As the New Zealand school year winds down I look back and think, another year much the same as any other. But in fact 2011 has been a great year of professional development and change. In January I did the Edublog's teacher blogging challenge and through that I learned about new tools and made new connections. It was well worth it. It lead to another fork in the road. Twitter!
As I did the Edublog challenge I began to realize Twitter might be something to explore. I did so a little reluctantly. It turned out to be the best professional development ever. I can pick and choose from all the wonderful ideas that educators are sharing. It’s awe inspiring. Twitter pointed me in the direction of Daily 5.
Over the January break I had placed the Daily Five and Café book on my Kindle, but they sat there in my TBR pile. As I became aware of the Daily Five chat on Twitter, I got those books upgraded to the front of the queue and read them. I was an immediate convert, and from mid-year started to implement it in my class. While the majority of people on Twitter seem to be mainly Junior school teachers, I was inspired by them and joined in with my Year 6 – 8. The students loved the choice of Daily Five and it wasn’t long before they were up and running. The Daily Five Chat on Twitter each Saturday has become the one chat I like to be there for. I have learned so many tips. The best part is being renewed and enthused by like-minded professionals who take part in this chat.
During the chat one Saturday, The Book Whisperer was mentioned. I had seen this book on Amazon, but had noted it with a maybe….sometime…. The chat again nudged me to read this book by Donalyn Miller and I found answers to some of my questions I had for my Year 6 – 8 class as I implemented Daily Five. After reading this book I made a goal to read one children’s book a week and I think I am on target. I started a little reluctantly but find I am enjoying the books. I also get a buzz from seeing a book I have read and given a Book Talk about being read by a number of students in the class. They get a buzz when I read a book they recommend. I will definitely continue with this into 2012.
Donalyn Miller mentioned the book Guiding Readers and Writers by Irene Fountas and Gay Pinnell. This is a rather large tome. I haven’t read it all but already it has been worth the money I spent. I did want to implement some of the ideas this term, but my plans disintegrated when my Principal had emergency surgery and I had to re order my priorities. I intend reading it further during our summer January break so that I am ready to hit Term One next year organised to go!
After reading Daily 5 and reflecting on the spirit of the book, I turfed out students individual desks and set up tables and a few desks. I no longer kept a teacher’s desk for myself. Today my relief teacher asked me “How is your free range classroom working out?’’ After a few laughs at the idea of my students and I running around like hens in a paddock I responded. “I love it.” I think the majority of my students do too. For a while they clung to their “own” space but as time went by that changed. I don’t have any custom made furniture for them to store their belongings so that has been an issue, but it’s not serious enough for me to abandon it.
We have a large open plan space on our school property that now functions nicely as a school hall. However at one side it has a long narrow space that was once a classroom. One of my colleagues was bemoaning the fact that she will have the largest class next year and is housed in the smallest room. After a few days of this, without much thought I said, “I’ll move out and you can have mine, but I am not moving into your small hole.” I actually rather like the room I am in! I decided to move into the space by the open plan, and merely informed the Principal that was where I was going. While he was still coughing and spluttering I called it a fait accompli!
I'm moving classroom. So between teaching only some days in my classroom and working in the office other days, I am also cleaning my classroom that I am moving out of, and cleaning and throwing out junk from the space that I am moving into. I am full of excitement. I met our local Resource Teacher of Literacy today, and told her where I was going next year; she responded “That will so suit your teaching style!” She should know, she has spent many hours in my room over the last number of years. Just quietly I am sure it will too and I am so looking forward to the possibilities. This year was to be one of personal voice - yes that's what I said on my Voki! Hmm, I think it's a wrap!