Some call me "Flem"

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B.S.Ed, M.Ed I'm a passionate, purpose-driven, public school teacher! Here I write about teaching, learning, public education, public schools, the African American experience, and whatever else might come to mind.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Importance of The "Pause"

Sometimes I work my own nerves! If we all are honest, I'm sure you could say the same thing.
"Why did I do that?" "I hate the fact that I'm this way!" "Something TOLD me to do such-n-such, but did I? NOOOOOO!!!"

There are also times when I pat myself on the back and say things like, "I'm so glad I ________!"

One thing that I can say about myself is that I love learning. I love to see my growth as an educator. I'm in my 9th year in public schools, but every year I yearn, learn, and love to grow!

One thing I've learned is to simply.......pause.
I pause when I feel I'm getting angry with my students, collect my thoughts and reflect on whether or not there was something I could have done better. Sometimes it's me. Sometimes it's them. But the pause gives me time to quickly ascertain. I'm still growing and don't mean to suggest that I pause all day, every day. But I am learning and growing.

I'm also becoming really patient when my students and I are engaged in some deep discussion. These are discussions that involve them unpacking some truths about the literature, science, history or some concept, regardless of the subject. To see their little lights brighten because I paused, that makes me and them very happy!

They'll tell you that every so often I'll just stop after saying something. Somebody will whisper, "he's letting it sink in!" And that's the company line, "Boys and girls, I'm letting it sink in." And. We. Wait. We. Pause.

The room grows still.
Their thoughts and reflections racing a mile a minute.
You can see it on their faces!

This can be a lesson for all of us. I'll even say it to the kids, "push pause!"

Just stop.
Let it sink in.
Be patient.
Take a chill pill.
We're not in a rush to go no where! (In my finest vernacular)
Woooo saaaaa!!

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Power of Words!!

207 is different. Their teacher is different. The experience is different. Everything is just....different.
Different is good. As long as they are learning and as long as the 207 is more than just a room number, but an experience, I'm good with that. I said the same of my former room, 105, when a colleague said, "Flem, YOU are 105! Wherever you go, that's where it is!" So now 207105....

Back to the post...

I love words and I believe I've passed on that love for words and word choice to many of my students. I offer the following two anecdotes as proof:

We've been reading up on and watching Ruby Bridges clips throughout the school year. I taught the kids what federal marshals were. I've also taught them what "truancy" meant and the importance of coming to school and the importance of bringing in notes when they are absent. A kid married the two ideas.

Flemming: So-n-So, do you have a note for your absence?
So-n-So: No. Are the marshals going to get me?
Both: giggle

Earlier in the year, we learned the word "undaunted" as we were ascribing character traits to.....Ruby Bridges, I believe. Ha!

Today, our volunteer librarians provide an interactive read-aloud experience for the kids before they are released to check out two books from the school library. Reading an account of Henry "Box" Brown, one kid offered the word "undaunted" to describe him. The librarian was very impressed. A few kids looked back at me. I grinned from ear to ear in my head and the grin may have escaped out onto my face too. Nicely done young 207er!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"Read In" Reviews

Less than an hour ago, I posted what one of my girls wrote about how she felt regarding my 8th Annual Read In.

As I continue to read the papers, I came across additional statements that let me know the experience was hitting home.

"After that we went to lunch. My class was talking about it at lunch."

From another student:

"The Read In was pretty cool. It wasn't as much as I thought though."

Still yet from another:

"Mr. Flemming's mom came. We all forgot what the name of the book was called, but I do know one thing, everyone didn't want her to leave."

Of my college-age nephews, one young lady remarked,
"...they were cute."

"I felt like I was important..."

Back in December, before Christmas break, I hosted my 8th Annual Read In. When we got back from the break, I had the kids write about that experience. One girl at the end of her essay

"And I had so much fun. I felt like I was important. I'm thinking everybody had an amazing time together, especially me."

"Mr. Flemming, remember..."

Last week I caught up with a former student at dismissal.

"Mr. Flemming, remember when we analyzed High School Musical?"

"Yeah, and we really analyzed it too!!"

"Uh, yeah! And we hated it when you kept stopping it to ask questions," said the former student as he recalled the memory with a smile.

Mission accomplished!!

Another former student said recently, "I don't look at movies the same Mr. Flemming!! I'm always analyzing them!"

Mission accomplished!!

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Class Periscope Story

This school year is the first year that I'm using Twitter's Periscope app at various moments during the school day to bring learning events live to the parents and families of my students. I don't broadcast events every day, just at special moments.

Well, today there was a "brought a smile to my face" moment....

Today a student was running a bit late for school. I started today's broadcast as I had two of my students teach two Nikki Giovanni poems to the class. I turned on the Twitter notification. Later, in walked the late student. "My mom told me to hurry up to class because you were broadcasting live on Periscope, so I ran upstairs."

Insert "smile" here!!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Another "Yoooo!!" Moment When Teaching About Ruby Bridges

There was that familiar gleam in their eyes, followed by sounds from their mouths that went something like "Yooo!!!! Wow!!!"

In the beginning of the school year, we read The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles. Each child had his/her copy and we read, discussed and enjoyed!

Today, we boomeranged back to Ruby Bridges with the film itself. The session began with a brief review and then the film. When the actor portraying Ruby's psychologist came, I asked a few times what his name was (this was intentional). The kids responded each time. On target so far. Get his name in your brains boys and girls (said Mr. Flemming to himself).

I strategically stopped at a few different points to discuss what we were seeing and the reality of life for Ms. Bridges at the time. But that's not the focus of this post as it was the focus of our talks today, which were insightful, by the way!!

I already had my Google Chrome taps marked with: the cover of the book we read, "Robert Coles", "Mrs. Henry, Ruby Bridge's teacher" and Norman Rockwell's The Problem We All Live With. I showed them the cover of the book. They remembered. That generated a little chitter chatter. I, then, asked again for the name of "Ruby's doctor", they said "Robert Coles." That was followed by my zooming in on the cover of the book and my asking them to tell me who the author was....there was that familiar gleam in their eyes, followed by sounds from their mouths that went something like "Yooo!!!! Wow!!!"

So much occurred after that moment, including a discussion on the validity of what we read back in the fall and the clear impact that this third person point of view* had on at least a few of them.
Q: "How could he have written it when he wasn't in it," asked one insightful student.
A: "Ahhh!!! So let's talk point of view..."
And we did!!
Then again, there was that familiar gleam in their eyes, followed by sounds from their mouths that went something like "Yooo!!!! Wow!!!"

My name is Mr. Flemming and I'm a THIRD grade teacher in a Philadelphia PUBLIC SCHOOL!!

*They were already familiar with point of view. This was not new. The application of the impact of the point of view took our conversation into deeper literary waters.