Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dear people who are supposed to help me teach

Teacher musings:

Dear Adminstrator, Instructional Coach, Literacy Coach and Data Support Folks,
I apologize for not bringing this up sooner, but it is difficult when many of our conversations and interactions take place during small and irregular bits of time during the school day. I know how hard that is for you, especially when we need to talk about something complex. I remember this being one of the most frustrating parts of my coaching experiance (and it is still one of the most frustrating parts of teaching). The reality is there just isn't enough time in the day. With that being said, I would like to take this time to ask you to do a few things for me. I hope my candidness does not bother you, but I think that these ideas might really help support our relationship.

1. Before you suggest a change in my instruction, please ask me both what I do and how I do it. As you probably know, sometimes educators call the same instructional strategies different names. This might cause you to assume I don't do something like "tickets to leave" because I call them "reflection questions." This type of confusion is usually cleared up when you start by asking me what my goals and objectives are for student learning, why I have these goals and objectives and what systems, structures, instructional strategies and assessments I plan to use to teach my students. Once you understand my purposes and methods and why I chose to use them you will probably be able to make really thoughtful and informed suggestions, or maybe even provide some reading I could do that would help improve my teaching, and therefore my student's learning. I know this is really, really hard to do with the little time we have available to interact, especially when you feel a lot of pressure to quickly impart your knowledge and wisdom in this short period of time. However, it might make our interactions most efficient in the long run if you spend some time really asking me thoughtful questions and listening to me first, so that you know what my needs are (much as I have my students answer surveys and take diagnostic assessments at the start of the year).

2. Please assume that I have thoughtful and logical reasons for teaching both what I teach and how I teach it. Please also assume that I am working hard to be the best teacher I can be. Trust me - I know that not every teacher you work with has thought this out as much as you would like, and maybe I am one of them. I still remember being surprised as a literacy coach when teachers told me they did an activity in class because "it looked fun" or "well, I already had the copies." But, the reality is, everyone has a reason why they do the things they do, and if you are willing to assume that I have my reasons that would be helpful. If you start by assuming the best, we will have a far more positive interaction and you will have far more opportunities to help me grow as a teacher. Remember, teaching is hard and I am probably working my buns off. The more you respect that, both in terms of what you say and how you use our time together, the better our relationship is going to be.

3. Respect my time and day structure. I know you've been there before. Between classes I usually have to put away my projector, get a new set of materials together, talk to a student about late work and get to my next class, which is two floors away. I have two minutes to do this, and if I have to go to the bathroom, that is a whole other issue. So, I know that you might think we can walk and talk, and we might be able to if your questions or comments require only simple responses. However, if you are asking questions or making suggestions that require more thought and time (such as, "how are you teaching vocabulary" or "are you doing any preparation for the PSAT?") I won't be able to give you the thoughtful response you need because of all the other things I have to do. And then I will probably sound incompetent, when the real issue is that I'm rushed. Which will only make me more annoyed . . . you get the idea.

I know I'm not always the easiest person to work with. I tend to cut people off when I think I know what they are going to say, and I have become more and more cynical over the years about help from people who haven't taught in the last few years. So, I pledge to try and follow my own advice. I will try and assume the best about your intentions and methods, and I will try and assume you have experiance and reasons for making the suggestions you make. Hopefully this, coupled with your attempts to follow my requests will make our relationship far more effective for you, me and, most importantly, my students.
Ms. L-P

Yummy Stuff:
I have spent the last couple years learning to love greens. Now I am always excited about kale chips when the G-man makes them (he is way more exact and is better at spreading them out on the pan so they come out nice and crispy!). Our favorite pizza is caramelized onion and swiss chard on a cornmeal crust. And we almost always throw kale and collard greens in our soups and stews. But, I have never really liked just steamed kale - until last night. Because of poor baby timing we steamed the kale for the usual 20 minutes, and then we had to turn the burner off and let it sit for a while. I was afraid it was going to be way too overcooked, but it was fantastic - it was kind of sweet and didn't even need to be dressed up with gomasio like usual. So, here is our new and improved steamed kale recipe.

Ingredients: A bunch of kale

1) tear off the kale leaves from the tough stems and tear them off into about palm sized pieces.
2) Put the leaves in a bowl and fill it with water. Swish the leaves around and then drain. Do this again - and a third time if you want.
3) Put about two inches of water in a pot and then put in a steamer basket. Pack the kale in and cover the pot.
4) Put the pot on the stove and heat on med-high for about 5-7 minutes. Uncover to see if there is some steam. When you see steam turn the burner down to low for 15 - 20 minutes.
5) Turn the burner off, lift off the lid and move the kale around so that the leaves on the bottom move to the top. Let the kale sit for 10 minutes, or until you are ready to eat!