at the end of the school day
On April 16th, a deadly 7.8 earthquake shocked the coastal towns of Ecuador. Six provinces in all. Although people felt the earthquake in Quito, where I live, no one could have predicted its impact on those living in the hardest hit areas.
I am saddened by the loss of life and the injured; the trauma that comes with having lived this experience is unimaginable.
I am uplifted by the outpouring of support from all corners of the country and all over the world.
I am saddened by reports of those still missing and the newly orphaned.
I am uplifted by the brave work of relief workers who continue to pull out live victims from the rubble.
I am saddened that some people have used this tragedy for their own political convenience.
I am uplifted by the organization and dedication demonstrated by public and private institutions leading the relief efforts.
I am saddened that it’s going to take years to rebuild this region of the country, small towns whose livelihood depends on fishing and tourism.
I am uplifted by the vision of some to rebuild these towns to make them even better than they were before.
I am hopeful.
It was one of those moments when I wished I could have recorded the discussion.
But I couldn’t have anticipated the depth of or interest in the conversation.
In fact, I couldn’t have planned the conversation even if I’d wanted to.
We had just finished a chapter in our current read aloud, Pax by Sara Pennypacker.
It was suggested by one of my students and since it was a book that I hadn’t read, but wanted to read, I said, “Sure!”
I had planned on spending a couple of weeks reading the book to the class, but this is such a rich book that it will probably take twice as long to finish it. The kids don’t seem to mind and neither do I, though they want me to read at least two chapters or more every day because they want to know what happens next.
At the end of the read aloud yesterday I asked a question about the characters: What do we now know about each of the characters and how do we know that? They humored me for a few minutes until someone changed the topic of the conversation. I don’t remember who it was and I don’t remember all that was said, but it was powerful. I tried to stay out of the conversation and just spoke up when it seemed like adding my voice might help connect their thinking.
The conversation in italics is what I remember though these are not my students’ exact words.
“Why is it that in all of the books we’ve read, the main character has a problem.”
“In Rules, the brother has autism.”
“In Out of the Dust, the main character burns her hands in the fire.”
In Home of the Brave, Ganwar (the main character’s cousin) is missing a hand.”
And, on and on and on. They kept bringing up books in which the character faces a conflict or a problem of some kind and must overcome it to change. (This was me with contributions from some of of my students.)
“A book is not a book if there isn’t any conflict.”
“Don’t call it a problem. It sounds bad when you say that.” (This comment was referring to the brother in Rules who has autism. Lots here to uncover.)
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, most of the rest of the class started naming other characters in other books where the main character has a “problem”. Their examples were mostly about physical disabilities. Nevertheless, they are starting to piece together the relationship between characters and the challenges they face on the way to becoming better people. And, that is why we read: to become better versions of ourselves as we live the lives of others in the books we read. Although this is what I want my students to understand about fiction, we’re not there yet. However, this conversation will help me think about next steps. One action I will take is to record our read aloud conversations and analyze them for depth and growth across the remaining two months of the school year. In the fall, I will start right at the beginning of the school year.
And, this is why I love teaching!
Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday.
What a day!
Today’s blog is a little celebration for myself. I hope you will bear with me.
Last night I had an amazingly encouraging Skype conference with my doctoral advisors in Australia. I am doing my EdD online through a university in Adelaide. I did a lot of research before deciding on this program and I am very satisfied with the guidance and support I’ve received over the last few years.
After last night’s conversation, I can truly see a shadow of a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s a bit dim. I have made more progress in the last six months than I have in the last couple of years. I still have some revisions and additions to make to my literature review, but that is an ongoing process. I have been working on the ethics application which has been more involved than I could have ever imagined. Very educational; I’ve learned a lot in the process.
I wouldn’t be honest with myself if I didn’t recognize that it’s really hard to do a doctorate and work full time. Now, everyone will say that, but only having lived through it can I truly appreciate how challenging this whole process has been. And, I’m not yet done. I still have my field work to do which, if all goes well and time allows, I will start before the school year is over. But the bulk of my research will take place during the 2016 – 2017 school year. So excited!
I am very pleased that I have gotten this far in my doctoral program because there were many occasions where I questioned myself about what I was doing. I even went as far as questioning whether or not I was capable of doing scholarly work. There were many weeks where the only time I could find to do my research was on the weekends often cutting into precious family time.
I have had the support of my entire family, but particularly that of my two oldest daughters who have lifted me when I was down and wouldn’t let me give up. Without them, I wouldn’t have made it this far. Although I still have a ways to go, I feel more confident and capable of what I can accomplish. My topic – teacher professional autonomy, collaboration and learning – is very important to me. I am hoping to make a contribution to the field. I’m on my way!
Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Challenge, Day #31.