Going Rogue

When you need to just shut the classroom door and do what you know is right even when it seems to fly in the face of dictates or policy – through research, through professional experience – we call that “going rogue”.

Recently, I heard someone higher on the food chain that I, say that “we don’t read for fun or enjoyment” any more. Seriously.  After I picked my chin up off the table, I began to think about this.  And the person was totally correct; we don’t read for fun. We read for purpose and it is frequently not that much fun. For anyone.

Before someone jumps on me for not be instructional, I do use literature to demonstrate, model, and instruct. Focused literacy lessons using carefully selected genres and books are necessary to expose students to lots of things they need to become more advanced and literate readers. Totally on board with the concept.  But shouldn’t there be some room for fun? Shouldn’t kids have some time when teacher reads aloud for pure enjoyment? A time when minds are engulfed in imagination? If we are raising a generation of readers, shouldn’t THAT be part of the curriculum, too?

This past week, I have gone off the grid not once, but twice. I have gone rogue.  Oh the horror – I read two texts just for fun. And guess what? My students APPLAUDED when I completed the book! They enjoyed it.

I hope any of my administrators who read this will understand, it is not because I wish to be contrary or defiant.  I do this because I believe that if we don’t include modeling WHY we read for recreation, we’ve missed the boat on a major purpose for reading. Along with being college and career ready, we need to foster habits for inquiring minds that will take these kids into their adulthood.  We need to read because it is fun.

So, expect me to include reading simply for enjoyment more frequently.  I am going rogue.

February 3, 2013

The Wall in WinterI live in the Center of an Old New England town.  The wide stone walls that used to mark property lines or separate fields from farmhouses still stand in this part of town.  This wall still marks a border and delineates our property on nearly 2 sides.

Unlike the more roughly made stone walls that ran through property my parents owned in New Hampshire, this wall is massive – several feet wide in most places and about shoulder height.

On our side of the wall, the stones appear stacked with randomness, yet in the hundred or so years since the wall was built, they have stood strong. But on the other side – the side that faces an abandoned clearing of what used to be the estate for one of the town’s more upright citizens, the wall is precisely assembled so that it forms a sheer wall of stone, carefully pieced together.

I like to hang out back near our wall. It is quiet there, through now overgrown with bittersweet vines, wild roses, and other herbage that was never purposely planted.

I wonder at the strength and the purposefulness of the builder of this wall. assembled long before machinery would have lessened the load.

Music To The Rescue

In a past life I was a musician and a music teacher.  While I lacked the talent and drive to become a professional musician, music has always been something I’ve enjoyed.

In our classroom, when students need to complete a transition from one activity to the other – for example, universal breakfast clean up to Morning Meeting – we play music. We began the year with Pachelbel and are working on Bach at the moment.

My students love to talk – usually to me and all at once –  they talk a LOT. And while I understand and encourage this as part of their processing and language acquisition, it can get pretty loud. When we’re in Writing Workshop, there are definitely times I want them talking out loud, but there are times when I’d like them “talking” with their pencils and pens.

One day this week, as I was preparing to release my students to their writing tasks, I started explaining to them that I would like to begin experimenting with background music during Writing Workshop.  As I write – even now – we have classical music playing in the background so why not?  This was, as many things about teaching are, unplanned.

It was not an instant success — it took a couple of starts before I could convince my students that they didn’t need to try to talk over the music. But over the course of the last three days, the background conversations – the ones that were not about writing – have been replaced so that Writing Workshop is most definitely a more focused work period.

Yesterday, one of my friends approached me in amazement saying “we wrote quietly the whole time!” And so they did.  Music to the rescue.