#celebratelu: Celebrating fresh starts

celebrateCelebrate with Ruth Ayres Writes …. because we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get.

This year, I’ve decided to go old school with my plan book. I’ve been working with Google docs for the past few years, and have loved going paperless.  But…some part of me has missed the old way of  sharpening my pencils and actually writing down those plans, so I ordered a planbook via Etsy which would give me the layout I needed and the option to customize the cover:


This quote by Kylene Beers and picture (created from a Waterlogue photograph of my classroom and Picmonkey) has been on the wall behind my desk for a long time, but this year it felt appropriate to have it in front of me  – a quote that defines my teaching spirit every day of the school year: each day is a new opportunity to affirm the hopes and dreams of the children in my classroom.

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I’ve been thumbing through the blank pages of this new plan book – looking ahead to ideas I have for each day, month, and the year as a whole.  I love the blankness of it all and the opportunity for a fresh start that it represents, and I love the fact that it is neatly contained with a sturdy cover and spiral, which suggests both resolve and flexibility (two necessary and key ingredients in any school year).

Every September, I choose two excerpts from my summer PD reading as new guideposts – wise words I want to live up to in my planning, in my teaching, and especially in the way I listen and guide my kids along in their sixth grade year.

From Kylene Beers and Bob Probst’s new book, Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters :

We argue that the ultimate goal of reading is to become more than we are at the moment; to become better than we are now; to become what we did not even know we wanted to become.  The transactions we have with texts might enable us to do that.  If we read actively, assertively, thoughtfully, responsibly, then any text we read may offer us the possibility that we can reshape ourselves…

Our students, however, too often go to reading expecting a grade not growth.  So, we want to disrupt the thinking kids are doing as they read, thinking that is primarily focused on helping them extract evidence from a text.  We want them aware of the possibility that reading may – perhaps should – give them the opportunity to reshape themselves.  We want them to realize that reading should involve changing their understandings of the world and themselves…We want to ask students to be open to the possibility that a text might be disruptive, and that it is this disruption that gives them the opportunity to learn and grow. (pgs. 59-61)

And from Vicki Vinton’s Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading:

…it’s my hope you feel something akin to that as you emerge from this book: excited, reenergized,and eager to take this work into your classroom…It creates opportunities for us to be big-picture thinkers, innovators, and problem solvers, too.  And by not tying us down to a script or a lesson plan that claims students will meet outcomes that are hard, if not impossible, to reach in a single sitting, it allows us to reclaim the status of professionals in a world that often sees us as the problem.” (pg. 216)

July has been a time of reading, reflecting, discussing, and writing.  As I gaze upon my new planbook, freshly unwrapped and fragrant with “new paperness”, I celebrate fresh starts – how lucky we teachers are to have this opportunity every September!


9 thoughts on “#celebratelu: Celebrating fresh starts

  1. You are a reflective teacher, constantly learning, growing, thinking, and making deliberate choices. It’s inspirational and pleasure to read your posts. Your words are filled with enthusiasm for the new school year.

  2. I miss those paper plan books. We have to enter ours into a system making sure we have a behavioral objective and standards, assessment… So formal and lacking in character, heart. Your new plan book will hold all the hopes you have for your students this year.

  3. I always was so excited to begin the year with a new book, ready to plan. I couldn’t have a daily plan book, but a blank book for the week. Your new one looks awesome, and I love the quotes you’re sharing that are important to you, perhaps this one especially: “We want them to realize that reading should involve changing their understandings of the world and themselves…” Beautiful!

  4. Tara, as you move into the new school year, may all the freshness and blank pages you find open possibilities for your and your students. Your post is a wonderful one for leaders and teachers to read in hopes of finding their own reflective moments that will reshape their ideas for a a new year.

  5. I love paper and sharpened pencils. I have found the last few years I have typed my “plans” more big ideas and written all over them at the end of the day to capture the learning. I have a mixture of both computer and pencil; however, I love the idea of flexible and overarching big ideas into the next months. Thanks for your share.

  6. Tara reading your post energizes me for the new school year. You are right when you state “We are so lucky to get a fresh start every September.” I think I will copy the cover of your plan book and hang it in my office. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Sometimes old school just works! I’ve always been old school with my lesson plans. I work with small groups of students all day and I like to have my plan book right next to me where I can write notes about my students to guide my instruction for the next day. I love the Kylene Beers quote and I love your idea of choosing two excerpts as guideposts.

  8. Tara, I love that first paragraph you shared from Beers and Probst’s book. I made it into a bookmark to share at my adult book club this week. I’ve gone back to a paper planner for my own life, even though I use a digital calendar too. It’s perfect that you choose excerpts from your summer PD as guideposts for the new year. Here’s to another fabulous year with your Smithlings!

  9. Google docs are amazing for collaboration and accessibility (never forgetting it), but I think having something that you can touch and look at and physically manipulate provides grounds me. I’m more connected to it.

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