Day 18

2/14/12

A look at my emails over the course of any given day will tell you the same thing. My job has VERY diverse aspects. This was the topic of the course last night and it rang so true to me. On any given day I am a teacher, a librarian, an administrator, a counselor, a staff-development/curriculum coordinator, a secretary, and a tech person.

Today a look at the emails sent today (BTW, my nickname is “Rita”):

_________________________
Friends,Dr. Seuss’ birthday is on the horizon. His BD in on March 2nd (during spring break.) We also have an early-release that week but we could still party it up Seuss style in a super-short week. Frankly, this is the kind of thing I’m terrible at! But, if others want to celebrate the week below are some ideas and some weblinks for even more ideas.Last year (and I suppose in lots of years before that), folks decorated their doors with Seuss pictures. Let’s do that again!
I’ve got lots of Seuss books in the LMC for you to borrow.

Anyone want to suggest something more ambitious?!?!?!?

: ) Rita

http://www.kinderthemes.com/DrSeuss.html

http://www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/dr-seuss-birthday/

http://www.nea.org/grants/13019.htm

____________________________________
Thanks for taking care of this. I’ve been reading a lot as well. Got a Kindle for Christmas!
Hugs to you and Al!
Rita

On Sun, Feb 12, 2012 at 11:23 AM, M wrote:

Rita, may I ask you to communicate with Melissa and Kelli, please.   Am very sorry that especially needy youngsters are having to meet with so many adults.  Loreen, however, is an excellent sub and if she can stay with the kids, that will be great.

Hope all is well with you…and with John and your family.

We are taking advantage of all the new learning opportunities and time to READ!    Am catching up with books that others read years ago.   Ahab’s Wife is a keeper….one I will read again in a year or so.   Am reading Kitchen House….the type of story that is good…..and very hard to read, at the same time.  My imagination goes into overdrive.

See you in a couple months!

Marilyn

_________________________
R,I’ll start the book club next week. I’m also going to work with the teachers on differentiation. Anytime you want to hang out and talk, let me know. But, it does sound like you’re already doing TONS at home! One thing I always spend time talking about with my upper-level groups is the idea that they are ultimately responsible for making life challenging in a good way. I’ll do this (in a loving way) with the kinders as well. We’ll talk about ways to challenge themselves during the day.Hugs to all!

: ) Rita

On Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 7:18 PM, R wrote:

Thanks for your quick response, Rita! What wonderful timing that you were just working with them this week! And I can’t believe I called Mrs. R, “Mrs. H.” E corrects me all the time.

It’s wonderful to know what you said about how Mrs. R works with the kids to excel. It should be obvious when your child has a “good” teacher vs. one who has lost their spark, but it’s not always obvious to me. It’s nice to hear your opinion, which I value. I can’t imagine just keeping 17 kindergartners fed and without injury, let alone organizing, teaching, and playing with them!

I know that having a kindergartner who reads is nothing new, and by no means do we imagine that E is superior to any of her classmates. It’s the change we see in her that has me concerned. I think a bit of challenge will be all it takes to bring her back to the excited student we saw a couple of months ago. And we are very excited to help.

I love the idea of a book club and also working with E to take responsibility for challenging herself. I’ll admit, I can’t immediately picture what that looks like at this level. I know I need to figure out a way to spend time in her classroom. Maybe if I understood better how things work, I would have a better idea how to encourage E. And we would love homework ideas. We do quite a bit already just because she loves it (Mom, will you give me some math problems? Mom, can we write a story?), but I would love advice on how to guide the activities we do.

Thanks for all your help. You’re such a star!!
R

On Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 6:15 PM, Rita Platt <plattr> wrote:

R,

Funny that you wrote this today! I spent all afternoon yesterday and today at Dresser. Yesterday I worked with the teachers to begin to think about how we will meet our upper-level learners needs. Today I assessed all of the kids who are already readers. Ella was among those I read with today and she is quite a little reader! So sweet!

I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree that ALL learners should be met where they are. My philosophy has always been that each child is owed at least a year’s growth in a year’s time no matter where they start.

My plan is to spend the weekend looking over the data and thinking, thinking, thinking about how we’ll serve all of our sweet kinders. I’m thinking that we’ll need to get a plan in place for independent reading work for each child who is reading well above expectations. I do a “book club” with our high achievers and will start that next week. The kids love it and it’s a challenge. Ella will do most of the work for the club in her classroom and I’ll meet with the kiddos once a week to check in.

One thing to keep in mind is that Mrs. R (spelling???) really works with kids to excel in many subject areas. Especially writing. We might want to talk with Ella about how she can begin to take responsibility for challenging herself. Also, if you’d like, I can meet with you and share some “homework” ideas.

In the meantime, know I’m on the case!

Hugs to you all!

Rita

u, Feb 9, 2012 at 12:47 PM, R wrote:

Hi Rita,

I am so happy to be able to contact you about Ella! We just love that she’s reading and doing amazing things in math. Even more, we’re so thrilled to see her excitement in these areas — she just loves to “do school.”
But maybe I should back up. My mom, C, has many friends who are (and were) teachers. S and I, and my mom, have all been talking about what we can do for E to keep her moving forward and excited about learning. In the past couple of months we’ve seen a definite decrease in her desire to go to school and an increase in discussions about how school is boring and she’s not learning anything new. (Believe me, we know some of this is drama.) It seemed to us that E teacher, Mrs. H, has been doing some things to push E, but after our last conference, we left feeling a bit deflated. (We’ve been thinking of scheduling another conference, without children this time.) I am very sympathetic to teachers — I think teaching is one of the most difficult jobs there is. And I’ve seen the huge range in abilities and skills of the children, especially in lower grade levels. I often wonder, “How is one teacher supposed to meet the needs of all those students?”
Well, my mom started talking with some of her friends (primarily A). A seemed to share with her that teachers really are supposed to stretch and work to do all they can for all of their students. And this got me thinking more. If E was struggling, and I felt her needs weren’t being met, I certainly would work and fight to do all I could to make sure those needs were being met. So why wouldn’t I do the same if she’s excelling?
I watched my now 20-year-old son’s excitement for learning and school diminish greatly when S cut their gifted program. I don’t want to see this happen to another child (mine or someone else’s).
I feel at a loss, not knowing who to talk to first, and was happy when A suggested talking to you! I don’t know what the options are, but I’d love to help explore them. S and I definitely feel that parents play a HUGE role in their children’s education, and that learning doesn’t stop at 3:15. We expect to be partners!
I’ll stop here for now, but if you need more information or examples of what she’s doing in class or at home, please let me know. Or if I should contact someone else, we’re happy to do that.
Thanks for all you do for the kids at S! We are all so blessed to have you serving our families!
R
H,I thought this over all weekend. I’ll tell you what, I think the best response to this is no response at all. I would be happy to email / class and tell them that we’ve put _______  back in my group to reduce her “stress to infinity”, then if the conversation tilts toward it I would love to tell them that _________ is not wildly above the level of MANY of her peers. And that the stress needs to be dealt with b/c it’s not going to abate in life. Thoughts?: ) Rita

Thanks so much! I’ll continue to work with S on time management. Keep in touch!

H,

Thank you for the reply and the encouragement you gave her upon completion today.   She told me you were happy and said “all done”.     She said she got them done and all is good.   I asked her about sentences in the future and she is under the impression that having them done by Thursday is great!       I told her finishing them on Monday would be better, but she said that would be too hard.

She says she has stress in her head to infinity.    I might try doing some practice sentences at home to help her pick up the pace a little bit.    We also talked a little bit about the small group work.   She then got stressed out about that work too.

Time management is difficult for ______ and gets worse as she gets overwhelmed.     Most people can see work piling up and say to themselves, “wow, I better get going!!”    Instead, she says “I just don’t feel like doing any of this.”      She really seems to struggle with kicking it into high gear when needed- not just in school.    This issue is strange, as she seems to do well in other areas.      Anything you can do to help her learn time management would be greatly appreciated.     She really seems to need special attention with this, we have trouble teaching her this stuff too.     Most things she picks up so easy, this she has a really hard time with.

I really hate to see her start to do worse in school due to this time management issue.   I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but to her it is a REALLY BIG deal.   Being a former teacher, I know that kids that don’t like school are going to start slipping.      She has now said many times that she hates school and that is a bummer.

Sorry for being an extra work load.    I really do appreciate all the help.

J_________

_____________________________________
Si,
M made a deal with me to finish his Geronimo Stilton book and take (and pass!) a test on it my Monday. Can you help me hold him to it? He’s in my reading group now and I want him to grow, grow, grow!
You sure have a great kid in M. I love his smile, his sense of humor, and his very neat handwriting.
Rita
____________________
B,

Just tried our new student’s password and it’s not working.
_______ Dillon  (Be’s class)
dilldo22
veef22
And, B, his username is going to be a problem for him before we know it. Can we change it to something less….well, you know….)
: )
____________________
This weekend I read a GREAT book, The Book Whisperer. Thanks to Barb for the suggestion! If you like to read, pick up a copy of this book. It is incredibly inspirational and grounding at the same time. If you don’t think you can fit it into your own reading life, take a minute to consider the author’s basic beliefs about teaching reading. Might even make a good PLC discussion…

  1. ALL children are readers. To be human is to be a reader.
  2. High expectations for all readers is critical. Students must have goals and must be helped to follow-through.
  3. Students must have choice, choice, choice.
  4. But, students must be pushed to read various genres and to read more than they otherwise might have.
  5. Reading is the way to be a better reader. You learn to read by reading. There is no substitute for nose-in-a-book time.
  6. Our class structure (including both time and physical space) should be organized to permit as much reading as possible.
____________________
No problem, D! But, now you’ll have to watch it again! (Or at least hear it in the background while you do other work…)

On Sun, Feb 12, 2012 at 8:20 PM, D> wrote:

Rita:
No idea there was a problem, or that M had sent an email. Randy forwarded me the email from J and I have already watched the video and printed out my certificate.  It was my understanding from J’s email that it could be done independently or in PLC group.
D
On Sun, Feb 12, 2012 at 10:33 AM, Rita Platt < wrote:

M & D,

This is in response to M’s email…

J sent this link to PLC leaders only. You have not missed anything. We have been asked to view the video as a group during PLC time. Is there a reason that won’t work?

: ) Rita

———- Forwarded message ———-
From:
Date: Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 2:35 PM
Subject: Fwd: Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting and Training

Greetings,

Please read below.  At the next PLC meeting or after school, please watch this video with your group.  It is 16 minutes long.  Submit a document attesting who was present.  This is required of all staff.  If you have questions please let me know.  Thanks.

J

———- Forwarded message ———-
____________________
Dear R,
This week our student of the week is Jack _____ He is a 2nd grader in Mrs. P’s class. He lives at home with his wonderful family. At home Jack likes to bug his older brother! But they love each other! At school Jack loves to learn math. He thinks, “Math is pretty much the key to everything. Physics, construction, and science all need math.” When he grows up he wants to be a scientist.
Thanks!
Rita
_____________________
Folks,


You are seriously the best teachers I’ve ever worked with. You ALL should consider working on National Board Certification next year. Benefits include a $2,500 stipend from the state each year, the BEST professional development experience in the world, and a Master Teacher License that you don’t have to renew for 10 years. Also, at a time when teachers are looked down on, it brings some professionalism and respect back to the profession. 

I earned mine in 2009 and loved the challenge. It’s hard, it’s deep thinking, it’s work. But, it’s worth it. I would LOVE to help anyone who is interested. There is a teacher at the middle school who’d like to do it and at least one here at the ES that is considering it. 

Read about it. If you’re interested, let’s start a cohort. You need support to do it and again, I would LOVE to help with that support. 

: ) Rita
____________________________
 Note to self:
PARENT NIGHT
Get teenaged volunteers to read with kids.
Wear PJs and read in the library.
Show mom’s & dad’s what the library has to offer and answer questions.
Read/tell a story to all.
____________________________
Cady,You are VERY dear! I’m not sure how teachers are going to put kids in intervention groups. But, no matter which teacher you end up with we know that you’re a great reader!I’m so glad that you enjoyed the “push” you got in Battle of the Books. I am VERY proud of you!: ) Mrs. P

On Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 4:28 PM, C wrote:

dear Mrs. Platt,

I hope i can be in your intervention group As you know, I am a awsome reader and i really think I should really be in the intervention group. Thanks for pushing me so hard that I won all them except one at the semi battle when we lost our minds an had a brain freeze Once again thanks so much
___________________
Here ya go!

Hi Rita~
We have a new little friend in Mrs. Scr’s class.  His name is A and his lunch ID is 7240.  Could you send me a UPC for the library check out sheet?

Thanks and Happy Valentines Day!!!

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Day 17

2/13/12

Today was so busy! It is a Monday and that means that everyone and her brother needs new books. It was a no-prep, no-lunch day. That means that my schedule was filled every minute of my contract time. Add to that unscheduled check outs, trouble shooting, helping, etc….SHEESH! WHAT A DAY!

This causes me to reflect on the idea that as librarians become partners in teaching they still must do all of the traditional roles of a circulation specialist. That is a problem. Something will have to give…

Another thing I did today was reflect on my growth toward my professional goals. Below is the exchange between my principal and me.

On Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 8:43 AM, wrote:

Good Morning,

Below are your goals for this year.  Please indicate your progress and return by Feb. 20.  This will become part of your 2011-2012 evaluation.  If you have questions please stop by.  Thanks.

1. Customer Service Goal:
I will constantly remind myself that there is no such thing as an interruption in my role as library
media specialist. My customers, be they adults or children come first.

To this end, I will always stop what I’m doing, smile, and to give TOTAL attention to the
customer who seeks my service!

I am still doing well at this goal. It was a goal last year that I felt I had mastered but needed to continue to focus on this year. 


2. Curriculum Goal:
I will work with teachers to learn and understand all of the following:
• Standards and Benchmarks at each grade-level (focus on ways to infuse technology.)
• Common Core Standards
• Testing Focus
• Major units of study/themes at each grade-level.

Coming along swimmingly!  I have incorporated technology into every grade that I teach with a focus on the research projects I do with the 4th grade. I worked with teachers to unpack the Common Core Standards, did an inservice on using testing data (and worked with teachers on this repeatedly during PLCs). Now that I’ve begun work with BYOC I am focusing on making sure that the LMC curriculum is 100% inline with grade level units of study. 


3. Professional Development Goal:
I will work with teachers to do the following:
• Master AR & STAR as instructional tools.
• Build capacity so that more teachers can print and interpret reports

Did an inservice on this at the beginning of the year. Most teachers can interpret and print their own reports. My next steps are to teach teachers to use the Learning Progressions and the Instructional Planning reports. 


4. Climate Goal:
I will:
• Work with my PLC team on school climate issues
• Make 2 positive phone calls to families each week

My PLC is doing GREAT on the climate issues. We’ve got great stuff to share with staff whenever there is a chance…

As for the two positive phone call per week….I started strong but fell off. I am so glad you sent these goals back to me and I will begin making calls again tomorrow!


5. Collection Goal:
I will work with teachers, students, and school data to:
• identify special area’s in need of development including hi/lo readers, high interest
materials for boys, 3rd & 4th grade novels, book to support classroom themes/units of
study.)
• weed old books.
• increase circulation though use of book talks and “right book, right reader, right time”
method.
• Label more books for AR/Reading level—INCLUDING classroom teachers library.

Weeded the animal collection (broke my heart, but had to be done.) Next I’ll week the general science section. Circulation is at an all-time high…I can barely keep up! All students know how to use “IPICK” and the “5 Finger rule”. I continue to work with individuals to find just-right books when needed.

ALL AR books are labeled as such in the library. I have developed a system to make non-AR books AR through the use of alternate tests and book reports that I grade. All 2nd grade teachers have had their class libraries labeled for AR (expect Kelli who has another labeling system.) Half of 3rd and 4th grade class libraries have AR stickers. When Shari comes back to work during MAP testing we’ll finish the other libraries. 

Last is a blog I wrote this weekend and posted this morning for a friends blogsite.

Two-Column Notes: The Twin Pillars Supporting Reading and Writing of Non-Fiction Texts

By Rita Platt & John Wolfe

The amazing processes of reading comprehension may never be as invisible as when students first start reading informational texts. For a neophyte reader of non-fiction texts, word-for-word or even sentence-by-sentence, the text has meaning. But, often students seem to walk away from these texts with nothing more than a handful of details that rapidly seep from memory. The Common Core Standards remind us that learning to gather information from books is a critical aspect of a student’s literacy learning. The Standards also emphasize the need for teaching students to conduct research and write informational texts. This means that most of us need to beef-up our teaching of skills and strategies related to non-fiction reading and writing.

As teachers who have always loved non-fiction reading we have worked to share these skills and strategies with our students. We believe that teaching students to take notes offers students the clearest path to success in reading and writing nonfiction.

When most of us where taught to take notes (or more likely figured it out ourselves) we were taught that the primary function of taking notes was to aid memory. After much reflection, we realized that this is not true. In fact, formal note-taking is more about scaffolding the key processes of synthesizing and making meaning from information. Taking notes reminds the reader to stop after every paragraph and think. This is central to learning to comprehend new text forms, especially non-fiction genres. The art and science of taking notes helps students internalize the synthesis and comprehension processes involved in understanding informational texts. And, on a purely practical note, taking the time to teach simple note-taking is, in and of itself, a valuable gift we can all give them.

After years of sharing various note-taking methods with students we have finally settled on a simple, cohesive, and effective method for teaching students to take notes. Below is a video we made for our students. Keep a few things in mind as you watch it:

1. We made this at our kitchen table.

2. The kids LOVED seeing me on video and shared it with their parents.

3. I didn’t wear any makeup.

4. I’m much prettier in person. HA!

We hope that you will find the video helpful and that you can use the method modeled in your own teaching! Either way, we’d love to hear your thoughts! What do you think of taking-notes? What would make our process better?

Rita Platt is a Nationally Board Certified teacher. Her experience includes teaching learners of all levels from kindergarten to graduate student. She currently is a Library Media Specialist for the St. Croix Falls SD in Wisconsin, teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute, and consults with local school districts.

John Wolfe is a teacher on special assignment for the Multilingual Department at the Minneapolis Public School District. He has worked with students at all levels as well as provided professional development to fellow teachers. His areas of expertise include English Language Learners, literacy, and integrated technology.


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Day 16

2/10/12

One of the things that I read about librarianship was that often school librarians become coordinator of volunteers. That has turned out to be true for me!

Before I came to the job there had always been a full-time librarian and a full-time aid working in the library. The year I started they dropped the aid. Of course, serving 400 students and their teachers is a BIG job and I literally run myself ragged most days. I NEED help. Pleas to the district for a part-time aid have fallen on deaf ears. What they have given me are school-to-work high school seniors.

This semester I have two lovely young girls working for me. They check books in an out, repair books, keep the library tidy, and do other tasks when I ask them to. One problem with this is that I often don’t have much time to train them. I almost never get to interact with my afternoon helper because I always have a class when she comes. This makes me feel bad because I don’t get to encourage her enough.

Another group of volunteers I manage are the “Reading Friends”. The Friends are a group of retired folks (many teachers) that come in to read with struggling kids. There are 55 of them and my job is to schedule their time, facilitate their needs, and act as a bridge between the teachers and the volunteers. This is rewarding but terribly time consuming! The scheduling is a nightmare!

All-in-all, I like working with the volunteers. It’s a great way to bridge the community and the school library.

 

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Day 15

2/9/12

Collaboration is a critical part of the librarians job. On my drive to school this morning I was reflecting on how much I love this aspect of my work with my colleagues. They are VERY open to new ideas and work hard to meet the needs of students. It is a joy to team-teach with each of them.

Today I collaborated with teachers in several ways today:

1. Worked with the 2nd grade classes on writing using the 6-traits rubric. The kids are getting the idea that revision is a big deal and it’s often the most time-consuming and interesting part of writing.

2. Took a student who refused to do his work in his first grade class and sat with him for some one-on-one time. He finished his work.

3. Pulled biographies for a 3rd grade teacher who is beginning a unit on them.

4. Scheduled time with the 2nd grade teachers for more writing workshop support/model lessons.

 

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Day 14

2/8/12

Today, was a PLC day. (Professional Learning Community.) This is a perfect time to reflect on my role both as a leader and a collaborator. Although I am not the official literacy specialist at my building I have a master’s degree in reading (something I think EVERY school librarian should have.) I am the defacto reading specialist and teachers come to me for help in teaching students to read and write.

My job today was to work with the kindergarten team to put RTI in place for their upper-level learners. It was a VERY successful meeting and everyone is really excited. Tomorrow, when I go to the kindergarten for regular library lessons I will assess the reading levels of the high-achievers and we’ll group them.

Below is a summary of the meeting and the kinder teachers response.

_______________________________________________________________

While I still have a functioning brain cell I thought I would write a summary of our meeting.

IT WAS WONDERFUL TO SEE YOU ALL!

Thanks for being so open to change, so willing to meet the needs of your learners, and so fun to work with.

SUMMARY:

  • Tomorrow I will informally assess kinders who are recommended for “Book Club”. I will use a combo of anecdotal, nonsense word fluency, and passage reading data and code each upper-level learner as a + (super high), a check (high), or a – (low-high). We’ll have the super-highs and maybe some of the highs join the club (depending on numbers.)
  • I will meet with the Book Club kids on Day 2 from 12:25-12:45. They will work on their journals and books in their classrooms and come ready to share a page each week. Depending on levels they will either use books from the teacher’s class, books from the library tubs, or actual library books. We’ll have a better idea of this after we assess tomorrow.
  • NEXT library lesson will happen in classrooms. Students will read from teacher’s book tubs. I will try to connect for them the reading they do in the library and that which is done in the classroom.
  • Teachers will identify their highest readers and will use days 2, 4, 6 rest times to provide interventions at their levels. Reading A to Z books will be used. One book every two weeks in a guided reading format. The teacher will pull the small group and using the lesson-plan as a loose guide work with the kids on skills and strategies appropriate to the story. Next PLC teachers will choose books to use and get them ready to be copied. The students will not write in the books so that teachers can reuse them.
  • We may consider leveling the books in teacher’s libraries by marking them with dots (1 = easy, 2 = hard, 3 = very challenging).
  • T will share more about her “weekly challenge” at a future meeting. Jaimie will provide inservicing on how she works with students on their writing.

Response from T (Lead kinder teacher)

Looks great to me!  I was just wrapping up our meeting notes as well.  

Great minds do think a like (or something like that)!!!!  😉


Thanks again for taking the time to meet with us.  We appreciate that and thank you for your enthusiasm. See you at Dresser tomorrow!!!!!  Don’t forget to check your calendar to see if Friday, Feb 17th works for our kick off to the Kindergarten Book Club.
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Day 13

2/6/2012

Today I weeded. It was hard. Very hard. In fact, if I’m fully honest, I didn’t weed enough books. I went through our animal section and pulled old, ugly, and/or inaccurate books. In the end I weeded 35 books from the collection. But, I hated every minute of it!

I remember in the first library class I took hearing other librarians talk about how hard weeding is. I just didn’t get it. I thought it would be easy for me. But, I spent agonizing minutes with each book trying to determine if weeding it was a good decision. YIKES!

Weeding is going to have to be a frequent activity this year because I wrote it into my goals and objectives. So, more heartache is on the way!

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Day 12

2/3/12

TGIF!!!! With two late night for parent-teacher-conferences, this has been a long week.

Today was not a day that was easily distinguished from other days this week. Nothing out of the ordinary happened.

I will use the blog to reflect on leadership in my role. Our text book talks about librarians as leaders in the school and I have found this to be true. Below are examples of some the the leading I’ve done.

  1. RTI facilitator
  2. PLC leader
  3. Staff-Development coordinator and presenter
  4. Technology committee
  5. Consigliere to the principal

While I enjoy all of these roles I sometimes feel that the school system takes shortcuts and underpays. The same thing happened when I was a reading specialist and curriculum coordinator. The school gets what amounts to an assistant principal but they only have to pay a teacher salary. That’s not right. So, the leadership role is a mixed bag in my mind.

On the excellent side, I feel that I’ve made a BIG difference at my school. Since I came we’ve put RTI in place, refined our use of assessments and data-based decision-making, and started 6-Traits writing.

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