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watching

October 1986…watching

Saturday morning, Megan and I dug out our winter garb and headed out the door early to go see my niece play field hockey. We stood on the sidelines, our masks, not only protecting, but warming. We watched Molly, layered up, dribble and run, run and dribble. We watched her attack the ball. We watched her play her position and wait for the ball. We watched.

Growing up, I had my hand in few different sports – softball, indoor and outdoor track, and field hockey. When I think back to those games, I don’t remember winning or loosing. I remember my teammates. I remember that feeling of belonging and I remember my Mom and Dad, always on the sidelines…watching.

One year ago today, was the last road trip my family made from CT to MA to see my Mom and Dad. It was one year ago that we each had our last hugs from my Dad before he passed four days later. That day, a weak and feeble man with a strong spirit, mustered up the strength to stand and walk us to the door. He stood there, on the sideline, one final time, and watched us pull away for the very last time.

I was watched. I was watched and supported. It made me know and feel that what I was doing mattered. It made me know I mattered. There is power in knowing someone took the time to watch. Watching, being present, can instill confidence. It can instill the sense that you matter. To this day, I know my Dad is still watching, from heaven’s sidelines and I am better because he’s up there, always watching.

november 3, 2019…watching

Beating Chaos

“Let’s do a a sentence ladder on our dry erase boards.” I watched as Thomas and Mary readied themselves. They were ready to use all we had been working on.

I dictated. They wrote. They thought. I watched. I watched them independently apply the word work from the past few days.

When they finished, I handed them a blank sheet of paper. “Pictures are important to readers and writers. Sketch the picture you had in your mind from your sentence.” I watched again for a few minutes as Mary sketched a picture similar to the one I might have drawn. Then, I glanced over the plexiglass to see Thomas’ sketch. I was taken by what I saw….two hands holding an open book. Not exactly what I thought he would sketch. “Tell me about what you were thinking about the sentence.” I needed to know more. “Well, the sentence was in a book and here’s the sketch that went with it.” “Wow, Thomas, what a cool idea! I would have drawn something like Mary’s.” At that Mary’s head popped up to see Thomas’ work. She chimed in saying, “Wow, that is cool Thomas.”

Last week, there were a few days where Chaos made its’ presence known. It was frustrating. It was annoying. The Chaos had nothing to do with kids but it had everything to do with kids. I had to remind myself that teaching in a hybrid model in the midst of a pandemic can fuel Chaos, but it does not mean that Chaos can rule the work we get to do together.

Watching Thomas and Mary work, reminded me that being with kids, watching kids, learning from and about kids will always win over Chaos.

a visit

walking

side by side

strolling

side by side

his arm reaches up

his hand rests

thankfully

on her shoulder

he pulls her close

the faint giggle

their secret giggle

hits my ears

my eyes

my heart

soak it in

a father

a daughter

reunited

Looking Back, Celebrating Now

I came into teaching thinking writing was something you were taught to do. It was not something that could simply be experienced. It was through a collaborative inquiry group, The Community of Teachers Learning (COTL) that I not only began writing, but I began to experience what it felt like to be a writer. No one was telling me what to do, I was drawn to write and discover. Every meeting had a dedicated time for quiet writing with invitations that lured you to write. For me, it was awkward at first, but slowly, I began to feel the allure of the experience. With each monthly meeting, and new invitations, I began to feel like a writer. Being invited to write felt different than being taught to write, so I wrote. So began my belief in teacher as writer.

That experience meandered its’ way into my both my second and third grade classrooms. Every day, children were given invitations to write and sketch. I noticed, all those years ago, that children, like me at the COTL meetings, rarely had difficulty getting to work. There was something about an invitation that was less intimidating than being taught to write. I felt it and I saw it in the children.

Fast forward twenty something years, and in 2017, Teachers Who Write, a summer writing group was born. It was Ralph Fletcher’s, Joy Write, that inspired the original question “What happens when a group of teachers comes together to write and research?” This group has met for three years. Each year, the summer “work” we do as teacher-writers has found its’ way to children in our schools.

Teachers (and their kids) Who Write

This summer, thanks to The Covid. We found ourselves in a virtual world of Teachers who Write. What happened this summer was unexpected yet incredibly welcome – my colleagues’ children began to write with us. The invitations we offered at each meeting welcomed writers of all ages. The choice embedded in the invitations was inspiring exploration, play and discovery. Each meeting, of course, would end with a share. There, in our virtual world, feedback went from 50 year olds to 5 year olds, from one generation to another. I was in awe after every meeting.

And then we found ourselves in school – in a hybrid model, and just this week, I was struck with awe again.

I learned that our fifth grade team, Peter, Denia, Emily, and Val had taken it upon themselves to bring an experience, similar to our summer “work”, to their 5th grade classes.

Slide inviting 5th graders to write, think, discover

A fifth graders exploration of the WOTD “work”. “When I hear the word work I think of computers and data charts. I also think of coffee, traffic, and the seven AM rush. And finally, it makes me think of the number 5 (You know, because you have to get up at 5AM?)”

A fifth graders response to Invitations

Together, over time, my colleagues and I have given space and time to grow confidence and creativity for ourselves and the children we teach. What a gift it is to explore alongside them and to see them explore with their children. Reflecting on where we started leaves me wondering where we will go…

It started with a question and a brave, curious group of teachers.

*I can’t thank Jess Carey, Peter vonEuler, Jess Marino, Denia D’Alessandro, Erika Griffin, Elena Wetmore for their shared belief in growing writers, starting with themselves. And one more special thank you to Jennifer Laffin for her inspiring WOTD #DWHabit (Twitter).