The following is an excerpt from pages 74-75 of A Guide to the Teachers
College Reading and Writing Project Classroom Libraries, Grades 6–8
by Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth
What is a book club?
Simply put, a book club is a group of readers, usually three or four, who read books roughly in sync with each other. Usually clubs read the same book, but sometimes clubs may read books by the same author, or read a series of books together that share a common genre—mystery, historical fiction, fantasy—or they may read a collection of disparate books with a common lens—thinking about interpretation, learning about shared social issues across the book.
In 2005, I attended a summer teaching institute for the humanities. Over the course of the week, the twenty-five participants grew to learn more not only about the subject matter we were studying but also about the teaching contexts that vary so widely in our state. At the time, I was teaching in one of my state’s neediest districts, and I saw my attendance at the institute as a way to be certain I was doing right by my students. At the end of the week, as we were sharing ways we could use what we had learned to create new units for our students, a woman who was a supervisor at a nearby district said to me, “Wow. I didn’t know your district had teachers like you. I would have hired you.”
This comment stunned me. First, I realized that she assumed I was teaching in my district because I had been turned down by other districts. But I had applied only to the district I was teaching in: I had been looking for a change and a challenge. Second, in that moment I understood how the larger world saw my colleagues and me—because we taught in what was labeled a failing school district, we were failures, also.
We’ve all been there. In the dead of night, lying awake, replaying that one moment over and over again in our minds. The daily mistakes we make, both large and small, are part of what make us human, and yet, are often impossible to forgive ourselves for. In his new book,Embarrassment, Tom Newkirk writes, "We perform for ourselves, often the harshest of audiences.” But how does embarrassment affect our professional lives as teachers, and how does it affect students? Tom would argue that it is the true enemy of learning, keeping teachers and students alike silent, hesitant, and afraid. So how do we get past our anxiety, our panic, and defensiveness and become more generous to ourselves? How do we teach our students to take the risk of asking for help, or just to raise their hand in the classroom?
No one escapes embarrassment. Both students and teachers face it every day in school and its influence affects our willingness to take risks. How might our fear of failure, of not living up to expectations, be holding us back? How can our fear of embarrassment affect how we learn, how we teach, and how we live?
Let's face it, the idea of jumping into student-directed inquiry can be overwhelming. Fears over releasing control to students—and visions of students losing control—can seem like too much to handle to even consider dipping one’s toe into the waters of inquiry. But the truth is, successful student-directed inquiry is a highly structured, adaptable framework that honors kids questions about the world and fits any curriculum. There is no need for it to be scary.
In the following video, author Harvey “Smokey” Daniels talks about how doing inquiry correctly can turn that trepidation into fulfillment and fun for both teachers and students alike.
When you live with thirty other human beings for 180 days in a row, sad things and bad things can happen. Individual children or the whole group will encounter struggles, worries, losses, changes, or emergencies. It’s not whether, but when.
Many of these happenings are predictable and expectable. A class pet dies. Then someone breaks a bone. Someone moves away. Someone has a sick parent or grandparent. Someone’s family is in a car crash. There’s a bullying incident on the playground. A big storm rages through town. There’s scary news on TV and adults are agitated about it.
Here are some ways to support students when dealing with these crises in your classroom: