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Up the street and around the corner from our house, the dog walking route I take three times a day and every day with my Sophie, lives a music teacher. There is also a stone wall, a tree and a fire hydrant – prime attractions for any dog alive – in front of this house, so we pause here very often.
In the early mornings, we hear piano scales: precise, disciplined, efficient: the music teacher getting ready for the day. In the afternoons, we hear student efforts: sometimes fumbling and stumbling, sometimes less so: the music teacher getting through the day. But at night, we hear wave after wave of gorgeously played sonatas, etudes, and the like: the music teacher enjoying her craft for herself.
On some nights, when the curtains have not been drawn, I can look into the big picture window and see the pleasure she takes in her craft – she is deeply engrossed, often smiling at some combination of notes that sound just the way she wants. I wish the students I see trudging up her driveway in the afternoon, clutching their song books with grim I-need-to-get-through-this determination could see this side of their music teacher: the side that loves and lives music. It might change their perspective of music as a chore into music as a gift.
Early this morning, as Sophie and I enjoyed a little Chopin on our walk by the piano teacher’s house, my thoughts turned to two podcasts from The Teacher Learning Sessions I had been listening to and mulling over – a wise and fabulous conversation between Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher:
I love Penny’s podcasts for their learning and wisdom, of course, but also for the love of reading and writing that shines through in each of the conversations she shares: these are educators who live and breathe literacy, just as deeply as my neighbor up the street lives and breathes music. That kind of commitment and joy empowers and inspires us both as teachers and practitioners of the craft, that’s the kind of commitment and joy in the reading and writing process that we want to foster in our kids, too – it moves them beyond just learning with us for the year and shows them that literacy is a worthy habit to grow all their lives.
Kelly Gallagher closed with these thoughts, which have been rattling around in my brain this Slice of Life morning:
I don’t care how good the reading and writing standards are if kids don’t read and write a whole lot more than they are currently reading and writing. It’s just not going to happen…because a curriculum that is a mile wide and an inch deep is not going to serve my kids…If they’re not reading and writing, I don’t care that I can check off that I covered the standards this year in my classroom…I think we need a mind shift that, yes, we know that we are going to teach certain “stuff”, but what we’re really teaching are readers and writers and THEY are the curriculum. We’re looking at their needs and we’re looking at where they are, and that is where we start in trying to figure out how to create a classroom that’s conducive to making them readers and writers. I don’t start the year thinking ‘what’s my test question going to be for To Kill A Mockingbird?’, I start the year by thinking ‘are these kids reading and writing enough?’ and if the answer is ‘no’, then what am I going to do about it?
I love this. It gets right to the heart of our teaching practices…we need to focus on living and teaching to the reading writing life, so that our kids can see that it is a worthwhile and life long practice. Reading and writing is not a chore, after all, it is a gift.