Let Them Explode!

Last night, we watched the fireworks from our balcony on the beach.  That is one of our traditions each year.  In past years, I watched through the eyes of my kids – the excitement, enjoyment, and joy was always a fun way to view the fireworks.  This year, while my kids still enjoy watching the fireworks, they didn’t have that pure unadulterated joy like they had when they were younger.  So instead of watching through their eyes, I viewed through the lens of an educator.

There were several groups of people who were shooting off fireworks in front of our condo.  All the people gathered on the beach, by the pool, and on their balconies were “oohing and aahhing”, naturally.  They put on a spectacular show. But, as we were watching the fireworks explode in bright colors in the sky, a policeman drove up and down the beach shutting people down.

Often times as educators, we tend to do the same thing.  Our students are bright, bold, fireworks.  They need time to build up and then shine brightly.  They don’t need the educators in their lives to shut them down.  What if we allowed our students to explode?  What can we do to ensure our students are able to shine brightly like those fireworks every day?  After spending some time reflecting on this analogy and thinking about ways I can help our students shine brightly in the new school year, I’m ready to start making plans. What are some ways you help your students shine brightly?

©2019 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Giving Ourselves Permission

Every year for the last fifteen years, we spend the week of July 4th at the beach with family.  We, along with my husband’s parents, sisters and their families, all meet at the beach. There are 15 of us now. There is something nice about the continuity.  My son was a year old when we first started this tradition.  My daughter was two months old the first time she joined us.  This is the only way we have ever celebrated the 4th of July as a family.

For me, this week marks an end to one school year and the beginning of the next.  I feel like I am in limbo as I reflect on the old and begin to think about the new.  I try to take time during our vacation to slow down and relax. It is always difficult for me to “turn everything off” and get into relax mode, but I do my best. For me, relax mode is working on my own self-care.  During the school year, I usually work at 110%.  That is a combination of personal and family activities, my work at school, and my side projects.

As women, I fear that we don’t give ourselves enough permission.  Permission to take care of ourselves. Permission to prioritize what is important to us.  Permission to just be.  I started by giving myself permission to not work out this week.  That allowed me to sleep in.  I was able to get a massage when we arrived, and that helped me to relax a little at the beginning of the week.  I spent every morning at the beach, reading, and listening to the waves crash. That, to me, is the best form of relaxation. The four of us spent time together as a family, playing miniature golf and driving go-carts. Harell and I went out to a nice dinner to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary, after we spent the day shopping with the kids.

Each year, we lament that our time here is not enough.  The week seems to fly by and just as soon as we are settled into a routine, it’s time to pack up and head home.  I think this is the first year that I am leaving with a heart full of memories and an aura of relaxation.  I’m feeling energized to begin to dig into the new school year.  I’m ready to set goals for myself both personally and professionally.  I’m ready to work on the best version of myself I can be for the next 12 months.  Until next year at this time, when I will reflect all over again.

©2019 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Belly Flop or Dive? My Experience with Dual Language So Far

Last year, our school became a dual language school, joining a growing number of schools in the country.  We began in Kindergarten and every year we will include the next grade level until the entire school is dual language.  Our students spend half their day learning content in English and half their day learning content in Spanish.  It is an amazing program and our teachers are doing an amazing job.  By the time our current first graders move on to middle school, they will be bilingual and bi-literate.

We have a fantastic mentor and professional developer in Dr. Jose Medina.  I had the pleasure of spending yesterday morning in professional development with him as he led us through learning and sharing around the concept of cross-linguistic connections.  This is a true area of growth and learning for me.  I am as mono-lingual as they come.  But, I am an advocate of this program and of our emergent bilingual students.

I didn’t really have the opportunity to dip my toes in the program last year, but this year, I’m belly flopping in!  I am trying to capitalize on my learning by modeling pieces for our staff, beginning with the 4+1 language domains.  I use the 4+1 language domains when I facilitate professional development.  All teachers in our building are asked to use them in their classrooms.  My next opportunity to sink or swim is through the co-planning of an upcoming staff seminar with our bi-lingual reading specialist.  I already have a few thoughts of how we can bridge the two languages within the content of our meeting.  I’m excited!

But, don’t get me wrong!  I’m scared, too.  This is way out of my comfort zone.  But, the only way to grow is to step outside of our comfort zone and dive (or belly flop) right in!  This, I believe!

©2019 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

I’ve Been Thinking Lately. . .

Recently, I have been facilitating a PLC at school around “Making Thinking Visible.”  And it has me thinking. . . how is it that education seems to have gone so far off course that teachers aren’t able to do their work anymore?  You know, actually teach.  Instead, we are living in such a high stakes testing environment, that teachers are pressured to cover the curriculum and prepare students for tests.  Unfortunately, this has led to teachers focusing more on the completion of work and assignments than on a true development of understanding.  Classrooms have become a place of rote practice.  Students are not taught to think in order to understand.  In fact, we aren’t teaching them to think at all.

While preparing for our next PLC, I began to dig a little deeper into thinking moves.  Students need opportunities for authentic thinking within the discipline areas. That means that we need to teach children what it means to think like a reader, a writer, a mathematician, a scientist, and a historian.  What does it mean to think authentically within these disciplines?  It means that we teach students high leverage thinking moves:

  1. Observing closely and describing what’s there
  2. Building explanations and interpretations
  3. Reasoning with evidence
  4. Making connections
  5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives
  6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions
  7. Wondering and asking questions
  8. Uncovering complexity and going below the surface of things

I know that in this state of education, it is difficult to stand by our beliefs of good pedagogy.  But, stand by them we must.  Our students are counting on us.  This, I believe.

Resource: Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners

©2019 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Making Connections at the Gym

Yesterday, I unveiled my “one little word” for 2019 – CONNECT.  I want to be more intentional about the connections I already have or plan to create in my life this year.

Some of you know that I began attending a gym about four years ago.  I was looking for something that I would enjoy going to, someplace or someone to hold me accountable.  I was looking for something beyond the “box gyms” and all of their equipment.  I had the same equipment at home and I never used it.  I found a Groupon for Prime Fitness and decided to check it out.  Prime became exactly what I was looking for! With Prime, I found my tribe.

Eric, one of the co-owners, just began a podcast and I’m honored that he asked my friend Greselda and me to be his first guests on The Prime Fitness Project.  Take a listen to hear about my health and fitness journey so far.  My hope is that you will hear my story, and while your story might be different, you might find a connection in some way.

I also read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis over winter break.  What a motivating force to be reckoned with. I appreciate Rachel’s candor with the lies that women tend to tell themselves.  She is relatable and I could connect to many of the lies she told herself.  It’s high time that women lift each other up.  It’s time that we become support systems for our sisters and we stop dragging each other down.  If you are looking for a little pick-me-up to start 2019 off on the right foot, check out Girl, Wash Your Face .

©2019 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

 

 

One Little Word for 2019

Happy New Year!

I truly can’t believe that it is 2019.  As the saying goes, “The days are long, but the years are short” and nothing screams that louder to me than the fact that it is 2019.  It feels like just yesterday that I graduated high school, yet, I attended my 25th reunion in 2018.  It feels like just yesterday that I began teaching, yet I am closing out my 20th year in education in 2019. It feels like just yesterday that we were blessed with our first-born, yet he turns 16 in February and will graduate high school in two short years.  So, yes, the saying is true, “The days are long, but the years are short!”

I reflected on all of this as I began to think about my “one little word” for 2019.  I want to be sure to continue to build long-lasting relationships with people in my life, both personally and professionally.  I want to make time for the things and the people that are important to me.  I want to cherish these long days and short years with my children as much as possible. So for these reasons, the word I chose going in to 2019 is CONNECT.

This year I chose a personal symbol as well.  Chloe gave me a beautiful necklace for Christmas this year of two links hooked together.  She told me it was symbolic of our love for each other, that even when we fight, we will always be connected!  I have taken the two links hooked together as my personal symbol for this year.  I want to make connections in every facet of my life.

Yesterday, I shared my 19 for 2019 visual.  I tried to tie some of my goals for 2019 into my “one little word”.  See, making connections already!

 

Looking Back to Move Forward in the New Year: 19 for 2019

I’m a goal setter and last year, after learning about 18 for 2018, I set 18 goals for 2018.  Now, while I pride myself on setting goals, I’m not the best at reaching all of my goals. . . yet! Today, I reflect on the goals I met, the goals I haven’t met. . .yet, and the goals I’m setting for myself for 2019.

18 for 2018

  • monitor sugar intake – During a challenge at the gym in September, I was able to successfully monitor my sugar intake for about 3 weeks.  Within those 3 weeks, I lost about 8 pounds, but more importantly, I was able to quit soda! I have not had a soda since September 18, 2018! 
  • get back in touch with creative side (craft, paint, re-purpose, etc.) I enjoyed many crafty activities in 2018, including beginning Pinterest Parties in which the participants create a craft based on a theme.    
  • weekend at Hotel Hershey (particularly the spa!) I was not able to schedule this in for 2018, so it’s on my list for 2019. 
  • create accent wall in basement We did create an accent wall out of reclaimed wood in the basement.  
  • say “yes” to my kids more I tried this, but I’m not sure I was incredibly successful! 
  • Family Fun Friday Night once a month This, unfortunately, fizzled out pretty quickly in early 2018. 
  • finish 3 puzzles and frame them Never even took the puzzles out of their boxes. 
  • bi-monthly adult evenings out We were fairly successful at this.  I forgot to keep count, but there were several times that we went out with other couples in 2018
  • plan family weekend trip to Philadelphia I wasn’t able to schedule this for 2018, so it’s on my list for 2019.
  • date night once a month We were able to get several date nights in during 2018, but I don’t think they were monthly.  
  • clean out email in-box (this is a doozy!!) I did not get to this, so it is on my 2019 list. 
  • be in touch with long-time friends I did an OK job with this, but I want to do an even better job in 2019
  • read every day (2017 was not my best reading season) I did not read every day and 2018 wasn’t my best reading season either.  I’ve set a new reading goal for 2019.
  • increase weight when strength training I started increasing the weight, but I stopped weight training regularly.  I hope to get back to it in 2019.
  • watch Big, Little Lies I binge watched the first season and hope to be able to binge watch the 2nd season when it comes out in 2019.
  • write EVERY day I was unsuccessful at this, but hope to find, no make, more time for writing in 2019.
  • create family photo albums I created one family photo album.  ONE!  
  • organize home library I was unsuccessful at this in 2018, so have added it to my 2019 goals.  

 

And here are my 19 for 2019

I hope that you are able to take some time to reflect on your 2018 and project what you would like to see in 2019.  As the ball drops tonight on another year lived, I am hopeful that you find exactly what you are looking for in the new year!