Thank You SCOTUS

Thank goodness I reside in a state where it has been illegal to deny health care coverage for pre-existing conditions for some time (should I say “thanks” to Governor Romney?).  As of a few hours ago, the Supreme Court ruled that insurers cannot discriminate for pre-exisitng conditions nation-wide. For someone like me, that is truly good news.

It means that I don’t need to limit my retirement living options to Massachusetts – as much as I love the place.  As a cancer survivor, I have had coverage denied by a traditional insurer, who will remain nameless for this post. I had to carry my own coverage through COBRA and pay for coverage for anything else that might crop up “new” on the new insurance my husband’s company had switched to.  Trust me when I tell you that it was a financial hardship as well as a stressful situation.

As I understood the rule at that time – pre-Massachusetts healthcare reform – if I was treated in any way, shape or form for my pre-existing cancer diagnosis, I would have the start the clock all over again.  I don’t remember the time requirement any more, but whatever it was, the denial of coverage was wrong.

So I am celebrating today because no one should ever have to live in fear of wondering how to pay for treatment of an ongoing illness or condition. Treatment and medical factors should provide all the stress anyone ever needs in that regard.

Thank you Supreme Court. By not declaring these Health Care Reform unconstitutional, you’ve taken a step toward justice in health care.


Is This The New “Common”wealth?

The talking head on our local news broadcast announced it as if it were just an everyday thing – no big deal. I however, nearly fell out of my chair.

Apparently the City of Boston is considering – seriously – opening a portion of the Copley Branch for retail.  Don’t believe it? Neither could I, so here’s a link to the Herald report and the Boston Business Journal report. The overall reaction seems positive “as long as it’s tastefully done.”

Is there no end to the commercialization of our public and shared resources?

Reading About Reading

Although widely thought of as a math geek, at least as far as elementary math pedagogy is concerned, I am spending some time this summer researching literacy.

The first book on my “must read” list happens to be Richard Allington’s What Really Matters for Struggling Readers. It will come as no surprise that many of my readers struggle, and so far I’ve found Allington’s work very informative and affirming.  Maybe that has a lot to do with the Daily Five and its structures; many of these are based on Allington’s work.

When I think about fluency, I know rereading an appropriate level text is important.  Allington advocates for a couple of strategies that have enormous potential with my readers: Tape, Check, Chart and Tape, Time, Chart (Allington, R. What Really Matters for Struggling Readers. (2012). Boston: Pearson Education. p 110-111).

When I take a running record of a child’s reading, I always share what the checkmarks and codes mean. In Tape, Check, Chart, students read a short text into a tape recorder, mark it up using child-friendly markings, and over the course of multiple readings (Allington suggests 4 with a different color pen for each mark-up) increase fluency and accuracy.  Tape, Time, Chart provides similar practice with fluency.

As I think about Daily Five activities for the coming school year, I know that the addition of these two choices will be powerful, not only for the students but for me.

How Do You Model Expectations?

Responsive Classroom provided some review PD for our school this past week. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to like about the RC approach, and surely I picked up some great clarifications and refreshers. In fact much of the presentation affirmed what I know in my heart to be true about education and students and learning.

However, there are some practices in Responsive Classroom that my experienced-teacher-self question.  One thing is the process taken in modeling a routine for students.  I understand the gradual release models which I first learned from Regie Routman. Teacher models, teacher models with students, gradually releasing the process totally to students.

This year, as a result of my reading and training with the Daily Five’s 10 Steps to Independence, I’ve made sure to add on an “unmodel”, a chance for students to show what a routine,exercising students’ brain muscle memory as borne out by Michael Grinder’s work. An “unmodel” with an immediate opportunity to provide a correct example, is an essential step and even my more shy and reticent students love to provide the ultimate unmodeled behavior examples. I’ve discovered that this is a very powerful way to get kids to internalize  expectations for any procedure I’ve taught, Allowing my more behaviorally challenged kids an opportunity to be the “unmodel” and then reinforcing appropriate behaviors with the same student become a “model” has given us comic relief along with a dose of visual modeling.

I  also don’t buy in to the RC suggestion that the teacher wear a hat or some other article when he/she is unavailable to students. Doing so seems artificial to me. With the amount of conferencing and small strategy group instruction taking place during our Literacy time, I want to have taught the expectations and routines so well that students don’t feel the need to break their stamina, or mine, because they know what to do. I trust them to make good choices. That was a HUGE leap for me last Fall; but with very few exceptions, my students were self-managing their learning from about 6 weeks in until the end of the year.  No special costume needed.

As with any program or package, there are always parts that are agreeable and parts that are just not good fits. We all want the best for our students; and as long as we, the professionals, can be trusted to use our good judgement with the children in front of us, there is much that can be accomplished.

The Beginnings, Again

This past Thursday – our last day of school with students – was bump up day.  And once again, for about the 28th time in my life, I started building a community with a group of 8-year olds.

They look like an interesting group. Definitely some wigglers, some barometer kids, as the Sisters call them.  I’ve seen some of their second grade assessment data already and heard from a couple of their now-former teachers about social and learning issues to be aware of.

Yet for the half-hour that we were together, I can see the possibilities of the community of learners that will become 3-207 starting August 28th.

One of the best aspects of teaching is this cycle, this changeover and chance to do things again – with luck, even better this time around. I know I never get tired of the excitement of a fresh beginning, of the serendipitous opportunities that will lie ahead.

This week we started a new building cycle again. Our future together is a gigantic unknown – exciting to think about and a bit scary at the same time.

We begin. Again.

The End of a Year

“My” babies are ready to fly to coop. In just 2 days my third graders will bump up to fourth grade.  We’re both nervous I think: they of the unknown, me of  fear that the preparations we’ve made for this day haven’t been enough.

It has been a privilege to work with these kids.  At times challenging and other times a cakewalk, we started the year as strangers and little-by-little have grown into familiarity.

For some, all I can provide is a temporary haven. School should be a safe place, far removed from domestic issues like hunger or poverty or violence.  That has not always been true for all of my children this year, and when the ugliness of  socioeconomic traumas become apparent, words fail. A hug, a quiet word. The ache and worry that this child has been left behind to float through whatever safety net our society provides is overpowering.

There have been good times. Last week we looked at a text and the depth of the students’ discussion was simply amazing. After a year of hammering students to do something more than retell the facts or plots of a story, it was an exquisite, if momentary high.  They can do it, they can cross over to a real literate life.

This week, our last together, has been spent remembering some of the fun and some of the hard work that has been part of our time together. I am not looking forward to the last day with the kids this year; I know it will be a bittersweet day. A day when we all celebrate making it to that 180th day, but also a day when our paths diverge.

Advice from the Peanut Gallery

Here’s some advice from my experienced third graders to my incoming students:

  • Rase (sic) your hand because you are being rude if you are talking and it’s someone else’s turn.
  • Raise your hand because there is no blurting 207.
  • Pay attention because you might know what to do.
  • Follow directions so you get smarter.
  • Be persistent (which means keep trying), stay focused in third grade and take your time to do things because these are important things to be a third grader and to be ready for the MCAS.
  • Listen to Mrs. Bisson because then you would know what to do when you go back to your seat.

There you have it; how to get through third grade without a hitch.