Monday, August 13, 2012

Planning is Just Hard

I struggle with planning for facilitation of teacher workshops.

Especially ones that I have previously taught.  I don't know if it's just me and my random abstract personality or if planning is just an area of time consuming work.

I don't have nor do I use a Teacher Planning Book.  I wish sometimes there was a planning book But, every training, every workshop and every facilitated time together with teachers is unique.  I pull bits and pieces from every resource, learning from my own trainings in Ohio, and experiences and try to create a cohesive and engaging experience where others can learn.

This week, we are beginning our New Teacher Literacy Collaborative 3-day workshop.  I am on day 4 of planning.

Yes, you heard me, Day 4.

My husband says, "Hon, just do what you always do.  You've done this before so why is it so much work?"

How do you explain to someone who doesn't teach that it just doesn't work like that?

I start from scratch every year.

And, for many reasons:

First, and most importantly, these are all new people. . . different grade levels, different areas, varying levels of experience, and I need to teach to the needs of these new teacher souls.

Second, my own level of experience and expertise (although I don't like that word and will never consider myself an expert at anything - I am CONSTANTLY learning) is constantly changing.  I cringe at the methods and level of understanding I had my first year literacy coaching.  I can't possibly use that old stuff!

Third, we have different resources, new standards and our curriculum is changing constantly.  I have to keep up with that and integrate it all in.

Fourth, technology.  Let's face it, the Power Points I used in 2007 are dinosaurs in 2012.  Those new teachers fresh out of college would be snickering in their seats if I drug those out!  Now I want to do my teaching using Prezi, adding You Tube videos and Animito.  But, all this takes time to do!

Last, I just am NOT a teacher who ENJOYS teaching the same thing year after year.  If I am bored with what I teach, that will radiate to my participants who came to learn!

I don't have a structure for for creating teacher workshops, although, now that I think about it, maybe I do and I don't even realize it.  However, the same structure would also get redundant.  I need the creativity and freedom of going with the flow.  But, a template of some sort might help me to organize my teaching a little more.

The meat and potatoes of these first few days needs to be a constant, such as teaching the framework for a balanced literacy classroom, the structure of reading and writing workshops, and how interactive read alouds are planned and used in the classroom.  But, I always spend some serious time researching, reading and just pondering on what new ideas I might bring to these new teachers that I have not done in past workshops.  This takes a considerable amount of time.  My husband will ask what I'm doing and I'll say "working", but really, it's fun doing this "collecting" part of my job, so he always looks confused when I say that.

Here are a few new inspiring resources/ideas I am going to use this week with new teachers that I am giddy about sharing.

*Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo is going to be my interactive read aloud model to start out with.  This book is a biography of Audrey Hepburn, of whom I adore.  So, I'm highly enthusiastic about this book.  But, also, the illustrations are so simple and sweet with a touch of Paris.  In Audrey's later life, she was an advocate for children and became a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.  She traveled all over the world bringing aid to children and raised a boatload of funds for this organization.  She ends with this quote about children,
      "Like with flowers, it's the same with children:  With a little help they can survive and they can stand up and live another day."

Perfect words to plant the seed of hope for us as teachers at the beginning of a year.

We will then, create a a flower garden with our own hopes and dreams for this new school year.

*I'm incorporation more visual and kinesthetic activities into my teaching this year, as I know the days of one standing in front lecturing are gone AND so NOT best practice, they are disengaging and little is retained.

This is an activity that can be incorporated into anything that has a variety of points, steps or icons.

Upon introducing Managed Independent Learning/centers, from their reading in Guided Reading:  Good First Teaching For All Children by Fountas and Pinnell, I am giving each teacher a handful of icons that represents  particular learning centers.  These icons are used on the work board.  Their task will be to predict what learning center the icons represent and then to choose one that they can compose a step by step routine to teach their students for using this center.  We will copy these off and share them.

*I'm also reserving more time to talk about the purpose of a coach, how a coach is utilized in our school, especially with new teachers and what their responsibilities are as learners.  I've noticed over the years that sometimes teachers are not sure what their role is when working with me OR what mine is either!  This means that I really have not done a good job of embedding how is "ongoing professional development with a coach" works into my initial trainings very well.

I am starting off with some reflective writing for them to write about an area of their life where they could use a coach that is not related to school.  Writing about why they need a coach in this area and what kind of help they need.

For me, it's with fitness and wellness.  So, I committed to finally utilizing the expertise of a personal trainer (who is my daughter).  I will share my story and nudge others to share.

This will segue into how a coach is used in a school.

*Getting to know you activities are a must
Each teacher is to bring in one item that tells about who they are to the core of their being.  I am bringing in an art journal or maybe a painting  as I need to create every day and this is a huge part of who I am.  I do this with discipline as it honors my truth to my soul.

I know we have health enthusiasts, nature lovers, community advocates, travelers and chefs.  Knowing the truth about who these new colleagues are allows us to see each other as someone else other than "teachers".  It also creates connections and conversations that build friendships and trust, and strong relationships.

The second item I ask teachers to bring in is a book or picture of a book that was their favorite book as a child.  Lucy Calkins starts the year out introducing Forever Books to her primary students, and each child is to bring in their favorite book from home or school.  Sharing these books that are close to our hearts begins that love of reading.  The enthusiasm radiates throughout the room and books are treated as gold.

My own Forever Book is a Little Golden Book called Raggedy Ann and the Cookie Snatcher.  I put on my detective cap this summer and scoured antique shops looking for a copy.  I was successful in a shop down in St. Cloud, MN.  It really was a toss up between this book and my other favorite Little Golden book called We Help Mommy.  I wonder if my mother read us that book a thousand times to get us kids to help her.  Hmmmmm.  .   . good memories. :-)

One last tidbit I'm doing that I learned from my dear fabulous trainer, Sherry Kinzel at Ohio State, is a chance at a door prize when you arrive to class on time after lunch and in the morning!  

Sherry had books, notebooks, stationary (a weakness for me) and all kinds of goodies displayed for a drawing at the end of our trainings.  Your name went into the drawing whenever you arrived on time, especially after lunch (maybe two name chances go in here).  This encourages everyone to be here!
Such a good trick!  Love you, Sherry!

I'm anxious and nervous, as always, for these new teacher groups as the dynamics of the group is always a mystery until that first day together (just like our classrooms!) and I always say extra prayers the night before to ask God to just allow me to inspire and be of service to these teachers. This is the beginning of their career.  They are full of ideas and motivation and I have to be careful not to squelch that idealism.  Nor, do I wish to overwhelm them into a greater sense of anxiety than what they already carry.


Deep Breaths.

And, as Sherry would say, "I just need to have a go. . ."

What new training ideas are you using in your new teacher groups?  Please share!!!!!


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