Reaching Back, Reaching In – Seeing Brilliance

Reach and I are having a good start together.  Reach is my OLW 2018.

I reached back the other day.  I reached back for an old book.  It was lunch and I needed some stimulation.  I had just finished 3 hours of AIMSweb screening.  I pulled What a Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher off my shelf and started reading what I had underlined back in 1994.  I chewed and read.  I read and chewed.


Last year, I worked in a second grade classroom once a week building habits of writers through Journal Time.  This year, I’ve been working in a first and fifth grade classrooms.  Every Friday, I get to “lead” Journal Workshop (renamed from last year).  This work was inspired by my past experience as a classroom teacher as well as reading Ralph Fletcher’s Joy Write last spring.

As I chewed and read I came across Fletcher’s line:

“Don Graves is right:  Writing/reading teachers must begin with our own literacy.”

This took me back to my beginning, my beginning as a teacher.

Art, pictures and sketching taught me to be a writer.  Growing up, I wrote, I was not a writer.  When I started teaching, I was blessed to work with a visionary, a forward thinking, risk taking, researcher of a teacher – Dr. Karen Ernst daSilva.  It was thanks to her leadership and collaboration that I began to play with pictures alongside my second graders, I attended teacher research groups and wrote about my practice.  I found ideas in those pictures and I found stories in my classroom.  I slowly began to uncover my writer.

The choices I offer my fellow writers are, naturally rooted in my own experiences as a writer.

The structure of each Journal Time is grounded in choice.  The choices are based on what I know as a writer.  I know writers observe.  I know writers copy.  I know pictures are writing.  I know writers need time to think.  I know writers need time to play.  I know writers discover.  I know writers pay attention to the world around them.

Like I said, reach and I are having a good start together.  Thanks to the bomb cyclone that hit New England, I had two snow days.  I drew and read.  I read and drew.  I read Tom Newkirk’s, Embarassment.

“But teaching, I am convinced, is not about us being brilliant, it is about students being brilliant.” p79

When I started teaching 26 years ago, I am sure I thought teaching was all about me.  It was the teacher research stance that allowed me to realize it is all about the kids.  It is, as Newkirk points out, about their brilliance.  It is our job to see, to nurture their brilliance.

“This picture makes me think of a never ending road to freedom.

I have seen brilliance during Journal img_8150Workshop in both first and fifth grade. Brilliance appears in different forms.   Sometimes, the brilliance comes in the form of an antsy, busy child being completely engaged and settled for 20 minutes.  Sometimes, the brilliance comes in the from of a quiet conversation between children “I got inspired by Abigail, and Abigail got inspired by Oliver, and Oliver inspired Cyrus.”  And other times, brilliance comes in out in a picture or a piece of writing. It even appears in the voice of a first grader,  “Look how much I wrote!  I pushed myself!”

Each week during Journal Workshop, I see children shine. It is with authority that they commit to a choice, write, draw and experience the wonder of being a writer.  Yes, I see brilliance in these writers.

Where do you see brilliance?

“I watch as the sun rises, her comes light again. Light is a vision see by the stars, the people, the children, the animals and the plants. Light can make a creature happy or sad. Light can create difference. Light is hope, and hope is bravery.”



5 thoughts on “Reaching Back, Reaching In – Seeing Brilliance”

  1. I am a strong believer in all you have professed here. Journal writing can be joyful writing if we give our students voice and choice. Have you read Joy Write by Ralph Fletcher? I went back to Ralph’s book, A Writer’s Notebook, and got new insights for my own writing as well as for my students. Being a writer/ teacher creates a community of writers in the classroom. We write together. We are writers. Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

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