look back, look ahead, learn, repeat

“The top teachers, I’ve found, whether in the center of the city, or a rural school, have an insatiable appetite for learning. When teachers learn, the children learn.” Donald Graves, Writing: Teachers and Children at Work (1983)

I toed the line. I heard the gun. I watched as Julie ran the first leg. Butterflies were building. I watched Julie reach her arm up, the shiny baton held tight in her hand. I watched as she reached up and over, the baton landing right in Lori’s hand. Gripping the baton fiercely, Lori took off towards me. As she approached, I envisioned the baton seamlessly landing in my hand, the feel of the cold metal signaling me to go full steam ahead.

This morning, our first grade team visited a kindergarten Writer’s Workshop. They went to watch kindergarten writers at work. They went to watch and learn a bit about the children that would soon be “their” first graders.

Kelly and B – she grew a kindergartener, a learner, a writer

Kelly had the kids on the floor when we walked in. We watched them listening as she called them off the rug and into the workshop. “B’s table you can go get a writing booklet and get to work.” “M’s table.” “C’s table.” We all watched as they independently chose their booklets and independently settled right into writing. Lynn, a first grade teacher observed and whispered to me, “They are writing a lot. No one is asking what to write. The kids know the routines, the structure. They are all sketching, writing.”

There was a hum in the room. It was children touching and telling their stories. It was children asking children questions. It was teachers talking to children. It was teachers engaged in research. It was teachers and children working alongside each other.

It’s Monday of our last week of school. We’ve got a day and half left. We could have kept our eyes on Wednesday, the end, but we didn’t. We took an hour to go back, to look, and to learn. The first grade teachers got an up close and personal look at what the soon to be first graders writers at work in their workshop. This simple act of looking back at children at work helps to create the vision for how to move forward.

Much like awaiting the baton hand off in a relay, we have to look back to see what’s coming towards us. When we have first hand knowledge and experience with what came before, we can use it to create visions for workshops that don’t just repeat, but grow with clear expectations, routines and structures from grade to grade. The time spent looking back to move forward is essential to teaching and learning across the grades.

6 thoughts on “look back, look ahead, learn, repeat”

  1. This is a powerful post. I feel like everyone is rushing to the end, but you have captured the importance of slowing down and continuing to learn and grow. I love the Graves quote and I love this line – This simple act of looking back at children at work helps to create the vision for how to move forward.


  2. There’s so much I’m taking as a writer and a teacher from this post. I loved the quote, the scene of the relay and then the current story/reflection. They all fit together in a way that really gets you thinking!


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