Dear Jess

“I think just because they have different skin doesn’t mean they can’t make a new friend”

“I was thinking, why would she say no to jump roping, they could be friends, she should have said ‘I think she should play with us’

“I think she’s jealous because that one has friends and she wants a friend”

These were the opening comments for a Whole Class Conversation around The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson.

Jess, our Literacy Coach, had invited the second grade team of teachers into the Labsite to watch a Whole Class Conversation.  The teachers were scattered around the room ready to watch, wonder, and learn.

Jess had opened the read aloud by doing a little “Teacher Talk”.

“You can read more about this in the Guide to the Reading Workshop page 148.” 

“Whole Class Conversation revolves around having something long to talk about. Ideally, a reader comes up with the idea, but today, seeing as this is our first time, I’ll give them an idea.”

She then turned her attention back to the second grade readers before her.

“Today we are going to talk long about this question, “What lessons did the characters learn and what is important about this?”


“I think they were meant to be friends”

I think they shouldn’t have built a fence so they could play”

Jess, listening and watching closely, responded to the class, raised the listening ante –

What can you say to grow Kelly’s ideas”

Owen took the tip and continued the conversation.

I agree with Kelly because they shouldn’t have built the fence.  But they did and if they do go over that fence, nothing bad will happen, they’ll just make a new friend”

“Yes. I agree.  “One side for the black and one side for the white. They should just knock it down and have black and white together.”

The conversation went on among the second graders.  Jess listened to every word, every idea.  You could see her mind whirling with responsive possibilities on the next move.

“So, What did the characters learn?” She put out another question out to grow more ideas.

“I think the mom learned a lesson, making friends is not bad, it’s good”

I think that end when the girls came over the fence, they learned to take risks and chances”

Last week, as I was perusing my Twitter feed, I came across this – img_2283

I immediately thought of Jess.  Jess bravely puts herself out there in front of teachers and children.  She’s not afraid to say, “I don’t know how this will go.”  She is always willing to give a anything a try.  She is a constant reminder that we owe it to the children we teach to bring our best selves, our most responsive selves to school each day.  This Labsite with the Whole Class Read Aloud was a great example.  From here, teachers went on and gave it a whirl themselves. Her work became a model for what could be.  For teachers and children.

When we have colleagues who model and encourage risk taking, learning, and reflection, they need to know they are doing extraordinary work. (as Danny Steele so eloquently tweeted) So Jess, thank you.  Here’s your pat on the back.  Thank you for being you and bringing your extraordinary self to us each day.



8 thoughts on “Dear Jess”

  1. This is just beautiful! I love the line, “She is a constant reminder that we owe it to the children we teach to bring our best selves, our most responsive selves to school each day.” I would say that both you and Jess do just that! I am honored to work with both of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You captures so much of their great thinking! You and your journal! I’m always happy to have you in a lab- even if it stinks, you find the good. Your feedback and presence means so much to me. Thank you for this. It was a long Monday but reading this made me smile. I’m grateful for YOU every single day. ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s so important to let people know that what they’re doing makes a difference. It sounds like you’ve all got a great thing going at your school. I really enjoyed reading about the Whole Class Conversation (all that thinking work!) and how this and a tweet sparked your slice.


  4. Wish I could have double liked this. First this is an amazing and brave idea by Jess. Second I wish I had someone who believes in me the way you believe in her. That support makes us brave.


  5. We all need a cheerleader and you certainly were one for your colleague Jess. And yes it is important to share the good we see in our schools. We need good press! Thanks for sharing that good news with us slicers.


  6. What a beautiful post. Great how you captured so much of the conversation as it evolved. Wonderful how you recognized the great in Jess and the modeling she was doing for you all. I love to have this fly on the wall view.


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