I’m reading Thomas Newkirk’s Holding on to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones. It’s dense and beautifully written. And it’s got me thinking about my literacy journey. My Christmas past, present, and future.
The pre-teaching Christmas past. I’m on the treadmill reading The New Yorker. I’d accepted my first teaching position. Fifth grade. I’m excited, yet in mourning. The job will require a shift in my reading life. No longer will I be able to read for personal pleasure. I will read to teach.
That day, a friend spotted my magazine she said, “I had no idea you were interested in such things.”
That day, I walked away from a private literary life. Knowing it needed to be shared.
The classroom teacher ‘s Christmas past. I sit at the kitchen table, pouring over texts to fashion questions that “match” the type of questions students have to answer. I spend hours on this work.
That year, I faced reality: what mattered was reading that focused on responding to a question. If you could read well, you’d do well on The Test.
That year, I had Leeann* and Collette* in my class. They had passionate voices and stories that rocked. Their writing far surpassed their ability to read. More than anything, those storytellers made me question my practice. It broke my heart that their voices were not celebrated or valued in school.
The first blogging Christmas past. I sit at the kitchen table, writing a post.
That year, social media happened, and I found people with a passion for and about literacy. Social media, being social, encouraged almost required participation. Painfully and because I believed that I must do what I ask students to do, my blogging life was born.
That year, I received unexpected gifts. Close friendships. I had no idea my words could create relationships that lived alongside learning.
That year, the new Common Core standards were changing the testing world. Writing had to be taught. That gave permission to give writing a bigger space in the school day and to create a student blog.
Christmas Present: I sit at the kitchen table, reading student posts. They are far from perfect, but they are stories, opinions, ideas. They are writing for each other, not just for a unit of study.
This year, the student blog has taken on a life of its own. I’m there as a moderator, but it is their space. Students thoughts and interests drive the blog. They have words to share.
This year, tests are looming. But still we take the time to write for each other, to share our voices and our stories.
Christmas Future: I sit at the kitchen table, reading student posts, filled with voice and passion. They aren’t perfect, but there are more than ever before.
This year, students moderate blog posts and comments that instigate more writing. Writers develop specific audiences. Students start websites and blogs independent of their school life. Better technology and access allow 100% participation over the long holiday break.
This year, testing still hovers, but it doesn’t consume. Student-driven writing filled with voice and personal purpose is alive.
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers Blog that provides a space to write, share, imagine, and give.
Dear Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Tara, and Stacey, may your holiday be merry and bright.
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