This is the time of year for transitions. Here is a podcast with common questions that our 5th graders are asking about movin' on up to middle school. The guest contributors are 6th and 7th grade students.
We are looking forward to meeting you all and I leave you with a poem from Taylor Mali entitled "In My Middle School." Help us build the best school ever!
In My Middle School by Taylor Mali
My new technology interest is podcasting. Below please find my first attempt with my good friend and co-host John Mierz (@cheesepuff44). We will be discussing innovation at Whitehall Middle School and Ealy Elementary. Enjoy!
Our friend we refer to in the podcast that we were unable to remember her Twitter handle, Mae Hill is @Maisy912. A fabulous resource
A poem inspired by Taylor Mali at the MAMSE conference March 4, 2016
Brown elbow patches
Red Ralph Lauren corduroy blazer
East Coast poet strides the floor
Singsong voice rising in pitch
Invokes images of fire, jumpers, 7th grade boys, girls and pens
Ragged emotion-gladius of battle
Teaching us to teach again.
We sit in folding chairs rapt in words.
He is sage on the stage today.
Force, matter, motion,
Physics drives individuals.
Physics slams poets.
“Write this down!” he says-
A truth he just recalled.
“Poetry is written to be heard first.”
Nouns, concrete, broken objects you can throw
Assuage our ears
Write this down.
Lingered like a reluctant school girl.
Write this down.
Pedaled like a rusty tricycle on two wheels
Write this down.
Commenced like a valedictorian.
Write this down.
My friend Susan is amazing to me. Known as Mrs. Tate at Whitehall Middle School, in the interests of classroom lessons she has traveled to Antarctica, Iceland, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Austria, and San Diego, California. Each trip had its own lesson plan and each return to the classroom brought in-depth instruction relevant to students right now, right here.
Through interdisciplinary approaches with the environmental Green Screens student film projects and place based lessons studying the health of the rivers, streams and Great Lakes that surround us, Mrs. Tate teaches our students to be stewards of our natural world. Climate and the environment link each trip to each student.
Our middle school students test water quality, design a habitat for the growing salmon in her classroom, write scripts, create film, board a research vessel to examine and evaluate our lakes, discuss current topics and analyze solutions. I cannot think of someone who advocates more possibility that Susan Tate and that is why I ask you to like the following link to show support for this excellent educator:
The #allinchat for the next several months will be a series of discussions about our school and district non-cognitive goals. This past weekend, I realized why these chats always seem to energize me. These conversations have always been about how we can connect with our students to humanize the institution of school. We spend so much time discussing data and numbers (that I think is helpful), yet the inspiration I find in my job is quite simply in the relationship and human areas that can rarely be accurately measured. We are here to improve academics for sure, but great education is social-emotional work.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at 8 p.m. our #allinchat will be addressing ways that we can all learn to build trust among those who are traumatized or abused. You may think that you know who those students are, but honestly many of our students have witnessed or been the victim of trauma. These scars are slow to heal, and you may suddenly find yourself with a disengaged or angry student that you have accidently triggered.
I have decided to post our #allinchat questions here for those who may be interested to see them in advance (with the hope of additional participants). Each of these questions has been drawn from the article from Education Leadership entitled "How Not To Be a Mountain Troll" by Jeffrey Benson.
Here are our #allinchat questions
Q1: Trust comes before learning, so how can we ensure we are building relationships before rushing into academics? Strategies? #allinchat
Q2: Every student needs recognition. How can we be sure we connect with each and every student?#allmeansall #allinchat
Q3: How can we ensure that one adult will have a "significant conversation" with each student at least once a week? #allinchat
Q4: How do you use extra "think time" in class or rephrase questions to include all Ss? Ex: What Q's do you have? #allinchat
Q5: Rules are important,so how can you minimize the absolutes and individualize your approach with students so they feel safe? #allinchat
Q6: "First do no harm." Give an example of a time when no action is better than an overreaction. #allinchat
I look forward to you joining us on Tuesday, October 6th at 8:00.
I believe that the white crayon, in the right environment, excels and is needed.
A poem for Labor Day and meaningful work:
"The people I love the best
Jump into work head first
Without dallying in the shadows
And swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
The black sleek heads of seals
Bouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
Who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
Who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
Who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
In the task, who go into fields to harvest
And work in a row and pass the bags along,
Who are not parlor generals and field deserters
But move in a common rhythm
When the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
Has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
But you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
And a person for work that is real."
Marge Piercy, "To be of use" from Circles on the Water. Copyright © 1982 by Marge Piercy.
The first time I remember being in trouble with my parents I was 6 years old. I think about this day now, decades later and I realize that one day has been a metaphor for most of my life.
It was the summer between kindergarten and first grade. The day was sunny and warm. I was restless and wanted something to do. I had read all the books we had at home and yearned to read something else. My decision seemed pretty simple to me: if you want something, you should just go after it. It didn't seem like I would want to bother my mom (who always seemed so busy). Since she was busy and I was bored, I could take care of this myself. I liked going for walks and decided to walk to Shelby Public Library. I knew where the books were and already had a relationship with the librarians who worked in our small town. They were kind and soft-spoken and always seemed to have time to help me find something new and interesting to read next. I had participated in their reading contest where I had read enough books to put all the scales on a paper dragon and wanted more. I would reach out to my new adult friends in my small hometown.
Looking back, my mom must have thought I was still outside playing. Most summer days that was my routine. I was looking to change it up that day. It didn't occur to me that I should mention this decision to my mom. She was, after all, busy. I walked down the street of our small town, trying to remember how we got to the library in the car. I was pretty sure I could walk to the library, find some fabulous new books, walk home, and read a couple before mom wanted me home for dinner. Walking down Michigan Avenue, I turned right and walked parallel to US-31. Back then, 31 was the only thoroughfare north to Pentwater and Ludington and was pretty busy most of the time (now the expressway has eased most of that traffic, but that was not the case at this time). I continued on toward 3rd Street where the city park, Congregational, and Methodist Churches are located. I waited and made sure to look both ways as I crossed US-31. I was certain my mom would be proud that I was using all the skills she had taught me.
I did not make it to the library that day. My mom wheeled up about the time I was ready to cross Maple and start down the home stretch. She pulled up in our family car, got out, grabbed me by the hand and pulled me into the passenger side of the car. She was frantic, but I still had my goal in my sights and was frustrated to be kept from reaching it. "What are you doing?" she sounded mad, but her eyes were full of fear.
"I am going to the library." I replied with great confidence.
"You are going home," she said and turned the car in the opposite direction.
I have always loved reading and it makes me smile that the first time I was in serious trouble I was on a maverick journey to the library. My childhood had nice long stretches of time where I needed to make my own way and entertain myself. I always thought I was capable of doing things a bit more complex than others believed. My independence has gotten me in trouble more than once, though it has also been my saving grace.
I am still not interested in waiting too long, asking permission, or checking in before I take off. I don't like training wheels, boundaries, or days without a book. I feel like on most days I continue to "walk to the library" as I continue through this maverick journey that is my life.
1. A River is Timeless
"Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?" -Hermann Hesse
Across the river I watch a 40 year old man in black shorts sitting cross legged on a deck with his fishing line slack in the water. I picture him in that same pose 30 years ago-10 years old and sunburned waiting patiently for a trout or bass. Even further back in time, it is not hard to imagine when this river meant life to those who fished and navigated it. Past the too green lawns and carefully manicured floral arrangements, there is unclaimed rustic natural beauty. Wooded steep slopes and gnarled downed trees stake claim to the water's edge. This is the timeless beauty that draws me.
2. We Are All One
"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
We float past in our kayaks-float because it is so quiet we don't want to break the silence with the paddles. A heron the size of a 10 year old child lifts off before us and his 6 foot wingspan unfolds with the sound you make when you shake out a bath towel fresh from the dryer- wom! womf! Then he lifts into the air with breath stopping grace only to repeat this feat as we disrupt his fishing three more times in the hour long trip. Turtles sun themselves on logs as I drift by. Occasionally, an otter glides just under the surface. It seems as soon as I identify the shape it disappears into the mysteries underwater. Bald eagles found along the river are brave enough to soar above us or dine on fish along the shore. The eagle like the heron, is disrupted at dinner much like when I receive an unsolicited phone call at 6:00 p.m. Depending on the season, trout, bass, or salmon glide and jump near the kayak as a reminder that this river belongs to them and they sustain this place.
3. "Go With the Flow" is Dangerous
"Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere." -Emma Smith
The silence gives me time to contemplate and compare the present to my life journey. The river changes each day, its currents and obstacles new each trip. One day there is smooth water and easy travels and the next a rock or downed tree has appeared seemingly out of nowhere. The river, with an agenda of its own, draws me into the current and the path with the most obstacles. If I do not resist by watching for problems, steering, and paddling, my vessel would surely be beached, stalled, or maybe even swamped. A sure steady resistance to avoid these traps makes for a serene trip. I know the river draws me into danger and the lull of the path of least resistance, so I must be aware to keep the path I choose.
4. Appreciate the Unexpected
"We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations." -David Brower
As certain as I am to experience obstacles, I know I also will have the unexpected pleasures found along the path of the river. Sometimes, when it seems as though the river is fraught only with obstacles, it smooths out and a sudden miracle of natural wonder appears out of nowhere. Whether flora or fauna, it is that fleeting moment when I recognize my great fortune and remember to be grateful for all my life experiences-whether smooth sailing or rough waters.
It is these times of gratitude that I rekindle my calling and hope to leave a legacy within education.
I am waiting for my writing inspiration to complete Day 2 and 3 of the ASCA Conference- #ASCA15. For now, I have created a movie trailer from iMovie called "The Phoenix Rises." One of the sessions at ASCA taught this technique. So, while I await my writing muse, I entertain my visual creative muse. Here is the Lori Hartman Production entitled "The Phoenix Rises." I sent this trailer to my principal and superintendent as a thank you for supporting my professional development.
I made many new friends at the conference, although I felt I had known some of them for years through Twitter. It was fabulous to get to know my counselor tweeps personally. Whether I had taken a class from them, modeled parts of my program from them, or simply shared ideas and inspiration I am fortunate to know this group of professionals. When I feel I am all alone with a concern or problem, I now know that I have hundreds of people who are happy to help! Thank you to all. Call on me if you need anything.
I usually try not to write until I've had more time to process, but I am going to try to summarize my first whirlwind exciting day in Phoenix at the ASCA conference. I cannot believe how lucky I am to be able to be present at this great learning opportunity this week. I cannot believe how lucky I am to belong to this group of people. I cannot believe how much I change my thinking by being involved and giving back to this organization. And so it begins...
Monday morning I was up at 4:00 am (that is 7 am my time) to get ready and run through my presentation on "Enhancing Your Middle School Advisory" program that I would be presenting at 1:30. Nervous? You bet. I had been texting my teacher friends with the hashtag #nervousnellie. I decided to stay cool. I thought a good breakfast would help, so I gathered my notes and prepared to have breakfast alone to think about my presentation. On the elevator ride down, I met some high school counselors from Mississippi and we decided to eat together. We visited casually about some of the ideas we are most excited about and some of our struggles. When we finished eating we went our separate ways. I went up to my room only to realize that I had forgotten my presentation notes in the restaurant. I returned there only to be told that my new friends had taken my notes to get them back to me. I could not recall either their names or where they were headed. Luckily, the ASCA app has a message component where they were able to e-mail me and let me know where my notes were. Whew! Crisis averted! The ASCA app is amazing.
My first session of the day was with the Granite School District in Utah entitled "Reach Higher With College and Career Readiness Resources." It is easy to see why this school district was represented with the First Lady's initiative at Harvard. This program is easy to modify and replicate with all of the resources they have available. There are simple ways to create an aligned program for K-12 schools to be sure they help elementary students become aware of options after high school and think about high school graduation, create awareness of "possibility" in middle school, and plan and apply in high school. The presentation was well worth attending. Here is a link to the weebly they use:
Granite School District plan
My second session was with Carol Kaffenberger from John Hopkins who gave a fabulous overview of the use and purpose of data in counseling programs. ("Increase Student Achievement Via Data") A funny speaker who drew a standing room only crowd, her key idea and takeaway for me was on the importance of writing a good SMART goal to clearly identify what you want to accomplish and tying that to school improvement plans and achievement data. She talked about using achievement data, but as a counselor "stay in your own lane" and do what you are trained to do. I am planning to steal the survey example she used for school culture and identify gaps that I can help to address. She was clear: we want kids to be happy and safe at school, but our goals are written to make a difference in grades, attendance, or behavior referrals.
After lunch, I presented my session on "Enhancing Your Middle School Advisory Program." One unfounded concern I had was that there would not be enough people in my session to run the activity I had planned. As with most worries, there was no truth in that. A little over 50 attendees came to learn more about using a framework to address adolescent needs and show correlation between adult connections and grades, attendance, and referrals. We do know from research that "one adult connection in school is a protective factor for students." I shared my weebly site
WMS Advisory Activities that is a work in progress to help teachers have a framework or theme to work from as they connect with students. We talked at length about various ways to schedule advisory purposefully to support connections and enhance data from an important middle school component-advisory. I learned so much from my attendees and hope the feeling was mutual.
My next session was called "Games and Assessments for Stress Management" with Grace Wilhelm and I had decided to attend primarily since my parent needs assessment survey from last year showed stress and anxiety management as a very high priority. Grace Wilhelm did not disappoint as she showed (in a rapid fire way) the games she uses in classrooms to teach stress management (and study skills and friendship skills and teaching high school requirements....) The board game approach to school counseling is deep in metaphor and visual learning which middle school students love. Grace is an engaging presenter that made me think I would like to spend more time with her! She is approachable and warm and realistic. She gathers data through games. What is more ingenious than that? Here is Grace's website.
Dinner last night was at the Counter. This build your own burger restaurant was great fun and I enjoyed my new counselor friends from Senegal, West Africa, Florida and South Korea! What a fascinating international group. I was impressed with their knowledge and travel experience. My own journey seemed very small in comparison. Thanks Jeannie Maddox for your stamina in organizing our dinner plans and thank you for the conversation. I am a better person for it.
I can't wait to see what today holds in store!
Green spring Kentucky is cool in April and smells like bluegrass and limestone. We travel there in April to show my western pleasure all-around horse, Polly. We go during spring break, and it always is a relief to leave Michigan with the small piles of gray muddy snow and 37 degree weather. You can't smell spring in Michigan the first week of April. There is no burst of green and dogwood and sun. Kentucky is therapeutic.
The competition is tough, and for many of us this show marks the first feedback from judges on the progress each team of horse and rider has made over the winter. It also marks what the rest of the show season may hold in store. Exhibitors analyze strategy and learning curves, showcase a horse's strength and downplay weakness, and evaluate a current training program at an early show like this one in Kentucky.
Standing on the rail watching a group of competitors is a good place for reflection. I believed that I was alone and was completely in my own head contemplating my performance up to that point in the day. Left dusty boot rested on the lowest fence rail, my arms were crossed on the top rail and I was deep in thought.
"I just can't seem to get in sync with my new horse."
Coming out of my own head, I turned to the right and saw the woman who spoke mirroring my pose just a foot away. She was 2" shorter than me with dark brown hair and eyes that matched. I recognized that she seemed frustrated and smiled at her sympathetically. I had seen her at shows since I showed novice, and we had talked before. She had always been friendly and kind in our conversations and has the kind of grace and ease that invites trust. I remembered that she had always shown hunt seat horses and preferred English to western, but she just bought a new horse. She was starting over.
"I know. It is so much more complicated than it looks. I've ridden it for years, and I learn something new everyday." I said.
"My horse is good. I just keep getting in his way."
There is a perception among the general population that riders "control" the horse they ride, but experienced riders know this sport is more about a partnership and communication than control. Horses are willing creatures that are cooperative and sensitive to leadership.
"I know. You have to feel sorry for those naturally talented horses because people always seem to want to 'fix' and change them. They are so much better when you stay out of their way."
We laughed together knowing we had the same problem. The reason we show is because we want people to see what a great animal we work with. We show because we like to bring a young horse out and prove her potential. We want people to see the raw talent and beauty we see when we are relaxed enough to stay out of the way. We want others to notice the invisible way our horse responds to our cues. When a performance horse is on, the spectators forget about the rider and they become almost invisible. Everything looks effortless. That is true horsemanship. It is also true leadership.
We stood and talked for more than an hour about how we wanted to be better. How we struggled to learn and improve. We talked about the drive to improve even 10% each ride.
The time came to go back into the arena and compete against my new confidante. We parted ways to get ourselves and our horses ready. We would be in the same class later that day competing against each other with a new understanding of the other's struggle.
Later that week after I got back home from Kentucky, I picked up my mail to see my new friend's face on the cover of a magazine I subscribe to. I read the story with interest. It seems my new friend is in the military. As I leaned against the rail dusty and contemplative talking to a friendly face, I had no idea that she wears a star on her shoulder and is a rear admiral in the Navy. It never occurred to us to talk about what we do for a living, we were deep in a conversation about the struggle of learning, communication, partnership, and leadership. I was definitely outranked.
Our new theme for our W.E.B. program this year is Lollipop Leadership. The idea comes from Drew Dudley and TEDX Toronto. Our leaders are beginning to learn that each small moment holds the potential for leadership. It is not the grand moments and major completed projects, but every moment that goes into every day. We have the possibility to change others' lives with each interaction we have with each person every day. We can all be leaders if we seize the moment.
I know our new 8th grade leaders will make memories with our 6th grade students next year. The initiatives they create will improve the culture and climate of our building. I am optimistic that our leaders are up for the challenge. There is already a "lollipop" culture beginning to emerge.
We have made leadership something we expect everyday from ourselves and from each other. We value the impact we can have on each other. Let's create lollipop moments, show gratitude, and then pay it forward.
We can change everything with our new knowledge.
It was a great day Tuesday at Ealy Elementary with Mr. Barron and the 5th graders. We all had a chance to meet each other and begin to think about elective choices for next year. Our goals were to give students some information about the middle school and to have them begin to think about elective choices they may be interested in for next year. The M & M game encouraged 5th graders to both ask us questions and to tell us what they already know about the middle school. Many 5th graders are already connected to a student or teacher at the middle school. This is a great way to feel that you have a friend right away, but the truth is that students will all have strong connections there soon enough.
Lori Hartman is a lifetime educator and a possibility advocate. She earned a Master of Arts in Counseling Education Counseling Psychology from Western Michigan University and is an L.P.C.
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