Total Effort #sol19
I sent this text this morning, but it could have been sent most mornings over the last 20 years to be honest. Wildly overcommitted… today. But today, the overcommitment mentioned above created a sandwich with a very satisfying day of professional development for our staff. Each grade level, an hour and a half of deep discussion, planning, and trying it out. It’s a perfect combination.
It’s also messy. Here’s a small story of today’s mess. Our staff developer has worked with us for two years. This is her first year with the primary grade teams, but she is well known to me. We planned out the skeleton of this learning day last week. As a team, we work well together and are willing to give most lessons with most students a try at the drop of a hat.
A small story about that attitude. Often this drop-of-a-hat planning requires a quick trip to the literacy center for any number of books, office supplies, grand conversation notebooks, mentor texts, or notebooks. Today, we got the idea (her, not me) that we should use an actual Big Book instead of a document camera or a picture book.
Aghast, I said, I didn’t purchase any of these books. They’ve been here forever… I’m not sure. But we were committed to Big Books, so she began to riffle through the collection. Finally, she began to sort books out onto the literacy center floor and I noticed that they were books that we probably both used when we first started teaching. Ones that we remembered fondly, but haven’t looked at in quite a while. See where this is going.
So we brought the books back to the training room and lined them along the chair rail around the room. I noticed then that they were all by a particularly famous author of guided reading texts, all decades old.
One by one the teachers encouraged by us, picked up a book to read and then fairly quickly returned them to the shelf. This book is weird, they said. Hmmm. We read a few. They were odd in that out of date sort of way. The two of us undaunted, chose one to read ourselves and demonstrate to the class. (First Grade) . The book was filled with animals, when one laughed at the other, the other would threaten to eat them and then do just that. Page after page of one cantankerous animal being eaten by a slightly larger one. That dog can’t eat the cat. said one very astute first grader. As you might guess at the end of the story, the alligator gets the hiccups and much like that little old lady, all the animals rejoin. In the end, all the animals go happily off with each other. Crazy, inappropriate book.
The students were astounded that we offered up this crazy tale, but by page 2 were reading along noticing word endings and becoming more and more fluent. All of us enjoyed the reading, not because the book was great, but because the company was. A passel of first graders, some enthusiastic teachers, a moment of time, and a sketchy plan with a purpose. A almost perfect combination.
How does this relate to my wild overcommitment or my last minute searching and planning? Perhaps this is what they mean by not letting the good get in the way of the great. We didn’t need a perfect book, a perfect plan, or even a perfect amount of time. The readers showed what they knew, we gave them a chance to try out their skills, and the two adults (and perhaps the observers) had a jolly good literacy experience. Next time, a teacher will try these ideas out. That teacher might have a better plan. She might have the tools all perfectly set out. He might have a better book. (I hope so… I’ll be buying some this week). Or maybe they won’t. Maybe they will get the idea to try this on their way to school, they will read through a book they have quickly, plan out a lesson in ten minutes, and artfully deliver some magic all before lunch.
I hope so.
I’ll be wildly overcommitted tomorrow as well, but if you have a wild idea to try, I’m all in.