Smile at strangers and you just might change a life.
On a cold winter day last month I stood at the front door of a local school, fumbling to open it with my arms full of video equipment. It was a quiet morning, with regular classes canceled for parent/teacher conferences. I looked through the glass and saw Alan, the school principal, moving toward me. He gave me a hearty greeting, even though we’d met only once years before. He then grabbed a couple of tripods and ushered me to the classroom where I’d be helping with setup.
Hours later I was walking down the hallway chatting with Jen, the literacy coach. She spied an older man who was stopped in the middle of the hallway, looking confused. Jen immediately excused herself from our conversation and walked over to help the man, who was trying to find his grandson’s classroom.
I realized in that moment that the school has a DEARO policy, whether it’s official or not. (It’s probably not an official policy since I just created that acronym this morning.) Drop Everything And Reach Out is the attitude of every staff member when they see a visitor who needs help or looks confused.
I thought about another school I visited months before, where most of the students were walked to the school by their immigrant parents from the public housing nearby. I observed dozens of parents outside the school joyfully and tenderly kissing their children goodbye that morning, but none of them stepped over the threshold into the school. The principal explained to me later that day how hard it is to get parents to come into the building. He even makes a point of being at the school door before a parent conference to usher them in, because he knows how difficult it is for many of them to enter.
Most readers of this newsletter are comfortable in schools. We’ve spent most of our waking and working hours in classrooms since we were five years old. We know the lingo and rituals, and where the staff bathroom is hidden. It’s easy to forget how uncomfortable, even threatened, many adults feel by schools. New security measures put in place in the past decade have only increased the anxiety for visitors. In our rush to get to the next thing, it’s tempting to ignore that stranger who looks perplexed in the hallway. The Germans have a phrase for it — “wie Luft behandeln,” which means “to be looked at as though air.”
When the whole community is trained to look for that discomfort and alleviate it as quickly as possible, it sends an important message: “We are here for you and your children. This is your place too.” What’s your policy for reaching out to unexpected visitors to your school?
This week we look at grouping. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
Free for All
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Heather Rader asks, How Do We Know Small-Group Instruction Is Effective?:
From the A Year of Reading blog, Franki Sibberson is Planning for Small Group Instruction with a focus on teaching problem and solution:
Mary Ann Reilly gives advice for guided reading with intermediate students:
“Hello Stranger” from the New York Times includes research on the mental health benefits of conversing with new people in everyday situations:
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Cathy Mere gives guidelines for primary teachers in Small Group Writing: Steps for Success:
Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris share three questions teachers should ask themselves when guided reading groups aren’t going well:
In this week’s video, Stella Villalba leads a guided reading group of first-grade English language learners, beginning with building vocabulary:
Suzy Kaback ponders the precociousness of two kindergarten readers in Frog and Toad and Tina and Maya:
That’s all for this week!