We Could… #sol20
April 28, 2020
In these crazy days, it’s so simple to look at what is so different about our practice, our daily lives, our students, our relationships with each other, and so many other aspects of our lives’ work, the work that seems we won’t return to for at least six months. I haven’t really been without that schedule for any appreciable time for more than twenty years and most of twenty prior to that. So the thought of thirteen weeks of sitting in this basement library clinging to scraps of contact with students and their teachers is soul-crushing. So I’m just going to have to find another way to look at this situation.
I’ve been talking recently about how we can keep the heart of our work in the body of this new day to day. What is it that our students responded most to and how can we make the closest proximity to that thing? It’s difficult to consider the daily subtle moves we made as teachers when our audience is a thirteen inch MacAir laptop screen and the closest thing to a student I have is a seventy-five pound ten year old black lab mix who loves a good story as much as the next person, but doesn’t have much to say about author’s purpose or the story arc. My new books mostly come from another electronic screen and my read-alouds are pre-recorded, so how do I make it feel like a glorious grand discussion and an intimate shoulder to shoulder conference?
While I don’t have the answer for you, I think I might be able to steer us toward the shore. Let’s dream for a few minutes. When you planned for your mini-lesson or your active engagement, your independent practice, or your gentle conferring, what did you hope for deep in your heart? Connections? You still know those students in front of you. You know what they like to read, how soon they want to talk to you after you send them off to work. You know if they need to explain their thinking first or if they need you to draw them a little map to get started. You know if you stop in a read aloud and ask them to write down something if they can come back to the story or text with you or if it’s better to read it twice and stop the second time. You know… you really know.
So… how can you make it feel like home for each student? Can you have a whole group that holds their whole hearts? Can you put their emotions front and center and still hold on to literacy? Can you talk to them individually or in the pairs or triads that feel most comfortable to them? Can you give them space to grieve, and look you in the eyes (how can you make your eyes look right at them?)? How can we laugh and have crazy FRI-YAY! traditions and lean in for the next bit of Sisters Grimm or Wild Robot or did you see the Willouby’s??
You have it in you to reach inside and find those things that connect kids to you and each other, to the learning, and their agency, to the challenge, and the joy… and the struggle. You were already amazing at that… and you are still. Don’t let your sadness rob you and them of what we could make from this mess. We are accustom to making lemonade, and beautiful mistakes, and restarts. We are stars at redo’s and We got this!
So put on the best music in the background and dream of those best days when everything worked like magic in your rooms, when the kids were engaged and happy, productive and challenged. How can you make that happen in this world? I know you can.
What are the promises you made in September to your students in your heart? What are the promises you don’t want to break today?
This can be the most amazing time, the memory that shows them and us just what we are made of. I don’t know what your secret sauce is, but I’ll bet anything you have it. Dig it out and spread it all over these experiences. Make it magically simple in the way only you can.