An artist is someone who can hold two opposing viewpoints and still remain fully functional.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
A few months ago I was reading through the essays on National Public Radio’s This I Believe series. I came across one titled “In Praise of ‘Wobblies'” by Ted Gup. You can click on the link below to read the original piece:
At first the author was maddened by his ability to see both sides of an issue so clearly that he had trouble making decisions. It was only later that Gup came to understand the gift that type of sight offered.
I’ve been thinking about this essay in reference to conversations about literacy happening in our district and nationally. I’ll sit in a meeting and hear one person talk about the necessity of intervention with readers who are not getting instruction at their level and need small-group support. Then I’ll listen as another person laments how the young readers who are pulled from her classroom miss out on community building and shared books with classmates. I wonder why these ideas are positioned as opposing. I clearly see the merits of both. Can’t we intervene and still give small-group support within a classroom community?
One group of teachers says they need a curriculum to teach opinion/argumentative writing. “Give us a set of lessons,” they plead. A team from another school responds, “We don’t need lessons! We need the freedom to explore this text type in our own way with our own resources.” Then someone notices that I’ve been quiet for awhile and asks, “What do you think, Heather?” I feel on the spot and wonder if my response will sound like a cop out. I reply carefully, “I think that you [gesturing to the speaker for the first group] may need structured lessons to work your way into this type of writing, and I think that you [indicating the second group] need the freedom and choice to study and design your own lessons.”
Which program? What strategy? Whose vision? Which research? At times I’m pelted with black/white or this/that selections. I’m uncertain, and growing more comfortable with trusting that stance. Black or white? What about gray? This or that? What about the other? As Ted Gup notes, when we accept our ambivalence, we can take on a valuable new role in our work community:
I came to accept, even embrace, what I called “my confusion,” and to recognize it as a friend and ally, no apologies needed. I preferred to listen rather than to speak; to inquire, not crusade. As a noncombatant, I was welcomed at the tables of even bitterly divided foes. I came to recognize that I had my own compass and my own convictions and if, at times, they took me in circles, at least they expanded outward.
Ted Gup, In Praise of ‘Wobblies’
Confusion is often the first step on the road to inquiry. If you’re confused about the best ways to prevent bullying in schools, we’re featuring some resources this week to help you explore different possibilities. Plus more as always — enjoy!
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Heather Rader provides suggestions for integrating “bully literacy” into the curriculum as well as an annotated booklist in a new article:
This bullying survey from Teaching Tolerance is a vehicle for opening up discussions with young students:
The Choice Literacy Books on Bullying Pinterest board highlights our favorite texts on bullying, with notes on how to use the books in classrooms:
The Children’s Literature Network also has an annotated list of bully-themed resources:
Choice Literacy contributors Julie Johnson, Colby Sharp, Andrea Smith, and Gretchen Taylor share their new year goals. This is the second installment in a two-part series:
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This week’s video is a new Book Matchmaker. With the Common Core emphasis on nonfiction, teachers are striving to integrate more nonfiction texts throughout their literacy workshops. Franki Sibberson shares her favorite nonfiction texts that can be read cover to cover during read alouds:
We have a bonus video this week. Katie DiCesare confers with first grader Anna, celebrating her growth as a reader in the first few months of school, and helping her with a new strategy goal based on listening to her read:
In Writing Process . . .and Processes, Ruth Ayres considers what elements of the writing process are common to all, and which ones vary according to the needs, interests, and quirks of writers:
Finally, Principal Jennifer Schwanke looks at the challenging issue of retention in Two Teachers and One Kindergartner:
That’s all for this week!