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My Winter Break in Classrooms

Over my district’s winter break, I visited four schools and over twenty classrooms. From the professional development session I led in a middle school in South Carolina, to my friend’s classroom/library in a Catholic middle school, to a nearby district where I shadowed an assistant principal, to the four schools across grade levels in the district I grew up in and serve on the board of education, I spent my entire break learning. I’ll even argue that I spent my entire break visiting more public schools than our nation’s secretary of education may have done in her lifetime.

Before I write any more about those experiences, I think it’s important to offer a sincere thank you to every teacher whose room or school I visited. I know how unsettling it can be when someone visits your classroom, and I thank them for the opportunities.

I wanted to summarize a few things that I saw over break and have really been thinking about.

In South Carolina, teachers are so excited to use classroom libraries across the disciplines. I have never seen a middle school math teacher so engaged with books before my presentation there. She was the first to volunteer to give a book talk of a book she was planning to share the next day with students. On a side note, I’ve also never seen physical education teachers so excited to talk about the reading that their students do in class, how it’s a major change in their practice, and that they’re truly embracing it because they see the impact it has on kids.

In my dear friend Beth’s classroom, I was so impressed by the automaticity of mentor texts and writing inspiration. I was able to read The Snurtch, a picture book, with her students that day (thanks, Beth, for putting me on the spot with a book talk and a read aloud!). Because her students understood her routines so well, they knew that a writing prompt would follow, and so many were guessing at what it would be as soon as I finished the book. I want my classroom to run that smoothly all the time!

At a nearby high school, I was able to participate in classroom walk-throughs with an assistant principal, and the conversations we had about teacher growth were so beneficial. Even as a classroom teacher, I walked away feeling more informed about good, quality instruction and the supports a principal can put in place to support teachers. At the end of the day, this principal reminded me over and over again, it’s about high quality teaching and helping kids.

And in my own district, I was able to witness kindergarteners give speeches about their favorite things. Let’s just step back and think about this. They were planning their writing, they were supporting and encouraging their peers to talk in front of the classroom in one of the most positive ways I have ever seen, and they were doing so at 5 or 6 years old! I was able to see a Black History Month presentation at my old middle school (now a 5-6 building) and watch as all students celebrated the achievements and commitment of so many famous and not-so-famous African Americans.

After all of this, I’m so thankful for teachers. They inspire and they calm. They coach and their support. They plan and they revise those plans. The work they do is so powerful and always evolving.

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