Nearly a month has gone by without a blogpost, again. It’s been a minute. And I’m glad to be back at the keyboard. I have definitely come to realize that I feel like I have more clarity when I am writing, even when the writing feels like an obligation, which it does at times.
What has gotten in the way of writing? Read on, Dear Reader, read on.
HIVE 2022 – Kansas City
I have waited over two years to meet my Open Up Resources heroes. Eleven educators from Fort Madison traveled to Kansas City in early July to attend the Open Up Resources HIVE Conference, where I was beside myself with excitement to finally see my heroes live, rather than on a computer screen. These people, Brooke Powers, Morgan Stipe, Justin Endicott, and Cassie Leiby (and Esmeralda Rivera, who was unable to attend and who we dearly missed!) are my people, my community. I hold them in such high regard; strangely they made me feel like a rock star during the two-day conference.
The eleven Fort Madison educators that were able to attend were thrilled with the two jam-packed days of learning. I’ve decided to summarize the learning by following a structure used recently by Chad Dumas, Solution Tree associate, in a blog where he referenced quotes that he had heard at a Solution Tree conference.
Morgan Stipe, Manager of PL Implementation, opened the conference with a focus on community “…we are truly better together as a community.” Absolutely, Morgan. She went on to say much more about community, but this phrase takes the cake.
Traci Davis, the conference keynote, reminded us that we are all superheroes. Traci has gained a new fangirl: I LOVE her messaging! She was able to make the attendees laugh, cry, and feel energized multiple times all within a short time span. While sharing her daughter’s school story, she described an IEP meeting where she had to remind the school personnel: “…this is not about my daughter, this is about all kids; every kid needs someone to fight for them. We must be relentless.”
Justin Endicott, a bit of a celebrity in the Open Up Resources community, spoke to attendees as a teacher, a soon-to-be principal, and as a parent of Emma and Noah. He, like Morgan Stipe, talked about the importance of community. Justin shared the following zingers as he spoke:
- In reference to the three ELA instructional shifts: “If you don’t understand these three, you are never going to get to the heart of all of the standards.”
- “If you’re not making these shifts, I can guarantee you you’re kids are not making these shifts.”
- “When you cut a shift, you are cutting success.”
- “Where did you provide them the opportunity to have access to complex text?”
- Justin will be a principal in a non-EL school, but he will still display and demand the three shifts… in all subjects!
- In reference to the EL Education curriculum: “The only way to build my muscles is to lift weight to what I am doing in the gym… Why do we not do this with literacy???”
- “Just because you can’t read it, doesn’t mean you can’t think.”
- “Delivering this curriculum is teaching our students to be literate people.”
- “A shift is required for growth”
- “We don’t want to take away the text to self connections, but they are much more meaningful when students can analyze the text first!”
- “We are giving students the tools to tackle any text when we use a knowledge-building curriculum. They are learning to be researchers and dig deep into a topic.”
- “Don’t ever be afraid to over-support. Be afraid to stay there.”
- “If the students aren’t talking, then the teacher isn’t executing.”
- “The Read, Think, Talk, Write Cycle: Talk is where it all happens! The true beauty of the curriculum is when teachers allow students to talk.”
- “We can have excuses, or we can have solutions.”
Cassie Leiby, first grade teacher at Marathon School District in Wisconsin, shared the following:
- “I am the driver of where this curriculum is going.” “Teach with integrity, not fidelity.” (from Your Curriculum Companion, by Woodfin and Plaut)
- “Don’t change the text, change the scaffold.”
- “Remember that the curriculum planned for every possible scenario – you don’t need to do it all; you tailor it to your students; some years you need more scaffolding, some years you need less.”
- “If your students are learning the English language, they are ELL learners! They have not mastered the English language.”
- “Any scaffold can be a tool in your belt.”
- “Let the students’ work speak to the naysayers…”
- “I’m not making kids a level, I’m making them readers.”
While at the conference, my heroes asked me to help launch the curriculum with a group of teachers in Lexington, Kentucky. What I heard them say was, “Megan, would you like to present with us in Kentucky in a few weeks?” What they actually said was, “Megan, would you like to present for us in Kentucky in a few weeks?” 🙂 There is a BIG difference between with and for, which led to a big hesitation in committing, but in the end, I committed and I am sooooo glad that I did! What an opportunity!
Launching EL Education/Open Up Resources in Lexington
Early last week, after the HIVE conference and a trip to New York, I flew to Lexington, Kentucky to help the amazing (and I do mean AMAZING!) staff at Rise STEM Academy for Girls with a two-day launch of the EL Education Curriculum. This was my first time acting as a consultant for Open Up Resources. As it goes with first times, I was awfully nervous, and spent tons of time preparing. I knew that my knowledge of the curriculum and implementation was sufficient, but I was not confident that my presentation skills would be sufficient. At the end of Day 1, my anxiety had nearly completely dissolved, due in large fact to the faculty at Rise, and their thirst for knowledge.
In preparing for the two-day launch, I received much support from my heroes, I had to continually trim down the presentation (I had so much to say!), I capitalized on using quotes throughout the presentation, I tried to build in lots of opportunities to employ some of the protocols used in the curriculum, and I constantly reminded myself to just be myself. I think it all worked. The feedback from participants was promising, enough so that I’d love to do this again.
In addition to feeling successful in rolling out the launch, I was treated like a queen by the Open Up Resources folks. Never in my life have I had someone make travel arrangements for me: flights, lodging, and rental car. And I was treating to a delectable meal at Carson’s in downtown Lexington by the one-and-only Brooke Powers. I have decided that Brooke is my sista’ – she and I have much in common. Though she is much more accomplished than I, and I will continue to strive to be like her!
A Trip to New York
In between the HIVE Conference and the Lexington Launch, I was able to take a phenomenal trip to New York with my sister and brother-in-law. The ultimate goal of the trip was to attend a graduation ceremony for my nephew, Jack, at West Point Military Academy. Jack completed Air Assault School training, an intense ten-day venture where a cadet could be dropped at any time, including up to the very last minute of the ten-day training. Jack made it through, and we were able to enjoy a phenomenal graduation ceremony, where the guest speaker shared the following:
Jack is an amazing young man, and I couldn’t be more proud, or more happy for him. As his parents said, “We truly are proud of you, Jack, but more important, we are so happy for you because you are happy. That’s all we could ask for our kids.”
In addition to the thrill of being on post at West Point Military Academy, a sight to behold on the Hudson River, I was reminded of two things: 1) we have much to be proud of in the United States Army, and 2) the importance of community never decreases. The community developed by the families of the cadets at West Point was something to behold. I was overcome with emotion just being on post, but additionally with watching the interactions between the cadets, their families, and the interaction between families. It absolutely warmed my heart, and reminded me that we are all better with community.
Along the way to West Point, we were able to enjoy a spectacular trip to New York City, where my cousin, Mike was a top-notch tour guide.
I continue to be thankful for the many communities of which I am a part: my family, the Fort Madison Community School District, the Open Up Resources/EL Education community, the Fort Madison wrestling families community, the SEL community, the community of small town West Point, Iowa, and my latest community which I am currently building – the biking community. Yep, I’ve purchased a bicycle (thanks to some prompting and research from my sister, Katie), and am enjoying this latest activity… which is proving to be easier on my aching knees than running (though I’m not ready to give that up, yet!).