Monthly Archives: October 2013

Me and Matilda

I am an orphan.

But not in the typical way we think of an orphan. I mean, I have a mother and a brother. I had a father. I grew up with them, spent time with them, and we spoke often on the phone once I moved away from home. I’ve never lived close enough to drop by whenever I wanted to. And, maybe that was the point

Yet, I feel like an orphan.

I am Matilda.

How many times have I read Matilda by Roald Dahl with my children and/or seen the move? Yet, it was only during a recent viewing that a bell went off in my head, loud and clear: I am Matilda. And, like Matilda, I was born into the wrong family. Is that even possible? I mean, after all, Matilda is a creation of Roald Dahl’s very amazing imagination. Yet, every time I think about it, I can’t help but confirm this fact.

I am an orphan.

Maybe that’s why I never felt comfortable or accepted in my own family. I was never treated as carelessly by my family as Matilda is treated by hers, but I never felt understood or supported. Isn’t this the gripe of many children about their families? Maybe, but I feel differently about mine. I don’t belong.

Harsh? Perhaps, but now that I’ve accepted this (although I tried to fight against it my entire life, I’m ready to lay down my weapons). I can move on and work on the side effects of this toxic relationship. This doesn’t mean I’ve disowned my family. On the contrary. It means I’m ready to accept them and myself and, like Matilda, be happy in other ways.

Do I sound cruel? Selfish? Crazy, even? I don’t know but I feel liberated.

It’s time to move on.

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Filed under belonging, families, Matilda

A Beginning List on the Don’t and Do’s of Reading Workshop

As I visit classrooms during the Reading Workshop time, I witness practices that are counterproductive to supporting students’ reading habits. I made up the following two lists to sort this out in my head and to use when I work with teachers.

What NOT to do during Reading Workshop:

  • interrupt independent reading to talk to students about an assignment.
  • sit at your desk to catch up on paperwork or to answer emails.
  • give kids 10 minutes of independent reading one day and 45 minutes on another day. Make it consistent so students can plan for their reading.
  • abruptly stop kids’ reading without a warning. Instead, allow them to find a logical stopping place before transitioning into a new activity.
  • treat independent reading as a choice among many. Independent reading should be something everybody does on a daily basis.
  • always tie reading to a “project” and a grade.
  • use the independent reading time to go to the library. This should be reserved for another time.
What TO DO during Reading Workshop:
  • give kids a regular independent reading time they can count on.
  • confer with as many kids as possible without rushing through each conference: take your time. Remember that each conference is an opportunity to converse with and teach each student.
  • demonstrate your own enthusiasm for reading by talking about books and sharing your reading life with students.
  • declutter the Reading Workshop so the structure is clear, simple, and predictable.
  • make independent reading the bulk of the Reading Workshop.
  • get to know your students so that you can suggest books for them to read. 

Do you agree with my lists? Do you have anything to add or take away? Leave a comment below.

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Random Noticings

I noticed that if I am proactive and act “as if” I am entitled to this or that resource or tool, then it will happen. I just need to state my case. Is it about being confident even when you don’t feel confident? Probably. Does it work? It sure does! Somewhere, a long time ago, I read about taking this stance with students with the promise that they would rise to the occasion. And, guess what? They did. If a student has a reputation for getting into trouble, for example, you might address the issue by saying something like, “I know this is not like you. You are not the kind of person that does this.” Act as if. It will produce great results!

I noticed that by taking care of things right away, I am less likely to have items pile up on my “to do” list. In fact, my “to do” list can be an always diminishing entity. Although this is common sense, I don’t put it into practice. Instead, I end up on a tight deadline. My new resolve is to bask in the pleasure of a task well-done because I devoted sufficient time and effort to it. There is no room for excuses about not having enough time. That puts me in a growth mindset perspective.

I noticed that thinking about completing a task takes infinitely longer than the actual time it takes to do it. Surprise! Surprise! Definitely an argument for tackling things as they come up rather letting them languish in oblivion.

And, unfortunately, I noticed that I was succumbing to a negative attitude by complaining  rather than staying within the positive or, if this is not possible, then coming up with solutions to perceived problems. I need to remember to accentuate the positive; it’s better for my mental state and for my working relationships.

Live and learn! Trite but true!

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Noticing and Taking Note

Angela Maiers, in this TED talk, recommends that we take note of what we notice. And, by taking note, I think Angela means taking the time to appreciate everything that happens every day. There are many noteworthy things to notice and we need to take the time to appreciate that which we notice. For me, this means naming the noticing and writing about it as a way to reflect on it. Writing serves as a reminder that things matter, people matter, and that what I think about all of this matters a lot.

Yet, I notice so many things but I rarely take note of anything.

Writing about what I notice sometimes feels beside the point. Ostentatious. Unimportant. Too much work. But, I know that the act of writing, no matter the topic, gets me to writing that really matters. I also know that for this to happen, I need to establish a regular writing habit. Daily is best, even if it’s just for 15 minutes at a time. And, I have to protect that time at all costs. Surely I can find 15 minutes every day to write?! Or maybe I’ll start with a five minute writing session every day for a week. Then, I’ll add five minutes the following week and so on. Fifteen minutes being my goal for now. Once I have this habit firmly established, I can add five minutes every week until I reach thirty minutes. That would be heavenly.

It’s funny that I should be writing about this – a teacher of writing and a writer of…of…of all kinds of things. But my writing is often measured by deadlines rather than nurtured by a daily habit.

That’s the next step.

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Filed under Angela Maiers, daily writing habit, noticing, taking note, TED talk, writing