer Learning

One of my goals this summer was to read, read, read!  I am an avid reader, but my inspiration to read even more came from my hubby.  I am obviously a bit biased with him being my husband, but I am amazed at his knowledge and intelligence level that has been a result of his vast amounts of reading. I thought I would follow suit.

I love the fact that teachers have the summer “off” to improve their skills. I can’t imagine going through a summer and not improving  on my knowledge and skills as a teacher.  Yes, it’s time to recharge and get a break from the stress of teaching, but once I’ve done that, I’m always hard at work (in the “luxury” of my own home, of course), looking for ways to improve myself professionally. 

I’d like to share some discoveries and learning I’ve accomplished this summer.  It’s partly for my sake, to kind of recap my learning, but it’s also to stimulate discussion about your reactions and comments about what you’ve learned!

Discovery 1: The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  This book was recommended by several of my colleagues.  I was excited to read it because there was tons of positive reactions to it.   This book was a refresher for me as I tend to do a lot of reading on researched based information.  This book, however, was simply a teacher sharing her experiences, which is just as valid as research-based information.  I’ve always allowed my kiddos time to read whatever they want to in class, but what I haven’t done is encouraged the excitement and fun of reading enough.  This is a main focus of The Book Whisperer. Did I walk away from this book thinking that I had been “transformed” into a new and very different teacher?  No. But, I did walk away with slight changes in my classroom that will make reading more fun for my students AND make teaching more fun for me! 🙂 As a result of this book I have spent a lot of time organizing my classroom library (leveling books), reading children’s literature, and familiarzing myself with authors of children books.  I look forward to seeing what positive changes result from my reading The Book Whisperer.

Discovery #2: Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor.  This book was recommended by my principal and colleagues.  It was a short and easy read.  I walked away with active learning lessons that will make my basal reading series a little more exciting!  I love active learning.  I am a firm believer in learning CAN be fun (not always, but somtimes!)  This book helps to solidify my belief in that.

Discover #3: I’ve reminded myself how much I love children’s literature!  I’ve read Stolen Children by Peg Kehret, Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson, and half of The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis.   With the exception of  Curtis’s book, I have enjoyed all of these books. I’m looking forward to discussing these books with kids and sharing the fact that I had to abandon The Watsons go to Birmingham.  (I’ve only read half of this book.  It’s suppose to be funny, but simply is not.  I am disappointed because I love historical fiction books.  I’m guessing the latter half of the book would be better; I just cant’ force myeslf to read it). The very fact that I will be able to talk about these books with students will hopefully bring motivation for reading!

(Though there’s still books and learning on my list of things to do, summer is running out.  But, future reads include Mosaic of Thought, Lucy Calkins reading books, and Professional Learning Communities.)

Discovery #4: Internet tools: I have become a bit of an internet tools junkie.  I’m still in the virgin stage of this as there is so much I don’t know, but I have had fun playing with the following tools that I might use in my classrom this year: Diigo, Learning Central Community and Edmodo.  I see potential for all of these tools, but wonder if I will have time to upkeep them!?  I’ve also fiddled with Twitter and have been able to do some networking with teachers in the area and across the United States.  There’s so much to learn and know in education. I can’t imagine trying to do it on my own!

Discovery #5: The importance of teachers being knowledgeable and speaking for or against mandated policies handed down from state and federal governments.  I’ve spent a lot of time this summer researching about the Obama’s adminstration’s Race to the Top and the U.S. Dept of Education’s Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  I am simply angry that Obama, Sec. of Edu. Arne Duncan and others are demanding more standardized testing.  Not only that, they are encouraging that states tie teacher evaluation to student performance.  That is simply absurd.  I will be first to say that we need to revamp teacher evaluations, but tieing it to something that is not always in control of the teachers is simply not fair or right; nor is it what is best for kids.   My bigger frustration is that I do not know how to get more teachers to speak out against this.  One fellow teacher/twitter friend suggests simply refusing to give standardized testing.  That’s not reasonable.  However, I’m not sure what the solution is. For now, I will continue to speak out via my blog, Twitter, Facebook and with colleagues that are willing to listen.  However, until more teachers speak out, politicians on both sides of the isle will continue to mandate policies that hurt teachers and students.

So, as the summer comes to an end and I get caught up in all the less important, yet demanding parts of teaching (ie setting up my classroom and doing paperwork), I can head into this school year knowing that I am a better teacher now than I was in May! 🙂

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One thought on “Summer Learning

  1. LaShunda Barnes

    I enjoyed reading about the state and federal mandates that our Department of Education is trying to put in place. I didn’t know that they were actually trying to tie the teachers evaluation to student performance. I’m a little in between the two outcomes. I believe that their should be some type of rule put in place that would motivate not so good teachers to push harder towards their children learning or making passing scores on the standardized tests that are already in place. I think if a teacher follows all the proper guidelines that have been set in place, those teachers wont have a problem with receiving good evaluations if the current mandates are put in place. I look forward to finding out more about this.

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