powerful moments in education
The theme of the week in my world? You don’t know everything. And won’t. And can’t!
Well, obviously I know that, but I embrace the reminders, especially as I reflect upon the many ways to pass this strand of knowledge on to kids. Now, I am not a parent, but I can only imagine what kinds of conversation (probably one way!) happen between parent and child around this concept…
On Tuesday, I went to hear Ralph Fletcher talk about his new book Mentor Author, Mentor Text and I bought it without really even looking through the pages, table of contents…nothing! The author’s name and the the title told me all I needed to know. A few weeks ago I posted about needing models and I have explored that ever since- without meaning to- simply because I wrote it…maybe…
Anyway, looking through his book, I was happy to see short, accessible text- short prose, stories, poems…that I could provide as examples for my students (and myself!), representing a variety of techniques from the writing buffet. And I used it the next day, right away, mostly because I discovered a little icon that told me these were “whiteboard ready” meaning I could project them on to my board, tap the ‘play’ icon and there goes Ralph- our writing mentor- reading aloud to us. COOL! Not only that, I had the book in my hands and my kids were like, “That’s Ralph Fletcher? I thought he would be fat!?”
So we listen to him read a poem about a squished squirrel. You heard me. Roadkill. And I had the SAME reaction you are probably having- what possible craft can one learn from roadkill? In a nutshell (pun intended) it is a conversation between a student and a teacher about why he/she can or cannot write a poem about a squished squirrel. Many techniques are available for model- use of italics, conversation, writing about moments that scrape the heart…But the kids saw it- they have connected with him so much as an author and they know that he writes for teacher, too, and therefore they saw past the roadkill. “He’s saying you can write about whatever you want to write about, you know, almost whatever, but you can!” says one of my most eager, verbal, connection-making students. Because we have spent the time- I have provided the time- they can use him as a model for writing. And I can use him as a model for carefully choosing my words for students, and quickly, so they can get on with the magic, the writing.
At some point last year, I had a conversation with..someone…and I announced…something…along the lines of: I enjoy being a leader, but I want to be led. Where are the people who open my eyes to the possibilities? Craving mentors clearly, I had a moment of feeling alone. Yet, once I opened my eyes to receiving modeling, WHOOSH! There they are. Here they are- they are everywhere- they are next door to me, they are blogging, they are singing, they are writing, and they are talking to me. At the end of the children’s version of Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea, called Listen to the Wind, Greg’s unlikely mentor, a man from high in the mountains of Pakistan, tells him to “listen to the wind” when Greg is thinking on what he can do to help this village. Listen to the wind….I can do that….
Yet again I am smacked in the face by this: to truly discover these ideas which I desire to pass on to students, well, I need to believe them myself. And not just believe- experience them enough that I trust in the model which I have received, and now will hand off to others. Don’t I say this everyday? That if kids really understand something they can explain it and give examples to others? We need to embrace and follow the same teaching we are giving our children. Because they will know if we do not believe in the words that float freely from our mouths. And they will see it on our faces.
So, off I go to a dinner with mentors. And I will listen.