Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One Man's Treasure...

An enthusiastic child excitedly explains his writing to another student during writing workshop...

S: I had a dream I was going to Saturn.

R: That's not a dream. That's a nightmare!

This probably shouldn't have cracked me up as it did but the tone in the second child's voice definitely had a tinge of "what are you, CRAZY?!"

I went to sleep.  I went to bed and I did "zzzzzzzzz". I dreamed about I was going to Saturn. I was playing on Saturn.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I have been rereading the book Kidwatching: Documenting Children's Literacy Development by Gretchen Owocki and Yetta Goodman in preparation for the Master's class I am teaching at Fordham University and am once again stuck by the message in the preface.

I am sharing it here for all of those passionate teachers out there and encourage you to give this book a read.

I am the teacher who is committed to discovering what each of my students knows, cares about, and can do.

I am the teacher who wants to understand each of my student's ways of constructing and expressing knowledge.

I am the teacher who helps my students connect what they are learning to what they already know.

I am the teacher who respects the language and culture my students learn at home, and who supports the expansion of this knowledge at school.

I am the teacher who knows that there are multiple paths to literacy, and who teaches along each child's path.

I am the teacher who is committed to social justice and to understanding literacy as a sociocultural practice.

I am the teacher who believes that each child can teach me about teaching, language and learning.

I am the teacher who believes in the interconnectedness of language, learning and life.

I am the teacher who supports children in writing I can! on their wings.

I am a kidwatcher.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hopes for First Grade

At the start of this school year (just last week) we asked our students what they hoped to learn in first grade. We gave them a sheet of lined paper and sent them happily off to write.

The stories they created will serve as our baseline writing pieces - to be analyzed in conjunction with a writing rubric - so we can determine the next steps in writing development for each child. The baseline writing will also aid us in providing differentiated instruction for the children in our class.

I have discussed the writing process in the past (click here to read more) so I won't do that in this post, but it is evident from the selected compositions below that our students represent a wide spectrum on the writing continuum.

I will share them in order of development.

"I want to learn how to read books."

"I want to learn about monkeys."

"I want to learn about planets. I want to learn about the planets temperature."

"Flowers pop out! I want to do for first grade is to learn how a flower pop out I want it to be yellow and brown sunflower and I want it to be big and I want it beautiful and bigger the best flower in the world and I can ..."

"Science - I want to make an experiment. And I want to make flowers and I  want to make a clay dog and I want to make a potion."
We have a fun road ahead of us as we delve into capital letters, spacing between words, punctuation, grammar, syntax, spelling, content and handwriting (among other things) and I can't wait!

I wonder how I would have answered this question in first grade.

Monkeys perhaps?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Do I Want to Remember 9/11?

The cover of New York magazine reads "9/11 One Day, Ten Years" superimposed over an image of smoke from the World Trade Center after the Towers were struck.

The ladies of The View trotted out former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani to thank him for his leadership in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Almost every magazine cover and newscast is asking us to remember.

The NYC Department of Education has developed a series of lesson plans for K-12 students to learn what took place that day and teachers are strongly encouraged (if not required) to delve into the events surrounding 9/11.

All of this media bombardment and emphasis placed on the tenth anniversary is difficult to ignore.  But, do I want to remember 9/11?

To remember is to relive.  To remember is to feel the shock, fear and pain all over again.  For those of us who live and/or work in New York City remembering is quite a different thing than it is for those who were not directly impacted by the events of the day.  It is not part of history, it is our lives.  It is our personal loss.

To remember means thinking back to when I first heard that a plane hit the World Trade Center.  I was teaching preschool and a parent ran in with tears in her eyes stating that city was under attack.  She had heard that the Empire State Building was also hit.  Remembering is seeing the smoke rise from outside our classroom window and wondering what was going on. Do I need to contact the parents? Should I go on with the day as planned? What to do?

To remember is to feel that unsettling chill of calling my friend Adriana ("A.D.") who worked at Two World Trade Center on the 96th Floor, after I finally made it home to New Jersey late that evening, and having her young niece tell me "A.D. is still at work" in a little voice whose innocence was especially cutting against the horror of the day.

To remember that day, a day of death and loss, is too painful.

I would rather remember the life of my friend A.D. and not be forced to relive the circumstances of her death.

I want to remember how she would tease me for kicking up my leg when I had an especially dramatic moment, how she danced with me in her sister Jeanette's apartment, how she sang "Proud Mary" at my Halloween party dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, how she posed near the Christmas tree opening presents with her "boyfriend" Ed, how she loved her family and laughed easily.

The last time I was on the phone with her I didn't even speak - I sang.  Her sister Maria handed me the phone to sing the chorus of Madonna's "Don't Tell Me".  I did and gave the phone back to Maria.

If I can't remember these happy, silly things then I certainly don't want to remember 9/11.  But how can I forget?  How can any of us forget?  Do we really need to be told to remember?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


There has been quite a bit of love coming at FYB lately and I want to say thanks to several bloggers who have been especially kind.

Today Ms. M included Follow Your Bliss in her Top Ten list of teacher blogs writing "he has the most inspiring stories".  How wonderful is that? I have been wondering how to get more involved in the teacher blog craze but always seem to be missing out somehow.  I am hoping that her mention will bring other educators to this site so we can share stories and learn from one another. 

Hilary at The Smitten Image has selected two of my posts On the Playground and "I'm Britney?" as Posts of the Week.  She has a very popular, eye-pleasing blog and I am grateful for the support. Thanks!

And (e at Eh?What?Huh? gave me an unexpected nod of support with this post. (e writes about "education, deaf and hard of hearing issues, and life with a hearing loss".

Their blogs together represent my passion as an educator involved with children who are deaf, hard of hearing and hearing and the aim of this blog which is to share a bit of my journey through stories and reflections about teaching.

So, thanks Hilary, Ms. M and (e and thanks to the incredibly supportive blog kin who keep coming back to walk with me.  

Sunday, September 4, 2011


It's off to work I go!

And I am prepared.

My little checklist is now complete as I have...
  1. Updated our class page on the school's web site. 
  2. Sent off a "Welcome Back!" letter to our students and parents - we are looping with our kindergarten students so we have them all again for first grade and I can't wait to see them.
  3. Completed my class schedule, well a tentative one anyway.
  4. Set up a Discovering the World of Art tour at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  5. Scheduled performances for The New Victory Theater's upcoming season.
  6. Purchased some new children's books including First Grade, Here I Come by Nancy Carlson, several titles by Dan Yaccarino (who will visit us on October 13th!) and Classic Myths to Read Aloud: The Great Stories of Greek & Roman Mythology (specially arranged for children 5 and up) by William F. Russell. 
  7. Brushed up on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) which are rolling out the second year plan for NY schools. More on that in future posts.
  8. Written lessons and did curriculum planning for the coming school year.
On Tuesday and Wednesday we set up the classroom and engage in professional development so we are ready when the students arrive on Thursday.

I am also teaching a Beginning Reading and Writing course at Fordham University this semester and continuing my doctoral journey with Dissertation Seminar.  After two months off (two months!) I am ready to plunge back into hectic pace that is my life the rest of the year.

All the best to the many educators out there who are doing the same!


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