Ann Marie Corgill was the next presenter in the auditorium so I got to stay put. Many left for other sessions and some moved to new seats. To my delight a nice lady (Linda) asked if she could sit next to me, "of course" I smiled. She sat down. As we waited I asked if she was from the town of Warsaw. She replied that no she is from Ft. Wayne which is about an hour from Warsaw. She asked where I was from. The look on her face was comical when I said, "Oklahoma." She quickly wanted to know why I was at a workshop so far from home. I explained that we just don't seem to get presenters like this in the mid-west, at least not all at one time. I explained how my family and school had been gracious enough to let me have this experience. We spoke about the area, our trip, and she talked of things my family might do while I'm attending the conference.
As we settled in to listen to Ann Marie I asked if she was a teacher and if so what grade she taught. She explained that no she was the principal of a school for about 700 students Pre-K thru 5th grade, and that she had just retired. I thought it spoke volumes for this conference in that a retired principal still wanted to be a part of it.
As Ann Marie started her presentation I noticed right away that she and Jeff were two completely different presenters. She had an easy- calm-soothing way to her. Jeff radiated exuberance. I thought how much I would enjoy her if she were my teacher.
The topic of Ann Marie's presentation was two of the six A's she writes about in her book (analyze, ask, applaud, assist, asses, advocate). For this session she would be discussing ask and assist. She showed us pictures of her classroom(s) and related that every time she makes a decision about her students or teaching she asks herself "why."
She explained that in her classroom she tries to show (model) and assist in student learning-not direct it. She wants her students to know that their voices will be heard, their opinions and interest matter, and their differences will be celebrated.
She believes that children should be shown how to ask thoughtful, meaningful questions. This doesn't come from raising hands, but instead conversations. "We ask and teach them how to ask."
Writing units in her classroom are five to eight weeks long, "we need to cover less, but uncover more." To me this was key, and will be put into that bag of "AH-HA'S" too. It means one topic at a time and digging deeper for concrete understanding, not just hitting teaching points and moving on. I thought how great it would be if through collaboration of colleagues we could come together and find areas for each grade to focus on, and then build on from grade to grade (curriculum mapping?). Our teaching would not work along side of one another, but instead be built layer by layer for student learning and understanding.
Ann Marie was easy to listen to and made me want to be a better teacher, calmer, settled, more organized and clear in my teaching and thoughts. I enjoyed her session. AND the fact that when she asked us to "turn and talk" I now had someone to bounce ideas off of, and in turn hear her perspective. Linda seemed as if she would have been a great principal to work for. I bet her students and staff will miss her.
Books Ann Marie recommended:
Tomorrow- KATIE RAY WOOD!!! My American Idol! (I told you this was like a rock concert for teachers!) and lunch!