A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.
We are on vacation. We’re spending our days building sand castles, taking epic naps, and subsisting on ice cream cones. My children have pink cheeks and salt-curled hair. It is good.
In the little condominium we are renting, my 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter are sharing a room with twin beds. Our first night, my husband and I put them to bed just like we do at home–we read a story to each of them, sang an amateur version of “You Are My Sunshine,” and delivered the final good-night kiss. Done.
But a bit later, my husband stuck his head into the room to check on them. He couldn’t help but giggle at what he saw: there they were, they who had argued half the way down the coast, they who were supposed to be asleep, they who were supposed to be separated by their twin beds: sitting together, huddled over a book, a boy reading to his sister, meticulously pronouncing each word and stopping to explain complicated parts.
My husband softly pulled the door shut. Let them be. Up all night reading? Well, okay.
I was glad he’d left them to it. As a child, I was just like that–I snuck a book wherever I could. I especially loved bedtime. “Goodnight!” I’d yell down the stairs to my parents. “Goodnight–lights out,” someone hollered back. Pajamas on and teeth brushed, I crawled into bed–and then pulled a book from beneath the pillow, draped the blankets over my head, and cautiously, carefully, silently reached beneath the bed for the flashlight I kept hidden there. I opened my book and propped it carefully between my knees. Listening carefully for the creak of the steps that would indicate my parents were coming to check on me, I began to read. With my little tent illuminated by the bright flare of the flashlight, I slipped happily into the world of my characters, sinking in until my eyes drooped and the words and sentences began to swim together in sleep. Most of the time, I didn’t notice closing my eyes for the final time, and I didn’t feel the book fall from my lap. I would stir in the middle of the night when the flashlight wedged in under my ribs; without really waking, I’d switch it off and stash it under the bed for the next night’s reading.
I didn’t get caught often, and when I did, I received a half-hearted scolding–“You’ve had a long day… You have school tomorrow… You need to sleep…” Looking back now, I realize my parents didn’t really mind that I snuck in some extra reading time. They were readers themselves, after all, and wise enough to make the “lights out” rule and allow me to break it. I understand it now. We were dancing the same dance that countless parents and countless children all over the world have always danced, and always will.
There is magic in the night. With a book and a flashlight, it’s not hard to find.
Do you remember?
This week, we consider ways to build relationships with children and colleagues early in the school year. Plus more as always–enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jennifer Schwanke is a principal in Dublin, Ohio. She also blogs about her personal pursuits at http://jengoingbig.blogspot.com/.
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Here are two features from the archives with creative ideas for building relationships early in the school year.
Trish Prentice has her first email written for parents before her kindergarten students arrive, and she explains how she follows up daily as a way to build community and connections with families:
Barbara Coleman finds arranging classroom tours among colleagues is a wonderful professional development activity for staff to do before students arrive:
Over at the Nerdy Book Club, Jenny Orr shares a nifty family night she designed to promote bedtime reading at school:
The Bank Street Blog has compiled an annotated list of many Back to School Books for helping children of all ages deal with anxiety and change:
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Curriculum Night? No sweat says Tony Keefer. Only kidding — there is a lot of sweat involved, but Tony’s humorous account of how he has changed his curriculum night presentation will get you thinking about new ways of connecting with families:
Katherine Sokolowski advises teachers to ditch the search for the perfect management system, and instead focus on building relationships early in the school year:
In this week’s video, Mandy Robek gives a tour of her kindergarten classroom, highlighting literacy spaces that build relationships and independence for her young learners:
Susan Dee uses Shoebox Autobiographies to build community and relationships with students early in the fall:
In an encore video, Katie Doherty tries the “I Am the One Who” quick-write activity to get to know her middle school students and foster connections in the classroom community:
That’s all for this week!