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.
I have seen brilliance during Journal Workshop 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.
Reach. It is the word. The word I have chosen to be my One Little Word for the year 2018.
Last year, my word was “doshare”. I know, it’s not really a word, it’s two words that I put together to be my OLW. It worked. Choosing that word, I think, raised my awareness of my ideas that needed to be shared and sharing them –
embracing a shared research question, what happens when group of teachers reads joy write?
designing, sending out the family reunion invitation
hosting the reunion years in the making
joining the TWT writing community via Slice of Life
expanding my professional resource base by including Twitter
Yes, “doshare” served me well throughout 2017 both personally and professionally.
So, all week, I wondered, what next. What word would serve me well personally and professionally.
I’ve been watching an amaryllis bulb since Thanksgiving. My aunt gives me one every year at Thanksgiving. It’s an extra large bulb. I get to watch it grow. I love watching it grow. I love the days right before the flower bursts from its home. The beauty of the flower is a gift in itself. I also love the bending and reaching that work of a growing amaryllis. It leans toward the light. It reaches high. The flower stretches and opens wide revealing the details of the long awaited flower.
I had stretch, expand and reach as contenders for my OLW 2018. When I came downstairs this morning, I looked at the amaryllis standing tall and proud, still reaching, I locked in my word – reach.
I want to reach to connect with people. To know them and their stories. I want to reach to always find the energy that a run can give. I want to reach to find what is possible when group of teachers continues to meet because they read Joy Write. I want to reach to make time to write and sketch. I want to reach to learn. I want to reach to see what is in front of me and beyond. I want to continue to reach for the unknown, the seemingly impossible.
I had just surprised myself with not one but two days of skiing in below zero temperatures. With the forecast calling for maximum temperature of -2 at the base and -10 at the summit and windchills temps at -20, I was bowing out of day three at Sugarbush.
“Hey Dawn, you going to church?”
“Maybe. What time is mass?”
It was 7:30, the five nuts (my husband and two oldest daughters among them) who were braving the elements for some runs at Mount Ellen (aka Sugarbush North) had just left. Twelve of us remained in the coziness. We chatted, we ate breakfast, we reminded each other it was New Years Eve. Days and time seem to carry less weight in Hancock, VT.
“What time is it?” I asked from my sun soaked chair.
“Hey PJ, I’m coming to church with you. What time do we have to leave?”
“Ehhh…ten of nine oughta do.”
At 8:50, I wrapped myself in my long down coat, wool hat and snow boots. Debbie warned me that the church would be cold – “They only turn the heat up once a week. For this mass, their only mass!” I laughed and dismissed her warning.
The winter sun was blinding as we drove south on Route 100 to St. Elizabeth’s Church in Rochester, VT.
We pulled and parked in the back of the church. The snow crunched underneath the tires.
The building was the one room schoolhouse of churches.
I entered the church and turned to look for the holy water to bless myself. I reached to wet my finger only to feel ice. Frozen Holy Water. This is Vermont.
We sat. The pews were cushioned. I turned to my left to count the pews. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Seven and seven equals fourteen. A fourteen pew church. I turned my attention to the altar. The poinsettias caught my eye at the same time PJ leaned towards me. “Those poinsettias have seen better days.” Their once perky bright red flowers and deep green leaves were hanging sadly, clearly the cold had robbed them of their color and life.
The mass began. It went as mass always goes. I half listened to the sermon. I counted the people in the seven pews to the left. Ten. I counted the people in front of us. Seven. I estimated the number of people behind us. About eight. Including the priest and altar sever, there were 27 of us that had gathered on this Sunday morning.
I watched the woman two pews in front of me. She was bundled in her matching rainbow hat and scarf. Her coat was zipped up tight and her hands were nestled in her thick white mittens. She showed no signs of pealing any layer. It was then I began to notice my toes getting cold. The rest of me was bundled, just like the woman I was studying, and I had worn the proper footwear – fuzzy North Face boots, but yet the cold was seeping in.
I listened as intently as I could to the homily. Father spoke of the Feast of the Holy Family and reminded us to embrace family and hold on to supernatural joy and hope. I was captivated by the small town, New England charm of this little old church. I was loving the presence of these strangers who did not feel like strangers.
As we stood to sing the final hymn, I snapped out of my observant state and realized that my toes were colder than they had been skiing at point in the past two days. As much as I couldn’t wait to be back at the house – to reclaim my seat in the sun soaked chair and warm my toes, I wanted to soak in and remember every moment, every detail of being in and participating in mass at St. Elizabeth’s in Rochester, VT.
I turned to our family medical expert, “Hey Jill, what does HOH stand for?”
“Hard of hearing.”
“Ohhhh!” I responded, pausing our exit. I headed straight for the white board, picked up the pen and began to write.”
“What are you doing, now?” my Dad asked.
I read as I wrote under HOH (or, as his family calls him, deaf as a doorknob, or just plain deaf 🙂
“The nurses are gonna love that!” my Dad chuckled as we said our final goodbyes.
I held back the tears and laughed.
The diagnosis of amyloidosis of the heart wall comes with a grim prognosis. After a long summer of sleepless nights, coughing, various levels of fluid build up, and few trips to his cardiologist, my father was finally admitted to the Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He spent three weeks in the care of incredibly talented, caring nurses and doctors. When we left that day, the HOH day, I was uncertain, uneasy but yet hopeful. I knew this hospital had repaired his heart before and if anyone could give him another chance, the Brigham could. I left with hope because I knew he was where he needed to be.
Yesterday was Christmas. We hosted a gaggle of fourteen. We ate, we drank, we opened presents, we laughed by the fire, and we ate some more. After saying goodbye to our final local guests, I went upstairs thankful to turn in my Christmas garb for my comfies.
I came back downstairs and walked into the kitchen to see my youngest, Megan, and my Dad setting up a game of Sequence. I walked right by and remembered the last time they had played was four months ago at the Brigham. On that day, I wasn’t sure they would have a chance to play again but here they were, on Christmas night, in my kitchen playing, together.
The Brigham gave him a parting gift of a pacemaker and defibrillator, but no hearing aid, and that’s just fine with us.