I saw him walking down the hall to throw his breakfast bag away.
“Hey, there Mr. Sam!” Sam and I had spent some time together recently working through some reading assessments and putting together a plan for a daily intervention.
“Are you going to pull me today?“ he asked. His bright blue eyes and long eyelashes pleaded with me.
“No, today, but maybe soon,” I replied trying to give him the illusion that it was possible.
He gave me a hopeful look. I sighed silently knowing my day was booked, and the next few days were equally as hectic.
Unfortunately, much of my work with students is for short periods of time, and then I must move on to the next project. I don’t have the heart the tell them we won’t work together again, so I string them along with maybes, not todays, and hopefully soons.
Maybe soon can be tomorrow with Sam. I could stop by and spend 5 minutes with him to check his progress. It would make both of our hearts happy!
Our building was given a challenge…to see the good in our students and provide our families with positive feedback. We had five days to contact 120 families sharing some form of positive, specific news regarding their student.
I pulled three flowers from the basket and stuck them to my cork board above my desk. I wanted the visual reminder to look for the good, focus on the positive, find students who might need some good news shared at home. Throughout the week, my lens was on focused on seeing all the wonderful things our students were doing. The glass was half full and more water was added each day. It makes such a difference to look at life optimistically!
Our chart grew and grew as the week went on. This was what it looked like on Friday at 9:00 am after I added my three flowers. A few minutes later, a teacher popped into my office to let me know the chart was full.
In addition to the feeling of an accomplishing a group goal, we also get the perk of wearing jeans all week and leaving 15 minutes early each day. More importantly than that, we have trained our brains to seek the good, and to hunt for reasons to share positive news with families. I think we will reap the benefits of students feeling good about themselves and continuing to give us their best while they are at school. It’s a win-win!
I heard the crying coming from the hallway. I knew it was D, one of our kindergarten friends who struggles with self regulation. I had just sat down at my desk to catch up on a long list of tasks that seem to never get crossed off of the list. Deep breath in, deep breath out. I got up to see if I could help.
When I approached the room, D was sitting on a chair outside the classroom door. His tiny frame and light brown eyes wouldn’t be what you would expect this loud wailing to come from.
Hey, bud. What's going on?
How can I help? Let's try making a big balloon with our breath.
I interlaced my fingers and cupped them on top of my head. I took a deep breath in and lifted my hands up off of my head like a big balloon filling with air. As I exhaled, I lowered my hands back to my head, deflating the balloon.
Let's try it together.
D began to interlace his fingers and blow his balloon up and down with me. The crying began to cease and his breath regulated. We made several balloons together.
Are you ready to head back to class?
There was no audible response, but D slid out of the chair and began to walk into class. I followed him to his table where his math work lay in a pile. Cut out shapes glued on to his paper plate pizza. He was ready to count the shapes and record how many of each kind were on his pizza. We worked together to count and write the numbers. After we finished, we turned everything in and he sat on the carpet, ready to be called to line up for lunch.
Something in class had frustrated D, which led to his outburst. This happens often. I hope with more practice, he can begin to use his breath to regulate his emotions. Maybe he can find a spot in the room to blow his balloon up and down, calm himself, and return to the work at hand.
I sat back down at my desk, ready to tackle my to do list. Breathe in, Breath out.
“Your words have never mattered more,” I emphasized to our 6th grade students. Their writing teacher and my good friend and colleague, had tragically lost her husband in a car accident over the weekend. Our hearts felt heavy. We knew there was nothing we could do to take away this pain, but we could use our words to bring hope and comfort, to share our love and concern, to offer our thoughts and prayers.
Some looked up verses, others found poems and quotes. Ty wrote from his heart, as he has experienced the loss of his brother. His words were direct and to the point, sharing advice only someone who has walked this road could offer. Carter said, “I just don’t know what to say.” We talked through several phrases that people use to extend sympathy. Some sat with their heads down, not sure how to process such a loss.
My teacher brain wants to reflect/critique my time with these writers. I should have had a couple mentor text examples. If I would have created a word bank they would have had some sentence starters. But my heart tells me, there are times when we do the best we can. This was not an easy day. I pray their beloved writing teacher can feel their love poured out through the words on their pages.
cars, trucks, jeeps, convertibles
balloons, streamers, posters, inflatable whales
honking, waving, smiling, crying
teachers in vehicles
students on corners with signs
families on balconies of their apartments
siblings in the back of cars, feet dangling
parents holding children in their arms
we are so proud of you
we miss you
rockets always find a way
we love our teachers
we miss you
can we come back yet?
future schmitt rocket
we miss school
this is not how it is supposed to be
our hallways are silent
yet our streets are full of families
waiting to get a glimpse
of their teachers driving by
we are full of hope
yet full of sorrow
my heart did not realize the longing
until i saw your faces, smiles
i miss you
when can we be together again?
august is too far away
and dare i say later?
Tomorrow you should be walking (though we know you rarely walk) through our doors. You should be sharing your spring break stories with us, or complaining about how you did nothing and missed us. You should be hugging friends you haven’t seen for over a week. You should be skipping down the hall, arm and arm with your bestie that you’ve missed so much.
Instead, you will be staying at home trying to navigate online learning while having a houseful of other learners and workers. Some of you will be heading to the waiting area at school at your scheduled time to pick up your device and other materials. Others will be at home with no resources to get the supplies you need. Many of you will wait in the car line to get your lunch from a brown sack.
No one wants this. We want you back at school. We want to see your smiling faces, and not just through a computer screen. We want to hear your grand ideas and attempt to answer your thoughtful questions. We want to be able to give hugs and high fives to welcome you back to your home away from home.
We are 14 days into the Slice of Life challenge, and I am learning so much about being a writer. I’m learning about finding stories in everyday life. I’m learning about looking for nuggets of ideas in my notebook when I’m struggling to find a slice. I’m learning how to give meaningful feedback as I think of feedback others have given me and how it pushes me along. I’m learning how to read like a writer.
I just started Susan Orlean’s The Library Book. I’m finding the content of the book fascinating, but just as important, I’m learning so much about writing through her craft. She begins each chapter with a list of library books that have the theme of the chapter in common. I find myself reading to find out the common thread with the books. Also, I have stopped several times to reread and study her phrasing and word use. This writing challenge has heighten my awareness as I read. I am looking for ways I can try things out in my writing that I notice other authors use. I know this is a practice I can use with students, as well.
It started with a mysterious piece of folded paper left on my desk adorned with squiggly lines.
He had already started to use the writer’s notebook we set up just hours before. Ethen visits my office often, looking for books, but this time he asked if I had “one of those books with all of the lines.” Of course I did, so he picked a color, and we wrote “Ethen’s Writing Notebook” on the cover.
I went straight to Ethen’s room after receiving the mysterious paper. “I love your story! Can you tell me about it?” He proceeded to tell me it was a God song that goes “ooh ooh.”
The next day, another folded paper with squiggly lines, but this time it included a few illustrations. When I approached Ethen with excitement, he said it was an army story.
The following day, another piece of writing. This time with words! It was a song with the lyrics written out.
The next day, we wrote together. He ate breakfast at my table and wrote a sentence at a time about Godzilla. By the end of breakfast, he had 3-4 sentences about Godzilla’s body and actions. I commended him for telling so many details about Godzilla. We even revised a sentence by adding a color word as a description.
The following day, Ethen was back and eager to draw a picture of Godzilla. He made sure to capture the details in his story with his illustration.
Our writing club continues each morning. He has written about his grandma who passed away and published his dinosaur story on chart paper to share with his classmates. He is learning his notebook is a place to record his thoughts and feelings. I am learning how to encourage a writer one step at a time. How to cultivate the joy of writing through time and questioning. How to take what I learn by writing every morning and put it into bite sized pieces for our youngest learners.
The energy I feel with my morning writing buddy sustains me throughout the day. It’s also got me thinking…How can I capture this with a larger group? Can I start a writing club? How? When? Who?
The birds have found their song again. Walking in the morning there is silence no more. The birds welcome the light and with that a sense of gratitude for the day wells up.
I stopped to notice.
The snow drops have bloomed in the meadow. The first sign that the earth is warming to the thought of spring. The new is emerging bringing with it the fresh start of a new season.
I stopped to notice.
The daffodil bulbs are starting to emerge. Their emerald green pushes up through the callous, hard earth. They signal the shift from winter to spring.
I stopped to think.
What tender strength is found in the emergence of spring. Things that are so delicate, yet have the tenacity to survive the cold nights. Things so gentle, yet full of toughness. I think that gentle strength is a trait most educators identify with. We have such concern and love for our students, yet must maintain the strength and stability it takes to run a classroom with many diverse needs. We have a soft spot for every story our students share, yet with perseverance we guide them to rise above it.
I stopped to notice; I stopped to think. I find myself doing that much more these days. One of the benefits of getting older, I guess. Having the time to hit pause and think, wonder, reflect.