Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift.
There’s a whole science that studies tree ring dating. By noting the growth rings, scientists can determine the age of a tree. Everyone knows this, even though we might not know it’s called dendrochronology.
It was Leonardo da Vinci who first mentioned that trees form rings each year. He noted that the thickness of each ring is determined by the conditions under which they grew. When I look at a big tree trunk, I like to think about Da Vinci noticing that growth rings are dependent on outside conditions. A man who was the first to notice growth rings in trees certainly noticed conditions for his own growth. I wonder how he nourished his creativity.
Sandra Cisneros writes about growth rings in the poem “Eleven” — “The way we grow old is kinda like an onion, or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one.” I wonder what it would be like if people were like trees and we could see the effect of the outside conditions each year.
Even though there isn’t a physical imprint, students move through school one year on top of the next, just like the rings inside a tree trunk. Conditions matter to their growth. We could make a giant list of all the conditions that help nourish students. Then we would feel overwhelmed, because it is impossible to provide everything to every student.
My 13-year-old daughter hit a rough patch last year, and the trauma from her early years in foster care caught up with her. No matter how much my husband and I tried to provide the conditions she needed for nourishment, nothing worked. I’d hate to see her recent growth ring, because I would feel like we failed her. I finally realized that of all the conditions for growth I tried to provide, one mattered most.
Joy nourishes like nothing else can.
And the only joy I can be responsible for is my own. It’s not easy when those around us are in a rough patch. Sometimes nourishing joy feels like a guilty pleasure.
Because when teachers choose joy, their students are nourished. It’s not as straightforward as dendrochronology, but it is as dependable as the rings in a tree trunk. Spend some time choosing joy. Do the things that nourish your soul — read a book, swing a baseball bat, or be like Da Vinci and take a walk, noticing the trees.
This week we look at ways to infuse teaching with joy. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Ruth Ayres is a full-time writing coach for Wawasee School District in northern Indiana. She blogs at Ruth Ayres Writes and is the coauthor of Day by Day and other books available through Stenhouse Publishers.
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Why save all the most enjoyable literacy activities for May or June? Gigi McAllister spreads out the fun all year long with literacy events and activities to break up routines:
Suzy Kaback reminds us that joy and risk are often intertwined for teachers, and that’s where the magic happens:
If you’re looking for a fun or goofy cause for celebration almost any day of the year, it has probably been compiled on the National Day Calendar. This is a great link to bookmark and check regularly, if only to share some of the silly holidays with students:
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Katrina Edwards deals with a frustrated writer on the verge of tears in her first-grade classroom. She realizes the element that is missing in her writing workshop is joy:
Dana Murphy tries sketchnoting during professional development, and soon finds herself sharing the fun technique with students. They hone their skills during read alouds and while annotating texts:
Andrea Smith realizes her normal reading routine will not work within the constraints of this year’s schedule. She makes some radical changes to ensure she and her students can have enough time to find the joy in reading and building a literate community:
In this week’s video, Bitsy Parks takes time to celebrate first grader Colson’s finished writing, even as she nudges him to try a technique shared in the day’s minilesson:
The French word voila literally means see there. In an encore video from a second-grade classroom, Linda Karamatic puts time and reflection into creating a binder, or voila book, that will ease the bulging writing workshop folders and preserve the best of her students’ writing: