A few years ago, my dad noticed a swarm of bees in the shape of a hive dangling from a tree outside his upstairs office window. At first, he was terrified and hesitant to go outside, but after contacting a local beekeeper to relocate the hive, his perspective changed. After a few hours with an expert, he wanted to share his newly gained knowledge of bees with everyone he met.He would hear me sneeze and say, “Did you know that eating locally sourced honey is the best way to work up an immunity to local pollens?”
A fly would buzz past lazily, and he would jump at the chance to say, “Good thing that’s not a bee! Remember when I had that swarm of thousands of bees? You know, they were swarming there with the queen while other bees scouted out a new location.”
After hearing Dad’s bee facts over the course of several years, my disdain for these stinging insects began to grow into admiration. Bees really are fascinating, and I think they have a lot to teach us.
Here are five of my favorite bee facts and what they taught me:
1. Honey production is reduced when a bee colony is without a queen. When a queen bee dies, the rest of the bees in the hive become unsettled and disorganized until a new queen is found. Bees need strong leadership, just like teachers and students. We have all experienced the effects of a breakdown in leadership, whether it was our own leadership in the classroom or on a building-wide level. Strong leadership is key.
2. When bees collect nectar, they are gathering for the good of the colony. They store the nectar in crops in their throats and carry it back to the hive. Working together produces more honey. As teachers, we can easily fall into the trap of working in isolation. When we can find ways to pool resources and collaborate, we can work more efficiently. Working together is more effective than working alone.
3. Bees communicate by dancing. When a scout returns to a swarm of bees, it dances to demonstrate the quality of the new location. Dancing is a joyful form of communication. We often become so entrenched in our daily routines that we forget to focus on what matters. Remember to share joy.
4. Bees sting when they feel threatened. Humans are often the victims of uncomfortable stings without even intending to pose a threat. Often as educators, we displace our response to the pressure of mandates and standardized tests and end up stinging innocent victims, unfortunately sometimes including students. Think before you sting.
5. Bees create honey, which is the only food that includes all the nutrients required to sustain life. Honey contains water along with vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. It is such a simple food, yet holds so much power. We, too, need to simplify in our classrooms, to focus on the essentials that sustain the readers and writers in our care. There is power in simplicity.
Bees provide so many lessons about communities and groups. This week we look at principles for guiding groups. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Christy Rush-Levine has taught middle school language arts in a Chicago suburb for 15 years. She blogs about her teaching life at Read Write Inspire and reviews books at Reading Beyond the Middle, a blog for her former students.
Free for All
Cathy Mere puts guided reading in perspective, explaining how it works as one piece of the puzzle when it comes to fostering a lifelong love of reading in students:
Here are three fun and quick videos on teamwork you may want to share with students or colleagues when discussing what makes groups work well:
Franki Sibberson explains how she is scaffolding reading notebooks in new ways this fall to build response skills gradually:
For Members Only
How can you support the “outliers” in classrooms — students with unique needs or profiles who don’t neatly fit into any instructional group? Shari Frost offers some strategies:
In this week’s video, Heather Rader demonstrates the importance of a varied reading diet to a second-grade group, sharing her own stack of books:
Reading groups are such an ingrained element of our teaching culture that teachers can feel guilty if they choose other instructional methods. In this encore video, Joan Moser and Gail Boushey (“The Sisters”) talk with a fourth-grade teacher about when it makes sense to group students:
Katherine Sokolowski’s students love writing fiction, but their skills don’t match their enthusiasm. A Writing Fiction Field Trip helps bridge that gap:
That’s all for this week!