I don’t have to take a trip around the world or be on a yacht in the Mediterranean to have happiness. I can find it in the little things, like looking out into my backyard and seeing deer in the fields.
My home has abutted a private wooded lot for over 20 years. The wooded land behind the house has remained quiet and untouched for as long as I have lived here. I have spent many mornings looking out at the trees and breathing in their calming presence.
I learned last spring that the land behind the house had been sold and that the new owners planned to clear-cut the land and put in an organic apple orchard. I went to zoning meetings and listened as plans were shared. The plans were thoughtful and a vision was presented, yet I struggled just knowing change was coming to my doorstep.
Then I waited and waited. An entire summer passed. Each day I found myself looking for signs of change.
I was frustrated, apprehensive, and anxious. I knew change was coming and I couldn’t seem to grasp how any of it could be positive. In my spare time I studied the land plot maps depicting the acres that would be cut. With all of this information I still couldn’t envision the future of this space.
Then it happened.
Nothing prepared me for the morning I woke to the deafening sound of chain saws and falling trees. My heart sank as I watched the trees behind my house topple like dominoes to the ground.
In that moment I was immobilized. I felt unable to breathe.
Time has passed. As I continue to make sense of this clear-cutting, I find myself thinking of complex change, the same change theory that I so often present to staff. I find that I am not focused on the components needed for successful change, but rather on my feelings and the sense of being immobilized when facing change that is out of my control. In the midst of change, all I could really focus on is how I felt. I could not have cared less that the components for this change process had been carefully laid out for me months in advance.
We’re in the early weeks of a new school year. Change is once again upon us at my school as we implement a new writing curriculum. Sometimes as a leader I get so caught up in the efficiency of implementing a change that I lose sight of the emotional side of change and how it affects staff. Regardless of the value of any new program and the care taken with its implementation, individuals involved are still going to deal with emotions. You can’t take being human out of the change process. The clear cutting behind my house has been a wake-up call to be more empathetic to anyone going through change beyond their control.
I have begun to see hope and new possibilities beyond my backyard. I still can’t envision an apple orchard in the now empty space, but as I drink my coffee and look into the distance beyond the borders of my yard, I see new light, a brightness to the mornings that wasn’t there before, as well as a tranquil space that’s waiting for rebirth. I am not sure what the future will bring behind my yard or at school. But I do know that change softens with time, and that sometimes, working with more heart and a little less head might just be what everyone involved in the change process needs to move forward.
This week we look at creative ways to improve read alouds. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jennifer Allen is a literacy specialist in grades 3-5 for the Waterville, Maine, school district, where she works as a reading coach and leads professional development programs for teachers in a wide range of formats. She is the author of Becoming a Literacy Leader and A Sense of Belonging (both available through Stenhouse Publishers), as well as three video series.
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Katherine Sokolowski uses read alouds early in the year to help students reflect on how to be kind and thoughtful members of a classroom community:
Jennifer Schwanke interviews older students and discovers that their most beloved memories of elementary school involve read alouds:
Franki Sibberson suggests some read alouds to help students have fun with words:
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Franki Sibberson shares strategies for incorporating more nonfiction into read-aloud times throughout the day:
In this week’s video, Katrina Edwards reads aloud a Kate Messner mentor text to build an anchor chart on emotions with her first graders:
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills find an ingenious way in the upper elementary grades to help their struggling readers develop fluency through read alouds:
Andrea Smith uses the Color-Symbol-Image thinking routine during read alouds to promote deeper reflection among students:
In this encore video from a fourth-grade classroom, Gi Reed reads aloud Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson. Gi continually checks in with her students, making sure they are visualizing, noticing new vocabulary, and making connections to earlier incidents in the text—all without breaking the flow of the story:
That’s all for this week!