To List or Not to List

“As teachers, our responses and teaching flow from the font of children’s noticings.” Patterns of Power, Jeff Anderson

Last Friday afternoon, I had about 20 minutes alone in my room.  I had Jeff Anderson’s book, Patterns of Power sitting in a pile.  There had been a buzz about writing and conventions throughout the building over the course of the week.  I had also had some hallway conversations with colleagues about conventions.  I guess you could say I had conventions on the brain.  So I picked up Jeff’s book and read.  He believes that at the heart of teaching conventions is noticing.  He offers a clear approach to implement the noticings.  As the bell rang for dismissal, and the voices and energy of the children faded, I closed the book.  I left the building thinking about noticings.

On Saturday morning, Megan and I are walking through the grocery store.

“Do I have my list?” I had said only moments earlier before getting out of the car.  I unzipped my bag, pulled out the white pieces of paper that held the lists – one for the grocery store, the other for what I had hoped to do before I hit the soccer field.

“You grab some bananas and I’ll get an eggplant.”  Megan and I parted and chose our respective produce.  We met back at the cart and I pulled out the list and crossed off two items.  We casually walked along the back of the store, pausing at each aisle, referring to the list, walking just far enough down to grab what we set out to grab – Crangrape Juice, Frosted Flakes, Pipette Pasta, Yogurt etc.

When we had crossed everything off our list, I said “OK that’s it – let’s head out!”  No sooner did the words fall out of my mouth did I spy the 1/2 Entemanns products.  “Hey Megan, want anything?”  She turned and perused the shelf and snagged a box of chocolate covered donuts and ploped them in the cart.

Later that night, back at home, Billy was getting ready to grill up steak tips.  “What are we having with the steak?”  He asked.  It’s Saturday night and that meant casual.  “Maybe french fries?  Not sure.  Hadn’t really thought about it.  I’ll figure something out.”

I found myself standing in the kitchen, thinking.  Then it hit me.  I said to no one, “Crescent rolls!  That would be perfect with the steaks.  Steaks, crescent rolls, and fruit – perfect casual Saturday night dinner.”  I knew as I am whispering the words that there was one problem with my casual genius idea – we didn’t have any crescent rolls.  They weren’t on the list, so I didn’t get any.

The absence of crescent rolls got me thinking about teaching.

It got me thinking to the balance between planning and responding.  I go into classrooms with a plan for small groups, or journal writing, or sometimes a read aloud.  It’s important to have a plan, an understanding of the reading and writing lessons that ground our teaching.  It is equally, if not more important to make our teaching responsive to the children in front of us.  To be open to the possibilities that come from conversations and observations.

If I had not been so focused on the list last Saturday, and maybe more focused on the ideas and possibilities that can come from just being surrounded by all the ingredients in a grocery store – I just may have gotten those crescent rolls for our casual Saturday night dinner.

I guess my weekend trip to the grocery store was a reminder to me about the constant work teachers do in the name of following curriculum and allowing our teaching to “flow from the font of children’s noticings” as well as our own.


5 thoughts on “To List or Not to List”

  1. You pulled it all together for this post… your reading, your home life, the parts you do so well with students- the seeing. You tapped into something vital here… and through story!


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