Let yourself be drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.
There is a beautiful scene in Cutting for Stone, a novel by Abraham Verghese. A nun, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, is caring for a surgeon who is deathly seasick as they travel across the Indian Ocean to Africa. She is a nurse, and after doing all she knows to care for him, she is struck with a moment of inspiration. She hangs a hammock in his cabin, drags the sick surgeon to it, and feeds him into it limb-by-limb. “Answering more to gravity than to the roll of the ship, the hammock found the true horizontal,” which steadied him enough to relieve his motion sickness.
I love the idea of a “true horizontal” and have been thinking about it as a metaphor in different aspects of my life. For example, in the throes of daily life–bills, laundry, band concerts, dead car batteries–being present with those I love is my true horizontal, with my clumsy practice of mindfulness serving as the hammock that helps me sometimes find it.
Across the country, teachers are wrestling with the demands of accountability. New tests bring new pressures–’tis the season–and, too often, teachers are seasick, tossed about by the tumultuous waves of data teams, contradictory demands, test preparation, and classroom observations. For the last few days, I’ve been thinking about true horizontal for those of us who are passengers on this education steamer. I think it is, perhaps, lifelong learning.
When we, educators, decided to teach, we didn’t say to ourselves, “I want to raise test scores.” Rather, we said, “I want to help children love learning, for life.” Written into the mission statements of most schools in one form or another, developing lifelong learners is our highest calling. The question “How does this lesson help my students love reading and writing for their whole lives?” can serve as a hammock, of sorts. If we rest there, staying true to our original reasons for teaching, then perhaps we can spend more time in our true horizontal.
This week we consider student goal setting. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jan Burkins collaborates with Kim Yaris at Burkins and Yaris — Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy, where their blog and their instructional resources have drawn a national audience. Their new book, Reading Wellness, is available through Stenhouse Publishers.
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Here are two pieces from the archives on goals and reflection for late in the school year.
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan have suggestions for Ending Reading Workshop by Planning for September:
Katherine Sokolowski uses Football Field Writing as a way for students to measure progress and growth at the end of the year:
Aim Higher: Conferring and Student Goals from Elizabeth Moore at Two Writing Teachers is rich in practical advice:
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Christy Rush-Levine finds she has to rethink learning targets for her middle school students if she wants students to pursue complex and lifelong reading goals:
In this week’s video, Danielle French helps a first grader set nonfiction reading goals:
Melanie Meehan shares anchor charts and strategies for Setting Goals with Students:
Maria Caplin develops a system for helping students move beyond simple goals like noting the number of pages read in Rethinking Reading Goals:
In an encore video, Franki Sibberson works with her fourth graders to set nonfiction reading goals:
That’s all for this week!