I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Sitting Is the New Smoking

...or so the advertisement says.

This week, I was fortunate enough to hear from an international expert on ergonomics:

I went into this thinking, "He's going to tell us to get the kids up and moving." And I vowed to not be angry when he said that, as our room and our ELA lessons are very conducive to movement - and even sprawling out on the floor. He came straight from Germany, and I doubt he visited our classrooms or talked with any teachers here first.

When he first started talking about our five (six, really, including balance) senses, I wondered... what does coming into room 239 do for my students? What do they feel when they see this?

Instead of him telling us this, what he did was show what happens when we're in one spot for too long. Listed here are my notes... hang with me as I try to explain some of what he said in the hour he was here.
  • What is around us has an impact on our well-being. This could be what weather we wake up to, the people who surround us, and even the look of a room when we walk in. I wondered... what do my students feel when they walk into room 239?
  •  Daylight is a natural stimulant. And something we lack in fall and winter. 
  •  Fresh air and plants and trees are also natural stimulants. I am SOOOO glad I committed to getting my classes outside as much as I could this year! Not only is it healthier for me personally, but for them as well.
  • Body in motion is ALSO a natural stimulant. When we stand still, we're most likely NOT still. We vary our posture to fit our body's needs. We move for stimulation. If not, our discomfort will come into our consciousness, and affect our thinking.
  • Sitting still slows down brain activities. 
  • After 20 min (on average), we (adults) have brain and body fatigue without movement. Ah, yes. As at faculty meetings. Or conferences. Oh, man - especially if we're in folding chairs or on bleacher seats!!
  • Sitting = Less blood flow
  • Less blood flow = Less oxygen for your body
  • Less oxygen for your body = Decrease in neuroplasticity
  • Decrease in neuroplasticity = Decrease in problem solving
  • Decrease in problem solving = Risk factor for cognitive decline
  • It's ALL connected.
  • We are made to move regularly - more than six hours a day. Our bodies were not designed to sit still in a chair.  As he's sharing all of this, I wonder - how much do I, personally, sit each day? I decided to wear a stopwatch to see. I kept forgetting to turn it on and off. After school, however, I sat for at LEAST 2-3 hours! I did notice that in school, during independent reading time, I either sat on a Hokki stool (where I could keep moving) or on the floor (where I could keep moving).
  • Dr. Breithecker called these chairs (that we have in our classrooms) "stupid" chairs. According to his idea of a "stupid" chair, these the wood ones I have in our class are also stupid. They don't let students MOVE, and they're "one size fits ... no one."
  • Students with ADHD often don't release enough dopamine - MOVEMENT releases dopamine.
  • If there is no necessity to sit, it's not smart to sit.
  • The ability to pay attention increases when given the opportunity to move.
Here are my "stupid" chairs that have been in our school for years:

Hopefully the fact that Dr. Brithecker was invited to speak to us means schools are considering changing their furniture to best fit our student population. I am so thankful that my ELA teaching counterpart / friend / "work wife" was there with me! What a valuable hour of professional development. We volunteer to host the next classroom furniture replacements! 👍

What have I already done in regards to furniture? I signed up for a class years ago to learn about flexible furniture (and then be awarded with it), but didn't get in. I won one Hokki stool at the ICE convention the year I was a featured speaker (that one might come home with me when I retire). I've put in a few grants for Hokki stools. (The last one got approved - TWELVE of them! I kept four and the others are in other classrooms.) I tried to use my yearly "supplies" budget for a few better chairs, but I was informed that I could not request furniture - even if it was under budget. I'm tired of asking  for furniture. I'm tired of bringing in my own, and buying some of my own (yoga balls have busted, a small rocking chair and a wooden stool - both from Goodwill - broke early in their careers).

Not-so-side notes: Our newer classrooms from the remodel of our school received new flexible furniture. I have my parent's old rocking chair, my co-teacher's old gaming chair, a garage sale swivel stool, my grandpa's old swivel & rolling office chair, old tables and chairs from our re-furnished library (which hosted fundraisers for money for new flexible furniture - can we, as teachers, do this?!), and cushions galore [three inflatable (more grant money), fifteen foam bleacher seats from Home Depot ($2.50 each on sale), and six outdoor cushions from Goodwill ($3 each)]. I know it to be true - Education is the profession where we bring supplies from home TO work.

What's next? I'll keep planning activities that get students up and moving, I'll keep building in breaks throughout our lessons, and there's no way I'm getting rid of cushions and floor space to sprawl. I'll keep the casters on the tables so they're easier to move. I'll continue to keep at least one table shorter than the rest. And, of course, I'm hoping for an overhaul of the furniture that is currently in room 239 as soon as possible (and before I retire).

How about some photos of our eclectic room 239???

Papa's office chair
First, the furniture that has been personally brought in: Papa's office rolling chair, the rocking chair my mom rocked me in, a foot-stool-turned-chair from Goodwill ($10), a folding camping chair I used when I bike/camped (it broke the second day it was used), and two old gaming chairs from my co-teacher's house (one is now broken), a wooden swivel stool my neighbor was giving away, and a Hokki stool I won at an ICE conference...
Why sit on the rocking chair, when you can sit on the foot stool?
He's sitting on the foot stool, using the chair as his desk.

Foot stool as stomach flattener...?
Rocking chair + foot stool

If you'd like to see more of our class in action, check out the parent tab on our Weebly for videos.

    An old teacher chair? Sure!
   Sometimes a couple of $3 Goodwill cushions are all we need...
The floor IS a favorite sprawling place for some...
And sometimes, we feel like reading in a tight corner of the room...

Oh, my goodness. As soon as I added all these photos, I remembered a post I wrote in 2012!!
(If you have already read Shift This, you may find this older post familiar for a different reason!)

Comments about YOUR learning spaces are very welcomed below. Thank you for reading this far - let's get our kids MOVING! I hope that long gone are the days of saying, "Sit still."

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Edu Celebrities

I've seen the term a TON via tweets from educators I admire and also educators I don't follow.

I wonder who "qualifies" as an "Edu Celebrity..."

I wonder if I am one, or if I even want to BE one. Based on the mixed messages I find on social media sites, I have no clue.

Opinions range from pure love of certain "Edu Celebrities" to pure anger and rage against said "Edu Celebrities." Sometimes they're called different things, such as "Edu Rockstars" or "Edutainers."

What is the definition? I checked Urban Dictionary - I'm actually glad they don't have it - yet.

So... what IS the definition? According to the tweets I've seen shared, some people believe it has a positive and some believe it has a negative connotation. It depends on the person sharing, and whether they're in a mood to uplift or put down.

Here's a sampling of some of the tweets floating around, and my questions about them:

*I, too, love learning in person from those I respect on social media - some have even become what I would call "teacher friends," for sure.

*I've totally gotten my photo taken with more educators than musicians!

*I'm always look forward to meeting educators from whom I've learned!

*Getting your thoughts retweeted when you're new to Twitter (#NT2t = new teacher to Twitter) is one way to grow your network and become more connected. This most likely means you'll learn more than you ever knew before, as you're learning from so many educators around the world.

*I thought teachers shared this type of information as a pick-me-up or reminder, even during the hard times. And... aren't NONE of us "ordinary" teachers, especially if "we know what's good for kids"? Note: This person later shared with a friend "edu-celebrity" that SHE (the friend) was tweeting the "right" way for edu-celebrities... ?? This is confusing to  me.

*Does this mean Edu-celebrities are not in classrooms anymore? And don't some of them present to others to affect MORE students than they could when they were in the classroom?

*Here I see more suggestion that perhaps edu-celebrities have left the classroom. I have no idea what their experience was like. I have no idea what type of money they were (and are now) making. Perhaps they feel they can affect more children by presenting? Perhaps it was a better move for their family situation? Perhaps where they were teaching was a terrible situation? Plus, I haven't heard someone in a long time tell me that what I'm doing is "wrong," only that maybe I could try something different. I feel that much professional development goes in that direction... for "development" that we can take or leave.

*Here's more thinking of these educators being out of the classroom as a generalization. Wondering... do many people share theory first, then when asked, share the practicality? Seems as if social media is for small doses, not entire lessons on how to implement...

*This one was talking about how edu-celebrities should not be presenting at conferences - that students should. I agree that we should hear more from students. I also know I've learned a TON from other educators who share their learning.

*Why should ANY educators stop sharing? And who says they didn't schedule those posts to go out on the holidays when they're with their families and other educators are online reading them? And perhaps some don't have families to be with on holidays? I have more questions now.

*I don't know what to say. I know I'm privileged. I also know I have ideas to share. Where do I go from here???

*Then I saw more about "edu-heroes." I'll bet people have different definitions of them, as well. I can see that term being both affirming and full of pressure, for sure.

*One doesn't have to pay attention to ANYone. I, for one, however, am better when I hear success and failure stories from others who've tried things I don't (yet) dare.

*And yes, there is even a Twitter account mocking educators labeled "EduCelebrities." I wonder... does this educator hide behind this name so she/he/they can be rude online without their students knowing? This educator has a lot of followers - does that mean that many educators support it?

*This tweet is one I want to end my string with, as he's giving the benefit of the doubt to educators trying to do their best. I love how he used "edu role model" for those educators who are sharing and doing what they can with what they have.

More questions I've got...
  • Isn't it okay for people tweet what they'd like?
  • Isn't social media often used as a platform to share opinions?
  • Isn't social media connecting us to people from around the world who have experienced many different things?
  • Isn't it up to each person on social media platforms to decide who to follow, who to share engage with, and who to listen to - same as those we meet in person?
  • Isn't it up to each person to decide who to listen to or who to support?
  • Isn't it fair to ask, "Is this person bringing value to my life?" and then decide to follow (or mute or block) or not depending upon the answer?

What I've learned...
  • People ("edu celebrity" or not) like to share their (positive and negative) opinions online.
  • No one can please everyone.
  • People on social media can choose to mute, block, unfollow or follow anyone they choose.
  • People have feelings, and people can be hurt by what other people share.
  • Educators aren't exempt from hurting others, and some educators don't always model what they want their students to share online.
  • There is research that social media INCREASES isolation and DECREASES social skills.
I'm not trying to tell anyone what to do, how to share online, or what to believe. I'm taking this post to share the various ideas around one word that keeps popping up in my feed. Words are important, and I try to choose mine wisely. If I wouldn't tell a person face to face what I'm thinking, I won't be sharing those thoughts online, either.

Teacher and friend Jennifer Ledford wrote about "Edu-stars," and it rings true to me. We're all at different stages of our education, and our educating. Thank you, Jen, for writing a post that has stuck with me all this time. If we're doing what we can for those students in front of us, is that what truly matters? In my mind, ALL teachers are "Edu Celebrities" to some child out there, and most likely to multiple children. That's the type of EDUCATOR I strive to become every year - in the classroom and online.

I am in disbelief you read to the end... That, too, is a choice we make. Thank you for keeping polite conversations going - either on social media, the comments section here, or in your own school in front of your students.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

How Do I Know If My Mental Health Is Improving?

I've seen some signs this week...

When I come home from school, I relax on the couch and tell my (retired) husband about my day. Just last month I would think, "If I could just get started on some school work now and talk to him later..." Now I feel I have the time. I don't worry about what I need to do next. I simply am present, enjoying our time.

A couple of days ago, when dinner was almost ready, I went to the cookie jar for a bite. I watched my hand reach for the lid, then come back to me without lifting it. It was kind of awkward watching my hand, so I paused to figure out what was going on. I realized - I still have some will power left in me. I used to use up all my will power at school.

One day on my way to work this week, I was frustrated at the speed of the vehicles around me. They were going way "too slow" for my taste. I was upset because it's the only stretch I have where I can go 50mph instead of 40 or less. Grrrr - I was feeling my blood pressure rise. So I shook my head and heard myself say aloud, "Shift your mindset," and wondered how could I simply enjoy this moment? Sadly, I was not able to shift this mindset, but thinking about it out loud made me realize I have some tools I can use. I was also able to laugh about it later when I shared with a coworker.

We had a twelve-hour day Thursday this week, due to parent/teacher conferences. Heading home in the dark is never my favorite, and the vehicles were going faster than I was willing, so I stayed in the right lane. Approaching the street where I turn left to get home, I realized it was going to be tough. Suddenly all the cars in the left lane were nestling close to one another, and I didn't want to fight my way in. Instead of getting upset, I made a conscious decision to turn right, and take another route, simply to get away from the rush.

Friday night, we got our fire pit raging hot with all the twigs we'd collected the last few weeks. We had the Soultown station on. A bit of Roberta Flack ("Killing Me Softly"), a bit of Sly and the Family Stone, and even some disco mixed in! I found myself getting up and dancing - like nobody was watching. I just wanted to get up and MOVE. It felt good. It felt healthy. I testify to that!

These last few instances are occurring outside of school. It made me wonder, what have I been doing IN school that has helped me be more present, save some will power, and remain calm?

At school...

Teachers vent. I get it. I've written about complaining before. I've noticed a difference now - sometimes we just need to share something with someone who understands what we're going through. I'm not immune to it, either. What I do now is listen. Then those of us in the conversation move on to something else, and it's forgotten for awhile.

I hear rumors about other teachers, and I think about how it affects me. Much of it doesn't matter to me. It's not my business and doesn't affect me in the least. I know I'm not hearing the whole story, and will probably never find out how it all turned out. If the conversation becomes all about rumors, I either say something nice about the person, try to talk about something else, or I excuse myself. If the rumor may mean children are being affected, I simply share what I've heard with someone who MAY be able to do something. Then... I let it go. I will continue to act the same way towards the person I have always acted, unless I, personally, notice that person doing or saying something that would make me act otherwise.

In the classroom, I'm taking deep breaths when I need to. During transition times, heading out of a meeting, just before students arrive, before I head to lunch, and on my way out the door, I breathe in an out more deeply - or should I say "with more intent" - for a few breaths. I've come to relish those breaths.

Angela Watson taught me a huge lesson in her book, Fewer Things Better. We all put our own "rules" on things. I had "rules" for the photos I take in my classroom. I share photos with parents in my two-week updates on our blog. Since reading her book, I've ditched two rules that I realized take up a ton of my time and concentration. I no longer take a photo of the date each day, and no longer do I make myself share 5 photos from each class each day. I now take photos when I feel I can, and there are no more rules anymore. I simply take photos and videos. Some days. Of some classes. And it's okay. As long as I'm fair about taking them in ALL classes, I'm happy and proud of getting parents photos of their children. (Here are our updates with photos. I use Animoto's educator account.)

I've gotten more exercise - in and out of school. One line that stays with me from Teaching Well by Lisa Bush is that "exercise rejuvenates our willpower" (quote from Simone McCreary). Even simply walking around the school halls before school or during lunch has helped me. Another idea to remember - "...exercise increases circulation - thus there is more blood in the brain..."

The huge lesson I learned from The Zen Teacher by Dan Tricarico is to do at least one thing just for myself every day. I'm getting OUTSIDE. I've gotten my last class outside more days than not in the first month and a half of school, and the fresh air rejuvenates me, makes me happier, and calms my mind. (When the snow arrives, I'll strap on those snowshoes once again.)

I've eaten healthier lunches and fruit or nuts for a snack third period. A few years ago, I would eat a lot of frozen meals. Just last year, I would eat boxed snacks. I'm eating more (healthy) leftovers now, and I'm not including chocolate in my lunch bag anymore. I still have it sometimes when I feel I need it, but it's not a staple food because I don't really need it. I'm not gaining or losing weight - I'm simply eating healthier.

I'm drinking loads of water. With the prompting of a coworker, I did some (albeit in-store) research and purchased a reusable, BPA-free (free of bisphenol Awater bottle. I'm now needing to refill it during lunch!

A HUGE SHOUT OUT to these three books that have really made a difference in what I'm doing for MYSELF in the last year (no, I don't get compensated for sharing - they're just that good, in my opinion):

I needed these books on my way into my 25th year of teaching...

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Screencasting Feedback

I'd written about using Explain Everything to provide feedback back in 2016. I then started using Screencast-O-Matic for most of my feedback, as we are now a 1:1 Chromebook school. I had in my notes this year to try Loom, a Chrome extension. (Thank you to whomever suggested it!) I'm a large proponent of FREE tools, so I'm going to share today how Loom compares to Screencast-O-Matic.

First, here's what Loom video feedback looks like. The only difference in looks is that it's the entire tab, and my photo/video is in the corner.

And here's how I add the link to the document students are working on - it's just like how I added the Screencast-O-Matic YouTube links:

  • free (up to 15 min)
  • easy to find on my computer
  • can be used on both home and school MacBooks
  • can edit the name of the video
  • captures student writing and my mouse or highlights as I read it aloud and provide feedback
  • can share the video with a single link
  • can embed the video if you'd like
  • students can respond
Not the best: 
  • need to set the screen size
  • uploading to YouTube takes almost the same amount of time as recording the video
  • when I upload to YouTube, I need to make sure it says "unlisted," so only those with the link can view it (me, student, parent)
  • I need to go to and look up on YouTube who's viewed their feedback
Better than Loom:
  • can choose exactly what to screencast - can size it to where you want it
  • can see the timer

  • free trial of Pro, and there's also a free version (up to ?? min)
  • easy to find as a Chrome extension
  • can be used on both home and school MacBooks
  • can edit the name of the video
  • captures student writing and my mouse or highlights as I read it aloud and provide feedback
  • my picture is in the bottom left - I hear students take feedback more seriously when they can see you
  • captures student writing and my mouse or highlights as I read it aloud and provide feedback
  • can share the video with a single link
  • can embed the video if you'd like
  • students can respond (right in the video? I'm not sure yet)
Not the best: 
  • no embedded timer - I need to look at the clock or set a stopwatch
Better than Screencast-O-Matic:
  • no upload time - it's instantly ready
  • can simply hit "record current tab" instead of setting the screen size
  • I can be alerted when someone views it - if I choose to not be alerted by email, I can easily see in the extension who's viewed their video
  • fun reminders to smile pop up for a second when you open it (see examples here):


It wasn't until I'd completed my PRO trial, that I saw the limitations of the free version of Loom... Here are the full pricing details: www.loom.com/pricing

I currently have just under 70 students, so we need access to more than the last 25 videos.

The debate in my head was a quick one. I'm going for it. The time I save uploading the videos is worth the $96 in my opinion. Others will think differently, especially if they don't give video feedback on students' writing. Since my students value the video feedback (only four this year said they'd prefer the comments only on their documents), I'm going to stick with this for the long run. I think the personal touch and the instant uploading time is worth it.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Ramifications from Saying "No"

I've said "No," and now I'm out of the loop...

These words actually escaped my mouth this morning as I sat with my Tweetdeck open.

I noticed that I had missed the TeachBetter Conference information - to perhaps present, and now to win a free registration.

I noticed tweets about the DBC conference in June that I've said "No" to, due to the cost of the flight, hotel, and yes - even registration that the authors don't get compensated for.

I noticed the myriad educators tweeting about their books, and I wondered if I should be doing more advertising.

I noticed I had still not cleared my column for direct messages, and it was to remind me to not feel bad for saying "No," as the last two things I said "No" to are helping me do better at my profession - TEACHING. Two things I've turned down this month are giving a one-hour virtual presentation about Genius Hour and hosting a chat after 8pm about Word Shift. This morning, I realized that saying "No" has kept me out of the loop. It was that realization that made me feel the need to write about it.

Yes, I'm out of the loop. And yes, I'm doing fine.

I could advertise Shift This and Word Shift more, for sure (like even right now when I hyperlink the titles). Then I go back to my reasons for writing them. I felt the need to write them and share them. I didn't feel the need to supplement my income (really - it's funny what money people think educator books bring in). I didn't feel the need to advertise it with contests, weekly mailers, or fun fancy GIFs. I tried it for a bit - it's not my style.

I could say "Yes" to presenting around the nation. Again, that's really not me. I love when I have a receptive group, for sure, yet the travel is nerve-wracking to me, and taking off a day from my job I love is a lot of stress I don't need to put myself through. I've written before about teachers as presenters, and I still feel the same.

Being out of the loop online - and on social media - I believe that is actually OKAY. I may even go so far as to believe that it's HEALTHY. One response I received after declining something was, "I love that you're being intentional and purposeful in your self-care." Yes. That's what I'm doing.

I am doing what I love, and I'm trying to do it well. With my husband, I talk about retiring - SOME day. Until then, I'm making the most of my teaching. I'm getting outside with my students, I'm laughing at my mistakes in front of them, and we're enjoying even more learning this year. I'm calmer with my students and my coworkers, and I think it's because I don't have so much on my plate. I think it's because I'm learning better how to make family and time for ME a priority.

Writing this reminds me of that FOMO saying - the "Fear of Missing Out." I've recently added "JOMO" to my vocabulary - the "Joy of Missing Out." It helps me focus on real-world relationships, or being truly present in as much of my day as I can. Check out this link and see how you can turn your FOMO into JOMO.

Twitter, and social media overall, has been helpful for me to becoming the educator I am today. I have jumped on many ideas, made them work for me when I could, and done further research when the bug to do so hit. I've read many excellent books, gotten inspired by a lot of excellent student work, and been supported by educators from various backgrounds on a regular basis.

Being connected on Twitter often makes me feel like I want to do everything everyone else is doing. I don't want it to be that way. I know I can't do everything. I've tried that. When I try to do everything, everything falls apart (or is simply not done well), and it's ugly. I want to do what I AM doing, and I want to do it WELL. For that, I need to step back from the excitement on social media and enjoy what I am already doing.

What am I doing today for myself? 1) Writing this - it helps me to get my thoughts down and try to organize them. I make more sense of them that way.  2) I've already swept out the shed and picked up sticks for a fire tonight while my love waxed my car (I know - I'm spoiled).  3) Reading some young adult literature and some nonfiction to feed my brain. 4) Looking through student photos on my school-issued iPad so I can print some out at Walgreen's (at 34 cents each) for parent conferences coming up soon. I enjoy all of these tasks. What are YOU doing today that you enjoy doing and helps you jump on the JOMO train? I'm not asking for responses in the comments this time - I'm encouraging you to stop reading this and get out and DO what brings you joy.
Fall has arrived at the Kirr household... Heading back outside now!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Independent Reading During Class Time

Is reading in class a novelty?
Or was it because we went outside?
My head is spinning as to why this spontaneous tweet I made on 9/19 has had so many "likes" and retweets...

Lots of the comments or retweets suggested congratulations, such as "Good for you!" and others sounded as if they've never taken their kids outside during the school day or even thought about it - ever.

Some responses asked about our reflection process. We use lots of plus/delta charts at the start of the year. Many are for the end of the week. What did we do well? = plus, and Where can we improve? = delta. I'll bring up our "delta" answers the next Monday, and we'll choose one on which to focus. If we fill in a plus/delta chart after reading independently outside, I'll bring up the "delta" part before we head out again the next time. Here is a good explanation of it. It's not a new idea, yet it may be new to some. When it was introduced to me, I embraced it wholeheartedly.

Other responses asked about the yard - why it's enclosed, why there aren't trees, etc. Personally, I think the video makes it seem like a prison yard - sterile with high walls (although I've never seen a prison yard up close). It's artificial grass. The area here was our school's vegetable garden before we had a renovation / gym addition the last two years. We have another courtyard (in the middle of the school) that has trees, grass, plants, dirt, rocks, painted artwork from students, benches, and picnic tables. We tried to go there once this year. I have a student who is highly allergic to the outdoors, and she sneezed so much that she asked to read in the library. She doesn't sneeze in the new yard, and the kids love laying on the fake grass. I haven't heard them say anything about it looking like a prison yard. They see it as a way to get some sun, a breeze, and fresh air. And sometimes a moth or cicada find their way in to join us.

This response from Matt Parker was one I wanted to "like" a hundred times. THAT is what I wanted the focus of this post to be. It's the fact that we have developed some amount of trust, respect has been given from me and from my students, and we've made the time to practice and reflect on the journey so we can continue to get better at our reading stamina:

We all (?) have students who aren't yet in love with reading. Getting them outside may or may not help them enjoy reading... It most likely depends on the individual (like so much). I struggle many days we head out because someone is distracted by a cicada or a moth... just the fact that we're on artificial turf seems to be so darn interesting... The reflection is what gets us back on track so we can continue to work on building our reading stamina. 

And then, of course, there had to be a negative reply (I've learned that my ideas shared are not really seen until someone rejects them) from a teacher with public tweets who (when I reached out) wanted to remain anonymous:

Instead of getting into what could become a public argument via 280 characters each, I decided I should write about it, much as others before me have done.

I am not "teaching" in this moment. That, I believe, is correct. And I believe that's okay. (So there's no need to feel "sorry.") One thing educators do in class is model. Another thing we do is confer with students about what they are reading. Sometimes this is done during independent reading; most often for me it's in passing. No matter what I'm doing (modeling or conferring), students should be reading. I'm providing them time to read in class, without distractions. Many of my students are still not reading at home, and it's been proven time and again that reading - frequent, voluminous reading - is the only way to become a better reader. (Much respect goes to Dr. Stephen Krashen, author of The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research. If you don't have time to read the book, simply search for him and you'll find the research.) This is much like keyboarding, learning how to use a computer program, writing, or playing an instrument... Practice is needed. Reflection afterwards helps us move forward with plans for next time to help us improve.

I'm so glad that a parent of a former student emailed this photo (from Facebook) to me:
Yes, yes, yes. It takes a lot of practice and reflection to build this type of community, and I'm sure we'll be revisiting that reflection piece again - and often.

I'm glad the video of this one class went a bit viral last week. If educators think it's valuable to change the scenery a bit, I'm glad they will consider getting their kids outside more than once if (when!) it doesn't work out the first time. Let's (students and teachers) reflect on what we're doing, all so we can continue to improve.

Saturday, September 21, 2019


Because I know I want to get rid of them in my own life, I wrote about complaints in Word Shift...

and gossip...

When I hosted a #tlap chat about Word Shift, I mentioned my desire to stop complaining.

I don't know if Will Boden had the original idea to use a bracelet as a reminder, but it was so very good that it's taken off like wildfire!

I decided to give it a try. Here's the premise: Try to not complain for 21 days in a row. Put the bracelet or rubberband on one wrist. If you complain, put it on the other wrist, and you're back to Day One (and Will Boden shares there's no shame in being on Day One).

Here's what happened when I started...

At first, I accidentally complained, and then regretted it.
Then, I found out that once I broke the complaining rule, I'd complain a bunch all at one time.
Next, I learned how to complain without "complaining." It went like this... I'd say, "Here's a fact..." or "I noticed something today..." or even "so-and-so said this today..." and then I would say something that sounded like a complaint to me.

It was time to step up my game.

Here are the rules I'm currently living by:
  1. No complaints / gripes / "facts" that are negative.
  2. No talking about others if it's negative.
  3. If I have a solution to a complaint, I will bring the solution to someone who can help implement it.
  4. One-on-one with my husband, I allow myself to complain a bit (although my complaints have definitely decreased). He says I'm not complaining; I'm simply sharing about my day. Of course, he loves me, so he can say that. ;)
That's it.

Nope. Actually, here's the reason for one more of my "rules" for myself: I had my second migraine of the week yesterday, and as I was driving in to school, I wondered how I would answer peers and friends when they asked me, "How are you?" I was torn, because I'd want to know if they were suffering so I could help a bit or be understanding, yet I didn't want to complain. Turns out no one asked me how I was (that's unusual). I hid it well, too. Until... I was driving home with the top down (I love my car). A taxi driver next to me started a conversation (a common occurrence with a convertible), got me to laugh, and then said, "Laughter is a good therapy." He saw my pain. Either I was holding my head or grimacing or sitting there with a mad face on... I don't know. I do know he saw my pain and wanted to help. So... Rule #5 for myself is...

  • It's okay to let others know I'm not up to par when something is wrong. I'm deciding to not go into detail about what's ailing me unless it's going to be chronic or something I'll feel I might need support for in the future.

Here's how it's working for me so far:
  • I'm listening more than I'm talking.
  • I'm asking questions more than providing opinions.
  • I'm learning A LOT. I'm learning more about people than ever before. I'm learning that I don't have to share everything that pops up in my head. I'm learning that it's easier to be quiet and listen than it is to talk (and maybe put my foot in my mouth or hurt someone's feelings or...).
  • I'm noticing others' complaints more often. I'm not quite at the point where I try to turn the direction of the conversation, as I am loving this listening gig. ;)
  • I notice that with good friends, I'm fine with them complaining to me because I can simply listen and be there for them.
  • I'm sticking up a bit more for those who don't always have their voices heard. If someone is cut off during a discussion, I am able to bring the discussion back to their point.
  • I'm not caring as much what others think of me. It may be because I'm not thinking of those people I might complain about, so there's no need to think of what they think of me.
  • I'm not giving thinking space to complaints, so I'm happier than normal.
Just this week, I received an official "complaint-free world" bracelet from our district superintendent. That day, I went back to Day One. Today is Day Five, and it's the first time I'm counting. I don't really want to keep track. I used to be a numbers girl when I ran - dates, times, distances, miles per min, etc. - and I've even stopped keeping track of mileage on my bikes.  I don't need to know what number I am on during a streak. [Streaks kick me in the butt and stress me out. I learned that when my Duolingo streak was reset somehow. Sadly (due to pride?) I'm still keeping track of that one on my own.]  I simply want to stop complaining. I simply want to stay away from gossip. I don't need a streak to tell me that I'm doing well. I'll mess up again and again, and yet it counts that I'm focusing on this every day. I want steering away from complaints and gossip to become a habit. It requires conditioning, just like with the other words I suggested we consider in Word Shift.

It's the implementation that counts.

What my lips say, my mind thinks.

I'm training my mind to think differently.

It's a process I'm enjoying quite a bit.
Thanks, Dr. Bein, for the fabulous bracelet!