Monday, August 11, 2014

Time for Clean Slates

          Time for our Tuesday Slice of Life Sharing at theTwo Writing Teachers blog. It's a wonderful place to share. Last night, even more sharing happened on Twitter, at the #TWTBlog chat. Thanks for a great conversation!
          It was quite a day yesterday, one that was cut into tiny, tiny slices;  I'm actually happy it is over. As I said above, I enjoyed the twitter chat from everyone here, but the day itself was filled to the brim. I hoped to write a long post about the first days of school, but it will be brief today, sharing only one thing that became so important to me in the first days of school. 
          While even from the first day, I wanted my class to know that this would be a reading and writing year, even more I wanted them to realize that they were the ones that would be driving the year. I taught a mix of 6th, 7th and 8th graders and many of you know that personal choice is a top priority for all of our students, K through 8. One of the things I did on the first day was to share a poem or a poetic quote to help us leap into the year. I gave each student a copy, they taped it into their writers' notebooks, and then responded to it. In that response, I asked them to make one secret and very personal goal for the year.  Although I never knew what those particular goals were, I would re-visit students once in a while to ask how they were doing with it, and if there was something I could provide that would help reach the goal? Obviously, it involved a lot of trust. There were other times that students created goals that I did know about, but I always felt that trusting that they could work to reach a goal secretly was inspiring and empowering. 


        Here are two poems I used often, both by Eve Merriam: "Metaphor" and "Thumbprint", pushing at the concept of Tabula Rasa, or "clean slate" and the uniqueness of each person. You can find them on the web easily, and I suspect many of you already know them. There are so many others that might fit you and your class, but these two are favorites of mine. And here is another, some call a poem and others name it a quote, author unknown. It's inspiring to me, too, every time I read it. It calls for courage, venturing into the unknown, just what each student does every year. 
        Don't you agree that they're brave?

As you journey through life,

      choose your destinations well,
      but do not hurry there.
      You will arrive soon enough.
      Wander the back roads and forgotten   
            paths,
      keeping your destination
      like the fixed point of a compass.

      Seek out new voices, strange sights,
      and ideas foreign to your own.
      Such things are
      riches for the soul.
      And if, upon arrival,
      you find that your destination
      is not exactly as you had dreamed,
      do not be disappointed.

      Think of all you would have missed
      but for the journey there.
      and know that the true worth
      of your travels lies not in where
      you come to be at journey’s end,
      but in who you come to be

      along the way.
     
            anonymous

    Best wishes as you all begin your journeys this school year if you are still educators. If not, the wishes go to you as well in your own unique journeys.

39 comments:

  1. Linda,
    I see that you have had a marvelous beginning to a year of learning for your young charges. The clean slate image is a great starting point that allows children to notice, wonder, and discover the importance of their personal journey. The choice factor that you introduced is an empowering move. Best of luck this year.

    Would you like to share the link to this blog post on the Showcase of Teaching and Learning for a global share (sponsored by #nyedchat and #njed). The link is http://beyondliteracylink.blogspot.com/2014/06/moving-our-learning-forward-via-virtual.html. Have a great day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Carol. Starting Just right seems important to me, & from what I've been reading lately, for all teachers. I'll be happy to share.

      Delete
  2. Oh all of these back to school posts are getting me excited to return. I love the poems and quotes you shared. Thank you!!! Wishing you a wonderful year filled with reading, writing, learning, laughing, and meaning! Oh those lucky students!!! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Michelle, and the same to you! Although we will miss our lazy summer days, it is exciting to think about beginnings, too.

      Delete
  3. I just love this poem, Linda. Thank you for sharing it. I will share it with my students too. I wish you a wonderful year! Can't wait to read about your learning adventures.

    Jennifer
    Sweet Writing Life
    Mrs. Laffin's Laughings

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Terrific, Jennifer. I hope you'll be writing and sharing your own adventures too!

      Delete
  4. I love that you had the kids create goals, but let them be for them, not for your eyes or a grade. That is honoring those kids from the start. And the poem is beautiful. Off to read the other two.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Katherine, I think students should be honored most of the time that they really do know what to do, what is good for them. Hope you enjoy the poems!

      Delete
  5. Oh Linda, thank you for this post. I really needed this as much as my student do today. I'm glad I clicked on your post before I took off this morning.
    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, hope you enjoy sharing, Julieanne!

      Delete
  6. This is so beautiful. I love your idea of having your students choose a secret and private goal. Vermont has moved to personalized learning plans and this could be so easily woven in. I love the way you honor their goal, but allow them to keep it personal. You must have an amazing classroom. The risk learning is nurtured by such trust.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you-I hope it will work for you in the sharing, too.

      Delete
  7. Thank you for writing that. It gave me chills. This is a new year, clean slate. I hope to find many beautiful moments myself. Looking forward to sharing more with you this year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me, too, Michele. No matter how long, every year is so exciting. I hope some of these poems helps you on your journey, too!

      Delete
  8. This poem makes me cry (I think I'm emotional this week since school is starting - ha). I'd like to share it with my oldest daughter who is expressing anxiety over her senior year in college. Thanks so much for this slice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I'm so glad to share it, Holly. Hope this week is going great for you!

      Delete
  9. Nice slice! Have a great school year. I'm trying so hard to hold on to my last 4 days of summer, but it's slipping away!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, gone, gone, gone! Enjoy those last days!

      Delete
  10. What a great way to start the new school year and set the tone for what will be happening throughout the year. Hope you and your students have a rewarding year.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you for sharing the quote/poem. As I read the beginning of the school year slices yesterday's summer day seems far away and tomorrow's school day very close. Your slice made me smile.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Terje, I'll remember your summer slices!

      Delete
  12. Replies
    1. Thanks Loralee, & like many, a teacher!

      Delete
  13. This is such an important topic and so glad you have poetry to light your way. In recent research I've seen the focus on what's next for kids is a very important conversation that should keep happening. Finding your passion and a way to work at it in the world. BRAVO my Friend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Bonnie, so true about re-visiting, shouldn't forget!

      Delete
  14. Once again you are spot on with words of wisdom for this new year. I know you will have a great one since there is one very special kindergartener at your school. Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed, looking forward to this year very much! Thanks, Elsie

      Delete
  15. I'm wondering about that special kindergartener...someone you're related to perhaps? Thanks for mentioning those of us who aren't in the classroom. I'm feeling a bit nostalgic, giddy, and sad, all at the same time! I didn't think I could talk about my feelings with all the teachers facing back to school, but it's my new road to travel this year. I've used Metaphor, but Thumbprint is new for me - "...a unique design. Mine alone..." Wonderful words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm, I just read & commented on your site this am, Ramona. I have been thinking of you, & a dear colleague who left last year. Just think, so many things are open for you now! Thanks for remembering my Ingrid, in Kdg. in a couple of weeks!

      Delete
  16. How I love the idea of inviting students to design their own very secret, very personal goal that they don't have to share! I was able to show up for the chat for just a few minutes before crazy broke out at my house--you just never know when that's going to happen! But I am definitely hoping to participate next time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll look for you next time, Elisabeth. Happy you liked hearing about the idea of a "private" personal goal. It worked well for me.

      Delete
  17. Lovely post, Linda. I like how you are encouraging the students to set their own secret goals. They must learn to trust you, the teacher, not to intervene just as you are trusting them to open up and let you get to know them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Laura. It is a matter of everyone working together to become the best learners we can be, teachers included. Each of us is so different in the way we approach things, so we feel comfortable allowing students to guide their own paths much of the time.

      Delete
  18. There is value in the journey and this quote/poem reminds us of that. All my best for this new school year. I am getting ready and will start seeing my students next week. Reading and writing are my top goals this year, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your post led me to create a Wonder lesson on fingerprints using the poem Thumbprints for annotation. Thanks for the inspiration.

      Delete
  19. Wow, Margaret, what a great idea. The teacher I worked with last spring did a lesson with the students' thumbprints. They took them, enlarged them, then they wrote on the lines about a special and personal memory. I hope you'll share when you do it, or send me some of the work & I'll share! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  20. This is such an important message, Linda! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and this poem. I will share it with my colleagues next week as we prepare for the return of our students.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Catherine. I hope they will take something valuable from it for their own teaching.

      Delete

Having a conversation is a good thing!