The importance of critical thinking (Election post 2)

48 Hours since the election and not a word from my students about it. Let me tell you, I think eight and nine-year-olds haven’t totally established object permanence (out of sight, out of mind!)

My post today is about another conversation I had with a student yesterday who told me that on Facebook he saw that a rapper was going to assassinate Trump. I had to think quickly the best way to respond because there are many things about that statement that needed to be addressed. The first thing I told him is “Does that sound right to you?” And my student just gave me a little smile, so I offered some more advice “You can’t always believe everything you see on Facebook or the internet. When you see something like that, you need to tell yourself ‘Stop! Does this sound right? I better check this with another source.’ ”

I worry everyone!! I worry about our students’ instant access to information, especially because young children have the ability to believe almost anything they see or hear. (Jaswal. 2010) I worry that students will be taken advantage of by false information.

As a future school librarian, I see the need for our students to think critically and evaluate information to seek the truth. And with increasing access to information at students fingertips (literally) we need to help them learn to think critically! I don’t have all the answers of how to do this, but I know many in the library science field in both school and public settings are working hard to help students and adults evaluate information. But what can we do in our classrooms? Teach students the stop step.

When you read something that doesn’t seem quite right, the first thing to do is say “Stop! This doesn’t sound right. I better check this with another source.” OR “Stop! This sounds too good to be true. I better check this with another source.”

The other important step is to advocate for school librarians and certified library personnel in ALL schools. This is a critical component for our students to learn how to evaluate information.

Learn more here:

School Librarians Matter!

AASL Kit for promoting school libraries

Scholastic: School Libraries Work! 2016


A safe haven (Election Post 1)

This is the first blog post in a series of posts about the election.

Nov. 9, and Donald Trump is our president.

Today I woke up at 4AM and saw the results of the election and I felt numb, and sad. A lot of questions were swirling around in my head as I, like many Americans, tried to make sense of what is happening, and what will happen.

As we know, this election was different for many reasons, and at my school, it was very hush-hush. It was hard to talk about with children because of the hatred brought out during this election. I did not do an election unit with my children this year, and while I sort of regret doing it, I am also glad I did not.

Today however, I had a mixture of reactions from the children about the election. Mind you, in third grade, students have a very limited scope about what issues are at stake. I had some students that were happy, and some that were sad. But what I cherished about this moment is that no one in my class felt like they couldn’t talk about it. One student who said he supported Trump was upset when another student was saying something about Trump, I called him over to talk to him about what was upsetting him, and we got the issue resolved in a safe way. In my classroom, everyone feels safe to voice their opinions, or their adult-influenced opinions. But they felt safe to have a voice. All of our students deserve a safe haven where their voice is heard and respected.

The Urgency to Read

The other day I read a wonderful article from ILA about how schools can do all this work around data and reading and testing, but what happens when the scores are flat? Is your school creating readers?

Please read the article here.

When I read this article, I felt a sense of happiness because we need to always be talking about the question “does our school foster a love of reading?”. But I also felt a little distraught, because this I feel this is where my school is at. We have amazing faculty who understand where are students are and where need to be, and I think we are having conversations that need to be had, but I still think we are falling short. We are failing to address the underlying problem of why our students are struggling as a whole, there is no urgency to be a reader.

Now, I am not talking about the urgency to read to pass a test. Yes, students should be able to perform well on assessments, but when that falls shorts, its time to shift the conversation and look from a different angle.I am talking about this urgency to read because of the joy and pleasure reading bring to your life.

Why do we need urgent readers?

The other day my colleague posted a review of Raymie Nightingale and I was so excited she read it because I wanted to talk to her about it, actually, I needed to talk to her about it!

Books need to be talked about, they need to be shared, they need to be at the forefront of our lives and our students lives. The urgency to read is driven because of the remarkable benefits of reading. We need to read for pleasure, we need to read to share, we need to read to create communities.

It is necessary for our students to become readers who need to share their latest book with someone. Who need to always have a book with them. Who need to have dedicated time to read. This is an urgent reader.

Our schools need to be creating this type of environment where reading for pleasure is the forefront of the school. If the only thing we do with books in our schools is use them to answer multiple choice questions and “close read” them to death, then we are doing our students and books a huge disservice.

What are we doing in our schools to create urgent readers?

How to Create Empowered Readers – A Beginning

Pernille is one of the most amazing teachers I have met. Her words speak truth. Please take time to read this remarkable post!!

The sniffles started almost immediately.  Small choking noises came soon.  Then full out wails, tears, and gasps.  Theadora, our oldest daughter, was a mess as we drove home from Chicago today.  What had caused this sudden crying?  The end of Harry Potter Book seven.  The end of our 9 month journey accompanied by the ever amazing Jim Dale and the audio books of Harry Potter.  I was wistful myself to tell you the truth.  As I tried to console our distraught daughter,  I couldn’t help but feel slightly pleased, after all, isn’t this exactly the type of relationship that we hope our children, our students, have with books?  One that makes you want to cry, or laugh, or scream in frustration?  One that allows you to feel so intimately attached to something not created by yourself?  To feel the gratitude of brilliant writing and a long journey along with an…

View original post 1,547 more words

Day 13 of no rewards/punishment, time to reflect.

Conversations from today:

“Mr. Henderson, at first I thought you were a mean teacher, but now I know you aren’t”

“Mr. Henderson, me and ** think you are a really nice teacher”

“He comes home and talks about how much he loves your class and being in third grade”

This past summer I read the book Passionate Learners by Pernille Ripp and it was one of the most career-changing books I have read to date. In chapter 7, Ripp discusses the abandonment of classroom rewards/punishment, and focusing on student relationships and fostering choice and intrinsic motivation in the classroom. I was floored! I loved it, I loved this concept of removing barriers to meaningful relationships. (I also plan on reading Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn).

I decided this year I would try it, I would not create any system or use any product that attempts to micro-manage my students behavior [minus school-wide systems], and instead focus on what matters, the relationships I have with the humans in my classroom.

So here we are at day 13, and its been a hard ride. It has not been easy to abandon traditional systems and practice that tell us to control everything our students do. I would be joking if I told you it has been all happiness and smiles all day. NO WAY. But I can also tell you this from being 13 days in. I feel more connected to my students. I have removed any fake barriers to real relationships and real conversations. I can connect to these humans in my classroom because removing these fake systems has allowed me to not only view them as students, but view them as human. Because that is who they are. Human beings with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and a place in society. They deserve the real me, and I deserve the real them, the good days, and the bad days. Because in those moments, we connect with each other as humans, and what could be more beautiful? And in these last 13 days, that is what has happened.

In these 13 days, I didn’t have to bribe my students to complete work, or punish them with something obscure. I listened to them, I talked with them, we had, and are having real conversations. I want to reiterate that this has not been all happy-go-lucky. My students do, and will, push the envelope, and break the rules. Some days they will not want to have those conversations, and want to be left alone. And believe me, I have already had a lot of this happen, and it has not been fun, but it has been real. I still have a lot to learn, but I know what I am doing is working, because I am putting my focus on real relationships with my students, without barriers or chains [or treating them animals and rewarding them with a “treat” or point for having good behavior *cough* ClassDojo *cough*]. Ah! New hashtag: #RelationshipsWithoutChains

I am excited to keep developing these relationships and refining this classroom without rewards/punishment so that the humans in my class develop into caring and thoughtful citizens, because that is what this world needs.

I will post more about this topic as the year progresses. Please tell me if you are doing the same in your classrooms, so we can keep this conversation going!


The first week of school

Today I went to our city aquarium and botanical garden to spend some time in nature. In one of the exhibits in the aquarium, I found this sign post on the wall:


“Our past, our present and whatever remains of our future, absolutely depend on what we do now” – Sylvia Earle.

I would like to add to this quote: “Our past, our present and whatever remains of our future, absolutely depend on what we do now [in our classrooms].”

This past week was the first week in our school year. It was a whirlwind, and it felt different than other first weeks/days. My classroom felt different, I have students who need extra love and help, and others who are perfectly content, and others who seem discontented, and others who simply need. I enjoyed starting Math Daily 3 with them, it has been an exciting change to teaching math (more on that later). I always enjoy starting Daily 5 too, because building reading stamina is an exciting occurrence. I know a lot of my students don’t have the luxury of reading time at home, and I am not going to speculate on factors as to why. I love giving that time to them in class. So far we made it to 5 minutes of reading, and I enjoy hearing the groans of my students having to stop reading because they were that lost in the text. Giving my students reading freedom is one of the best things I can provide my students.

This week we also developed class rules, and I wanted to really try to let my students develop the rules based off Hopes and Dreams, however it didn’t go as well as I wanted, but our students did create a list of rules, and after consulting Teaching Children to Care I wanted to see if my students would be okay with adopting the golden rule as our one and only class rule, and they did! I am excited to see how this can impact our behavior, and improve empathy for each other. Here is our chart:img_5112

I took on a leadership role in my school as part of our program “Safe and Civil Schools” to look at school wide procedures, and our two big areas have been the cafeteria and dismissal, and we have made massive changes to both. Seeing both plans come to fruition has been a marvelous experience. Improving safety and clearing up expectations for both students and teachers has been challenging, but it has been worth it, because in that first week, I felt the positivity of our change. I can see the morale improve, and I can see how our school culture is going to shift.

Back to the quote I added to above, what we do in our classrooms and schools will affect the future. As we continue into this school year, I want to keep my eye on the future so that everything I do will lend to my students’ success in the present, and the future.



A love letter to UOO.

Recently I read some posts online about UOO and the future of opting-out. There was name calling, and it was uncalled for. So in the midst of negativity, I wanted to write a love letter to UOO, to past and present administrators and members.

Dear UOO,

Back in 2012 I started following Diane Ravitch’s blog after I started looking for information about what was happening in US Public Education. Her posts rocked my core, and it was hard to digest. Then she started posting about UOO and how you all were rising up in areas around the US, and flat out refusing to take standardized tests. I had a hard time wrapping my mind around such a concept. How can someone just flat out say no?! I was mesmerized.

During this time, I moved up to Massachusetts for my college program (I was still an undergrad at this time, and not in the classroom) and I found out about the Occupy the DOE 2.0 in DC and I knew I had to go. Thanks to you all at UOO, you helped me get to DC.

What an incredible and inspiring event, and while that sounds very cliche, it was. I was opened to the truth about education, no matter how scary that truth is. I learned that opting out was much more than about refusing a test. It was about taking back public education. Giving it back to our students, our children, and our teachers. It was about removing corporate “interests” from our classrooms, because we knew and still know, that the only interest these corporations have is their bottom line. You showed me what we are losing in our schools because of this hyper-focus on test scores.

UOO, you also brought me to new friends from this event who have mentored me, and have become family to me, and who I cherish as I begin my career in a corporate and test driven environment. It is hard, but because of you UOO, I keep my focus on the children. That is where our focus should always be.

Because of you UOO, you have shown me how to be a real, passionate, student-centered, whole-child teacher. I don’t know what the future holds for you, or for any of us fighting this fight, which is no longer an uphill battle, its now become trying to scale the wall.

Thank you UOO for showing me truth, perseverance, and how to stand up, and stand loud, and never forget that children are more than any score.

My first years in the classroom have been great because of the love you showed me UOO, and for that I am forever grateful. Thank you UOO, for standing up for truth, and for our children.