Give Yourself a Break

Not a KitKat bar (although, go for it!), but a break as a teacher.

Last week I participated in an institute day at work filled with meetings and information that I generally don't tend to give a lot of attention. I'm not a bad employee, but I get overwhelmed and worn out. I don't feel like a lot of the information applies to me and my job.

This day was different. Through the dedication and assertiveness of one of our own teachers (S/O to Mrs. Pirc!), we had the workings of a EdCamp. Teachers presented ideas that they wanted to discuss or talk about and then everyone got to choose where to go and what they'd be interested in seeing. We also spent time with upper and lower grade levels talking about our new curricula (math AND writing this year). These conversations filled me with vigor and excitement about the work we do everyday. They also gave me pause.

When we started talking about my best friend Lucy Calkins, some of the teachers started getting anxious about their students not being able to meet the final expectations of grade level performance in each unit. I could understand their frustrations. Some of them were modifying lessons to adapt to what students were bringing to the table. That made sense to me. Some teachers were trying to determine the goal for the next year - what did teachers need for their kids to know going into the next grade level so that they could make sure to hit those points. That is helpful, big picture thinking.

Unfortunately, it's not really the nature of the curriculum. The beauty of the Units of Study in Writing (in my personal opinion!) is that our goal is not a product - our goal is a set of strategies, skills, and way of thinking. Not all of my students are going to be writing clever and catchy titles for their tables of contents and that's OK. I want them to test out their writing and write titles that make sense AND I want them to pay attention to writers who DO use catchy and clever titles in their tables of contents. Not all of my students are writing pages and pages of detailed opinions. Some of them are still struggling to find the right letter sound to record on the page. And that's OK. I want them to test out their writing and do better than they did yesterday and last week and on the last unit AND I want them to notice when writers are sharing their opinions with reasons and examples in their writing.

I want them to test their writing skills.

I want them to notice what writers do.

When they're doing these two things with excitement and focus, I'll know I have succeeded. I'm not making a novelist, I'm making a strategist.


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