Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Thanks. A word that is wholly inadequate at times, but still the only appropriate response.
Just six weeks ago I wrote in the newsletter about a school tragedy. Crestline Elementary School in Vancouver, Washington burned to the ground in February. Thankfully no one was injured, but the students and staff lost everything — all books, writing journals, furniture, and keepsakes. Big Fresh subscribers responded by purchasing hundreds of books from an Amazon wish list set up hastily by the school’s instructional coach (and Choice Literacy contributor) Melanie Quinn. We matched your gifts with books from Powell’s, the wonderful independent local bookstore.
Here is just a small portion of the books purchased by Big Fresh subscribers for the school, sorted and ready for distribution to teachers and children.
The Crestline school community has been overwhelmed by the generosity of the local community and friends from afar — from kids saving nickels and holding fundraisers, to media drives to build awareness of urgent classroom needs, to teachers in local schools who overnight gave up space and scrambled their schedules to make welcoming new homes for Crestline kids and staff. The kindness and compassion of these neighbors have left an indelible mark on Crestline.
Now that the smoke has cleared and everyone is settled in temporary new classrooms, I spoke with Melanie, asking for advice to pass on to you. Melanie has learned a lot about disaster preparedness, especially in the realm of literacy leadership. None of us want to consider the aftermath of losing our classrooms (or homes) to a fire, flood, or tornado. It’s even harder to contemplate a school being a crime scene or on lockdown for weeks. And that’s a healthy impulse — to live in fear and instill that fear in the children around us would be limiting in profound ways. Yet there are simple and practical things teachers and school leaders can do that take little time, but might be enormously helpful if disaster strikes:
1. Take photos of your classrooms now. “You’ll be in a fog of grief and in a new space if disaster strikes — it’s so much easier to have something to guide you as you set up your classroom again,” Melanie explained.
2. Log your classroom library. One teacher at the school who was tech-savvy used a free online program to scan and save bar codes from her books. She was the only person from Crestline with a full list of books lost when it came time to rebuild book collections.
3. Take stock of what can’t be replaced. If that picture of your deceased mom behind your desk is the only one you have, get a copy made. If it’s truly irreplaceable — pottery made by your child for you as a Mother’s Day gift — rethink keeping it in your classroom.
4. Copy papers that would be difficult, time-consuming, or impossible to replace. Teaching certificates and recertification credit approvals were lost by many teachers. Melanie has one file she truly regrets losing over all the others. “What I probably miss most is my ‘happy file’ — the letters from parents and kids I’d saved over the years to read on my tough days,” she shared. That and her “go-to” file of articles she used most often in professional development workshops could easily have been copied with some forethought.
Melanie sends this advice with her thanks to all who have so generously helped Crestline, and a heartfelt wish that you never are in a situation where you need to use it.
This week we’re featuring articles on building family literacy connections. Plus more as always — enjoy!
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Here are two articles from the Choice Literacy Archives to help build the home/school connection.
Heather Rader and Jennifer Taft share tips for better communication with families in Good News: Your Teacher is Calling:
Ruth Shagoury explains how dichos (words of wisdom passed down in families) can bring home cultures and values into classrooms:
Ashley Rice has created a Pinterest Board with 60 different Family Literacy Night Suggestions:
Wendy Lawrence’s blog, The Family That Reads Together, is a wonderful source of warm, funny, and wise book reviews from a parent’s perspective:
Melanie Quinn shares more disaster advice in Hindsight: What I Wish I’d Known Before My School Burned Down:
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Family Literacy Nights have become popular in many schools. Principal Jennifer Schwanke describes the format for a successful event, including a sample program and tips:
In Communicating with Families, Jennifer Vincent details strategies and survey templates she uses in reaching out to families:
Meghan Rose may live in Los Angeles, but the home of her heart will always be New England. In A Taste of Home, she shares her favorite picture books about everything from the Red Sox to Maine blueberries to give her children a sense of where she grew up. This is the latest installment in our Home Is Where the Books Are series :
In this week’s video, Beth Lawson models her process as a writer for her fourth-grade students, describing her emotions as well as creating a draft:
Heather Rader looks at the importance of frontloading information for young learners in the third installment of the primary research series:
If you’re looking for more ideas to build the home/school connection, we have dozens of resources available at the Family Relations link at the site:
That’s all for this week!