Thursday, March 17, 2016

{edu reality} 17/31 #sol16

The March Slice of Life Story Challenge
hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
Join us for a month of writing!

I had forty-five minutes to myself as I waited for the girls to tap and dance away in their pale pink tutus. I brought my beautiful new "happy" journal, just in case I had an idea or two to scribble about for another slice of life ...

I was surprised when all this came pouring out onto the pages of my notebook. After attending an inservice this week, it sparked a little personal reflection as I continue to grow as an educator to make a difference in my small corner of the world.  

I wrote and rewrote this blog post, adding and deleting. Yesterday, I was not ready to share it, hence my "I wrote a different slice today" post. I don't like to use this out-in-the-world space to share frustrations ... so even though I felt better about writing about those frustrations in my journal, I did not necessarily want to share them here. But this is what I am ready to share about the reality of education in my corner of the world.


Our district is moving forward and fast.  We are #futureready.  We are a 2:1 district, where our kinder through second grade students have access to tablets, and our third through eighth grade students have access to both tablets and ChromeBooks, depending on their learning goals and objectives. Our district is supporting our teachers with coaches to implement technology with a purpose and encouraging us to take risks! Our district is not concerned with PARCC or frivolous test scores.  Rather the focus is on formative assessments and creating conditions for modern learning.  Our district is supporting teachers as learners, encouraging a growth mindset, and providing opportunities to shift our thinking about education and learning. There are lots of great things happening!
This week we were privileged to learn beside Will Richardson -- a leader in asking deep questions to push and stretch our thinking.  He started with this thought:

"Are we asking the right questions?"  Will stated that “there may not be any answers, yet.” But we must keep asking questions because that little word yet means there will be ideas and answers.

I had the opportunity to dream about my classroom, our school, and our district -- even as a reading specialist and interventionist working with developing readers, writers, and thinkers -- Will pushed me to think about how students learn. 

I was given the opportunity to dream BIG for my students and think about how I can prepare them for a life of learning -- not just learning for right now.

What do I believe?

My thinking was justified, shaking my head in agreement with Will.  The "romance" of educational reform and transformation sounds beautifully enticing and so amazing.  I dream of this new way of education and the opportunities for my almost six year old daughters, who just emerged into this educational dream.

But then there is reality.  

The reality happening in each and every classroom.

The reality of students struggling with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges.

The reality of students arriving to school late every day, coming to school hungry, or not wanting to go home on the bus at the end of the day.  

The reality of teachers playing the many roles of psychologist, social worker, nurse, custodian, and then having the energy and enthusiasm to be the teacher.  

The reality that teachers are feeling the burden of teaching it ALL, but feeling like some days we teach nothing.

 The reality that teachers are being pulled for this meeting and that optional meeting.

The reality that at the elementary level we still need to teach foundational skills.

The reality of teachers feeling frustrated due to tirelessly spending hours upon hours "designing" a curriculum, implementing the powerful, yet new-to-most Reading and Writing Workshop, and constantly trying to stay up-to-date with the ever changing district's Units of Study.

The reality of teachers putting on that game face to be there for each one of our students every day.

The reality of school is so different than the romance.  

I like the romance of school and I have no doubt over time we will reach many aspects of that romance.  But we need scaffolding and the gradual release of responsibility to get us all to that romanic, modern learning, starting with a major mind shift of our own thinking: "This isn't about you as a teacher. This is about you as a learner."

It's been a difficult road traveled and it's going to get more difficult before it gets an easier.  I feel more at peace after hearing Will speak and thinking about myself as a learner as we move towards transforming education.

"What do I believe?"

I will continue to think about what I believe.  I will continue to share what I believe.  I will continue to ask myself and others "What do we believe?"

*Blogger's note:  The idea of the romance and reality comes from an article posted in The Reading Teacher titled "Guided Reading: The Romance and the Reality" in 2012 by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell.  The idea of romance and reality helped me wrap my brain around where I feel we are living today in education.


  1. I can easily resonate with your words, MIchelle, as we are also a 1:1 school, much romance talked about and too much reality to feel like the romance is even possible to dream about most days. I guess the best we can do is to decide on what we ourselves can focus on. And, you are doing the right thing by reflecting on what you believe in because if you don't start there, you are swayed by anything. Our beliefs keep bringing us back to our "what's possible" even in the thick of the realities. This is a very open and honest post and like you, struggle with wanting to write what's really going on, but feel I can't. Thank goodness we have our notebooks for that writing. :-)

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Shari. It was easy to write, but not so easy to share -- and there was lots of editing! :) But we must push forward and do the best that we can for our students and their future of learning! Thank you again!

  2. Three days of PARCC testing this week. I. HATED. EVERY. SINGLE. MINUTE. I'm longing for your reality!

  3. Wow Michelle! You have crafted an amazing piece, with so much to think about. First, I am so glad that you won't give up and continue to believe in the romance and that it will happen some day. I also believe you are a leader, with a passion like no other. I hope that "all" are listening to you and the questions you are asking. The district, and the school that holds a soft spot in my heart is so,so fortunate to have you! I also think, someday, you may need to think about taking your leadership skills to another level someday . . .someday. By the way, miss seeing you in that office too! Big hugs!

  4. Stay strong in your beliefs! You are the beacon of light that shines through the darkness for many! I'm so lucky to be learning beside you ~ thanks for being my light. I know how you struggled with this slice. Thank you for your courage!

  5. You've crafted this well, and I am glad for you, Michelle. I believe that we can be inspired and ready to take new steps envisioning better and improved lessons, but as your second part discussed, there is a lot on the plate already, that reality. How to manage it is sometimes exhilarating, sometimes baffling. Thanks for voicing what many may want to say.

  6. Eyes were teary as I read the reality list.

  7. Great job with this slice, Michelle. You have shared your soul in this piece - this is who you are. Dedicated, passionate about learning and teaching, a leader. I pray that you will not get discouraged by those who say "I can't, I don't understand, I don't need, etc." Stay strong in your beliefs. Love ya, Mom

  8. I can see why you needed one more day to think before posting. This is a thoughtful post showing the gap between what we dream and what life is at school. The teacher's many roles take a mighty amount of heart and mind energy. The life of many children is harder than we know or they show. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and heart.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts.