Ignore the eye rolls!

Last week I read How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss to a grade 6 class and two grade 5/6 classes. I had only met the students a couple of times before. I had a purpose in reading it, although pure enjoyment would be purpose enough.

I love watching the reaction of older kids when I pull out a picture book. In my own classes, reading picture books is the norm – no matter the grade. With other classes though, the range of reactions are interesting to watch. There are those who get truly excited. There are those who are seemingly indifferent. There are those who shift nervously in their spots. And, there are those who think they’re too old for a picture book and try to mask a little eye roll.

As I begin reading, I continue to watch their reactions. A few pages in, I know I have ’em: even those whose tendencies were the eye roll. Kids love hearing a good story. They may not necessarily admit it, but their change in demeanour is evidence enough for me: their eye contact with both me and the book, their stillness, their smiles.

“And what happened then …?

Well … in Who-ville they say

That the Grinch’s small heart

Grew three sizes that day!”

The trouble with words!

A few weeks ago while teaching grade one, I said to the class, “You can ask your neighbour for help if you need.” A little one exclaimed, “What? Our neighbours? We’re not at home!” They giggled at my use of this word.

Last week in a grade five class, we were discussing the complexity of the English language: all of those rules that aren’t always followed! We teach our students to add an ‘s’ to make something plural. But what about these? Mousesfootsgoosestoothsmans? And why aren’t too, blue, grew and through spelled using the same pattern? What about said and red? Limb and him?

Kids encounter new words, words in new contexts, rules, and words that break the rules, each and every day. It’s no wonder they make errors. How could they knot?

Crank up the music.

I’m a little behind on This Is Us. Just now nearing the end of season one. Watched the ‘Memphis’ episode last night. I’ve been thinking about William’s words to Randall: “Roll all the windows down. Crank up the music.”

At this busy time of year when teachers are tired from report cards, and the hecticness of the holidays awaits us, his words hit home. Yes, responsibility calls. There are things we must do whether we want to or not. But I am trying to remember not to live “a life of almosts and could haves.”

Amidst my responsibilities and must-do’s, I’m going to take the time to roll down those windows and crank up the music. Today and every day.

Excuse my rant …

I am surprised and appalled when I see people throwing away what they deem to be ‘old’ books. I don’t mean falling apart old. I simply mean ‘old.’ Books like Moby Dick (published in 1851); Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960); Charlotte’s Web (1952).

Now really. Does it matter what year Island of the Blue Dolphins was written since it takes place in the mid 1800s? And isn’t the theme of a quest for knowledge, as in Moby Dick, still applicable today?

What about dear ol’ Shakespeare? Charles Dickens? Jane Austen? Oscar Wilde? Virginia Woolf? James Joyce? Walt Whitman? William Faulkner? George Orwell? Mark Twain? (Just to name a few!) Should we just stop reading their work because of the date of publication?

The thought appalls me. Good writing is good writing. No matter its age.

(There … I feel better.)

 

The Sports Celly

Come on now. I love watching sports. And yet as I watch the cellies (yes, it’s in the urban dictionary) after a goal or touchdown, sometimes I wonder.

Players have their individual reactions. Some spontaneous; others seemingly rehearsed. Some momentary; others prolonged. Some humble and subdued; others exuberant and elaborate.

I understand the urge to celebrate. But, really.

I smile as I imagine this phenomenon in a school setting: the principal breaking out in a dance after a discipline-free day… teachers leapfrogging each other in the hallway after each report card they write… students coordinating their dance moves after a correct answer is given… the secretary backflipping in the office when her books balance.

Somehow seems a little absurd. But, try it… who knows the reaction you’ll get!

Courage

In talking to friends recently, I was reminded that each of us encounter challenges in life: some frustrating, some traumatic, some devastatingly sad, and some testing all of our patience. Regardless of what it is we are forced to face, it sometimes takes courage just to put one foot in front of the other.

I am inspired by the courage of those around me. Those who find the positive even in the most difficult situations. Those whose challenges go on day after day after day. Those who have recognized a problem in their lives and made deliberate decisions to make a better life for themselves. Those who show such care and concern for others despite their own circumstances. And perhaps most of all, those kids who have faced more in their young lives than anyone should ever have to face: neglect, abuse, trauma.

Courage is often associated with firefighters, police officers and others in high-risk situations. There is no denying that these individuals display remarkable courage. But, courage is all around us. In the words of Mary Anne Radmacher, “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”

A Perfect Prompt

Today, as the snow falls onto the neighbourhood jack-o-lanterns, I see a perfect picture prompt. Halloween is a motivating day to write (with or without the snow)!

Kindergarten students can draw and label their costumes. Older students can engage in some descriptive writing or a story. For a freewrite prompt today, try one of these: “On Halloween…” or “Today I see…” (especially if students are already in costume).

Put on some spooky music and write!

A Secret

Recently, as I was teaching students about the importance of reading and writing, I shared the story of a parent who came into my office one day many years ago in tears. On that day, this parent told me a secret.

I’ve shared this story with many children in many classrooms over the years. And always, when I ask the students what secret she might have told me (and I explain that it’s connected to what we’ve just been talking about), there are many guesses before they hit on the actual answer, if they ever do. I watch their faces as they begin to understand what I’m telling them. 

The idea that an adult, a mom, could be illiterate is beyond comprehension for most of our kids. They take literacy for granted, and perhaps rightly so, given their experience.

But I ask them to predict the feelings that would be associated with illiteracy. I also ask them to imagine every day situations without the ability to read and write: buying groceries for a child with allergies, reading a menu in a restaurant, trying to help a child with homework, or filling out a job application.

During these conversations, the importance of reading and writing tends to hit home for these students. This week as we were wrapping up the discussion, a grade three girl said to me, “We have to read and write our whole lives… let’s just give it a chance!”

I smiled. Yes, let’s. 

Let your voice be heard.

Yesterday was municipal election day in Alberta: an opportunity to have our voices heard.

Our voices matter not only in an election but in our daily interactions. Words of support. Words of encouragement. Words of protest. Words in defence of another. Words of solidarity. Words of hope. 

If you have ever wondered if one person, one voice, can make a difference, consider this group of people: Mahatma Ghandi, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malala Yousafzai.

“When we extend ourselves to another human being in any way at all, when we positively touch the life of one person, we benefit the whole of humanity.” Gail Pursell Elliott 

Our voices matter.

Kids are kids!

In my new role – leading student writing residencies – I had the pleasure of working in three schools last week. It has become quite obvious that kids are kids wherever we are! Sure, individual personalities are unique and group dynamics distinct; however, the tendencies are the same.

Each class has the intent listeners, the social butterflies, the compassionate kids, the deep thinkers, the complimentary kids, and of course, those-who-would-talk-all-day-if-we-let-them kids!

I am so thankful for the opportunity to teach my passion to children: I delight in their authentic, enthusiastic and joyful nature.