Saturday, September 06, 2008

Picture Books to Start the Year!

I love to give picture books as gifts - to adults as well as to children. With so many of them, it seems that they were written as a reminder to the adult world. And when you look carefully - they can help show students the power of writing. I thought I would share some of my favs and one that I am hoping to own soon!

The first day of student attendance in our district was also the high school principal's birthday, as well as the day she had to face the school community and tell them about the death of a student the previous day. I had already purchased her present, a copy of The Three Questions, but I quickly saw how much she embodied the essence of this book. It is one of my favorites and I often share it with the leaders in our region because it pulls things together for me.

We worked this week with regional colleagues on trying to define 21st Century Skills and begin to work on embedding them in what we do with school districts. The topic of the NYS Assessments came up (doesn't it always?) and the conversation was rich and robust around it. Much of it centered around the fact that we can teach for more than what those tests require and our students will fare well. That was refreshing to hear as readers of this blog know well that I personally adhere to what I call the "Diffendoofer Philosophy" inspired by Hooray for Diffendoofer Day. I can never plug this book enough!!

Talking about those skills reminded me that one of my goals has been to stretch the right side of my brain a bit more and the search for inspiring creativity and play for students. One of my favorites to use with writing (and the trait of ideas) has been "Not a Box" and I am now the proud owner of "Not a Stick." These books are amazingly creative and can spark the imagination of just about anyone!!

And just this morning, courtesy of A Year of Reading, I found one to add to my list: Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards. The timing is perfect (back to school) but so is the "word play" - our students are sometimes so literal that dealing with idioms can be difficult. It looks like this book will help with some of that and I can't wait to get my hands on it and start creating writing lessons!!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New Beginnings

Driving to work this morning and forgetting about the extra 10 minutes that school buses can add to my commute - I passed the many students waiting outside for the bus. Some in new clothes, most with an incredible air of despondency (for the end of summer) and anticipation (for a new school year) and all preparing for a new beginning.

Depending upon where you work - the first day of school for students can have a very different feel from the first day of school for the teachers and staff. The students some how add an extra level of excitement and anticipation for the school year - it somehow isn't real until they arrive. Each year for me was a time to set new goals for myself and my work, to make it that much better for this group of students than it was in previous years. It was about building relationships with my colleagues and trying new things to engage and inspire our students.

Now that I work with teachers more than students - it still has the same feel for me. I can support and encourage their work and be much more objective about the impact they have on their students than they are. Teachers can and do change the world.

This year is an especially difficult year for a district in which I am honored to work two days per week as curriculum coordinator. We lost a student yesterday - an incoming freshman - in a tragic ATV accident. To begin the school year in such a way is difficult. But the teachers and staff and community have pulled together to help students (and each other) through this difficult time. Neighboring districts have also reached out a hand to lend support and a shoulder to lean on. They are not immune to loss - one district ended their school year the same way that we are beginning.

In times of loss, we often wish that we could have one more moment to say a final "I love you" or "I am sorry" or "You mean the world to me." We don't get those moments back but can learn instead to make sure that we say them to others on a regular basis. As schools in our region come to session this week and we all have new beginnings - I think this student from Dallas has said it to those that matter to him. Will you say it to those that matter to you?

Cross posted on Grand Rounds.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Saying Good-Bye to Summer

As we all head back to our classrooms and meeting with students, a give from the big, beautiful world wide web:

Just launched a few weeks ago, The Picnic Basket is already home to 40+ reviews by librarians and teachers. Be sure to see what your colleagues have to say about the featured books (you can access reviews by the "comments" link under each title or title/genre headings in the left sidebar). Remember, there are more reviews due to come in (I know it's a hectic time of year with the start of school and those novels take a bit longer to read and review... we'll wait!), so be sure to check back as you consider what books to bring into your classroom or library.

My first book to review is on its way to me - and I can't wait!!