Monday, June 23, 2014

Ann Marie's Learning Journey New Blog--Closing This One Down

Dear Friends,
     I have created a new blog, documenting my learning journey as Alabama's Teacher of the Year for 2014-15. My new blog is Ann Marie's Learning Journey, and I'll be posting my thinking, learning, teaching, reflecting, and fun as I learn daily in my classroom, with kids and teachers of our state and with those from around the country and world this year.

Please join me in the conversation.  I hope this blog can be a place that represents the honest and hopeful voices for the future of education, and also as Ellen, one of my wise fourth graders said, a place "where conversations spark, voices rise, and mindsets grow."
part of a letter Ellen wrote at the end of fourth grade this year

With thankfulness and hope,
Ann Marie

Sunday, April 20, 2014

If Not For Franki: It's Her Birthday, And She's the One Who's Given the Gifts

I feel incredibly blessed to have Franki Sibberson as a friend and colleague. She has touched the lives of adults and children all over the country and world, and today we have the grand opportunity (thanks to Mary Lee Hahn's brilliant idea) to celebrate her!
Mary Lee's post was my mentor text because I can hear Franki's voice loud and clear as I think of the many ways to celebrate (or curse) her today. ;)

So here are just a few "if not for Franki" moments in my life....of how she's helped me be a better friend, a stronger teacher, a reflective educator, a first time author, a connected social media girl, a versatile shopper, an eater of delicious treats, a lover of fine Starbucks (tea for her and lattes for me), and the subject of some hideous, yet hysterically funny photos.

You introduced me to the state of Ohio.  Is it possible that some of my dearest friends live within a ten mile radius of you? Why, yes, yes, it is.  It's your ability to help friends make friends with each other. Thanks for all the new, long-distance, lifelong friends!
"Do you know__________?  You should.  You will love him/her! Let me introduce you."

You nudged me to write and publish (okay harassed, but in a loving sort of way).
"You should write a book! I'll call Philippa. You should write for Choice Literacy! I'll call Brenda.  You should start a blog.  If Mary Lee and I can do it, so can you! You should write for Bill and me! We are so ready for this book to be done. Are you almost done with that digital literacy piece? Have you booked your ticket for the writing retreat?!"

You got me thinking and wishing and then attending and presenting at local and national conferences.
"Dublin Literacy Conference is in February. You should present.  Want to write a proposal for NCTE?  Brenda, Karen, Bill, Tony, Katie, Kathy, Cathy, Debbie....anyone I can sucker into saying yes will help!"

You encouraged me to get connected and build my network of connected educators. "Are you on Twitter?  You should be. It's awesome."  What about Google+?  Want to have a Google hangout?  It has costumes! Bill Bass will teach us. " Why don't you join the RunTeacherRun Facebook page?  Or the Digital Literacy one? Want to Skype or Hangout on Friday with our classes about Genius Hour? Did you see those awesome pictures that Brenda posted on Facebook from NCTE? 

You made me think that I might like running and Pure Barre. Enough for me to buy some hundred-fifty dollar sneakers and those stupid black pure barre socks with grips on the bottom.
"Want to run with Katherine Sokolowski and me at AllWrite?  We're dressing as Baby Mouse!" "I'm into Hot Yoga now.  What about you?  Have you tried Pure Barre yet? I think I'm going to start blogging about it all and then tweet about it and then maybe we can write an exercise article for Brenda?!"

If not for you Franki, my life wouldn't be as rich and as wonderful as it is today. What a gift you are!
Hmm....It's your birthday, and you're the one who's given all the gifts.

Have a great day!
We love you,
Ann Marie

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Empowered Fourth Graders

For me, being a full time classroom teacher means being a part time writer and inconsistent blogger. My days are spent soaking up the joy, the engagement, and the precious "ah ha" learning and teaching moments with my students.  Being in fourth grade this year has opened my eyes to the true (and amazing) capabilities of middle grade children and the power of student empowerment.

Empowering these children so that they can share writing, projects, problem solving, new thinking and learning to a worldwide audience has been my number one priority this year.

I'm a full time learner/teacher and and inconsistent writer/blogger . However, my students are full time writers, readers, mathematicians, communicators, collaborators, creators, innovators, and activists. Below is a link to our class website--one that's changing daily, growing slowly, and run completely by a group of amazing nine and ten year olds.  On the pages of the site you will see evidence of their learning, their mistakes, their passions, and their voices. It's a window into the classroom and a place to celebrate the learning journeys of these children. Enjoy and please follow the kids here and on Twitter @TheCorgillKids.

The Corgill Kids' Website

You can follow my new (and old) thinking here as well:
The Collaborative Classroom

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Honored To Be A Guest Blogger for Kirby Larson

If you're a teacher, librarian, or book lover, and you don't know Kirby Larson, then do not pass go.....go directly to the bookstore or library and get her books! She's amazing and my students and I are huge fans!
I was honored to write a guest blog for her today.
Check it out here:
Then, go buy all her books for some great reading over the holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all,
Ann Marie

Monday, September 30, 2013

Our Class Website

My fourth grade class is blogging and keeping a class website.  Please visit and let us know if you would like to connect with us on Kidblog.

Have a great week of learning!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Common Core, Curriculum Units, and Common Sense

Good teachers, effective teachers, matter much more than particular curriculum materials, pedagogical approaches, or "proven programs" 
(Allington & Johnston, 2001; Darling-Hammond, 1999; Duffy, 1997; Pressley, et al, 2001; Sanders, 1998; Taylor, Pearson, Clark & Walpole, 2000).

I am a sucker for creative advertising and marketing. 
If this "never before seen on TV and can only be ordered within the next 17 hours and 4.5 minutes" product promises to melt away the body fat, plump the lips, grow the plants, whiten the bathroom grout, or bring shine back to the hair, I'm all over it. I can so easily get sucked in to Consumer-ville.

And I have cabinets full of stuff that made promises and didn't deliver. 
And these companies have my money. Dang it.

Fortunately, over the years, I have tamed my impulsivity to purchase the hot-off-the-market product that promises the skinniest body, greenest plants, or whitest teeth and bathroom grout...... with common sense

I've learned....

A fat busting pill in a bottle won't make me skinny. 
I have to work at getting my body healthy. 
I make wise decisions to exercise, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, drink water and watch portion sizes.  

A bag of fertilizer won't miraculously grow a garden full of flowers. 
I have to work at growing that garden.
I make informed decisions about when and how much to water, which plant needs an extra bit of fertilizer, and how to prune the stalks and stems.

A container of whitening agent isn't going to clean the bathroom grout by itself.
I have to work at keeping that bathroom clean.
I make timely decisions about when to clean so that the shower tile isn't a grimy mess. I practice my grout cleaning technique over and over, so that I can be both effective and efficient in my cleaning.

Unfortunately, we are in a time in education where it feels like the Common Core and the hot off the press current curriculum units have plowed their way ahead of our common sense.
And's up to us to make sure we don't allow ourselves to simply become curriculum consumers. It's imperative that our common sense and knowledge of best practice is at the forefront of the work with do with children, colleagues, and all those invested in preparing future generations for a world that looks very different than it looked when we were in school.

Wouldn't you agree that we want the children in our classrooms to become forever learners? We want the children in our classrooms to be questioners, creators, innovators, and critical thinkers.  We want the children in our classrooms to enter the workforce and world as autonomous, independent, thoughtful, and reflective human beings.
So if this is what we want for our students, then this is what we have to be as their teachers. We have to practice what we preach. We can no longer be mindless consumers of box after box of new curriculum materials, without making wise decisions in how to use those materials based on the learners in our classrooms. 

We cannot just accept the curriculum sets, the binders, the online resources at face value. Companies and publishers, and authors sometimes throw around words like best practice, grade level specific, and the classic new line....common core aligned in the name of making a buck or two....or three million. 
Don't get me wrong. There are lots of amazing, well-researched professional resources out there for us to learn from.... but not to imitate word for word. It's our job to innovate, not imitate.
Do not let Unit One, Lesson 12, page 3 trump what you know about the children you work with every day. 
It's imperative that we read, we think, we question, we create, we innovate, and we teach for and learn with the children in our classrooms, using the supports and the resources we've been given wisely and well. 

Let's use our knowledge and our common sense to make wise teaching decisions, informed teaching decisions, and timely teaching decisions for the forever learners in our care.

Happy Independence Day! 
Ann Marie

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Authentically Yours....

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.(page 49)” 

I am a declarer, a startera goal setter, a wanna be a socially networked, literate, super human educator.

I run from discipline. I procrastinate. I perseverate. I think and plan more than I produce.

I declared to be the #1000giftsofsummer blogger who would document every day's gifts in photos over the entire summer. 
Yes I did.
Three days of great photos, several days pass, and then I'm so many days out of the new blogging routine, I'm onto creating a mosaic of June photographs with zero writing to go with the pictures. 
I'm grateful for the gifts of summer, but I'm so over photographing and blogging about them on July 2. 

I started the Couch to 5K routine (for the 5th time this year). On the outside I am new running shoes and the Nike Fuel Band and the tracker of calories on My Fitness Pal app.

But underneath I'm the resort to eating baking chocolate because there's nothing sweet in the house, 
the I'll start tomorrow because I'm already at 3,200 calories after the frozen margarita with salt and a basket of chips 
and by the running shoes gave me a huge heel blister.

I set the goal to work all of June on workshops, book writing, presentations, and new school year preparation... and then have July to relax, not set a morning alarm, do exactly as I pleased in this fantastic summer month.
Great goal. Great big fat unrealistic goal.
I meet with my new fourth grade team in exactly one month, and I have thirty unread fourth grade novels stacked in my bedroom, a reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and word study curriculum to read and learn, writing to finish, and four workshops to create. All before school starts on August 7th.

Socially networked. I'm 90% stalking and retweeting the social media gurus who've already done the hard work.
Literate.  Sometimes I click "read" on Goodreads even if I'm only on page 18.
Super Human. What does that even mean?

What I've realized as I write this post is this:

I am not great at blogging regularly, exercising daily, working responsibly, or even living realistically.

But I am passionate, reflective, honest, growing, hardworking when I want to be (at the very last second), and loved. I've learned that being me is the best person I can be. I'm thankful to have strengths that I can use and share with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. I'm also thankful for the struggles that I can be so very okay with admitting.
Happy Summer Everyone!

Authentically yours,
Ann Marie