Our memory is a more perfect world than the universe: it gives back life to those who no longer exist.
Guy de Maupassant
There I was, undeniably at my wits’ end: My children had been fighting all day long.
I called my mother. “I don’t know how you did it with four of us,” I told her. “I just have two, and it sometimes feels like a room full of angry cats.”
“Oh, honey,” she scoffed. “You guys never fought.”
I spit out my tea. “Mom! We fought all the time.”
“You did nothing of the sort.” She sniffed.
As I often do, I felt washed over by a flash of love for her. My mother is a tough, loving, relentlessly supportive woman. I think of her with fondness many times a day. Even if she has a terrible memory.
Memory is a funny thing.
As a child, I fanatically and repeatedly read the Little House series. All these years later, there are still a handful of scenes I remember as if they were on a high-definition television three feet from my eyeballs. There’s the time during the hard winter when the family tastes a Christmas orange; the devastation on Plum Creek when the grasshopper cloud decimated the entire wheat crop, and, in the third Little House book, just a handful of pages in, when the family’s beloved dog, Jack, gets swept away by a massive surge in the river. The surge could have easily taken the whole family, covered wagon and all, right along with it. I can still feel Laura’s grief and Pa’s fear as they face life without Jack in the wild, frightening world of the open West.
Reading it recently to my daughter, I felt a familiar twinge when I got to the part about losing Jack. I hugged my daughter tight; we talked through the sadness and repercussions of losing the family’s guard dog, and I watched her closely, assuming there would be anxiety and deep sadness. But she just whined at me to keep reading.
And then, oh my goodness! I hadn’t remembered! The Ingalls family settles down for the night, many miles from the place where they’d lost Jack, and there are wolves howling. Then, coming close: a pair of scary green eyes. Pa moves to shoot at the eyes, but he doesn’t, because then the green eyes are just Jack. He’s back — wiggly and wonderful Jack, who saved himself from drowning and worked his way all the way to the family again! Jack remains part of their family, guarding them and keeping them safe as they build their little house on the prairie.
I’d forgotten that part.
Memory serves as such a fickle and selective rascal. We remember pieces and parts of what we experience, we change it as we go, and we hold on to whatever it is we need at the time.
I like to think about this as I look at students learning each day and leaving us at this time of year. They’ll all go away with a box of memories that won’t necessarily match mine. I can’t control what goes into that box. It’s like the difference in my memories and those of my mother. Whether she sent us outside to beat one another up or she decidedly did not, the love and support is indisputable. That is what we have in our control—to hold on to memories that at their heart are full of kindness and love.
This week we look at ways to improve student and teacher notetaking. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Long an avid reader, Jennifer Schwanke taught middle school language arts for six years before moving into administration at both the middle school and elementary level. Jen enjoys thinking of more effective ways to present literacy to students at these vulnerable ages. You can find her latest thinking at her Leading and Learning blog.
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Tara Barnett and Kate Mills use a jot lot to turn students’ notes on their learning into instructional plans and assessment:
Whose job is it to teach notetaking skills? Heather Rader finds teachers often expect colleagues in previous or subsequent grades to teach these skills, as well as a lot of hesitancy about how best to instruct students. She presents a simple notetaking template and describes how she uses it to help students learn how to list important details with words and images:
George Couros shares a few important reminders for the end of the school year:
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When it comes to conferring notes, form needs to follow function. Dana Murphy quit looking for the perfect template, and started focusing on what kinds of notes are most helpful:
Ruth Ayres explains why conferring records that stay with kids are the most useful for teachers:
What do student notes from independent reading look like when students have free choice? This week we begin a month-long series video series of fifth graders from Franki Sibberson’s class explaining their notetaking strategies. We start with Ally, who tries out two different strategies to figure out which one will help her the most:
In this encore video, the focus is on the skill of determining importance in texts. Beth Lawson helps third grader Sephina integrate sticky notes into her strategic reading:
There are many more examples of strategies for notes in the formative assessment section of the website:
That’s all for this week!