If you are like me, January brings excitement, positivity but also exhaustion. This quiet month is one where I sometimes find my energy running low, my creativity running out, and rather than take the time to take care of myself I barrel on as if that will do the trick. So this year, much like the years before, I am challenging myself to take better care of myself, as well as those around me. And so the 30-day challenge is back. A challenge meant to remind me of all the good. Challenge me to take better care of myself. Challenge me to slow down. Challenge me to focus more on meaningful interactions, rather than hurried conversations. Feel free to join me if you want or create your own.
So for now, I will be on here. I will be in my classroom fully present. I will try to find a better balance between sharing and staying quiet. I will be in the Global Read Aloud community, the Passionate Readers community. I will be actually reading more of the fantastic things written by others whose work inspires me to be more than I am. I will be diving back into research. I will be looking at my own practices in order to grow. I will be by my fireplace reading a book. I will be at my dinner table laughing with my kids. I will be just Pernille, not Pernille that has a lot to say and doesn’t always know when to be quiet. If you see me on there, it is probably a cross-posting from Instagram or a very rare moment indeed. But until then, take care of yourself. I am trying to take care of me.
So it’s on all of us. If we don’t give space. If we don’t strike up conversations. If we don’t reach out and ask for help from the very people we work with. If we don’t share more of our mistakes as some of us are handed pedestals to stand on, then we are doing a disservice to those who come to us or guidance, who trust us with their time, who call us colleagues and mentors.
As we look at our incoming students and the names that they carry, I feel the importance of the correct pronunciation. How their names carry their history. How their names carry the hopes that their parents grew as they blessed their new baby with a way to be known to the world. How because I gave up on correcting people, I will forever be known as something that my mother didn’t intend. How even when my husband tells me he loves me my name is not completely correct. How my own children don’t know how to say it the right way because their American tongues get in the way. And I chose to live with that. Too late to make a difference now.
As some of you may know, we are moving from a 45-minute block of ELA time to a 90-minute block. I cannot tell you how excited I am for this to happen. To actually have more time to dig in, to have fewer students so I can know them better, to be able to pull small groups more often and really support student growth – yes, please! But with this change comes a lot of decisions. We want to make sure students are engaged and challenged well within the 90 minutes. We don’t want it to drag on, we don’t want it to be lecture. So as the year starts to come closer, the ideas and aspirations we have had are starting to take shape and I thought it would be nice to share them here, in case others need some inspiration.
So I am wondering if we for once and for all, can we all agree that there is no such thing as a girl or a boy book? That kids need to be exposed to characters that inspire them, no matter their gender. That kids need to be exposed to characters that will expand their worldviews and invite them into new worlds that they knew little of before, no matter their gender. That kids need to be exposed to great books, without us adults thinking that they will only read a certain type of book based on what we see in front of us.
We must give them a chance to experience more than what they are. Books allow us to do just that, but not if they never read them. Not if we never recommend them. That’s on us, which means we can change it, so let’s do that starting now.
I have realized in the past week that self-care is something I need to plan for. Is something every educator needs to plan for. That no matter what we do, which role we play, we can always feel like we are not enough. Like there is not enough of us. But I have also realized that that is not true.
There is enough of us but just too much of other things.
There will always be more coming at us, no matter what we do.
Work invades our personal time, private leaks into public, the intimate is trivially shared, and the concerns of the wider world seep into what ought to be a space for recuperation and recovery. Above all, horror finds us wherever we are.
So it is time for me to step back a bit. To do less work publicly, to share less, to not be so immediately available. To be just Pernille, the person who doesn’t have all of the answers necessarily. That only creates something because she cannot help it. That gives all of her when she is in a public space, but then steps back when she is private.
So look at the power of the tools you have at your disposal. Look at what you can do with a camera. With a computer. With your voice and your connections. Look at whose voices are missing in your classroom. Look at who your students need to meet so that they can change their ideas of others.
We say we teach all children, but do we teach all stories? Do we teach the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, or just the sanitized version that will not ruffle any feathers? I can choose to bring others into our classrooms so that their stories are told by them. I can choose to model what it means to question my own assumptions and correct my own wrongs.
Which book I choose to share depends on the lesson. I treat it much like a short story in what I want students to get out of it so it has to suit the very purpose we are trying to understand. I introduce the concept by sharing a story and then I ask my students to come as close as they can to the rocking chair in our corner. Once settled, whether on the floor, on balls or on chairs, I read it aloud. We stop and talk throughout as needed but not on every page, it should not take more than 10 minutes at most to get through an average size picture book. If it is a brand new concept I may just have students listen, while other times they might engage in a turn-and-talk. I have an easel right next to me and at times we write our thoughts on that. Sometimes we make an anchor chart, it really just depends on the purpose of the lesson. Often a picture book is used as one type of media on a topic and we can then branch into excerpts from text, video, or audio that relates to the topic.
if we listen to Louise Rosenblatt, and I don’t know why we shouldn’t, she reminded us back in 1978 that children need to be taught that there are two types of reading. Aesthetic reading which focuses on the love of reading, on living within texts so that we can create a relationship with the text. On being with the text so that we can see ourselves as readers. And also efferent reading, reading for skill, reading to work on reading. The things we do with what we read.
do not make your end of year reading celebrations about the number. Instead, ask the students what they are proud of. What they have achieved and celebrate them all. Let them have the time to see how far they have come so that they can leave our schools with a sense of accomplishment that they might not otherwise have had.
We need to speak books.
To share books.
To have books that show them who they are and also what others are.
To celebrate books and all types of reading so that within our classrooms and schools every child can see themselves as a kid who reads. As a kid whose reading matters. As a kid who doesn’t read “easy” books, who doesn’t cheat in reading when they listen to audio books. As a kid who might not just be a reader someday, completely dismissing that they are, indeed, already a reader.
And not just in their own eyes but in our eyes as well.
So I suppose I can say it one more time; what we do with the reading we do matters.
What we don’t do with the reading we do matters.
The identities we help create matter.
And the words our students share about what is killing their love of reading matters. the least we can do is listen to them.
And we must bring back common sense reading practices to protect the very kids whose reading lives we were told to nurture, to protect, and to grow.
the true power in technology is not just the readiness. The skills. The playing around with tools to create something impossible.
It is the power to be seen.
To not be alone.
To feel that in the world, someone values you. That someone out there gets you.
Going from an audience of zero to an audience of ten is so big that it’s actually huger than going from ten people to a million.
Although connections are powerful, it is important to not over-hype the hoped for outcomes. All that we can do is create the conditions for comments. A point Kathleen Morris makes.
I was asked this morning on Twitter how we move students beyond wanting hand-picked recommendations every time they book shop. How do they move beyond needing someone, typically, the adult or trusted reading role model to help them find the next book to read?
- We build our libraries, both whole school and classroom libraries.
- We carefully craft our book displays.
- We have a to-be-read list.
- We book talk books almost every day.
- We do lessons on how to book shop.
- We just say no.
- We dive into their reading identity.
- We read every single day in class.
This continues on from an earlier post discussing reading programs