It's been way too long. I'm not sure if many people read this, but for those of you who do, thank you for reading, and I am sorry for missing so many weeks in a row.
This last week was interesting. I found out a lot about who I am, the teacher I am, the teacher I want to be... The impact I want to have not only on my students in the classroom, but more so what they take with them beyond the class.
Yesterday, as I conferencing with students about their writing, seeing what they were changing, how the image of their writing was evolving, I took a step back and noticed something. I had only a few students left, and over half a class period to work with them. I scanned the room: silent, whispers, working. They were on it today, making that work happen. So, I asked the question:
"Who wants to go for a walk?"
Heads jerked up violently to see if I had been serious with my proposition. If the words that they were gazing at with such intention could have, they would have leapt from the screen and floated in front of them. They would have been so caught off guard that they would have forgotten how to be words on a screen, and would have latched onto their owner's stare well beyond what was natural.
So I had their attention. And everyone wanted to go for a walk. At this point, I was not sure where or for what reason we would be walking. Let's just go for a walk was my thinking, and everyone agreed with me. We lined up, went out the back door, and started walking.
We got to the blacktop, basketball court to be exact, before I started to think about what was next. A couple of moments of standing around and I noticed the circles on the court, four of them, all the same size and evenly spaced. I had students break up into even groups within these circles. And then... I still had no Idea what was next.
"I want you to be in these circles, and, for a moment, think about your writing."
I was buying time for the words to come to me.
"And... quiet down please," a couple of squirrelly students were challenging each other to jump and touch the net. Attempting to corral them bought me more time.
"And, I want you to think about the writing process. You over here," it finally came to me, I knew what I was going to say, and the words started flowing from me, "you are the prewriting stage of the writing process. You are a bit scattered but you are getting your ideas together."
I started to travel to each circle, explaining what moment in the writing process they represented. The next, rough drafts. They had accomplished something, they had created something, but they weren't done yet; they were a little rough. The next circle was the final draft. These students had taken what they started with and "finished" something. They used their knowledge and the knowledge of those around them to review their roughness, and build upon it. But they weren't done. The last circle represented publishing. They had taken their finished work, fine tuned it, crafted it carefully with a thoughtful eye, and put it out into the world.
Now what, I thought. I had to move them from step to step, to visualize the process and going through it. So I did.
"Brainstormers," I shouted as I walked back to their circle, "you have taking these ideas, and started creating from them. You have now created a rough draft from your original thoughts."
I had them start walking to the next circle as I addressed this next groups progress.
"You all are now getting the feedback you need, you are reviewing your accomplishment, organizing it, taking things apart, adding more details, and have now created a final draft."
And the next, " You took what you have and made sure it was perfect. You edited, proofread, and now you are publishing your work."
Now the last group. What do I do? What do I say?
And it came to me, "You all have accomplished something. You have sent your work out into the world. Now, the world has a piece of you, of who you are through your writing. But, that writing is still a part of who you are. You take what you have already built and you start again through the process, knowing what you know from your past experiences." And I had them move from their published circle to the brainstorm circle.
And so it went. I repeated the process with each group until they found themselves right where they started. I felt like I needed to say more. I needed closure on this impromptu activity. I needed that impact.
I had students come closer to me, sit down in a circle, and I invited them to be a part of this moment together.
"We have all gone through this process. We started out brainstorming, then drafting, taking feedback and reviewing our work to create a more finished draft, fine-tuning that draft so we could put it out into the world."
And then I said it.
"You all are going through this process. You came to me very scatter brained; you were still 6th graders. But you took that and became more organized. We started to build a community together, but it was a little rough. It wasn't always the best community, but we had potential. We took that community, built upon it, took feedback from each other, and made it something better. We are now more finished. You are now in the proofreading stages of your 7th grade year. You are taking everything that we have built, that you have made of yourself, and making it the best representation of who you are, so you can then put yourself out into the world."
I tried pausing for dramatic effect. I think it worked.
"And next year you start the process over again, but never from scratch. You are always building from who you once were, becoming something new, collaborating, finishing, fine-tuning, and putting yourself out into the world. You are the always in the process."
I didn't know how to end this, so I sat down with them, on the warming asphalt, and invited them to think. We sat there for some time, being in the moment, just listening to the world around us.
It wasn't long before we went back into the classroom, and we talked for a moment about what that excursion meant to us. I can't recall exactly what students had said, what they were reflecting on, but I do know, at least for some, that I had made some sort of impact. I made them think...
I don't suggest winging it. Usually moments of spontaneity fall flat, because no one but you has the image of what could be in their minds, and it is so hard to translate that moment into words on the spot. But sometimes...
I remember my graduate school and one of my professors telling a story about having a snowball fight one year when it started to snow. Just because she could. The kids needed it. She needed it. She took charge of the moment and they were a stronger community because of it.
Sometimes, we need to embrace the snowball.
This is where you can check and see a brief overview of what we have done as a class each week. My intention is to keep this up to date with happenings, assignments, trends, previews of the following week, and anything else that needs to be shared with my students and their families. I may not always get something written each week, but I will do my best to be disciplined in keeping you informed.