Slice of Life: When things fall short

“Would anyone like to share their summary?”

That’s what I asked my students yesterday. Each had tried to summarize a challenging section of a nonfiction article. This is a necessary evil of reading to learn. No matter what the text, summarizing is a slippery skill. It may appear straightforward, but when one sits down to do the work, it is anything but. It was a struggle.  Knowing this, but wanting an example of an attempt, I hoped a brave soul might want to share.

A, one of my quietest students,  hands me her notebook. Her thinking is careful and thought out. An approximation of what we are aiming for. I set it down for the doc cam to project.  Students read silently as I read aloud.

I look up, and the author has her head down.

Apparently, B, who had asked me earlier how to spell article, had discreetly informed her she had misspelled this word.

I looked at him. What?

“I didn’t know it would upset her?” he said.

Ironic in so many ways. Both students are fragile. Both students want so much to do well and are hard on themselves. The one who corrected had the exact same problem as the other. If the situation were reversed, he probably would have responded the same way.

While spelling is an issue for both of them and it matters when you share publically, I didn’t see it. And what mattered at that moment wasn’t about summary it was about being vulnerable and brave. I commended A’s bravery, and I thought about B and his comment.

Later in Writing Workshop, we were setting goals for our à la Katherine Bomer true essays. Another challenging task. About half of the students had approximated the work. A quarter of the students wrote informational articles and a quarter wrote opinion pieces. This is a natural place to land, and my lesson’s intent was for students to self-assess and adjust for another attempt. Everyone had done their best work in an area they had never tried before.

C who is used to reaching well beyond expectations had written a more infomational type of text wasn’t happy. “My next essay will be on how I hate true essay.”

My thought, how it is hard to fail. Fall short of expectation. That was how I felt in the moment. How I felt when B criticized A and when A cried.

Today we start our next true essay cycle. I know what my topic will be.

4 thoughts on “Slice of Life: When things fall short

  1. As always, I love being a fly on the wall in your classroom. And I feel your pain during the harder times. But I also am inspired by your lens of approximation! “About half of the students had approximated the work.” Thanks for nudging me to look for approximations. I’m teaching reading only and your post also reminds me how I miss teaching writing, even when it can be painful. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for bringing the story from your classroom to us today. I always appreciate the way you handle your students’ interpersonal situations.

    Good luck with your topic in this next cycle!

  3. I think you are brave. You show students what brave looks like and push them to be their best selves. It’s not perfect. No classroom ever is. But it’s real and it’s kind.

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