Slice of Life Tuesday:Just another morning…

Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Two Writing Teachers

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It’s just another morning…

Jack Frost has left his tracks across our windows, and they sparkle softly in winter’s blue light.  The radiator sighs and tries mightily to take the edge off the early morning cold in time for the arrival of the residents of our room.  When I turn on the lights, the daffodils on my desk glow like a beacon of good cheer.

It’s just another morning…

Boots and sneakers gallumph and squeak up the stairs and down the hallway, accompanied by shouts of laughter and early morning student whining.  Lockers swing and smack open and shut, open and shut.  Two boys attempt to roll down the ramp, and then pretend not to as they catch sight of me. A big group assembles around one student desperately trying to finish his homework before the first bell – they are calling time, just to keep him on his toes.

It’s just another morning…

Our room begins to fill.  Plants are watered. Desktops are made ready.  A group sits on the radiator reading, their long hair lifts and falls to the rhythm of its breathing.  Someone has wedged herself under the easel with a barricade of cushions – the last few pages of a book need to be enjoyed in utter privacy.  Two boys are fashioning paper airplanes as five others look on: paper airplanes are serious work, an art form even.   A group has gathered on the reading rug to study for a Latin test.  In the very far corner of the room, someone has managed to suspend himself upside down from the rocking chair – his eyes are focused on the ceiling, his arms are splayed out on the rug and his fingers are tap tap tapping a rhythm only he can hear.

It’s just another morning… I breathe it all in.

#celebratelu: Activism

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Celebrate with Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes  …. because we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get.

I have always been political, and I have always been vocal about my politics.  Ever since high school, I’ve marched for causes, signed thousands of petitions, written an equal number of letters, and done my fair share of contributing my efforts to get the candidates I’ve supported elected.  In my view, this what active citizenry looks like: you stay engaged, you participate, and you educate yourself so that you have a leg to stand on when the opposition comes at you…which they will, for that is also part of participatory democracy.

As a teacher, I wrestle with how vocal to be in my classroom, and also in my social media space: what can I write about? what should I share on Twitter?  This election has presented unique challenges because Trump was so often beyond the pale in terms of what he said and did.  There was no way to present this election in the normal way for my students, as I have for so many elections before, because he was simply not a normal candidate – no normal candidate has ever spoken or behaved the way he did, and I certainly did not want Trump to become the “new normal” for my young students.  Even watching the debates became impossible, for many parents let me know that they would not allow their children view the debates “just in case”, which was their way of saying they did want to expose their children to the language used by Mr. Trump.

After the election, there have been even more issues to contend with – the Immigration Ban, the farcical confirmation process, Trump’s Tweeting habits, and the rash of hate crimes which my students are really paying attention to, because they are in the news all the time now:

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There is a fine line between informing and advocating in a classroom setting, but I find myself having to cross it often these days because my kids are full of questions and opinions of their own: why are people racist? why does anti-Semitism still exist? why do people say hateful things? why don’t grown ups seem to ever listen to each other? why does everyone always shout at each other on the news? why are we still talking about all this bad stuff these days-haven’t we learned anything from the past?

These discussions always bring me back to something Mamie Till wrote in her book about her son Emmett’s murder: Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America:

That is, after all, how it works. We don’t come here with hatred in our hearts. We have to be taught to feel that way. We have to want to be that way, to please the people who teach us to want to be like them. Strange, to think that people might learn to hate as a way of getting some approval, some acceptance, some love.

Our classrooms and schools have to be places where hatred can be given no quarter, not even by silence:

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So, even though I feel as though I am skating on thin ice sometimes, I will continue to open our classroom to difficult questions and discussions.  Truth telling is a form of activism, and I celebrate that.

The Mock Caldecott arrives in Room 202

Over winter break, I read Jess Lifshitz’s fabulous post on conducting a mock Caldecott unit and knew right away that it was exactly what we needed to be doing in the week we returned to school.  We had been immersed in nonfiction book clubs in the weeks leading up to break, and although these discussions had been informative and interesting, I felt something was missing from my students’ conversations.  A dive into stacks of glorious picture books, I thought, might just be the perfect way to get our reading community excited about being together again.

As is her way, Jess laid out the unit with exacting, thoughtful detail (complete with forms and resources!), which gave me direction.  Our jam packed curriculum calendar does not allow for the quite as much time as Jess had with her fifth graders (17 days), and my focus was narrower.  I had nine days to work with, which I hoped was enough time in which we could:

  • connect as a reading community
  • practice our listening skills
  • develop our ability to gather evidence about our claim and support it effectively, and politely

We practiced using the Caldecott evaluation criteria with a read aloud and discussion of Last Stop on Market Street. img_6797

My kiddos were wonderful about picking up on the literary elements they noticed, but found an exciting new avenue of accessing meaning in a story through  its art work. This was, really,  the big breakthrough of the unit and the work they found most worthwhile. Actually, they LOVED this work!

Jess had shared a video of her art teacher discussing the art work in Beekle, and my students learned so much about how to analyze the merits of each illustration with an eye for perspective, mood, texture, contrast, and technique.  They turned to evaluating their own stacks of Caldecott worthy books with a much keener understanding about what to look for and appreciate in the interrelation between pictures and text, which became evident in the quality of their note taking (if not, unfortunately, in their spelling ):

Even the way they held their books to read changed – the illustrations required holding the books closer and taking the time to peer at details they would otherwise have just raced past.

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Because they were evaluating the relationship between text and art, there was the need to re-read, re-look, re-think each page in the context of the whole.  This was an entirely new set of skills to practice alone and then together as a group, and I loved the progress they made each day in learning to listen, to frame their claims with evidence (and courtesy), and to re-consider their original thinking based on a partner’s different perspective.

It’s been a noisy few days as groups have met to narrow their selection and choose their nominees, but we have learned something new about art and perspective even as these posters were designed and assembled: how the visual can be a critical aspect of framing an argument.

Today, we presented our cases for our nominees and voted.  I was impressed by how my students were able to talk about the artwork in their selection – how they had noticed subtleties of brushstroke, design, perspective and placement, and how they had come to appreciate the critical relationship between the words on a page and the artwork designed to highlight its meaning and give it depth.

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Our winners were:  What Do You Do With An Idea (A.M. class) and Ada’s Violin (P.M. class)…but the real winner was the unit itself.  Here’s some of what my kids had to say when I asked them to note their take aways (something I always ask them to do at the end of a project and unit):

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Celebrate this week: Community comes first

Celebrate with Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes  …. because we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get!

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So much to celebrate this week, because it was our first week back at school, which is, in many ways, the most important week of the school year.  You can (and must) adjust, refine, recalibrate, and retune your teaching all year long, but community and expectation are anchored in whatever takes place in that first week of school.

For this is when our kids are most keenly attentive to what you say, how you say it, and how you follow through.  Soon, (as in the second week of school!), they will shift their focus to where their true interest lies – each other; but in that first week you have their undivided attention, and they are watching you as closely as they ever will.

So, in our first week, we focused on community rather than content: how can we work together, share together, make mistakes together, and grow together? What must each of us bring to our learning environment so that it can thrive? What must we ask of ourselves so that our classroom is a safe and yet exciting place to learn?

Community comes first.  So, this Celebrate post celebrates, first, our space.  Every year is a new year, and I do try to make some changes; but I’m proud of the space that’s been shaped by over a decade of students and their needs, that it reflects what they are comfortable with, and what they (and I) need:

I celebrate the way my kids came together for the ever-popular Marshmallow Challenge, our first exercise in collaboration.  It was a noisy, sticky, glorious mess, but we learned so much about each other.  Best of all, we learned that working together takes compromise and communication – and I celebrate that.

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The first days of the school year always bring the search for a One Little Word to serve as a guide for the months ahead.  I loved the way my kids sifted thoughtfully through likely words, and tried to figure out what theirs might be.  They learned a little about themselves in the process, and they learned a little about each other, too.  We began the search for what is important to our sixth grade selves, which is something to celebrate, too.

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Perhaps the only content based activity that we engaged in was setting up the foundation for our reading workshop: the purpose of reading in our lives.  Great discussions and insight came about through two simple questions: why do we read? how can books change us?  We realized that every one of us in our room feels that reading matters, and that is cause for celebration.

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Friday concluded with gathering together to decorate our writer’s notebooks.  I am always moved by the pictures my kids choose to bring in, these reflect  what and who they hold dear.  I loved listening in as they explained their pictures to each other, even as they were placing them just so and making sure their notebooks were “cool”.  They were, of course, practicing story telling, rehearsing the ways in which they will choose to write as the year goes on.  They seemed to already know that their stories mattered, and that there would be a receptive and supportive audience – two important things for every writer to know, and I celebrate that.

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Assessing the writing survey to plan for a new year

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I’ll be honest, I was very nervous about what I would find when I opened up the writing surveys, because the beginning of the year survey revealed two things: most of my kids hated to write, and most of my kids were sure that they would continue to hate to write. But, hooray hooray, not once was this hatred mentioned in the end of the year surveys.  No one really spoke of loving to write, but they all seemed surprised that it wasn’t quite as awful as they’d expected.  Score one for Mrs. Smith.

What changed in the way you choose what to write about this year?

Not surprisingly, almost all my students mentioned choice of topics and exposure to many writing genres two big changes in the way they chose to write.  In response after response, my kids spoke about the importance of getting to write about topics that mattered to them, and how this had given them an opportunity to discover why writing matters.

I used to make essays in 5th grade. Just essays. All the time. I really didn’t know there were other types of writing than just essays until 6th grade. Now I learned about many different types of writing and now instead of choosing essays all the time I choose Feature Articles, Poems, Short Stories, and more. My three favorite pieces of writing we did this year was Short Stories, S.O.L, and Memoir.

The way I choose what to write has changed this year because I am definitely choosing more topics that matter to me . Not topics that I just came up with in my head and that I thought may be interesting, but stuff I really cared about.

I became more open and comfortable with writing multiple different genres.

Name two ways in which you have grown as a writer this year.

Once again, the freedom to write in many genres was appreciated.  But, beyond that, my kids learned to see value in developing writing stamina (I am proud to say that they could write for 45 minute stretches by the end of the year, which is pretty darn awesome for 6th. graders), and in the writing process itself – which includes multiple drafts and revision. I loved that many spoke of gaining independence, coming to rely on themselves to understand when and where their work needed revision or elaboration.   Many saw the purpose of writing plans, and all appreciated the feedback I provided.  Consistent feedback is one of the hardest things to make time for in a middle school setting when you have so many students, but my student surveys drove home the message that this was time well worth spending.

I have grown as a writer this year because I have written in different styles of writing, and because we wrote A LOT this year.

I have done more revision of my work this year, and I have improved in editing my writing, and adding details and stretching out the story. I also have also learned to develop more complex ideas.
This year I have learned to be more independent, and more able to revise my own work.
1) I have grown to realize that it is possible to change the genre of writing you are doing so that it fits better with the situation. 2) I now go through MANY stages of writing and revision before I turn it in.
I have been able to revise my own work and become a better writer by reading books and getting ideas from books
What changed in your writing habits this year? Be specific and give examples.
I was so happy to learn that my kids loved and valued their weekly Slice of Life writing.  As a writer, I know that that weekly discipline is important to the way I notice and make note of the world around me – knowing that I will have to write a Slice of Life every week just makes me live a more observant, and therefore more writerly, life.  So, score two for Mrs. Smith that her kids felt the same way.  Most spoke of the habit of planning their writing, and many learned that revision was a natural and necessary part of the writing process.
I wrote a lot more than last year, and therefor, my writing improved. Writing an SOL every week helped me a lot.
What changed in my writing habits this year was that rather than websites I used books for research more often, I wrote more often, I was more decisive in what I would write about, and I procrastinated less.
Before, I would plan my writing, but now I have learned to plan my stories in more depth. This helps me A LOT because when I am having trouble writing a story, I can look back at my plan to help me.
What surprised you about your year of writing in sixth grade?
Most of my kids were surprised by their own abilities to write in many different ways – that writing is flexible and therefore empowering. I think that the answers to this question were the most moving for me to read; my kids learned what they were capable of.  What more can a teacher ask for?
I am a better writer than I thought I was, and I like it more than I used to. Writing well is also much more work than I had thought. Now I can try new styles of writing, and experiment with what I do. I can have fun with it.
I was surprised at how easily writing came to me by the end of sixth grade. I used to hate it and try to avoid it because it was hard for me to find a topic and write a page about it, but now I can pick a topic quickly, and I can write pages and pages about it!
What do you know about yourself as a writer now that you didn’t know when you began sixth grade?
I asked this question because I knew that none of my kids thought of themselves as writers when the year began, and this was an intentional teaching point and goal for me all year.   The responses to this question also moved me to tears (what can I say? thinking about my no-longer-sixth-graders makes me tear up, because their year with me is now a thing of the past) because what they had to say was unexpected.
I know that I have to keep practicing if I want to be a writer .
I know that I am a better writer than I thought I was. I know that I really like writing poetry, because I am more free to do whatever I want. I don’t have to follow a format. I can be creative, follow or break rules, and just be free to let my ideas go.
I know now that I am a pretty good writer and it takes practice.
I can’t put myself inside limits and I need to expand.
I’m a good writer. I thought I was a terrible writer because I didn’t write a lot last year.
I didn’t know that i liked poems and was good at them. It was a new talent in writing that I found this year, and really amazed and excited me.
I can write more than I think.
Something that I learned about myself is that when I am really passionate about something, I tend to write well on the topic.
I developed a passion for writing memoirs. I like writing memoirs because it helps me relive my memories from before and all the fun and sad times I had.
What are some things you wish we had done in writing workshop this year? Why?
The answers to this question vary greatly from year to year, they reflect (as is to be expected) the personality of a particular group of students in a particular year.  This year’s class wanted more time to free write, and write poetry.  Poetry? That made my heart sing!
I wish we did more pieces like the one about Mrs. Smith coming into the classroom with weird clothes and a bag of something. It was fun to imagine what could be in the bag and what happened the rest of the day.
Free time writing. I feel like we just need time to write about something and not get graded on it.
I think that it would’ve been cool if we had tried to do something like a graphic novel and created it on google slides or draw. This is really outside of the box, but students would like it.
I wish we had written more poetry. Poetry allows the writer to be creative and free.
What were TWO of the most helpful ways in which Mrs. Smith helped you become a better writer?
I hoped to learn what my kids thought was helpful to them, as opposed to my own ideas about what I could do to move them along as writers.  In typical sixth grade fashion, they let me know what worked i pretty blunt terms.  The mini lessons I had labored over proved to be winners, proving that sixth graders value instruction almost as much as fun.  Writing conferences and mentor texts were also appreciated, as well as feedback and the practice of giving compliments.
You taught mini lessons which showed me how to do one specific thing. Sometimes I was confused about something, but the mini lessons helped me understand it better.
All of the comments you gave me/ advice and mini lessons.
Mrs. Smith commented on our writing and sent it back to us with suggestions. She pushed me constantly to do more, even when I handed in something that I thought was well written, I learned that I could always do more.
TWO ways Mrs. Smith helped me this year is by first making me really notice my very bad spelling problem. Two Mrs. Smith really helped me with my revision and learning how to slow down and go back and read over my work so it was my best.
One was definitely when she gave me feed back on my writing, and the second one was when she taught us using the mini lessons.
1. By going through the editing process with me on all genres. It pushed me to become a better writer. 2.By having writing conferences with me whenever I needed help or I was stuck while drafting.
I always feel that I learn more from my students than I teach them.  Certainly, their honest and forthright answers help me understand where I need to focus my time and attention in the coming year.  Teaching writing workshop sometimes feels like an impossible task – so many kids, so many voices to nurture and nudge forward.  It is a daunting task to keep up with each student and give the consistent feedback necessary to maintain momentum and growth.  My students’ writing surveys showed me what I needed to know: they want to be writers, they need my instruction to honor that desire.

Assessing the reading survey to plan for a new year

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In the waning days of the last school year, my sixth graders completed reading surveys – a series of questions (via Google Forms) designed to help me figure a few things out: did my students feel as though they had made progress as readers over the course of the year? what had helped them along in this progress? what got in the way of their reading lives?  Summer, thus far, has been devoted to planning ahead by reading stacks of new YA and PD books.  Now, as I revise and tweak my curriculum plans for the new school year, it is finally time to unpack those surveys and allow my students to help me revise and tweak. Here’s what I asked, and (more importantly) here’s how my kids responded.

What changed in the way you chose what to read this year?

Most of my kids felt that they had had a greater choice in what they read, and that the large classroom library had presented more genre experimentation and discovery.  Many said that they were more flexible in their approach to choosing books to read, and were willing to take genre risks.  Book Clubs were always mentioned as gateways to previously shunned genres, and pleasant discoveries about the merits of those genres.

What changed was that I didn’t use to like to read, but after this year I started to pick out more books to read of every different genre. Some of the books I liked and some I didn’t but I still read them because maybe if I read a little more of the book I would like it.  

Name two ways in which you have grown as a reader this year.

 

All my kids wrote about choosing books with greater thought and care, and that they felt they could stretch themselves to think deeper about the books they were reading.  Book stacks, book talks, book clubs and conversations about books helped them, too.  It seems as though the culture of book love, which we work so hard to establish and carry through the school year, paid off big time.

I have grown by finding more books that I enjoy. I think that by doing book talks I feel more open to asking people about food books they have read.

Many of my kids wrote about becoming more thoughtful about their reading, as well, a big shift from their fast-paced-plot-driven reading at the beginning of the year. Stopping to think and jotting notes, something they have such an aversion to doing at the beginning of the year, started to make sense to them!

I have learned to stop and think about what is really happening in the story, and I learned how to respond better to the book and make connections.

I’ve grown as a reader this year both by developing my reading comprehension skills, but by also being a more thoughtful, and concentrated reader.

Name two ways in which you set and met reading goals this year. What helped you in this process?

Having goals and reading plans was mentioned by almost every student.  Most of them had begun the year with a hit or miss approach to finding books to read, which (more often than not) led to abandoning those books.  My students wrote about being more intentional in their choices, and of the importance of setting personal reading goals for themselves.

One way I set and met my reading goals was that I made a list of books that I wanted to read. Whenever I was done with a book or series, I knew what book that I wanted to read next! What helped me in this process was that I made a list in my reading journal and in my mini what board at my house so that I can be prepared! Another way I set and met my reading goals is by getting recommendations from friends and teachers (Mrs. Smith). Mrs. Smith would get a book stack for me and I would choose which books I like so that I can read it! I learned to make bookstacks for myself, too.

One of my goals were to pick up a better stamina. So when we did the book clubs I found I could read for a lot longer then before. Book clubs forced me to read a certain amount of pages in a certain amount of time which made me push myself to read faster and more frequently.

I’ve made sure that I was starting a new goal once I finished a previous one. I kept a list of goals in my agenda and it helped.

What changed in your reading habits this year? Be specific and give examples.

My students’ responses told me that they had learned to set up reading routines so that they could be sure to carve time from their many after school activities in order to read.  They had become much more open to discovering new genres and authors, and to learn how to use their Reading Journals strategically.

I was before very restricted to only reading realistic fiction. But from reading The War “That Saved My Life” it made me realize how wonderful these other genres are too. So now I am not afraid or mad when I have to read a different genre.

I began to jot down some notes while I was reading at home, simply because I find that it helps me organize my thinking. For example, last year, I would just read a book and understand it pretty well. Now, I take notes and understand so much more about the characters, the setting, and the plot.

I have learned to “bookmark” specific parts of the book so I can go back to refer while in a conference.
When we read The War That Saved My Life, it made me think more deeply about the book, and made me connect the book to real life situations.
What surprised you about your year of reading in sixth grade?
Reading is thinking, I believe this to be fundamental and so we spent a lot of time thinking with each other and jotting down our ideas over our year of reading workshop. I was glad that  this kind of reading/thinking  showed up as one thing that was most surprising to my kiddos.
I was surprised that we would take notes and talk about books so much. In 5th grade all you had to do is read the book, but now in 6th grade we had to actually understand the book and it’s characters and plot.
I was surprised at how much better I understood the books that I was reading.
What surprised me was the kind of thinking we had to do. For example, the note and wonder. Another thing is what we did for ‘Kiki and Jacques,’ where we drew what we thought.
I didn’t realize how lost you could get in books, especially as you get older.
What do you know about yourself as a reader now that you didn’t know when you began sixth grade?
The answers to this one covered the gamut, but the one thing each response had in common was that my kids felt a strong sense of empowerment and that reading could be both fun (for sixth graders, that is all important) as well as a meaningful experience.
I have a large reading capacity and can read more in one day than I ever thought. I also learned that books can change our whole entire perception of things.
I realized that I can start to express how I feel about the book and really get deeper into it. For example, I was able to imagine myself being in the character’s shoes and understand how much stress or how nervous this character is.
I now know that my reading level is actually higher than my other teachers told me. I also realize that reading is more FUN than last year, NO MORE POINTLESS POST-ITS! They legitimately sucked the fun out of reading books for myself. It was never FOR myself, actually. The post-its, and all of it, was for the teacher. It’s more fun this year!
That if I make the right choice of what to read, I can.
Tell me how talking about reading helped you as a reader.
Sixth graders love to talk, and need no excuse to be ready, willing, and able to launch into impassioned conversations about everything.  The challenge is being able to harness this “talking energy” productively, and I will admit that this is hard to do.  We are, very often, a very noisy sixth grade class.  I was happy to learn that my kids took away what I’d hoped they would – that book talk allows us to share, grow, and clarify ideas.
Talking about reading in class helped me understand and learn the character’s thoughts, feelings, behavior, and information. It helped me take notes down and learn about the story-line of the book.
Talking about my readings helped me remember all that I learned and this helped me let out my thoughts and hear other peoples thoughts of the same book.
It gave me new perspectives on the pieces and how they are made and what goes into them.
It made me want to read more and more
Tell me how writing about reading helped you as a reader.
We use our reading journals to keep track of our thinking, to sketch out ideas and notes, to lift lines and write long, and in a variety of other ways which I have written about in this post for Two Writing Teachers.  It is always a struggle for me when it comes to assigning reading responses, because I am conscious of the fact that this work will take time, and that my kids need more time to just read.
At the end of last year, I found a student’s reading journal in the lost and found.  Thinking it belonged to one of my kids, I fished it out and began leafing through it.  I quickly discovered that it was the perfect example of how teachers can waste and devalue our student’s reading and writing time with assignments and rubrics like this:
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and empty responses to our students like this:
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But, there is great value in thoughtfully assigned written responses which are thoughtfully responded to.  Such assignments are conversations with our students about the books they are reading and the meaning they find within these stories.  I don’t know that I have figured out the right balance in my written reading response assignments, but I was glad to read that these helped my kids organize their thinking, and to dig deep.
When I wrote about a book, it helped me to figure out all my thoughts and organize my thinking.
This helped me learn and take more out of the book by really digging deep into the context of the book.
Writing made me think more deeply.
What are some things you wish we had done in reading workshop this year? Why?
The answers here all led in one direction and were unequivocal: more time to read!
I wished that we had more reading time during class. When I come home from school I have some long activities like cello, guitar, and piano lessons that I don’t have any time to read. So I wish next year for fifth graders, they will have more time to read.
I wish that we had more time to just read. I believe this because we are supposed to read a lot during our younger lives, but with so many after-school activities, it becomes hard to block out times to do a big chunk of reading for many of us.
Parsing through these surveys (we did one for writing, as well) gives me a chance to rethink and evaluate our reading workshop practices – clearly, some aspects of our reading workshop need to be tweaked and restructured.  My biggest take away and priority? Carving out more time for my sixth graders to simply read!

Choose kind…

It is a hot, hot day.

Our Memorial Day assembly was solemn and lovely, but now my kids are restless, and anxious to talk.  It is physically impossible for sixth graders to be quiet for more than ten minute spans, and the assembly lasted almost two periods.  They try to settle in and begin the reading/writing/conferring work that is our multi genre writing workshop now…but our classroom ripples with hard-to -contain- in- one- seat energy.

It is a hot, hot day. And there is a lot to do.

As we close in on the last weeks of school, I am ever conscious of the clock and the work to be done.  I catch myself beginning the period before the bell has rung, and ending the period after it was supposed to be over.  There is never enough time in any given school day as it is, but at this time of year the clock seems to be ticking faster.  Today, as we break for the Memorial Day weekend early (those unused snow days!), I can hear an unpleasant pitch to the tone of my voice: it’s the sound of an anxious teacher, a teacher too conscious of the ticking clock, and lessons still needing to be taught.

It is a hot, hot day. And there is a lot to do. But, the children need me to choose kind.

I thought about that this morning, when a student came to our room early to discuss her photo essay (what she said she needed help with), but spent half an hour talking through a  “friend situation” instead (what she really needed help with).  This is the time of year when friendships have frayed, and long summer days without friends to hang out with loom large.

I thought of my first  writing conference of the day in which my student let drop that he was “actually, really not looking forward very much to summer after all”. One of his parents is moving out of the house and across the state. It will be the summer he has already begun to call “the divorce summer”.

I thought of an eighth grader who had walked me to my car the other day. He is going to attend high school elsewhere, leaving all his friends behind and having to start all over again.  “I will be a nobody,” he said, mournfully, “and where I am a somebody, they’ll just forget all about me”.

I thought of the student who  stopped by our classroom at lunch to announce that the boy she’d had a crush on all year (the one she’d called “the devil’s spawn” just the other day) had finally asked her out.  I took in her  beaming face, and the way she hopped around with delight, and I let myself “forget” (just for a few minutes) that she is quite behind in her writing project.  We’ll get to that later, I felt, right now this kiddo needs a happy  hug.

It is a hot, hot day. And there is a lot to do. But, the children need me to choose kind.  Especially now.