#sol15: March 21, 2015 – Reaching back in time to move forward

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At the beginning of the school year, September through June seems like a deliciously long span of time in which to accomplish all the learning one has spent all summer planning out – organized and well paced, each piece of the learning puzzle exactly choreographed to move and fit and wiggle in to place.  The longer I’ve taught, the more sure I feel of my footing in the classroom, and the better I feel I have become at pacing and judging time.  At least, that’s the way I feel in September: calm, serene, confident.

By Winter Break, some of that “being sure” has worn a bit thin. Snow days, and the flu season have taken their toll; we have wavered from the “plan book” because children are curious about the world they live in, and want to know more (that, in my book, is a good thing), so we wander from the prescribed path and meander through their wonderings .  I have no regrets about these wanderings, for I’ve found that these are the things my kids remember the most, the ones that show their thinking progress and mature from one conversation to the next. So, no regrets, but the beginnings of worry set in…June just seems to be getting closer, and…

By the end of March, with Spring Break right around the corner, and weeks given over to the PARCC, shades of panic begin to set in.  Time, all of a sudden, feels very short indeed – June casts a long and threatening shadow. Will we get it all done? Every year, at just about this time, I am gripped by panic.  I have a week of bumps in the road, and suddenly I am filled with self doubt and worry – there is still so much to do!

At some point, on Thursday afternoon, knowing that I would probably have to tend to my fever on Friday and finally see my doctor, I felt especially gripped by doubt and gloom. But then, I cast my eye around the classroom, and watched my kids at work.  I started to remember our journey from September to now, and how they have grown as thinkers.  They walk into our room with a sense of anticipation, get to work with a feeling of purpose, and share their thoughts and ideas with confidence.   I need to spend less time explaining how things are done, they just seem to know it.   When it was time, for example, to meet with their book club groups to figure our their reading plans, they worked with such efficiency that even I was stunned:five minutes to gauge the length of the book and their reading habits, negotiate their schedules, and come up with reasonable plans; then they found a favorite reading space and dove right into their books.  I didn’t have to do a thing.

And, I think that this last piece is the one thing that lifts my spirits and keeps me hopeful about “getting it all done” by the end of June.  My kids are primed for the work we do.  They have the learning habits in place which will help us meander efficiently through the rest of our curriculum.  Yes, we will need to keep working hard, but we can do so with a sense of comfort, confidence, and even (dare I say it?) joy.

Even though I am not as serene and calm and confident as I was in September, I know we will get through.  Right now, I am going to watch that wonderful video Bonnie Kaplan made last year, when I (somehow) overcame the March panic and celebrated end of June joy:


32 thoughts on “#sol15: March 21, 2015 – Reaching back in time to move forward

  1. Getting to that point where there is less how in the instruction is due to all the previous months of working together. There is always the panic of “I have so much more to teach!” but you have taught them and now they have a plan for what it looks like to learn. Yes, June will be here, but your students will be ready.

  2. Tara,
    I’m having those same feelings. Time just flies and all of a sudden they have a short period of time left with us. But at the same time, they need less HOW they just KNOW. How did that happen? Perhaps all of that purposeful wandering you’ve been doing.

    • I can’t put my finger on it, Julieanne, but I think it’s because the first part of the year is all about consistent expectation and setting the bar high. Bring a bit of a drill sergeant, I guess, in that “hey guys, we are here to do important learning work”. Now, I feel I can step back a bit, they lead more. Can’t exactly say how it all works…just glad that it does!

  3. Getting to the point where students know what to do and how things work is what it is all about. You have done a wonderful job getting them to that place. Plans get waylaid because more important things pop up. Knowing this and making adjustments is what teaching is all about.

  4. Beautiful. I so agree that the year begins confidently, ready to set and hold firm to expectations, and by Spring Break we sometimes feel frazzled. I sometimes forget what it was that we did that worked so well, even though if I just continue everything we’ve established the students are willing to just go along with it. A school year is a long time! I hope you’re feeling better.

  5. Oh, Tara, I cannot even picture you with any shade of panic. You are the epitome of calm, cool, collected and serene! Yes, you have your tasks, but you also have your tolerances that allow you to wander with the students to enhance their learning. This is the home stretch . . . it’s time to loosen the reins and let the students run. You have prepped them well. They CAN learn independently! ❤

  6. June always seems to cast a looming shadow on us all. Thankfully you were able to observe the present state compared to September. Often we forget to do that…..a necessary reflective practice.

  7. I feel this too. And I am amazed when I see students getting it. Friday with fifth graders was exactly that. Independent learners.

  8. Once our district literacy coach told me that the test of a true teacher is when she can leave the room and the work goes on. I feel like a coach most days, and love the confidence that comes when I know I can leave them and they will do the right thing. Some groups take this on better than others. We have one week until Spring break then when we get back another two weeks of testing. My teaching window is quickly closing. And it’s only March!

  9. Panic can be motivating.

    I love the video how it slips from you talking to you teaching and to the children. Your questions to the children as so spot on. The shift to Bonnie’s classroom shows me another way of working. The children’s comments in both classes intrigue me as do their SOLs. They speak with an authority that is impressive. I especially liked the young boy’s SOL that begins at about 11:40 in. His dialogue is so authentic.

    I wish I had seen the video prior to introducing children in Newark to SOL. I’ll be marking it as a favorite so I can show it to some teachers.


  10. So much testing happening everywhere! I need to take a clear look at my students next week and really ponder how far we have come this year. Thanks for the reminder to reevaluate with a clear vision!

  11. Yes, that was always the fun of the end of the year…the panic that you weren’t going to make it, to the actual relaxation that occurs when you see the gears all working together – the independence and the excitement of discoveries. It’s a great time! And it always seems to come together by June! Loved your video!

  12. I love how the focus in this piece changes from what YOU have left to do to what YOUR STUDENTS have learned to do. I know the rushed feeling you describe so well. One thing that always gave me assurance was having a new student enter our classroom midyear. This always helped me see how far my “old” students had come and how much that had already accomplished. And it was uplifting to see them “teach’ and mentor the newcomer.

  13. love love your discovery….They walk into our room with a sense of anticipation, get to work with a feeling of purpose, and share their thoughts and ideas with confidence! That sentence brings joy and smiles. You are a terrific teacher Tara. xo nanc

  14. It is hard to remember that the routines you are teaching will become their independent actions! There’s where you gain time and the confidence returns! I have lived this cycle of emotions, too- thanks for describing it.

  15. I love how you reviewed the whole year and your feelings…joys and worries. You always bring me such clarity when I read your posts! You are a calming force for me Tara!!! I depend on your posts so much!!!

  16. Now, see, THAT’S the kind of data I want to report! The kids just know, they just do it. We have wrapped our 3rd quarter and are heading for the finish line, as well. Great work! You can do it! (Now get better! I’ve been struggling this winter, too, with sickness after sickness. I’m tired of it!)

  17. I know how you feel, and as I outlined the plans for parents and students during conferences, we all realized how little time there really is left. I have a wonderful class, but have played catch up all the while I’ve been with them, and will mourn the time I missed at the end I’m sure. They are working hard, but there are things missed I won’t recoup from those sweet September days. I loved your post, Tara, and am sure you will have a great end. And-take care of yourself, please. Go to the doctor!

  18. I sometimes think it would be easier if we didn’t look at learning in school year chunks. It would leave room for understanding that children learn at different speeds and some goals may take more than a year to achieve.
    I like that you don’t focus on the “done” but on the growth.

  19. I’m so glad Dr. Howard told me about your blog – we need to tell our stories about teaching and learning. We are blending narrative and informational modes of writing as we do this – telling our stories and sharing what a teacher’s job really is. We lift all kinds of presuppositions as we do this work. This is what my colleague and I are trying to do as we blog about our experiences. Would love to know your thoughts: teachersasinnovators.com

  20. It sounds like you have done an incredible job giving your students the foundations and the motivation that they need and we all know that that is what’s most important. Everything else will just fall into place if you love what you do and you understand the basic concepts. Now please go get that fever checked out!

  21. Go ahead say it, Tara…JOY! I love that! If I could highlight a post, I would have definitely highlighted: “They walk into our room with a sense of anticipation, get to work with a feeling of purpose, and share their thoughts and ideas with confidence.” What a gift you give to these students!

  22. Loved this slice and the journey you are taking with another lucky group of kids. even the PARCC can’t hold you back.
    I loved being in your classroom last year.
    I miss it this year😪

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