Last night was our open house for my new fifth grade class.  It went really well!  The kids have a lot of energy, their parents seem very supportive of the kids, and I’m really….really…looking forward to a great year!

As is typical with open houses, parents often want to give you a heads up on things they think the teacher should know.  “He really struggles with reading,” they say, standing in front of the child.  I usually want to reply, “Well if he didn’t before, he will now!”  I understand where they’re coming from and recognize that they’re just trying to do what they think is best for the child.

Teachers do it, too.  Each year, as I send on the kids that I’ve invested so much in, I always want to talk to their new teachers and explain what works…and what doesn’t.

But what about the fresh start?

How much information is too much information?

Exit reports and informal conversations are all aimed at providing a student with future success.  But like I said, that’s their aim.  Is that really what they achieve?  Or are they really assigning undue bagagge to an unsuspecting student hoping to turn over a fresh leaf?

Is there an answer?  What does your school do?

Resourced Out

I’m moving to a new building and new teaching position this year – seventh grade social studies to fifth grade language arts.

To support me in this transition, my district has done an outstanding job of providing tons, and tons, and tons, of resources.  We have a district literacy consultant.  We have two literacy coaches.  My new principal is our district’s former (position cut) curriculum director.  I have textbooks (don’t use ’em!).  I have workbooks.  I have website subscriptions.  I have supplemental material.  I have supplemental material for the supplemental material.  I have Spanish, Braille, and audio versions of the supplemental material for the supplemental material.  I am RESOURCED OUT!

Too much of a good thing?

Too much of a good thing?

Looking at my filled filing cabinets, overflowing bookshelves, and forever-scrolling bookmark lists, there is no possible way I can digest that amount (or even close to it) of information in my lifetime.  And I don’t know that I need to.

Don’t get me wrong: I would much rather be over-resourced than under-.  I certainly recognize that there are still teachers in our society who are given class lists (maybe), a key to their classroom, and a good-luck handshake.  But with all these resources, am I forgetting still one more?  Me.

Didn’t I spend a whole slew of time, money, and energy going to college (“teacher school” as I tell the kids) to learn not just how-to-teach, but how-to-THINK?  I know exactly what kids need.  I know exactly how they learn.  I spend hours reading blog after webpage after tweet after book after magazine about how to truly master teach.  I don’t need more resources.  I need to use the one resource I’ll always have with me.

So late last week, when I went in my room and saw the stacks of resource books, file folders, and legal pads that I had tried to categorize, I made a simple, but profound move: I put them all away.

Make no mistake, I’ll use them.  But I don’t want to start with them.  I want to start with what’s in my head…and my heart.  I still believe in myself.  On the days where those two things fall short in giving me ideas or direction, only then will I reach for the filing cabinet.

Bucket Filling

This summer I started reading The Tipping Point.  I didn’t finish it.

This summer I started to listen to The World Is Flat on audiobook.  I didn’t finish it.

This summer I started reading How Full is Your Bucket?.  I finished it.

Oaks, Linda. bucket2.jpg. 2008. Pics4Learning. 18 Aug 2010 <>

Oaks, Linda. bucket2.jpg. 2008. Pics4Learning. 18 Aug 2010

I’ll be the first to admit that I ended last school year on a negative foot.  Without getting too detailed, I declare it was simply the year of a Perfect Storm.  Lots of factors compounded each day, making it harder and harder to be the positive, chipper educator I used to (and wanted to) be.  So this summer, as I sat through one of the worst classes I’ve ever attended, I did find one piece to grab ahold of and investigate further.

In between my graduate professor having us match up with our “elbow partners” to discuss the “most important point” and taking turns reading the subheadings on the book-provided PowerPoint, my professor mentioned Tom Rath’s book, How Full is Your Bucket? The text is built on the simple metaphor of a full bucket equating a fulfilling, positive life.  Each interaction either adds or subtracts a scoop of water into each person’s bucket.  While this is nothing revoluationary, it does help me, the visiual learner, to imagine this image during each interaction.

The book ends with the author challenging readers to spend a week mentally noting the “bucket effect” of each interaction:  Did you just add or subtract to that person’s bucket?  What did they do to your bucket?  What words or tones made it that way.  Can they be changed?

Rath challenges readers to practice a 5:1 “magic ratio” of bucket filling to bucket draining and cites more than enough statistical research to show how this ratio increasing productivity, your pleasure to be around, and even whitens your teeth (just making sure you’re still paying attention).

So as I enter a new year, I’m out of the negativity rut.  And I’m positive about it.

How Full is Your Bucket? is available is several versions including a cute children’s book and an educator’s edition.  It’s an incredibly quick read and offers supplemental website access.