The problem with hoarding is that you end up living off your reserves. Eventually, you’ll become stale. If you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish . . . somehow the more you give away, the more comes back to you.
When my husband was 18, he built a 22-foot lobster boat. He took over his parents’ garage for eight months and used what he learned at a shipyard to construct that boat from a mold. The boat was named after his grandmother, who got a diagnosis of cancer while he was finishing the boat and not expected to live long. She survived another 18 years, and the boat had a presence in our lives for much longer than that. Dave was never a professional fisherman, save for a short summer stint as a mate on someone else’s tuna boat. But that boat holds decades of happy memories of long days in July and August catching fish and tagging sharks off the Maine coast.
He quit using the boat six years ago, getting a newer model that was safer and more suited to jaunts far off the coast. The old boat sat in our driveway, the hull getting mossy with age. We chased mice out from the interior each spring. Over time, it became a hazard. Why didn’t we sell it? Probably for the same reasons we cling to anything long past its usefulness. It’s a hazy combination of inertia, nostalgia, and the fear that our lives are inextricably tethered to the stuff we collect.
We finally decided to get rid of the old boat this spring. Dave cleaned it up, got the motor running, and put it for view on a lot just off a busy road near our home. He included a prominent sign listing a very reasonable price. Within a few hours, he received 10 phone calls with full-price offers.
The calls were stories as much as offers — from the retired lobsterman who was looking for an inexpensive boat for puttering around in the bay, and a working dad looking for a boat to start teaching his 11-year-old son the lobstering trade.
In the end, the dad purchased the boat. We felt the satisfaction of seeing an object that had been such a happy part of our lives for so long begin a new chapter in the life of someone else who loves the sea.
I’ve reread the quote at the start of this newsletter many times: The problem with hoarding is that you end up living off your reserves. What does it mean to live off reserves? Maybe our stuff pushes us to live in the past, instead of in the moment or looking forward to the future. Those items we once loved that have slowly become clutter weigh on us. They make us feel less than — less than the person who once used or cherished them, diminished in possibilities.
Summer is the time when classrooms are cleaned up and decluttered. Don’t hoard. Let go. The best is still ahead, and you’ll find your way to it by clearing some of the clutter in your path.
This week we look at ways to teach theme to intermediate and middle school students. Plus more as always — enjoy!
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Jennifer Allen uses commercials to promote the importance of rereading to students while teaching theme:
Franki Sibberson writes about how she chooses books for theme instruction and shares two lessons:
Looking to get books in the hands of students this summer? Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan suggest you go digital — they share free resources online available to anyone:
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Christy Rush-Levine moves from emphasizing theme to teaching strategies for understanding text, and finds it’s a much better way to get her eighth graders to grapple with theme in natural, organic ways:
In this week’s video, Christy confers with Jadev about how the title of a book often gives clues to its theme:
Tara Smith shares many strategies for helping her sixth graders get to the heart of understanding themes in literature:
We continue our video series from Franki Sibberson’s class of fifth graders explaining how they take notes while reading. Sarah marks important elements early in the mystery she is reading, so she can easily refer to them later:
In an encore video, acclaimed children’s book author and teacher Jennifer Richard Jacobson talks with a group of fifth graders about how writers establish a theme early in stories and then braid elements of the theme throughout the text:
That’s all for this week!