This past Monday our county had its yearly “Making Connections” conference. We began this about 9 or 10 years ago, so that teachers in one school could find out what teachers in another school are doing…so that vanguards could share their trials and others could learn from them (and hopefully save making the same mistakes)…so that the central leaders could have a venue for sharing the good work being done around our system…and probably for many other reasons that ALL involve making connections –between people and subjects and schools and across the distance of our 750 sq. mile division.
It’s always a highlight of the year for me–one gets to see all 1200 teachers in our division in one school for one day, and connect with people one just doesn’t get to see very often. I like connecting with my friends in schools where I have taught before and the people who have made a difference in my career or life. We always have keynotes and this year ours was a fellow co-op catalyst, Zoe Weil. It was the first time I had met (or heard) Zoe and the hour I spent with her was well worth the time.
I also did a session myself–at 8:30, the first one of the morning. I had made 20 copies of the one page handout I had, but had to make more. To host a standing-room-only session at 8:30 was a shock to me–there were about 40 other offerings going on at the same time. Mine was called “Strategies to Promote Student Thinking and Understanding” and I had folks from K-12 and administrators come to learn and share. We used this wiki (Making Thinking Visible) and began with a chalk talk. (Thanks @nashworld, for teaching ME about those at Educon 2012.) I went to some great sessions and had great conversations–what an awesome way to start the week! My favorite might have been @pammoran and @beckyfisher73′s “Making Connections Between Space, Time and Learning” (which we’re hopefully repeating at Educon 2013, by the way). In the room were @chadsansing, @lauratdewald, @mtechman, @senorscott, @psubear, and many other great thinkers in the Albemarle County Public School system. It was a thought-provoking conversation!
Then, Tuesday, we were off school and it was Election Day. I enjoyed my day, and stayed up WAY too late watching the returns come in!
Today, my math class (first thing in the morning) was incredible! The kids were amazing, working hard at solving some problems with decimals, fractions and percents that would challenge some adults! I can’t even begin to explain the processes the kids used, but we were recording them, and when we post their conversations, I’ll share it here–the mathematical reasoning was just astounding! Kids were sharing thoughts and ideas, challenging each other and disagreeing while justifying why in very appropriate ways. Three kids came up after class, asking me for a challenge that would take them more than a day to complete. They SO loved struggling with the hard problems we had given them!
Then, later in the day, I began a third grade reading group, one I’ll be working with until the holidays. We’re using a wiki, Bridges Between, and if you want to see the books we’re using, check out the “For Parents” page. They haven’t arrived yet, though, so we’re doing some pre-book work–like looking at the book covers and predicting what the book will be about.
These 3rd graders are mostly 8 years old…but they began blogging today, sharing either their thoughts as to what one of the books will be about, or a time when they (or someone they knew) felt like they were “out of their mind.” (quick read of today’s posts here) Then, several of them went home and got BACK on the blog and responded to others. One cool thing, though, was that one kid, when I said we’d be blogging, shared with the others that it was really important not to put personal information on the web–that it wasn’t safe. She was working to protect not only herself, but her friends, as well.
And that’s what’s been so very cool about my whole week so far–the sharing, the caring, the kindnesses shown. I hope you read these young blogs–and look at the comments. They model the attitudes and compassion we want in all people.
Thanks, Zoe, Chad, Pam, Becky, Laura, Melissa, Claire, Ashby, Anne, Karen, LeighAnna, Brandy, Atlanta and all the other people who have supported me and helped this week be so awesome so far. I LOVE being an educator in this day and time (and place!), “making connections” not only in my county, but here and across the world as well!