Blogs I Love Math Literature Freebies About Home

Monday, December 11, 2017

Gatekeepers: Let's Talk About Teaching

If you have ever read the blog Forever in First, you know what in inspirational educator Tammy McMorrow is. The good news for all of us in the education world is that she has now written a book called Gatekeepers: Let's Talk About Teaching. She is a very well read author and brings a lot of other experts into this book.  She has been a first grade teacher for over 20 years but this book is really fitting for all educators.  She writes a lot about teaching writing but the lessons learned are those that would apply to teachers of any subject at any grade level.
The format of this book is short chapters based around a quote.  There are 50 chapters but they are quite short, around 300 words on average.  They can be read in any order and are great short pieces that helped me reflect on my practice and think about what is next for me.  I read the first half of the book in one sitting and then decided to slow down a bit and read a little each day.  I also did something the author says she does herself and began a journal collecting quotes and ideas from my professional reading.  I had this beautiful journal laying around waiting to be used and I have to say it is so nice to have all my thoughts about my professional reading collected in one place instead of on sticky notes all over the place. 

Here are a few quotes from the book that I found memorable along with my own reflection on them.

From Chapter 26. Slow Down to Speed Up

"Being deliberate and explicit about the smallest of details is essential.  If my students don't know what I expect of them, come January they are certainly not to blame when things are not going as planned.  It takes a considerable amount of time, patience, and energy to be deliberate in those first several weeks though, especially when curriculum is impatiently piling up.  Rushing into the academic  fray too early without a sure foundation could sabotage everything. "Slow down to speed up" is my mantra"

This chapter really resonated with me because when I read it in early November, I was just begging to feel like I was getting out of the back to school rush.  Some years that busy back to school time seems to go on longer than others and this year was certainly one of those years.  In the moment, it can feel painfully slow and almost agonizing to make sure classroom routines and procedures are set up properly, but it is always worth it in the end.  Thinking about the idea of slowing down to speed up is a great way to frame it and remind myself that the speed will come later.

From Chapter 28: Grace

"I often envision the teaching profession as a path without end.  It's occupied by teachers but all at different points.  They're all moving but at varying paces.  Then I spot myself.  It's plain to see how far I've come, and I can identify many teachers who are currently where I once was.  They deserve my grace.  I can also look ahead to where I'd like to be and see many teachers occupying that space.  I hope they show me grace as well."

This quote really made me look at other teachers in my building and in the world in general that I know and to think about where they are along this path in relation to myself.  I have so many things I want to accomplish still as an educator and it can often seem like I have so far to go.  However, when I look back to where I came from, I see an equally overwhelming amount that I have already accomplished.  It is so helpful to me to think about my teaching career as this path without an end.  It makes me proud of what I have accomplished and hopeful for my future.

From Chapter 42: The 3 R's of Teaching

"Simply put, reading + risking + reflecting = meaningful change.  I suppose we could call them the 3 R's of teaching.  Is this equation evident in our schools, or, better yet, in our own classrooms?"

Doing a lot of professional reading has been a great way for me to make meaningful changes in my classroom.  Some of the biggest shifts in my practice including formative assessment and number talks came from reading about them, trying them out and reflecting on how well they worked.  I can't emphasis enough how much reading about teaching and trying new ideas has moved me forward as an educator.  I know that not all teachers have made room in their days for this type of professional reading and I have been thinking about ways to help them increase the reading they do.  One thing is sending shorter, blog post length links to them.  Another idea is sharing podcasts I enjoy or encouraging teachers to sign up for a free trial of Audible.  There are quite a few good general education books available in audio format now. 

Gatekeepers was an inspirational read and would make a great holiday gift for your favorite educator.  

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Looking at Strengths

Over the past few years, I have put a very high priority on keeping up with professional reading.  As my kids have gotten older, we seem to be on the go more than ever and I found my pile of to be read books growing and growing and very little reading getting done.  After discussing this with a colleague I decided what I needed to do was give audio books a try.  I signed up for Audible, got 2 free audio books and was off and running.  After my 2 free books, I decided to stay subscribed and now I can download new audio books whenever the mood strikes. I have found that teaching books specifically about math are pretty limited,but general books on education, leadership and mindset are almost all available on Audible

The first book I listened to via Audible was Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath. (He also wrote one of my FAVORITE picture books How Full is Your Bucket?)

I have been in a teacher leader position in my school since almost the beginning of my career.  Much of what I have learned about being a leader has come from experience and mentors.  I am now interested in exploring more about leadership and how I can take things to the next level.  I read Lead Like a Pirate back in March which is much more specific to education than this book.  Despite the fact that this book was written for leaders in general, I got a lot out of it.  

The biggest thing I took away from this book was a deeper understanding of my own strengths as a leader.  The book details many different strengths and comes with an access code to the leadership version of Gallup's Strengthsfinder Program.  The strengths the program identified for me are Achiever, Maximizer, Learner, Activator and Arranger. Each of these is described in detail in the book but I also received a customized report about how exactly each of these applies to me.  I was surprised how well this assessment pinpointed my strengths and to some extent, even parts of my personality. 

Another huge take away from this book was about looking for strengths in others.  It really made me think about how to best utilize members of my team and my colleagues to support me, my students and the mission of our school.  There were certain strengths that when listening to them talk about, I would think so clearly of one teacher or another that I have worked with.  Looking at people's strengths has helped me make ground as a leader in just a few short months. 

What other books about leadership would you recommend?  If you use Audible, what education books are available in this format that you would recommend? Please respond in the comments below!