I’m really lucky.
Teaching is something I have known that I wanted to do since I was a little girl. It was Mr. Williams really. He was who taught me that teaching was what I wanted to do with my life. You see when I was little my brother died. If you’ve ever experienced such a loss, as most of us have, you know that this was a turning point in my life. There was one person who was there to catch me as I fell. His name was Mr. Williams. Oddly enough he was my 5th grade teacher. Why he was the one who caught me, I’m not really sure; I don’t really remember. But the important thing is that he did and I remember that he did. So, as I reflect about my year, teaching 5th grade, I find myself thinking about and comparing myself to him.
It’s the end of the year which is a great time to reflect. It’s also winter break which gives me permission and time to just stop, and sigh, and breathe, and take a few moments to actually reflect and compare.
This has been an incredibly challenging year for me. Why? I don’t really know. Maybe this reflection will help me figure it out. But the fact is that it has. I’ve been teaching for almost a quarter of a century so you’d think I would have it figured out by now. Well, let me confess to you, I don’t. Not even close. After teaching kindergarten for 5 years I felt like I had it down pat. I decided to go back to school for science education because I LOVED witnessing kids wonder about how their world works. After teaching middle school science for 5 years I felt like I had it down pat. I decided to stay 5 more years because it was just so much fun. And even to this day I feel science literacy is just as important as reading/writing literacy. Well almost. I say, almost, because I spend my days with kids who try incredibly hard to read and write. And it is still such a struggle for them. Bearing witness to this struggle has made me realize that reading really is the most important thing to learn. So here I am, teaching the most important thing to kids who struggle to learn it. Hence my sharing (on my profile) that this is the hardest thing I have ever done. But also the most rewarding.
Thankfully, I keep going back to a note I got in the midst of this absolute confusion I call my 3rd year in the literacy room. It was our first snowfall of the year. It was a light and beautiful snowfall. And the day just happened to be incredibly stressful. I don’t know about you but when we have our first snowfall, especially if it falls on a stressful day, we go out. Boots, coats, hats, gloves on; frozen black paper and hand lenses in tow. We go out. I never really thought much about this ritual. And to be honest, on this day I was thinking about how I was supposed to be inside doing our LLI (Leveled Literacy Intervention) lesson. We went out. As we were walking out the door, tongues turned up toward the sky, I found myself enjoying this luxurious experience. I was also chatting with a little one who is often my shadow about Snowflake Bentley. Have you read the book about him yet? Wonderful picture book. As we chatted we collected snowflakes on the frozen paper, looked at the tiny crystals with the miraculous “eyes” and just totally enjoyed ourselves. It only lasted 15 minutes and then we went back inside for LLI time.
That afternoon I went to my mailbox and found a note from our literacy specialist. I didn’t realize she had witnessed our 1st snowfall exploration. Her words have stayed with me and guided me each and every day since. They said, “I wish you could see what I see.” I’ll be honest, I wish I could see what she sees too! Because, like many of you I’m sure, I see everything I do wrong. I see how I struggle to make LLI time flow. I see how I struggle to help the kids “see” fractions. I see how I struggle to keep all 17 wiggly bodies engaged when they are doing the exact things they find so challenging. Oh they love knitting and weaving, and when we get off topic and do science. They love planting, growing, and seed saving. They love cooking. But focused, hard, minds on reading and writing…they try. They try so hard. But they admit, they’d rather not. I want our lessons to flow. To magically take their little minds away and show them great things. Everyday I wonder, “Will I ever get this down pat?”
But while I work so hard for that flow, I do know that I think I’m there to “catch” my kids who are falling. Didn’t Rachel Carson say, “It’s not so important to know as it is to feel?” Well, that may not be totally true in this case but I do hope there is some truth in her words. That my kids know I love them and will do whatever it takes to someday, someday, get that literacy flow and turn them into readers and writers who love to read.
So with that said, this new year, I want one thing, to guide my kids to a place where they love to read and that their reading takes them away, far away to places they could not have imagined before picking up that book.
And may we all find, or if you are lucky enough to have it you continue with, that flow that takes our kids to a place where reading is fun, adventurous, mind-blowing, and successful for them.