Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Be Kind To Yourself In The New Year

Slice of Life Tuesday is enjoyed at Stacey and Ruth's Two Writing Teachers blog

       One recent reading experience began my thinking again about my theory that writing is deepening my reading.  I read Journey, by Patricia MacLachlan a while ago.  I love her work, both in picture books and chapter books, and I am excited to see her speak in February when I attend the Colorado Council of the International Reading Association annual conference.  In this book, a young child relies on much of his grandfather’s support, and the grandfather’s words are wise.  At an earlier time, I might have read the  scene below, enjoyed it, and moved on to another part of the book, but this time two things happened.  First, I paid particular attention to the lesson, thinking about its application to teachers who work so hard to do their very best; and, second, I noticed that MacLachlan was very good at sneaking life lessons for the reader into her book, but doing it so subtly within dialogue that it seemed just another talk between grandparent and grandchild in order to move the plot along. 

       While speaking of the grandparent’s comment about a photograph, we first hear Journey, the main character. 
“Well, I said, embarrassed and pleased.  “Well, it’s not perfect.”
”Perfect!”  Grandfather almost spit out the word.  His face softened.  “What is perfect?  Journey, a thing doesn’t have to be perfect to be fine.  That goes for a picture.  That goes for life.”  He paused.  “Things can be good enough.” 


And as I read this passage, it became a personal connection to the ways we teachers strive for perfection.  We read professional books looking for new ideas to make the lessons better, stronger, even more motivating.  We talk with our colleagues, we talk with our spouses, we wake up in the middle of the night worried about a particular student or lesson. We try harder!  But when I thought about Grandfather’s words, I wondered if sometimes we should give ourselves permission to be good enough.  If we stand back, and look at all the many things that happen with our students and in our classrooms, we can say often, “it’s good enough”.   We can give ourselves permission to be not perfect, but to be good, good enough.  Especially at this beginning of a new year, when we are all making resolutions to change this or that, to do this better, to learn how to do something, etc. perhaps we should consider and choose just a few, and that’s “good enough.”

 As I explained earlier, I’m not sure I would have made these connections without having the experience of writing that I’ve had this year.  It’s something for me to continue to wonder about, and to explain to the teachers with whom I work, to see if they can do a little research in their classrooms.  Let me know if you have observations yourself about it.

15 comments:

  1. You did a great job capturing that thought. So powerful. What a great life lesson. This is why I love reading SOLs. I always get lots to think about.

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  2. Great slice today. We do tend to expect perfection out of ourselves--and often out of those around us. Nice reminder to be kind!

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  3. In the past three days I've seen this need for perfection in a 6-year-old, 16-year-old, 42-year-old, and 63-year-old. The strange thing is that they can say to others that not everything has to be perfect yet are challenged to apply it to their own doings. Once "good enough" is accepted more often life becomes happier.
    Thank you for the slice.

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  4. Teaching is messy. Each student is working out their path to follow into something new and they are never exactly the same. Perfection is often an annoying buzzing fly distracting from the work the students and I are doing in building our path forward.

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  5. Reading like a writer does change one's thinking. The thinking goes much deeper. I love the thinking you share, it pushes my thinking and noticing in texts.

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  6. I got to hear Patricia MacLachlan speak ... the summer of '10? Loved her ... was surprised to find out she was so snarky in real life. Not in a mean way ... just had a killer sense of sarcastic humor. Wasn't necessarily expecting that from her books, which are awesome, but the best word I can think of is they are "soft." And she was not. ;]
    And you are so right. Egads, that balance is hard, though. You want to do your very best for the kids ... but your very best does not have to mean you don't take some time for yourself and your family to stay healthy and maintain at least a couple personal interests outside of the classroom. Says me who hasn't been to the gym in weeks. New Year, back to better habits! The kids deserve a teacher with some energy!

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  7. I am excited for you to be able to see an author whose writing you enjoy so much!

    My experiences align with yours in that once I started teaching with a reading and writing workshop, I have been more aware of different aspects of writing. The saying, "Read like a writer and write like a reader," frequently comes to mind, and it has truly made a difference for me as a reader and a writer.

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  8. Reading and writing are connected in so many ways. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. I think the idea of letting it be "good enough" rather than perfect is ideal. I worry when "good enough" is used as an excuse not to do one's best. However, in the way you described "good enough," I believe it's an excellent mindset to adopt.

    BTW: I love MacLachlan. Heard her speak at T.C. and got her autograph in 2005. She's a treasure!

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  10. "Good enough" instead of grandiose or perfect speaks to me. I think I miss a lot of writing because I never think my thoughts/events are good enough for a post. Other bloggers continually inspire me with their every day thoughts/events--good enough for a post. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  11. Thank you for this, Linda - this was much on my mind when I was thinking over my OLW. Sometimes, "good enough" is actually better than one thinks it is!

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  12. Such a great lesson. Sometimes perfection takes away from everything else..."good enough" can be wonderful as well.

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  13. When I first started reading your post, I thought you were going to make mention of a more obvious aspect of author's craft. I was delighted to find that you meant much more by your statement that writing influences the way you think about what you read. It is so true and you demonstrated the way it deepens your thinking (almost exponentially) beautifully.

    I read Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan at the start of my winter break this year. I heard her speak once at a conference and have been a tried and true fan ever since. In fact, you reminded me of a moment to add to my list of blog-posts-to-be-written. She writes for students much younger than the ones I teach, but that doesn't stop me from pushing her books as "Remember When" titles. There is so much to be gained from reading her stories, that they are worth reading below level.

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  14. Yes, slicing is a lesson in "good enough" - because we write, we publish and then let it go. Occasionally I have gone back and edited an old post but mostly I say to myself, "it's good enough." Great lesson for the new year.

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  15. Linda, great post. I just watched Miss Representation on OWN. In case you haven't watched it, it is about society's image of women etc. Anyways, your post reminds me of that documentary. Most people don't take the mindset that they are OK or are kind to themselves.

    P.S. I love the new clean look of your blog.

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