Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone.
In tiny print at the bottom of an article titled, “Create a Saner To-Do List” by Julie Morgenstern, I read, “The question we always ask ourselves is ‘How much can I do?’ But the smarter question is ‘How little can I do without cheating?'” I sat up quickly and realized that’s exactly what I needed to ask myself. The upcoming week included five workshops to lead, two writing assessments to pilot, and one school board presentation. How had so much preparation and presentation work ended up in the same week? Who’s in charge of my schedule anyway? Oh. Me.
The reality was it wasn’t possible for me to do it all at 110% effort. So what constituted cheating? I pondered my list of responsibilities. Certainly cancelling was cheating; people had made plans to attend and rearranged their schedules. Not being purposeful and thoughtful in my work would also qualify as cheating. But beyond that, how little could I do? I realized I could skip the PowerPoints for three of my workshops and go low tech. I could have participants create two different graphic organizers for one presentation instead of designing and printing them in advance. My typical professional development planning template went away, and I grabbed a legal pad to scratch some notes for new plans. During one of the workshops, I opened up an email addressed to all the attendees and added links that interested them as the discussion proceeded. My follow-up with them was complete when I pushed the “send” button five minutes after the class was over.
On Friday, I still had energy. I’d made it! By stripping away some components in pursuit of doing less than originally planned, I was able to emphasize what was important: the content, my delivery, and quality conversations. “How little can I do without cheating?” may not be the best question for everyone (as one of my more idle friends informed me). But if you are a 110% worker, it might be a helpful mental mantra for you too.
This week we consider how to strengthen classroom communities midway through the year. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Senior Editor, Choice Literacy
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Here are three pieces from the Choice Literacy archives to help you think through community building with students of different ages.
Katie DiCesare explains how sharing Books We Love fosters a sense of community and joy in reading in her first-grade classroom:
In the Modeling Literate Lives podcast, Donalyn Miller shares her two-thirds/one-third model of academic and community time in classrooms:
Suzy Kaback uses the All About Us bulletin board throughout the year to strengthen the community among fifth graders:
Principal Matt Renwick finds he needs to get creative when funding runs out for his before- and after-school intervention programs. Read at the Stenhouse blog about how he was able to continue the programs by making changes in the physical design of the space and inviting more interaction between students:
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Building a sense of community is complicated in middle school classrooms. Katie Baydo-Reed considers The Truth About Building a Writing Community with her eighth graders, and is surprised at what endures most with these young teens:
Katherine Sokolowski discovers Edmodo is a wonderful tech tool for helping her fifth graders become more independent and supportive of everyone’s reading choices:
Courtney Powal looks at how being an introvert affects her role in learning communities, and then moves from insight to practical changes to support introverts in her first-grade classroom:
In this week’s video, Katie DiCesare guides her first graders as they help each other find writer’s craft ideas from a shared text:
Sometimes it takes a village to help a preschooler feel a part of the group, especially one who cries often. Kelly Petrin finds her young students have more empathy and resiliency than she imagined in A Hand to Hold:
Finally, we have a fun bonus video. Mandy Robek’s kindergartners combine literacy, community, and fun with a shared reading performance of Goldilocks and the Three Bears:
That’s all for this week!