Thursday, June 9, 2016

Curriculum Connections & Forever Friends

Today marks the end of my career as a Denton Independent School District curriculum writer. Since the summer of 2011, I have been privileged to be a part of a rich, enthusiastic learning community which has shaped me as a teacher and a human being. The women I have worked alongside have become some of my dearest friends, and the countless hours we've spent together questioning, problem-solving, and dialoguing about standards sharpened and honed my educational skills. Sifting through a sea of endless TEKS, mind-boggling essentials questions, and problematic performance tasks, we wrote and rewrote massive UBD units. We laughed, we argued, and sometimes we cried.

Our team met about six times across the span of a school year. We would frantically prep for a substitute, rushing out of our classrooms to the PDC, our local professional development center. Arriving upstairs, I would scan the room looking for the language arts crew, and inevitably, a table full of women with energetic eyes and eager hearts greeted me with a smile. As we plugged up our devices, we'd chat about the latest struggles we were facing in the classroom and we'd catch up on campus gossip. In an authoritative, yet calming voice, our fearless leader, Sandy Brown, would gather her hens and set the agenda for the day. "Okay ladies, our goal is to complete the writing unit before we leave. Check over the alignment and make sure all the links are hot!" Her kindness, generosity, and guidance buoyed our spirits and made us feel valuable.

Between giggles, grouches, and guesses, we'd click away on our laptops, constantly interrupting each other when questions would arise. The most beautiful part of the experience always included celebrations of small steps our students were making and aha moments about tiny tweaks designed to help our children grow as readers and writers. From Brittany's suggestions about stretching kids to use questions as a stepping stone to inference to Yesi's constant challenge to integrate ELAR with content, I always left with a new nugget of wisdom. Community, camaraderie, and connection nourished my soul, and our post-meeting happy-hours built friendships that will last a lifetime.

Because I've flitted around the district, switching campuses three times, this team of writers became "my team". They listened to my endless questions, supported me through strenuous seasons of life, and spurred me on when I felt like quitting. They encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and my involvement in this work opened doors to some of the richest professional development opportunities I could ever imagine. I was privileged to visit The Teacher's College @ Columbia University in NYC twice, and I've been honored to meet some of the greatest literacy leaders of our time like Donalyn Miller, Tanny McGregor, and The Sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.

I pass to torch to a fellow fourth-grade teacher I deeply admire and respect. Tara Reed and I have co-taught summer sessions on reading workshop, and we've labored together on the DISD 4th-grade report card. Closing this chapter is bitter-sweet, but I know it's time to move on and let someone else take the reigns. One of my favorite quotes from Brene Brown beautifully captures the sentiments I'll carry with me as I embrace new challenges and look ahead towards the future. Thank you for investing in me, pushing me to grow, and making each moment count. I am eternally grateful.

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