Yesterday I wrote about a quote from Lucy Calkins that inspires me and reminds me to step back, to see what is going well, and go from there. Today I was reminded (by my students, of course) of how cyclical the whole teaching and learning process really is.
We're working on non-fiction writing and some of the different elements of non-fiction that the children can put into their work. I sat with one of my darlings as he read his book to me. It was one of those moments where I was doing a lot of mental berating of myself. This boy is clever, gregarious, and so empathetic.
And he didn't have any spaces between his words.
I had to take a couple of deep breaths. He can use spaces between words. He knows to use spaces between words. But here it is, June 2nd, and there aren't spaces between his words. Of of the many thoughts that went through my mind there were few that painted my teaching in a good light, and some of them might have even involved expletives. I was a little heartbroken, reflecting on my shortcomings.
This was all internal, of course. As I smiled and took a breath to gather what to say, I heard this from the next table:
"When you used the ellipses, it really made me want to turn the page!"
I glanced over to see Seth reading his story to Hyung for feedback before he got ready to staple it and call it done. Hyung's comment had sparked a fire in Seth and he was showing her the other punctuation he'd used and telling her why he'd chosen to put it where he did.
It was a 25 second conversation at most, and fizzled out shortly after what I'd heard, but it still left an impression on me.
Lucy Calkins' advice had taken root, not just in me, but in my students. By regularly noticing the good in their writing, by modeling how excited I was to see writers trying new things and making interesting choices, the students took that as the norm during writing workshop and started doing themselves. In fact, they were doing it so well that they were bringing me right back in when I was about to fall off the wagon.
So, I turned to the waiting writer and smiled again. This time I pointed out real things that I saw in his writing (he was labeling pictures in his diagram, spelling many quick and easy words correctly, he'd even included an inset in one of the pictures to give more information). He nodded along with me, and then when I asked if I could hold one of the pages to try to read myself, he watched as I tried to figure out some of the words, and he said, "maybe on the next page I can make my spaces bigger."
"That sounds like a good plan," I told him. "I look forward to reading more of your story tomorrow or Friday."
I can't stop thinking about how important it was for me to have overheard the mini exchange between Hyung and Seth today; it helped me put things back into perspective, and because of it, one student was able to figure out for himself that he needed to be more cognizant of spaces, rather than me freaking out and going crazy over something that, in the scheme of things, is really quite minor. And tomorrow, I can wink at him from across the room and mouth, "Don't forget those spaces!" I imagine that he'll wink right back.
It was good that Hyung was there to talk me down today. Even if she had no idea she was doing it.