As the world becomes a more digital place, we cannot forget about the human connection.
Swiss Cheese Heart
On a whim, Andy and I hosted our first exchange student. It was before we were 30, before we were parents, and when having doughnuts for dinner was acceptable. Taija was from Finland, and we didn’t know that we would become a family. We just thought we’d have fun.
We traveled—New York City, Tennessee, Michigan, St. Louis, LA, San Diego, Mexico—we were constantly on the move. Except when we were lingering at the dinner table and playing cards or watching movies or competing in who-could-hold-a-headstand-the-longest (always Andy).
Although we had completely different worldviews, we decided we liked being together. It was never a formal declaration, but somewhere between ice cream runs and good night hugs, we decided the differences mattered a whole lot less the more you cared about someone.
When Taija left, we were stunned by the holes ripped in our hearts. They nearly paralyzed us, and I wondered if we would ever host again. It’s not fun to have a piece of your heart walking around the other side of the globe.
After a year with Taija, we learned that a family is more than bloodlines. We moved on to adopt four kids and host three more exchange students after Taija returned to Finland. I have a heart that resembles Swiss cheese, and somehow it remains full.
When we decide kindness and caring matter more than differences, we can have full hearts. In a magical way we can give away pieces of our hearts and they will remain full when we decide to show love to those who have beliefs different from our own.
This week we take time to consider how to make our feedback uplifting—plus more, as always.
Ruth Ayres is the editor in chief of the Choice Literacy site and the director of professional learning for The Lead Learners Consortium in northern Indiana. Ruth previously worked as a middle and high school language arts and science teacher and a K-12 instructional coach. She is the author of Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers (Stenhouse, 2017) and other books for teachers of writers. When not writing professionally, Ruth collects stories of adoption, faith, and whimsy. You can follow her at Ruth Ayres Writes or @ruth_ayres on Twitter or Instagram.
This month’s featured contributor is Tammy Mulligan. Tammy co-authored It’s All About the Books and Assessment in Perspective. At work, you can find her teaching and thinking alongside elementary teachers and kids. On other days, she is in her garden, hiking in the woods, or hiding behind a pile of children’s books. Connect with Tammy on Twitter @TammyBMulligan or Instagram @TammyReadsKidLit.
Join the Choice Literacy Book Club! Tammy Mulligan selected Ouch! Moments: When Words Are Used in Hurtful Ways by Michael Genhart and Viviana Garofoli as our August read. Grab a copy, and join the conversation using the hashtag #ChoiceLiteracyBookClub.
The Choice Literacy podcast features the discussion of Ouch! Moments: When Words Are Used in Hurtful Ways by Michael Genhart and Viviana Garofoli.
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. This article was first published in 2018.
Ruth Ayres explains why conferring records that stay with kids are useful for teachers. This article was first published in 2018.
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.
Matt Renwick offers advice on how to use feedback as a tool to support and reinforce what students are doing well. Sincerity and positivity will always give students more confidence in themselves as writers.
Tammy Mulligan encourages students to support their peers as writers by being a “roving student conferrer.” When we enable students to take on the role of the teacher, it helps solidify what they know, as well as take pride in the skills they have as writers.
In a new video, Ruth Ayres cautions us to not let our pet peeves get in the way when working with student writers.
In an encore video, Melanie Meehan uses a conferring card in her writing conference with Cara to ensure she has a record of the strengths and revision possibilities they discussed.
In a Deep Dive Course, Christy Rush-Levine takes you into her middle school classroom, and shares the strategies and techniques she uses with her students to deepen their reflection and understanding of books while conferring. (This course was created in 2018, and is free to members.)
In a Coaching Minute, Inga Omondi encourages instructional coaches to curate a network of others who are doing similar work.
Matt Renwick in his newsletter, Read By Example, encourages us to teach students where they are. Inspired by Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, this is a must-read for all school leaders as we navigate the lingering effects of the pandemic on learning.
Deep Dive: It’s a Cycle, Not a Hamster Wheel: Getting the Most Out of Coaching Cycles: Dana Murphy takes you into the nitty-gritty of coaching cycles with examples and advice from experienced literacy coaches from across the country. You’ll view videos of an initial meeting between a coach and a teacher to plan a cycle and sample demonstration lessons within a cycle, as well as quick tips for getting organized and taking good notes throughout the cycle. (This course was created in 2019.)
If you can’t find anything positive to say, it’s likely you have not fully analyzed what you’ve observed. This is not because there is always necessarily something good going on, but because the best feedback, like the best teaching, meets the receiver exactly where he is: notices what he is after and what he is “using, but confusing” and sees where his good intentions might have gone wrong.
—Rachael Gabriel and Sarah Woulfin
That’s all for this week!