Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.
[Now you can listen to the Big Fresh as a podcast!]
Reach for Your Notebook
Anyone who knows me knows I am a notebook girl. In school, I have one with me at all times, and for the cover-to-cover life of that notebook, I’m a notebook monogamist—writing only in that one.
Over the years I’ve had smaller notebooks, larger notebooks, some with book bindings, some with spirals, some with lines, some with grids, and some with blank pages in white, cream, and brown craft. No matter the exterior or interior, each notebook is full of lists, reminders, quotes, meeting notes, ideas, sketches, doodles, and book titles. When I really want something to stand out, I affix a colorful sticky note to the page and add my note to that paper-like frame. Fancy.
When each notebook is full, I place it, in all its banged-up, traveled-back-and-forth-from-home-to-school-worn glory, on my shelf. I line it up next to the one that came before it so that when I need to remember something, I can flip back through the chronological pages of the notebooks on a quest not unlike a kind of archaeological dig.
Today, I wrote on the last page of a trusty replica of a library-card Etsy-find. She was my second notebook of this year, and on deck is a stunning Pantone beauty I purchased way back in October 2019 at one of my favorite places on the face of the earth—the Strand in New York City—when I was there for a coaching conference with two of my close colleagues. For four days, the three of us crowded into a small hotel room at night, and shared nonstop conversations about what we were learning and the hopes for our schools over late dinners and on the long train ride home from the city. So this new one, this notebook purchased pre-pandemic at a time when I was in a crowded city that was so alive, feels extra special. Just looking at the pages and the color swatches sprinkled throughout fills me with joy.
However, as odd as this may sound, I’m always a little sentimental on new notebook days. It’s strange to set something aside that’s been a constant companion for so many weeks and months—and this one, well, it’s been a really hard and oftentimes very lonely year at school, so there’s a lot of tangled heartache in this little spiral.
Nevertheless, our days are becoming a little brighter, and even the hint of a closer-to-normal school year on the horizon fills us with collective hope again. This new notebook’s destiny will be to capture moments of where we are, how far we’ve come, and how we will start again. As I crack the cover and my pencil is poised over the first pristine page, I’m proclaiming that good things and better days are going to happen in the active lifetime of this new notebook. I invite you to join me in this promise by reaching for your own notebook—in whatever form it might be—and to pick up your pen.
This week we share end-of-year reflections—plus more, as always.
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Gwen Blumberg is a literacy leader for a K–8 district in Greater Boston. Gwen shares her passion for children’s literature by writing for the collaborative Teachers|Books|Readers blog. You can also find her sharing about all things literacy on Twitter and Instagram @gwenblumberg.
This month’s Featured Contributor is Dana Murphy. Dana has been an educator for over two decades in Illinois. She has served as an elementary teacher and instructional coach. Dana wrote for the Two Writing Teachers blog for several years and is now teaching elementary school in the suburbs of Chicago. Follow Dana on Twitter @DanaMurphy__ or Instagram @murphy_teaches. This month you’ll find her on the Big Fresh podcast and offering Choice Literacy courses. Find all of Dana’s articles and videos on the site by clicking here.
On the podcast, Leigh Anne Eck discusses how to customize an end-of-year reflection for students.
When it comes to conferring notes, form needs to follow function. Dana Murphy quit looking for the perfect template, and started focusing on what kinds of notes are most helpful. Consider finding time to reflect on your conferring notes. (This article was first published in 2018.)
Cathy Mere considers the dilemma teachers face when the bookroom, library, and tech departments require books and devices to be returned late in the year . . . but there are still a few weeks of school. She shares many suggestions for fostering literacy and community when there are far fewer books in the room. (This article was first published in 2019.)
Join the Choice Literacy Book Club! Matt Renwick selected the picture book Neville by Norton Juster and illustrated by G. Brian Karas for our April read. Click on the link to hear a book talk by Matt and to download the printable bookmarks. Join the conversation using the hashtag #ChoiceLiteracyBookClub.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
Check out our Field Experience courses! Classroom observations are some of the most valuable learning experiences. The Field Experience collection is organized by topics and grade levels, including more than 15 unique field experiences. Each field experience includes 6-10 video observations and several companion articles to deepen your understanding of pedagogy and inspire reflective practice. Free to members.
In a course, Choice Literacy elementary contributors share ways to empower choice even in uncertain times like the 2020-2021 school year. We know choice is the heart of teaching readers and writers. Sessions are as follows:
- Celebrate and Affirm Student Identities with Picture Books by Stella Villalba
- Citizenship Choices with Bitsy Parks
- Choice in Interactive Read Aloud with Tammy Mulligan
- Co-Organizing the Classroom Library with Matt Renwick
We know you want to stay current, but sometimes it’s difficult to find the time. Here is a list of the top 20 Educational Leadership podcasts.
The more reflective you are, the more effective you are.
—Pete Hall and Alisa Simoral
That’s all for this week!