Push/Pull, Hurry Up/Slow Down, Reflect/Plan
Oh, yes, it’s the “push/pull, hurry up/slow down, reflect/plan” time of year! This afternoon as we sat in our weekly collaboration time (all 5 classroom teachers, the EAL and SRT support teachers, the curriculum coordinator, math/assessment specialist, and ELA coach) I could feel the tension building. In one breath we were planning our end of semester common assessments and scheduling that in tandem with the MAP testing. On the other hand, a few minutes later we were looking ahead to next school year and deciding on our ELA units- what would be integrated with science and social studies, what order would we teach in, etc.
I always pause when I am feeling the stress on both ends like that to reflect on our students- they are surely feeling it too. We all feel the crunch at the end of the year to “get it all done”, but I have to remember that “it” sometimes matters very little. I want to keep in mind that some of the most important things won’t be tested this year- skills like friendship, collaboration, self-regulation, mindfulness, creativity and so many important characteristics have been grown and will continue to develop. I want to make sure that kind of learning continues beyond the school year. I want to keep in mind that the students need time- time to read, write, solve problems and more. This need seems even stronger at the end of the year. We all feel the pull and push, but we need to remember to slow it all down too. I have to remind myself to be in the present. I have to say that is a good place to be.
What Is Old? SOL
I remember when I was a kid calculating how old I would be in 2000. 37 seemed really old from my perspective. When I had my first child at 28 my mom thought I was really old to be a first-time mom, because she had had me at 21 and her mom had had her first child at 18. Fast forward to my sister having her first at 37 and suddenly 28 seemed young. By then it was almost 2001 and strangely 38 did not feel old to me (but I was not going to have another child then).
Here we are in 2016 and today my mom is 75 –she is definitely NOT old. True she has had two hip replacements, but she swims and bikes daily. True she is retired, but she volunteers for several organizations and has a more active social life than I have ever had. She is a seasoned traveler and takes several international trips a year. This week she emailed me about a trip to Borneo she would like to tack on to her planned trip to Japan next spring and she wonders if I would like to meet her in Borneo, as it is near to me. She is such an energetic person that I sometimes feel like the old lady next to her.
My mother admits she “grew up” right along with me. She says she felt so young to be a mother. She remembers her own mother turning 75 and she feels sort of surprised at being 75 herself. It is funny how our view of what is old shifts ahead of whatever age we are. Looking at my mom I have to admit that 75 does not seem old anymore.
My Happy Time
I know I have said it before here, but Tuesday afternoons are really my happy time. It does not matter how the rest of the day has been, at 2:45 it is all different. At 2:45 it is time for Book Love- and afterschool activity with 31 students in grades 2-5. Today I knew I wanted to share some of the Kate diCamillo interviews that John Schu had put on his fabulous website, because TODAY is the day that her new book comes out. The third graders in the group have all heard Because of Winn-Dixie read aloud this year, the fourth graders have heard Tiger Rising, and all of them are familiar with my love for Kate diCamillo’s writing. A few weeks ago we watched the book trailer for Raymie Nightingale , so the stage had been set. After watching a few of the videos I talked briefly to the students about April being Poetry Month in the US and pointed out the poetry boxes they could find in the room. I then asked them to think about who in their life talks books with them- who they like to share books with, recommend books to, get recommendations from and more. I pointed out that people who talk about books read more and are better readers. Then I set them loose.
For the next hour it was my happy time- recommending books, looking at books with kids, watching them as they read and write. Students shared their projects: two boys were working on making trading cards and a trading card book for the book that they are writing together, some were making stories and cards for friends, others were passing books back and forth. Two boys came to me right away to ask me to send the video links to them- they wanted to watch the videos again at home and share them with their teacher. One of my happiest moments was watching one boy in particular reading. For this boy reading is not easy, but after weeks of encouraging him and putting various books within his reach he now easily finds books that he loves (in fact he asked me to order the next book in a series a few weeks ago and now each week he asks if it is in yet). There really is no greater joy than helping students fall in love with reading and writing (well, there was the bonus of finding that one of the lovelies had tucked a picture for me inside my laptop after they had all gone home).
What a great way to spend an hour each Tuesday.Ah, Book Love! (Forgive me for being repetitious- I really love this time).
All Together Now
We just returned from Spring Break and I have to admit, I missed my class. Monday two students were missing, today they were all back. This week the EAL coteacher is completing WIDA testing, so students are in and out and I just got an email from a parent saying that they were unable to travel over break, but will now take their child away and he will miss the next 4 school days. It makes me a bit sad, as days at this time of the year feel especially precious. I love it when we are all together. We are such a strong community that we “get” each other well. We are working well together and after the break we are rejuvenated, so we do not have the “I need a break from these people” blues. We have shared stories, jokes, memories of all kinds. We know that this week we are starting our last units in science, reading, and writing, so we are feeling a bit of the edge of “school is almost over” energy, but we are still working hard. This is the time of year when it seems anything is possible. Those little second graders who started third grade in August are nearly ready to be fourth graders. The progress that they have made is astonishing and I know that I will not be able to capture it all in the reports that I better start writing.
Today we started our space unit. Each teacher in the team had prepared a short 10-minute taster of one aspect of the unit and each class was going to visit the teachers in succession. When I was explaining this to my students I told them the order that they would move and said, “and then you’ll come home here.”
I heard a loud, “Aww!”and looked at the students. Instead of it being a groan of disappointment that they would be coming back to our room, it was instead a sigh of contentment.
One student said, “This really is home.”
This is the time of year that I treasure the feeling that we are at home together. I am trying to remind myself to take the time to celebrate and enjoy these last weeks with the students before the wildness of the last days sets in. We are all together now and we are like a family. Next week we open our hearts wider to welcome a new student who will be in his first English speaking environment and I know that he will quickly be a part of our community too. We are all together now and we will remember the home that we have found.