Breathe in, but don’t forget to breathe out. The ultimate control freak that I am even tries to control my breathing. Isn’t this part of a natural system in my body I don’t have to think about? And yet, I still try to control. During this season of letting go, I need the reminder as much as everybody else. I can’t control how this happens. But I can control my reaction to it. My intent and my reaction will frame my reality, whatever that reality may be. As I head into these last two weeks, I intend to take the time and be present to the very end. But until then, I can’t forget to breathe.
I can feel the pull. Each year it is so hard to let go of the routines and daily learning of the classroom. But the joy and promise of my summer learning is tugging at my heart. Instead of the feeling of falling off a cliff this year, I am hoping for a sense of wonder and newness.
Even though I got a summons for Jury Duty, jury duty, really? I am hopeful for all the time I get to explore and wonder for hours and hours. This is my time to play. Even though I may have to show up to a courtroom, I can always bring a book, right?
What if I didn’t dread the clean up of the classroom, but hastened to get to the time I get all to my own to learn? There are so many wonderful teacher friends I have who are patient with me and listen to my passionate ranting of learning.
Each week my students shop for their own reading. I try to keep the titles between 6-8 books. Otherwise their parents complain about how heavy the backpack gets. At the end of each week I try to have the kids reflect about the books they will remember after they put them back to the shelves.
Early in the day before they return the books, the kids write to me in their reading notebooks about a book that touched the heart. This helps me to think ahead before they shop and pull some books I think might be similar.
Right before we shop we talk about “hot books” These are the books they want to recommend to everyone in the room. Students shove the books in the air above their heads, dying to be picked. Then I will say a line to celebrate that book and put it on a special “hot book” table. This looks like a chaotic auction. But really, its a quick way to have about 10-15 book commercials for books the kids choose.
I hope this slice of my classroom helps other teachers to put some fire under the kiddos when they are shopping, to get them excited about reading for a few more weeks!
“Focus on one process at a time”, the words spoken by one of my facilitators in my Adaptive Schools training from last week must be amplified. The multitasking must stop! The pace of getting-things-done-quick-a-minute must stop. Yesterday’s unexpected snow day helped me to practice being still. But, I have to bring the lessons from yesterday into today. We have 34 more days of school according to the calendar. That means 34 mornings meetings, 34 times I turn off the lights in the afternoon so we can focus during math, 34 times I get to give them a high-five or a hug and thank them for all their hard work.
I’m practicing pausing. I’m practicing paraphrasing. I practicing giving more room and depth for understanding instead of jumping to the next think so quickly. I’m trying to linger.
This last week I was able to affirm all of these practices as I read Shauna Niequist’s new book, Presence Over Perfect. My friends told me to read it six months ago. I am just now catching up. Her testimony is a powerful lesson. It is a countercultural challenge to give up celebrating the busy. I’m hearing this from Angela Watson and Lisa Lucas. But the reality of living it brings so much peace and calm.
On the blowy, snowy April day, my hope is to put on the brakes and keep breaking my bad habits of too much hustle.
He faced the wall. Tears streamed down his face. His body rocked back and forth as we sat on the ground trying to find some privacy to process emotions. I didn’t look at him. I gave him the dignity he deserved. He is so used to anger and rage. It is difficult for him to accept I don’t react explosively when he makes a misstep.
The amount of children unable to calm themselves down in my room is staggering. After two years (I am a looping teacher) I am exhausted. But they are thriving. The behaviors ebb and flow. “But, they are all learning!” my principal exclaimed, as we discussed the miracle of their academic progress. The pressure to stay on schedule with all my pacing guides is a ton of pressure. Honestly, I don’t know how I did it.
Sitting beside him in the hallway I felt like I was doing the right thing. I wasn’t yelling, giving consequences or talking to him about his behavior. I didn’t even look at him. “As I looked down the hall and smiled to another staff member I coached under my breath, “Just let me know when you are ready for me to start the timer. Then you can practice being calm for a minute and you’ll be good to go.”
He took a deep breath, swiping a tear from one cheek, “I’m ready.”
Today I’m going to get in flow. According to the author, “Flow is the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter;” (4) I find myself in places of flow during times of reading and writing, teaching, and watching Blue Planet 2, if I’m honest. Unfortunately, I seem to be in flow a lot when I am purchasing books. Today I purchased It’s All About the Books . Reading and writing continue to be my most natural state of flow. But what I would really like to do is bust out of that and do more activities that are physical and achieve flow. According to the author on page 104, Yoga can help us cultivate our flow during and after the practice. What I like about his claim is the intentionality of yoga reaching out into so many other parts of your life. I’m curious what would happen to my engagement and concentration in other areas if I tried to go deeper into Yoga as a study of flow.
It’s an unbelievable profession. The teachers participating in the slice of life challenge for the month of March have filled my bucket in so many ways. With all the challenging, demanding work we do, teachers took the time to connect with other teachers: to support, to listen, to question, to empathize. This community of writers astounds me. Now that I am on Spring Break, I have time to read and write. So, having built the habit of daily posting, I wonder if I can transition into daily reflection in a journal, along with writing more about my reading as I read. This morning I read an incredible quote about the power of finding oneself in writing. This month’s Language Arts journal, published by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) opened with “Writing as Worldmaking,” written by Amy Stornaiuolo and Erin Hope Witney. I’m lifting a line from the article that struck me at my core. It is a definition of writing as a way to discover and uncover oneself. On page 213, the authors state:
We have proposed understanding writing as a practice for worldmaking to emphasize generative and transformative potentials of writing and to encourage educators to frame writing in such expansive ways in their classrooms and curricula.
We, as teachers allowed ourselves to engage in writing on this level during the March, SOL challenge. This is the level of self discovery. The transformative potential of writing helps us to grow into how we want to live our lives. We pick the stories that shape who we are and who we want to be. Then we write them and send them out into the world to shape others.
I would like to thank all the teachers and writers at Two Writing Teachers -these generous souls have given of their time and talent late into the night and early in the morning. As a result, if even for a short amount of time, is a trusting, supportive community built as a place to transform us and help us generate new ideas as well as revisit old ones.