In this research journey, where I have been trying to map successful literacy workshop practices onto a math workshop, I have been considering the element of choice a great deal. From a very young age, children are taught how to select “just-right books.” The emphasis is on choice. Choice matters because it increases engagement. Choice matters because it encourages ownership. Choice matters because when our children leave us, we need them to continue choosing to read whether we are there or not. We teach them to choose books so that they will continue to choose books for their entire lives.
As a college student, at twenty, I found myself under the tutelage of an educator of color for the first time ever. I did not learn from another one until I was thirty. During my tenure as an educator, I have served students as diverse as America itself. I scoured my memory. I can merely recall fewer than ten colleagues of color among the hundreds with whom I’ve worked. In March I traveled from rural Alaska to New York City to visit Heinemann Fellow Tiana Silvas and her colleagues at PS 59. I was looking for effective instructional strategies. At forty, nineteen years into my teaching career, I found what I hope all thoughtful, passionate educators, regardless of race or ethnicity, will someday find in order to better serve our students. I found community—just as I am.
Heinemann Fellow and fourth grade teacher Tiana Silvas thanks a teacher who took the time to see her parents as people and believe in them.
Tiana goes on to talk about the how just listening can serve to reaffirm a child's existence, and how one teacher can make a positive impact in the life of a child that can ripple out through generations.
For years before he retired, the teacher next door kept track of how many days were left until the end of the school year. He started at the first faculty meeting, joking “185 days to go!” to a roomful of smiling teachers, energized for a new year. By the time we got to February, March, April, teachers still smiled as he announced the number of days left, but their smiles were different, worn down. I’m just trying to make it, their smiles said. Only a few more weeks . . .
Although I understand the urge to count down the days, the end of the school year evokes different feelings for me—namely, panic with a healthy dose of guilt. When fourth marking period hits, I realize how much more there is still to do, how much content that may go uncovered. And then there is testing season in the way. Where did the time go? I wonder.
Have you read Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give? Read on to hear our initial thoughts. Then join us on Monday, May 1, at 8 p.m. EST when we’ll be hosting a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TeachHateUGive. Scroll to the bottom of this post to preview our discussion questions.
What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?
It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.
I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will
Sing for me . . .
—From Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda
The gray hangs from the February sky like the roof of a tent heavy with rain. It’s during these wintry days when I feel most vulnerable as a teacher. I’m also sensing winter’s hold on my students, and I begin to wonder if I make even the smallest difference for them.
As a reader, I am captivated by characters. Major characters who drive plot or who find themselves transformed by conflict, minor characters who flesh out stories and live in the space between interesting and important, or characters who are easily forgotten.