Never play cat and mouse games if you’re a mouse.
Thea was quiet and serious, with brown eyes and flyaway auburn hair, and a nervous habit of constantly shoving her glasses up the bridge of her nose. Lily was a blonde pixie, the life of the party, flitting all over the classroom. You wouldn’t peg these four-year-olds as friends, and in truth, Thea was trying to earn Lily’s affection the day I observed her last week in a preschool classroom. “I will make you something,” Thea explained solemnly to Lily, who sat happily smushing out bright pink playdough pies in the kitchen. Thea strolled over to the craft table and got to work. Five minutes later Thea returned to the play kitchen with a scrap of cardboard covered in feathers, odd bits of tape and felt. “Is this alright?” she asked Lily. “I want more — more feathers, more tape, more EVERYTHING,” proclaimed Lily. Thea dutifully trotted back to the craft table, squeezing more glue and sprinkling more bits of glitter and feathers onto her creation.
She returned to Lily minutes later, her gift piled high with discarded bits of treasure. Lily glanced at it and shook her head. “It needs more,” she said, distracted and glancing away quickly, giggling with her friends as they made their pies.
Three times Thea returned, and three times she was sent back by Lily to add “more and more and more,” till everything ended predictably with Thea sitting on the floor next to the craft table sobbing, holding what looked like a colorful contraption out of a Dr. Seuss book. Leslie, the teacher, bent her head down and listened as Thea hiccuped a tale of woe, murmuring gently now and then before motioning Lily over. “It’s never enough,” sobbed Thea. “But I always play that game with my sister,” explained Lily. “It’s the more more more game.” Leslie looked back and forth between the two girls, and then said gently but firmly to Thea, “If this happens again, you need to say to Lily, ‘I don’t want to play that game anymore’ when it starts to make you feel this way.” The two girls reconciled, and the class soon moved happily into recess.
I’ve felt like Thea a time or two in my life professionally – trapped in a more more more mode, with a sense that I couldn’t possibly meet the external demands placed on me. I survived a small pilot project that suddenly became a mandate for an entire school; a commitment to work with six children which morphed into meetings with over a dozen parents and kids. I don’t think administrators ever want us to be stressed or overwhelmed. It’s their job to ask for more — to get the best and most effort from staff. In my experience, they appreciate when we have the confidence and internal barometer to tell them calmly when we can’t do more, and why. Not always, and not necessarily in the moment when we tell them enough is enough. But we only sustain good work when we realize our own limits, instead of always allowing someone else to set them for us.
This week we’re highlighting resources to build better communication with families. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
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We’re featuring two articles from the archives with innovative ideas for communicating with families.
Bill Bass provides the nuts and bolts of helping families understand the potential and perils of technology in Facebook 101: Hosting a Family Facebook Night:
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan give advice for Sharing Data with Families at Parent/Teacher Conferences:
What are the behaviors to look for that could lead to bullying? Responsive Classroom has an insightful take in Gateway Bullying Behaviors:
Our favorite children’s literature blog for families is Lit for Kids from Ruth Shagoury and Meghan Rose, grandmother and mom of twins who share booklists and reviews from the serious (Middle East conflicts through children’s eyes) to the whimsical (celebrating National Elephant Day with books). You can read their latest musings here:
Reading Rockets has developed a series of free reproducible activities and guidelines for creating Reading Adventure Packs (also known as family literacy bags). Each bag contains a fiction and nonfiction book, as well as activities and extensions for families using the bags at home:
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In Good News: Your Teacher is Calling, Heather Rader and Jennifer Taft share strategies for positive communication with parents:
Gretchen Taylor finds middle school parents enjoy hearing about their child’s day — it’s just a matter of getting creative in dealing with the large number of families when Opening Doors to Parents in Middle School:
Jennifer Schwanke finds connections between her childhood, teaching, and school leadership in the heartwarming Book Memories:
This week’s video is a quick four-minute lesson from Beth Lawson as she helps students prepare for publishing their writing early in the year:
We’re continuing our month-long series on teaching conventions. Heather Rader works with a team of intermediate teachers to ferret out what does and doesn’t work, based on research and experience:
Looking for more parent and family resources at Choice Literacy? You can view dozens of articles at the Family Relations link:
That’s all for this week!