Scrapbook and Memories

So I began sorting through some of the notes, cards, and writing from the past school year today.  I came across some of my students’ 6 word memoirs regarding being able to choose for themselves every book they read this year:

Read with all of your freedom. – Haley

Reading whatever, whenever, is like flying. – Maddi

words, pages, chapters, books, series, Reading! – Cameron

Let reading rain all over you. – Sarah

Never stop the revolution of reading. – Belynda

Fiction and fantasy rule my world. – Chloe

They responded so intensely to this idea of choice.  This was the first year that I was allowed to completely embrace Donalyn Miller’s (The Book Whisperer) philosophy to focus on student selected independent reading exclusively.  Now we did read The Tiger Rising by the incomparable Kate DiCamillo together to start the year off right. We had to learn how to read as a writer so we could learn to write as a reader!  What a difference it made to these students. They became readers right before our eyes!  For some, it took a while to find that book, that one book, that made all the difference.  One of my students, Sam, would keep me updated each week in his reading response letters as to his status as a ‘real reader’.  It happened in February as he was reading The Hunger Games – he wrote, “…it finally happened, Mrs. McG.! I’m a real reader now!”  Somehow matching the right book with the right person at the right time can allow that student to see what a book can do for your life…and then they’re hooked because they want that feeling again…that ‘I can’t stop reading now because I HAVE to find out what’s going to happen next” feeling that those of us who are already readers know very well.

Outline for Summer

End of a teaching era
Learning new curriculum
Reading Atwell, Rief, Calkins
Rereading Layne, Atkins, Lane
Writing daily

Preparing UDL & Technology
Creating blog & website
Adding websites to Delicious
Logging books into Library Thing
Writing daily

Preparing Book Talks
Sorting genres into tubs
Arranging desks
Decorating room
Establishing routines/procedures
Writing daily


One School Year Ends…

So…what the general public doesn’t understand is how hard the end of the year can be for teachers.  We spend months and hours with these wonderful children, trying to help them learn all the important things we have to teach them and then…we say goodbye, probably forever.

This past year was one of the best in my 28 years of teaching.  During the course of a school day I taught writing to a group of approximately 70 5th graders. That’s what I call heaven…

In my teaching career I’ve had two groups of students who stand out – (teachers know them as ‘the golden group’ – a set of children who come through (rarely) that are kind, hard-working, smart, and just generally fun to be around).  Don’t get me wrong, most kids are like that every year but once in a great while, the whole group just gels together and becomes greater then the sum of it’s parts.

My first golden group was The Moose Club.  They were my first group as a general education teacher and I had them for two years, looping with them from 4th to 5th.  They were the group that cemented my belief in the power of writing – the power to heal, to bond, to believe in oneself.  They graduated from high school on June 6th. (They were all very tall and it freaked me out.)  I still have many of their writing pieces. 

They are with me still, every day, in so many ways.  Dale’s poem about ‘Freedom’ after viewing the pictures from Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison, Darryl’s rap about the move of the colonial capitol from Jamestown to Williamsburg, Samuel’s letter apologizing to his classmates for missing school and letting down his team, all of these inform my teaching to this day. So today I am allowing myself to look back, to see where the journey has taken me and to be grateful, so very grateful, to all the students I have loved over the years.