My son is black. I am not.
If he was in your classroom, he would be listed as Jordan Ayres on your roster. I call him Jay. He’d be the one near the pencil sharpener making kids laugh and girls swoon. He’s the one in the football jersey, and he will likely give you a run for your money with his wit. It’s best to laugh along with him. If you take the time to create a safe classroom and get to know Jay, he will stagger you with his compassion. You wouldn’t know that he cares deeply about school work and getting good grades. It takes him a minute to pull it all together, so it’s easy to misjudge his priorities.
He’s good at figuring things out. You might not realize this about Jay because he tends to keep his thoughts to himself and his feelings locked in a secret vault. You’d think he’s a happy-go-lucky teenager who doesn’t take much seriously, especially school.
He entered the foster care system when he was seventh months old. He bounced around to more homes than the system could count. He saw the worst of humanity until we adopted him just before his eighth birthday. You would never know any of this if you met him.
Lately, there’s not been much happy-go-lucky about Jay. He snaps. He yells. He stomps. He slams doors. Jay is almost impossible to get along with, I text to my husband Andy instead of losing my temper.
He’s just trying to figure things out, Andy responds.
I stare at the message and wonder why I didn’t realize it sooner. Of course, he is trying to figure things out. All of us are trying to figure things out.
The problem is that current events boil with issues that seem intractable. We joined in to #runwithmaud, and we watch news reports of protests and riots daily. During dinner conversations, we consider injustice, and we talk about the different ways we see the world.
We can take time to see things from new lenses and learn to care about those who are different from us. It doesn’t mean we will figure things out. Some things will remain senseless. When this happens it makes us angry or sad or scared or frustrated. We might lash out. We might be scared to talk. We might want to stop feeling so many emotions.
I don’t know what the answer is to making sense of the senseless things in this world. But in our home, where my son is black and I am not, we find listening and loving are the roads that lead to the grace we need to get along.
This week we look at teaching retelling and theme in classrooms. We’re off the next few weeks for our annual June break, and back in early July with regular weekly content. We are thankful for this break, and hope you have one soon too. Now more than ever, we need to take a deep breath and do our best to find that hidden grace.
Lead Contributor, Choice Literacy
Tara Smith shares many strategies for helping her sixth graders get to the heart of understanding themes in literature.
Retelling is an essential skill many English language learners struggle with. Stella Villalba finds tackling vocabulary in context is the key for many.
Steven Johnson explains why we should drop our obsession with productivity, and focus more on solitude and reflection.
Our new online course from Ruth Ayres, Better Student Feedback, will help teachers and coaches think through how to talk with students about progress and goals, as well as what to do with their responses. The course fee of $39 includes two months of access to the entire Choice Literacy library of 4000 articles and videos. If you have a current paid subscription to Choice Literacy, there is no charge for the course. Click here for details.
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Tammy Mulligan shares how she introduces students to the process of interpreting literature at different grade and developmental levels.
Christy Rush-Levine shares the strategies she uses to help her middle school students take ownership of their literary analysis essays in the last weeks of school, using different strategies to analyze the theme and focus of literature.
In this week’s video, Christy helps Alyssa draft her literary analysis essay.
In an encore video, Katrina Edwards uses the books They All Saw a Cat and Be a Friend for a minilesson with her first-grade students on how to retell stories with a partner during reading workshop.
Boost your learning this summer by catching up on the Big Fresh issues you might have missed during a spring like no other. You can access the full archives at this link.
Heather Fisher helps a group of teachers dig deeper into why retelling is an essential skill, working together to find examples of retelling beyond classrooms.
Tammy Mulligan leads a demonstration small group on finding themes in graphic novels. The lesson includes a prebrief and debrief with the teacher.
Is indecision stressing you out personally or professionally? Here is a three-step process for becoming more decisive.
There are patterns which emerge in one’s life, circling and returning anew, an endless variation of a theme.
That’s all for this week!