There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.
I always struggled to connect with my “one and done” coworkers, who had little time or patience for checking out new professional resources I found inspiring. I often knew what they would say before the words left their lips:
I tried that years ago and it didn’t work.
I already DO that.
Bless your heart — let me know how it goes.
They wondered why anyone would look at another video on conferring after viewing hundreds over the years, or read one more article on word work when the current program was working pretty well.
What I’ve realized recently is that inspiration itself is hard work. I like the metaphor Suzanne Falter-Barnes uses in How Much Joy Can You Stand?:
The popular belief is that inspiration “strikes” us like a lightning bolt from the sky. Actually, it’s the other way around. In reality, we strike inspiration much the way miners strike gold. By ceaselessly working, reworking, and reworking the old territory, sooner or later we’ll run into a little nugget of something wonderful, something better. The more we dig, the more we’ll find until — if we’re very lucky and very persistent — we hit the mother lode. In reality, creative work is no different than swinging a pick. For every day of incredible divine intervention, there are probably ten spent sifting through the dirt.
We teach to be inspired — by kids, by others around us, by the things we read and view. Yet it can be hard to explain to others why we spend so much time sifting through the mountain of resources available to us, especially during the lazy days of summer. Now when I am reading yet another article, clicking on the umpteenth link sent by a friend I trust, or viewing videos from a favorite teacher yet again, I remind myself that I’m a miner. There’s gold buried here, and no one else can till this particular plot of soil for me.
The one and dones are right — there’s nothing especially new to be found, nothing that hasn’t been tried before by someone, and plenty of risk in setting aside the tried and true for the unknown. But I would still rather swing the pick, because after all these years, I still believe there is something wonderful, something better out there for young readers and writers. Once I’m no longer delighted by the nuggets I discover, I’ll know it’s time to move on.
This week we’re featuring resources on reflection and renewal, a great theme for the hazy days of July. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
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Here are two articles from the Choice Literacy archives for reflection during the summer.
Katherine Sokolowski shares a neat trick for daily reflection, and advice for focusing on one project in Summer Planning: Goals and the Finish Line:
Shelly Archer reflects upon two experiences from her summer vacation that change her thinking about the classroom and her own limits as a professional in Restless Wander: Lessons for Teachers from Summer Vacations:
Many teachers are paying more attention to bullying among students and its long-term negative effects. In this provocative piece from Edutopia, Todd Finley gives advice to teachers who are bullied by colleagues:
So you want a classroom that is truly focused on reading? Pernille Ripp has 12 terrific tips at her blog:
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Beth Lawson began her own gratitude journal as a troubled teen, and finds the daily routine Grateful Journals is a powerful tool for reflection and building community in the intermediate grades:
Even if you have no plans to apply for a new job anytime soon, creating a resume can be a wonderful catalyst for defining who you are and what you value. It’s also a great document to share with parents and new students, as Amanda Adrian explains in Teacher Resume:
Are you spread too thin? Kelly Petrin uses the acronym SPREAD to remind herself regularly of what she needs to lead a balanced and joyful professional and personal life:
In this week’s video, Max Brand uses a name chart with his kindergarten English language learners to teach letters, sounds, and build community:
If you are expecting more young English language learners in your classroom this fall, this section of the website has dozens of videos and articles with different perspectives on working with English language learners to guide your teaching:
That’s all for this week!