In March, my best friend and I decided to check out the Teachers College Reunion, a twice-annual event hosted by the Reading and Writing Project at TC. We’re lucky to live pretty close by plus...Jason Reynolds was giving the keynote address, and that was something I didn’t want to miss. And he was incredible, just the most amazing storyteller. I felt really, really lucky to be there.
I went to a few other sessions. One was about diverse books, getting into the weeds of how to really be intentional about how we curate our classroom libraries. Another was with Lucy Calkins herself, fearless leader of the TCRWP. While I’d done my Masters at TC, I was in a very specific special ed program, and never crossed paths with Lucy or her program, beyond waiting while the elevator doors opened on the gorgeous TCRWP mural on their floor of the building. Her workshop that morning was about finding new energy in writers workshop in the spring, and it was a really inspiring hour in which she talked about really listening to our kids to hear what’s most important to them, and celebrating BIG when we publish pieces. My big take-away, in terms of classroom practice, was Flash Drafts, where students draft their whole piece in one shot. The idea is to spend a lot of time in thoughtful preparation, then write, write, write with joyful intensity, and then have energy and motivation left over to revise and edit once the words are on the page. This is so the opposite of how drafting usually goes in my classroom, and I couldn’t wait to try it.
It's happening. I've had a good long stretch of summer since our extended school wrapped up, during which I unplugged my brain from the nitty-gritty of school life, and now that's winding down to a close. This past week, I spent two busy days putting my classroom back together. I enjoyed being in my space, walking through the annual ritual of making it ready for a new year and new kids. I liked returning to the same space as last year (I moved going into last year, so last summer's work was unpacking, reorganizing, starting completely from scratch), and finding ways to refresh it and make it new. The new spot for my calendar alone brings me probably too much satisfaction, not to mention the new bulletin board I created from nothing by fastening cork roll to the wall. Boom. So, the space feels homey and peaceful and fresh...and open, ready to be filled by my small people, with their voices and belongings and projects. And now that I have that in place, it's time for me to spend some time with these questions :
What does life in the Liberatory Library look like this year? How will we fully participate in education as the practice of freedom? What will I do to create space for liberatory education? What can I do (or not do...) to make our life and work together more liberatory?
Early this year, I was given a magical gift from a magical person. The kind you didn't know you wanted or needed or even existed until it appears in your life. This magical person said, I have a little something for you, I saw it and thought of you. When she realized we wouldn't see each other for a little bit, she put it in the mail for me, even though we live in neighboring towns. So one day I got a package on my doorstep, containing this:
I read through it slowly and gradually, and just now finished. It's amazing, in so many ways. I want to put together some thoughts about it, for myself, and for my classroom.
Every spring, our fourth grade hatches chicks. I always took my class to visit the chicks in someone else's class, but we never hatched our own until last year. Even then, my coteacher did most of the chickening. This year I was solo again, so this was really the first time that I was the official chicken mama. It all began like this, with a dozen eggs in our incubator, and twenty-one days of patience.
One of the ways I'm lucky to live in my little self-contained world (meaning my class is self-contained special ed, combining at least two grade levels every year) is that I have a lot of freedom with curriculum, and my administrators have been pretty open to me doing what works for my kids. One thing this looks like is adapting our reading and writing programs. We've been following a workshop model for just a few years now (and I LOVE it), and use a boxed curriculum (SchoolWide Writing Fundamentals) to guide our teaching. Overall, I like it a lot, and it includes some excellent mentor texts. (I have a lot more thoughts and feelings about the curriculum, but I want to get down to the point of this post now!)
That being said, when I pulled out the 3rd grade level kit for fiction writing, I was underwhelmed. Also, it just didn't seem to match where we were as a writing community. While it was about writing fiction, most of the gathering work was about drawing on your personal experiences, and my instinct was that it would lead to a lot of personal narrative pieces...which we'd already done. My writers were ready to try something new. Also, the unit as written was an author study of Patricia Pollaco, and her books are lovely classics...that don't reflect my students very well, and felt a little dated to me.
So I decided to venture forth on my own, and make something that would energize my writers.
One of my munchkins is all about dates and calendars and birthdates (I mean, as am I, but he can memorize them waaaaaay better). The class calendar is always the first thing he looks at in the morning, and I’m pretty sure he’s the only one who updates it daily. When I fixed the calendar for February, he was of course inspecting it immediately upon arrival, and called across the room to tell me that I forgot to put Rosa Parks’ birthday.
“Oh, I did! When is it?”
“February 4th. Sunday.”
“Cool! You can add it to the calendar,” I said.
“I did,” he answered, matter-of-fact. Of course he did!
So then when we went over the calendar all together later, it was already there. And the kids kind of just assumed it was a holiday.
Ahhh, I started this post more than a month ago!! School life really is a whirlwind. I'm so glad that I started this blog over the summer, when I had time to devote to launching it, but I want to find more time to write now that we're back to the real world.
The year so far has been so much! Mostly great and exciting and happening, with sprinkles of magic and hiccups of frustration here and there. I have SO MANY things to write about, including:
To be honest, I made that list as a reminder to myself of all the things I want to write about. For now, I'm going to start with our reading life. There will be some cute photos, and much geeking out.
Writing about practicing literacy and freedom with my small humans.