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Saturday, November 21, 2015

On Teaching

On twitter, I have been obsessed with the hashtag ncte15, which refers to the National Council of Teachers of English annual conference.

Truth #1--I have never attended this conference.  I long to, but November is a difficult time of the year to be gone from my classroom, especially this year. Our staff is taking an International Baccalaureate class and already having to miss 8 teaching days this year. That is kind of a lot. It is hard to justify missing even more days.

But anyway, I follow along on "the" twitter (as my kids call it), looking for those gems about teaching reading and writing to young children, hoping someone out there will say something I truly believe in so I can give a virtual fistbump of solidarity through my computer screen. Hoping someone will say the things that sometimes I am afraid to say.

Because sometimes I am afraid to say things that I really think. Like this:

Truth #2--Even though I write a lot, even though I have published books, I am not an expert on the teaching of writing. I have no magic gadgetries, no perfect 5 step lesson plan, no cute template that makes children produce amazing, thoughtful responses on a writing prompt every time they attempt it. The more I am in the classroom every day with my students, the more simple everything becomes. If you want children to write, you must allow them to do it. You must encourage it. You absolutely MUST give them time. Time to succeed. Time to fail. Time to reflect. Time to actually LEARN.

Truth #3--And you must try not to do things in your teaching that have the exact opposite effect you are going for. When you make a child feel like less of a writer, guess what?  She becomes less of a writer.

It is so affirming to read snippets of presentations on the twitter that mirror these thoughts. My teaching heart is bursting.


So anyway, a big shout out to all of the NCTE folks who are both living the dream and keeping it real. Perhaps someday, I'll manage to attend a conference and hear Donalyn Miller and Lucy Calkins in person. But for now, know that if you are sharing your special moments via twitter, via #ncte15, your reach is very far. You are having an impact on my teaching.

By sharing your thoughts and reflections, you are making a difference in the life of this teacher.

xo-

hrh

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November Thoughts

This school year is no harder than any other school year. Really. My class is delightful--on Friday we had a writing session together that just blew me away. So many little pencils furiously scratching the page. I was inspired and humbled by their writing pursuits. And their talent.

No, the climate in the classroom is not the reason for the tremendous fatigue I feel. Nor is there anything I can point to easily. I think it's simply the usual.

Balance.

Or lack thereof.

I feel like a mouse on a see-saw, running up to the writing end of my life, then back to the teaching end. Back and forth. Up and down. High and low. (Except that this see-saw has more than two ends. There's home/family life in there somewhere, too.)

I recently gave a talk to interested folks about writing for children and the question invariably came up: "How do you do it all? How do you write and teach?  Where do you find the time?" I joked that I steal time, because that's what you have to do. Steal it. (Nobody is going to give it to you willingly.) Then I talked for a bit about how I manage to balance it all.

I kind of exaggerated about the balancing, because the truth of it is that I'm not doing it as well as I'd like.

*cues mouse to begin running back and forth again*

And now, somehow, I find myself on the cusp of Thanksgiving. THANKSGIVING.

How did that happen? Where did the time go?  (This is my constant whine.) Have I been so busy being the mouse running around like crazy that I missed the entire Fall ???

I don't know.  Really I don't even know.

 My gut says that I need to just embrace the mouse--that the mouse's struggle for balance is really just part of the human condition. Is my purpose really simply to balance the see-saw?  Or is it to make my peace with the ups-and-down-of-it-all?

The reflection continues.

hrh