Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.
My colleague Jeff was worried. We were both professors at a large state university, working with juniors and seniors in literacy methods courses. One of his students, Amanda, recently lost her mother to cancer, and now she’d missed the last two classes in his secondary English methods class. He’d called her repeatedly and talked with her roommate but couldn’t reach Amanda. Finally the roommate told him Amanda was at soccer practice and would be there for another hour. Jeff hung up the phone (because this was back in the days when phones had cords and you actually hung them up), put on his jacket, and walked 10 minutes across campus to the sports fields, where he found Amanda and told her he was worried about her. She cried a little, promised to come to the next class, and didn’t skip class again for the rest of the semester.
When Jeff told me this story, I was astonished. I rarely called students when they missed class, certainly never visited them personally at a sports practice. We talk a lot about doing “extra” as educators, but Jeff made me realize the unexpected is what has the biggest impact.
Og Mandino once wrote, “The only certain means of success is to render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be.”
Joe Clark explains the way “more and better” works for administrators: “People expect school administrators to be at the Friday night football game. They don’t expect them to bring Popsicles to band camp. Or go to the bowling team’s match or the Mock Trial team’s performance.”
We do a lot of the “extra,” but maybe we need more of the unexpected. Most of us don’t have more to give. Maybe it’s a matter of surprising people with the unexpected in a way that truly makes them rethink their relationship with us, and our commitment to their work.
This week we look at finding writing topics. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links, follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ChoiceLiteracy or Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/choiceliteracy/]
Here are two different takes from the archives on helping students write.
Gifted students can struggle to write, if only because their skills can get in the way. Michelle Kelly has advice for working with writers who are perfectionists and verbally skilled:
In The Pause That Refreshes, Suzy Kaback advises teachers to stop and encourage students to write when the conversation gets hot:
What is the value in taking a break from writing? In On Not Writing, Bill Hayes shares what he learned as a professional writer who abandoned the craft for years before finally returning to it:
For Members Only
A paid membership gives you access to all premium content. For details on trial and annual memberships, click here.
Mary Lee Hahn deals with writer’s block personally, and is inspired to create a list of ways for Getting Traction When There is Nothing to Write About:
Katherine Sokolowski is Rethinking Writing Notebooks in her fifth-grade classroom:
In this week’s video, Ruth Ayres confers with Bode about the difference between personal narratives and memoirs, and the value of mining the writing journal for topics:
Tony Keefer takes the leap and commits to sharing more of his writing process with students in Teacher as Mentor Writer:
Finally, Sean Moore demonstrates to second graders how to find topics in his writer’s notebook in this encore video:
That’s all for this week!