Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dear Families and Colleagues...A Letter About My Learning From NCTE

                                                                                                                November 2012
Dear Families and Colleagues,
         I’ve been at the computer on and off today trying to sum up my learning experience at this year’s National Council of Teachers of English conference (#NCTE12). I couldn’t help but be reminded of a quote from Shelley Harwayne, former principal of the Manhattan New School and Superintendent of New York City Public Schools.
Shelley once said, “If you know the what and the why, then you can invent your own how.”
I wrote Shelley’s words on a paper napkin and kept it in my wallet for years until it disintegrated, but her words and her influence still ring true in my teaching practice and professional development to this day. 

I started thinking about why, the what, and the how of NCTE and what makes it a non-negotiable professional conference for me each year.

WHY have I attended this conference every single year since 1997?

·  Because it’s the like the Academy Awards for literacy teaching and learning, and I’m the fan standing on the edge of the red carpet with my autograph book.
·  Because it’s the one time every year I get to see and learn from many friends and colleagues from all over the country and world.
·  Because it’s where thousands of colleagues are gathered in one place willing to share their knowledge, expertise, and passion for our profession.
·  Because I have the opportunity to present with talented colleagues and share my new thinking from the classroom, even if it makes me so nervous I could throw up.
·  Because I know I will be pushed out of my comfort zone to try new, cutting edge teaching practices, be affirmed for the work I do, participate in committee work, and rethink and revise my long held beliefs about teaching and learning.
·  Because I can count on meeting new, amazing people each year and learning so much it takes the plane ride home and all of Thanksgiving holiday just to process the experience.
·  Because there’s always the grand opportunity to go home and share my learning, notes (and stack of new books) with great colleagues and families
·  And most importantly….Because my kids deserve a teacher who isn’t just a teacher--but a learner first.

Thanks to my principal, Betsy Bell, and Mountain Brook City Schools for believing in teachers and ongoing professional development.  Thanks to my administrators, coaches, colleagues, and students at Cherokee Bend for cheering me on and sharing the learning experience via Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and conversations back at home. Thanks to all of you, the Corgill Kid families, for understanding the importance of “teacher as learner” too.
And finally, thanks to my colleagues and friends all over the country who shared their professional expertise at NCTE, Las Vegas 2012. 
What happened in Vegas, won’t stay in Vegas this year. Those Vegas happenings will transform classrooms, teachers, students, and schools across the nation and world. Thank you, all.

WHAT in the world did I do in Vegas for 5 days???

Here’s NCTE, Las Vegas 2012 in photos, tweets, session titles, and learning takeaways.
I met so many of my Twitter friends in person this year (I will write more about these amazing people in a blog very soon) If you aren't already on Twitter, it's the most amazing professional learning community I have ever experienced!  
I looked over and was watching @frankisibberson and @billbass tweeting away using Tweet Deck...I, of course, had no clue how to do this, but guess what?!  I learned because of them!  Here's a screen shot of my Tweet Deck from tonight's #titletalk hosted by @donalynbooks and @colbysharp!

Here’s my autograph book (It was my iPad cover this year!)….with the signatures of so many of my teaching heroes. I started this at last year’s NCTE in Chicago just to “fancy up” my homemade notebook, a paper notebook stapled together in the hotel lobby Kinkos.  Now I think it’s the best tradition ever. I am blessed to have learned from each of these brilliant educators!  You all inspire me! Hollywood can’t touch this! ;)
Seriously, this treasure will help me to teach children the power of having mentors who can influence your life and work in positive ways.

This is the opening keynote, with Sir Ken Robinson….Can I just say…it was AMAZING?!!! The proof is in the crowd! Look at all the teachers who chose to learn instead of gamble or sleep at 8:00 in the morning!

Thursday night, I wandered to the 3rd floor of the convention center by accident and heard this glorious voice echoing out of the grand ballroom.  I stood at the back of the room and quietly listened to Natalie Merchant practicing for the Opening Session.  She has recently written a book of songs inspired by classic children’s poetry.  My friend, blogger, and poet herself, Mary Lee Hahn, wrote the amazing teacher’s guide to go along with the book, Leave Your Sleep.  Ms. Merchant’s book will be a special part of our last week of this poetry writing study, and her CD will be playing at our poetry gallery walk celebration on Friday. 

I’ve always flown home on Sunday morning and have never had the opportunity to stay for the book sale and “closing of the exhibits”.  Below is a photo of my Vegas winnings in the form of books!

Now…to my ultimate gambling experience with Franki Sibberson and Amy Ludwig Vanderwater.  I know you wish you could win big like me.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the sessions below and soak in the wise words of these amazing educators.  Their words are already informing and strengthening my practice.  This year, instead of taking pages of notes, I decided to listen carefully, filter wisely, and try to tweet as I learned….in 140 characters or less!  Search under the #NCTE12 hashtag for highlights and follow me on Twitter!  @acorgill 

In the coming weeks, I am going to reflect on each session specifically and how the speakers and their content are informing and refining my teaching practice. I'll send email and Twitter updates when a new blog is posted.

Opening Keynote:  Sir Ken Robinson, PhD
If you have never heard Ken Robinson speak, I encourage you to watch these TED talks—AWESOME!

Rethinking Text Types:  We Are All Storytellers
Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle, Thomas Newkirk

The Power of Choice:  Strengthening Independence in Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop
Tony Keefer, Patrick Allen, and Ann Marie Corgill--I got to present with two amazing friends and educators and can't wait to tell you all about them soon!  @tonykeefer and @ColoReader

Writing The World:  Fostering Creativity, Originality, and a Passion for Writing At School
Laura Robb, Ralph Fletcher, Georgia Heard

Slight Shifts in Our Teaching Can Pave the Way for Great Strides in Student Learning:  How Students Benefit When We Value Approximation, Offer Choice, and Adjust the Language of Our Teaching
Kathy Collins, Stephanie Parsons, Matt Glover, Ginny Lockwood

Texts Don’t Write Themselves-Authors (And Illustrators!) Do: Reframing the Idea of Mentor Texts in the Writing Workshop
Katie Ray, Lisa Cleaveland, and Marlee Frazee

Ignite Spotlight: Common Standards/Uncommon Teaching—Focus on Supporting Teachers as They Implement Common Core Standards in Their Teaching
Sarah Brown Wessling, Franki Sibberson, Stella Villalba

Where Do Poems Come From?
Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, Laura Purdie Salas, Leslea Newman, Janet Wong, and, Mary Lee Hahn

HOW will this one conference impact teaching and learning for your child and for us as a group of learners?

First of all, this conference has caused me to think, rethink, and revise my practice.
I’m reminded of how critical it is for us to think for ourselves as educators and be willing to revise that thinking.  We should never allow another person, politician, state mandate, or curriculum guide to give us permission not to think anymore. We have to be the model for our students and our children so that they can and will become collaborative as well as independent thinkers and learners.

Right now I’m thinking about….

·   · the importance of creativity in the classroom

· the incredible value of storytelling and relationships among students, teachers, classrooms, schools, and school districts

· the prevalence of digital media and how it can enhance or deter an elementary student’s motivation

· the power of joy and respect in a child’s academic, social, and emotional growth

· the critical need for choice across all curricular areas and throughout a child’s school day

· the need for trust between students and teachers, teachers and teachers, teachers and administrators,   local school districts and national leaders.

· the role of digital literacy in an early elementary classroom and how do we use technology enhance our already good practices rather than using technology to replace those practices with not so good ones.

· the power of poetry in the lives of our young writers and readers and the influence that poetry can have on a life far beyond our physical reach

· the need to resist the teaching so we can learn from our students, resist the answering so that we may question our students, and resist the talking so we can listen to our students. They deserve our respect.

· the importance of loving what you do. If we don’t love our work, we shouldn’t do it. It’s our job to make school a place where students want to come and learn every day. It is also our hope that our state and nation understands that teachers need the same support and excitement for the work we do.

· the reason for asking why? If we always know the “why” in our practice, then we can invent our own “how”, and make teaching and learning work for the students in our classes.

· the ability and the respect to always believe in children. Bottom line is this: Children matter more than data and test scores. When numbers begin to matter more than children, then we need to rethink our decisions and our beliefs.

Thank you for giving mthe opportunity to teach and learn with your children.  I will link upcoming blogs in an email as I continue to process this amazing learning experience.

Have a great week,

Ann Marie

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Learning Landscape: Fertile Ground for Growing

Today I will meet my new class of second graders, and we will begin our teaching and learning journey together for the 2012-2013 school year.  I have to say a special thank you to my new principal, Betsy Bell, and my colleagues at Cherokee Bend for inviting me to be a part of such a special place....and for supporting me in every way possible as I prepared over the summer for this school year to begin. Words don't do my excitement justice!  I'd also like to thank my friends and colleagues across Birmingham and across the nation and world for being my giant professional learning community.  My life and my teaching are enriched and strengthened by all of you every single day.  Happy New School Year to you all!

Below you'll find pictures of my new classroom.  After the initial classroom setup, I couldn't just be satisfied and walk away.  I was constantly thinking about how this space would support the learners in my care. Somehow, I managed to spend all summer stopping by to add the perfect book, to re-arrange the furniture (I only re-arranged four times), check the color scheme, make lists for the Office Depot and Dollar Store trips, and make sure my beliefs about teaching and learning were evident the minute anyone entered the classroom.  This is what I want:
1.  I want this classroom to build on each child's intrinsic motivation.  I can't motivate my students to want to read, write, problem solve, talk, think, learn....but I can create an environment that invites and encourages those kinds of behaviors.

2.  I want this classroom to be one where the students do the thinking and problem solving.  They are the ones who should be doing the hard work.  It is my job to make our room a place where I facilitate their talk and their thinking and learning.  My job is to "put myself out of a job."

3.  I want this classroom to support student academic AND social growth.  If the room could talk, it would say, "Come....join me on the cozy rug to have conversation."  or "Let's problem solve together at the table or listen in on the writing conference Miss Corgill is having."  or "Welcome to OUR room.  It's a place that  recognizes that the head and the heart are in one body and that every person in this room is valued and important."

4.  I want this classroom be filled with accessible materials and to be a place where students can apprentice themselves to the authors and scientists and mathematicians that line the shelves of the classroom.  I want it to be a place where each child says, "I can do that!  I can be that!  I can solve that!"

5.  Finally, I want this room to be a place that honors our school wide norms.  Each day, we will inhabit this space and think in this space and learn in this space because:  It's a place where we can and will be safe.  It's a place where we can and will value ourself and others.  And finally, it's a place where we all can and will do our best.

It is my hope that this classroom brings happiness to the learners that will grow here this year.  A very happy teacher will be waiting at the door!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

August 10 for 10........ on the 13th: Ten Picture Books For Building Classroom Community

I totally missed it. It was the third annual Picture Book 10 for 10 Event(#pb10for10) hosted by my amazing teaching and blogging friends, Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek. I look forward to this day every year, reading everyone's list, being introduced to new blogging friends and new books, and then making my own book wish list....and participating in this event myself. On time. On AUGUST 10th. I missed it..... But never fear....the day on the calendar cannot stop me! In total Ann Marie fashion, I am breaking the rules and posting my list, not just at the very last minute, but three days late! I'm excited to have the opportunity to teach second grade at Cherokee Bend Elementary this year, and I've been thinking lots about those cute little faces that will enter the door on August 20th. I've also been thinking about the picture books I'll share with these children in the first weeks of school. My list this year consists of some new and some old favorites to help build classroom community (in no particular order).
1. I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand 

2. Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

3. Being Friends by Karen Beaumont

4. The Little Hummingbird by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

5. Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski

6. How To Lose All Your Friends by Nancy Carlson

7. Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

8. Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage To Be Who You Are by Maris Dismondy

9. Some Helpful Tips For a Better World and a Happier Life by Rebecca Doughty

10. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts   

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Reflection Series: Part 1

If you haven't already, you must read The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley. Bob Wortman introduced me to this book at a literacy conference in Birmingham last fall. It made me think about about how much we rush rush rush in this world to do more, buy more, receive more, eat more, and skip over the happiness, the growth, and the joy of today....simply to move quickly in the to race to the top. Fortunately, Riley, the main character in this book, reminds us to be happy just where we are and dwell in the moments of these fast moving days. In classrooms across the country, it's that time of year to stop and look back at the work, the learning, the growth, and the memories made with your students. It's time to find out what they internalized and what they will go away with as they walk out the doors of our classrooms on the last day of school. As tempting as it may be to "cover one more thing" or shove a few more standards down the throats of the children in our advice is DON'T DO IT. It's time to release our inner Riley....slow down....dwell in the happy moments of today....celebrate student growth.....and reflect. This post will be the first in a series of ways we can slow down, reflect, and give our students time to celebrate their growth as learners and as people. Last week I asked my students to name the top three things that helped them grow as readers writers and people. Below are a few of the student responses. Try it in your classroom today. You will be amazed, surprised, and will feel the need to cheer and mail the responses to Arne Duncan with a LEAVE US ALONE WE KNOW WHAT'S BEST FOR KIDS message attached to the front of the envelope.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Preparing the Soil for Growth

Just as soil has to be prepared for the growth of your favorite garden flowers, the classroom requires that same preparation and tender loving care....for the children who will grow to be readers, writers, mathematicians, social scientists, and incredible human beings inside (and outside) those four walls. Yesterday, my friend Andrea emailed me about classroom setup. We have about two weeks of school left in the year, and she's already thinking about next year's classroom arrangement! I'm thinking about just making it through the day without my amazing student teacher, who's been by my side for the last seven weeks. Our room will feel different today. Someone special will be missing from the thinking, talking, writing, reading, and learning. Environment is important, but what makes a classroom come to life are the people who inhabit that space with you every single day. Today's post is for you, Andrea, and anyone who's already thinking about arranging or re-arranging your classroom to fit the needs of the children in your care. Below are several shots of classrooms of mine over the years.... Hope this helps! love, AM

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Slice 31: Night Covered The Road

Slice of Life 31: Night Covered the Road

Twilight……when the sun has played hard and shined bright but is tired and slowly sinking behind the horizon. I know you’re wondering at this point why Ralph Fletcher didn’t have me co-author Twilight Comes Twice with him, aren’t you? ☺

When I set out on this Slice of Life Journey, I didn’t realize my journey began at twilight. I wrote my little heart out for nine days (well, almost nine days… rule breaking a little and combining two slices into one here and there).
I was on a roll. In these 31 days, I was going to write and comment and learn from so many of you about your lives, your passions, your talents, your gifts. And I would cheer you on to keep writing. You wrote back and gave me encouragement. You gave me insight. You made me think. Your words gave me ideas. Your words made me smile. The writing journey had begun.

And then, the sun dropped behind the horizon and night covered my world. The darkness became so dark, so pitch black like tar I stopped dead in my tracks. Fear and sadness and self-doubt and hopelessness settled in, and it was all I could do to even turn the computer on to read work email that absolutely required a response.

The I have nothing to say…..It’s supposed to be perfect….People are counting on you to be smart and wiseNo one will notice if you haven’t written….Who cares….Just get through the day…Those commanding voices filled the night air. Day poured tar into my soul and night suffocated me.

But sometimes in the dead of night, when you think all the world is fast asleep, there are friends out there who find you. Even though that friend’s eyes haven’t adjusted to the light, she senses your presence, sees your outline in the darkness, and points to the brightest star in the sky.

When you set out on a journey
And the night covers the road ahead,
That’s when you discover the stars.

I can’t promise that there will always be starry nights, but what I can do is love today and live it the best that I can. Thank you all for being inspirations, new and old friends, writing…and life-living mentors to me. Ruth and Stacey, even thought the journey didn’t play out as planned, thank you both for giving us all this opportunity to discover ourselves in the darkness and in the light.

Normal day, let me be aware
Of the treasure you are
Let me learn from you, love you
Bless you before you depart.
Let me not pass you by
In the quest of some
Rare and perfect tomorrow. –Mary Jean Irion

To the possibilities of this sunny day and the coming starry night,

Friday, March 9, 2012

Slice 8 and 9: TGI

TGIF. Thank Goodness It's Friday. I say it every week with gusto. Fridays make the Mondays and hard days tolerable, but today instead of TGIF, it's TGI....

TGI. Thank Goodness I.

Thank Goodness I...

TGI-have Ruth and Stacey and the countless friends across the country and all over twitter who remind me of the power of writing and community and standing up for what's right for children

TGI-have an alarm clock that sounds at 4:00am so I can wake up to coffee and get some writing on the page before school (that is, unless I turn it off...yesterday's reason for no writing)

TGI-have a job learning from 120 sixth graders every day about reading, writing, and life as a middle schooler

TGI-have a principal and friend who is a true instructional leader. She trusts me to think deeper, work smarter, and try harder to give myself the benefit of the doubt...and to do what my gut says is right for children every day.

TGI-have friends and family who pull me out of work mode and say "Let's play. Let's watch a movie. Let's have wine and cookies. Let's go on vacation. Let's take a nap. Let's eat at that great new restaurant. Let's stay up past our bedtime and tell stories. Let's read a book that has nothing to do with school. Let's remember that life is short and our days are gifts."

TGI-have the weekend to work and play... and be thankful to God for the people and opportunities I have in this incredible life of mine.

TGI-have one more cup of coffee...because it's only 5:15am......

To the possibilities of this new day,

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Slice 7: World Read Aloud Day, The Story of John Richardson

Thank You, Mr. Falker: The Story of John Richardson
Re-reading books I love is one of my most favorite things to do. Re-telling happy stories is also a favorite. So, for Slice 7 I'm re-telling a story about a favorite reader and writer that seems most fitting on March 7th, World Read Aloud Day.

The story begins almost 14 years ago in my third grade classroom in Birmingham, AL. John, a favorite custodian and friend to all the Corgill Kids, stopped by every day to empty the trash, refill the paper towel dispenser, and soak in a bit of reading workshop. One day John was browsing the picture book shelves with several third graders, and picked up the book, Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco. I love everything Patricia Polacco, and told John he had chosen one of my favorites....but I didn't share what the story was about. He asked if he could take the book home to read, and of course, I was happy that he would be reading this book to his children and grandchildren.

Days passed and I had forgotten that John borrowed the book. He still continued to visit us every day, and he always asked the children about their reading and their book choices.
On one of those ordinary reading workshop days weeks later, John brought the book back and asked if he could speak to me privately. He had Thank You Mr. Falker in his hand as he spoke.

"I have a secret to tell you, Ann Marie. I can't read. Will you be my Mr. Falker?"

Thinking for weeks now that this man had been reading this book to his grandchildren and enjoying it at home, I was stunned. I learned that John, this kind, hardworking man in his mid-sixties, couldn't read and had gone through his entire life pretending. He made it through ninth grade without a single teacher learning his secret. He worked an entire career in a factory without a single person knowing his secret. And now, he was working in our school, a place full of readers--a place that called him to be a reader too.
I learned later that John had his wife read the book to him at home. It was simply a miracle that he chose Thank You, Mr. Falker from our shelves.

From that day forward, John and I met in the early morning hours before school and during the summer learning to read. We read books together that John later read to his favorite groups of kindergarten students. We read books together that John would then share with my students in our reading workshop and morning meeting times. Soon after, John began to write too in his shiny blue writer's notebook. Poetry became a favorite of his, and he read and wrote lots of poetry on those mornings together.

I’m happy to say that because of Patricia Polacco's Thank You, Mr. Falker and two years of early morning reading workshops, John Richardson, and I met to read, write, and talk---and my friend, who learned to read in his 60's, reads, writes, and shares with others how being a reader and a writer has changed his life.

John now speaks at his church and reads scripture to the congregation, shares his struggle (and triumph!) in literacy with groups in the community, is still invited to read to classes of students—and is still writing poetry! In fact, I have a framed copy of one of his first poems, “The Great Red Bird”.
I’d say it’s a “freeing” piece of work, about a little bird returning to his nest and learning to fly.

If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain; If I can ease one life the aching, or cool one pain, Or help a fainting robin unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain.” --Emily Dickinson

To the possibilities of this new day.....

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Slice 5 and 6: Two-A-Days

Two-A-Days, sometimes referred to as Hell Week or Double Sessions, is a term in American football to describe when a team holds practice twice a day.

Two-A-Days, sometimes referred to as Hell Week (middle school 9 weeks testing and grades and report cards) or Double Writing sessions, is a term in AM's Slice of Life Writing Challenge to describe when she writes a two day slice blog because she didn't do it the day before.

So....I think I'll try poetry today. A kind of listy poem, with a bit of repetition.

It's called Not. Doesn't. Isn't. Are.

Not. Doesn't. Isn't. Are.
by Ann Marie Corgill

review sheets, made common
so we can all test the same thing
because in this crazy world
we act as if kids are the same
They're not.

tests, made multiple choice
so they're easy to score
because in this crazy world
we act as if a multiple choice answer tells us something
It doesn't.

classes, made 47 minutes
so we can teach writing and embed grammar and spelling and punctuation and vocabulary
because in this crazy world
we act as if that's enough time
It isn't.

children, made differently
so their passions, their talents, their challenges, their personalities fill our days and our heads and our teaching and our learning
because in this crazy world
we act as if they are the most important thing in this teaching world.
They are.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Slice 3 AND 4: Rulebreakers

It’s Day 4 of the Slice of Life Challenge, and I’ve already broken the rules. As I confessed my sins earlier in a tweet to @TonyKeefer about not posting yesterday, this is the response I got: “You are quite the rebel. @ruth_ayers should throw you out ☺”
Thankfully Ruth hasn’t thrown me out yet, and Tony is now trying to save face with tweets like #rulebreakers are my favorites…..

This got me thinking….I propose that #rulebreakers4kids be a new hashtag, and when we “break a rule” for the good of the children in our classrooms, we send it out to everyone. It’s important that our voices are heard…and most importantly that our students’ voices and learning opportunities and passions and intrinsic motivation and curiosity don’t get squelched because of mandates or tests or rules or rule-makers who have never darkened the door of our classrooms.

If I had to tweet under the #rulerbreakers4kids hashtag, what could I have tweeted from our classroom over the years?
Hmmmm….. the tweets might go something like this…..

• Hid workbooks district paid thousands 4 behind new “facing out” bookshelves
• Moved teacher’s desk 2 storage 2day, put books n writing supplies n its place
• Turned in a blank textbook inventory sheet. not. using. them.
• Q: Test prep or writing and conferring? A: writing and conferring
• Told kids I hate homework as much as them n will fight 4 less!
• Let class shred homework reading logs 2 day. Reading. More impt than recording.
• Said AR is stupid. People heard me.
• Said grammar worksheets are stupid. People heard me.
• Said tests and grades are stupid. People heard me.
• I care about children more than data. Hope the newspaper prints that.
• Merit pay 4 high scores? Fire me. I refuse 2 extinguish the fire n my students.
• Writing persuasive essay ab banning homework 2 model how 2 write persuasive essay.
• Spent $300 @ Office Depot. Needed sharpie markers watercolors n photo paper 4 publishing. Will eat ramen noodles this month.
• Writing prompts r crap. Despite what u’ve heard ab crap as fertilizer, it doesn’t grow writers.

And I could go on and on and on….I’m a rulebreaker4kids.They deserve to have teachers stand up for them and do what’s right even if it’s not popular….and even if we have to break a few rules in the process.

to the possibilities for rule-breaking for kids tomorrow,

Friday, March 2, 2012

Intrinsic Motivation: How To Build On It, Not Kill It

My friend, Aimee Buckner Haisten, author of Notebook Know How and Notebook Connections once said to me, "When a colleague, parent, administrator, or student enters your classroom, he/she should know immediately what you value."

When you enter our classroom, you won't find charts with stickers or stars to signal who's read the most pages or is winning the contest for best spelling. You won't find papers with grades marked in red with the highest scoring papers hanging on the wall. You won't see rules posted anywhere or those "teacher supply store" motivational posters and quotes. You won't find supplies hoarded in individual desks, and a teacher's desk is nowhere to be found.

Why? I'm not a teacher who believes that students are motivated by points, grades, money, contests, fear, or any kind of extrinsic factor. What do I believe in? I believe in children and I work my hardest not to kill the intrinsic motivation students naturally bring with them to school. We can't ever force a child to be motivated, but we can create democratic, collaborative work spaces that stimulate curiosity, invite choice, and honor the children who live and learn there every single day.

I begin every year setting up the classroom with guiding principle #1 in my head and heart: Build On Intrinsic Motivation, and then allow the room to grow with the children from the first day of school. Below are a few pictures of our classrooms (both primary and middle school) over the past few years.....
It's a privilege to learn from my students and be intrinsically motivated to be a better teacher because of them.

And as Phyllis (my fabulous principal and friend) says...
To the possibilities of this next month of writing and learning from writers everywhere!