Here's the first twist: despite having almost all the time in the world to read, sometimes I find myself unable to focus. On certain days, my mind is foggy and just can't seem to hold ideas inside. On other days, my brain is full of snapping synapses eager to soak in information and consider how to apply concepts to my work and play. I've been working on my Reading Pile from January (that I wrote about on this blog). I finished Winnie's Great War, We Got This and The 36 Hour Day. Currently I have some articles I'm reading about pedagogical documentation and I'm on Chapter 9 (of 13) of A Guide to Documenting Learning that I started to read way back in 2018.
I was eager to participate in the March 12 Twitter chat about Cornelius Minor's book, We Got This, especially because I missed the first one in February.
Well, Thursday, March 12 was the day that the provincial government in Ontario announced that schools would close for two weeks after March Break. I jumped on the Twitter feed - and, understandably, no one else was there. Other provinces and states were facing similar shut-downs and educators were hustling to make arrangements and wrap their own minds around this new series of events. That was the second twist.I’m catching up on my @istelib book club reading (you’ll be proud of me @JCasaTodd) and I have to stop and sit with this quote on p48 from @MisterMinor: “Dystopian rule 1: fail to fight an oppressive thing long enough, and you become it” (it’s so awful & true)— Diana Maliszewski (@MzMollyTL) March 6, 2020
And then there's another snag, or a third twist: since I'm currently reading Tolisano and Hale's book, my mind has "cleared the cache" of all the things I wanted to discuss with Minor's text and is now filled with comparisons between scrapbooking to curated, annotated documentation and ways to respect privacy while amplifying student learning. (Aviva Dunsiger and I have been exchanging lots of tweets about the topic, especially now that she bought the Kindle version of #documenting4learning.)
That's not really fair to Minor's book, so I'm going to re-read my notes/highlights/scribbles and share them here. I vaguely recall that there's a tie-in to the messy/tidy dichotomy I allude to in my blog title. I hope I can work it back in.
(5 minutes after writing the last sentence, and flipping through the book) - Thank goodness for documentation! I found the "note to myself" that led me to those initial thoughts about tidy and messy. This is the quote, from page 130.Reading more of @MisterMinor’s We Got This (for @istelib) because it’s better than moping & saw 2 powerful statements: “Being quiet & sitting still are not the blueprint for success in any context” (p 92) / “The job of a teacher is to keep learning moving” (p 98) #istelib— Diana Maliszewski (@MzMollyTL) March 16, 2020
As educators, sometimes we fail to act on our dreams because we fear that we cannot attain the perfection that we imagine. In truth, we won't find this perfection right away. Dream work is messy, but when faced with the choice between the sometimes broken reality of what currently exists and the messy reality of progress, it is better to live in the mess. If we choose to act, things can be different. They won't be radically different right away, but they can be incrementally better.This is where I'm going to take a short detour. I snapped a couple of photographs before I left my school on Friday, March 13. They perfectly represent the idea of "dirty spaces / clean spaces".
I'm really proud of the results of the huge Library Learning Commons reorganization. I wrote about it in February and, unlike my usual modus operandi, I took no pictures of the process. It was too traumatic at the time. Now that I've had time to get used to it, I like it. It makes the library look bigger. Here are six photographs, plus a "before" and "after" map so you can get an idea of the entire space.
|Near the front door, the main teaching area (mostly the same)|
|The right side of the library, tables then the fiction area|
|The left side of the library, now where the non-fiction lives|
|"Top" view of the library and the fiction area|
|The entire non-fiction area (and the reading tent)|
|One big social area instead of three little ones|
|The 2018 Library Map (excuse formatting; it was a Notebook file)|
|The 2020 Library Map (but I forgot to include the Dual Language area!)|
Why on earth would I share a photo that looks like this? Blame or credit Beth Lyons. She made a vow to herself to share the less-than-picture-perfect side of school librarianship, which includes mess.
After a wonderful convo w/ @banana29 yesterday about how we curate our online selves and the need to be more transparent and not only post the pretty things... I present my “book hospital” situation. #BehindTheScenesOfTheLibrary #ItsAMess #ItsBeenLikeThisForAwhile pic.twitter.com/tupads0ZjS— MrsLyonsLibrary (@mrslyonslibrary) February 18, 2020
This is for @MzMollyTL ! My circulation desk area is always a full display and always has some kind of mess on the go. 😫 #ScenesFromReality #TrueLibraryStories pic.twitter.com/QebhMzEHuF— MrsLyonsLibrary (@mrslyonslibrary) February 26, 2020
I'll say it again. I'm not tidy. I pile things. However, Mr. Minor's quote - "Dream work is messy" - gives me a bit of comfort.This. Is. My. Desk. pic.twitter.com/leOB2tUo9o— Diana Maliszewski (@MzMollyTL) February 27, 2020
And that leads me back to my reflections on Cornelius Minor's book. I know this makes for a long blog post (but most people are not going anywhere soon, so they have the time to read this huge thing if they want).
I really liked the tone of this book; it felt casual despite the topic and was peppered with anecdotes from the author's life and career. Nothing is impossible. There were several big quotes that stuck with me (that I tweeted earlier). In this reflection, I'll mention some other sections and how my brain examined them.
- Page 21: "How will mastery of this specific skill allow them to live, play, work, exist in ways that are measurably better?" = How easily can I answer this question? There are eight categories given a few pages prior (page 17-18) on why people learn; to help solve real problems, to get more freedom, to forge a chance to do something I want, to challenge yourself, to help me do good for others, to connect me to folks, to have fun and to survive threats to my well-being. I think read-alouds have potential only if students can understand how literature acts as windows, mirrors and sliding doors (Dr. Rudine Sims-Bishop). How will what I teach remotely / online for the foreseeable future help them do any of this?
- Page 32: Disruption starts with "[Q]uestiong the rules, policies, procedures, practices, and customs that define my classroom culture / Identify any groups in my classroom that consistently benefit less from the ways things are / Change the way I do school so that the kids who belong to those groups have more opportunities to succeed" = What is interesting about this is that I had sort of started to do this as part of the Learning Cadre that superintendent Shirley Chan had organized. Later on in the same chapter, Cornelius Minor asks the reader to make a list of the students you worry about, and then group them to see trends. The trends I noticed with my own lists was that I worry a lot about our autistic students (note: I am aware that usually we use "person-first" language when describing students, but I have seen that the autistic community advocates for placing the descriptor at the beginning because it is a part of their identities). My action research project that I was going to do as part of my Learning Cadre involvement centered on the students with ASD and incorporating games-based learning. When the author asked the reader (on page 37) to explain in no more than 3 sentences what makes students successful in my class, I that students just need to a) try their best to do their job, b) communicate (with me and others), and c) care.
- Page 51: "research quickly, try courageously, fail reflectively, stand up and try again" = I feel like I've done a lot of this lately with regards to my use of loose parts and learning invitations and provocations that I've learned about in my Kindergarten AQ course. I've struggled, really struggled with some of these ideas. I consulted with someone I felt was credible in both realms of kindergarten pedagogy and school librarianship (Jennifer Brown), read what my wonderful instructors Gail Bedeau and Kenisha Bynoe have provided, and made several attempts. Last week's blog post shared some of the most recent reflections. There's still a long way to go and so many more things to try, but I see that I have been influenced, because my recent tweet to Klara Redford both encouraged her sharing (a la Tolisano and Hale) but also pushed back a bit on providing all the "to-do tasks" instead of allowing kindergarten children (who are competent and capable) and their families (whom we should include and see with an asset lens, see page 109 of the Kindergarten document) to explore and make meaning themselves of the open-ended materials they have in their own homes.
- Page 81: "Part of learning is making mistakes and testing authority, and sometimes we do not allow for that. At all. So kids find ways to do it anyway." = This line makes me so grateful (or lucky) that in term one we focused on authority as a unit for Grades 1-6 and leading/following as a unit for the Kindergarteners. It made so many things explicit for all of us - like why students like to sit on the rocking chair, or how to confront authority that doesn't jeopardize your personal emotional or physical safety.
- Page 88-89: "When you deputize students to give you critical feedback, it means that you value them. ... the public sharing of power matters.". It's sometimes hard to remember to thank them for their feedback, because sometimes their feedback can be harsh and unfiltered but if it makes me a better teacher, then they deserve credit. The power-sharing happens in my class daily now that I put the period's agenda on the board and ask the students to alter/comment/agree on the items. They can say "we need to make time for Forest of Reading chats" and I can add it to the list or explain why it may not be possible that day.
- Page 94: "I start by naming my expectations and my triggers to myself." = I'm placing this here because I want to remember to actually do this. "C" in Room 114 activates my triggers pretty regularly and I want to think about what the triggers are (aka the behaviour) instead of the instigator (aka the person).
- Page 105: "It is up to me to change my curriculum to fit the needs of my students." = This is so much more eloquent than what I said during an interview - "I am like a dog marking territory. I need to piss over a lesson or unit, to make it mine." The sentiment was similar. It's okay to not teach something exactly the same way the teacher down the hall or the teacher-librarian in the next school does, because we aren't the same and the students in front of us aren't the same. (I shout this out to a particularly irritated Faculty of Education student years ago who complained that the Tribes TLC training I provided was not identical to the Tribes TLC training my colleague gave. We taught the exact same curriculum and content but our approaches differed slightly because of who we are/were.)
- Page 127: "Gloria Ladson-Billings has reminded us that as educators, 'if we stop growing, we will die, and more important, our students will wither and die in our presence' ... I've got to embrace the unknown by engaging in professional study and then try new things ..." = Wow, what a strong statement. What does this mean for teachers who refuse to take AQ courses or push their thinking in terms of pedagogy? I know that for various reasons (financial, time constraints, etc.) teachers aren't always interested in taking AQ courses, and AQ courses aren't the be-all and end-all of professional learning; so much of my own professional learning has occurred in the hallways of conferences instead of in the workshops, or on Twitter instead of in lecture halls. How do we protect students who might "wither and die" in the presence of teachers who are no longer interested in becoming better teachers? It's like that Gordon Korman book, The Unteachables.