What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
I was on an early morning walk in an unfamiliar neighborhood. It was a lake community, and I was walking past a cottage admiring the whimsical nature of the weedy wildflower gardens and overgrown trellis.
Movement caught my eye, and around the curve came a giant dog, nearly as large as a bear. When he picked up his pace and headed toward me, I decided I needed to be somewhere safer. I’ve heard my fair share of mean dog stories. Outside of the cottage sat a rusted white pickup truck. If the dog hadn’t been galloping toward me, I may have considered the absurdity of jumping into the back of a stranger’s pickup truck. Instead, I hoisted myself into the truck bed as the dog bounded to the tailgate.
The dog rested his chin on the raised tailgate. It occurred to me that he could have jumped into the back of the pickup with more ease than I had. Not wanting to scale the cab of a stranger’s pickup, I said the most logical thing that came to mind. “Go home!”
The dog tilted his head and looked inquisitive.
It seemed reasonable to tell him again: “Go home!”
He took a few steps to the porch of the house and watched me. I considered how much writing I could get done in the back of a rusty pickup truck.
He started barking at me, low and loud.
The door opened and a man stepped onto the front porch. “What’s going on here?” he asked, taking a bite of his cereal.
“Is that your dog?” I asked.
“Yeah. Why are you in my truck?”
“Is he nice?”
“Of course.” He scooped more cereal into his mouth. “Do you need help out of my truck?”
“No, I’m okay as long as your dog is nice. He came from across the street and intimidated me a little.” I climbed out of the truck. “I wasn’t sure if he was going to hurt me.”
“Naw,” said the man, “he probably just wanted to say hello.”
I rubbed the dog’s head. “I’m a dog person, but he really caught me off guard,” I said. The dog wagged his tail. I scratched his ears. We said goodbye.
I thought about how my words and actions contradicted each other. Standing in the back of a rusty pickup truck with a friendly Newfoundland waiting for me to pet him didn’t emanate dog person. Even though I’ve never encountered a mean dog, I had jumped to the conclusion that this big dog was a mean one.
I think this is how it seems for kids when they meet a new teacher, especially when they are the new kid at an odd time of year, transitioning into a strange new classroom. Maybe they’ve had a unpleasant experience in the past. Maybe they’ve heard mean teacher stories. No matter how friendly and kind teachers appear, there are still going to be some students who are apprehensive.
There are going to be some students who, like me and the big dog, want to hide until they can figure out if it’s going to be a safe place. It’s easy to remember early in the year when all students are new to us, and we are new to them. It’s much harder when we’re surprised by a student new to our classroom late in the year when a community is already built. They may jump to conclusions about us, but that makes it more important than ever that we don’t jump to conclusions about them.
This week we look at authenticity in literacy instruction. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
As the director of a professional development consortium of 30 schools, Ruth Ayres spends her days helping students find meaning in their stories, and encouraging teachers to reflect and refine the art of teaching. “I love documenting ordinary stories from everyday life,” Ruth says. You can keep up with her latest writing and work at Ruth Ayres Writes.
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Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan learn important lessons about planning, themes, and life when they share Knuffle Bunny with a group of kindergartners:
Katherine Sokolowski reflects on a key component of her writing workshop, and finds ways for using writing notebooks more authentically:
Knowing what’s authentic is more important than ever in the era of “fake news.” Here are some critical thinking activities for students to help them navigate challenging media terrain:
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How do you know an assignment is authentic and worthy of your students’ time? Suzy Kaback explains why you need to try it out yourself first:
Reading logs have fallen out of favor in many classrooms because they often become a rote activity for recording pages read. Tara Barnett and Kate Mills find authenticity with the logs comes when they move from emphasizing recording to goals and reflection:
In this week’s video, Katrina Edwards confers with first grader Ellie. She helps Ellie read more fluently and with expression by transferring her feelings to those of characters:
Matt Renwick discovers technology provides many authentic audiences for student writing:
That’s all for this week!