What We're Doing With Our Professional Learning Communities

       At the end of the year last year, our school’s professional development had to be planned for the following year. Books had to be ordered while pockets of money were available. Dates for PLC’s had to be booked so that subs could be scheduled. Program descriptions and agendas had to be written and submitted so that teachers could earn CEU’s. But in order to do all of this, data had to be examined and synthesized. Lots of data. There were piles of student achievement data and assessment data. Many staff members were involved in examining these numbers and searching for trends, successes, and concerns. I didn’t hate this process. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed the hunt for tendencies and leanings that might translate into instructional ideas.

       Because I believed that instructional practices directly impacted student achievement, I also sought the answers to several of my own questions. How did teachers interact with each other and with their principal? Did teachers find the current professional development opportunities useful? What were the priorities of administrators and parents? What instructional practices were teachers using? Listening and watching throughout the school year provided the answers to most of my questions. So now, we are starting a new year and our school is about to launch a menu of professional development sessions based on student data, the school improvement plan, and teacher feedback. Next week, I will post about the details of this collaborative endeavor and how our staff responded.

What is happening with PLC's at your school this year?

Drafts of math and literacy session descriptions and a registration
form for our teachers to fill out and turn in. Geez, I hope this
goes over well!

Summer Regrets

My son finished off Grandma Jo's
jam in less than two days!
A few weeks ago, my step-mom gave me the loveliest jar of homemade golden plum jam. The jam had a wonderful tart-sweet flavor; tart from the amber skins of the plums and sweet from the flesh. I had barely made it in the door with my prize when my 14-year-old son’s food radar instantly activated and he wanted to know what was in the jar. After one taste, he immediately got out the bread. He spread a slice generously with the jam, folded it in half, and began stuffing it in his mouth.

“Mmmmmm, this stuff is amazing,” he purred.

Then he took out the peanut butter and made sandwiches with the jam. After a sandwich or two, he toasted some bread and slathered the jam on top of melted butter. He said the flavor reminded him a little of apricot preserves only sweeter and smoother. I had never realized my son was such a jelly connoisseur. My step-mom would have thoroughly enjoyed watching him devour her yummy gift. Then came the inevitable question:

“How did Grandma Jo make this?”

I chuckled as I retold the story of how a few days ago, Grandma and Grandpa had gone to Erie Orchards and Grandpa made Grandma Jo climb up a ladder to pick the best plums. 

 "Can you believe he made her climb up a ladder, for Pete's sake?"

“Yeah, but how did she actually make it?”

Although I wasn’t exactly sure how she had made it, I could pretty much guess. I had watched both my mom and step-mom can hundreds of jars of tomatoes, pickles, and jelly. As a kid, it was a familiar part of my summer. I told my son about sterilizing the jars and the lids and the big pot and the rack for the jars. I told him about preparing the fruit and adding sugar and Sure-Jell.  I talked about how sometimes the lids popped as they sealed. My son was genuinely fascinated with the process.

“How come you don’t make jam and pickles and stuff?”

I didn’t answer him right away. I just looked at him and said that canning takes a lot of time and I didn't have all the canning equipment. As I explained this to him I began to feel guilty. Knowing my son, he would have enjoyed the process of making jam as much as he loved eating it. Maybe next summer.

Coaching Notebook: My Latest Version

Ever since I read The CafĂ© and The Daily 5 by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (the sisters) with my colleagues a year or so ago, I’ve had fun creating my own conferring notebook. As a literacy coach, the components of my notebook or pensieve are somewhat different than the components of a conferring notebook designed by a classroom teacher. Although my coaching pensieve is modeled after Gail’s notebook, I’ve tweaked it to reflect my own needs. Here is a tour of my latest version:

This year, I've decided to go "small". My
2011-12 coaching pensieve is a 5 1/2 by 8 1/2

When I open the notebook, I have a chart to track
my teacher conferences and a calendar to make
appointments. The section following the calendar
is a resource section. I keep leveling charts, a PLC
schedule, a district calendar, district curriculum
calendars and anything else I might need at my
fingertips when planning with teachers.

This is a smaller version of my appointment
calendar that I can use to assist the teacher
to backward plan the month or trimester depending
on the length of the coaching cycle.

During a coaching cycle, teachers can identify specific
areas of literacy instruction that they are interested in.
Our district literacy consultants and coaches developed the
"REFLECT" menu to help narrow the focus for a coaching

I use this simple form to plan lessons and
remember who will lead the lesson.
 How are you keeping track of conferences this year?

What Music Does

My mother’s piano lived in the front room of our house on Parker Street. On most school days, I could hear Mom playing and singing as I walked up the long sidewalk that led to our front door. I would try to guess the song as I got closer. Was it Rhapsody in Blue or An American in Paris? Sometimes I sat on the front porch glider and just listened until she stopped. Other times I slipped in through the screen door silently, and sat on the floor nearby. Watching my mother get lost in her music was wonderful, even stirring. As a young child, I sensed her passion for music. Playing gave her shelter. It had been a large part of her identity growing up, long before she got married and became a mom. I adored hearing her play and grew to enjoy the music she loved. One would think that I would have been motivated to learn to play the piano. How silly of me to have wasted such an opportunity. But even though I never played an instrument or sang, my mother’s passion, ignited by her own parents, spread from me to my daughter.
<> <>
Grandmother and grandaughter
 bound together through music.
Some of my daughter's books
for fall semester.

Football Frenzy

Mitch's helmet

“Am I taller? Measure me.”

“Hmmm, looks like you’ve grown at least 2 ½ inches since last summer.”

“So how tall am I?”

“Looks like 6 foot and ¾ inches.”

And so goes my conversations with my son since mid-July. His first football game as a freshman is August 25th. When he isn’t fretting about his height, he wants me to admire his growing biceps.

“Mom, check these out. I’m a beast!”

I’ll admit it. I love football. As long as no one gets hurt. My brother, John, played when he was in high school. In fact, his team went to the state championships when he was a senior. Football fever whipped our small town into a frenzy. By all accounts, my brother’s small rag-tag team should not have done well. But they just kept winning. School was let out early the day of the big game so hometown fans could make the trip to Massillon, Ohio. I think it snowed. They lost.
Program from John's playoff
I also remember that my brother got injured a lot. He actually had several concussions while in high school. I recall sitting in the stands and seeing John stretched out, lying on his back, arms to his sides, like he had decided to take a nap in the middle of the field. It happened more than once.

“Mom, did you see where Maddox got drafted by the Lions. And the Howey kid got drafted by the Seahawks. That is crazy! Two kids from Monroe. Where did Maddox go to college?”

“Maddox went to Central Michigan and Howey went to Eastern Michigan.”
My brother the football star!

I love football but it also scares me to death.

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