Slice of Life Tuesday: Learning lessons the hard way

Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers  
     Monday was to be a big day in Writing Workshop. We’ve been working (and working, and working!) on memoirs, and we were finally ready to publish – a writing celebration!  We love writing celebrations in our classroom – good things to eat, stories to share and giggle over, writing to savor.  The sign up sheet was posted on the easel on Friday, and lots of kids signed up – when I checked at the end of class, we had everything from food to napkins all taken care of. 
     This morning, I arrived early to set up – to get the compliment sheets ready, set up our “table of goodies” complete with table cloth, and make sure we were ready to go when writing workshop began.  As my kids drifted in, they made their way to the table with their contributions before taking off for their first period classes.  I left to make copies of our compliments sheets, and by the time I’d returned period one was underway.  But something just did not look right…the table was bare!
     We had napkins, plates and cups – but nothing to eat or drink!   I checked the sign up sheet on the easel – yes, kids had signed up to bring bagels and muffins and juice.  Somewhere between Friday and Monday, however, these kids had forgotten that they had made these commitments.  We still had 20 minutes left in the period – I could conceivably race down the street to Dunkin Donuts and save the day.  But…it just did not feel right to do so.
     Every day, it seems, we have kids who forget their homework, lunch money, whatever, and Mom or Dad has to hurry over to save the day.  This is the age of helicopter parents, and our kids just expect that someone will save their day.  As a sixth grade teacher, the gateway to middle school, I wage a constant tug of war with my kids – yes I am here to help you, but you must do your part.  So, I looked upon that sad, empty table…and just left things as they were.  I did take down the sign up sheet, though – I just knew that would be trouble.
     My kids charged in when the bell rang, eager to get going with the celebration – and one, by one, they came to the realization – no food!!!   I didn’t have to say anything, they just knew.  So – our writing celebration got off to a subdued start.  Bit by bit, my kids started to put the glorious feast they had anticipated out of their minds, and focus instead on the true purpose of the celebration – sharing and enjoying each others’ writing.  Soon, there was laughter back in our room, and the sounds of voices commenting and reading – we did manage to celebrate after all….
     As we were filing away our work and assembling our portfolios, however, one of the “leaders” in our room asked me when I thought our next writing celebration would be.  Two weeks from now, I surmised – we are working on the first of two units in digital storytelling next.  Would I give her the names of people who had signed up to bring stuff she wondered, she’d like to be able to text them a friendly reminder – emphasis on friendly, she assured me.  
    No problem, kiddo, I responded – take charge!  

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20 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: Learning lessons the hard way

  1. I just discovered your blog through the Comment Challenge. (You posted on mine — thank you!) I love what you are doing here. I taught 7th grade English before I had my kids, and I can just picture your students. You write about them so well! And you are a wonderful teacher — I'm so glad they have you.

  2. Your celebrations sound wonderful. You did the right thing by not stepping in to cover for the students who forgot to bring food. That was a life lesson that goes beyond what's on your syllabus.

  3. Tara! What a perfect story. I am using it in my classroom. It says so much about responsible kindness–in you and in the children. Turned out to be a perfect celebration in its own way. Love the way you told this.

  4. "Soon there was laughter back in our room, and the sounds of voices commenting and reading . . . " loved the mental image you created here. What a good lesson in responsibility on this day.

  5. Great story, Tara. Thanks for sharing it. I'm not a teacher but I see some of the same "forgetfulness" among the Scouts in my Boy Scout Troop—that is, until they discover socks or food missing from their backpacks. It's tempting to bail them out. But if there's not a safety issue, I allow those lessons to leave their own mark.

  6. Good for you for not being the "helicopter teacher"! It's so easy sometimes to just go ahead and do it so others aren't disappointed.I love your description of your writing celebrations. I may have to do that with my creative writing students. I have a feeling this would be a great hit with my students!

  7. I found your blog through the comment challenge, and I think I'll stay. My middle schooler also had the same teacher for Social Studies and Language Arts, and I had never heard of that, and now I see you so maybe I just missed a common educational practice. Poking around in your posts I can more clearly see how they integrate the lessons and it makes sense.Good for you for letting the chips fall. I try to treat my kids as I would my sister — if they forget something and I'm making an extra trip to school anyway, I'll bring it along, but I won't inconvenience myself. And I expect them not to ask me to.

  8. This is a wonderful post, Tara! I love that you allowed the consequences…and I especially loved that you took down the sign-up sheet…no accusations…no recriminations…just someone stepping up to the plate and taking on the responsibility for reminding others the next time.Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving the comment about the Perfect Picture Book Friday selection…I am new to that challenge and I'm looking forward to contributing every week. I'm all about picture books and using them and crafts and cooking activities to build self-esteem. 🙂 And I talk to parents during presentations and workshops about the 3 C's…compassion, consistency and consequences.Nice to connect. 🙂

  9. Wow!!! What a great, teachable moment. I'm glad you stuck to your guns… and that it worked out in the end.I know my generation sometimes feels like we practically raised ourselves, and so the pendulum has swung hard in the opposite direction. I sympathize with today's parents: it's so hard not to want to give your children everything. But sometimes facing consequences like this is the only way to learn!

  10. Love your post. I taught 1st grade for ten years. Writer's Workshop was always my students' favorite time of the day. I remember one day, returning from a glorious field trip to the San Diego Zoo, one of my students burst into tears upon realizing that we missed Writer's Workshop. I gave her a hug and assured her we would write tomorrow, but I was secretly a bit pleased that she was so passionate about her writing time. I'm subbing now. Trying to concentrate more of my time on writing, but I miss that day to day writing journey with kids. I do it at home with my own little ones. They love it. Oh, I could go on and on and on…Ali B.

  11. I love that you didn't save them. Not saving them, and teaching the parents to not save them either, is one of the many, fabulous ways to grow kids into responsible adults. Glad to know your helicopter doesn't work! 🙂

  12. As a teacher who deals with helicopter parents (and the results of their behavior) every day, I find this post encouraging. Without consequences, there's no lesson. We as teachers know that letting students experience consequences is actually one of the most loving things we can do for them. PS, If I'd had a teacher like you, I would have realized my passion for writing much earlier in life. Thanks for doing what you're doing.

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