I have unshakable faith in children. They always show me the way. ♥

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

organized chaos...

When I was in high school my family owned and operated a restaurant. I worked various jobs at the restaurant over my years in high school and college, the most common being the front desk as a hostess (I can be quite charming at times).

On nights when the restaurant was busy, I often found myself highly stressed and not enjoying work all that much. It was too chaotic, too unpredictable.

My father, though? He loved it.

I distinctly remember making arrangements for several parties of two and four, sending another party to the lounge to wait for a table, escorting a party to their table and sending my father to seat another group. Back at the front desk, I took a moment to breathe, to look at the seating chart and do a bit of mental rearranging. I remember wishing I could fast forward through the next few hours so I wouldn't feel so stressed with seating and tables and numbers and checks and menus and organizing.

I remember looking up to see my father walking back from seating a party with his eyes shining and an enormous grin on his face.

"I love this shit!" he said to me in a voice full of pure happiness.

It was his place. And while I just tried to get through it, my father thrived on the chaos and unpredictability of nights like that.

In first grade today our Writing Workshop buzzed and hummed and twirled. We're finishing up non-fiction books about animals and my students have been getting ready to publish their stories on the computer. I'd signed out the laptop cart and set up eight laptops on tables, logged in and dropped the book templates into each student's folder so they could access it and start typing.

Eleven students worked on computers with various questions, excitement, and frustrations. Six children worked on the rug, trying to finish their own work for publication, while others were at tables around the room, doing the very same thing.

Computers froze, left arrow keys stopped working, papers were misplaced and exciting words were written. I probably walked a quarter mile during Writing Workshop today, moving from student to student, solving issues and having mini-conferences.

My hair fell out of it's clip and tickled my nose as I talked with one of my students who'd just finished typing her story. I looked around at the blissful chaos of my classroom and thought:

"I love this shit."

[Please pardon the profanity. I blame my father for the sentiment in the first place. I'm sure he'll take full responsibility. :) ]

Monday, April 27, 2009


On Saturday I got to sit outside.

I was fighting allergies or sickness or some state of general non-well-being, so I stayed home while my husband went to visit with some friends and relatives. I took a shower, made some tea, and went to sit in our backyard and read.

It was the first sense of sheer contentment I'd felt in a long time. It wasn't too hot or too noisy. I wasn't forgetting a meeting or forgetting the tools for a teaching lesson. I was just reading.

On Sunday I'd finished my other book so I grabbed Study Driven by Katie Wood Ray and went outside to read again. Same feeling. The wind blew gently around me, rustling the leaves; birds flew around, hopping into the drip tray under our grill (what in the world are they finding there?), and I read.

I thought about writing. I thought about myself as a writer, I thought of Antonio's recent blossoming into a poet and then a non-fiction animal enthusiast, I thought of Leslie's recent foray into finding a clear and very funny voice as a writer. I thought of our first grade writing workshop. I thought.

The more I read, the clearer a picture I had in my head about where our class could go next in writing, and how we could help each other get there.

Today was Monday. What did I think about during my free moments today? I thought about exactly when I could get home so I could sit outside in my backyard and read. I still had ten more chapters to go in Study Driven. There was so much more thinking to be done!

When I got home today, after doing dishes and straightening up a few things, I did get outside to read more, to think more. I read another three chapters and felt refreshed. I felt inspired.

I've realized this: sometimes I am rushing around too much, getting this done, or that done; photocopying, cutting, sorting... And what I'm not doing -- what I'm not doing nearly enough -- is sitting. And reading. And thinking.

In the current educational climate, I know it's not an easy choice, but it's a choice I have to make more often. Thinking.

What a novelty.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Visiting your writing workshop was the highlight of my day. The routines and procedures you have set into place clearly sets your class up for independence and success... [SNIP] ...While I listened to your students talk during writing worship, they were all talking about their writing and answering and asking questions of their peers. Today's experience reminds me of the importance of talk during writing. It was clear you practiced the level of noise since the students used appropriate levels during the session. I look forward to having our students share their writing with me.

Before spring break, my principal paid a visit to our classroom for an observation. This year I'm on the evaluation cycle, so she'll visit a few times throughout the year. The above was part of the feedback I received in my mailbox this morning.

As I read, I thought about our Writing Workshop. It is a busy, active time. We've worked hard to make it productive and fun, where the kids have a lot of their own direction and work really hard. Another person might sit in on our workshop and wonder why there is a lot of talking, why some children stand up a lot, why one boy only draws on Mondays, and etc...

I realized (again) how important it is to have administrators that understand child development and that regularly look for the positive in children, teachers, and classrooms.

It's a good thing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009