Tuesday, July 25, 2017

There Is Still So Much To Do

As I worked on organizing new math curriculum materials in my classroom yesterday, I realized that we have three weeks until the kids return.

There is still so much to do.

My plan yesterday was to change seating as I continue to move more and more toward a flexible seating arrangement for the kids. But when I saw the boxes of math, my scattered brain moved in a different direction. I turned away from the seating arrangement and sought out ways to organize the manipulatives and tools in a way that the kids could grab what they need when they need it. So seating will have to wait for another day.

There is still so much to do.

I have been reading professionally all summer (insert sarcastic remark about teachers having summers off here.) Paul Solarz' Learn Like a Pirate, Mraz and Hertz' A Mindset for Learning and Lisa Highfill's The Hyperdoc Handbook have informed my professional life. But I was BLOWN AWAY by the thoughts put forward by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst in their latest literacy gem, Disrupting Thinking. Helping readers read in ways that create compassion and kindness in them. Guiding kids to read and understand not only what the text says, but what they think and feel as they read. Thinking critically. Disagreeing with the author. Learning how to spot inconsistencies in information that's purported to be true. WOW. This is my job, and it's never been more important.

There is still so much to do.


I read over 30 middle grade and picture books this summer, in preparation for books talks and for our first foray into #classroombookaday. Stocking our class library with books that will represent all my wondrously diverse students was, is, and will continue to be a huge goal. Do I have books they can hold up as a mirror and see themselves? Do I have books they can hold up as a window and see the world? Do I have books that will challenge their thinking, help them develop empathy, see things from another's point of view? Will the books I choose to read aloud each afternoon before we leave reinforce the necessity of compassion and kindness? In a world where leaders are cyberbullies, it is vital that we, as teachers, do whatever we can to instill empathy and compassion in our young people. We have an incredible job. We can be a force for peace through education. Each and every book that I encourage my students to read sends a message: I believe in you. I see you. I want for you to be as kind and compassionate as I promise to be to you.

There is still so much to do.

The literacy curriculum we have is great. It offers choice in reading and structures that develop the students' critical thinking skills. But I want to go further. Inspired by Jess Lifshitz (she shares a TON on her blog) throughout the past year and again at the Chicago Scholastic Reading Summit, I want to help my kids see that what they research has meaning. That they can use their writing to have a voice. That they can make a difference. This means adjusting the curriculum to meet the needs of my students and this world they live in.

There is still so much to do.

I am terrified as I write this. But I am also emboldened. The support of my administration is second to none, and the inspiration of my colleagues - in my building and in my PLN - serves as a touchstone, guiding me and moving me forward. Yes, there is still so much to do. But we can do it. We can do nothing less.

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Thank you to the amazing crew at Two Writing Teachers for allowing me to share my Slice of Life. If you'd like to read more wonderful stories, click here!

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